The Night of Many Names

I’m not going to tell you a lot of things. The things I need to tell you, I will, but the rest you will have to trust in or disbelieve the entire thing. I don’t really care.

Which is the first lie.

I do care. I’m trying to tell you something that’s important. If I fail to convince you of the meat of this story, then I will have to try again. That will be dangerous. But someone needs to know.

And that is the second truth I’ve revealed to you.

Proceed with caution but proceed. It’s important.

This is about a single night in the calendar that you’ve never heard of but which has as many names as cultures that are aware of it. It’s the Night of Many Names, the night when bad things happen to good people because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s unfortunate, but necessary. The herd must be culled.

Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. I cannot confirm or deny the veracity of the last statement. You will have to take it on faith. If you take it all.

No one dies on the Night of Many Names. At least not a result of the Night itself. Maybe the actions that occur after, but nothing directly related to what I’ll describe. There is a spillway into our Universe and its location is known only to we Builders. Our Great Houses must be located far from the spillway. That is paramount.

The fourth truth is that sometimes it’s possible that good things can happen on the Night of Many Names.

For the Builders, anyway. I was initiated as a Builder on the last Night of Many Names forty years ago. Ah, wait. I need to explain.

The Night of Many Names doesn’t happen according to the calendar on your wall or in your phone. The notion that time as we know it is the clock the Universe runs on is too egocentric. It’s not the way the Unvierse works, so now you know.

Mom and Dad dropped me off to spend the night with my grandfather and my big sister slept over at a friend’s. I’m older than her now but that’s not important to this story.

That might not be a lie.

So I was a mere boy when Gran’pa brought me in front of – no, even anonymously I can’t tell you that.

Anyway.

“Zanzi follik parthen,” Gran’pa said as we sat in the audience. He pointed to the top of the wall in front of us and told me to pay attention.

I did. What happened next was something straight out of pulp fiction horror stories. A swirl of inky darkness appeared then produced glittering diamonds of light that spread out into seven arms. A dusting of glowing matter occupied the space in between though the blackness was omnipresent. A cold mist rose up around us. Gran’pa put his hand on my arm which settled me.

“There’s nothing to fear,” he said. “This is a protected place. Just watch.”

I watched the mist creep across my feet. I saw blinking – I don’t know, fairy lights I suppose here and there. I didn’t then and still don’t now have any other way to describe them. But they weren’t the main attraction.

The comets that shot out of the seven arms – I quickly lost count but there were hundreds – were lost to sight so fast that I wondered later if I’d seen them. That probably isn’t a lie.

“Zanzi klast pussuure,” everyone said. Everyone but me.

In the past, as I’ve thought and thought about the events of the Night With Many Names, it’s been true that I haven’t been able to find words adequate enough to describe what I felt. It’s still true, if you believe me so far.

Good.

Because what I felt cannot be translated into any other human experience. It’s a kind of awakening, yet it’s so mingled with fear and excitement that comparing it to waking from a nightmare is more apt. Then it’s not exactly like that, either. There’s hunger for food, a desire for sex, one’s brain is afire with visions of things that don’t exist and never could. Not on this plane of reality, anyway. There’s sweat and awful scents and things crawling on your skin but they’re not. Perhaps it’s more like tuning a guitar to an open chord rather than its standard tuning.

Certainly everything after is like learning to play in that open tuning. The chords are constructed differently and they sound similar but they are not the same.

That’s what happened to me that night. The Night of the Lights. The Night of the Comets. The Night of Awakening. The Night of Fear. The Bad Night.

My grandfather brought me out of the viewing and took me to a whorehouse. I was thirteen.

It took three experienced women four hours to bring me down. When I left, the madam smiled at me. I never saw her take money from my grandfather. Never since have I been able to repeat that performance. I’ve tried but no. That was the Night of the Pillars of the Earth. The Night of the Breaking Grounds. In some ways it haunts me.

Gran’pa taught me the ways of the Builders, all about the Great Houses and the Things… When I graduated high school he’d set me up at the college all the Builders attend no matter what’s on their resumes. My internship was interesting but that’s none of your concern, right now. My early career was spent in learning the ins and outs of managing the Building of the Great Houses. There is as much art as science, as much magic as management in this regard. I am recognized as one of the Great Builders.

The Great Houses are important. Each is part of the historical register in its region, many of them nationally recognized, too. I leave it to you to discover which of them are which. Do not give in to the temptation that they are all mansions, either. Some appear to be very humble indeed.

But perhaps that is a lie.

Perhaps it is time I closed and left you with a final truth. The Night of Many Names is a Night of Truth and Deception Revealed. It is the Zanzi Boruk Trepaghit.

It is something you will have to experience for yourself. I haven’t mentioned even one tenth of the Names of that night. I don’t know them all. That is a truth.

If you choose to believe it.

When the mists come and you see the fairy lights, you’ll know what is true and what isn’t. That much is in your blood.

I already told you how I know that. Perhaps you don’t recall. Or perhaps that is the final lie.

Or not.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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