At the ragged edge of Skyrael, far from the the smoke of the cities, the whistle of the railways and the whine of propellers lies the Castle, that towering, mechanical orchid, that fallen ruin of the Echo Clock. Enter its twisted maze of giant gears, discover its strange family of inhabitants and unravel its marvels, its mysteries and its horrors.


Postby Now And Forever » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:46 pm

"Nurse Author, I fail to see how..."

"Doctor, I'm telling you I saw a blip on the screen! It was right when I was telling the patient about my trip back to the Castle!" the woman said, wild-eyed and panting slightly, having had run to fetch him.

The man in the white coat eyes Nurse Author dubiously, sighs, and begins to fiddle with one of the small dials on the front of the EKG screen. The contrast changes ever so slightly, the black background now a touch darker than a few short moments ago.

"The...Castle?" the man in the white coat murmered, more to himself than to the nurse.

"Sorry?" she said, staring anxiously at the slightly darker screen.

"I...you said something about a Castle?"

She allowed her eyes to flick his way for a moment. "Castle? What? I don't understand what you're saying."

The man in white squinted at her. "You just finished saying you think you saw.."

"I did see!" she cut in.

"...fine, you saw the patients status change when you mentioned a trip to a Castle." She continued to stare at him. Exasperation touched his voice. "Your trip? Your vacation? You just said something about a Castle!"

She blinked. "No...no. I was talking about my trip to the Caribbean. I was telling the patient about the Caribbean."

He blinked, shook his head slightly. The man in white swore he had heard the woman say 'Castle'. Its these long shifts, he thought. Too many late nights. He looked away from the nurse to regard the patient with his icy, emerald eyes.

He could have sworn she'd said 'Castle'.
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Postby Now And Forever » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:03 pm


Gerald hummed tunelessly under his breath. The count was forty-seven. The forty-seventh time the mop had hit the floor, which meant he was just about done this hallway.

He'd been moppin' floors at Our Lady of Composition Hospital for a long time. Long enough to know that the east wing of the fourteenth floor needed fifty-three shots of Ol' Betsy; his favourite mop.

He liked the night shift. He always called it that, the 'night shift'. Mrs. Scriven, his dear old mother (maysherestinpeace) raised him with enough proper fear of the Almighty Jay-sus to not call it 'the graveyard shift'. 'Specially not in no hospital. There were decent folk here with enough on their minds to not hear no janitor call it that.


He liked having time with his thoughts. He knew all the day workers figured he was a touch slow. People always did. But his dear old mother (maysherestinpeace) had him looked at when he'd been young. He was no dummy. He paused in his mopping, blinking at the floor. He felt a burst of shame at having thought the word 'dummy'. He'd been raised better'n that. He could hear his dear old mother (maysherestinpeace) now.

"Gerry!" she'd say. She always called him that, Gerry. "Gerry, there's enough misery in this worl' for them's that been given testing by the Almighty Jay-sus", she'd always said it like that, 'Jay-sus'. "More'n enough. The world don't need anyone heaping it up, callin' those poor folk dummies. They's 'Special Needs', to you an' I.

"Sorry Ma." he whispered.


Nope, he wasn't Special Needs. Doctors said he just took his time with his thoughts. That, and the way he talked was usually enough for most folk to figure he was, though. No, he thought about alot of things all the time. Just the kind of things most folk workin' on days never wanted to talk about.

Like this.


That was fifty. He looked up from Ol' Betsy. Fifty shots meant he was dead smack by the door of room 1413. The thirteenth room on the fourteenth floor. It wasn't really. This was one of the things most folk workin' on days didn't have much time to talk about. To them, it was just the way things worked. To him, to Gerry...it was as close to magic as you could get.

Oh sure, he knew it was just old, old superstitions. Weren't many tall buildings that had the right buttons in the elevator. Even children pointed it out at least once. Ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen. Thats how the buttons went. Everyone knew what floor it really was, but no one ever said it.

