An Introduction from the Museum of Information:
Twelve years ago, I was hired by Sharadeth Bim to work in the Archive Department here in the Seattle, Washington offices of the Museum Of Information, described on the old website as “A privately-funded institute dedicated to the categorization and preservation of historical literary ephemera deemed outside the realm of traditional academia.” Sharadeth and her partner, Sera, preferred to call it a collection of oddities – “A mish-mash of ridiculous claims and the unfinished novels of the eccentric set” – I believe Sera once quipped, though I am sure I am paraphrasing.
There weren’t many of us working for the MOI in those days but most of us believed that there was more to this slowly growing collection of paper treasures than passing curiosity. We clung to the hope that somewhere, amongst the piles of moldy book spines and faded newsprint, Something Great would reveal itself to the team. Whether it be an unpublished scribble by a once-great poet or an accurate map of places not yet re-discovered, I crossed my fingers that our team would be the people to bring this new marvel to the world stage.
As I say, this was twelve years ago. I was here at the beginning, or very well near it. Everything then seemed full of limitless possibility. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. In late November of 1999, Sera’s mother lost her battle with clinical depression.
After the suicide, Sera returned to Memphis to settle the modest estate and be with the rest of the grieving family. Sharadeth initially went with her. Returning alone, it was clear that things could never be the same at the MOI.
Increasingly discouraged to continue what she now considered “fool’s work”, Sharadeth began to shut down various aspects of the Museum. Most of my colleagues left, amiably it must be noted, for other projects at other institutions. By 2002, no new material was being examined for inclusion in our work. Sharadeth came to the offices less and less. Sera visited once or twice but she and Sharadeth were no longer together by then.
Just about the time it felt like the Museum of Information has reached its final hour, Sharadeth did an unfathomably generous thing. Relinquishing all aspects of the Museum’s work aside from giving herself the vaguely-defined title of Executive Advisor, Sharadeth Bim let the work continue under the watchful eye of one man. Me. Truth be told, I was one of only a handful of employees left and the person with the most experience with the company.
The Museum still exists these days on a significantly smaller scale. In fact I do the bulk of my work at home. My beautiful wife and daughter are always close at hand to keep me from getting too obsessive with my pet projects. I confess I sometimes quite enjoy my scheduled hours of isolation alone with my thoughts and with my books.
Thank you for indulging me as I relate to you, the reader, a tiny scrap of my personal history. I feel obliged to honor the vision of my employer and very close friend, Sharadeth Bim and the work that she continues to support.
The following is a record of written material recovered from an abandoned chapel in upstate Connecticut, in these United States. The bound manuscript was badly damaged by water, fungus and the ravages of time. It has been estimated to have been written just after the turn of the 20th Century. The contents are more than a passing interest to me for several reasons, not the least of which is this:
Recently, a musical group calling themselves Unextraordinary Gentlemen have emerged from the Los Angeles, California Art-wave scene. The lyrics to their songs contain references to characters, places and events that correspond, almost identically, with the material found in the pages of the rotting book from Connecticut. Up until these past few months, the book was thought to be unique. Clearly, the musicians from California either have another, cleaner copy of the material or – well – the “or” is too wild an idea to contemplate. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
I will attempt to post new entries as they become available to me. Please understand that cleaning and preparing the pages of the damaged tome is a delicate process that often requires weeks of meticulous concentration.
Thank you all,
The Museum Of Information
February 29th, 2008
Accelerator, The: An experimental powder that when dissolved in water and swallowed stirs every atom in the imbiber into a frenzy, resulting in a form of super-speed. Unfortunately, the side effects are mostly fatal.
The adventuress Dread Penny has access to a single pouch of this powder. She has used a tiny pinch now and again (she calls them quick-me-ups) to enhance her outcome of survival in any of her numerous fracas.
