I opened my eyes and shut them again, and couldn't tell the difference. There I walked in such a blackness that it fractured with an embryonic light my mind desperately wanted to perceive, feeling my way down an irregular corridor toward the source of an oncoming draft. As I stumbled onwards, the air current grew forceful against me. I kept to the wall, following the fractal fuzz borne of my fear, prodding ahead with my hands until they slid from ancient carved stone to natural earth. A few more steps and there was an odd protrusion not of dirt, but of something twisted and tubular. It was moist to the touch, gave off a phenolic odor, and splintered off into smaller stalks. They increased in number as I crept forth, tripping me as they snaked onto the path. In time, it seemed as if the tunnel was made of them, and I could scarcely imagine what foliage grew from roots such as these.
I started to cough, an instinctive reaction to a stray particle, but my body failed to expel it. Hems became convulsive heaves, and as I doubled over I could feel a plume of wet dust cake my face. There was something in the air. Choking, I frantically pulled my collar over my mouth and pressed, hurrying forward over tuber and gnarl. It was then I could suddenly see through a veil of sweeping smut the faintest of glares, and quickened my pace to a clumsy run. The draft surged as I drew near, blasting me with whatever shrouded this accursed burrow. I squeezed my eyes shut and soldiered on through the howling wind until it stopped.
I dared open them, and realized I had at long last emerged from underground onto a soft brown platform. I blinked hard as my eyes adjusted, and the same particles that had smothered the passageway gently settled onto the tip of my nose. I looked up, following the platform as it grew into a towering stem, and let out a cry when I saw that it blossomed into an immense orange cap with gills of fantastic size. It was a mushroom the size of a house, and I was standing on its volva!
I stared mouth agape for a long time, and only broke my gaze when a peculiar sensation prickled ballooned through my chest. It was almost pleasant, euphoric even, but I hesitated to embrace that which came from nowhere. The volva dropped off onto what appeared to be grass, and I took an eager step forward to see what lay beyond this epic specimen. It was an inebriated stumble. There was something in my body, most likely the spores I had thought inert dust in the wind. Another moment and I could see my vision was being affected as well, rippling as if it were a pond perpetually disturbed. Strange dreams scarcely remembered beckoned me outside the cover of the mushroom, and I followed. Out into the night I went, and one glance at the vault above told me I was very far from home indeed.
Millions, nay, billions of unfamiliar constellations twinkled brightly, and elliptical galaxies threw their cosmic yoke over the endless black horizons of space. Host to this blessed view was a valley lush with an entire forest of those gargantuan mushrooms, dotted with craggy hills, luminescent flora, and a single cobblestone manor. It sat idle at the valley's concentric center, surrounded by toppled ruins and pillars that did not match its somewhat conventional architecture. Any fear gave way to an immense curiosity. I had to meet the master of this wondrous estate, and started down the field before me.
I had only walked a few steps when something crinkled beneath my foot: a piece of paper? It was thick parchment of an official capacity, but only a piece remained of what looked to be the beginning of a transcript written in an undecipherable scribble. No, the words were trembling into place. This altered state allowed me to read. I hesitated. What passed for common literature in this place? What could be considered the simplest prose by the denizens of this realm could for me rent open veils beyond my feeble fancies. Curiosity would be my ultimate doom, I thought to myself, and read on.
(Madman Tonight is filmed in front of a live studio audience)
Madman97 (sitting in his studio chair, brooding as usual): Ladies and gentlemen, I've been thinking...
Dave: That's a first.
Madman97: Yes, yes, laugh if you must, but you won't be after you hear what I have to say...or when I remove your throats. Whichever one comes first.
Madman97 (rubbing his hands together): That's more like it. It's no secret that I make frequent excursions to the mortal realm to indulge my wicked designs, and when it comes to the human race, insanity is not hard to come by. But this past year has left me irritated. Increase in conflict, unimaginably open incompetency and treachery, and general apathy. My word, Dave. They've ALL gone mad.
Dave: You sound almost disappointed. What's the issue? We are, as you put it, "creatures of chaos," are we not? We should be celebrating!
