When I arrived at the designated coordinates in x forest, there was no one to meet me. A few steps away I noticed a roughly cut-out wooden arrow swinging from a tree and pointing nowhere particular in the wind. As I was coming closer to inspect the sign, I almost fell into a large hole on the ground half covered with dead branches and curled up leaves. ‘The Unstitute’ was scribbled on the sign in black soot. After waiting awhile, I climbed inside the dark opening that lay at my feet. Carefully treading my way down a considerable amount of uneven steps, I came into a large round lobby and sat down waiting for my guide to arrive. The sweet and earthy odour of the chamber and the warm air was making me feel drowsy. Some time has passed and I must’ve nodded off momentarily, then jolted in surprise as the bench on which I was sitting started talking in a high pitched computerised rattling voice emanating from a pair of speakers which I discovered were wired underneath the seat, slightly vibrating it and inviting me ‘proceed down, down, down…’- seemingly stuck, then snapping out of it, as if glad to overcome the digitised stammer, excitedly exclaiming: ‘to the Ungines, comrade!’ The lights came on at the far end of the lobby illuminating another set of stairs.
As I’ve started climbing down, I heard a string of numbers ‘one’ and ‘zero’ was being read out in different combinations- a code of sorts; the speakers seemed to switch to a different set now, sound coming somewhere from the bottom of the stairs, then switching again to deliver information, inviting me to discover operational machinery at the ‘heart’ of The Unstitute, its ‘organ-machines’, the state of art ‘generators’, the complex mechanics of the underground exchanges of water and heat, chemical compounds, the list was long and the voice was becoming more and more high pitched, dissolving into a continuous beep, then dying out completely by the end of my dissent.
As my eyes started getting accustomed to the dimly lit site under the main lobby, I saw a multitude of corridors sprawling in different directions. With no accompanying guide, a floor plan or any other indications of where to proceed, I started walking down the widest corridor. As I walked down the length of it, there were about a dozen of doors of all shapes and sizes. I was hearing some faint sounds and voices coming from behind shut doors. I knocked and called out but no reply came, tried to open but none budged. In fact, on a further inspection, some weren’t doors at all but painted tromp-l'oeil, others had no handles, some were crudely nailed shut with planks of wood.
I wondered quite a while around this strange place ready to leave by now and wondering why on earth was I invited? I’ve seen no machinery yet, in fact the place was really ramshackle. It was hard to imagine that the complex machinery I was invited here to see, was behind these entrances; it was not at all the image I constructed in my mind before coming here... I started thinking of turning back to the forest, trying to remember the corridors and turnings I took. I must've stepped in some liquid puddling outside one of the doors and have noticed that the bottom of my skirt was drenched in it, trailing the fluid along the corridor and leaving fluorescent footprints, the fluid was bright orange, illuminating dark parts of the corridor and my escape route. I relaxed a little, walking slowly and came to another corridor, narrowing in a theatrical fashion towards the end in a forced perspective. At the end of the corridor where my shoulders almost touched the walls was a small door. The door budged to my surprise and I was able to enter a dimly lit room cluttered at the entrance with dank newspapers, emitting pungent smell which was irritating my nostrils. I saw a note on the inside of the door as it shut closed behind me which read either- ‘Feat’ or ‘Fear’ Ungine.
The room was very large with a high ceiling. Ahead of me, propped against some metal crates was a short partition weaved from rugs and mounted on a crudely put together frame around which was hanging some large drying fish, carp perhaps. Crystals of salt formed large clumps on the scales which were shimmering in the light as I moved towards the construction. In places salt crust was dissolved by fat which has dribbled onto the floor and forming oily brown puddles of nauseating odour. As I went around the partition, the rest of the room revealed itself: the walls were half clad in rusting sheets of metal and corrugated iron which were coming off in places revealing roughly plastered walls with bits of hay and small branches sticking out. The room had to be circumnavigated with care as the bent outwards metal sheets had blade like rusting edges which created vertical separations in the room and partially obstructed the passage for my exploration.
