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<<dialog 'SETTINGS' 'Voice From Void'>>\
<<button "Mute Audio">><<audio "Murasaki" pause>><</button>>
<<button "Unmute Audio">><<audio "Murasaki" play>><</button>> \
JUNE 24, 2017.
There's a girl in Portland sitting in a computer chair one floor up from a riotous boredom. It's a summer day. Her monitor displays a Youtube page that reads: "WIZENED TEMPLE CULT RECRUITMENT VIDEO 1996". It's uploaded by a user named "August Copeland". It has one view.
<input type="button" onclick="alert('MEDIA DELETED')" value="WIZENED TEMPLE CULT RECRUITMENT VIDEO 1996">
<<audio "Murasaki" loop play>>
She finishes watching it, and begins writing to "August Copeland", after discovering an email address in the description. Her email asks after the video, as she believes she's discovered some kind of art project, and that she's the first one to lay eyes on it.
Her room is the result of a slightly decayed neatness epiphany, on the verge of untidy.
There's a brief interval where she's ceded her time to the boredom, then a reply emerges. Her curiosity is still fresh, so she sets about reading it.
<<link 'VIEW EMAIL'>>
<<dialog '06.26.18' 'Voice From Void'>>\
From: August Copeland
To: April Hannigan
Subject: (no subject)
"It's not a hoax, or any kind of weird art project, this was literally burned off a disk I found in my parents' room. They're a part of this bizarre cult thing, and I assumed it was just some offshoot of some other religion or something, they're not up front about it at all and they used to punish me whenever I asked, so I just pretended it didn't exist, basically. But they've been acting //really// weird as of late, and then I find this literal library of 'advertisements' and posters in their room, and none of it's anywhere on the internet... I was hoping someone would see it, hopefully recognize it, then I could get try to get in contact with them." \
Finished reading, she attempts to reopen the video, only to find that it's been deleted... along with the channel that was hosting it. This is a shock, and it seems to lend credence to some of August's words. The forthcoming email exchange proceeds with haste, without hesitation.
<<link 'VIEW EMAIL'>>
<<dialog '06.26.18' 'Voice From Void2'>>\
From: August Copeland
To: April Hannigan
"They deleted it. Either it was my parents and I'm screwed, or it was other cultists, and that's //even more// terrifying. Fucking hell.
Also, how did you originally find the video?
Was it Youtube recommendations, or...?" \
April tells him that she found the video through a link on one of her high school's online forums, which, come to think of it, is very strange indeed considering that only one person saw it, if Youtube's view counter can be believed. She asks him if he goes to Wilson High School, and if he was the one that posted the video.
<<link 'VIEW EMAIL'>>
<<dialog '06.26.18' 'Voice From Void3'>>\
From: August Copeland
To: April Hannigan
"Yes. I did post it there; I do go to that school. So... I guess it wasn't really getting out as much as I thought it was. I'm glad you saw it, at least.
Things are worse than I told you about. My parents have completely stopped talking to me, and they keep punishing me without telling me what I did. They went somewhere and locked me in the house for FOUR days, and then they just came back like nothing ever happened. I know it's weird, but I don't have anyone else to ask... what the fuck should I do?" \
The naked pleading in this reply makes her feel anxious, caged. She's his only council, and she doesn't feel like she can refuse him help. Her response holds comfort but not much in the way of advice, as it was quickly slapped together once the gravity of his situation sunk in.
The next email is rather short, suggesting that maybe they could meet in person to talk about this, considering that they go to the same school and everything.
This does nothing for April's anxiety, but she still feels uncomfortable with refusing him, considering that he's otherwise optionless. They agree to meet two days from then, after settling a plausible meeting place.
Following this, April recedes back into the arms of internet-augmented boredom, consuming with slightly more vigour now that she has something to forget about. It's 1:18 AM when she lapses out of the haze, moves quietly through a nightly routine, and crumples into a restless sleep, her mind blanded by the excess of entertainment.
