"What Madness Is This?" Volume II: Prophecies in the Dark

AN INTRODUCTION
Due to extensive deliberation, WMIT Vol II will now take the form of Prophecies in the Dark, rather than The Pinnacle Future. This was NOT an easy decision to make, but I simply do not yet have the energy to write a full-fledged novel, as TPF was intended to be, while also writing and managing the timeline of events. Thus, PitD will revert back to the literary style of WMIT: The Union Forever and combine encyclopedic entries with short stories and dialogue. I will be posting illustrations, useful links, blurbs, and more info later after work this evening, but for now, please enjoy! Everything from TPF is still technically canon and everything happened as written there, but it will likely be retold here in various ways. The Union Forever is finally complete. This first chapter of Prophecies in the Dark picks up right where The Union Forever left off.

I want to thank the countless readers and commenters that have fueled my imagination in the original 2013-14 WMIT and the Redux that was written from September, 2018, to present day. Without these posters, none of this would have been possible or close to as much fun. I especially wish to thank DocBrown, Zoidberg12, Murica1776, SargentHawk, AtomicPunk0, Traveller76, HeX, Imperolo, and many more for their ideas, input, illustrations, and advice. A large part of the fun of this entire little lunatic saga is the meme and comment culture around it, from running jokes like Joe Steele's "Pocket Bacon" to interesting little spur of the moment serious ideas that I scribble down furiously in my notebook for later use. I have been writing about the WMIT universe, off and on, for the last seven years, which is rather extraordinary. During my dark ages, where I left AH.com to pursue my job and whatnot, I wrote very little because I didn't think I'd ever be a good author.

Then one day, when I was lurking on the board like the swamp creature I am, I saw a comment reference me, with the poster proclaiming, "He was a great author, very imaginative, but I just wish he'd stick with a story and really exploit it to be the best it can be rather than trying to write a bunch of stories at once and burn himself out." That made me bound and determined to rewrite WMIT, and focus solely upon it. I consider WMIT to be the "Pinnacle" of my imagination, at least for now. Anything else I try to write will be inherently derivative and "Inferior" to this literary universe. Some may not like it, considering it too funny, too dark, too unrealistic, too close to home, too long, too short, not detailed enough, way too detailed, etc, but there's been a whole lot of people giving me positive feedback through the years and I find it incredibly inspirational and fulfilling. I write this for free, knowing it's likely too "out there" and complicated for most publishers, although I do have a Patreon in my signature if you want to say "thanks for the rip-roaring tale" with a buck, haha! I was asked what I wanted to do as a child by my parents, and instead of saying "doctor" or "pastor" like they wanted, I said, "I want to entertain people." When I make other people happy, I'm happy. I don't know any of you people in real life, but it means the world to me when I post something I worked hard on and get positive feedback and constructive criticism.

It's safe to say WMIT Redux: The Union Forever brought my timeline back with a roar, snagging two hard-fought Turtledove Awards, one for best Colonial and Revolutions Timeline, and another for best quote. I want to once again thank anyone who voted for me. Redux has become one of the longest active threads in this section of the forum, nearing 10,000 posts, 500 pages, and now well over one million views (Praise be to the Prophet Burr!). If the timeline chapters were properly printed and typeset, Redux: The Union Forever would be 1400 pages long and half a foot thick. But the thing is, just like the story of real history, it's not over until Judgement Day. The Madnessverse, out there in its pocket dimension, coexists with our own and only grows more interesting and intricate by the day. So let us return to the realm of Christian Magick, bomb-throwing anarchists, the Manifest Destiny Party, and Joe Steele in the next volume of this series.

"What Madness Is This?"
Volume II:
PROPHECIES IN THE DARK





MAP OF THE WORLD IN 1936




- USEFUL LINKS -

"What Madness Is This?" Redux: The Union Forever
(current continuity)


Current Continuity TV Tropes Page
(maintained by readers)

The Official Youtube Channel of WMIT

The Star-Spangled Expanded Universe of WMIT
(short stories and tales written by WMIT fans)


The Original "What Madness Is This?"

