Years, it's been, since last I dined at the Markus House, yet on nights like this I think fondly on those endless meals where the days blurred into each other. We would arrive at the riverside early in the morning, and watch as the lock brought the level of the river down eight feet, exposing the door-cave in the riverbed. We would enter, and be greeted by two devils dressed to the nines in miniature suits. They would take our coats and waders and see us into the foyer. The greater of the devils, whose name was Julian, was a personal favorite, and it was the sad day when a visit did not include one of his ribald tales. Certainly one could not overlook the sophistication and wit shown by this creature of the pit; theologians were wise to state a wariness to the silver-tongued devil! Most surprised was I to hear the devil tell tales of lewd and morally questionable character in such a way that even the most delicate ladies in our company did not take offense, yet the devil Julian would sneak the more adventurous of us a side-glance and wink from time to time, and indeed later in the evening, after most of the guests had seen to their rooms and the old bastards among us set to the hidden library for bourbon and opiated sugar, the devil Julian told us of underground harems, of the Hag of Venus, and of the battles which took place inside the mountain back when we were but schoolchildren. From such conversations I must say that the domesticated devil is a veritable must for the sophisticated gentleman, particularly one who has a fondness for the social life, and if anything could be said of the Markus brothers it was most certainly that. As Julian brought his tales to a close the Markus brothers presented themselves, guiding us to the dining room via a tour of half-rooms, set as dioramas of prior exploits.

At the center of the tour we entered a hall whose normalcy struck the lot of us as exceptional, so that as we walked along its carpets a daze found us, an inability to tell direction, and were it not for our guides we might still be there in that hallway, searching for an exit hidden within the exit. This is the endless hallway, reflections of reflections, devised by deviant catropmancers in the employ of the Markus House to trap those in transit. It is here where certain specimens have made use of specific technology in order to hide themselves in this labyrinth from death, or man, or those who cross these conduits. There is a section of such experimentalists who have procured (either by direct theft or duplication of prior design) examples of this specific technology from the EGN, and utilize it in order to cross via this world into the faraway place, on further still into the oneiros mundi. They are hiding from Empyreal, and from others who do not want others to access this place: for instance, the endless mechanics, who inhabit the hallway, though their intentions are, as ever, clouded. Although they use this technology to hide, they utilize it primarily to play a kind of trick in the real-world, in O-time, hiding the missing in alternate S-time so as to feign revival from the dead. this collective has two leaders. They are currently searching for a specific apparatus whose mechanism revolves around a cascading tarot structure, the cracking of the major arcanum still taking place (three times around the alphabet, the coding-beads as vowels). They believe such information to be hidden in optics placed perpendicular to the primary hallway terminal-points (the biomorphic abstraction: any two buildings built under certain specifications echo each other) in which other worlds may be twice removed (and so on, repeated infinitely), like seeds. I must confess I never quite understood the underlying technology within this "endless hallway", and suspect to think too deeply on that subject would lead to madness.

Within a small alcove outside of this hallway was a gorgeous collage designed by Zubaydah al-Hamid of the bone structure of snakes, with ink spilled atop them to represent the passing of fragmentary consciousness among snakes of different species. Behind this illustration was a large aquarium where thin wormlike creatures swam within a heavy blue fluid. I could barely make out their organs beneath their skins, where the lack of comprehensible sense-organs suggested the fluid guided the movement of the worm-fish, as opposed to self-propelled locomotion. A small brass plaque beneath the aquarium read 'Burrow-fish, eater of days'. On the day in question I saw a mirroring of this organ deficiency when, in the river, I saw the form of a giant fish who was broad in its middle section and had rows of teeth ringing the outside of its mouth. The form of the giant fish was surrounded with a black cloud, generated by a fluid it oozed from its gills, which seemed to be under the control of the fish, or else it was just a trick of late November river currents. Vons Serin told me if I placed my head into the river, the black cloud would enter me through my nostrils and ears, and thus it would transmit the whole of its knowledge to me. One of her earlier students had done so, but the water was contaminated, and now he lacked the ability to contemplate the wisdom as he thrashed about the floor, trying to breathe through nonexistent neck-gills. "Pour eux, le temps existe a l'etat aboli," she laughed, whether at this pathetic fish-boy or at myself I do not know.

At the end of the tour the guests were invited to partake of various foodstuffs whose form and taste mirror the exhibits earlier seen. Across the table were various gelatinous fats taken from animals I could not identify. These fats were picked up in both hands and squeezed like citrus, until the sacs inside burst and the gray liquid spilt out and down, into the bowls. The drops collected into small puddles, and by placement of these puddles upon the bowls seating arrangements for the evening were decided. It was in poor taste, but not unheard of, to lick the fluid from the bowl and fingers afterward. The guests were brought back into the room once the order has been decided, their fingers curled around loops in velvet cord leading them through displacement rooms, lost direction, so as to erase certain aspects of the visit prior to leaving. The utensils laid on the table were not designed for human hands. Servers, dressed in thick velvet robes to blend into the walls when not needed, searched the room for contaminants and unwelcome sound, which they would dampen with projected anti-noise broadcasts from their throats. The bowls, which contained the first and second course move in ovals along the tabletop, propelled by magnets hidden beneath the oak, pulled on chains whose course and velocity was given by a series of foot-pedals placed at the head of the table. The elder Markus brother, who sat at my left upon my last visit, had pieces missing from his face; guests could witness the motion of his teeth and jaw as he chewed on some kind of black meat. Juices collected and spilled down his cheek. The floral centerpiece contained spores, which supposedly functioned as an aphrodisiac, but some guests report the uncanny sensation that their skull was shrinking, leading them to sample the medicines the younger Markus brother kept in a folding-box by his feet. Likewise, many guests found it difficult to pay attention to what was happening; the speed of the servers moving in waltzes around the table, setting places and serving food, kept changing abruptly yet in sync. Years later I have finally begun reaching a dream-logic understanding of the final meal, and I notice now that the nature of my olfactory sense has been altered, possibly permanently, by my dinners at the Markus house.

The Markus brothers were followers of Serin, and kept a series of rooms within the house with large covered beds, the walls hung with gate boons, and whenever I passed this way I would spend the night in one of these “oneironautic laboratories”, as they called them. I showed the box to the brothers, who told me of its origin:

"Vons Serin made this. She made a series of boxes, and left this one with us for you to have. It's empty. The first thing you will do is fill the box. The fourfold divination system consists of 78 objects in four classes, like your tarot, although the ordering is obviously different. There are three primary classes, each of which contains 25 objects, and one inverse class, which contains three objects. There are definitions for these elements, but we will not discuss that today. These are the components of your missing memory, and when you fill the box you will understand."

As I said, I still do not understand.

The Markus Brothers went up to the third floor to shelve more books, and I thanked them for a wonderful dinner and took my leave. On my way back to the the surface of the riverbank I scanned past the rows of books, titles I didn't know, and on one of the shelves I saw a box I thought might be another fourfold divination system box. I thought about opening it, seeing what was inside, trying to figure out what I could use for elements, but I kept walking, out the door held by Devotos (who brushed the dust from my coat before I left), up the ladder, until I stood by the trees and tried to decide which way I should go.

the exit is hidden within the exit