So many thoughts come, in my hunger to record the shape of that which ails me.
Memories, imprinted like typewriter keys on the wet, spongy mass of the brain, feel transient, like ancient scrolls or commandments inscribed on crumbling slate, eroded by desert winds in unfathomably ancient ages. The memories of a man, fragmented in time - wet with horror and delusion.
For some reason, softer memories of childhood rise to the surface sometimes, like leaves in a dirty backyard pool, only to become too raw and shamefully unclothed when exposed to the sunlight of a middle aged man’s temperament.
I remember games of Checkers with my great Grandfather, Ildor Hearst, who appears in my mind’s eye as a-kind-of Russian Santa Claus, wirey beard and carven forehead. He was a stern man, and would always be ranting his archaic religious views. Prostheletising the fall of modern Babylon and the age of the Nihilist.
He would play Checkers with me, sharp movements, wooden circles slammed down with impunity. He never let me win. Saw his dominance as a matter of instruction and learning. As I look back nostalgically, sometimes, I yearn for Great Grandfather Ildor’s black and white mentality of good and evil, lightness and darkness... and an over arching confidence in the eventual triumph of mankind. Rather than the bleak reality of the post modernist distopia in which I live.
I recall vividly, after those intense games, once Ildor had imparted his thorny wisdom, I would be granted relaxation and be free to play with my own toys, scattered around my grandparents wooden floor boards; Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers, Wonder Woman, Spider Man and He-Man. Mine was always a multicoloured world of complex morality and democratic voices ... all of which ran into muddy paradigms that seemed totally outside the circle of Great Grandad’s moral compass.
These days, as a real estate Agent, I am occasionally gifted limited insights into a checkerboard like world of manipulation and sinister intentions, but mine is to perceive the evil of global finance, and the general unfairness of land ownership and rabid, unchecked capitalism...but with no delusion of an interventionalist God to pull us out of the hole we humans have dug for ourselves.
My name is Vilson Hearst, and I am a Real Estate Agent for Steel City Real Estate in Hexton, Australia.
Perhaps you think yourself free from the real estate game. Perhaps, you are a fool.
Perhaps you are satisfied with your lot in life, making a simple way for yourself, with a mortgage and a family, (if you should be so lucky to afford to get into the housing market at all that is). Then, could be that you are living a student lifestyle, paying rent, constantly paying off another cunning man’s mortgage, or worse still, perhaps you have abandoned the fight, to cower in your parents basement, with the real world slowly closing in on you, as you desperately try to escape into a world of Hollywood movies, video games or creepy pasta.
You are all in the real estate game, wether you like it or not. There is a broader game of capital and estate, which is increasingly complex, and even those like myself who’s job it is to ‘follow the money’ sometimes are completely lost at sea in the Darwinian struggle of the global free market.
Studying finance at Bourkeley University,.. I did my PHD thesis about money and the aquisition of power. I spent a solid year, studying the major players in global banking, watched the Chinese ICBC rise to become the wealthiest banking institution in the world. I tracked the strange and secretive trails of the richest investors, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, watching money transfer around the globe in secret trust funds, private meetings of powerful elites in Shanghai—as the Chinese World Trade Centre “Tower Three” was built, in the image of the destroyed Twin Towers of New York, (which is no coincidence, given it was constructed by the same architecture group; Skidmore Owings and Merril, (who also constructed the replacement One World Trade Centre.))
I studied Wikileaks and other whistleblower organisations. Gained secret documents, and learned of meetings between wealthy individuals; John Fallon, the chief executive of Pearson Education, the company which controls half the worlds schooling institutions— made a private deal in 2015 with Indra Nooyi and Paul Bulcke, Chairman and CEO of Nestle and PepsiCo, the owners of the majority of global food and confectionary. You wonder why our children are so desperately obese.
I was constantly surprised by the familiarity of these billionaires with one another. For instance, you might not know, that Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, the sinister company who has come to dominate a stronghold on global agriculture, (and who, among more nefarious acts, was responsible for manufacturing the deadly ‘Agent Orange’ poison in Vietnam and causing countless generational mutations).. just happens to be close friends with the CEO of Lockheed Martin, the dominant power in weapons manufacturing and ultimately what people mean when they talk about the ‘military industrial complex’.
Guns don’t kill people. Corporations do. But you knew that already.
Other minutes from meetings by the powerful, would have many questioning what the leaders of certain organisations could possibly have to discuss with each other,... such is the nature of the unheard of D40 meeting in a chateau in Shandong Province; where Barry Lam, chairman and founder of Quanta computers, the name behind the majority of computing technology, was recently in discussion with Carlos Brito, the CEO of InBev; the name behind all the major alcohol players—Ian Read, the CEO of Pfizer, who basically controls the entire legal drug market, Mark Zuckerberg and the CEO Of Alphabet Inc— who own Google and most of the rest of the internet. Now these meetings bare direct relationships with the stock trading happening in the World Trade Centre Tower Three in China. The minutes from these meetings contained discussion both controversial and amazingly nuanced, and the complexity of the global solutions some of these key players in the tech revolution were coming up with would’ve gone over the heads of even the top IQ holders from 98 percent of high schools in the world. Nonetheless, some of the darker plans by these shady monopolies would terrify you, more than you could possibly know.
To understand Australian land ownership, the problem becomes more of a global puzzle.
