Monday, February 27, 2012

Somnambulists (Wermspittle)

Somnambulists

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

The Sleeper (1831)
Edgar Allen Poe




Somnambulists are of many kinds and sorts, but in general they are those individuals who are deeply entranced, their minds locked away deep inside or extracted altogether and their sleeping bodies turned into automaton-like slaves of unscrupulous sorcerers. The process of suppressing the victim's psyche is alleged to have been developed from efforts at countering mezmerists, hypnotists and demonic or other contramaterialist forms of possession. The method of extracting the psyche of a victim is rumored to be similar to the synthetic metempsychotic process employed by the Soulless, but this has never been verified or acknowledged by a credible authority, so it is considered to be so much idle speculation. There are also rumors that there might be Somnambulist connections to the Hasnamusses...but again, that's unconfirmed and decidedly difficult, not to mention terribly dangerous to investigate. It is far safer, and much easier to note the similarities between Somnambulism and Zombism, especially since dozens of treatises and monographs have been published detailing their very clear and direct connections and areas where the two fields overlap more than a little. Indeed it is specifically because of this overlap that the third option of Necromesmerism was first developed during the last years of the so-called War of Thorns.

Not What It Used To Be...
Once, the practice of somnambulism was quite wide-spread, with quite a thriving trade in customized cabinets that catered to the whims and fancies of each and every Somnambulatory Adept with money, but it eventually, as with all such fads, fell out of favor. Most of the certifying bodies that once boasted of hundreds of professional members have lapsed into obscurity and neglect, if not outright foreclosure and discontinuance. The field of Somnambulism is in profound decline. Standards have fallen drastically, and it is no longer under the close scrutiny of the Medical Profession and has slipped into the hands of sleazy cabaret managers, rogue theater directors, and ethically-impaired charlatans who prey upon the gullible and vulnerable, enslaving their victims within a terrible living non-death.

Sorcerers have always had access to the methods, techniques and body of work surrounding the field of Somnambulism, but it has only been in the last hundred years that any real progress has been made along the lines of re-developing the banned, damned and censored techniques surrounding the development of somnambulistic soldiers, such as those employed by the Sleeping Legion and the forces rallied to the lost cause of the Violet Banner. Outlaw Oneirists have been showing up at estate sales and auctions and one of the things that always attracts their attention are those things pertaining to classical forms of somnambulism. Perhaps the Violet Banner might arise once more?

Disreputable & Dubious
Somnambulism has become synonymous with slavery and degradation, it is no longer considered a sort of pathology nor even a medical technique of dubious merit, but rather an out-moded form of abuse and an antiquated approach to sorcerous subjugation. Where once certain deviant Nobles might have engaged somnambulistic servants or slaves, what were once derogatorily referred to as 'cabinet-dwellers,' nowadays only pimps, pushers and morally bankrupt innkeepers and rathskellar proprietors bother with such things. Or at least that has been the prevailing perception for several decades. But Somnambulists aren't only found in brothels or beer halls. The bodies of three confirmed Somnambulists were recently recovered from the Near Depths by the Sewer Militia. One of them showed distinct marks of having been used in some sort of capacity by an Ungeziefer, but not in the usual manner of those wicked things. It had not been converted into a Cacozombie. The Under Marshall is personally calling for an expedition-in-force to deal with what he views as a quote; "...very real threat brewing right below our very feet..." Endquote. Unfortunately, due to the lack of any further compelling evidence, there is little chance of such a major operation being approved. Besides, the experts all disagree as to just what was done to the three recovered bodies and since their summary cremation due to a clerical error, no one but those on the original crew really know just what it was that they actually discovered. Too bad most of that crew soon perished in a freak gas pocket explosion while continuing along their appointed rounds. Perhaps, once again, a few small bands of contractors and freelancers will bravely muck around in the Near Depths, sparing the Sewer Militia the expense of mounting a full-scale offensive upon something that might, or might not even be down there.

Mykal
One night, not three weeks hence, a man staggered out of the Burned Over District into the wan glow of Koponu-cages hanging across the barricades where a group of Wall Guards kept watch. He was in a terrible state, his bare feet were raw and worn down to the bone in places, there wasn't a square inch of his skin that wasn't lacerated, bruised or crudely stitched back together in a clumsy attempt to address the more grievous injuries. An assortment of chisels and wood-working tools were cunningly inserted and lashed into the flesh of his left hand with strands of what appeared at first blush to be rawhide. It was clearly infected and seeping a grisly yellowish pus. The right hand was hideously burned, as if from grasping a hot iron rod.

The guards quickly sent for assistance and within the hour Mykal was safely ensconced deep within the fortified and protected grounds of the Medical College. Sixteen hours of surgery and dozens of spells later, all the worst was past, at least physically. For Mykal.

According to those who make it a point to know about such things, or at least to put forth learned opinions in the absence of concrete facts, as a public service, the strange man now known as 'Mykal,' was a former refugee who had been abducted from the shanty camps and forcibly converted into a somnambulistic gladiator or pit-fighter. It would appear that several gangs of Feral Children have begun to cooperate, if only tacitly, to kidnap and use adults taken from the shanty camps in their latest round of games. How and why they are converting their victims into Somnambulists is something of an open question. Some suspect the involvement of Outlaw Oneirists. Others argue that it is a clear sign of the evil machinations of an Oddling or rogue Prodigy. So far, no one really knows, save maybe the kids, and so far, they're not talking.

Sources: The most obvious inspiration is The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, which can be seen in its entirety at YouTube, via Google, or Movies Found Online, among dozens of other such sites. You can also download a copy from Archive.org, if you'd prefer. There was a remake, of a sort, attempted (or not?) a few years ago that incorporated live actors with footage derived from the original movie; the trailer is still available at Google. There is also a fun 'Exquisite Corpse' style project that produced two brand new and very different soundtracks for this classic movie that some consider to be the very first Horror Movie. The Sleeping Legion might have been inspired by Kate Bush and her song Army Dreamers, maybe. The Sleeper, by Poe is a natural fit, in a suitably phantasmagoric, slightly backwards post-Gurdjieff sort of way. Various Somnambulist Sub-Types will no doubt present themselves as things continue to develop.

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff as always. I'm also reminded of the sleeping prostitues of Gibson's stories (I think "Burning Chrome" is where the practice is alluded to).

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  2. Gibson? Hey, he had that modified junkie-dolphin in Burning Chrome too, didn't he? I've always wanted to have dolphins like that in a game. Maybe there are some disreputable dolphins lurking deep below the city, in one of the subterranean harbors--that'd be fun. It's been a long time since I read Burning Chrome--in Omni. Wow. Interesting connection there; I was looking at the how somnambulism and mesmerism fit into some of the Machen-inspired stuff, like the Soulless, and a bit of the old Sleeping Beauty fairy-tale, as seen through the cracked lens of the old folklore about certain goddesses restoring/regaining their virginity by bathing in a fountain...'the healing power of sleep' meets miraculous fountains...after a fashion, but you've got me thinking a bit now. Hmmm. There are a lot of anachronistic things going on in Wermspittle...I can see a bit of off-brand consumer-level cyberpunk sneaking in, as weird contraband via the failed revolutionaries who've turned into underground smugglers, though none of it would be really any good, more dangerous to the user than anyone else and totally not under warranty any more...is the world ready for wormpunk?

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