April 4th – The Festival of Testing the Tonal Infrascope

The full extent of the caverns and tunnels beneath Buentoille is unknown, and new offshoots from the known underground causeways are often discovered, even now. A few maps of the fathoms below have been made; they are horrible, obfuscatory confusing documents; a writhing mass of overlapping lines that disincentivise the casual observer in their complexity. Despite the detail that they showcase, they are by no means comprehensive. Here is the brain-like cluster of the Hidden Library, yes, and there the tendrils of the Unfathomed Archive dip into the darkness, but what of these offshoots, where do they lead? And is there anything in this solid, unmarked space here? Cartographers often call Buentoille the Iceberg City.

Hundreds of treatises have been written on those winding pathways beneath the City, on the difficulty of accurately measuring their length and width, on the way that compasses turn like weathervanes and passages seem to lead to different places on different days. Some of it is clearly fanciful nonsense, excuses for incompetence or attempts at warding off would-be competitors, yet there is clearly some force at work disrupting the work of undercartographers. Almost every treatise contains some reference to the Tonal Infrascope, a desperate longing for the information it could gather.

Today many engineers and other scientists, including a contingent from the Guild of Cartographers, will descend the three hundred and twelve steps beneath Yunsan Tower. The doorway on street level leads into a spiral staircase that travels from the top of the Tower right down to the main machinery of the Tonal Infrascope, a mass of copper piping and electrical cables, tangled and imposing in its obvious complexity; those maps of the ways beneath the City could just as easily be a technical diagram for this machine. A group of workers with anti-static clothing will be making last-minute adjustments to the angle of the piping, degaussing old monochrome monitors and twiddling dials. Hands will be shaken as the guests arrive, and a few nervous glances will be exchanged. In an open space by the machine, a roughly spherical mass in the centre of an oval room, a number of plastic chairs are set out each year, the kind you get in school canteens, and the guests will take their places there, notepads and pens at the ready. Down there the sodium lamps flicker slightly, for what reason nobody knows; they are too focused on the Tonal Infrascope.

The Tonal Infrascope was first built by a husband and wife team, Irving and Haita Yunsan, who also designed the building (or ‘casing,’ as they referred to it) that surrounds the Infrascope. When it was finished, the couple tested it for the first time, and achieved fantastic results, printed out on carbon paper. Haita was in the process of studying these when she suffered a catastrophic heart attack and sadly died. Irving, always known to be a passionate man, was destroyed by the loss. He tore up the print outs from that first test in a fit of rage, railing at the folly of a project that he believed had taken his wife.

Fragments of those results have been found, but nobody has been able to glean much from them, as there are only three, a centimetre across. Some say that this is because, despite what Irving Yunsan claimed, the machine never worked in the first place. Yet the theory behind the Infrascope’s construction is, apparently, sound. The mass of wires and tubes surround a glass tube, which reaches up to the ceiling of the oval room. Through the glass you can see a huge tall chamber, around the edge of which the spiral staircase presumably winds. At the top of the tower is suspended a huge weight, fitted perfectly to the interior walls of the chamber. This weight, or ‘hammer’ is dropped, creating a huge build-up of pressure that is processed through the machine and forced out into the ground beneath as a specially-tuned sound wave. The Infrascope then uses the reflections of this wave to map out the spaces below the City. The guests will today wait in anticipation for the hammer to drop, their eyes raised towards the ceiling, peering through the glass. When it drops the entire building shakes violently, as does a great deal of the surrounding City.

It was that shaking which drew the Defence Brigades to the tower on that first test. The locals had never trusted it, not once, and the Brigades were alerted quickly; they thought a bomb had gone off inside. Even now, testing can only happen once a year (although the repairs and alterations to the machine occur year-round) for fear of subsidence and property damage. He had detached a large portion of the Tonal Infrascope and climbed into the glass chamber through the resulting hole when they found him. He told them what had happened, but refused to come out. ‘Step back,’ he said, before the hammer fell.

It seemed that he had destroyed the blueprints, too; to date nobody has been able to fix the machine. It sustained a great deal of damage when the hammer fell for the second time that day, the obstruction leading to unusual complications. Of course this doesn’t stop them trying. After the hammer has fallen today, the guests will gather around the old printer, fingers crossed that the carbon paper will contain some kind of useful knowledge. Every year they walk away unfulfilled, traipsing out that little door to street level one by one, placing a flower on each Yunsan grave, dug by the Tower’s foundations, as they pass.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Guild of Conspiracy Theorist’s Presentation on Who Really Destroyed the Tonal Infrascope and WHY (THEY Murdered the Yunsans!)
  • The Nominal Order’s Day of Quiet Contemplation
  • The Glistening of His Eyes: an Annual Film Viewing