The figures who own the most land globally, are, the King of Saudi Arabia, The Pope and the Catholic Church, Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster certainly has a cut, and of course, the Queen of Britain herself, Elizabeth ...(who currently owns about a sixth of the worlds land, some 6.6 Billion Acres, more commonly known as the Commonwealth Realm, (which includes two thirds of Antarctica, Time Square in New York, Canada, New Zealand and of course ... Australia.) These people, i’ve learned, are not particularly interested in the debate around land ownership coming to the forefront of the global conversation, and billionaire media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Packer have filled their bank accounts, making it their mission to keep just such subjects off the family dinner table, with distractions like ‘My Kitchen Rules’ and ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ filling Australian television channels.
The question of wether anyone owns land in Australia, or if it is in fact all owned by the Queen of England, is a contentious one, particularly when you factor in the confounding elements such as the status of Norfolk Island, which at one time was, on a technicality, not owned by anyone except for the fictitious body ‘The Crown’ (until being taken over by the Australian Capital Territory, in 2015). Then when you consider the original claim of the British that the Australian nation was unoccupied or ‘Terra Nullius’ when Europeans arrived, a truth widely held as fact until the precedent of the Mabo Decision in the Torres Straight islands in 1992. This decision returned some land ownership rights back to certain aristocratic lineages of the native people. However, the paradox leaves a complex and enduring problem for the future of land ownership in Australia and what that exactly entails.
In Hexton, the most rapidly developing city in Australia, corporate billionaires have their stakes in national land ownership, yet meanwhile... National Parks, Botanical Gardens and other public spaces are unapologetically ‘Crown lands’, a fact which is still testified by the names of the spaces; Kings Domain, Queen’s Square, and other titles which clearly and proudly display the heritage of monarchic ownership deeply entrenched within the Australian property market.
Of course, even within the field of Australian National Real Estate, the individual estate agent becomes bogged down even further in matters of local estates, so that these important issues take second stake to the sales and acquisitions of the day.
Steel City Real Estate, the company I work for, is a nation wide brand, but our particular office in Albert Park consists of about nine agents.
I spend most of my time competing with the golden boy of Steel City, Greg Leisdadt. Greg has consistently won the monthly sales targets in our office for over a year. His desk is covered in trophies, awards, and framed certificates adorn the walls behind him.
I’m not sure what words could aptly describe Leisdadt; his wolf-like eyes, both evil and mesmerising. A cannibal grin consisting of Colgate super white teeth, and those gelled locks of amber hair which hang impossibly, like an arch villain over his forehead. Greg oozes saleable confidence which grates my own nervous disposition sufficiently towards constant despair.
The only force which makes the constantly eclipsing day to day victories of Leisdadt bearable to me is Natasha Valuvjdavo. She is the agent who sits on the adjacent table to me in the office.
I confess, for some time, I was profoundly attracted to Natasha, and had to stop myself from gushing and fawning over her. She is a demure, and assertive brunette, her crimson lips could kill a boat full of sailors. Unfortunately, she is engaged to a man named Fred, who is something of a wet blanket, yet I must discard my jealousy and confess that for whatever reason, Natasha seems happy in her domestic life. My only solace in this, being that Greg Leisdadt, the man who has everything, although persistently flirtatious, has never made a dent in Natasha’s self security. She is thankfully not attracted to him.
But now I should refrain from being sidetracked and talk about the subjects which, you, the reader, more likely desire to hear of. For my tale is no idle blathering of romantic ennui, or global conspiracy—but rather the trauma of my profession, does persist— in both being exposed to the ruthless game of money/power, but moreover being haunted by knowledges both gothic and Victorian. For there is no other game in town, where one is more exposed to unwanted or haunted real estate; the devil hounded, and the wished forgotten.
There are the houses that are impossible to sell, because of brutal or public bloody murders that have occurred to the prior occupants. Wether psychological or other, the frequency of those who purchase such forbidden and damned abodes —then in no matter of time, flee and sell at carelessly lower settlement costs, with tales of unhallowed things returned to life, or clanking noises in the basement...why... this simple fact of the real estate market is as common as there is. A story as old as time.
Now perhaps I could spend months repeating the folk lore surrounding that dilapidated and spiritually unsaveable address; that run down, trash infested garden, and collapsing terrace roof of no 13 MacArthur Street.
But this could take a conceivably longer time period, and I shall reserve my energy for the most disturbing and horrific of these preternatural experiences.
Though I should briefly mention Vernon tower, for though this wasn’t the property which near drove me to insanity, it factors too far into the disturbing tapestry of the veiled or hidden real estate scene.
Now, Vernon tower, is an enormous building in South Hexton. Our agency deals more with rentals than with sales of the apartments in that old, and curious piece of architecture. Built as early as 1866, there has always been something profoundly wrong with Vernon towers. Of course, it is me who has to deal with most of the tennants of that foreboding block, for it is the Hearst legacy to be fated just such dull luck.
Thus it is always, I, who takes the phone calls from disgruntled students and drug addicts; Vernon Tower is unprecedentedly cheap, due to its history. Yet the impoverished clientele still have no issue burning my ear off; to complain of strange mechanic noises, or those bizarre phosphorescent green lights. Then there was the girl who tried to sue us, after her seizure from what she claimed to see inside the laundry room. That manner of description I can scarce repeat for its absurdness and high strangeness.
But let me get to the more dreadful incident which frightens me even to recall.
Indeed, it had all begun with that infernal property in Elwood, which I was in terse competition to sell... pitted unwittingly against the undefeated Super-Agent, Greg Leisdadt.
