Nic Silver kicks off the series with a question about the nature of mystery: in today’s information-everywhere-anytime age, can a real mystery even exist anymore?
In the 1940s, a scientist named Jack Parsons founded a company called Aerojet, which would sell rocket technology developed by Parsons himself. Interestingly, he was also good friends with Aleister Crowley, the controversial figure who founded the Thelemic religion and was an active figure in the esoteric movement of the early 20th century. Crowley appointed Parsons as the leader of the Californian branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a German-based esoteric order. After his suspicious death in 1952, Parson’s short story, “Where Is Tanis?” was published as part of the Strange Worlds comic book anthology in the 1950s. Nic came across this story in 2014, recalling an interview his colleague, Alex Regan, did some years prior (while broadcasting under Pacific Northwest Stories) with a man named Carl Adams, a historian and religious professor at Oxford University. While the interview pertained to the Bermuda Triangle, Easter Island and Atlantis, Adams also offered theories on Tanis: he described it as a city “sometimes”, but that it could also be the Garden of Eden, God, the Holy Grail or hell, and he came across other research that suggested Atlantis could actually be an avatar for Tanis. Adams goes on to claim that, when establishing Tanis as a place, it actually moved from Europe to North America in 1823, and became part of Haida lore as “Xanu”.
Though Adams passed away a few years ago, Nic was able to get a hold of documents he had in his possession: the journal entries of a fur trapper in Fort Nisqually in 1834, written before he murdered nine people. One entry details a waking nightmare wherein the trapper follows a ghost-like woman into the forest, and watches as she disembowels him, only to discover that he is actually the murderer and the maimed woman lies at his feet.
Nic enlists Alex’s help in voicing Parson’s short story, a cryptic tale told in the second-person narrative where the reader is told he or she is the “runner”, or the next person in a line of trained individuals to bring seekers to Tanis. Here they may enter “The Calm”, where dreams may become reality, or where unlucky seekers can find themselves in their own personal hell. The writer tells the reader that his or her uncle was trained by their father, and the torch is now being passed down.
Not coming up with much more on the legend of Tanis during regular internet searches (beyond the ancient Egyptian city that was flooded by the Nile in the 6th century), Nic enlists the help of Meerkatnip, an “expert in illicit underground internet commerce” to comb the deep web for Tanis references. She finds evidence of a digitized classified ad from the 1950s mentioning Tanis, that was deleted almost as soon as it was posted. She also discovers evidence, again, of an entry deleted immediately after it went online--this time more recent--and posted on Seattle’s Craigslist domain. It simply said, “Seeking Tanis. Runner Available.”
Nic decided they would run an ad of their own in order to attract like-minded seekers for Tanis. The ad simply said, "Seeking Tanis. Runner wanted."