His story began when he was born, but nobody cares about that. Our story begins in his senior year of high school. Though he was smart, our absent-minded protagonist had poor grades due to that absent-mindedness and, perhaps more importantly, his unique distraction. He kept a blog, you see, the subject of which was what he believed to be a rather exciting variant of schizophrenia. He was afflicted with visions... visions of ponies. Our hero’s name was, ironically, Phillip.
Phillip had a modest but devoted following. His blog was filled with writings and sketches of what he saw and he was confident it was entertaining. But he had one fan who wasn’t like the others: Professor Horsechestershire Sauce. The Professor would send long rants about all kinds of gobbledy gook that made no sense to Phillip. They sounded like the fantasies of a deranged mind...more deranged than Phillip, I mean. He was easy to dismiss.
One day a beautiful girl walked up to Phillip. They were on the catwalk connecting two of the buildings that comprised the school, and Phillip seemed to be off in lala-land hallucinating ponies again.
“Do you see them?” she asked. Phillip looked rather freaked out by whatever he saw, which was ‘dragons’, but he also looked confused as he never spoke to this girl before. “The ponies? Do you see them now?”
“No…” he said carefully, “…but… how did you know about that?”
“My father is a fan of your blog,” the girl explained, “He’s also a professor at Miskatonic University. He’d like to meet you.”
“What?” the boy was totally distracted.
The girl tried a different tactic. “Would you like to walk me to school tomorrow?”
“Walk you?” he replied, looking back to the beauty. A hot chick asking him to walk her to school?
“Okay,” he replied. “Sorry about me freaking out right now, but I’m going to run away. See ya tomorrow!” he smiled before running down the hall.
Later that day he made sure to get her address, and the next morning he arrived early to pick her up. She lived in a mansion, which Phillip thought was pretty cool. When he buzzed the gate she told him to come inside. Before long he was strapped to a chair in the basement with a crazed middle-aged man laughing maniacally as the pretty girl stood by a strange machine.
“It is I, Professor Horsechestershire!” the man cackled.
“His name is Professor Yates,” the girl informed Phillip. She seemed annoyed.
“I AM in a SAW sequel or something,” Phillip replied frantically.
“No!” said the professor, “You are perfectly safe my fine friend! Don’t you remember what I wrote you?”
“I don’t…. knoooooow,” Phillip whined. “You are crazy and now ya got me tied up in yer basement. How am I safe?”
“Phillip,” the professor spoke like an impression of William Shatner in that old Twilight Zone episode, “You are not insane.”
“That makes two of us,” Phillip said sarcastically.
“You don’t understand I’m a family man!” the professor shouted to the ceiling. Phillip noticed this guy moved his arms a lot when he talked. “Phillip Tranter! Does your family have a history of sleep disorders???”
“Uh…” Phillip tried breaking the straps. “Yeah. Why?”
“Excellent!” laughed Professor Yates as he placed nodes and stuff on Phillip’s head.
“Hey…” Phillip was getting increasingly worried, “W-what’s that machine you’re calibrating?”
“I’m just going to do a series of tests!” the man explained, “No need to be alarmed! In fact, it’s important that you remain calm.”
Phillip laughed nervously with his mouth closed. You ever do that? If not try it, it sounds funny. Do it. Laugh with your mouth closed. Okay I guess it’s not that funny.
“Try concentrating on the archaic runes and formulas scribbled all over my basement walls, floor, and ceiling,” suggested Yates.
“Yeah that helps,” replied Phillip.
“Quit being such a smartass,” spoke the pretty girl. “It’s not very attractive.”
Phillip asked, “Did you notice your dad has a guy tied up in his basement?”
“Ehhhh, I’m just going to sedate you,” declared the professor as he stuck the boy with a syringe. Phillip went out like a kid with a bike and a bad family situation who wants to be anywhere but home. Hmmm… There’s something wrong with that analogy… I think it’s the sadness. Yes, it’s definitely the sadness. Instead, let’s say he went out like a light. Yes, a tried and true analogy.
Where he stood a sense of nostalgia washed over Phillip. He felt there should be a forest, and he could smell the scent of grass lingering in the air. But it was dark and stone and still. Behind him was a greater darkness and faint sounds of the familiar. Ahead was a large stairwell lit sparsely with parallel lights, possibly torches. He didn’t feel this was unusual; however he noticed his calmness and wondered if he was dreaming. He hadn’t had a dream in years that he could remember. He also didn’t remember being restrained in a basement. At length, he descended the seventy-seven steps.
At the base he noticed two strangely garbed old men, and that it wasn’t the base at all. The stairs seem to descend forever. The old men bowed cordially.
“Hello,” greeted Phillip.
“Greetings traveler,” said one of the old men, “We are the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah.”
“My name is Phillip Tranter,” replied Phillip, “…I don’t know where I am.”
Kaman-Thah motioned his arm to the steps below, “These are the seven hundred steps that lead to the Gate of Deeper Slumber.”
“Have you never been here before?” asked Nasht.
“I don’t really know.”
“Are you looking for something?” asked Kaman-Thah.
“I don’t know.”
“You should not continue without the resolve of purpose,” Nasht spoke with wisdom and concern.
“However,” added Kaman-Thah,”we will not stop you.”
Phillip stopped to try and think. Above was the mundane and familiar of his waking life. It wasn’t a bad life; he had many friends and girls liked him well enough. Everything was pretty good for Phillip considering all factors. Still… He wanted more.
“What’s down there?” he asked.
“The amalgamation of many things,” answered Nasht, “Strange and wondrous.”
“Terrible things,” added Kaman-Thah.
“Things both of man and otherwise,” continued Nasht.
Phillip steeled himself and declared, “I would like to see it.”
“You would risk mortal coil and soul alike?” asked Kaman-Thah.
“I’ll stay out of trouble,” Phillip smiled nervously.
As though a warning in itself Kaman-Thah reiterated, “We will not stop you.”
Nasht held out his hand and said, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this.”
“You’re just gesturing,” Phillip replied with an arched eyebrow.
“Pay attention you fool!” Kaman-Thah slapped Phillip on the head and pointed to Nasht’s hand, which was making a very specific gesture.
“The Elder Sign,” explained Nasht, “There could be times where it may keep you safe.”
“Alright…” Phillip mirrored the gesture and tried to remember it.
“Good luck, traveler.” Nasht nodded with a smile. “I hope you find your dream.”
And so Phillip began his descent. And as time passed he began to recall the nights of his youth spent chasing zoogs and fishing on the river Skai. He had been here before… a long time ago.