“All Ye, Almond Apple Tea”: In the village of Apple Coat Junction residents and visitors are welcome to join in a daily public teatime in the park. Though other varieties of tea and cider are often present, almond apple tea is a specialty of the locals and a crowd favorite. In the early afternoon a town official rings a bell and cries out “all ye, almond apple tea”, the traditional signal to start the teatime festivities. The local children have adopted the phrase in some of their playtime games.
Apparatus In The Basement:
Sketches, blueprints and other such evidence for what professed to be a “sled or chariot constructed for transport of three-dimensional matter into and throughout the hidden veil of ages” were found in the basement chamber of Professor Mangrove, an undeniably brilliant yet controversial theorist and sometimes inventor living in Clarion Cove. The Professor’s whereabouts remain unknown and no evidence has been found that any contraption as unlikely as his “time-traveling machine” was ever constructed.
Apple Coat Junction: A festive station between Two Cradles and Clarion Cove. A very welcome respite between these centers of industry and commerce, Apple Coat Junction seems to always be in the midst of a celebration with the eponymous fruit of the town’s name ubiquitously presented wherever possible; Candied apples, cider (hot or cold, spiced or raw, spiked or natural), apple pie, “bobbing” for apples competitions. The list goes on and on. The town must make a tidy profit with the sale and export of their sweet orchard treats but it certainly hasn’t gone to their heads. On the whole, the folks here are healthy, friendly people leading pleasant country lives. Stop on by.
Arrow Wood: A woodland area to the northwest. There are thieves in these trees and wolves, and worse.
Bakerville:A southeasterly farming village sometimes claimed as the birthplace of Malcom Schreeck.
Black Iron Road: A rail line, beginning just west of Clarion Cove and running slightly northwestwards through Two-Cradles in the Wetlands, God-Only-Knows in the Crookback Mountains, and onwards across the Tamarisk Plains in the West. Passenger lines are infrequent, with most traffic being salvage and waste materials from Two-Cradles or food and clothing from Clarion Cove.
Captain Nobody: His former name is unknown, lost to the sands of history. Evidence reveals he was certainly a brilliant and wealthy person, although tales suggesting he was a royal personage of an advanced civilization lost to the ravages of war are obviously only the overly romantic fancies of the idle-minded. A seriously conflicted figure, Captain Nobody lost his wife when she was killed during a military skirmish, trampled underfoot by a spooked and wounded armored elephant. Having lost the “jewel of his heart”, Captain Nobody feared for his sanity as visions of bloody revenge against all men of war filled his imagination. Intellectually realizing it was an accident but unable to resolve the tragedy emotionally (or morally, for he had always been a staunch pacifist), Captain Nobody fled to the ocean in a prototypical submersible craft of his own design and there he exists, supposedly to this day, mourning his wife in solitude and trying not to think about killing and killing and killing.
Christina: Not her real name, Christina ran away from home to escape a familial curse and a psychotic, incestuous uncle. Mister Soot recruited her into his Traveling Parade of Pulchritude.
Circus Subterranean, The: There are rumors that a network of tunnels and caves exist below the streets of God-Only-Knows and within the surrounding hills. The most elaborate yarns have it that some of the survivors of the circus train crash from many years prior made this underground system their home and trained their offspring many acrobatic and sleight of hand tricks. In effect, training an elite band of lithe bandits. As the stories involving the mysterious character of Mister Soot; more so, in fact, stories about the Circus Subterranean may be apocryphal.
Clarion Cove: An Atlantic seaside town.
Clive, the Barker: Introducing many a newcomer to the sinful berg of God-Only-Knows with praises for the many delights that await them, Clive is no longer encouraged to bark for Mister Soot’s show, having mispronounced “pulchritude”, a word featured in the attraction’s full title, several times too many. He is more famously recognized as the well informed guide to God-Only-Knows’ numerous murky characters and intrigues.
