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Holder of the Self

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In any city, in any country, go into any mental institution or halfway house you can get into. Go to the front desk and ask to see the one who calls them-self "The Holder of the Self". They will cock an eyebrow at you, then throw a bit of whatever they were eating at you and call you an idiot. Repeat your request, and they will relent. They will take you behind a door and waive you to an examination table. They will then leave, shaking their head at you.

Take off your clothes, although you may keep on your underwear if you choose. Lay back on the table, your arms at your side, and your legs slightly spread to the edges of the table. At this moment, dozens of monstrous hands will burst from the table, grasping with their jagged, filthy nails onto your body. Struggle all you like, you are theirs now.

They will begin kneading your skin, pushing and twisting, tickling and caressing. More will erupt from under you, pushing into your back with their knuckles. If at this point you cannot stand the treatment, if you are far too disgusted by their attentions, merely say "I reject this test. End it." They will pull at your extremities, ripping you apart joint-by-joint. This will be mercy.

If, however, you can stand this, say "I relax in your care, bring me to the object, oh Holder." At this point, five arms will erupt from the bed. Two will cover your eyes. Two will grasp your mouth and hold it as open as it can be. You will taste the salt and grime on their fingers. The last one will hold a bit of sweet fruit. It will dangle it across your tongue, and its juice will dribble into your mouth. You will want to hold this fruit in your mouth for a day, then begin to chew for the rest of eternity. Do not bite it. Do not savor its flavor. This is a trap. If you give in to this sweet fruit, your corpse will be as a sweet fruit for the million hands of the Holder.

If you pass this test, you will be rewarded. The hands will transform as they knead you. They will be as soft and delicate as a young maiden's. Their nails will be perfectly trimmed and manicured. The smell of elegant perfume will gently waft across your nose. It will not be very powerful at all, but tantalizing. You will hear a chanting from inside your mouth, in a voice that is not your own. This is, was, the sweet fruit. It has now dried up into a small, ashy stone. It will chant of the heroes who tasted its brothers and sisters of yesteryear. Relax, for now the Holder is pleased with you.

When your relaxation has drifted you off into a state of utter bliss, the ash-fruit will be withdrawn from your mouth. The hands that held open your mouth will grip your throat tight enough that you cannot escape. The hands that closed over your eyes will open, but only far enough to see straight ahead. The hands that once caressed you will hold you tightly, almost painfully. you will be tilted into a vertical position and the long eye-stalks of the Holder will poke into your limited view. They will watch you: some of them critically, some of them angrily, some of them sympathetically, and some... some will look at you lewdly. Say to it, "May this body offend your eyes, oh Holder. Bring me the object." Pray that this is true, for if it is not, the Holder will rip out your arms and eyes, and you will forever experience life through it.

If you are indeed offensive to its eyes, you may still count yourself unlucky, for your quest will not end this day. From between your legs will erupt a pair of arms. Held in their hands will be a massive, jagged, ornate key. It will stab you in the chest, and rip out from you a glowing light. The wound where it plunged into you will be gone. The key will be tossed away.

The sphere of light will consume the key. It will take on a form identical to yours, and will dim until it is your exact twin. Your twin will discuss with you all manner of things. What it will say, none may know, except that to answer its questions and respond to its statements will slowly erode your every mental defense. Be perfectly honest with it, in precise and full detail. If you wish to laugh, laugh. If you wish to cry, cry. If you are enraged, yell. Hold nothing back. Focus only on your twin. Do not look at the eyes or hands, no matter what they do. Do not listen to the whispers coming from the hands on the side of your head. If you do, you will be crushed, and your twin will drink deeply of your blood.

When your twin is done with their conversation, it will revert to being a key. A small key. At that point, the hands by your head will say "Speak, for you have faced yourself." Ask it only one question: "Who are we to Him?" The hands will hold your neck absolutely still. You will not be able to move your head. The hands will close over your eyes and mouth. You will be unable to speak or see. The hands will spread your arms and legs as far as they might be spread. You will not be able to move. You will feel something slimy sliding along the inside of your thighs. You will be unable to protest. At that point, the Holder will describe to you every single evil thing that He has done to humanity and every evil thing He will do to humanity. He will describe in vivid detail how each of the objects will be used to discover and create new evils to perform and enact. Then he will describe, to your horror, the results of these evils. He will tell you tales of the husks of humanity as they spend the rest of eternity reenacting His work, writhing in an agony beyond all imaginable hells multiplied together. And then, beyond it all, he will tell you of the abominations reserved by Him for you, to be heaped upon you by those innocents you once held dear. Then, he will tell you what humanity is to Him. This knowledge alone may kill you.

Without warning, the hands will stretch you, pulling you apart until you think you might break. Then it will fold you at each of your joints until you are rolled in a ball. It will pull and stretch and twist your body every which way, and your body will scream in pain as the Holder discovers new ways to contort your body without destroying it. Then it will dump you on the floor. You will be fully clothed, and in your pocket will be a small, jagged, ornate key. You may leave at any time.

That key is object 94 out of 538, the Key of the Inner Self. With it, you will discover the inner truths of any person or objects you stab with it. May it never discover the truths of the others.

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