The Somberlain

by Thorn Sandstrom-McGuire

ARTIST’S STATEMENT: My intent with The Somberlain* is to depict passion as an all-encompassing yet all-too-familiar force. Passion can lead people to create, it can lead people to destroy, it can change the way we see the world—and the world can change the way we see our passions. It’s a metaphysical medium that propels the nature of humanity. I’ve melded my own ideas about the nature of passion with Alan Moore’s philosophy of art: the idea that magic is, through art, the ability to bring things from the material world of our universe into the immaterial world of our consciousness and vice versa. The deciding factor whether this happens is passion. Much like in Moore’s hermetic philosophies, The Somberlain is a place where dreams and nightmares alike are summoned into the real world through not just passion but also madness. 

*The name comes from one of my favorite songs, “The Somberlain” by the Swedish band Dissection. The lyrics are almost trancelike, describing a person in a place of darkness and sorrow, only they love every bit of it.

Excerpt from The Somberlain

content warning: mentions of violence and hallucinations

Jean Claude kills a nightmare early in the morning before heading off to a train station. While there, he makes sure he has enough antipsych and woundkiss for the trip. His goal is to make it from Jariko to Migram.

He hands some coins to the ticket-seller and collects his ticket, but before he can board the train the ticket seller notices Jean Claude’s tattoos on his chest, and asks if he’s a chalice knight. Jean-Claude doesn’t answer; instead, he just covers his chest with his tunic.

Once he boards the train, he takes a seat, takes some antipsych, and falls asleep. He’s awoken by the sound of gunshots. A bounty hunter named Caiaphas snuck on board and is holding the passengers hostage. He claims that someone tipped him off about a chalice knight on the train who would have information he’s looking for.

The conductor tries to get the drop on Caiaphais, but Caiaphais demonstrates his psychic powers by exploding the conductor’s head.

Jean-Claude notices how much energy this took out of Caiaphais and makes his move. He pulls out his pistol and shoots at Caiaphais, but Caiaphais dodges and fires back. The bullet hits Jean-Claude’s shoulder, but he fires again, scaring Caiaphais enough to run away. Jean-Claude uses this time to apply some woundkiss to his arm before chasing after Caiaphais. However, Jean-Claude’s antipsych wears off, and he starts to hallucinate.

He does his best to ignore the hallucinations and focus on the task at hand. He follows Caiaphais to the caboose only to feel completely paralyzed as a shadowy figure advances toward him. Jean-Claude can’t tell if this is a hallucination or if Caiaphais is causing this. He ponders if it’s both.

He manages to fight the paralysis for long enough to draw his sword and dispel the shadowy figure, upon which his sword clashes with Caiaphais’ pistol, causing him to miss his shot. In a fit of panic, Caiaphais kicks at Jean-Claude, but Jean-Claude ducks and knocks Caiaphais off his feet.

Again, Caiaphais paralyses Jean-Claude, this time demanding information about The Somberlain. Jean-Claude tells Caiaphais that he could simply read his mind and get the answers he’s looking for. Caiaphais takes the bait and enters Jean-Claude’s mind, only to be met with the terrifying hallucinations Jean-Claude is experiencing.

Overcome with madness, Caiaphais hurls himself onto the rails of the train and is shredded to pieces. Having helped clean up the corpse of the conductor, Jean-Claude returns to his seat and enjoys a well-deserved nap.

 The night is long and cold, awaiting only to be vanquished by the brave golden sun. Crawling as an insect, the hundred legs of fear scuttle towards a seemingly unconscious victim. Little does it know that this victim knows how to kill fear, and kill it he does.

“Damn, I forgot to take my Antipsych.”