In 1828 a section of Garimund street collapsed, taking the side of a building with it. The cause was pretty self-evident: some fool had dug out a tunnel beneath it and a heavy carriage had burst through the weakened road crust. The event was remarkable enough to gather the attention of the media Citywide, each hoping for a couple of good pictures of a cart comically poking out of the ground, perhaps with a froth-mouthed horse and some stream for good measure. Perhaps an interview with whoever had dug the hole, or the cart driver, hopefully not too nonsensical with shock. Nobody was prepared for what they found.
Barely half a meter beneath the road surface was a tomb. That much was clear even with the road debris and smashed beer barrels covering it; there was very clearly the foot of a coffin poking out beneath. And there, by the foot of the coffin, was a dead body. Perhaps it had been flung from the coffin when the cart crashed in? The cart driver was certainly alive and well, he and his horse surviving with little more than a scratch (although one publication claimed that the horse was put down later from an injured leg caused by the incident). ‘CART CRASH REVEALS ANCIENT TOMB’ was the thrust of most of the articles. What mysterious old civilisation built the lone grave?
Yet this was obviously nonsense. The tomb was a new addition, else the road would have caved in a lot earlier, and when the investigators came to clear the site they surmised as much; the walls were freshly dug into the limestone. Yet who had built this samizdat tomb beneath the City’s streets, when there were plenty of official and officiated locations to inter the dead? The coffin lid had indeed been broken in the collapse, but stranger still, it seemed to already contain a body. It turned out that the tomb was connected to a tunnel that led to the cellar of the semi-collapsed building, a building owned by one Erghul Virtuoso, failed playwright and mediocre actor. On closer inspection, the additional body sprawled across the floor, fresh and mangled by the rockfall, had also once belonged to the late Mr. Virtuoso.
During the clean-up operation one of the workers sneaked a peak inside the shattered coffin, and saw inside two bright eyes looking out. He screamed and jumped back, then recovered himself and gathered the other workers around to witness him prise the remains of the lid off. Inside was a very odd sight: a porcelain body, formed and painted in an extremely lifelike manner with eyes open and clothes adorning the clay flesh. A fake body inside an unauthorised tomb. A real body lying beside it. What was going on? The papers were having a field day.
After two weeks of conflicting and confused headlines, the truth eventually came out. An associate of Virtuoso’s, Damien Victual, visited the scene to pay his respects and, when he inevitably took a peek at the fake corpse, he exclaimed ‘That is Glimmer Nandwitch! He must have done it, he must have killed him!’ After Victual had been calmed, and the investigators had explained that it was no corpse, just a lifelike copy of one, Victual let known the plans to kill Nandwitch, his greatest rival, which the actor had shared with him, pointing out frantically that he thought it was all a bad joke. It was a fake anyway, Nandwitch was still alive, wasn’t he?
The answer turned out to be ‘yes’ to that final question, not that anybody at the time knew it. Nandwitch, a famous (and extremely skilled) actor had been on a ‘retreat’ in the Ancestor Mountains at the time of the incident, and did not return for three months. He had told nobody that he was leaving, trying to avoid as best he could the attention of the municipal press, and when he returned it was to rumours of his murder. As well as an incomparable actor, Nandwitch was also a master of disguise, and rarely if ever walked the streets without one. As such, few recognised his face, and fewer still believed him when he revealed that he was Nandwitch, still alive and well, having benefited from some rare time off.
Eventually, on June the 20th 1828, Nadwitch visited the tomb, now with a thicker and better-supported road structure built over the gap. ‘It was perhaps the most uncanny sensation of my life,’ said Glimmer to the press, shortly after his sojourn beneath the street. ‘It was a perfect copy of me, I know not how he managed it.’ He did know why, however. It seems that the inferior actor had once been upstaged during a production of the The History of the Knight and had never forgotten the slight, devoting his every waking moment to Nandwitch’s demise. Nandwitch, on the other hand, knew nothing of the obsession, until he started to receive threatening letters and noticed that he was being followed whenever he left the house. Apparently the harassment and stalking was part of the reason the superior actor went off for his sojourn, telling nobody.
The press had great fun taking pictures of the actor lying beside the fake corpse, the two essentially identical except for a certain stiffness of manner. Perhaps another person would have found the whole thing disturbing and morbid, but not Nandwitch; he actually bought the semi-collapsed dwelling and would invite his friends around to see his life-sized effigy. When a year had passed since he first came face-to-face with himself, he decided to host a morbid party, a faux-funeral. He had so much fun he did the same the next year, and the next, until it became a tradition that he had to follow even if he didn’t want to any more. ‘I think I’m the only man who’s been to his own funeral ahead of time,’ he said to the Buentoille Twilight Standard in 1857.
When he finally died for real, Nandwitch was buried alongside his effigy, a pottery man made with such hatred that eventually inspired so much happiness and joy. Today extended family members will party inside the tomb just as they once did when he lived, celebrating the life of the talented actor, and celebrating life itself, too.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Ringing of the Last Alarm
- The Day of Undue Risk
- Metaphorical Metaphysics Day