The spectacularly immense mansion on Ormond Road, was once occupied by billionaire Serbian entrapaneur Dimitrije Stojanovic, who I’m told partially drafted the architectural plans for the immense mansion himself, before he had it constructed on the corner of Ormond and Radkin Streets. The nature of the oddities surrounding that place however, extend not from the architectural style of the lot itself, (mind you those odd modernist geometric pylons, stepped piers and sail-like rooves do lend a kind of funereal gothicness to the address.)
However, it was the murder of Stojanovic which caused true fluctuations of interest in the property. Given the public knowledge of the horrendous murder, the property value was incalculably lower than its market worth. It seemed the image of the alleged burglar breaking into Stojanovic’s window, and bludgeoning him to death in the lounge room with a heavy trophy or statue of some kind— somehow grinding his skin off as with multiple teeth, or a spiked club—stayed in the public mind, thanks to Channel 9’s ‘A Current Affair’ and their sensational program about the incident. For interest in the property remained uncharacteristically low. Perhaps the fact that the murderer has yet to be identified or captured by police, nor the murder weapon found, hasn’t helped the matter.
Now, as I have mentioned this was not the first time our staff had dressed up a ‘murder property’. But the truly disturbing elements began to happen during the time the property came under my tenure.
Now, I should proclaim sincerely that I am by no means a superstitious man, I admonish my readers to believe that I was just as skeptical about the soon to be foretold events as you, had I not experienced them myself, I should fiercely doubt my own sanity. I should also divulge a little more information about Dimitrije Stojanovic himself, (the owner of the grand mansion) as the web of intrigue very much seems to hinge on his professional history.
Stojanovic made his billions in Silicon Valley, working in many aspects of the tech industry, investing timely in companies like Facebook and crypto currencies like Bitcoin, when the time was right. in the move to Australia it seems that his ambition was to try out his own company idea in the developing market of Hexton, where the game was not already dominated and over exposed.
With this intent he came out, built his immense mansion in Elwood, Moonsmoth, and immediately started channeling his money into the development of something called .....‘DigiTown’.
Now being neither a tech expert myself, nor expecting such of my audience, I will explain the fundamentals of the ‘DigiTown’ concept in the same manner it was explained to me by Neil Druton, a four eyed nerd with an immense forehead who was one of the developers working for Dimitrije Stojanovic, before he died. I had decided to interview Druton, to get the background on the Stojanovic case to find a more positive angle for investors. I figured if I could distract the buyer from the details of the murder, and big talk the profile of Stojanovic himself, “the prolific entrapaneur”, this might flatter the egos of other wealthy entrapaneurs to buy it out.
Druton told me he had been working for Stojanovic for about six months, mostly at the office Space Dimitrije was renting in Southbank. He described Stojanovic as ruthless, and borderline insane, but nonetheless he spoke of ‘DigiTown’ with respect, a ‘unique’ and ‘brilliant’ project, which would have been at the forefront of the tech industry, if it had ever been finished.
Put in layman’s terms, Druton explained that the project had a great deal in common with Bill Gates plans for a ‘smart city’ but on a more achievable scale.
I could tell Druton was oversimplifying the description for my sake, no doubt parroting Dimitrije’s marketing pitches for investors. But he described it like this; ‘Imagine a kind of augmented portal, with a built infrastructure and virtual architecture planned by white collar professionals, a crypto currency run communal space, overlayed over a modern city space, where your own request portal is linked to different reference cubes; Town Square, Library Cube, Media Station, Entertainment Centre, Eateries, telematics and roads authority, and these all function via the same channels as an actual city.’ ‘So you mean, instead of one social media interface trying to network everything, the actual infrastructure of a city is built out within the media itself?’ I asked. ‘Yeah pretty much’ Druton replied, seeing I had sensed the practical nature, adaptability, and profitability of the software, all over the world. ‘ATMs, shops, business, smart cars and machinery— all worked into the same dual augmented system. Superimposed as a direct collorary.’ It got me thinking paranoid, and I asked Druton earnestly; ‘Do you think if another rogue in the tech industry knew about Stojanovic’s idea, it would have been a groundbreaking idea enough to have killed him over?’ Druton went silent, and sweated a little from his pimpled forehead. I didn’t need to hear him answer the question, it was written all over his shrivelled face.
I spent a good couple of months doing my research on Dimitrije’s mansion. (I would’ve loved to cover up the existence of the current owner of the mansion). Rich heiress Stacey White bought the house, and lived in it for a month before she got spooked— and decided to resell it. I made sure to get the story straight, offering Stacey a hot cup of Bush tea, and asking her precisely what she saw.
Here’s what she told me; ‘I was alone, in that creepy mansion, at night,... and I got a weird feeling. There was a strong wind, and it was dark. The gum tree in the front yard bends a lot in the wind, and sometimes the branches whip against the side of the house. I was just getting used to that noise, but this time it was something different, almost lost in the whistling wind. It was a lower kind of ...moaning. A deep, pained groan. I got up to check I hadn’t left something on in the kitchen. I went to turn on the light switch but the globe burnt out. That’s when it happened. Almost like a mini-earthquake, but there was this strange energy. Then the gas stove just lit up, a green flame. It wasn’t on, but the kitchen was illuminated in a kind of underwater hue. Then—-(Stacey began to gasp and sob)—-then... in the darkness — I saw it!! A green head! Half a Human head, but mangled, half the skull bashed in, shimmering like I was looking through glass. It spoke to me ....in a voice that made the room cold. Just—-(she broke down into tears, suppressing a scream). H—his lips... cold, green lips. Steam coming from his mouth. He said — he said—- ‘Beware the Wagluh’.