Nestled in an opposite corner and making a low buzzing noise there was a large bulbous object about 2 metres high made of some kind of pinkish putty. As I made my way towards it I saw veins showing through its thin outer membrane, pulsating at irregular intervals. The blob thing was propped up on an uneven platform made of old wooden planks which were mounted on many oddly sized wheels, ranging from some as big as that of a bicycle as well as small plastic ones as if collected from a DIY furniture section. I carefully dodged my way through the abrasive metal sheets, newspaper and rag debris piled on the floor and continued towards the object. Having come close, I tried to touch and feel the material but the machine hastily wheeled away from me in a series of complex zigzag movements avoiding the sheets of rusting metal, though not quite so successfully it seemed, as I could see torn pieces of putty like flesh hanging off the metal sheeting marking the escapee’s passage in its wake.
The wooden platform on which the blob was mounted appeared to be held together by itself as when it was rolling away, the planks kept wheeling in different directions and the blob was falling through the cracks, partly dragging on the floor. It seemed that it was an effort of some strength for the blob to be mounted in this way and to stay mobile at the same time. I could see how it was straining in this feat by the appearance of whitish tendrons protruding from its sluggish form. Some sort of tentacles, which have now formed themselves around the blob’s base pulling the platform planks together, arching and contracting while jerkily reshaping the platform into a dubious whole- an awkward and, quite frankly, self-defeating design, I thought.
Having wheeled itself into the furthest corner, the blob was now pressing itself as flatly as possible against the converging walls and I could see it was trying to get further away from me, upwards this time, by disengaging from the platform and bouncing itself up toward the ceiling on one of the loose fitting planks. This exercise in levitation has taken some time and was pitiful to watch. Making escalating loud whining noises, seemingly exhausting all its power, it fell flat in a pile on the floor, missing the plank platform altogether. With nothing to help mobilise movements of the blob further, it lay there, defeated and completely silent.
At this point the room itself seemed to constrict in some strange fashion, emanating a series of screeching noises as the metal cladding sheets started to move and overlap, loudly scraping and clanking against one another. I was now right next to the blob which has appeared to have also shrunk in shape. I could see a semi-translucent rod going through it, bending and constricting, and at the end of it revealing a fan enclosed in a plastic sack which was still spinning intermittently- the blob was still functioning albeit faintly. As it lay there flat and defenceless, I could now touch the fatty looking flesh, it was warm and slimy, slightly pulsating in response to my fingers and I could feel a mild electric shock, a live current. Next to the blob, in a pile, lay what seemed like the outer membrane sack which must’ve split as it hit the floor, was now slowly drying like a strange placenta.
What a strange performance I’ve happened to witness! I was now feeling rather guilty and wondering whether I’ve caused the demise of this machine unwittingly? Was this the consequence of my action, of my curiousity, irresistible desire to touch the object?
It was a good time to leave…
As I was cautiously making my way towards the exit, I heard a clunking noise: glistening and fluid, the blob was now making its way towards me, alike quicksilver, effortlessly moving over the metal sheets collapsed on the floor, gathering itself up and over the obstacles as I panicked and run. It was moving with a lightning speed and was around my feet before I reached the door, starting to envelope my ankles in its heavy, warm flesh. Still trying to move towards the exit, dragging the thickening, heavy weight reaching now up to my knees, constricting my movements and making my efforts futile as if wading through a vat of thick honey. It was enveloping, running up my body quickly reaching my waist, I was trying to peel it off me but my hands became completely immobilised in the sticky liquid. Even the smallest movements made the flesh transform and harden, sticking tighter to me, making all resistance impossible.
In a state of panic and fear I was beside myself, panting and screaming when the fluid reached up to my mouth filling it up, cocooning my vocal cords - silencing me, pouring through my ears deafening me, filling my eyes with pink moisture. It was filling me up completely, electric currents tingling my muscles, massaging my organs, my skin, scalp, not unpleasantly so, relaxing me into acceptance. It felt that the form was completely merging with me, entering and pouring out of me in a fluid cycle, I could feel every part of my body as heat, alive and pulsating. As I came back to myself and was back in the lobby slumped on the bench, the speakers were murmuring something unrecognisable, I checked myself but the traces of the fleshy fluid were gone and the flashing lights were illuminating an exit sign.