A letter found among the effects of Donald B. Pearson, third son of Peter Pearson, the American railroad magnate, visiting friends in London on the occasion of his 21st year. The youngest Pearson remains missing, presumed dead:
My dearest Reginald, I scarcely know where to begin. I told you that a fortnight ago I came into possession of a gilt-edged calling card bearing the name of Synryll Voolge, the so-called Crooked Man. Those tokens are considered priceless, and gossip says they only find their way into the hands of those destined to need them, as they are required to gain entrance to Voolge's demesne, the infamous Obscenarium.
As one would gather from its designation, the Obscenarium deigns to preserve and present all the manners in which man has found to slake his thirst for carnal delights. But it is so much more than that. There are any number of red-lit, back-alley parlors where flesh is peddled, where a man can spend his lust or dull his senses with any number of concubines or concoctions.
Where those pursuits and depravities end, the Obscenarium begins. In demure alcoves on marble stands one will find sculptures depicting the wildest scenes of Sodom or discover paintings delineating the rape of the Sabine women. Down pristine corridors float ethereal tunes tempting one toward the most licentious releases. I found myself contemplating first the sins of the flesh, then pulled further in thought, teased into considering the many ways to violate the mind, the common sensibilities, then lured into calculating exactly what would be needed to desecrate the immortal soul. What is the ultimate taboo, Reginald? When you think of one, imagine what would be beyond it? Can you conceive of a sin contravening holy laws of gods yet undiscovered? I tell you such things are already old hat to those who tender custom to Voolge and his cadre of glittering, beautiful, brittle servants.
The self-possessed and achingly beautiful docents walk coolly among the visiting nobles, dandies and common folk like the Muses, clad only in whispers of sheerest cloth that somehow make them appear both wanton and remote, simultaneously imperious and seductive. I know I found myself poleaxed by desire again and again, knowing that I would never see a woman more comely or a man so Apollonian when I would turn and there would pass another of these guides to the intricacies of delight and degradation on offer, with looks both angelic and diabolical all at once.
People believe the Obscenarium traffics in depravity, that Voolge is somehow set to conduct souls to hell by the traincar-full. I tell you that to enter through its massive teak doors is to have already descended to depravity and abandoned it. Mere depravity would seem like a welcome harbor on the sea of the soul after seeing what the inner chambers of that complex have to offer.
I would offer you more words on what goes on within those chambers, but some fell restriction stays my pen, bids my lips stay sealed on what I have seen, felt, understood within those rooms. They are at once like the half-remembered contents of a fever dream and yet possessed of an earthshaking reality that I feel to the depths of my guts, in the marrow of each bone in my body. I feel like a new person, as if I was somehow stripped down to my essential elements and reassembled, yet more myself than ever. Whatever I went through in those rooms, it has changed me irrevocably.
I still possess the calling card. I found it tucked neatly in the top pocket of my jacket when I awoke this morning, back in the rooms I've hired for this trip. I have no memory of returning from last night's excursion. Ha! I must have, as I am here.
I await only nightfall, to see if that card will get me back in. I must return, if only to see ... I cannot recall what. It is as if I am desperate to find a passage in a book that has yet to be written, to recall an indescribable and fleeting taste from my youth, to see the face of someone who was never born, but with a visage I know as intimately as I know my own reflection in the mirror.
I must return. Until then, dear Reginald, I will see if I can shake this feeling that clouds my memory and stills my tongue, that I might tell you more of what I saw inside the Obscenarium. I would swear, Reginald, that the hallways, they MOVE ...
No more of the letter remains. Pearson never returned to his rooms, and the letter went unsent, only to be picked up by constables investigating the disappearance before making into the hands of Scotland Yard's Hell Branch.