[[When she awoke...->In Person Contact]]
<<ui stow>> JUNE 26, 2017
She was cocooned in a mussed, unmade bed. The crimson cave of her closed eyes was going pink from exposure to the risen sun. She kept them closed regardless, resolute in her decision to keep out of the world for several minutes more. Outside, the rays played over the cobblestone path to her house in upscale Portland. Experimentally, she tried to assemble the image she would see when she opened her eyes: There would be a strewn laptop. A poster of Bill Nye. A bag and an umbrella hanging from her door knob. A sticker-clustered closet, replete with mirror. An illegibly tiny map of Dubai. A drawing from fifth-grade that wasn't supposed to still be hanging there.
Eventually, the temptation to check overpowered her, and she opened her eyes to a partial confirmation of success, though she had neglected to mention the spindly self-assembled bookshelves, and the crappy fiction crammed therein.
After this confirmation, she shut away the world again, for today was the day in which responsibility loomed, the first since the demise of school. There was a troubled and abused kid waiting for her in Palace Park, and she had to be ready for that in... probably two hours, three? It depended on how long she slept, so it was probably a bad idea to sleep more...
She awoke and it was one hour. There was a hurried attempt to escape obviously slept-late syndrome, then a hasty lie to her parents and a short bus trip to the park, and then anxiety as her exploits caught up with her; the park's entrance drew near. She was relieved, as she saw that it was empty save one.
The guy that was probably August was sitting on a bench, obviously uncomfortable. His frame was skinny and partway towards tall, perfectly at home in a weight loss "after" photo. He kept hair that was chalky from frustrated tossling, his face was naturally sallow, and his skin wore a half tarnish from hosting a crusade against pubic blemish.
She approached him, electing not to join him on the bench.
'Are you August?'
Confirmation then. She tossed words across the park's generic daisies.
'How're your parents?'
The banality of those words was meant to convey an ironic recognition of the situation's seriousness. By this metric, it failed.
'Not good. They haven't said a word to me in nearly a month, and last night I woke up literally on my front lawn--no warning, nothing, and I'm locked out of the house. I've been living in this park for about a day now.'
His clothes were certainly grass-stained enough for that to the case.
'Jesus Christ. Have you called anybody?'
'Yeah, Social Services... Supposedly, my parents told them I would call, spun this whole fantasy about how I was trying to get them indicted, taking my anger out on them. I've called them twelve times, then they blocked my number out of exasperation, I think.'
'What's... what's your plan, then?'
'Keep checking my house, it'll be unlocked at some point. Then... I don't know.'
'Have you called the police?'
'No, it's not a good idea. If I don't //actually// get my parents indicted, they'll never let me out of the house again; and if I //do// get them indicted, the other cultists will never forget it, and I'll be in a foster home for the rest of my life.'
'What about other people's houses? Do you know anyone from school?'
'Nothing permaneant. Patrick might take me temporarily but he's... indisposed.'
April makes it nonverbally clear that she's waiting for clarification.
'He's in the hospital'
'What about like a hotel or something?'
'That'd //really// piss them off. I wouldn't last a day.'
'How do they even know where you are... can't you just run away?'
'Theoretically I could. I just don't think it's likely to make things better... and they'd probably find me anyway.'
They pause for a second. April sits down on the bench.
'Thanks for listening to all of this. I think it's pretty obvious that I don't really have anyone else to talk to.'
'What about people from school?'
'They all left for the summer... except Patrick, but he's not exactly in prime conversation conditions.'
Long silence. It's a really damned nice day, all lush and leafy and full of unobtrusive insect life; a pulse of vibrancy that seems created somehow, beautiful on purpose. Neither of them are appreciating it much.
'What do you know about the cult?'
'Some. It all comes from those videos, I binged them while I was locked in. It's some utopian thing from the nineties, there was a prophet guy that was preaching all over the ads; constantly fundraising for this town on a "Mount Nazareth".'
