Anders Iversen is an advertising executive and outrageous gossip. He's Danish, from Copenhagen, and seems to have been responsible for some rather famous marketing campaigns (and some very irritating ones, too). He spends most of his time around the hotel telling unlikely anecdotes about his friends, history, and just about anything else that takes his fancy.
A slow descent, the world above receding. The Incarnadine Seas slowly breaking up on the surface above, sections of hull and conning tower and more falling through the water around. He smiles. Under his breath he starts to sing, a simple song, as he holds the globe tight to his chest:
“He's got the whole world in his hands
He's got the whole world in his hands”
Eventually he comes to rest in the silt. Eventually the oxygen meter registers zero. Eventually Anders Iversen, the Faceless Man, the Red Man Reborn. Stops. Breathing.
Inky blackness, broken by intermittent flashes of bio-phosphorescence.
Unimaginable pressure, held at bay by a perspex coffin built to last an age of humanity.
Depthless time, ticking by second by second.
Anders cannot he live under such conditions - human (or close to) as he is he needs air, and food, and water. Moreover, cut off from his cult, from his worshippers, he is unable to draw on their energy to sustain himself and his immortality. So he must die.
But the Red Man Reborn cannot die. It is in the nature of such beings that they can only be killed, actively ended, by an equal. So he must live.
An impossible paradox - neither dead, nor alive, but ever-dying instead.
He remains, and time passes.
Dannar dies. Anders does not know it, at least not the specific cascade of bronchitis, treatment, pneumonia, heart-problems, heart-attack, coma and eventually death, but he knows the general shape of it. Trapped as he is, under miles of Ocean, he can no longer succour his family to ever-lasting life, the Red World as the conduit for the the energy-siphon. It is inevitable.
Maude-Bianca dies. Anders does not know it, not the specifics, but he knows the general fact of it. A single glass flower placed on an anonymous grave (for the cult will be in hiding, their identities altered, always chased, always pursued) will be all that is left.
Everyone he ever knew dies. Save for the Immortals, of course.
Alone in the deep, ever-dying, never-living.
Nothing to see, save Oceanic darkness. Nothing to do, save reflect. Nowhere to go. Save the Red World, of course.
But Demiurge though he is, such travel is not possible - the Red World is too damaged, the links between the two worlds were shattered, the rites and rituals bringing the one world into the other were undone, unmade. Not even Anders' Lies-As-Truth-To-The-World can overcome this. Three times three might he repeat “I can cross over” in all the incantations he can try - it cannot be done.
And yet. And yet. Dead as the Red World is, damaged to the very brink of unmaking, broken in time, space and vector, its nature lies in the impossible. Its very presence in this world is, by definition, something outside all the possibilities of this world. It is impossible by every rule, reason and ontology for Anders to cross over.
Impossible is what the Red World does.
“The way is shut. The path is sundered. I cannot do it.
The way is barred. There is no road. I am undone.
The way is gone. No hope remains. It is impossible.
By 'I cannot'. By 'I am undone'. By the very fact that it is impossible for this to work, I say that a door is open”.
And it is. And he passes over.
Anders had had such plans. A world reborn with a little soul-energy tapped from his Cult here, a little found and channelled through there, perhaps a siphon to the World-Bridge in time. Never enough to cause real harm, of course. After all, what are a few days, a few hours, a few minutes less in the space of a whole life? What little cost are they in the face of the hope of a whole world?
Some little was already passed across, but Anders had stuck to his rule - never too much, after all, he had all the time in the world to begin with.
Enough for a throne upon which to sit, a hall in which to place the throne and even enough for a single family to birth into the Red World. One might imagine, given the person of the Red Man of old, given Anders' cult-cultivation, that such a family would be grown solely to serve the Faceless One.
One might imagine, but such is not the case. With so little to work with, no garden, no single pot plant ever received such care and attention as does the Red Family. No household spirit, no ancestor-spirit, no guardian angel was ever half so attentive as the Faceless Man, the Red Man Reborn, as Anders is of this family. Of his Family, for what else could one call them really?
