Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tom Waits and my weird imaginary city. (UPDATE)

Here is an updated version of the city. I've given this version a bigger dose of Gonzo while maintaining the level of creepiness and desolation it had before. I'll keep previous versions around until I've finished the project.

Anything can be had under Hell's neon glow...

In These Strange Streets -
The city is a place where reality has become senile. The welcome sign at it's limits is blank. The records hall is filled with so many uncertainties that it's dangerous to go in alone. The city is an anyplace that could be anywhere. Its citizens care little for specifics as long as they get what they want by the end of the day. The nice parts cope with dazzle and chance, the bad parts are just trying to get by without much thought to the state of the world.

Off, in the distance, is Downtown. The city's towering skyline is draped in neon and flashbulb signs. Here, the more respectable crowd roam between their casino themed offices and their night-lounge homes. The fashionable folk strut about streets bathed in electric pink and blue light, everyone dressed to the nines in shark-skin suits and leopard print dresses. Their tailored clothes all decked out with the latest arcane charms to ensure good luck, and most of all, a perfect sense of 'cool'. Above Downtown, a metal serpent the size of a skyscraper slides through the air, its body an amalgam of neon, chrome, and marquee lights. The chrome god prowls the skies to keep watch on Downtown, snatching up those who really don't fit the 'vibe'. If the sky-serpent doesn't get 'them', its children will. Snake boys and girls done up in silk and polyester, their headlight eyes capable of freezing a sad-sac in place in order to get a good shot. The seizing, foaming wrecks thrash in alleyways and sidewalks until neon jaws swoop down to put an end to their misery.

A place best avoided...
Darkness at The Edge of Town -
Noir Weights is the quintessential bad part of town. The streets alternating between cracked asphalt and broken cobbles. Rarely, a streetlight will flicker on when the world realizes that it should be night. A neighborhood of derelict structures and broken downtown signage. All the roads here either lead to the old distillery or straight out to safer places.

How'd we get here? - 1D6
Traveling to the city, and Noir Weights, can occur through a vast number of ways. Here are a few that you can roll randomly, or just choose. You can also just make something up that Thompson, Burroughs, or P.K. Dick would approve of.
1) The Devil's Red Convertible/Carriage: Wandering down a forest track or hitchhiking over a forgotten highway, it found you and The Man offered you a ride. In the old-fashioned places it's a shining red carriage pulled by two bright, white horses, their proportions stretched ever-so-slightly. In places where tech would allow, it's a shiny monster of a red convertible. A man with a wide smile, slick clothes, and pupils as big as saucers offers you a ride. Time went wild, miles morphed into a new measurement beyond distance, and now you're staring up at a sky moving towards evening. Red lanterns or tail-lights wink off in the distance, stranding you in hostile territory.
2) In The Depths of a Binge: Too many drinks at the tavern. Too many puffs of opium tinged smoke. Too many huffs off the ether rag. You could have woken up in Narcosa or the Dreamlands, but the gods and fate really want you to hurt. Now, you're in Noir Weights, and its getting toward the dark hours. Hours where things might prowl to kill with a wide grin and a 'helping' hand.
3) Searching Lost Highways: There are roads that cross more than just land, back ways where someone can shave time or just get lost. Maybe you're trying to escape yesterday, or maybe you're just a wanderer. After taking the right dirt road, the perfect unmarked highway exit, you ended up here. You've heard about this place, and it may be a good idea to just keep moving. Unfortunately, its almost night, and you're smart enough to know its better to find shelter rather than risk wandering in the dark.
4) Empty Beds and Broken Hearts: Another night spent with the bottle, trying to scrub out the ache with fire-water, nicotine, and grumbled music. You stumbled to bed, secretly hoping you didn't wake up, or maybe wanting to open your eyes somewhere new. Awake now, you find the ache has become external, a place of broken streets and dead neon. You feel better somehow, but you know night always bring out the worst in you, and its coming on quick. Deepening shadows shift, headlamp eyes stare out from the dark, best get moving.
5) Dates in Dark Lands: A friend of a friend introduced you two the night before, and it was incredible. The booze, music, and company combined to create the best night in the history of first-dates. Now, you want more. You've been following the directions your date gave you last night to their place, turning down strange streets and unfamiliar alleys. Rounding that last corner, you're in a part of town you've never seen before, and the ink on your directions is turning into smoke. Rats the size of dogs shift in the alleyways, and tattered people eye you with hunger around a trash fire. Night's coming on, and you're a stranger in a strange land.
6) Feel Good Shopping List: You travel the ways, moving between whens and wheres as people might ride through time zones. You're looking for a fix, and having started a collection of concoctions that bring on altered states of bliss. Problem is, once you get caught up in a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. You were supposed to pop out in the middle of Downtown, where the most transcendent highs can be had through the lever pull of a one-armed bandit. That wrong turn is going to cost you, you're in bad place and the night is coming quick.

