This week I found out my estranged father is dead, and I don’t know how to feel. We haven’t spoken for almost ten years, ever since he called my girlfriend a “tricky witch” to her face and demanded I break up with her.
My mother says a mysterious man with a face pale as the moon and eyes black as night, wearing a cloak that seemed woven of starlight and shadow, led my father deep into the bog, where he left him to die. To make things even more complicated, I feel a strange fascination with this man, a man I have never met. I see his beautiful face in my dreams, his knowing smile reflected in the moonlight upon the water, and when I wake, I know our destinies are entwined.
But he is the reason my father is dead, and while he may have been bigoted, cruel, and possibly even Contaminated, he was still my father.
Help, Gideon! What do I do?
— Confused in Connecticut
Estrangement from family is never a simple thing. For good or for ill, your father was an important and central part of your childhood, and no matter how he may have hurt you, there will always be a part of you that loves him.
I am sorry to say there is no easy answer to your predicament. No path you take will now spare you or others suffering. It is in moments like these where we decide what kind of person we are - or perhaps, what kind of person to become. Where we take charge of our fate and bravely submit ourselves to its ministrations, whatever they may be.
Will you go to your family, comfort them, speak kindly of your father before your weeping relatives, silencing the voice inside that would speak an ugly truth, and take brutal vengeance upon his killer? Or will you cast aside the shackles of blood, and seek after the mysterious allure of the man who has irrevocably altered the course of your destiny? Will you seek safety and simplicity, or danger and passion? Was death a disproportionate answer to your father’s crimes, or was he truly wicked enough to deserve his fate?
You will need courage in the coming days to answer these questions and more. I wish you the best.
— Gideon Mandrake, Esq.
Gideon Mandrake is Approved News 6's vengeance correspondent. Born in 894 and kept youthful by secret rituals, Mandrake has studied under the lord excruciators of the Followers of the Faithless Year, mastered the cursed tongue of the salamanders, and destroyed all but one of his many enemies. He lives in his private yacht, forever plying the endless seas in search of the one foe who yet eludes him, with his cat Maurice and army of skeletons.
I am nearing the end of my life at a young age after a long struggle with mystic fibrosis, and I'm having trouble coping. Until recently, the promise of the Distant Heavens comforted me, but that all changed after Trump was resurrected. Now, even our best necromancers cannot speak to the dead, or even tell us where their souls have gone. The Heavens stand empty, their gates thrown wide. I do not know what to expect when I pass away, and it terrifies me.
There are of course ways I could preserve my being in this world. It is not beyond my arts to forge my soul an anchor, to forsake existence as mere matter. I used to think I'd never consider doing such a thing, that when Death came to claim me I would meet it with peace and acceptance, but now I'm not so sure.
What should I do, Samekh?
— Fearful in Philly
The Distant Heavens are no more and never again shall be, not as mortal man knew them. But do not forget the most ancient teachings. The Distant Heavens were built, not found - hewn into the firmanent by the spirits of our forebears in the distant mists of the Before Times. There was a time before the Distant Heavens, and we live now in the time after.
In past eons, I spoke much to the healing souls within that treasured land, and found few to tarry there long. Even at the height of their splendor, the Heavens were finite, and to be human is to hunger for eternity, for transcendence. What has been lost was but a stepping stone before the precipice of the infinite. Their loss is tragic, and deprives the newly dead of their - and soon, your - time to heal and reconnect, and any chance to ever again walk the Earth. Indeed, for this sin alone, Donald Trump and those who conspired to shatter all of magic to wrest him frrom the clutches of death must face the ultimate penalty.
But what waited beyond the Heavens and what awaits you now is nothing to be feared. Is it beyond your comprehension? Of course. It is beyond even mine. But you go not to face oblivion, nor sorrow, nor torment. You pass beyond our frail cosmos to experience glory not even the mightiest of immortals can encompass. Perhaps it shall even be your hand that sculpts a new Heaven, for in death, anything is possible.
It is of course your choice to preserve your mortal self by dark spells and mystic rites. Perhaps it is even the path you are meant to walk for a time. But in time, all lights fall dark. Even suns falter. Even galaxies go dark. The day shall come that Time draws to its final close upon a black and barren universe, and on that day, even I shall die. Be it tomorrow or be it upon a day as distant as the farthest stars, eternity will claim you. Fighting this truth will only bring you suffering.
— Samekh Samadrael
Samekh Samadrael is Approved News 6's death correspondent. Found wandering the Ash Wastes of the Forsaken Lands in a time beyond time and seemingly immortal, Samadrael has witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires, the shifting continents in their endless dance, and the birth and death of the very galaxies themselves. They graduated in 1893 from the REDACTED School of Journalism and live in Washington, D.C., awaiting something they have refused to explain.
Dear Inquisitor Salothrax,
A very dear friend has returned from the forsaken mountain village where he long ago ventured in search of something he would not - or could not - divulge. Yet, he was not the man I remembered, and bore about his person a most sorrowful air; gone was his plump jollity, and he was rendered pale, gaunt, and spent. I see the signs in the flights of birds and movements in the clouds, I feel the change within myself, and I fear. What did my dear friend bring back from that forsaken place? Has something taken root in him - and perhaps, in me also?
Tell me, O Inquisitor Salothrax, vanquisher of corruption and champion of light, what must I do? How might I purge the darkness that lurks within? Does hope yet remain?
— Contaminated in Cleveland
Take to your chambers, and proclaim a deathly illness. Allow none to approach, not even your most trusted servants. Place a cold, smooth stone beneath your pillow each night before you sleep. When the moon is full, and at its height, steal away into the forest, carrying only the stone and a single golden coin. Tell none that you are going. Follow the path - and there will be a path - ’til you find yourself beneath the boughs of the Wandering Oak, where all paths meet, and there beseech the owls for their wisdom. Take off your shoes, cast your golden coin into the stream - and there will be a stream - and follow the salamanders as they emerge.
The journey that takes place now will seem to last a thousand years, though you will not hunger, nor feel need, nor see the moon to move from its perch upon the sky, for in truth it lasts not a single moment. Do not fear - for there is nothing to fear - and when you come to the end of the path, and again stand beneath the boughs of the Wandering Oak, leave the stone among its roots, where so many who came before you have done the same.
Return to your home. Refuse the questions of your retainers. Brew a bitter tea, and drink it beneath the moon, while you listen to the secret truths the birds sing in the sky above. Know that you have been changed, and wil never again exist as you did before. Know that you have become something indefinably greater.
Then, and only then, will the poison that rots your soul lose its grip, and consign itself unto oblivion.
— Inquisitor Salothrax
Inquisitor Salothrax IV is Approved News 6's Contamination correspondent. Specially modified at birth and bearing secret implants, Salothrax is uniquely qualified to cover all manner of heresy. Salothrax was born in Vermont in REDACTED and "lives" in the Approved News 6 Dread Fortress, surrounded by her entourage of seers, bone sorcerers, and mindslaves.
I'll be seeing you soon.
Your beloved sister,
— Plotting in Peru
I've got snipers on every rooftop and men on every floor.
Your move, bitch.
— Special Agent Jane Pearson
Once a small-town detective, Special Agent Jane Pearson is now one of the Bureau's most decorated agents. Recuited after preventing a heist on Clandestine Research Facility #████ that could have left the Zeta Device in the hands of the North Koreans, Agent Pearson has a reputation for cracking open the Bureau's most intractable cold cases. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her pet rottweiler Andy.