Crookback Mountains: A small, but sometimes impenetrable, range of jagged hills and peaks, mined for various ores and minerals, especially on the eastern side by companies like those based in the industry city of Two-Cradles. The Great Continental Railroad (GCR) has at least one line through the mountains, including the historically important Black Iron Road.
Devil In the Blue Suit, The: A manipulator of lives and a corrupter of innocence. Mister Jaguar is the Devil’s son.
Dread Penny: Penny is scarcely more than a highway robber yet her impeccable taste in “redistributed” artifacts both small and large has made her formidable presence a more-than-tolerable sight in many a less reputable tradesman’s tent or craftsman’s cottage. She travels primarily through the heavens in an airship called Permission Fish, descending only long enough to bed new lovers, make new enemies, and claim whatever spoils of battle catch her exceptional fancy. An unfortunate accident involving an overturned carriage and an exploded gas lamp when she was still know as Penelope Wynn scarred the right side of her face and left her half-blind.
Elwood Lovekraken: Nothing ever seems to go right for Mister Lovekraken. He was fired from his position as Senior Cutlery Sharpener at Bishop Knives (in Kerosene City) only to find new work over at Godfrey Gresham’s Automatomat tightening the screws on the mechanical creations built to replace him at his old job. He was at the Starfish Theatre the night The Milky Way players revealed themselves to be [MATERIAL RESTRICTED BY MINISTRY OF SECRETS] and escaped to the sea while Kerosene City burned around him. He was in the outlaw town of God-Only-Knows on the eve of the Terrible Invasion of the Goliath Machines. His personal adverb seems to be “unhappily” and yet, he carries on. Somewhere deep inside his slight and twitching frame remains, always, a tiny spark of optimism. By faith alone, it would seem, Mister Elwood Lovekraken survives.
Empty Downs: A few miles of scrub and sparse, gnarled trees are almost a welcome change for travelers coming across the marshes in the Southeast Midlands by foot or by animal. The only sign of life is a small chapel atop a tiny, rocky hill, where Father Downy resides with his wife.
End Of The Line: Out west, there is a place where the train tracks disappear under the endless sands. The End Of The Line is a small dusty collection of crumbling facades and broken windows, named after the sturdy saloon here, a wooden inn, seemingly untouched by the ravages of weather and age surrounding it. This is a good place to get a strong libation, give a coin or two to the piano man, wonder how you came to be here and will you ever be able to leave?
Fanny DePrave: Not her real name. Fanny is one of the more experienced performers in Mister Soot’s Traveling Parade of Pulchritude Revue in God-Only-Knows. With rouged cheek, black curls and ample physicality, Fanny’s fame has attracted many admirers, forcing her to often wear hoods and cloaks whenever she ventures out-of-doors. The townies, for the most part, respect and defend her privacy. Some tourists, however, are ever-so -aggressive in their affections. Luckily Fanny knows a trick or two apart from the art of disguise and the assured protection of her employer, the infamous Mister Soot.
Far Cry: The hidden sanctuary of Dread Penny’s sister, Lillian Wynn, reportedly lies somewhere among the snow-capped peaks of another continent.
Felix, The Rolling Fire: Being a personage of unreliable mental constancy, no one took the local monowheel hobbyist’s claims of bizarre rituals and monsters from the sea seriously. When mysterious forces began to focus and align in the northern fishing village of Kerosene City, however, Felix knew further investigation was required and he was just the man for the job. Unfortunately, continued ridicule by the townsfolk and an imagined conspiracy to steal his body’s moisture resulted in ever-escalating paranoia for poor Felix. “They” had to be stopped. All of them.
Filth Pilgrims: Dedicated followers of the Impuritan, these men and women are not mere perverts and roustabouts. They exist to disrupt all that is considered good and healthy with religious fervor. The drugs help.
Ghosts of the Old No.9: Legend has it that the phantoms of the ill-fated Engine #9, which carried behind it a train of brightly-colored circus cars, cannot find rest and continue to haunt the crooked valley spaces of the Crookback Mountains. There is a much less popular theory by some imaginative idlers suggesting these spirits have drifted out on the westwards wind, eternally wandering in limbo upon the Tamarisk Plains.