As this point she became incommunicable.
I felt an increasing sickness in the ensuing weeks, the cause was unknown, but chiefly matched my mental state. It must’ve been around this time when I first saw the strange rune which had been spray painted on the abandoned building in Elwood. I was doing my rounds, why I should’ve noticed the strange glyph remains beyond my understanding, yet there it was. A curious, green shape, interrupted by a stark arrow and a kind-of ladder shape above it.
I was becoming increasingly stressed and agitated by the competitive sale of Dimitrije’s mansion. My manager Herron Del Ray had been hounding me to make a sale, it had been months since I had successfully got a down payment from a client. Del Ray had threatened redundancy in no uncertain terms, and the stress was beginning to erode my total mental well being.
In conversations with my beautiful colleague Natasha around this time, I found her to be kind, but not particularly helpful. Her advice was that if I was going to beat Leisdadt, I would have to compete with him at his own game. She told me on one particular occasion I should just lie to clients about the gruesome murder in the house, or omit it from the description altogether. This was both against my moral compass, and senseless, for the case was so popular, I felt sure that any potential investor would know of it, to omit it would only anger them.
That same day I got a call from a potential buyer named Greame De Montague. Leisdadt watched me like a hawk as I took the call, giving me a cunning look. The stare flustered my nerves, but choking through the phone I agreed for an inspection with De Montague. He would be the fifth buyer I had spoken to, all four previous investors had abandoned their inquiries when learning more about the murder, or after having seen the contract of sale.
I calmed myself the day of the appointment by speaking soft mantras to myself under my breath. I knew I had to push this client to a final purchase, and my job security depended on it. Greg Leisdadt was leaning against the bronze statue of a Cheetah in our office as I was leaving, mocking me with the words ‘Good luck, Vilson old boy.’
It was a cold autumn day, and brown leaves blew around the streets in gusts of curdled wind.
I had arranged to meet Mr De Montague on Beach Avenue, so that we might walk down to Ormond Street and view the mansion. As an eerie coincidence the corner we agreed to meet was precisely at the point that odd rune was sprayed on the abandoned building in Elwood.
Greame De Montague was standing on the corner as I arrived in my light grey sedan. He was standing in front of the odd rune, as though the symbol itself had somehow marked his presence in an unexplainable yet mystical time stamp. I couldn’t see his car parked anywhere. He was wearing a very curious oufit, particularly for Australia, although the weather was reasonably cool that autumn day. He wore a kind of black velvet robe, cut in the shape ...not unlike an Orthodox Jew’s regalia. It tarried at the bottom into a sort of deep purple cape. On his head he wore a buckled Capotain, and in his hand, a decorated staff. I wondered if his clothing indicated the excesses of vanity of the social media age, or if he was perhaps a foreign prince of some kind.
I stepped out of the car, and approached De Montague with my hand extended. I could see now he had a strange face, with slanted owl-like eyebrows, and a fluffy round beard that gave him an almost koala-bear-shaped head.
Mr De Montague raised his hand and met my embrace, shaking my hand with a firm clasp. ‘It’s lovely to meet you Greame. I have a feeling you are going to love this property.’ ‘Please. Call me Lord De Montague.’ The stern man insisted, ‘I descend from Carpathian royalty, the son of a Duke.’ ‘Very well M’lord.’ I replied, my tone accidentally tinged with irony, ‘Have you come ...very far today?’ I asked trying to distract from my faux pas with a bluff of small talk. I couldn’t help staring at the strange Necklace around De Montague’s neck. It seemed to be made of solid gold, and was comprised of a chain of large charms, each coin depicting deities from Ancient Asian and Mesopotamian religions.
I began walking, unsure what to say but deciding to lead De Montague down towards Ormond Street. There was a terrifying stillness on the street that day. The sun dried grass seemed frozen in time, and the grey sky moaned geriatrically, with the energy of a tired giant trying to fend off the vast abyss of Space.
I noticed that De Montague was not moving, but had instead stopped firmly in his tracks. His face gave off a distinct lack of pathos.
‘Mr Hearst.’ Lord De Montague’s grainy voice echoed; ‘This is the wrong way.’ I turned and looked back at him confused, but De Montague quickly supplanted my curiosity ‘We should walk down Vautier Street. It comes out closer to the property on Ormond.’ By my own calculations, the distance was exactly the same, but as I was in a desperate state of flattery, I decided to humour the strange, old man, though I now questioned wether my client might be an eccentric madman, who merely thought he was born of Royalty, in his delusions.
Nonetheless, I followed De Montague and we wandered down the leafy, terraced streets.