'Course, it meant somethin' else too, the fiftieth time Ol' Betsy did her thing. It meant he was dead center of the hospital. They called each side of this here door East and West Wing, but this one was in between.

His gaze flicked at the ceiling, catching sight of the thin fringe of grey and white hair that hung above his brow. Our Lady of Composition Hospital had twenty-six floors. Below his feet there were twelve. Above his head were twelve more.

His own secret name for room 1413, a name he didn't tell people, was 'Ground-Zero'. Dead center.

He leaned Ol' Betsy against the wall, reached out and turned the handle of Ground-Zero.

"Hullo, Mr. Casey." he said lightly, smiling. He stayed in the doorway, not venturing into the room. It was always a little too dark. Oh, there was the little lamp on the bedside table which was always lit. There were all the lights and whatnot on the machines all 'round the bed. No one had ever understood what he meant by 'too dark'. It had always seemed to Gerry that the light was...small. Like it was being pressed from all sides.

He always figured it was lonliness. That bed had been occupied for a long, long time, and Gerry hadn't never seen anyone but nurses and the occasional doctor come or go. No visitors, not ever. In a small corner of his mind, he was sure that too much lonliness might make the whole room lonely. Maybe that did something to the light. He figured it did.

Poor Mr. Casey. "Hope you don't mind me poppin' by Mr. Casey. It's just me, Gerry. The janitor? I just figured I'd see how you was doin'." Broke his heart, it did. Laid up for all this time, an' no one ever came to visit. Some time ago, Gerry couldn't really remember when, he'd taken a little peek at the chart on the end of the bed. Alot of it had been awful big words, but he was quick enough to know what 'comatose' meant.

He'd decided that if no one was ever gonna check in on the poor soul other'n to turn him and such, then by Almighty Jay-sus, Mrs. Scriven's (maysherestinpeace) boy Gerald was gonna.

"Hope they's treatin' you okay, Mr. Casey. I gotta keep on, now. Hallway ain't gonna clean itself up, hey?" he chuckled. He thought it was important to keep a sick person's spirits up, even if most folk figured they couldn't hear you. "G'night Mr. Casey." Gerry softly closed the door.

Poor old Mr. Casey. Chart said his given name was 'Tim'. Tim Casey. Gerry grinned ruefully and chuckled at himself; he remembered that night he'd read that chart. Funny how the eyes could play tricks.

For that first second he'd read it, he'd've sworn it didn't say 'Tim Casey'. He chuckled again at the memory, taking up Ol' Bestsy.

Imagine someone namin' their child 'The Castle'.

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Postby Now And Forever » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:56 pm

Mary Ryter sighed, the fingers of her right hand massaging her forehead. These late nights were such a pain in the ass.

She'd heard the elevator's annoying chime some time ago, followed by the agonizingly monotonous wet slapping of the custodian's mop. She'd been thankful when it passed by.

Of course, that she heard it at all meant it was running well past ten.

She pinched the bridge of her nose and inhaled deeply. Mike was going to be pissy again. There was no doubt. Her boyfriend was always nagging at her about the hours the hospital forced her to keep.

"Christ, Mary!" he'd say. "That fuckin' desk might as well have a fuckin' cot under it!"

She wished he didn't have to curse so much when he spoke. Mary set her pen down on the desk and stared at the far wall, at the poster of a sunset with one of those inane motivational sayings under it. It read "Work for the tomorrow you dream of, not just to end today". Stupid thing. Today was often the problem.

Things had been strained at home for a while now. Mike was right, in a lot of ways. When she'd taken the job at Our Lady of Composition, she'd been excited. A chance to make that degree she'd slaved to earn start paying her back. The pay was good; a salary as opposed to hourly. Hourly was what most places she'd applied to was offering. Low wages for long hours wasn't what she'd had in mind getting her BA in accounting. Ad after ad, interview after interview, she'd turned down them all down. Mike had been furious.

