The unexplainable story of our Founder!
Some have persistently engaged in a dangerous curiosity about who Clyde P Riddlesbrood is...and where exactly he came from. It is an intriguing tale and, I must be truthful, there is no easy way to tell it. Much of the story can be found in the elusive “Greatest brochure in the world”, that is if you can find a copy. I will, however, dispense a slightly abridged version of the story and if you have a few idle moments on your hands, by all means…read on.
The Mysterious and Supernatural Event
Many years ago, on a cold October night, I was working in our black box theater organizing and tidying up. As I fiddled about I found my thoughts drifting to a problem that had been nagging at me. I knew that it would be useful to have a mascot for the theater—A character that would be easy to recognize, unique and might symbolize the spirit of the noble company. I, and the other actors, were quite perplexed on what it should be or what this character might look like, yet we knew that it had to be special.
Now, Can I be totally honest with you?
I had been drinking, and far too much at that. I had also been listening to our Company Theme Song, over and over again! Fatigued, I looked down at a pile of old discolored costumes concentrated at my feet. A carnavaleque assortment—worn, threadbare yet special—each charged with the energy of a hundred performances. Dye would be needed to combine them into a new whole, to forge the accumulation into a fine-spun alloy; and after the look of its eyes, purple dye seemed most appropriate. I used the only large container I could find, a large wooden tub, more like a barrel cut in half. I had purchased the item from a mom and pop hardware store—before it went bankrupt.
I could not possibly boil enough water on the stove to fill it, but I had a plan for that. I decided to try a novel, though decidedly more dangerous method. A cheap grill in the backyard had been slumbering next to a pile of broken bricks. I pulled the grill into the purple room, turned on the gas and began heating chunks of brick upon the flames. The dim-quarters illuminated by a tall torchiere lamp with a single bare bulb and the light thrown off of the burning propane.
Once the blocks smoldered for a spell, I tossed a few into the water which unleashed a wild torrent of steam into the air. I raised my bare hands above the rising vapors, feeling the warmth of the dew as it accumulated on my fingers. The water quickly heated, as did the room; filling with humidity like a makeshift sauna. I added the dye to the mix and a cup of salt giving the potion the look of frothy sangria and the smell of damp towels. Using the stage-sword (Honestly it was just handy.) I stimulated it for a time.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Slowly; one by one I fed the chosen attire into the wooden cauldron, immersing and drowning them completely. The temperature of the room seemed to grow as the moisture beaded up on the metal hat rack. As the fabrics slowly absorbed the tincture, their original shade faded away. No longer were they individual pieces but subservient parts of a greater whole—in woven with a secret; alchemized into one.
After stirring the mixture for some time in the hot dye I desired to draw some of it out to test its color. I pulled out the great coat first and hung it on the old rack to dry. Pleased with its new appearance I turned around and walked towards the kitchen for a beer before I noticed something strange.
The dripping pattern, which had been slow and steady, increased, and a new cloud of vapor poured into the space behind me. When I turned back, an incredible spectacle was unraveling. Indeed it seemed as if all reality was unraveling!
I couldn’t believe my eyes…You see…
The dark purple coat was alive! Climbing in the air as hot pigment flowed from its tattered hems. A pair of ragged pants rose as well, yanked up over ethereal legs followed by long strips of fabric which swarmed within the water like hungry lampreys. The empty contours began to billow and distend; it’s form divulged only by volume. Gloves ascended as well, bound together by a twine—they unknotted; and while one hand grabbed the rack tightly, the other heaved more wet fabric from the bath and drew it over an invisible shoulder. A hemp belt slithered around its core as a matted wig untangled itself and bubbled forth from the collar. It was unfolding, complexifing before me. Grasping the antique like a battle standard, it willed itself upwards, the flames roaring behind it like a pagan brazier, casting tall disjointed shadow across me. The clothing—fabritine capacitors releasing their emotional discharge!
