CODEWORD: Dry Cleaning
ATTENTION – CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS
AUTHORIZATION LEVEL: Bermuda
PLEASE ENTER IDENTIFICATION
CODEWORD Dry Cleaning File Directory
Transcript of the Journal of Jacob Salazar
Theater of operations maps for Operation Syndicate
Notes of Ryan Giles (AUTHORIZATION LEVEL: Tesseract)
Restricted due to insufficient authorization
Photographic evidence from Operation Syndicate
Items 1-88, general operations record
Items 89-122, Ryan Giles personal records (AUTHORIZATION LEVEL: Tesseract)
Restricted due to insufficient authorization
Items 123-135, specimen photographs (reclassified and moved to PROJECT: Extra Starch records)
General historical notes, assembled by RESEARCH TEAM Uriel
Owner: Private First Class Jacob Salazar, 12th Mechanized Infantry
22 March, 1924
Bought this because my little brother wants to hear all about life in the army and the Captain says we're gonna be under a communication blackout until after the deployment is over so I can't write him until after that. Hopefully this helps me remember everything.
No one's sure why we're being sent into Highland yet, although Sarge thinks its got something to do with the river. The plan is to flank the city of Willow Springs, sweep in and grab the docks. Then the steamers can go up and down the river a lot easier. We're moving out in two days, once all the extra gas is brought up to the front. Captain Giles thinks it'll actually take more like four, since it's the Army in charge of getting us kitted out, but regardless we can't leave camp until deployment. Don't know as there'll be much to write until then.
25 March, 1924
We assembled and moved out of camp this afternoon, been a pretty boring trip so far. Highland roads are pretty nice compared to most of what I've seen in the Rus. We haven't seen anyone on them in person yet and we've been moving pretty fast. We only had to get off the troop trucks once to clear some cows off the road, not exactly the kind of terrifying combat we were promised. I'm pretty happy about that. We're camped out along the roadside now, hoping to make Willow Springs by tomorrow night.
Woke up in the middle of the night to make water, saw the Captain awake and walking the perimeter with the guards. He looks really spooked for some reason. I wonder what he knows that we don't.
26 March, 1924
We made it to Willow Springs without seeing anyone. Even Sarge was starting to find it really weird but by the time we got to the city outskirts the boys on the scout bikes motored back reporting they found about a dozen artillery nests along the road leading into the city. We backed off about ten miles and we're planning to try and take them out tomorrow.
28 March, 1924
It was a mess. You hear stories about people fighting to the last man but I know I never thought I would actually see someone do it. Highlanders are truly insane. We had to smash a sandbag nest with a 20mm gun in it and it didn't seem to matter how man bullets or grenades we put in it they wouldn't retreat or surrender. Lost eight men from my company. Finally we threw a petrol grenade in and listened to the poor bastards burn. If they were just going to die screaming like that they could've just left the damn foxhole. I hear it every time I close my eyes.
We're in the city now, for all its worth. Believe me when I say, all the Highlanders are insane not just the ones at our gun. Every unit we group up with reports the same – the bastards won't give up a foot of ground until you've turned them into mincemeat. Seems like they're all made of iron. One of the boys manning a motorized repeating rifle said he put a dozen rounds in a man and he kept running ammo up to the artillery. He didn't die until a grenade went off practically at his feet and turned him to shreds.
Civilians in Willow Springs are just as insane in different ways. Half a block from their defensive line there's people just walking around like they don't have a care about stray bullets or shells. One man crossing the street stared at us and burst out laughing. Cackled like a hyena the whole time he was out of doors and kept his eyes locked on us but otherwise just went on his way! Damnedest thing I've ever seen. He swiveled his head 'round like an owl rather than doing the sensible thing and stopping and pointing at us or ignoring us entirely. Sarge said he must've snapped. Pretty common in these situations he says.
He's the expert, so maybe. But no one I know down in the Rus would still be leaning out a second story window to hang their laundry on the line while a bunch of soldiers drive into their city and secure the streets. Most of them don't talk to us. None of them seem to care that we're here. It's probably good that they haven't all hidden away and started fighting some kind of underground war. That would be a nightmare. But everyone's spooked enough that this may not be any better.