The work is hard. This is a dead world and everything within tends towards death. Every breath, every step, every moment is a battle of the will to live against the odds. The Family cannot grow, there is no spare soul-matter to allow for that. Instead, like fine wine, they are aged becoming only more complete, more resonant within themselves and with each other. Of course they fight, all Families fight, but the guiding hand of the Red Man Reborn heals all wounds - after all he has experience in such matters.
Once Anders had hoped to re-birth this world with an accumulation of soul energy siphoned off over a thousand years and more. Once Anders had hoped to construct roads between the worlds and to jump-start the Ashen Realm with cultists and technologies physically brought across. Once he imagined crystal cathedrals filled with friends and family. Now he has only one Family, but they are good, and they are strong, and they are well.
“Contact, contact, contact.”
The research vessel skims a meter above the waves, the grav-drive causing barely a stir in the water below.
In the aftermath of the storming of the Incarnadine Seas the Sacristy of the Red World was scattered to the four winds, its assets stripped and its members arrested and turned. The arrayed resources of a world spent to bring it to its knees. The Faceless Man's transponder had power for up to five years. The first search, led by Dannar, were organised by the remains of the Cult only after eleven years and even that was too soon - the chartered vessel was picked up by the authorities after only three days of searching.
The remains of the cult, a mere two or three dozen, lead in his absence by his sister Maude-Bianca. She held the faith, but after thirty years and five further explorations, four of which were intercepted, it was decided that the faithful must wait. So the search coordinates were encoded into the sacred texts, and the word of the Red Man Reborn, of the Faceless One, was passed from parent to child in secret. Once in every five generations would an exploration would be organised, and as time passed, so the Sacristy of the Red World succeeded in fading into the history books.
But Anders Iversen was not found, not until, after the longest time
“Contact, contact, contact.”
“Confirm contact. I repeat, please confirm contact.”
“Contact confirm. Spectrometers confirm plasteo-concrete and Lozander-distribution analysis confirms age of object to +/- 10 years of the target zone.”
Another three years are spent arranging the deep sea dive, the extraction, all under conditions of the utmost care and secrecy. In the end the glass coffin is retrieved and the desiccated remains of the Faceless One are recovered.
But it does not stir. Not for a year and day.
Once, long, long ago it was a ziggurat.
Once, long, long ago it was a villa. A castle. A chateau. A motel. A casino.
It is none of these things now, but still, it is.
Once a year, every year, the doors are thrown open and the waifs, the strays and the survivors, most of all the survivors, are welcomed with open arms.
This year, not so long after the nexus opens for its annual festivities, a man steps across the threshold. A man with no face.
“Barred!” The manager's voice rings out clear across the floor. “You. Are. Barred!”
“Come, come Amelia” he replies, using a name that no longer fits, yet which is replete with such memories and meaning. “Surely this is no way to treat an old friend? And anyway, you can't bar me. Make me leave, certainly - come show forth your puissance and banish me hence, but barring me? No, we both know you can't do that.”
The crowds here present are torn between bearing witness to the occasion, and finding cover. A holding pattern of sorts begins to form, and equilibrium of terror and the sense of being present for the turning of an age.
“Fine. I cannot bar you, but I can throw you out. And shall. And friend? If ever we were such I have long forgotten. All you and I now have are enmity, opposition, contention. Come let us end this now!”
“End it Manager? You could, of course. My power does not equal yours, but I did not come for war, for battle, for contention. I came to offer you something far better than an ending, I came to offer you a story, a story about a Family living in a dead world. I want to tell you about the labour of their hands, the yearning in their hearts, and harmony of their souls. I want to tell you about Ash that is turned, across time uncounted, into soil, and soil into weeds, weeds into crops and on and on.
I want you to know the joy they felt when first they tasted food, when rain first fell from the sky. I want you to know about the first Crisis they faced - how they were faced with a choice, as we once were faced with a choice, and I want you to know that in the end they chose to love and not to hate, to grow and not to weed. I want to invite you to my world to meet the Twins - Dannar and Maude-Bianca (Ma-Bi to the Family), the first new souls birthed in the Red Realm since before the first Ziggurat ever was built here in your world.
I want to tell you a story, because, my friend, stories… stories never end.”