God-Only-Knows: A village nestled on a dry riverbed and surrounded by rocks and mountains, without much sunlight. The town square rests under the shadow of the Black Iron Road, a railed bridge that passes through this part of the the Crookback Mountains. God-Only-Knows was founded shortly after a carnival train derailed and a band of criminals that were hiding out in the mountains constructed the first buildings out of the wood and metal of the wreckage. At least, that’s the legend.
Halford Mills: A cotton mill teeming with orphan workers, located in Two Cradles.
Chief Inspector Bishop Harper: A much lauded officer of the Law in his corner of the map. Though Inspector Bishop is based in North Grace Bay, he is occasionally called down to South Grace Bay to help with prominent investigations.
Hex, Mister: Sean “Mr. Hex” Hexed is an artist and engineer of unlikely contraptionsi5. He is a friend of Professor Richard Mangrove and purportedly helped design and build many of the Professor’s patented inventions. Though he remains mum when discussing Mangrove’s most infamous folly, the Time Chariot, in the past Mr. Hexed crowed about his attempts at constructing a similar machine.
Hildegard: Humpbacked wife to Inspector, retired, Dominick “The Skeleton” O’Jay. She is reputed to be the only soul on the planet with the talent to smooth Dom’s rough edges and so she does most effectively.
Idwich: A farming community Southeast of the Arrow Wood and home to the Idwich Ruins, a mysterious group of smashed stone houses built around a pentagonal hillock.
Impuritan, The: A charismatic zealot based in Two-Cradles, the Impuritan is against all things decent. Recruiting Filth Pilgrims to go out into the world and shake up the stuffy ideals of the modern world, The Impuritan is able to remain an elusive player in affairs most foul. The Devil In Blue appreciates the Impuritan because the “church’s” overblown antics pull attention away from his own, often more sophisticated schemes.
Indifference Engine, The (IE): A creation of Professor Mangrove’s. Colored sketches and early prototypes show the Integrated Energies device to be a wood pulpit or pedestal of some kind with a large sounding-horn protruding from it’s capitoli43a. Beyond this physical description of the exterior, the details are either vague or have been made unavailable by other parties to which this archival society has no jurisdiction for further inquiry at this published time. Wild reports by Professor Mangrove’s house staff and curious neighbors concerning “levitating blocks of flickering obsidian” or “cords of radiant color” hold very little water.
Invader Brains and their Goliath Machines: Strange marauders from another world? Mechanically-minded mutants created in the ominous factories of Two-Cradles? Whatever they were, they meant death and destruction for much of the surrounding counties, if not the world.
J. Frances Pomerantz: This enigmatic gentleman’s public appearance in Kerosene city coincided with the disappearance of Jennifer Devlin, a wealthy photographer’s daughter, near Clarion Cove. The connection between them is a violin, a treasured family heirloom that went missing, along with the fair–young Jennifer Devlin, mere days afore this J. Frances fellow made the music hall scene as a violinist possessing remarkable grace. Strangely, Master Devlin did not immediately report his daughter’s absence to the authorities and it was a maid that inquired about the violin to investigative parties, much to the apparent embarrassment of Master Devlin, who has since given up his career in photography and spends his long lonely days and nights locked away in the dark chambers of the crumbling family manor, the very figure of resignation. Upon sight of the Kerosene City constabulary, J. Frances fled and current whereabouts are unclear.
Jack Susans: Pirate activity is still a concern. Most often women captains with female or mixed crews, they have been known to form loosely territorial bands of traveling air clubs called Jack Susans. Dread Penny is one of the few remaining Jack Susans, most of them turning their hearts towards the newly developing Suffragette caste.