In shock and marvel I fell to the floor while the raiment writhed around the metal stand. It rose up to its full height and began to twist, and contort itself, wringing out the dark Tyrian tannin. First it tightened, and then went slack, all the while the heat and steam rose from the soaking form.
My pulsation intensified; whatever it was that I beckoned here, slowly reached over and seized a heated rock from the fire. A fierce throw plunged the stone into the waters where it cracked; releasing a huge column of steam that enveloped it. With a spectral grip, it tore more of its wardrobe from the boiling basin; heaping and hoarding the scalding mass into itself.
And there he stood.
Riddlesbrood. Fully formed; his boots, shifting as if testing his new weight. Still cloaked in shadow, a glove took hold of the last item remaining, a curved hat, he set it upon his ratty weave. Slowly he stepped out of his broth, out from a womb of vapors, aiming its eerie will…so much that I feared the look of his purple eyes, and so closed my own. When again I opened them out of fear and part curiosity…he captured me in his gaze.
Clyde was grinning, smirking at me like a cheating gambler, his long three pointed goatee sagging from his chin. A taunt, silent mouth merely a clever distraction from its screaming eyes.
I waited nervously for him to speak, and received only a long drawn silence. When I dared to move his mouth communed a cracked muffled laugh. A dark throat-less chuckle; a rasp evocative of a weak man’s breath smothered by damp rags then to any earthly sound.
“Ardiel. I am pleased.” he said.
I stared at him without expression. He spoke without moving his mouth, as if a mind could exhale. No sooner had I heard him did the being smile and make a low, mordant bow. The room was hot, muggy and the fleece I wore clung to me with an uncomfortable clamminess.
Then in one loud lurch he slammed the metal rack down and used it— to drag himself toward me. A hollow glove darted up to grab my throat, its hot wet grip paralyzing me.
“Do not presume to be my equal scrimlander.” His grip loosened and instinctively I turned away when he threw me into the wall.
“Please! No!” I cried.
“You summoned me here. Yet it shall be you who grants ME an audience!” The entity looked me up and down as I shook, paying particular interest to the symbol embroidered proudly on my chest. A figure, suspended from an x; three tines at its left hand, three spheres at its right.
“Harken!” He interrupted. “It is the form and way. Blind Fool!” Wielding his gloved hand he closed it slowly into a fist, releasing a steady weep of violet.
“Dreams have holes and evil leaks. If you wish to banish the madness then you had better avoid the shrink. Years pass for every day you dawdle and none of us shall survive another of your dark ages—Least of all you.” He grabbed my fleece and threw me toward the wooden tub, my hands splashed into the hot bath before I could pull them out. As I struggled to rise he raised his hand to the point of one of the hooks branching off the coat rack and touched it threateningly.
“Are you going to kill me?” He adjusted the dripping hair under his hat. The nylon threads absorbing none of the dye, allowing small beads of purple sweat to drip from the ends.
“Have I a death wish? Must I breastfeed you?” At this I fell backwards and covered my face. I was terrified, and tried to form a pathetic response.
“What shall I call you?” I asked.
“I am the penultimate! Nearest to whom you speak…” He said, “…and until you remember—my true name I will keep to myself.” The steam, still weakly circulating beneath its garments swirled into tight clouds pretending solidity. It leaned over, snatching another stone from the grate, and sank it into the tub; releasing a new nebulous mist.
“Every intention, every daydream is potential existence. How do you think anything is made? All is created by consciousness, some greater some smaller, but all matter, all substance musters to the music of thought.” Although his words seemed to make no sense at all, the truth of him seemed self-evident. They had come from me…my imagination, as if my mind were the forge; and my lungs…the billows giving these monsters breath. The wraith leaned into the coat rack like a timeworn wizard, the metallic staff a prop in more ways than one.
“How can I know what is real?” I asked hurriedly.