‘Tell me something Mr Hearst’ De Montague began to speculate; ‘Have you ever heard the expression ‘Old Money’?’ I looked at him trying to gage his meaning; ‘Yes, of course.’ I replied. ‘The man who owned this mansion’, De Montague continued in a practiced refrain; ‘It is my understanding he was one of the new breed. Wouldn’t you say? Those who make their fortunes on the gamble— or the changing technologies of the world, but haven’t yet come to fully comprehend the system as it works. As it has always worked.’ ‘I’m afraid I haven’t come to fully appreciate your meaning.’ I replied with honest perplexion. ‘My ancestors were very interested in Asian spirituality’ De Montague continued in a seemingly distracted soliloquy, ‘The De Montagues have migrated for some time you see. Sharing something in common with the Romani people of Europe. I have had ancestors who have lived, over the centuries, in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and the Phillipines. Do you know what is the one thing these vastly different cultures all have in common?’ ‘I do not’ I confessed. ‘Reverence for ones ancestors, and respect for ones elders, and an overwhelming policy of acceptance towards the natural systems that have always existed.’ ‘That’s very interesting’ I replied, gawking about anxiously and wondering where the conversation was leading. ‘I have only more recently come to adapt the principles of the Japanese Shinto religion into my philosophy Mr Hearst. However I think we could all take a page out of that discipline, and it’s superior attitude towards the unknown. You know, in some sense the Shinto practitioners had an almost scientific approach to their spirituality. Certainly, like with the Eastern superstitions, the Shinto perceived a longing towards extra sensory insights into a hidden or secret world supposed to lie beneath the surface of our material life. However, we can say that the Shinto practitioners never got into the awkward and complex dogma of hierarchical worship. Rather, they merely approached each of their animistic inhabitations of spirit that they encountered with the proper fear and respect that one should properly apply to creatures or Gods we fail to yet understand.’ ‘It’s an interesting religion.’ I said, still utterly confused as to what the eccentric prince was attempting to convey.
‘I see you’ve mistaken my warning.’ De Montage continued in a more stern and serious tone, as we passed rows of trimmed hedges and decorative fences. ‘It is right to fear that which we don’t understand Master Hearst. We ought to treat our material supervisors with more respect. Now, I confess, it has never been the object of my ancestors to worship the unseen. Only a fool wishes to make a slave of themselves to a devil they don’t know. But respect, awe, fear, that is different. That is the core of wisdom. Now.... I confess to you... My own aristocratic ancestors, have had more of a vested interest in acquiring artefacts and precious minerals that can absorb such unknown energies. To tap into the mechanisms of nature and the outer spheres of unseen chemistry, that is where one can find the tools to bring about the acquisition of power!’ I began to become totally speechless, realising now, that I was in the presence of a lunatic. We were still about five minutes from the Serbian’s property, and De Montague now began to rave in such a strange and sinister manner, that he appeared some demented imp, his lecture was so insane. ‘So it was for the ones who claimed the future. Those beings with silken robes of silver, who sought the forbidden wisdom from beyond the abysses of Space and time. They are like the watcher, and we are but the conduits to their ancient digital powers. Yet if you could perceive the outlines of the Shapeshifter, who is the lost among us all, and he who brings the bitterness from the original tragedy. Then, perhaps you could understand what the Hindu’s really worship, in the form of their metamorphosising God of many evolutionary attributes.’ Mr De Montague suddenly stopped, slamming the steel cap of his staff upon the cracked concrete, and turned to me; ‘Mr Hearst, this is my warning for you! You cannot outwit the darker destinies of the force that itself conjures black holes. Have due reverence for the unseen beast which lurks beneath, and threatens your soul with eternal mutilation. Stand down from that property, and abandon your research into the disappearance of that accursed Serbian. I send this warning as a friend, and wether or not you take it up, I tell you that your colleague Greg will still make the sale, whichever path you choose.’ De Montague suddenly scowled like a rabid dog, grabbing my hand and thrusting the handle of his cane upon my palm. ‘Cursed child— I have the power of the Chiromancer, and that which is engraved upon your line of fate, makes it clear. But there is still time to evade the mark of this warning.’ Suddenly, I shrieked, for my palm began stinging with pain, and I realised that the silver etched handle of the staff was unfathomable degrees hot. I pulled my hand away before the impression became irreversible; ‘Ouch, you burnt my hand!’ I cried.
De Montague then seemed satisfied that his message had been delivered. He immediately hoisted back his staff, then let out a sound almost like a wolf’s growl. Then he seemed to perform a magicians trick of some form. For he cast the staff down at my feet, but as it fell there, a glimmer of light played a trick on me. I stepped back in fear, for that which lay across my feet, was no longer that of carven wood, but a coiled brown snake, who raised itself and hissed through fangs, and quivering forked tongue. I turned and dashed out of the snakes attack perimeter.
I gazed down at my stinging palm, to see with terror and trepidation that the burn mark in my hand imprinted from the image on the cane— it was the same strange glyph that was painted on the house.
Panting and sweating, tripping over my clumsy feet, as I rotated again to survey the scene, I saw now with incredulity the brown snake remained upon the pavement, but De Montague himself was long gone.
The hoax plagued me for hours afterward, I had been pranked it seemed, by some rich and bored eccentric trickster, who never intended to view the property at all. Or he was an escaped lunatic from Bourkeley Asylum perhaps. As I was already in the area, after a sufficient down time, when my heartbeat had reduced and my manic paranoia dissipated —I resolved to continue to Ormond Street anyway.
When I got to the property my fading anger was rebuked, for I saw two cars parked outside the late Serbian’s mansion. ‘Leisdadt’ I cursed.