"Here I am busting my fuckin' balls for these pricks and you turn down every fuckin' job they throw at you!" As if making deliveries was such a grind.

But she'd stuck it out. Sure, she'd had to eat a few more meals of Ramen Noodles then she thought she would post-university, but the waiting paid off. Great wages, great benefit package, working close enough to the apartment that she didn't need to take the bus. Perfect.

That had been a few months ago. The days had steadily gotten longer. It started in way of such things; just an extra hour or two, just to finish one more file. Just one extra shift on a weekend to keep ahead of the numbers.

Mary sighed.

Really, it wasn't all that bad. The pay was still more than she'd be making hourly. That problem with her molar had been fixed up gratis, straight off the hospital's premium. But the hours were long. And they would be, keeping track of all the money flowing through the hospital's veins. Staff wages, utility bills, equipment rentals and drugs were costly things, and Mary was the one that had to get the checks to line up with the balances.

That's when things got a little tense at home. Mike worked swing shifts, days and nights. At first, they still had a good chunk of time out of the week together. But as her hours got longer, that time dwindled to...

The phone jangled, making her jump. She stared at it as the first ring ebbed, then glanced at her watch, the almost-gold one that Mike had gotten her for their anniversary this year.

Who the hell? she thought.

The phone demanded her attention again. She pulled the reciever from the cradle.


"What are you wearing?" She could hear the grin in Mike's voice. She closed her eyes for a moment. "You scared the hell out of me, Mike."

"Never heard of that brand name. Is that pants or shirt?" he said. Mary rolled her eyes. The last couple of shifts had been the same. Mike was "gettin' a handle on the situation", as he called it. If they couldn't spend..."time" together as regularly as they used to, he figured phone sex was the answer. Like phone sex at something after eleven in a cramped office in a hospital was going to get her all hot and bothered.

"Mike, I'm not really in the mood. Sorry, hun." she tried to keep her voice light. He really could get insulted about the oddest things, especially when it came to his attempts at branching out in their sex life. Or lack thereof.

"Personally, all I'm wearing are my socks and a smile." he said, ignoring her. "Tell me again what color your bra is?"

She shook her head, a small, very small smile touching her lips. "You were there when I got dressed, Mike."

There was a thoughtful pause. "Oh yeah..." he drawled. "That greeny one. As I recall, you went mismatched today. Greeny up top with white below, right?"

He was right. Of course. Mike had a thing for her panties.

"Mike, I'm almost done here. How about holding that thought until I get home?" That was a outright evasion. While she'd be lying if the thought of some intimacy didn't sound divine, another half-hour of staring at columns of dollar signs followed by a fifteen-minute walk home in the cold was not going to keep her motor running.

"It ain't the thought I'm holding, baby."

Such a way with words, her Mike.

He went on. "I can't wait for you to walk through the door, hot stuff. I doubt you'll get a chance to get your coat unbottoned." Yeah. Regular Casanova. "Maybe we'll get as far as the den before I bend you over the end of the Castle."

Mary was rolling her eyes again when that last word jangled in her head. "What?" she said, sitting up straighter in her chair.

"Yeah, baby. Just the way you like it; face down, ass up. You can bite the pillow when you c..."

"No, Mike. What about a Castle?" she asked. He did say 'Castle', didn't he?

"The fuck are you on about?" he said. She could hear a touch of anger in his voice. "Mike, you said something about a Castle," she said. "You said you were going to...to bend me over a Castle." She reddened slightly as she said it. That was another reason this whole phone sex thing was a flop for her. She just wasn't comfortable talking dirty.

"Cast...What? No, Mary. I said I was gonna...Christ. The couch. I was saying I wanted to bend you over the end of the couch." She could hear his voice getting chilly. He hated when she 'f-ed up his flow'.

"I..." she started.