Kerosene City: This small, wooden city is currently rebuilding after nearly laid to waste by a recent fire. Reports that the fire overshadowed other, stranger happenings upon the same evening are probably little more than the colorful anecdotes of the locals.
Lea Hubbard: A zoologist specializing in “rare and unknown creatures” having had her work cut out for her as of late, especially in regards to reports of unusual wolf-like creatures in the Arrow Wood. Invited to Professor Richard Mangrove’s “Disappearing Supper Party” affair, her attendance is unclear.
Lillian Wynn: The older sister to Penelope Wynn (more notoriously known as Dread Penny), Lillian does not approve of her younger sibling’s criminal antics. However, she has confessed to giving Dread Penny sanctuary on a number of occasions.
Malachi Foom: Not his real name. Mr. Foom is a distinguished gentleman and a practicing magician. As a semi-public spokesperson for the Ministry Of Secrets, his rumor mill is highly sought after by the press gang and conspiracy aficionados alike. It is all, of course, misdirection.
Malcom Schreeck: It is not clear whether Mister Schreecki23.23 is a scoundrel whom has swindled his way into polite society, or a gentlemen playing at being the rogue. He was one of the guests present at the Mangrove home the night that the host and several guests, including Malcom, disappeared off the face of the earth.
Master James: An old-timer residing in God-Only-Knows. He used to be a major player in the early years of the town’s settlement. Several years and countless debaucheries later, he lives now as jaded addict prone to crying fits and visits to Mistress Molly, the only gal what can sate his various hungers.
Mab, The Hatter: an eccentric residing and working in Clarion Cove, Mab claims to have once been the personal milliner to the Queen. A laughable claim as dear old Mab also narrates at length nonsensical stories concerning varied and increasingly fantastical characters.
Though clearly of a lunatic bent, Mab retains a considerable knack for creating new and interesting hats and the locals regard her with an odd admixture of curiosity and admiration, often dropping by for a visit and to hear the latest drug-sodden exploits of Mab’s most prominent characters, “The Duchess” and “King Mulberry”, whom many claim are based upon Mab’s late husband, a tailor, and Mab herself.
Owning and operating Shangri-La Island, located just off the southeastern edge of the mainland, Mister Jaguar hosts many lavish and sensuous parties.
Mistress Molly: Not her real name. A matronly dominatrix based in God-Only-Knows, Molly is as kind and giving in her private life as she is cruel and unrelenting in her professional one.
Mister Soot: The unseen proprietor/operator of Mister Soot and His Traveling Parade of Pulchritude and Dark Champion of Professional Entertainers Within and Surrounding the Township of God-Only-Knows, the enigmatic Mister Soot may not exist at all.
Supposedly a former chimney sweep who found a hidden store of treasure and used it to finance his traveling show, it is generally accepted by longtime residents of God-Only-Knows that this “fair and vicious” showman, whose little black book (or books) has, improbably, the names of everyone who comes down to God-Only-Knows, their debt, and the suitable punishment for monies owed and/or professional dignities breached was created by a consortium of the town’s business leaders to scare away potential competition and to psychologically brace the “ladies” of the various music halls and brothel houses against undue violence or affections to given them by the often less-than-savory make-up of the usual clientèle.
Using a number of sources for their fictional bogeyman, including the legend of the town’s origins, the town has certainly got themselves a frightening and enduring character in Mister Soot, whose imagined appearance changes with the fashion of the tourist seasons.
In recent months, their has indeed been evidence of a brutal champion using vigilante justice to “put the books right” in light of a handful of unfortunate incidents involving at least two of the performing girls in the Traveling Parade of Pulchritude. Whether this is the real Mister Soot or some kind of ploy by the township to revitalize his admittedly flagging reputation remains to be seen.
Mister Soot and His Traveling Parade of Pulchritude: A frolics revue. Risqué’.