Captain says we're through the defensive line on both sides of the river and getting ready to move on the docks and other major structures in the city. Command seems to be waiting for first light tomorrow before we move in.
29 March, 1924
Woke up this morning, two guys were gone from the unit. Sarge thinks they deserted. Says it always happens after the first big scrape, getting shot at really changes the way people think. I think it was the screams, myself. I know I thought about doing a runner when I woke up in the middle of the night after hearing men burn alive in my dreams. Those two must've been smarter than me.
We're moving towards the river now. Streets are pretty clear so we're bringing the trucks and halftracks along for now, although Sarge says Captain's orders are to leave them if we run across any roadblocks. And when I say clear, I mean of obstacles. There's still lots of people out, wandering around like they've got errands to run or something. Every time I turn around I see people with huge cloth bundles. At least it looks like they're okay with the Rus annexing the Highlands. Kinda makes me wonder why the guys in the defensive line put up such a fight. It doesn't add up.
Right now we're waiting for the scouts to come back from taking a peek at the docks. I expected a few people to stop and gawk at us but so far most of them are ignoring us, except the occasional man who does that weird, owl head thing like the guy from yesterday. Must be some Highland custom. None of them have laughed at us yet, in fact they're not talking much at all, but at least that part makes sense. If only anything else did.
Okay, Sarge is looking over my shoulder and he just pointed out it looks like the Highlanders sensibly evacuated the women and children. At least he hasn't seen any yet. I wasn't paying a lot of attention but now that he mentions it I don't remember seeing any and there aren't any on the street right now. But I'm pretty sure I saw a boy or two under ten yesterday. Strange.
We're moving towards the river again now.
Captain Giles called a halt around the headwaters area. There's an ancient looking building there powered by a huge set of waterwheels. I thought it was a power plant but Sarge says its actually a grain mill. It was in the briefing, he says. The Highlanders have set up a sort of perimeter around it by pulling most of the trucks and cars in the city into the roads around the mill and leaving them there. It's enough to keep us from bringing up any of the vehicles or self propelled guns.
The Captain has mechanics hotwiring the vehicles so we can move them out of the way but it's taking a lot of time. I had to drive one of them down to the river earlier. It was bad, the whole thing smelled like sweat and old socks. Makes me wonder what they were using it for.
We were packing the trucks into a paved area along the riverside that Sarge thinks was for unloading river freighters or something when one of the other boys driving started yelling. We went down and discovered a drowned woman stuck in the supports for a pier. She was naked, which was really strange but not particularly interesting as she'd been in the river for a while and it wasn't kind to her. The man who spotted her wanted to go out and retrieve the body for a proper burial but Sarge wasn't willing to risk it. He sent me to report it to the Captain.
I was expecting to find Captain Giles with the boys trying to clear the streets around the mill and he was in the general area but I actually found him looking behind us towards the edge of the city. I heard him muttering something about Shibboleth not being enough, perhaps Carthage. When I asked him about it he didn't answer, just asked me if I remembered seeing so many clotheslines overhead when we came up on the mill. I told him I didn't pay a whole lot of attention.
He told me not to worry about it and sent me back to the blocked streets. It took us most of the afternoon to clear three streets of parked vehicles. None of the locals complained. No one tried to stop us or asked us what we thought we were doing or even where we put the things after we moved them. Occasionally people did pass by us while we were working on it but they kept totally silent. They were so quiet a couple of times I walked around a truck and nearly got run over by a local man going the other way. Once I saw someone a couple of vehicles away carrying a basket full of laundry towards the mill which was even stranger.
The Captain put strange notions in my head. Now I keep looking up expecting to catch the locals stringing more clotheslines but so far I haven't seen anyone up there like yesterday. In fact I think the city is emptying out. Sarge says that's to be expected and I shouldn't worry about it. Lots of extra people showing up in town would be a lot worse than people quietly slipping out.