As I walked up the modern staircase, I saw a cheerful looking man m, wearing a scarf, leaving, who Greg had obviously just shown around the property. He seemed fearfully optimistic about the place, and I continued cursing under my breath until I reached the hallway where Greg was standing, smugly, with a clipboard. He seemed even more satisfied when I came to the door; ‘You better watch out for that one’ Greg said in a tone that sent me into a rage; ‘He seems very keen. What happened to your 4’oclock?’ ‘Someone pulled a prank on me’ I cursed. I began to wonder if Greg had organised the incident with the charlatan somehow. Leisdadt tried hard to refrain from breaking out into a grin, ‘That’s a shame. Your luck has to come up one day Hearst.’ Leisdadt chuckled, but then seemed to remember something— ‘I thought you signed off on the clearance papers anyway Hearst.’ He said, ‘After Stacey White complained about the dead guy’s stuff still laying around, I thought you had the house completely emptied.’ ‘What of it?’ I asked. Greg leaned over to the ornately decorated mantle piece, pulling open the dresser drawer below the mirror and revealing a stack of haphazard papers and letters. ‘Can you take care of these?’ He insisted coldly, ‘I’ve got a last minute potential sale of that impossible property, 13 MacArthur Street. Can you believe my luck? We haven’t had a buyer for that place in years.’ I scowled into my neck as Leisdadt left via the rear entrance of the mansion. Grumbling and moving towards the papers, I cursed myself for so easily being persuaded to do what Greg could’ve done himself.
I mumbled, calling myself a sucker under my breath as I leafed through the papers.
Then, I turned over something which captured my interest. It was a sleek black diary, and as I turned the pages I came to realise that it had evidently belonged to Dimitrije. I flicked through the musty pages, seeing that the entries of the private journal dated up until the Serbian’s disappearance. I began to read with fascination and morose intrigue;
Here is the transcript of the more interesting parts of Dimitrije's diary: http://textuploader.com/dh4w4
Dimitrije Stojanovic died on the 13th of October, 2016.
The strange diary had a terrible effect on me. I became deeply paranoid that I was wedged within a catastrophic and deep conspiracy. Though I couldn’t fully understand the map laid out by the corners of my discoveries, there was enough of a pattern that I knew there was some terrible logic beneath it all.
I found the references to Vernon Towers and the architect ‘Von Marrickville’ extremely intriguing and began to further my own research on the property which was already familiar to me. I had always known that Vernon Towers was an old heritage building. But I had never researched the buildings actual construction. So it was, that I found out more about the strange creator, borrowing a book about the eccentric architect Veda Von Marrickville from Hexton library.
The book was fascinating. Von Marrickville, it turned out was a fairly prolific architect of the day, who was commissioned to build a series of buildings around Hexton city. Of particular interest to me, where the four or five buildings Von Marrickville built in a kind of arc around Port Phillip Bay, pointing towards Valsbury docks. Von Marrickville was a Dutch native who came out to Australia in 1834, one of the key buildings on the Port Phillip Bay side of Hexton was Vernon Towers, which I read to my astonishment was funded by a wealthy nobleman named Aaron De Montague. I couldn’t find out much about the De Montague family or their history in Australia, but I was beginning to think it must have been the same family as the De Montague whom I had met. Von Marrickville describe Vernon Towers as an ‘occult conduit’ and layered it with engraved symbology. He suffered a tragic fate, and wound up raving as an inmate in Bourkeley Asylum.
Since reading the diary, I have begun to experience strange anomaly. I visited Vernon towers myself, looking for a particular architectural feature. To my surprise and terror I saw one of the green glyphs mentioned by Dimitrije.
I tried to track down De Montage, however have not seen him since that odd encounter. Searching for families of that name, the only people I could come across in Hexton was a family living in Brunswick. When I went to visit I found them to be a strange family of Indonesians who incidentally suffered from an unusual diverse range of diseases. The youngest daughter suffered autism, whilst her brother was an extreme Down syndrome case, and the mother herself had mental health issues. I concluded that these De Montagues probably bore no relation to the man I had met, if indeed he hadn’t lied about his name.
Then there was the day I found that bizarre egg. It was about the size of a milk carton, all speckled and grey, but it was broken in half, as though it had hatched. Yet I was positive no animal could have produced the egg, and could only assume that it was a student art project or installation of some kind. In any case, it seemed unrelated to the other strange occurrences.
I feel as though my sanity has completely abandoned me, torn more and more towards the point of collapse. Leisdadt has sold the Serbian’s property, and I haven’t been to work for a week, for fear of the consequences with my boss.
But worse, I’ve started to smell a.... to sense something. Something that I recognise from Dimitrije’s descriptions in his diary. How is it possible to sense the form of something that you have never seen. To know it sometime. To dream of a shrieking thing that soars through a red sky.
That mosquito like head. Immense lizard like body, bone and ribs, like a sharks egg. Black leather wings.
There was a brown parcel that arrived in the mail. The statue inside matches the description given by Dimitrije. It’s so hideously disfigured. Does it represent the swimming demon in my dreams?
I examined the edges closely, and the inscription which seems to be flecked with blood. Could it be the murder weapon they used to bludgeon the Serbian? What of his shredded corpse, what tore his body apart? As I sit, hailed up in my lounge room trying to distract my mind with escapist television, and recording this journal on my IPad. I fear something unfathomable which seeks my destruction.
I can hear noises, am I hallucinating?
Dear God! That banging outside the house.
QuarkChain aims to build a user-friendly, decentralized and reliable blockchain that can ultimately handle millions of transactions per second.
Scalability has been integrated into the design of QuarkChain from the get-go and with this in mind they’ve set out to build a platform capable of supporting industries ranging from FinTech to gaming and social media.
The Problem There’s a saying in life that goes like this…
When you’re young you have time and energy, but no money.
When you’re an adult, you have money and energy, but no time.
When you’re retired, you have time and money, but no energy.
What a dilemma! Or should we say… trilemma?
Hmm, well is it really not possible to achieve all three? Of course it is!
