Alexandre Du Pré and the Playwright
Alexandre seems to have been very active, but he doesn’t appear in many records. He may have destroyed some of his records, such as the ones in the East Hill asylum (Chapter 5). A lot of his story is based on guesswork and deduction.
Alexandre was one of the original Four Witnesses (Chapters 2 and 3). After the school closed, he founded the Playwright and he also spent time at the East Hill Lunatic Asylum. We know that he was at East Hill well before Conghill arrived, and that he left shortly after Conghill got there (Chapter 5). Since Conghill was traumatized at the Battle of Majuba Hill, in February 1881, I suspect that Conghill arrived at East Hill in late 1881. Therefore, I suspect that Alexandre arrived at East Hill around 1879 and left around 1882.
Conghill said that Alexandre and Miss Konhe arrived at East Hill at around the same time. Konhe seems to know a lot about the Playwright, but I don’t have the impression that she saw Alexandre after he left East Hill. Therefore, I suspect that Alexandre started the Playwright before he arrived at the asylum (maybe around 1878). I don’t know if Alexandre went to the asylum for legitimate medical reasons, or if he had some secret agenda. When Alexandre was at East Hill, he apparently took a man’s glass eye. He put it in a bird’s mouth and hid it under his cell (Chapter 5). Was he trying to help the bird see something? [It’s also suspicious that an inmate at the asylum apparently entered the Veil in 1891, many years after Alexandre left (Chapter 5).]
After Alexandre heard about Majuba Hill, he went to find Skidd at a veteran’s hospital. Skidd corroborated Conghill’s story, and added that the soldiers were killed by a “sentinel” that was defending its territory. Alexandre recruited Skidd into the Playwright (Chapter 5). According to Skidd, the Playwright was a vast, powerful organization with Alexandre at the top. They met every month and they entered the Veil several times. They could reach the “threshold” of the Veil, but they could not pass beyond it. Skidd described the region beyond as an “abyss” that was filled with “unspeakable shapes” and “horrors.” He said that Alexandre was a “fiend,” but he did not explain why (Chapter 5).
In 1885, the Playwright helped Professor Adam Wright try to open the Last Door. Instead of using a serum, they induced “primal terror” in a test subject, who was probably Hugo Ashdown. The experiment apparently opened a gate to the Veil (or beyond). However, Hugo may have returned as a monster, and perhaps other creatures entered our world as well (Chapters 6 and 7). After the experiment, there is no evidence that the Playwright used the Professor’s methods or that they had any further contact with him. Although it’s not clear whether Alexandre was personally involved in these experiments, I’m guessing that he was, especially if Hugo was the subject.
In 1887, Anthony and Alexandre wrote several letters to each other in an attempt to make an improved serum. In July, Anthony discovered Raymundus’s “Hoopoe” formula, which apparently gave them the breakthrough that they needed. Soon afterwards, Alexandre started complaining that the sculptures in his basement were stalking him. By October, he had entered a permanent trance. There is no record of Alexandre’s activities from 1887 to 1891, but he seems to have been an invalid in his home in East Sussex. In October 1891, Alexandre’s servant saw two “copies” of Alexandre, one sleeping and the other standing at the balcony. The servant left the house (Chapter 4). Intriguingly, this happened less than a month after Anthony hanged himself.
In early 1892, after Devitt was rescued from St. Gall, he went to see Alexandre in East Sussex. He found Alexandre in a wheelchair in a deep trance. Paradoxically, there were also signs that Alexandre could move around and take care of himself. Eventually, Devitt found Alexandre in the basement, where he was reasonably lucid. At Devitt’s request, Alexandre injected him with serum. Alexandre told Devitt, “open [the door] and we will walk together beyond the mist” (Chapter 4). A year later, Wakefield found Devitt in the Veil, but it was unclear whether Alexandre was also there (Chapter 7).