"Know what, Mary?" he broke in. "Just forget I called. Just forget I fucking called, kay?" he fumed. A clink and dead air followed.

Mary stared at the reciever. "But..." she said in a small voice to herself. "I just thought you said 'Castle'..."
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Postby Now And Forever » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:41 pm

The man in white hit the track skip button on the dash. Another pop song began to play, this one had some woman singing about Nebraska. The harsh glare of streetlights played across the windshield as he took off-ramp 4N.

Another ten minutes and he'd be home.

The drive home had to be one of the best things about the shifts he'd been having to work lately. Time when his mind emptied completely. Total purge. There were nights he honestly didn't remember making the drive at all. Nights when he only noticed he'd begun the drive when he was unlocking the front door to his house.

Life as a surgeon at one of the largest hospitals in the midwest was...well, it wasn't boring. This drive was an absolute neccessity. It gave his mind the time to dump the things he saw in the course of the day. Sometimes terrible things. Last week had been that three-car pile-up. Two nights before that was the firebombing of that deli downtown. Purge.

Not that it was all bad. There was little Christopher (never Chris) Tiepyst. What a trooper. His last round of surgeries had finally made it so that he would be trying out for soccer this summer. There was Angela Marks, whose new baby was finally wailing away in her arms instead of the ICU.

The man in white took a right into Portland Estates, his subdivision.

He cruised along, maintaining the mandatory 30km/h that the white and black sign at the gates demanded of him, until he reached his driveway.

The night was so quiet once the key was out of the ignition.

He stared at his house. A bluish glow in the picture window told him Nicole had waited up for him, or had fallen asleep in front of the television. A softer glow from the second story was the Winnie the Pooh nightlight in his daughter's bedroom.

How long had it been since he had put Alexis down himself on a weeknight? Hell, a Saturday night? Lately breakfast was the only time he saw her. The only other interaction of any sort being stepping on her blocks on his way down the hall...

Blocks. Bricks. Castle.

The man in white blinked. That nurse tonight. That room. That patient. His driving-home purge didn't get everything this time.

He closed the car door as softly as he could manage, which as anyone who'd ever tried knew was an exercise is futility. The metallic thunk seemed unnaturally loud in the night's stillness. His breath plumed in front of his face while he trudged up the walkway. He fumbled for the right key and looked up at the door with it's ornate, non-functioning knocker...

And gasped.

He staggered back a step, almost tripping over the garden tie that bordered the lawn. He looked up from his feet...

At his door. His door. He put one hand over his eyes, groaning softly. Long nights. he thought. Just long nights.

Just for a second, though...that door had been massive. Ten feet wide, half again as high. Roughly hewn planks with rusted iron strappings. Just for a second...


He shook his head and put the key in the lock, in the normal, everyday lock. It was that thing tonight. That moment in room 1413. Everyone heard things wrong sometimes. Hell, last week Nicole had asked him if he wanted to turn down the radio, and he'd sworn she'd said "turn to the shadow". Why was this haunting him?

He could hear her shifting on the couch as he closed the door behind him and started shucking his shoes.

"Honey?" she called softly.

"Yeah, babe. It's me." he returned. He automatically checked his hands as he mounted the short staircase to the den, checking for blood. He'd terrified her once, having had missed a spot after scrubbing up once.

"You shouldn't have waited, babe." he said, as he always did, entering the den and seeing her sprawled under the crocheted blanket on the couch. She smiled sleepily up at him. "I know. I just like to." she said, again, like she always did.

He bent down and kissed her. "You should turn in. Little one will be up early." he said.

She stretched, the blanket falling away from the green t-shirt she liked to wear to bed. It had been his, long ago, when he'd been in the Service. "I know," she said. She rose, tossing the blanket from her lower half. His throat tried to constrict when he saw she was wearing just that small black pair of panties he liked. She never looked sexier. "Don't stay up late."

