Standing Stones - An Unhistory of Halloway
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An Audio Guide from the Arona Museum of the Arts

What you are about to explore is something that has never been done at this museum before, and likely will never happen again. The objects in the halls following are strange and uncanny. We believe it is best to offer this introduction by way of explanation before you are presented with the objects in question. Firstly, the question of provenance - that is, where these objects came from. Frankly, we do not know. The objects in this gallery were found amongst the museums collection over a period of years, with no explanation as to their arrival. They were tagged correctly, sorted correctly, and completely unknown to us and our systems.

Secondly, it is important to point out ahead of time that the city of Halloway does not exist. There is no record of a city by that name in the area implied by the objects, nor has there ever been a city in that location. We have spent the last three years puzzling over these items, but the decision was finally made to share them with the community, in the hopes of discovering any more information about them. If you know anything, we ask that you tell us. This audio guide that you are listening to is the culmination of the work of dozens of curators and volunteers, in an attempt to put the objects into some kind of context. Wherever these objects arise from, they tell a story. We hope that we have done them justice here.
~Miranda Johnston, head curator

Hello, and welcome- officially- to Standing Stones, an Unhistory of Halloway. My name is Calvin Wright, and I’m the curator in charge of this exhibition. I am excited to show you around, and to introduce you to the pieces that I have become so familiar with in- in these past few months. This has been one of the strangest and most exciting projects that I have gotten a chance to work on in my time as a curator, and I hope to provide some insight for you throughout this guide.

As we have little information about the histories of these objects, you will find that this audio guide has more personal anecdotes and speculation than we would normally like. We hope you can understand why this decision was made, and still find value in it. Without any further ado, let’s begin our journey to the town of Halloway, wherever it may be.

A Road Map and A Bus Ticket

This was the first of the objects that I found. It was three years ago now. We were doing some standard organizing when we came across this map tucked away in the bottom of a filing cabinet. I was there at the time, and happened to notice something strange about the name, namely the town of Halloway. Asking around, no one had heard of this town, which I found initially strange. However, it it fairly common for map makers to put in fake towns, as a copyright trap, so they can tell if another company was copying their maps. Satisfied with that (as it turns out, inaccurate) explanation, but still intrigued by the oddity, I kept the map.

Now, turn your attention to the bus ticket. This was found almost two months after the first object, by another curator, she found it in a chest in the back room. It is a ticket from the central bus depot in this town, to Halloway, made out for a single passenger. Predictably, the bus company that issued the ticket has no routes heading to Halloway, but they could not find any fault with the ticket to mark it as a forgery. Whomever created these objects is clearly highly skilled. Why they are using those skills for this purpose is a matter of pure speculation.

A Bake Sale Flyer

Move to the right, four steps specifically, and arrive at the second object on our exploration. This flyer was found by one of my colleagues, in a truck of otherwise normal items in the archives. She brought it to me, remembering the incident with the map, and I pored over it, searching for any meaning beyond the obvious. First a map showing a place that didn’t exist, and now a flyer for some sort of community event from that same place. I found myself fascinated by this flyer, curious as to who had made it and how it had found its way among the other artifacts in the collection.

I like to think about the kinds of people who might have lived in this town; the kind of people that were involved with whatever the Order of the Twisted Branch was. It sounds a little sinister to my ear, but it was clearly a reputable organization in this town. After all, cults don’t hold bake sales. Imagine the leader of such a group, perhaps named Evelyn, getting all of the tables ready for the big day, getting ready for the people of the town to arrive. Hoping that this would be the day when everything would go well, where everything would change. She’s been preparing for this day for a long time, and it is finally going to be her moment.

This is all speculation.

A Robe with an Embroidered Symbol

Move now backwards, ten steps, and then turn 30 degrees to the left, until you are facing the third object. These robes were found in the coat check, as if they had been left there by a patron. It stayed in the lost and found for a period of time, before I happened to notice the symbol embroidered on the front, the same symbol as was on the bake sale flyer you just looked at. This is the symbol of the Twisted Branch which was- pardon, likely is the symbol of the Order mentioned on the flyer.

A strange thing to find in a coat check, wouldn’t you agree? Another piece of this town that no one can remember. There is little to say here, little backstory I can extract from this object. It simply is, another piece of this story. I can speculate, wildly, of the person who this robe belonged to, and of the pride they might have felt in earning their place in the Order, of joining with the others in their holy places and learning their secrets and rituals.

Learning of their place in the Order, and of that other place, that Quiet place between this world and the next, where they were seeking entrance, where they were called in every moment of every day. Where they now are, trapped between this world and the next, the fallout from a series of choices gone wrong, stopped by a nobody without any claim to the power she destroyed.

Again, this is- of course- all speculation.

A Painting

Kneel on the ground, if you are able. Crawl towards the east corner, four seconds forward, four seconds east. Spin in place for a moment, then stand. You will find yourself in front of a painting. Stare into the painting, look into the woman’s eyes. She is an intense sight, I know. Beautiful and regal. Search for brush strokes, or mistakes, or anything to prove that you are looking at a painting done by a human and not a photograph, or a window, or-

Did she move just now? Did you see her? That must have been a trick of the light. This is just a painting after all, one that I found- no. The time for deception is over now, we are too far along. A painting I pulled out of the burning wreckage of the Church of the Order on that day when everything fell apart.

Evelyn herself didn’t even make it out, at the end of things. That was always the plan if things went south. Get Evelyn out. She was more important than any of the rest of us, after all. She was the one with power. She is gone now, lost to me. Look back at the painting in front of you. Did you even stop looking? Could you, if you tried?

The painting is filling your vision now, all you can see. You know that you could turn and walk out of the gallery, back into the town you recognize, but you don’t. You stay here, staring, wondering, listening to the sound of my voice. And with that we turn to the final chapter of our story, the final object in this place.

A Sigil of Power

Turn now, twice to the right, then walk forward. Close your eyes when you know you’ve walked enough. Stand in place, eyes closed, for fifteen seconds, then look to the ceiling. Open your eyes and take in the sigil painted there. It is beautiful, in a way. Horrible in another. Don’t look away from the sigil.

It came to me in a dream. A horrible dream, and a wonderful dream. She is still out there. Evelyn is not lost to me, her plans were not a failure after all, but they were simply delayed. Evelyn showed me the path, showed me how I could save her, save everyone. Bring back Halloway from where it was taken.

It was a beautiful town. Perfect, the kind of stereotypical town you see in movies. I lived there my whole life, only left it a handful of times. One of those times was the day that it happened. I was supposed to be there, supposed to be right there in the center of it all. But Evelyn sent me away, on an errand of little importance. Maybe she knew that something may happen. Maybe it was a coincidence. Soon, I will know.

The sigil above you is beginning to glow, a soft white light filling its many intricacies and details. Find yourself getting lost in it once more, following a path around but never quite able to find the same place again. Keep trying though, keep searching for pattern, keep your eyes firmly within its bounds. We’re nearly done with our tour now. Just a few more moments and all will be set right.

Do you feel her? Is she there? Is she-

The preceding audio recording was found on the servers of the Arona Museum of the Arts, after the disappearance of one Andrea Peterson, an art student and volunteer for the museum. The exhibition mentioned in the recording never took place, and the museum denies any involvement with the recording, or any knowledge of Calvin Wright, the supposed curator of the exhibit. All testing indicates that the woman at the beginning is in fact Miranda Johnston, but she has no recollection of making the recording in question. Investigations are ongoing.

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