The Original TV Tropes Page
(maintained by readers)






July 1, 1937
Shicagwa, Iowai


Joseph Steele sat in the Presidential Booth high above the stage at the Father Lincoln Memorial Auditorium, listening to an orchestra back up Floyd Underwood, world famous singer and Shicagwa's favorite son. The crowd was dead silent as Underwood strolled across the stage in a purple pinstriped double-breasted suit with a black shirt and silver tie. The horn section rose from their seats at the click of the debonair crooner's fingers and blared out the first note of "Old Black Magic." Underwood embraced the silver tear-drop microphone, making love to it with every lilting verse. When the drummer would let loose a flourish, he would step back and do a little spin. Despite the calm and collected demeanor Underwood was putting on, he was anything but. No one who performed for Joe Steele could be anything approaching calm. In fact, no one in the audience was at ease either. Everyone sat with bated breath. For every performer who had ever entertained the all-powerful President of the Republican Union, fascist strongman Atheling of the unitary Manifest Destiny Party, the final curtain could be the absolute final curtain if they mistepped, mispoke, or failed to demonstrate adequate respect or even too much. Joe Steele had untold thousands of victims to his name, with reasons for these state-sanctioned murders being anything from political rivalry like the late Theodore Roosevelt, failure to perform duties adequately like Ambrose Jansen, or to Steele merely waking up on the wrong side of the bed and deciding to have his butler taken out back and shot 37 times at point blank range. Truly, few things in the human experience, through decades, centuries and millenniums of human civilization, could instill as much fear as watching the dark, glassy eyes of Joseph Michael Custer Steele glare at you and only you. Floyd Underwood was sweating bullets.

Steele's wife Millicent Arkham, whom he lovingly called Milli, sat next to him in the booth, her legs crossed under her silk evening gown, her elevated foot moving in rhythm with the beat of "Old Black Magic." Her pale, slender frame was accentuated by the flowing dress, handmade by her personal wardrobe designer Pennington Faust. High cheekbones underlined her bright blue eyes, eyes which seemed to bore into Underwood's soul almost as much as Joe's. If trying to please Joe while keeping calm was difficult, trying to please Joe and his spoiled Old New England heiress was almost enough to make one want to kill themselves and be done with it.

Finally, at Joe's right sat Wyetta, their twenty year-old brunette daughter. She looked much like her mother yet with smoother, kinder features. She was a lovely creature, enough to make even a Papist blush, but she was visibly tired and upset, as she had been since her famed suitor Charles Oswald had gone missing in action in January of this same year, and she clearly had not moved on. He was not listed as killed in action yet, but it was expected to be announced at any time. One Richard Lionheart Nixon, heir of the famed Lucky Duck Studios, was currently making moves to eventually replace Oswald as Wyetta's future husband.

It amazed Underwood how clearly he could see the First Family watch him, how he could make out even the whites of their eyes from so far down below them. There were several thousand people present for the concert, but to him they didn't exist. He was the court jester of the "royal family," and he knew his neck was on the line. And so he sang. Between every song he drank a full glass of water, careful not to take too long doing it. One sour note or strained vocal could mean his literal demise. "Under that Old Black Magic called love!" he crooned into the microphone as the band roared out a roaring high note to finish the song. He gave a right-arm salute and then bowed. He didn't come back up from his bow, showing humility until he hoped applause would signal his safety. There was silence. Dead silence.

Millicent looked at Joe and Joe looked back. They seemed to be able to have discussions without opening their mouths. She raised an eyebrow. He blinked. The audience didn't dare look their way. Two thousand music fans, military brass, and assorted political creatures sat stock-still, waiting for the President's final verdict. Slowly, the mustachioed Union President rose from his seat and clapped his hands together. Then again. And again. Millicent and Wyetta also rose, joining him in his applause for the legendary performer below.

