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Umbral Locke

There is something, an ancient and terrible presence, which dwells in our collective unconsciousness and can visit us in dreams, offering power in exchange for servitude.


Many people - even those with a theoretical grounding in the esoteric and the extraordinary - find that even the most modest and common of unusual gifts or abilities can make a person seem like they are at an immediate and impassable remove from the rest of humanity. Given the prevalence and pervasiveness of this kind of othering, it is commonly accepted as being part of the process by which history becomes legend: A vector for assumptions and exaggerations that can turn the misunderstood into monsters and the foreign into the fiendish. Of course, the ability to distinguish and extrapolate fact from fiction becomes increasingly complicated as we broaden our understanding of what is physically and fundamentally possible and, with the certainty of the pure sciences undermined by an awareness of (and openness to) the irrefutable fact of the impossible, what was once considered legend may once again find itself under the purview of history.

When it comes to delineating the two, there are few figures as contentious as that of Umbral Locke; a self-proclaimed God who walked out of the desert into a pre-Mesopotamian settlement, demanding fealty and worship under threat of death, or worse. Able to psychically extend and exert his will, Umbral Locke was variously described as being able to compel others to act on his behalf and even (in the more extreme examples) obliterating and overwriting their personalities with subordinate copies of his own. Those who would not willingly submit to his rule were forced into complicity or destroyed outright, their minds hollowed out and refilled with his memories and thoughts and feelings. In fact, the only aspect of the original that these macabre puppets lacked were Umbral Locke’s powers, those apparently either a biological ability or perhaps something he chose not to share for fear of being supplanted by his own surrogates.

Whatever the reason for this limitation - in spite of which he was quickly able to suborn or submit dozens to his will - it seems that it was likely the source of his downfall. Though his fledgling empire grew quickly, garnering hundreds of followers of lesser or greater zeal (and a score more under his most absolute and implacable influence) inside of a year, Umbral Locke’s psychic proxies could not project the inherent existential threat he himself presented. Having stretched himself too thin, and too quickly for belief in his divinity to become truly accepted, a small group - some of whom were related to those whose bodies he had forcibly taken - planned to murder their God-King. For all that he was said to have been able to do, the thoughts of both his loyal and unwilling subjects were closed to Umbral Locke, and the plot to end his life went undiscovered until it was already in motion.

After a brief skirmish, in which several of his surrogate bodies (kept close to be his most fervent and trusted guards) were killed, Umbral Locke’s chambers were set alight whilst he slept. He woke, choking on the smoke, to find the doors barred and barricaded, screaming for his release as the flames spread and filled the room. The bricks of the walls became red hot and brittle and, though the screaming stopped eventually, it lasted just long enough to cause the attackers to be unsure if Umbral Locke could even be killed by fire. At the moment of his passing, the copies of his consciousness abandoned the remaining surrogates. They were left as nothing more than shells, operating on instinct and reflex; blank slates that stubbornly resisted any attempts to imprint or impart any new information to them. Those under Umbral Locke’s compulsion were more fortunate, being freed with only minor lapses in - or losses of - memory.

Without him there to hold his followers together, and with a frankly suspicious number claiming that they had been psychically forced to follow his slavish rule, Umbral Locke’s influence quickly ebbed away. Soon his reign was nothing but a nightmarish memory, one that would pass into story before being all but forgotten. If that were the end of it, a strange and obscure legend that seems to sit outside of general cultural and historical traditions, we might be satisfied to let it be: A curio, rather than an ongoing concern. Except that Umbral Locke has an infamy that outstrips his place in seldom-studied texts, a presence that belies how few mentions of him actually refer to the history from which his legend was born. Though he died over seven-thousand years ago, it seems now that the destruction of his body did not equate to a similarly total or final dissolution of his mind, nor of his influence.

Rather than restoring his victims, as some must have hoped, Umbral Locke’s death instead cast his split and shared consciousness out into the psychic aether. Some have theorised such a space as being equivalent or analogous to Jung’s collective unconscious, others an extrinsic field to which all sapient and sentient life is connected (via the ‘third eye’ of Buddhism and Hinduism or Descartes conception of the pineal gland). From either perspective, it represents a deep and expansive well of sensations and experiences and even a mind forceful enough to directly overpower and subsume those of others would likely be swallowed - if not dashed to pieces - by the ebb and flow of its unpredictable eddies and currents. Navigating such a roiling tumult, even a little, would be a supernatural effort of will, and it would be remarkable if Umbral Locke had emerged from it only once, let alone repeatedly across millennia, even though he is restricted to disrupting dreams.

Appearing without apparent rhyme or reason - at least none that can be fathomed from the incomplete evidence that is available - Umbral Locke’s consciousness can intrude upon any unconscious mind. Integrating himself into dreams, he appears as a prophetic figure, a radiant presence who can sooth the most terrible of nightmares. This benevolence is a cover, disguising how tenuous the connection is; unless and until the dreamer accepts and welcomes Umbral Locke as part of the dream, he cannot form a link that will survive the dreamer waking. If such a bond is made, he becomes a recurring figure (both in the dreams that are remembered and those that are forgotten). Whilst initially a comforting, increasingly familiar presence, over the course of weeks he becomes more insidious and insistent, offering to share the secrets of his power in exchange for allowing him to take over one’s conscious mind and, consequently, body.

Since accounts of people’s dreams are understandably patchy, we cannot be sure to how many people Umbral Locke has been able to appear. With the assumed difficulty of traversal within the collective unconscious and maintaining a sense of self, it is believed that these intrusions are relatively scare (and remarkable enough for his intended victims to document). Nonetheless, and given that there has been no indication that he has returned, it seems unlikely that Umbral Locke would continue to be so frank in his demands if subtlety or subterfuge were an option; the rejection of his terms breaking the bond and casting him out for good. Perhaps, despite the strength of his will, the connection links the minds too closely to allow for deliberate deception. It is also unclear whether a reborn Umbral Locke would have his original powers, and represent that same threat, or if he would return as another surrogate.


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