Claudette Mufintopp: The mistress of Mufintopp Manor, Claudette is all smiles and curtsies to the rare visitor to her hillside school of corrections. As long as one does not stray from the designated tour, there is no reason whatsoever to suspect Mistress Mufintopp’s secretive nature concerning certain aspects of her very young student workforce is based on anything other than the most benign and professional of motives.
Muffintopp Manor: an orphanage and workhouse built into the cliff side of the Crookback Mountains facing East towards Two-Cradles, the source of many of the fore-mentioned orphans. The Matron of the Manor is the draconian Ms. Claudette Mufintopp, heiress to the Mufintopp Mining fortune.
Number 9, The: The train of legend that played a pivotal role in the settling of God-Only-Knows was allegedly Line No. 9. Whether due to a twisted sense of memorial or a superstitious whim, Mister Soot likes to keep the number of girls in his burlesque at this number.
Old Bode Well: nickname for the circular stone well at town center in God-Only-Knows. Local festivals take place regarding the well and the dead are sometimes disposed of here under cover of darkest night.
Olivier: Heard about God-Only-Knows while at a party on Shangri-La Island and decides to visit for a thrill. A gullible sot and an incorrigible gambler, Olivier has been disowned by his affluent family and his allowances cut. No one expects Olivier to stay alive for long in God-Only-Knows.
One Bask Hill: the address in in Clarion Cove where Mangrove House stands was the site of what the newsmen called “the disappearing dinner party” wherein the master of the house, Professor Richard Mangrove, and several of his guests, vanished without trace after an early supper.
Palmer Nance: photographer friend of Professor Mangrove, Palmeri5d-mkii was present at the dinner party that disappeared a number of prominent Clarion Cove personalities. Palmer, however, did not vanish. He was invited to take photographic evidence of the Professor’s Mysterious Apparatus in the Basement as it was thrust for the very first time, as the Professor explained, “through the impossible”. Whether or not Palmer captured anything at all that night photographically remains a mystery as Palmer has since dropped out of the public eye and has never released his findings to the public or interested parties.
Permission Fish: The name of a large airship owned and purportedly operated by the adventuress, Dread Penny.
Professor Richard Mangrove: The controversial theorist and sometime inventor threw a modest dinner party at his Clarion Cove home for a handful of his friends and peers, and none of them have been heard from since. Authorities believe every party present that night is involved in a conspiracy to garner credence to Professor Mangrove’s fantastical delusions of time-travel.
Rachel Lee: A painter’s model. Miss Lee was one of the guests present at Professor Mangrove’s dinner party on the night that she, the Professor, and several other guests vanished.
Red Plague, The: As a result of hazardous waste material carried through the Crookback Mountains by train from Two-Cradles.
Saga City: A large walled and soldiered city to the south.
Shangri La Island: A private resort island, owned and operated by the hedonistic Mister Jaguar and his associates. His father is the Devil In the Blue Suit.
Skeleton, The: A crooked ex-constable turned gang captain and sometime vigilante. He operates primarily in the factory town of Two-Cradles, though he has circulated rumors about himself in God-Only-Knows as well.
Tamarisk Outpost: A military outpost near the western edge of the Tamarisk Plains.
Tamarisk Plains: The arid salt basin west of God-Only-Knows.
Two-Cradles: This city is a hub of industrial progress. Despite constant black smoke and several reported casualties of the factory condition hundreds of poor families come to Two-Cradles looking for work in any of a large number of mills, rail yards, or processing plantations. Two-Cradles is so named to advertise it as a “cradle of commerce, cradle of life”. However, many of the orphans, criminals and drifters that work in the most deplorable areas of the city have offered the metaphors of birth and death as the appropriate appellations.
Violet Daring: Fiercely independent, Ms. Daring lives in an upstairs apartment in Clarion Cove with Pumpkin, her cat. She gives music lessons to local students. There are some who say she is actually the “Daring Piper of Arrow Wood”, a costumed hero (or heroine) of legend whom supposedly rescues children from the hungry jaws of wolves and other forest evils.