At long last, every single person in the auditorium rose from their red velvet seats and began to applaud as if their lives depended on it. They put their hands together in perfect unison, creating a deafening echo that reverberated through the entire building. Underwood carefully rose from his bow, a smile on his face. He had made it. He bowed again, a single tear rolling down his cheek. He had survived the most terrifying show on earth and now he could let himself breathe. He couldn't wait to get his necktie off backstage. But first he would have to wait for the audience to stop clapping and to see if, Jehovah-forbid, the First Family wanted a face-to-face meeting after the curtain fell.

The applause continued, every eye in the building focused not on Underwood or the stage but on the Presidential Booth, waiting with bated breath to see when Steele would stop clapping. They would only stop when he stopped. Precisely at the exact moment. Not before. Not after. After a solid minute of applause, Steele suddenly stopped, and so did everybody else. The red curtain descended on the stage as Underwood saluted the crowd one more time. At last, he was safe behind the wall of fabric. Weeping and trying to compose himself, the singer fell to the floor. Several band members picked him up and carried him to his dressing room.

"Well, dear, I'd say that was an excellent performance," said Millicent with little visible or audible emotion. She picked up her small clutch from the small table beside her chair as they prepared to leave.

Joe Steele replied, "Quite the voice, I agree. 'Old Black Magic' is my favorite Underwood tune." He turned to his his daughter and asked her, "Would you care to meet Comrade-Patriot Underwood, Wyetta? Perhaps you can get a photograph taken with him and a signature. The world is your oyster, child."

Wyetta shrugged, depression obvious on her face. "That'd be nice, father. Thank you."

Just as Steele was prepared to send one of his personal Wolf Pack bodyguards to summon Underwood, the door to the Presidential Booth swung open and a high-ranking Army officer stepped in. "All hail, my Atheling!" the blonde man saluted, clicking his heels together.

Steele saluted back casually. "General Cornwall, why are you here?"

"It's the Reverend-Colonel, sir. He's dead," Cornwall replied bluntly. "The Council of Jehovah has voted Lovecraft to be the next Reverend-Colonel."

Steele stared at him with those same unblinking eyes he had had aimed at Underwood moments before. Slowly, ever so slightly, a smile curved onto his lips, a very rare sight since the start of Operation Manifest Climax. "That bastard Sunday has finally bit the dust? Huzzah. Have my personal plane readied at Goodyear Aerodrome." He turned to his daughter and put his hand on her shoulder. "Wyetta, perhaps you can meet Underwood next time, honeybear. I need to be in Philadelphia ASAP. I'm sure Lovecraft will be wanting to meet with me."

Cornwall cleared his throat awkwardly and said, "Sir, Sunday was found in a... most compromising position."

Steele raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"

The officer grimaced and explained, "He was found dead in his closet, hanged with a leather belt. The coroner suspects... ah, some sort of, um... sex play gone wrong, sir."

Steele let out a cackling laugh. "The old pervert!" he said, slapping Cornwall on the arm jovially, as if he had just been told a knock-knock joke. "By Jehovah, that's beautiful. I love it! The old bastard was still trying to get his rocks off at 75. My, my! Like I said, Cornwall, have my personal plane readied. I will be at the Aerodrome in twenty minutes."

"All hail, my Atheling!"

***

July 2, 1937
Tobias Institute, high in the Poconos Mountains


"I have felt a disturbance in the ectoplasmic fields, your excellency," Howard Lovecraft said quietly to Joe Steele. "I have been watching the stars and the phases of the moon. The heavens are putting on a strange and weird display, unlike any I've seen before. The voices of the spirits of the Other Side whisper to me of things, dark things, bad things. Things that have been, that are, and that will be. They speak of death and change. Cataclysms. The suffering of billions. I sense that these are the last days of man. We are entering a new era, Mr. President. And I am afraid, so very afraid. Above all, I sense a threat to your life and mine. This is why I summoned you here."