We're going into the mill tomorrow. Sarge said the mill wasn't even close to an operational objective for our unit or any of the other units he talked to before we left Rus. Couple of the Lieutenants objected to spending so much time on it as well. Captain didn't change his mind so I guess that's what we're doing tomorrow.
29-30 March, 1924
Not sure what time it is but I woke up hearing the screaming again. Gonna be smart this time. Sarge and the Captain are good men and I want to do my bit for the Rus but I gotta get away from this. If I get caught and you use this as evidence against me, Captain, I don't blame you. I just can't keep hearing the screams when I'm trying to sleep.
Probably March 30, 1924
I guess I'm not going to try and desert again.
Sarge found me when I was picking my way out of the camp. We commandeered a couple of buildings around a square where the road leading down to the docks and the streets headed up to the mill intersected. About half of us were put in the houses and the rest kept an eye on our wheels. I was outside, sleeping in the bed of a truck when I had the nightmare again and decided to head out.
I slipped out off the back of the truck without waking the other two guys hunkered down there but I'd barely slipped out past the perimeter and into a side alley before Sarge found me.
He didn't yell and scream, which surprised me. Half the time I think that's all he can do but today he proved me wrong, had me sit down and explained that this is really common in war. You find yourself in situations where you have no control at all and your mind can't handle it. He said I wanted to run so I'd feel I was in control. He also warned me that running is just another way of giving up control and saying I'll never be back in charge again. Run once, you'll always be running.
A smart man, our Sergeant. Very perceptive, very persuasive, very wise, very much aware of what I was thinking and how to talk me out of it. I was about to go back to camp with him when they got him.
I wasn't sure what it was, at first. As we got back to the entrance of the alley I noticed that the stars overhead winked out for a second and I looked up, confused. The sky hadn't been overcast before. For a brief moment I saw the now-familiar sight of a clothesline with laundry flapping in the wind. Sarge gave a sudden, surprised yell and vanished. As I spun around, trying to figure out what happened to him, something long and thin wrapped around my leg and yanked, sending me toppling to the ground. My head struck the pavement and my vision swam.
For a brief moment, as I was held upside down by my leg, I saw Sarge flailing as he went flying upwards ahead of me. As the world around me turned to a shapeless blur I thought I saw the cloth on the line wrapping around his body. Then I passed out.
I woke up some time later and eventually began writing this entry. I assume I'm in the mill we surrounded. It doesn't look much like a grain mill, although I'm hardly an expert. It looks more like hell.
Those damnable clotheslines are everywhere, whipping around like snakes, tying themselves to random spots on the ceiling or working on machines they've built out of the pieces of the mill. Highland men keep coming in carrying piles of clothes, sometimes with people still in them. The clothes are thrown into huge vats carted in from who knows where and huge fires are kept burning under them. Other men stir the vats with a mix of sticks, shovels, brooms and who knows what else.
Eventually the soup gets thrown onto the millstones and ground up. The result somehow comes out as new clothesline and bundles of fabric that masquerades as laundry. Here in the mill the stuff's less shy and you can see the fabric and lines flapping about on their own. Sometimes you even catch a glimpse of an eye or a mouth peeking out, strange things made of buttons and zippers that take in the world from their weird and alien point of view.
When there's people in the clothes things get bad. The woman probably have it easier. The clotheslines strip them out of the fabric and strangle them, then throw them into the river. Once I think they missed a girl in one of the large bundles and threw her into the boiling water with the clothes. That was worse than the men burning alive at the 20mm gun. That doesn't sound easier, does it? But the lines are gathering the men for something else entirely.
We're being waiting for a visit with her.
Right now those of us the lines are holding just have to sit here and watch her work. They won't let us run away but they don't hold us that tightly like they did when they first grabbed me out on the street. One of the others looks like he came from another unit. I didn't recognize him but I understand why he took his sidearm and blew his own brains out. After that the clotheslines and their bundles looked us all over and took away our weapons. But they didn't take this journal and they're letting me write in it.