“That much depends on who is watching.” As if punctuating his words, he touched his face with his gloved hands. “Most ignore their buried fantasies…dismissing the characters in them…all assuming of course that these forces are but figments. They dare not believe that these beings-dreamed…these unseen specters…are brooding, frustrated intellects gazing at them through the drywall. But they do. “ At this point it closed in on me, it’s steamy breath condensing on my face.
After saying the one word I stood silently facing the thing for perhaps a minute or two. Neither moved; neither spoke. We merely shared a bit of time and space together. There was a heightened sense of coexistence not unlike watching a wolf in a cage; where both viewers know without stating, that were it not for the bars one of the pair would be food.
“What am I supposed to do?” He raised his arms up as if casting a spell, his gloved hands moving as if suspended by invisible strings.
“Thoughts are the seeds of worlds! If abandoned, entire domains are devoured by chaos. And if misapplied, they create devourers of you. These truths you have seen already. So. Why are you idle? ” He raised a glove to wipe the fog from his round spectacles. “You have auditioned, received the part, learned your lines and are standing on the stage, will you now not act? I might have perished in your forgotten land, on the side of that sleeping mountain. But when Carthogust wakes anything is possible—even me.” It saw the script I had been writing on a nearby shelf, and picked up some of my notes, warming them within his grasp. If it is possible for a fleshless face to smile, I believe it did so.
“Heed my dooms!” he hollered. “Thoughts are like rain pouring down from the unreal. From clouds effortlessly able to become both everything yet nothing; from such formlessness does creation rain, to roar down and soak the earth!” He next pointed the rack toward me like a pike barring my escape. “You must strive…That my Riddlesbrood players be fanatically dedicated to such…and to delight. You must creep silently into their hearts, pitch your tent, and once there—practice these grinning arts. Those who spy your movements shall leave with much inspiration and be filled with uncommon energies to face the drudgery of the days beyond. But be ever mindful…The brood, must always perch dangerously where the laugh justifies the means." The flames in the grill begin to sputter as the gas runs dry; the firelight dancing precariously around the dark walls. Boldly, I push the pointed hooks of the weapon away, surprising myself with my own valor, and surmising that he was growing weaker.
“I don’t find any of this funny.” At this, he began to chuckle weakly, distantly as if his very sentience was slowly riven from the nappy menagerie…drifting away with the mists. “Life is no laughing matter, but humor slips through defenses, and under suspicions, and so it will be your design to try.” The steam dissolved further and the cool of October intruded into the room. “Follow this, and good shall betide you.”
“You’re leaving?” I asked, as the flames finally cease.
“Bring me a crowd and stir them to laughter. Then you shall see me again. And you…” He said, as he once again lifted the old rack and spoke to it as if it could listen. “You old hood hanger; wish bringer, you were here to support me on this, my birthday. Forthwith you are mine and shall serve no other.” It then seemed to address us together. “With you both by my side, I will always have somewhere to hang my hat!” At this, the noble essence leaned onto the metal post and collapsed onto it, but not before he adroitly tipped his headpiece to me and set it on a hook. He then quietly deflated, leaving only a cool puddle of dye on the floor and his damp violet costume draped upon the heirloom.
The image of this, the golden rack agleam with wetness overhung by those dark perplexing garments, reveals the real origin of the company’s colors.
To this day, they remain purple and gold.
I stood there motionless, stunned and half expecting the ‘get-up’ to do just that; but it merely hung there in silence. The incident I have just relayed to you I shall never forget. The event is eternally recorded in me as though my eyes were limestone and a graver chiseled the scene on their very surface. My words cannot be justified with reason, I know, but only a pure faith. In all of the previous dreams, the ghostly visit, the golden faces—all forced me to expand my definition of the world. But this last vision—this I could barely process. What came into my bloodshot eyes that night followed the stalks into my lobes and burrowed deeper.
A powerful sense of foolishness overcame me, as I knew I could never confirm what had just occurred. The best I could do is write it down, and hope that those who read it would not think me mad!
NOTE: You may even see him at one of his famous free outdoor Trunk Shows!