Madman97: Dave, you are my right hand and protégé in the art of discord. You have come a long way from your humble origins, but you still have much to learn. I do not sow dissent for dissent's sake, dear Davey. I do it because it is fun, and if everyone is already mad, then it's just too boring! I wish for simpler times, Dave; not just for the world - where I may romp and play to my heart's content - but for our show. We've entertained zaniness beyond compare. Don't you think it's time we return to simple interviews and not wild tangents that only serve to prolong the story? Oh, how could you understand, Dave? It's like... It's as if my life is some haphazard internet blog!
Dave: Actually, it would be nice to return to form. There's less of a chance of me dying, being brought back, and then killed again.
Madman97: Oh, you'll have some bones missing before the night is out, Dave. Mark my words.
Dave: Hoo-ray. Should I usher in the next interviewee then?
Madman97: Post-haste, and I mean it! No misadventures. Our audience can only sit through so much before they grow impatient, and our ratings are more integral to our survival than you think. Cousin Sheo is oddly strict about whom he leases his land. No more waiting tonight, ladies and gentlemen, on
The damning narrative ended abruptly with the page, and what I thought would provide answers only left me with more questions. Who was this self-described "Madman" that held his audience hostage? I was not content to stand there in the stillness of that alien night when there was a prowler on the loose. Perhaps the master of the estate past the grass would offer me safe passage. I crumpled the paper and stuffed it in one pocket as I proceeded cautiously toward the cottage.
The windows were dark as I approached, and there was no lantern set by the home's most horrible entrance! Two oaken doors invited a visitor closer, only to repulse them with what its elaborate paneling depicts. A single head was split between them, torn away from the seam by daemonic figures; and the head grinned at me. The surrounding architrave was no less imposing with its ornate carvings of human suffering, and two door knockers were positioned as eyes on that terrible head. I quickly rethought my course.
I was about to turn away when I saw something that provoked more fear than any unsavory portal: the missing half of the paper in my pocket was lying on the front step. Again, I told myself that it was not too late to walk away—that my mind might still be spared the burden of knowing what mankind wasn't meant to know. I tried averting my eyes before I gave in, scrambling to tear the paper from the floor to look upon its face. I had to know its eldritch secrets. I had to know!
(Some total normie walks out onto the stage and takes his seat next to Madman97 to great applause)
Madman97: Adventurer-like-you, thank you for dropping by on such short notice.
Dave: Like he had a choice.
Madman97: What the hell are you talking about? Of course he didn't have a choice. Stupid.
Madman97 (folding his hands together): So, Adventurer...Adventumundo...The big A. Don't keep me in suspense. Tell us about yourself.
Adventurer-like you: I'm Adventurer-like-you, an Elder Scrolls enthusiast and future game designer (if all goes to plan). I love a broad spectrum of things: everything from video games to music to literature to philosophy.
Madman97: Yes, I am also fond of the philosophy.
Adventurer-like you: As much as I can be, I try to be a well rounded person.
Madman97: I'm sorry to interrupt again, but you just gave me an idea. Hey Dave.
(Madman97 snaps his fingers, and Dave loses literally every bone in his body as he morphs into a round ball and bounces off stage. His agonizing cries are met with laughter from the audience)
Adventurer-like you (uncomfortably): However, my two favorite things are probably music and The Elder Scrolls. In real life, I play a few instruments and it is a goal of mine to find as many genres of music as possible. I've listened to many, and there's some weird stuff out there (like chap-hop or vaporwave).
As a close second, I love The Elder Scrolls. I started out on Morrowind and got hooked ever since. Ever since around 2006, I've poured hundreds of hours into the games and their construction sets. It wasn't until last year I started to delve into the lore. That was a thing that the Wiki Discussions bestowed on me, but whether it be lore, gaming, or discussing I will always love The Elder Scrolls.
Madman97: Touching. And how did you find your way to our neck of the internet?
Adventurer-like you: It's nothing too terribly interesting.
Madman97 (leaning forward and whispering): It never is. I'm glad you're at least self-aware.
Adventurer-like you: Basically, I was bored one day and decided to browse Google Play. I decided to search for Skyrim stuff, and the first thing to pop up was TES Wiki App. So I downloaded it to read about The Elder Scrolls. When I opened the app, I poked around a bit and eventually came over the Discussions. I was hooked almost immediately. I loved the community, and it was just fun to talk about Skyrim with people who actually knew the game inside and out. I came on in March 2016 and occasionally made a post or replied every day or so. Eventually in July, I started the NPC of the Day. And I've never missed a day since.