Joe Steele stood before the tall, scrawny Lovecraft in a simple navy blue uniform and jackboots, devoid of medals or decoration save for his Pentagon Star draped around his starched collar. They were in what was known as the Observatory. The Observatory was a massive structure, perhaps the most recognizable of any at the Tobias Institute. The top featured a retractable ceiling to allow the massive brass telescope to view the sky, and the walls were covered in strange Enochian script, star-maps, and Latin phrases. A portrait of a silver-bearded man with only white orbs for eyes was painted onto the ceiling directly above the telescope, representing the Grand Architect of the Universe, he who the Fundamentalists called Jehovah. The reflection of the murals, paintings, and portrait could be easily discerned via their reflections on the heavily-polished checkered marble floor. Anyone who stood in the massive domed building would be forgiven if they though it seemed as if the universe itself centered on this one spot in the middle of the Pennsylvania countryside. It was truly breathtaking, and even Joe Steele was taken aback every time he visited the place. "What do these voices tell you, Reverend-Colonel?"

The newly-christened Reverend-Colonel of the American Fundamentalist Christian Church looked away from Steele and up to the portrait of Jehovah, muttering a prayer. The gangly Lovecraft resembled a mortician or perhaps a funeral director in his all black suit. Even his shirt and tie were black. His long, pale face seemed to glow in the moonlight let in by the retractable ceiling. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "I fear you may not wish to hear of what the spectral beings have told me. I fear you may not believe their prophecies in the dark. So I wish to contact them for you in person so you will know what is to come, just as I do. It shall be our curse, but perhaps also a blessing if listen and take heed."

Steele had always secretly doubted the faith, simply using Fundamentalism as a tool to control the masses. But something had happened a few months before that shook him to his core, something that made even his utilitarian mindset crumble. "I had a nightmare, worse than any imaginable, last Thanksgiving," Steele said, monotone but with just the ever-so-slight shaky hint of fear. "It was when Manifest Climax first began. I don't know if I put stock in my dreams, or anyone's dreams, but let me tell you, Lovecraft, nothing has scared me like that nightmare. In it, an apocalypse happened, things too horrible to describe. Do you think it was... related? I was practically raised by the Blind Christian Gentleman and I know the ways of Magick better than one would suspect of me, and I know sometimes the Grand Architect speaks to his followers in their sleep."

Lovecraft readied an altar beside the telescope for a ritual. Soon he would begin his full-body tattoo process in which the Council would permanently ink Enochian scripts into his skin. His rituals would be even more powerful then. He looked over at Steele as he placed some tealights in a pattern and in a grim tone inquired, "What happened in this dream?"

"The dead rose," Steele answered immediately. "The Council of Jehovah performed dark rites, unspeakable ceremonies, and broke the Veil. Monstrous creatures crawled forth, from bugaboos and harpees flying down from above to a massive cyclopian Leviathan, covered in scales and writhing tentacles, rising from the darkest abysmal crevice of the ocean. Everything was destroyed. The New Jerusalem was over before it began. I was killed in battle by these beasts. The world was laid to waste. I relive this terror every night as I try to pass into the realm of slumber and I cannot for the life of me forget this one morbid nightmare. What do you think of it, Lovecraft?"

With a slightly unsteady hand the new Reverend-Colonel lit the candles on the altar and took a small dagger out from under his jacket. It was the Dagger of Solomon, a sacred relic that had once supposedly belonged to the Prophet Burr. He ran the ancient bronze knife along his palm, cutting himself every so slightly and letting his own blood dribble down onto the Enochian runes that covered the altar. "That dream would be most troubling to me as well, Mr. President. I can see why it has remained with you all these months. It could have been the stress of running a war again that triggered it, or it could be related to my visions and to the signs I have spotted in the heavens. If you will give me one moment here, I will allow myself to become possessed by a Spirit of Heaven, and through me he will tell you what you need to know."