On these streets, anything can be stolen and sold...

Shelter in the Slums -
Among the rows of decaying houses, broken neon statues, and dead marquee signs is a place that has seen a modicum of repair and habitation. By the standards of Noir Weights its a mansion, anywhere else it'd be condemned. A three-story affair the no-color of sun bleached wood, its lawn overgrown and mostly dead. People come calling in a steady drip at all hours, street-folk mostly with the occasional uptown slummer. The noise of construction blares all day and night, some room in the place is always having work done to it. Salvaged junk and building materials are frequently brought in, carried by the nervous and twitching folk of the street.

The owner is a tall, skeletal man who needs to stoop when entering and exiting the house. His hair is iron gray and always slicked back. His face, drawn tight against the skull with a permanent 5 o'clock shadow. The man's eyes are sunken and the same no-color as the house. He's always dressed in a tailored black suit that's been made threadbare with age.

Ready and waiting.

What's he building in there?
Waylon, the owner, is constantly working on a mad construction he calls 'The Alter'. It takes up the entire first floor, the walls having been removed to make way for his ever expanding vision. The scuffed floorboards buckle under the weight of the thing, making the house groan as people pass through it. The Alter is a conglomeration of television tubes, ancient radios, engine blocks, and so many other junk-artifacts.

What's new? - 1D6
The Alter is in a near constant flux from Waylon's 'improvements'. What's been added since the characters' last visit?
1) Tesla Coil: A Tesla Coil juts out at a precarious angle from a stack of old radios. The entire construction hums a bass so low it vibrates the body rather than the eardrum. Arcs of electricity lick out of the coil, touching the dials of the various radios its attached to. Rather than a loud snap, the arcs sound like music and talk-show banter.
2) Mannequins: Amid tumbledown mounds of wires and television sets are a trio mannequins attached to a complex set of motors and pulleys. A podium is set before the group, its surface covered in vacuum tubes and wires, its top is one large selector switch. The switch is marked with four settings: sex, drugs, music, and off. One each setting the mannequins will come to life and each one in turn will cry-out the worst, best, and last of whatever the switch is set to as well as the time and location it was experienced in. (ex: Sex: Tammy Fulton, Senior Prom, School Parking Lot. 'Crystal', Yesterday, 5th Avenue Gentleman's Club Parking Lot. Mable Werner, Forty-Seven Years From Tomorrow,Shady Palms Rest Home.). There is a 1 in 6 chance that when the switch is set to off the mannequins will sing in harmonized falsetto, the relative date and method of the user's death. No one has tested to see if their predictions are true yet.
3) Television Wall: Set in a relatively clear area of the house is a wall of televisions from various eras, five-hundred pound console sets to three pound flat screens. Before the wall is a ripped, brown recliner, its seat half sinking into itself. From outside the chair, the sets cycle through channels and snow, never holding a particular picture for more than a few moments. From the recliner, the pictures focus to perfect clarity on a number of scenes. Each set focuses on a pivotal moments in the viewer's life, and then plays out what could have happened if the situation ended in the best or worst possible outcome (1D2: 1 – Worst Possible Outcome 2 – Best Possible Outcome). These sessions usually leave the viewer either sullen from seeing how much better their life could have been, or a nervous wreck over how close they have come to death or worse.
4) Stationary Bike: An age worn and rusted stationary bike set among, and connected to, a near endless tangle of wires and cables. Attached to the handlebar is a small white basket, a bright silver bell, and pink streamers affixed to titanium-white handle-grips. Before the bike, and attached to with with thick cables, is a wide metal door frame. Placed upon the seat is a helmet made of a stainless steel cullender, it's surface covered with wires and nine-volt batteries. If the bike is pedaled, and the cullender worn, the door frame first fills with a swirling purple static then... (1D8: 1 - The rider's parents dancing for the first time. 2 - The rider's most longed for companion, usually 'the one who got away', walking arm in arm with the rider is some idyllic park. 3 - The rider's childhood home, morphed into an idealized version fit for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. 4 - The rider's parents fighting, one drunk and violent, the other bleeding and crying. 5 - The bitterly regretted fight between the rider and their most longed for companion, the one that got them to leave forever. 6 - The rider's childhood home, burning, caretaker screaming, the rider a child hiding in the closet. 7 - The rider pedaling the bike watching the rider pedaling the bike watching the rider pedaling the bike watching... 8 - The rider resting on the bike, blood soaked knife clutched in one hand, companions' faces clutched in the other.)
5) Typing Machine: A huge machine that looks like someone welded a typewriter, printing press, and a locomotive engine together. Before the keyboard is an old bar-stool, its padding leaking out from the cushion in several places. The brass plaque above the keyboard reads 'PLEASE TYPE YOUR FULL NAME'. When the typists name is typed, it won't work if a fake one is given, the machine shudders into frantic life. It rapidly spits out typed pages into an orderly pile on an end-table next to the machine. Once the pile is three-hundred or so pages high, the machine shuts off and refuses to function for any previous user; a typist must be a completely new person, otherwise it ignores all input. The pages are a novel, and if read by the typist that spawned the novel's creation, a life is changed. Others will consider the novel to be good, but nothing to get excited about. To the typist, its the greatest work of fiction every written, the problem is there will never again be another like it. The typist will either be dragged into a deep depression over the singular nature of the writing, or internalize the novel's message and be changed forever.
6) Telephone: An old-fashioned crank telephone is attached to a post in the middle of a cable and book filled room. The cables run into the walls, or stacks of holy books that give off a distinct scent of ozone and heated rubber. When approached for the first time, the phone will ring out a strange pattern that is unique to each person who approaches it. Those that answer the phone are spoken to by whatever deity they worship, the compelling voice giving an explanation as to why it is calling at such a late hour, no matter if the hour is late or not. The voice whispers a secret to the answerer, a Marcelian mystery that carries meaning only for them. After the whisper, the line goes dead, never to ring again for the same person twice. For those listening in to the conversation, it just sounds like static and the breaking of light bulbs, sometimes it sounds like a little girl counting til the line goes dead.

