Thursday, December 19, 2013

Warehouse-Cathedral And The Quiet Zone

The Warehouse-Cathedral is what the university students have called the building for decades. The locals call it The Quiet Zone.

It's a Zone-in-one-building in a decaying Eastern U.S. city. A century ago, when the ribbon was cut by the City Fathers and County officials, it was called the Municipal Coal Repository. It was the county's central distribution center for coal, the supplier for households and industry alike in both the City, and its two adjacent subsidiary towns.

"A bit gothic" is how people describe it today, but back then people were pretty proud of it. The building was right in the middle of the industrial neighborhood of the town. It did the job it was designed to do for decades. Sure there were dust clouds from time-to-time, especially when big loads of coal were being transferred, but nobody complained too much. The Warehouse-Cathedral kept the city running.

But by the end of the 60s, many thins had changed. The industries of the zone were starting to fail, and demand for coal consequently decreased. The edges of the neighborhood started to fray into cheap student housing and antique stores.

Coal Bohemia.

So the City finally closed the Warehouse-Cathedral. There it stood abandoned, boarded-up, and quiet for most of the next decade. (Of course, kids used to break-in from time to time and mess around there. They called it "The Castle" for a while. People got high in the "Tower"; grudges got settled in the "Dungeon". These two location-names persist to this day and are legendary among local Stalkers.)

Things got even worse. By the 80s, the City's tax base had severely eroded. The downward spiral of unemployment and crime really kicked-off. Parts of the industrial zone became quite unsavory. Pedestrian tunnels connecting the neighborhood with adjacent ones became quite unsafe. And once the economy started to go bad, the cash-strapped City decided to sell off the Warehouse-Cathedral.

In the 80s and 90s, the Warehouse-Cathedral changed hands many times. First it was used for chemical storage, and then for experiments with crude robotics. In the depths of the Reagan era, the University used grant money to purchase the building for dubious military-sponsored psychotronics experiments. (The Soviets were so much more advanced in psychotronics, of course; and the Star Wars era was all about catching-up with and eventually surpassing the Soviets on every economic, technological, and military front.)

At the beginning of the Clinton era and shortly before the Visit, the University itself decided to sell off the Warehouse-Cathedral to a real estate developer. Anything to make a buck. Anything to avoid yet another capital campaign. Unfortunately, that developer soon ran afoul of the City's Planning Commission and Revenue Department, and ran off. The Warehouse-Cathedral's ownership became in doubt and its future again uncertain.

It was boarded-up once more. The City then put it on the EPA list for eventual clean-up.

Then one night, the Visit came from out of the midnight blue with a BOOM!  The BOOM didn't register on any sound level meters, but due to the Visit, people in several city blocks went deaf for good. The BOOM was accompanied by a blazing Silent Light.

All of it came from that one building. The light burst from every window of the Warehouse-Cathedral. It stayed that bright for days - day and night - and then suddenly guttered out.

The police quickly cordoned off the area. Things calmed down again. Those who could, moved out - especially if they had been away from the neighborhood at work, their children away at school, when their neighbors went deaf from the blinding light.

But the Silent Light has returned three times since the Visit. So a second blighted zone has wrapped itself around the Quiet Zone. There are many checkpoints, all designed to keep out the amateur "Stalkers" (i.e., university kids).

But the locals know a few ways in. Most of them run under the streets. And there are people at the University who will pay top dollar for things that the real Stalkers bring back out.  You'd be surprised how much one of the Chemistry professors will fork over for a jar of coal dust from the Quiet Zone... and there are others just as willing to pay.

"From the Zones" logo courtesy of Hereticwerks


  1. Nice. It makes sense; after all, the zone is sort of the "wrong place" of horror fiction (House on the Borderland, The Haunting, The Shining, etc.) writ larger and more science fictionally.

  2. Having just read about half-way through the book, finally, I'm seeing a lot of interesting parallels to Hodgson's Borderland, definitely. This location has a lot of strange history behind it, making it an ideal place for adventurer-types to go poke around and meddle with things. There's a weird connection to Wells & Machen in the Zones that I'm starting to see a bit more clearly. Thanks for recommending the book. I'm enjoying it immensely!

  3. @Trey. Thanks! I hadn't really thought of the Zones as being about a haunted house/wrong place kind of horror fiction, but this totally makes sense. The movie Stalker reinforces it, as the camera's implied POV (i.e., the "who" of who is watching through the camera) often seems to be a character, only to surprise us by suddenly putting all the characters in the same frame. What is being implied is that the landscape of the Zone is alive and aware (which is of course part of why the film shifts from sepia tones to full color once the "PCs" enter the Zone.

    @Jim: And if I told you I started my first Carnacki story over breakfast today that would be another strange synchronicity, wouldn't it.? I can totally see the Machen and would love to hear more of your thoughts about the Wells aspects.

  4. Creepy, mysterious and I would love to know more about it!