144: The Hidden Exhibition

On the grounds of the Glasgow Cathedral is a baronial brick building: the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, opened in 1993. The museum is dedicated to showcasing works of art and artifacts dedicated to various world religions, and its displays are a wonder to behold in any circumstances: the huge bronze statue of Nataraja Shiva is as impressive as the Zen Garden held within – indeed, the entire museum is the embodiment of the oft-held of differing religions co-existing peacefully, all with mutual respect, and it is free for anyone to see from Monday to Saturday.

It is rumoured there is one exhibition in the museum, however, that is off-limits to anyone not authorised by an individual known as the Glascau Curator. To gain entry, you must first locate what the Curator refers to as a “living relic”: any object that has some kind of bizarre, occult property. If you find one, ask an attendant at the Museum to let you speak to the Gleschu Curator, and indicate that you have a relic that they will be interested in. You will be taken to the top floor of the museum and through a door marked “No Unauthorised Entry”, into a small, stark-white room. The room has one window, opposite the way you come in – though nothing can be seen through it, as it seems an interminable, swirling white fog presses itself up against the glass – and one door – the one you entered through. In the center, behind an elaborate oaken desk (painted bleach-white) sits a person of indeterminate gender, dressed head-to-toe in a white robe not unlike a burqa. The attendant will leave. The Curator will beckon. You will present the relic.

If the Glascau Curator is satisfied with the relic you have shown them, you will be allowed into the Hidden Exhibition – at the cost of giving up the relic, which will become part of the Hidden Exhibition itself. The Curator will indicate for you to go to the foggy window, and you will see that there is no window at all – only an indeterminate space filled with dense whirlpools of white mist. Walking into the space causes the fog to coalesce around you – but only for a few moments, as the clouds soon dispere to reveal the room that hosts the Hidden Exhibition.

The room is small – only thirty by thirty feet, and is panelled in dark-brown wood, occasionally dotted by ornate brass vents. It is completely windowless and lacks any definitive light-source – shadows seem to lengthen, turn and contract independently of any stimulus. Incense burns away inside censers of porcelain shaped like rampant vegetative growths, that stand from floor to ceiling in each of the four corners of the room, creating a heady, smoky and reverent air. Along each wall, and in the center of the room, are glass cases that contain various unusual items, with plaques that describe, in florid prose, the history and abilities of each item. Behold the Hand of Mary-Anne, a small, bloody, withered hand – most likely belonging to a child or young woman – wrapped in barbed wire, with fragments of crisp packets, refuse sacks and polythene bags wreathed around it like a garland: it belonged to a girl martyred for her far-from-immaculate conception. Tapping the end of the bony, stiff index finger onto a person suffering from a virus or disease will cause the hand to incubate that virus or disease – touching the broken pinky finger to another person will cause them to contract anything the hand is currently incubating. Observe the Milk of Mary, a lush and verdant plant with ripe, fleshy fruits holding the breast-milk of the Virgin Mary inside, which, when consumed, will burn away a person’s sin proportionate to the volume drank; a single fruit, with a tablespoon full of silvery-white milk, can be taken from the plant per person per year. Marvel at the Eternal Robin, a bird perched inside a cage of razor-sharp wires that fatally contract and slice the Robin into pieces every hour on the hour: over the course of the following hour, each slice of the bird’s quartered body flutters, flits and springs back together to reconstitute its physical form anew, and as it does so, its croaking voice chirps the name of all the people in the city who will die that day.

There are at least fourteen objects in the Hidden Exhibition that describe, in their own visceral and aberrant way, the living history of Glasgow’s occult underground – and by extension, the world. The exhibition rotates its displays every thirty-three days, and the Glascau Curator forbids anyone from removing objects from inside the Hidden Exhibition. Only once – albeit recently – has someone successfully managed to steal an object from the Exhibition, and that object, a humble Gideon’s bible, has yet to resurface.


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