So I'm writing it down, because someone needs to know. I was going to run away and leave you boys to this thing and I got what I deserved for that. I'd rather be hung for desertion but this is where I am. You need to know what this thing is doing.
It looks like a woman and it hates other women to the point of murder so it's got the primary hallmarks of womankind. It's the shape of a woman but the cloth and the lines all tie into the bottom of her body as if cloth and flesh have woven together into a single being. Her hair weaves itself into sheets of linen. Her fingers end in knitting hooks. Folds of fabric twist down into her heart, churning and twisting with the beat of her heart, then unravel back out into the twisting, writhing web of lines and fabric.
She sits in the middle of this mess like a spider, if a spider puppeteered its victims like marionettes after it cocooned them rather than eating them. She studies each man when he's brought to her. Then she knits their clothes into her own body at the end of one of the long, writhing lines pulled from the mill. She stabs their wrist, elbows, knees and ankles through with her fingers and runs threads through them. Fresh, writhing cloth is pushed down their throats until they gag. Even their eyes are sewn open.
If they scream the other men who've been woven into her longer laugh and jeer at them. Soon enough they learn it hurts less if they don't struggle or complain. Not even the dead are spared this fate. The man who shot himself in the head was stitched up and sent off on spastically jerking limbs. Even in death his body wasn't spared desecration. I'm certain most of these poor men stitched into the Ragamuffin will only die if they're burned.
I killed some of them, after all. Now I'll be one of them.
This is our fate. We're all doomed to it and it's not even clear why she's doing this. She doesn't seem to want anything other than to stitch and sew and deform us all. Burn us. Burn us all, and soon. I am next. Soon enough there will be nothing of me left. Tell my mother
ACCESSING HISTORICAL NOTES
Details from Operation Syndicate are not as complete as we might wish. While Literati Ryan Giles was a deep cover operative for the Rusvi organization known as the Literati Obscura, a predecessor to the current Archives, he sadly died much later in life during Operation Solstice. Under normal circumstances that would not pose significant issue. However, since Operation Solstice took place at Literati Giles' personal laboratory and resulted in the loss of said laboratory all his personal diaries and research vanished with him.
LITERATI RYAN GILES, CODENAME: Pestle, RECORDS ARE AUTHORIZATION LEVEL: Non-Euclidean. INSUFFICIENT AUTHORIZATION FOR RECORD ACCESS.
OPERATION: Solstice RECORDS ARE AUTHORIZATION LEVEL: Tesseract. INSUFFICIENT AUTHORIZATION FOR RECORDS ACCESS.
The turmoil resulting from the annexation of the Highlands and the eventual Rusvi civil war resulted in the loss of most of the official records related to Operation Syndicate both in the Rusvi military and the Literati Obscura. Very few references to it exist in the records incorporated into the modern Archives. What details TEAM Uriel has managed to gather are as follows.
Literati Giles eventually did chose to employ a STERILIZATION LEVEL: Carthaginian protocol on Willow Springs, rather than a LEVEL: Shibboleth. We're not sure what all that entails as that particular designation was retired before the Literati Obscura officially joined the Archives. We believe it similar in outcome to the modern LEVEL: La Brea protocol, although obviously different in methodology. Literati Giles then secured the site and impounded multiple samples of the creature's bodies only slightly damaged by the flames.
Full details on those samples and what the Obscura and the Archives have learned about them in the intervening years are detailed in the records of PROJECT: Extra Starch. While the project has not reached many conclusions based on what they've seen one thing they're relatively certain of is that there's not enough in the way of remains to account for the creature Salazar calls the Ragamuffin. Its ultimate fate remains unknown.
In addition to the Extra Starch samples Literati Giles also discovered the Journal of Jacob Salazar. On reviewing the contents Giles chose not to reveal its existence to the Rusvi military and instead listed Private Salazar as killed in action. He tasked a medical team with recovering Salazar's remains but, after two days of carefully surveying the ashes, they found no dog tags or bones that belonged to Private Salazar.
His current status remains unknown.