Steele nodded grimly. He hated to watch these Enochian summoning rituals but this was possibly a turning point in history. He sighed, finally accepting the fact that he was becoming a believer, however reluctant. Should he not use every available tool at his disposal to fight the forces that would destroy both him and the nation? Just as in the days of Moses, Jesus, Burr, or Tobias, the Veil could be lifted to directly commune with the Other Side, or so they said. It was necessary. "Do what you need to, Lovecraft."

After several minutes of chanting in strange, otherworldly tones, Lovecraft began to shake and convulse at the altar before collapsing onto the floor in a writhing heap, his limbs twisting unnaturally. "BEHOLD THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD!" he howled as his mouth foamed. Steele stepped back and knelt in a mix of awe and horror, trying to both watch the unfolding possession and cover his eyes at the same time. He hadn't seen such a show since his old tutor Tobias was still alive. Truly, Lovecraft was of pure fluidation to even attempt such a monumental and herculean task. Then, as soon as the fit started, Lovecraft fell silent and still, almost as if dead.

"L-Lovecraft?" Steele asked with a quavering voice as he shakily lowered his hands to his side. "Are you all right, Lovecraft? Are you still there?"

"LOVECRAFT IS NOT HERE, SERVANT!" roared a metallic, almost inhuman voice from inside of Lovecraft's mouth. "I HAVE DISPLACED HIS SOUL INTO THE OTHER SIDE. BOW BEFORE ME, MICHAEL CUSTER!"

Steele prostrated himself on the ground, tears running from his eyes. "Who-who are you, oh great one?" Steele could barely get the words out.

"NJARL, HE WHO IS CALLED THE ANGEL OF DESTINY, THE RIGHT-HANDED SWORD OF ZION, FATHER OF PROPHETS. I COME TO YOU NOW TO SHARE WITH YOU THAT WHICH YOU SHOULD KNOW. THE DAY OF RECKONING APPROACHES LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT."

"Oh, great Angel!" cried Steele, prostrating himself. "What am I to do? What would you have me do?"

Lovecraft's "possessed" body twitched and almost seemed to levitate, although Steele didn't look long enough to see if this was actually the case. "LIKE DAVID AND ABSALOM, YOU SHALL BE BETRAYED BY YOUR SON. THIS JUDAS ISCARIOT SHALL BRING RUINATION TO YOU AND END YOUR RULE."

Steele couldn't believe it. Marcus Aurelius Steele was a simpleton, a dolt even. And Joe Steele was a lot of things, but he loved his own family. "My-my son? My son is going to betray me?"

"YES, JOSEPH. YOUR BLOOD SHALL BE ON HIS HANDS. THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS SHALL BE ON HIS HANDS. A BEAST OF AMERICA HE SHALL BECOME AND HE SHALL USHER IN THE DAYS OF CHAOS."

"Can... can-should I kill him? Can I stop him? Angel! Can I stop this madness? Can I right this ship of state and prevent these things, or are they written in the stars?" For the first time in his life, Joseph Steele found himself crying his eyes out on the floor in a heap, as if totally defeated.

"I TELL YOU THESE THINGS BECAUSE YOU ARE THE CHAMPION OF MY CHOSEN PEOPLE, THE FATHER OF THE NEW JERUSALEM. SERVE THE LORD AND YOU MAY YET SURVIVE. AND IN THE SOUTH A MIGHTY MAN RISES, AND HE SHALL SPREAD MY WORD. WATCH FOR HIM. NOW I SHALL LEAVE. BUT I SHALL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS."

At that, Lovecraft's body slumped to the floor and the Reverend-Colonel's correct personality returned. Shakily picking himself up, he asked Steele, "Did you learn what you needed to, Mr. President?"

Steele sat rocking back and forth, his arms wrapped around his legs and his chin on his knees. "My son is going to betray me and destroy the New Jerusalem," he replied, tears streaming down his face. "I have to kill my boy. I have to kill this Absalom in my midst."