He watched her rise and begin to pad toward the stairs. "I wont." He watched her disappear past the bannister, wishing for the thousandth time he had a job that got him home early enough for them to have more of a sex life.

It wasn't that theirs was bad, far from it. Just not as frequent as he'd (and he was sure, she'd) like. But that was life. A demanding job, young child. Student loans that still needed paying, mortgage. God. He was his father.

He sighed softly and moved to the kitchen. Autopilot was kicking in again. Sandwich. Glass of water. Vitamins. Dishes in the dishwasher. Bathroom. Teeth.

It was only when he was finally lying beneath the covers, listening to Nicole breathe the deep breaths of sleep that his mind caught back up.


Nurse Author. Tim Casey, the comatose patient. Room 1413.

He rolled onto his side and let his heavy lids slide close against the muted red glow that told him the hateful drone of his alarm would start in just over four hours. His jaws cracked in a yawn.

She'd definetely said "Castle".
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Postby Now And Forever » Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:58 pm

Olivia Author gazed critically into the mirror. The tan from her week in the Caribbean was nearly gone, and the mix of light and dark on her face was making the slight crows' feet at the corners of her light brown eyes into hateful, crazed ravines.

She sighed.

She knew they weren't, not really. But her thirty-fifth year had come and gone, and the faded tan was all she had gained.

She left the bathroom, flicking the light off as she padded down the sun-faded green carpet of the hallway to the kitchen. The small flourescent light over the sink was buzzing in the way of all such, the harsh white light it cast making sharp shadows.

Something brushed her ankle. "Hello, you silly old thing." she said, glancing down at the aging, overweight tabby at her feet. Toby sat at her toes, giving her a stern, but affectionate look. He was hungry.

She smiled. "Alright, piggy. Let's get you some nummies." Toby sprang to his feet, though not as spryly as he once did, and began to lead the way to his cupboard.

As she allowed the whirr of the can-opener overtake the buzz of the light, she silently chatised herself. The vet had said last week that she had to stop letting Toby eat whenever he wanted, that his weight gain was too rapid.

But she liked to see her boy happy.

Sleep was long coming, once she had laid herself down. Toby, as usual, purred his sleepy sounds on the foot of her coverlet.

She kept thinking about room 1413. She couldn't get Mr. Casey's monitor out of her mind. That quick blip, that flicker of life in a patient who would gather dust if the staff wasn't paying attention.

She had been secretly overjoyed that she'd been there to see it happen. To have made it happen. She was sure that she was one of the only RN's on the shift that took the time to talk to her patients, even the ones in coma's. Especially the ones in coma's. She believed that she, Olivia, had brought life to the dead, in a way.

Imagine, a boring old story about her short vacation getting a reaction like that. Her time in the Castle hadn't been that exciting, after all. No tall dark lovers, no exciting adven...

Hang on.

"Castle?" she whispered.
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Postby Now And Forever » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:12 pm

Gerry was having that dream again. The one with the monsters.

The hallway had been long, longer than any hallway had any right of bein'. A distant part of his mind had felt a twinge for the poor soul who had to do the mopping up. And cold! Lordy, weren't it though! Icy stone underfoot, and drafts to push a skiff! But the temperature was the easy part. The doors he'd gone past were what really made him shiver. Some had been open, and the things inside may have looked more 'r less like people, but Gerry knew to his bones that they were nothing like God had planned. Maybe more like things He'd worried about.

People with skin that looked like ice. People with eyes that burned with colors he'd never seen before. People with wings, or metal bits where they're arms and such were s'posed to be. People with teeth like...well...nothing really had teeth like that. People that weren't people at all. Looking out at him.

The rooms with closed doors had been worse. One had been bouncing on it's hinges, like something inside was damned and determined to get it open. He'd had to cover his ears when he was outside the one with the screamin'. Lordy, but he heard that awful screamin' sometimes when he was awake. No one should have sounds like that in his head, even dream sounds. And that other one, the worst one.