A similar trilemma presents itself in blockchain however there has been no viable solution uncovered to date and this is exactly what QuarkChain along with many others in this space are attempting to solve.
The blockchain trilemma looks like this:
A permissioned (centralized) blockchain can provide scalability and security however loses all trace of decentralization. Permissioned blockchains are similar to centralized systems in the old world such as banks, Visa, as well as PayPal.
Opting for a permissionless (decentralized) blockchain such as Bitcoin or Ethereum provides security and a dispersed network however scalability is sacrificed, this was evident with the CryptoKitties dApp and excessive transaction fees when the demand on the Bitcoin network was high.
The real challenge therefore is figuring out how a blockchain can ACHIEVE ALL THREE:
Decentralization Scalability Security Whomever is able to solve this trilemma will likely score themselves “a one-way ticket to the moon”!
But before we leap towards thinking about getting onto the moon, let’s take a step back and consider exactly why it is that decentralization, security, and scalability are essential components for a blockchain…
The two primary components that ensure the security of a blockchain are:
Making sure only valid transactions are made; and That the network is safe and resistant to malicious attacks and users. Ensuring that only valid transactions are made allows users of cryptocurrency to maintain a strong level of trust and confidence in the value of the crypto.
If a user can easily send tokens they don’t own and make new ones out of thin air, this greatly undermines the value of the cryptocurrency.
This would be similar to printing money out of thin air, which has been a regular practice for many reserve banks around the world for several years. The more money is introduced into any economy this will drive inflation up causing the currency being printed to drop in value..
When this is taken to extremes hyperinflation can occur as was the case in Zimbabwe and this can cause all sorts of mayhem, strife, and havoc.
As the term implies decentralization is the opposite of centralization and in the case of crypto an extreme level of centralization would be having a sole miner for a blockchain.
Anyone transacting on this blockchain would need to have a great deal of faith and trust that this sole miner won’t do anything dodgy as make up fake transactions.
Even if people trusted this miner, the network would still be at great risk as now anyone interested in taking down the blockchain has a single target to attack. They can launch a denial of service attack on the miner taking the whole network down or look to bribe, blackmail, or manipulate the miner into doing their bidding.
As written above, decentralization and security are essential for the ecosystem, they provide a reliable and costly efficient space to continue evolving into future tech. On the other hand, as shown on the next diagram, as security and decentralization grows, an enormous amount of data , requirements for storage and bandwidth needs grow with it, which intrinsically implies a diminution in the system´s scalability.
Solution As illustrated in the diagram below, there are three propositions to solving the problem of scalability:
Multi-blockchains → They may suffer from vulnerability issues, double-spending attacks, reverse transactions or strategic mining attacks. Lightning network→ BTC´s option to this problem seems to be inefficient. User’s transaction targets are random and happen sporadically. Sharding→ Omniledger´s solution to the problem, with the intricate consensus protocol. It may be limited by cross-shards transactions and single shard take overs. But partial solutions do not provide full efficiency especially in a time of exponential evolution. QuarkChain aims to fulfill the ultimate goal of any blockchain: Extending scalability far beyond current tech limits, while maintaining the balance for both security and decentralization.
QuarkChain’s bottom up approach to scalability begins by considering the two primary functions a blockchain serves as a public ledger which is:
Tracking the “state” of a ledger and all of the transactions that are made; and Ensuring only valid transactions are confirmed and recorded onto the ledger. 1. The “State” of a Ledger
If you’re not sure what a ledger is, you can think of it as the thing responsible for keeping track of and recording everything that occurs in your bank account.
Your account has a running list of debits (when money goes out of your account — boo!) and credits (when money goes into your account — woo!) which are recorded whenever money is sent or received into your account.
The “state” of the ledger then is simply a snapshot of what’s in your bank account at any point in time, which is otherwise known as your bank balance! When a friend sends $50 into your account that has $100 in it, the new “state” of your account will then be $150.
An ancient Papyrus ledger
- Confirmation of Transactions
If a transaction is made it doesn’t necessarily mean the transaction will go through and this is what confirming a transaction is all about.
Sending $100 to a friend with $50 in your account will see your transaction getting rejected! The transaction won’t be processed and confirmed as it is an invalid transaction due to insufficient funds in your account.
QuarkChain’s 2 Layered Blockchain System QuarkChain separates out these two primary functions with the use of a 2 layered system that allows for greater scalability:
The first layer consists of “elastic sharded” blockchains; and The second layer has a root blockchain.
The first layer with “elastic sharded” blockchains can be broken down as follows:
Elastic: the sharded (minor) blockchains on this layer are elastic because the amount can be increased or decreased as required. Sharded — each sharded minor-blockchain only processes a small subset of all the transactions that occur so they are considered “sharded” as they represent a small fragment of all the transactions occurring throughout the network. (This is what enables QuarkChain’s scalability.) Blockchains — the minor-blockchains keep track of the current state of the ledger by processing and recording relevant data such as user accounts and the transactions made between accounts The Second Layer and the Root Blockchain
The second layer serves the function of confirming the transactions that take place throughout the network. This is done by sending the block headers of the minor blockchains that contain all the transactions to the root blockchain, the root blockchain then confirms these transactions by creating a new block with all of the block headers.
QuarkChain’s 2nd layer system offers a higher amount of transactions per second whilst accounting for bottlenecks that occur from increased throughput such as computing power, data storage, and internet bandwidth.
Structure of QuarkChain’s 2nd Layered Blockchain
Are We Decentralized Yet?