Lovecraft's eyes widened in horror. "Are you sure, sir? Is there any other interpretation of this?"

Steele shook his head briskly, almost at the point of hyperventilation. "No, damn it! The Angel of Destiny told me my son is going to kill me! He told me to act quickly. I need to leave and get back to Philadelphia. I need to get home! And I need to kill my own boy before he destroys me and the entire country. This is what the Angel told me. And I will do as he commands, Lovecraft. He also told me of a mighty man in the south. He said 'he is rising and shall spread his word.' What... what do you make of that?"

Lovecraft wiped the cold sweat from his brow and plopped down onto a nearby chair. He adjusted his tortoise-frame glasses and said, "I have seen this too. All the voices tell me of He Who Is to Come. I have heard them tell me of him since 1918, during my days of insanity. I foresaw great destruction and coming war, and I saw a mighty Man of God in the midst of it all, speaking in tongues and full of the Holy Spirit, a serpent in one hand and a rod of judgement in the other. I have wondered if this could be the Second Prophet."

Steele almost gasped. "A... Second Prophet? There is only one Prophet of Jehovah, and that's Aaron Burr! Any schoolchild knows this."

Lovecraft's head whipped back and forth in nervous disagreement. "No, no, sir. The Council of Jehovah first predicted the rise of a Second Prophet in 1838. Grand Wizard Brother Crow foresaw it while imbibing of the Fruits of the Spirit. He foresaw a world in flames and a final rebirth of Fundamentalism in the Last Days. I think we are on the verge of this epoch, this Armageddon. Pray, Joseph Steele, pray to Jehovah for guidance, and I shall pray for you. Do what must be done with your son. So let it be written, so let it be done."

"All hail."
 
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It is back! In a different format, but with the same high quality and that unique "something" you can only find in a Napoleon53 story. Me gusta.
 
No matter the universe, Joseph, you're always a bastard to your kids. Got to wonder how much of all this Lovecraft trying to manipulate things. A metallic voice makes me think his "possession" is having a little mechanical assistance. Wouldn't be surprised if he was involved in Sundays death too
 
Also, I'm happy the timeline gets a more consistent form! It was kind of confusing jumping from Oswald to another character in another different place and then to Billy Graham in Old Mexico.
 
Steele being legitimately spooked by this shit is kinda awesome

Also, the Church having a prophecy about a Second Prophet really helps explain why Billy was able to claim himself as such. This really is going to get ugly.
 
It is back! In a different format, but with the same high quality and that unique "something" you can only find in a Napoleon53 story. Me gusta.
Thank you! :)

The Madness will never die!
As long as there is imagination in the mind of Napo53, it will never die.

No matter the universe, Joseph, you're always a bastard to your kids. Got to wonder how much of all this Lovecraft trying to manipulate things. A metallic voice makes me think his "possession" is having a little mechanical assistance. Wouldn't be surprised if he was involved in Sundays death too
Exactly the kind of suspicion I sought to create in the reader. The beauty of WMIT is that it's paranormal aspects are only as real as the reader thinks they are.

The Andrew and Billy story and Orson are still cannon? Because I haven't finished it yet.
They are canon as in their story of what has happened so far is still what is going to happen here, allbeit likely in a more encyclopedic fashion.

Also, I'm happy the timeline gets a more consistent form! It was kind of confusing jumping from Oswald to another character in another different place and then to Billy Graham in Old Mexico.
I still want to write the novel and eventually still will write TPF, but first I will map out the rest of the timeline, that way major historical events aren't carried solely through dialogue. :)

Also, the YouTube "Talkiebox" videos are still canon and will be threadmarked appropriately.
 
We're off to a fantastic start. I'm sure only good things can come of H.P. Lovecraft leading a church. It's nice to finally get some more detail on the days of Manifest Climax and the Dust Bowl. Looking forward to whatever comes next.
 
Wow it just goes to show you that the church even under Stella's boot can twist and worm there way to the top using him as a puppet.
 
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