Madman97: I'm afraid my concept of Time has escaped me. Do let me know if you find it scurrying around. It likes getting into the back room pantry. Any-who, as far as I can remember 2016 was relatively late on the grand scheme of things. What was your role again? How did you come by it?
Adventurer-like you: Up until late December I was just a simple discussions user, until one day the almighty RhodiumOdi parted the heavens and bestowed a great gift upon me: he asked me to become a Discussions Moderator.
Madman97: As is his immaculate way.
Adventurer-like you: I didn't ask for it or apply myself or anything. Odi came to me and wanted me to apply for the position. Up for a challenge, I accepted. So I went through the processes, and lo and behold, I became a moderator. I believe that this happened because of my philosophy.
Madman97: The philosophy, yes. That was definitely it. I am also fond of the philosophy.
Adventurer-like you: I think that if you act justly and with integrity, people will take notice. Then you can make an impression instead of making an impression to make them notice you [in the first place].
Madman97: Exactly! Isn't that right, Dave?
Dave (somewhere down the hall): RRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUEEEEEERRRRRMMMM!!!!
Madman97: Let's end this with a simpler question: What's your favorite Elder Scrolls NPC?
Adventurer-like you: I would have to go with Owyn from the Oblivion Arena. He's just really entertaining in his own crude kind of way.
Madman97: That he is.
(Madman97 sits back and breathes in the stale air of his studio)
Madman97: Yes, yes. That's good. Simple. To the point. No hassle.
(Another wave of his hand sends Adventurer-like you back to wherever he came from, and Dave suddenly reappears at Madman97's side)
Madman97: Oh good, you're back. How was life as a basketball?
Dave: You're the worst boss I've ever had the displeasure of knowing.
Madman97: I know. It's been tremendous fun.
Dave: It has, hasn't it?
There was nothing more. What cosmic knowledge to be found I had to decipher from the rest of this transcript. It seemed this "madman" was no mere mortal, but a god of inconceivable power! If his powers described in this transcript are to be taken at their literal value...
A sudden creaking broke the silence. Everything had become so still that the opening eye of the door knocker sounded to me like thunder. My breathing grew labored. Slowly did the brass lid unfurl to reveal a gaping black hole in the door. I desired to flee, but couldn't move as the doors swung wide. All I had wanted was to truly see, and now nothing to force me to look upon my doom!
"Chr*st, finally," called out a tenor voice. I dared to crack a lid, and I stared into...sunglasses? I opened both eyes and beheld a man of slim stock with shock white hair. He wore nothing but a purple bathrobe tied to his waist with a golden sash. He placed his hands in his pockets and looked at me expectantly. As if on its own, my arm reached into my bag behind me and extracted a square cardboard container. My primal instincts kicked in, and I read from the receipt attached to the box.
"Uh, I have one large meat lover's pizza with half marinara, half alfredo with a side of..." I checked again and retrieved the missing item. "...human fingers?"
The man yanked the food away from me and popped open the side container. His shoulders sagged.
"Of course, you forgot the barbecue. What the hell took you so long, anyway? You said you'd be here in fifteen minutes." "I-I took a right on 5th Avenue..."
"Ohhhh, my god!" the man exclaimed, and craned his neck towards the cottage. "Dave?!"
A disparate voice echoed a reply. "It's faster! You can skip the freeway traffic!"
"Well, I hope you like your pizza cold with a side of irreparable mental damage! I hate it when it's not me that's responsible for scarring people." The man turned back to me. "That was your cue to leave, friend. Ta-Ta, cheese, whatever. Get off my lawn."
I don't why, but I spoke. "You owe the restaurant $15.26, sir."
The man stared back at me but a moment, and dropped one end of his shades to reveal an eye as white as his hair. "I have a certain reputation to uphold, mortal, and I've fooled everyone inside for the moment. It's best you be on your way before any of them come out here to see why it's taking so long for me to come back inside. And trust me, I know how to put on a good show. Now..." He snapped his fingers—
"Go buy yourself some acne cream, troll-face."
—and I am back at the pizzeria.