It’s hard to say what happened to Alexandre during his long trance from 1887 to 1892. He appeared to be helpless, but he did not starve after his servant abandoned him. It’s almost as if there were two Alexandres, one in a wheelchair and the other fully mobile. Maybe the "mobile" Alexandre took care of the "wheelchair" Alexandre? If they really were two different people, what happened to the “wheelchair” Alexandre? Did he enter the Veil and vanish?
I’m guessing that Alexandre started using the “improved” serum in 1887. It caused him to behave strangely, but he didn’t go mad. At one point, he told Devitt that our world was nothing but “ancient shadows,” where even the rocks were just silhouettes, and that the true world lay beyond the Veil (Chapter 4). When he complained that the sculptures were stalking him, maybe he had begun to perceive their true nature on the other side of the Veil. (Devitt had a similar experience, when two people seemed to emerge from an image on the wall. Maybe Devitt could briefly see the picture in the same way that Alexandre saw the sculptures.)
Just before he injected Devitt, Alexandre said, “I am waiting for you. Here, in the mist” (Chapter 4). That statement strikes me as being very odd. It sounds like Alexandre was somehow talking to Devitt from within the Veil. Maybe he had gained the ability to influence our world from within the Veil.
It’s conceivable that Alexandre has been manipulating events from within the Veil since the very beginning, or least since the beginning of Chapter 1. For example, he might have caused Anthony’s madness and then sent the crows to kill him. Skidd did describe Alexandre as being a "fiend" (Chapter 5).
I noticed some possible parallels between Alexandre and Professor Wright. Both men were invalids who spent their time gazing fearfully out of windows. Both men were stalked by an unseen presence that moved around their houses. At times, both men seemed terrified, as though something deadly was in the room with them. Wright died of terror, while Alexandre screamed in terror and vanished. (Maybe Alexandre reappeared the basement, or maybe that was a different person.) In both cases, a nearby window had been opened. Wright kept a menagerie of birds, which apparently protected him from a supernatural “visitor.” When Devitt opened Alexandre’s basement door, a flock of crows flew out. I don’t know if these parallels mean anything, or if they are just coincidences. If both men had “visitors,” did these visitors mean them harm, or were the visitors trying to use primal fear in order to send them into the Veil?
Alexandre lived with a creature called “Old Mike,” who was apparently a half-man/half-ape. Anthony and Alexandre talked about him as though he were a friend, or perhaps an animal companion. In 1887, Mike got sick and died, just before Anthony and Alexandre developed the “improved” serum (Chapter 4). In a way, Mike seems similar to Máire Laidcend, who was part human and part bird (Chapter 7). Maybe when Máire returned from the Veil, the journey caused her to physically transform. Maybe the same thing happened to Mike. But it’s unclear why other travellers to the Veil (such as Alexandre) did not also transform. [Update: In her diary, Brighid implied that Máire crossed the Veil and entered the Other Side. Maybe people only transform if they cross The Last Door. Does that mean that Mike also crossed The Last Door?]
At some point, the Playwright had a secret meeting place at 26 Paul Street in London. When Wakefield investigated, he found a strange machine that was attached to a mask and an empty robe. He also found lists of numbers and mathematical formulae that used odd symbols. Something, maybe a robot, tried to interfere with him (Chapter 5). Perhaps this room was the location of an early, aborted attempt to enter the Veil using a machine. Or maybe it represents the efforts of the Playwright to continue their research without Alexandre.
In London, Alexandre’s books were Trithemius's De Lapide Philosophico, Geber's De Inventione Veritatis, the anonymous work Turba Philosophorum, and Ludwig Prinn's Mysteries of the Worm. These are all real books about alchemy, except for the Prinn, which is a fictional book about summoning monsters. (The book appears in “The Shambler from the Stars,” a short story by Robert Bloch.) In East Sussex, Alexandre’s books were The Movements of Shadows, Preserving the Mind, and Lessons Beyond Nature. I cannot tell if these books are real or fictional.