'Not obviously. But they had all the cliches, asking people to leave everything behind, give up all their money, et cetera. I checked out Mount Nazareth, it's a //weird// fucking place. Nothing about it on the internet either, save a few pictures from way back.'
'So no cult-towns then.'
'I want to watch the rest of those videos.'
'I... I want to see it for myself.'
'You're welcome to come and watch them when I get back into my house, my parents are hardly there anyways.'
The conversation continues for a little while longer, though the gravitas has dropped from it. April proffers up more sympathy, trying to make up for her failure to produce a solution, or even a plan. There's a tentative arrangement to meet in the future and watch all the videos, at August's house.
Presently April is taking the bus home, full of gestating ideas. On return she'll be internet-immersed for a couple hours, then collapsing into the same fitful sleep as ever.
[[On the Day of the Tentative Arrangement...->Formation of the Plan]]
<<ui stow>>August's house is the shittiest mansion you've ever seen in your life... not that it's collapsing in on itself or anything, it just looks like it's had three owners, and not one of them has ever tried to clean it.
April and August sit reasonably apart on the best of three couches, watching an early-era flat screen T.V as it discloses the contents of an individual cartridge, borne from the pile off to the side.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/h4nsCWWiKqM" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
'What do you think?'
'What the... fuck. That's an unreasonable amount of creepy. Too much creepy to fake.'
'...I mean, they're not even being subtle about it.'
'How did they pay for all of that, if they don't even have a wikipedia page?'
'That's the thing: I know they had members, cause in some of these other videos there's whole crowds of people. So they're not on the internet--there's probably a reason for that. And we saw first hand what happened when we tried to //put// them on the internet?'
'So they're deleting everything then. But... other people must have seen the ads, right?, they can't delete memories.'
'Yeah they can, if they're criminal about it. Bribery, blackmail, murder, plenty of ways to delete memories.'
'And... that's what you want to catch them for?'
'Among other things. And I don't actually believe that they're completely gone off the internet... or if they are, I'm going to be make absolutely sure of it. Not like I have anything better to do anyway.'
These last words were said explicitly to the griminess of the living room, as if it were a physical thing.
'How long has it been since you've seen your parents again?'
April and August's friendship is still mostly in the "extended interview" phase, partially because April is really interested in what the fuck is going on with August's... whole life, she supposes.
'A week now. I think they're staying away cause recently I've been trying to figure out where they //go// when they're not here.'
'Any theories on that by the way?'
April found it hard to believe that he didn't know, them being his parents and everything. That's a long time to hide what looked to be the most significant part of their lives, she figures.
'Of course. I actually know where the old cult-center is, they used to take me there when I was younger. They called it quote "the barracks"; it was like a repurposed church, it had offices and an altar and bunks and a basement that was off-limits, very stereotypical. I'm assuming the new one's probably the same kind of thing.'
'That's surprisingly normal.'
'Yeah well... the basement was off-limits.'
'I've been there recently as well. It's basically just a regular church now, and while yes, everybody //knows// about the previous owners, nobody knows //that much//. I think there's probably a reason for that.'
'...Goddamn. I didn't think cults really did this... it's like a movie, like we're tracking down the secret order of Cthulu.'
'Actually, on that note, I've got a question for you.'
April comes to attention at this, sensing significance.
'Does the idea of calling every church in the city that bears a resemblence to this one so that we can try to find my parents sound... possible?'
'That's too much for two people I think.'
'But theoretically possible. If we can get more people on it.'
END OF CURRENT WORKING DRAFT, MORE WORK OBVIOUSLY TO BE DONE
BACKGROUNDS BY LIAM MANSBRIDGE
WRITING, MUSIC, AND CODE BY ADAM HOWE
<h1> [[...->Untitled Passage]] </h1>
<<cacheaudio "Murasaki" "https://torportemptress.neocities.org/gottsching's%20gambit_3.mp3">>