A good day to you, my friends. My name is Barnard Euler. As a man approaches the end of his days, he is wont to grow philosophical and reflective upon his prior experiences, and desires to make a record of his thoughts for the edification of those who follow in his footsteps. A man of character must be careful, however, to sift the true grain of value from the dross of his day-to-day errata, must harden his heart against the sentimental and dishonest, must be as clinical in his examination of his life as he would be with any other subject. I do not know if I have been successful in that attempt, as the details of my days have often strayed into the strange (and occasionally grotesque), so that I fear a certain indulgence of the Gothick imagination has made a home in these pages. That said, I do feel that my experience with the various unmapped sites which form a net of points along the Empyreal, still a tabula rasa even in this age of the Second Science, will be of use both to fellow explorers and also to the armchair adventurer, eager to know the precise details of such exploits. The tale I tell here comes in an entirely personal order, through an episodic process whose pattern may not be immediately obvious, but as with all things, the diligent reader will find a pattern.

The details of my younger days are of no consequence, and I will not detail them here, and so begin on the day of my twenty-second year, when I accidentally had my first gate experience. I had graduated from the local teaching college, but had lost the desire to teach (if I ever had it at all, in all honesty), and so sought a simple place where I could spend my days in study and contemplation until such time as I had decided my next move. Close to the river was a distributor of radio components whose shop sat atop three small rooms beneath street level, which he rented to young people at an incredibly reasonable rate. Some would have taken issue with the small amount of light allowed by the two windows which peered out onto the alleyway, but the light was enough to read by during the day, and there was ample electric light at night, and so it was ideal for my uses. My room was closest to the stairway leading to street level, so that coming and going was a trivial matter (no small feat for a boarder!) and was within walking distance of the University library, where I worked part-time cataloging and shelving books. The room next to mine was inhabited by another young man, who had recently returned from a stint in the armed forces as an infantryman. His name was Peter Matthias, and we soon became friends in the easy manner of young men adrift in the world. The third room was much farther down the hall, and the shop owner had told us it was currently unoccupied. One evening, we went to visit this room out of boredom, and found it was a considerable distance down the hallway, which continually turned left and right, containing low archways and passages with foreign lettering painted upon the walls and floor. Finally, after what seemed a quarter of an hour, we came to a door covered in small wooden crosses. Peter and I each took a pull from the bottle we had brought with us and pushed the door open, finding a spherical room, a small pool of water having collected at the base. We entered the room, and stood next to the pool, from which seemed to emanate clouds of voices speaking some strange tongue. We thought we saw something moving in the water, and peered closer to examine, but what we were seeing was a reflection of the ceiling, where something resembling an atrophied goat shook violently and attempted to speak to us, though we were both too stunned to respond. This was our first meeting with a partial animal, who waited for the gate in the ceiling of the spherical room to open, and within eight minutes the gate was once again open, and the goat-person vanished. We fled the room and blocked the door, only to find the owner of the building standing in the hallway, asking us what had happened and spraying us with a sort of vegetal perfume which he claimed would "keep us hidden".

We were soon to learn that the spherical room was in fact a trap-room, where the building's owner would hold stray travelers for a short duration and inquire of them what was to be in the future. Certainly, few if any of these travelers had any useful information on this subject, yet by use of his radio equipment and crystal microphones embedded in the mouth of something he called a surrogate, the owner had collected a sizable record of interviews with various travelers. He told us this gate was connected to something called the Empyreal Gate Network, which was connected to this world in the sense that two radio broadcasts near each other on the dial could occasionally cross signals, depending on the weather and the environment. There was specific machines which produced audio tones that could be encoded to provoke or close a gate, he told us, but they were dangerous to use as they attracted attention from malevolent sorts. Gates could be discovered through a process of weather prophecy, he hinted, but it was late, and he showed us out. The next day, when we saw him, he pretended not to have seen us the night prior and refused to talk about the EGN, and when we went into the basement to find the trap-room we found only a storage room filled with steamed and jarred tomatoes.

I would like to say that I took to this new knowledge with a great understanding, but alas, I betrayed a confidence for which I am ashamed and wish not to speak. I was once again forced to leave my home, only this time in complete shame and in hiding from the police. I fell away from Peter, although I would see him again in time, and I never saw the landlord again, as he passed away three years later. For months I drifted around the middle-west until I was without even two dimes for bread, and so saw a funeral taking place upon a hill, and thought that I could perhaps infiltrate the mourners as a long-traveled friend of the deceased and follow them to a wake, where I could fill my belly and perhaps find a place to sleep. Speaking at the head of a fresh-dug grave, silhouetted against the snow-white sun, I saw a woman speaking to the mourners gathered at the foot of the grave, reading not from any book or notes but from what I then thought was an impressive act of memorization. Soon I would learn that the speech, as with everything done by this woman, was entirely improvised, and given under even more disingenuous pretenses than my own feigned sorrow, and it was only later, much later, that I realized this woman was equally gifted in the arts of rhetoric and mesmerism, both used in her speech at the grave, so that none of the other mourners even noticed I had joined them, as we were all transfixed by the delivery of this woman, this Vons Serin.

the exit is hidden within the exit