Prose

Number 114: The Confusaphone

18 July 2016

Thaddeus Lamniform, self-styled 7th Earl of Ashburnham, built The Confusaphone. That is all we can know for sure.

Sometime before midday, the gang entered the building. They were not stopped by security, no property was damaged and no civilians were physically harmed. By 12 o’clock they had left, taking every asset in the bank with them. Police were called to the scene not because of the activity that had taken place within, but due to the mass hysteria that manifested itself suddenly in the street outside. People collapsed, shrieking, attesting to visions of “skeletons coming out of the walls”, “the sky… burning”, “flowers in the dark” and so on. Inside the bank, customers and tellers alike had huddled together and were murmuring praise to ‘the Hollow Emperor’. At first, police assumed the perpetrators had employed some kind of airborne hallucinogen as a distraction but three independent witnesses from an apartment block overlooking the street claimed they heard “what sounded like music” before panic broke out. Looking out of the window as the gang exited the bank, one witness claimed to have seen one of the thieves carrying “some kind of instrument. Like a saxophone, yeah? A tall saxophone. But – dark. Not black, just dark. The colour of midnight.”

Police report of The O’Nolan Street Bank Robbery, 1935.

“I remember a voice. I don’t know whose. And then the ground went red and there were these bolts of lightning. But they were walking. Walking across the red ground and singing. Singing the songs that mirrors sing. I – God. I walked with them. Over the bones and stones and eyes. I could see eyes. I don’t know whose. Then I woke up and everyone else was waking up and the man on the stage was dead. That thing – the bit of… equipment – was gone. Funny, I can’t remember what it looked like. It spun around, I think. And there were lights. But not normal lights – the colour of midnight. Tall, I remember that. And a voice.”

– Eyewitness account of The Aldoscuri Incident (from the playbill: “Aldoscuri The Incredible presents The Confusaphone! A Technological Terror!”) in 1967.

The Confusaphone – if it still exists – is not a weapon. Lamniform, for all his posturing, for all his aggression, is not interested in conflict. We see this in his correspondence with Isabelle Zero, or his distrust of the Vrykolakas. He is, first and foremost, a scholar. The Confusaphone is a product of that. It is an instrument, perhaps not of science, but of its oft-ridiculed precursor, natural philosophy. For Lamniform, it was a way to achieve the Empire of Unorthodoxy of which he dreamt. For all we know, the device had dreams of its own.

– Rehema Kirabo, writing about The Confusaphone in her report on meta-human philosophies for the United Nations, 1996.

I can still hear it. It and only it. Like the cold touch of something out of the water. Like the white you start to see when you shut your eyes tight and won’t open them for nobody. Like the maybe sound of the TV on a morning but this time it is on and live and showing you things you know you shouldn’t see. Graveyards on the moon. Stairs that you want to go down and down and down until your feet are just nubs. Animals with the hands of men. Fire the colour of midnight. Burning in a kid’s eyes. Christ. It doesn’t show you Christ. But you can feel something like him just behind you. I still do. Just like I can still hear it.

– Found among the belongings of George “Gunshot” Anderson (1912-2007), former Depression-era outlaw.

It rose up out of the lake. It was walking, up out of the green water – it must have been metal but you could feel it breathe. The air changed. Hell, e v e r y t h i n g changed. It looked down with that great, dark hollow of a head and it spoke. It spoke in wings and glass and the softness of a beating heart that’s b r e a k i n g into something verdant and alive it was alive and twined down through your head but you could see! See the gardens of fragile reversal and the colour of midnight and feel the kisses of mordant butterflies and the ground, the lake, the world

Realities disguised as symbols are, for me, new realities that are immeasurably preferable. I make an effort to take them at their word. To grasp, to carry out the diktat of images to the letter.

– Claude Cahun


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