Are you receiving our signal?

At the Alter...
Despite the chaotic mess of its construction, the Alter has a purpose that has called so many street-folk to come at worship before it. Waylon is an inventor. Waylon is a visionary. Waylon is a prophet. Waylon is THE priest. The Alter is the culmination of mad obsession and magic, a calling place for Other Folk to step through and visit. Each night the homeless and mad gather before it, each one hoping and dreading for Waylon to choose them to be that night's vessel. Waylon has always remained elusive as to what the Other Folk are, but it is clear that they are only able to interact with the world through the possession of a host. During their possession, bodies go through a number of changes, and their behavior drastically changes to fit that of the summoned Other Folk. Those that live through the experience are changed, granted boons and knowledge by the being that possessed them. Each of the Other Folk have a unique form and personality separate from the possessed. Through the flipping of switches, turning of cranks, and the buzzing of transformers, a vague form will flow out of a static filled television screen and into that night's vessel.

 
Our Lady of Neon, another as yet to be listed Other Folk

Tonight's Guest (Sample, more to come)
1) The Grins: AppearanceThe vessel's expression slowly changes to a wide smile, usually from one of terrified awe. Soon, however, the smile spread beyond what should be physically possible. Stretching out to wrap around the jaw and cheeks to touch each ear. The grin becomes taller as well, growing up to swallow nose and eyes until there is nothing but hair, forehead, and grin. The teeth remain the same size, but they grow in number until teeth are layered over one another and roll back in rows down the vessel's throat. BehaviorCondescension and false joviality drip from every utterance in a voice that fluctuates between the deepest basso profundo to the highest falsetto. He offers desires of hunger and lust, and asks for very little. A favor, not now, but later. Later, when the buyer is comfortable and secure. Later, when the buyer has ever-so-much more to lose.
2) The Brick Wall Boy: AppearanceThe vessel's physical proportions slowly take on those of a child, rounding what once was sharp and firming what once was flab. Their hair grows, or shortens, into a blonde mop and their eyes turn a piercing blue. Soon the skin takes on a ocher color and then a rough, brick-like texture. Lines of mortar appear in regular intervals along the body, while the floors creak under the new sac of bricks weight. BehaviorPlayful, innocent, flighty, inattentive, and cruel. The Brick Wall Boy embodies every stereotype of children, both the positive and the monstrous. He offers protection and separation, building hidden barriers between the seeker and the things they wish to avoid. The payment is usually some bauble or trinket, or even a piece of candy. Whatever he wants, the vessel never has it, and the journey to find the item quickly becomes a complicated mess. Stores that used to sell the item no longer carry it, an item the character had seen around frequently is now no where to be found. The journey usually ends after a long fruitless search, and the item's price is now far more than it usually is.