The one that had that small crying coming from inside. That was the only one he stopped at, in this dream or any other of the same he'd had. Part of him could see it coming and tried to force himself to keep on, but it was always the same. He knelt down, peeked in the overlarge keyhole.

Peeked in and saw that blue eye, peeking back out at him. Long black lashes, pale skin around. The one that cried bloody tears while the sobs of a woman seeped gently through the door.

But he was past all that now. He was in the doorway of that room at the end of the hall. The one lit with fire.

He saw the dust coating the floor, thick as cotton. Dust broken by only one set of boot prints. He could see the one chair, the big wooden-backed one in front of the fire; back on to him on a slight angle. He could see the fire beyond it. The huge fire, so hot that it blazed near-white and roared like an animal.

The fire that burnt without wood, seeming to dance on the dead stone of the hearth.

He saw the left hand, resting limply on the arm of the chair. White, so very white it near glistened as the fire danced and roared.

Gerry closed his eyes on the dream. This was when he'd wake up.

"Hello, Gerald."

Gerry's eyes opened again. He stared at that white hand. After a silent moment he could hear his old mother's voice. "Gerry, you mind your manners, now. The man gave you a civil tongue, and I know I raised you well enough to give him one back."

He opned his mouth, but just couldn't speak.

"It's alright, Gerald." Almight Jay-sus, but that voice was...was...old. It sounded like it was far, far off. Hollow. But full of ice. Full of stone.

"You needn't be afraid of hurting my feelings. I know you to be a good man." that voice carried on, an avalanche of snow and time. "The kind of man that helps his neighbours shovel their walk. The kind that feeds stray animals. The kind," the voice took on a hint of amusement. "that talks to coma patients."

For just a moment, Gerry was not standing in the doorway of this room, but in the doorway of Ground-Zero. Not staring at that white hand, but at a white hospital bed. Just a flicker.

"M-Mr...Casey?" Gerry whispered. His voice was very small in his ears, almost to small for him to hear over the roar of the inferno. "In a way." the cold voice answered.

It went on. "I wanted to take a moment to thank you, Gerald. I know what room 1413 feels like. The way the air smells staler than it should. I know it isn't easy to open that door each shift."

Gerry shifted his wieght slightly on his feet. He wanted to say it was nothing, but that wasn't true. Opening that door was hard. The knob felt too cold, the mechanism too heavy. And that Mr. Casey was so impossibly still...

"I'm alone, Gerald." the voice broke in. The hand seemed to tighten on the arm of the chair slightly. "I can't keep the hearth filled with wood on my own, and having it burn like this is not something that can be done forever." Gerry regarded the fire, burning on the naked stone. He started to turn his head, to look down the hall to the rooms and the things inside.

"Echoes, Gerald. Memories." the voice said, as if the man talking could see without turning his head. "This place, even lifeless, still twitches like a thing newly dead. They cant feed the flames."

Gerry didn't know what to say. "What...do you want? With me?".

A pause.

"I want you to keep mopping, Gerald. I want the the hospital to do it's job. I want Tim Casey to wake up." the voice grew colder. Furious. Agonized. The flames of the hearth redoubled their furious dance, the roar becoming deafening.

There was movement, a head was coming into view from behind the high chair back. All Gerry could see were the eyes. Frozen emeralds. Green supernovas in the vaccuum of deepest space.

"I want to live."

Gerry woke to sweat-soaked blankets, the echo of his scream in his ears.
Night came. His shift came. The hallway came. The fiftieth time his mop slapped wetly against the tile came.

The door.

He forced the too-cold doorknob to turn.

He stared at the still form on the bed, in the too-dim light of the bedside lamp.

He remembered fire, and the thunderclap of the voice. Rage and sorrow feeding each other poison. He remembered the pleading blaze of icy green.

"Hullo, Mr. Casey."
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