QuarkChain incorporates several features to ensure decentralization of the network:
Collaborative mining driven by game-theoretic incentives to ensure when miners mine for their own selfish benefit that this behavior aligns with what is best for the overall system. Mining difficulty algorithms are designed so that hash power is evenly distributed among sharded minor-blockchains and the root blockchain. Each blockchain offers different rewards and difficulty levels so that weak miners can achieve similar levels of expected returns by mining solo when compared to joining a mining pool. This lessens the need for mining pools and results in less centralization. Main Features — Tech Overview Smart Contracts
QuarkChain supports smart contracts with the use of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), sharded blockchains therefore run their own smart contracts local to their blockchain via EVM.
Sharded blockchains can be thought of as mini-Ethereum’s or clones of Ethereum running simultaneously and parallel to one another with unique individual wallets associated to them.
So for sharded blockchain 1, you will also have wallet 1, and on sharded blockchain 2 there is wallet 2, and so forth… As you can imagine it would be a hassle to keep track of these wallets, especially if there are a hundred or even thousands of these sharded blockchains, which is why QuarkChain offers the following two features:
Simple Account Management Smart Wallet In QuarkChain users are able to use a single “Primary Account” where the majority of the user’s funds will be parked for them to manage all other wallets. When a user wants to send funds to a different sharded blockchain the user simply sends it from their Primary Account.
Primary account sending transactions to wallets located in other sharded blockchains
The Primary Account is combined with a “Smart Wallet” to automatically handle “cross”-shard transactions, these “cross”-shared transactions can be made anytime and are confirmed within minutes.
(A cross-shard transaction is a transaction that is made from one sharded blockchain to another sharded blockchain, e.g. sending funds from Wallet 1 to Wallet 2 would constitute a cross-shard transaction, whereas a transaction made from one wallet to another wallet within the same shard, e.g. Shard 1, is considered an “in-shard” transaction.)
Q1 2018 — White paper and developing verification code 0.1 proof of concept Q2 2018 — Release verification code 0.2 and implement Testnet 0.1 with Wallet 0.1. Testnet 0.1 supports basic transactions including both in-shard and cross-shard transactions Q3 2018 — Release Testnet 0.2 and Wallet 0.2. Testnet 0.2 supports further features such as smart contracts, reshard, etc. Q4 2018 — Release of QuarkChain Core 1.0, Mainnet 1.0, together with Smart Wallet 1.0 Core 1.0 will provide basic functionality and basic optimization (e.g. GPU support) for QuarkChain. Q2 2019 — Release of QuarkChain Core 2.0, Mainnet 2.0, together with Smart Wallet 2.0 Code 2.0 further optimizez Core 1.0 and enables clustering feature for mini-nodes to form a cluster and run as a full node. Token Economics Token Name : QKC Hard Cap : 20 Million USD The QuarkChain token (QKC) will be an ERC-20 token until Mainnet 1.0 launches Q4 2018, the QKC (ERC-20) will then be converted to QuarkChain’s mainnet tokens. Crowdsale intended for end of May or start of June 2 year vesting period for the team with an extended vesting period for QuarkChain’s Foundation QKC will be used to pay for transaction fees and to reward community contributors that help improve QuarkChain’s system A significant amount of QKC will be dedicated to incentivizing developers to build dApps on QuarkChain’s platform
Qi Zhou — Founder
Qi Zhou achieved 10M tps as a member of the real time infrastructure team at Facebook Expert in scalability and was a key developer in achieving 10m IOPS with clustering for EMC 5+ years as a software engineer. Short stints with key roles at Facebook (1 year), Dell EMC (2.5 years), Google (9 months) and Ratrix Technologies (10 months). PHD from Georgia institute of Technology
Zhaoguang Wang — Software Engineer
Zhaouang has 6+ years experience as a system backend engineer working on large complex distributed systems Key roles at Facebook (1 year), Instagram (4 months), Google (5 years) PHD and Masters degree in Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan
Xiaoli Ma — Research Scientist
Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology (Combined 7 years, 10 months) Previously CTO and Co Founder of Ratrix Technologies (6 years, 5 months)
Yaodong Yang — Research Scientist
Vice Chairman in Education at Xi’an Jiaotong University, Frontier Institute of Science and Technology Co-founder of Demo++ (Tech Incubator) Yaodong has authorized 50+ papers in peer reviewed journals and has over 600 citations in his name.
Wencen Wu — Research Scientist
Wencen has been a Assistant Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (4 years and 6 months). Has a MSC and PHD in Electrical and Computer Engineering Operations Team
Anturine Xiang — Marketing and Community
Anturine has 6+ years experience within finance and technology at Wall Street and Silicon Valley Key Roles as Lead Platform Analytics at Wish, Business Development and Marketing at Beepi, Consumer Marketing and Analytics at LinkedIn Partners and Investors
Arun G. Phadke
Arun is a University Distinguished Professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech Fellow of National Academy of Engineering, USA
Managing Director of Walden International (Global venture capital firm) Previously Chief Engineer Sun Microsystems who co-led the ZFS team, also Former President of DSSD/EMC (Dell)
Mike is a PhD Physicist with 100+ publications Founder of Cloundant which was acquired by IBM in 2014
Kevin is a serial investor in blockchain companies
Leo is a recognised cryptocurrency fund manager who invested in blockchain projects. He is an Angel investor in NEO with over 17 years of field experience in mobile internet in China
Cybersecurity expert who discovered serious vulnerabilities in Linux, Android and TCP/IP Assistant Professor at University of California Riverside
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