Knock On Wood

by Gregory W. Ellis

“Knock on wood,” Beckhart said. He rapped his knuckles against the wood-paneled wall. “Think that’s real?”

“Of course it’s real,” Marston replied. “You can see it, touch it, rap your knuckles against it. What else would it be, if not real?”

Beckhart paused. He looked at Marston for a moment as the two men stood in Beckhart’s enormous study. The room was lined with inset shelves stacked floor to ceiling along all four walls and stuffed with books. It was dominated by a huge mahogany desk at which Beckhart conducted his studies. Dimly lit by a single desk light, the room smelled faintly of cigar smoke, old books, and something that Marston could not identify. The odor was faint, musty, and slightly metallic.

“What if,” Beckhart asked, “what we call reality, what we perceive as real and solid and fact is — despite what we think we know — really all illusion?” He stared at the area of wood paneling he had just rapped his knuckles against, looking past it as if it did not really exist at all.

“I’m not following you,” Marston said.

“Modern science accepts that this wall is not really solid. That is, at the molecular or atomic levels, it is quite porous.”

“Well, that’s standard undergraduate physics.”

“Yes, but it’s a belief system that has only recently come into vogue. Post-modern science, particularly quantum mechanics, deals in probabilities. According to quantum mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle, as outlined by Heisenberg, it could be said that this wall is solid, porous, soft, hard, here, or not here at all according to the probability of the moment.”

“I’m still not following you. Where are you going with this?”

“Marston, hear me out. The Uncertainty Principle says that the probability that this wall, or any part of the physical universe, is in one state or another equal to all the other states. It is the act of observing any particular piece of the physical universe that changes its state, freezing it in place and probability during our observation period.

“It also says that the state of any particular piece of the physical universe cannot be predicted with any reasonable degree of accuracy.” Beckhart paced back and forth along the wall, then finally mounted the steps to the elevated platform upon which his massive desk sat, raising it well above the floor of the study like a throne.

“Basically, the principle says that what we see is fundamentally flawed by the act of the observation itself. It is, or could be, an illusion created by the act of our observation or actions upon it. However, we know that many parts of the universe are not entirely physical.”

“So,” Marston said. “You’re connecting the physical and the metaphysical via quantum mechanics?” His tone told Beckhart his friend was impatient with his line of reasoning.

“Not exactly, Marston. Part of the assumption must be that we create our own reality, if you want to call it that. By the act of observing and interacting with our universe we change it in unmeasurable ways. Our reality, as we perceive it, is not all that there is. It is also not all that there could be.”

“Okay, that much I get.” Marston said.

“Good. Now, let’s put it into another context. Centuries ago, primitive peoples believed that the gods could be appeased only through blood sacrifice. They believed that only blood could cause gods and demons to smile favorably upon them. In return, the god or demon transferred a little bit of their power, their ability, to the one making the sacrifice. I’ve come to believe that those blood sacrifices transferred energy to whatever these beings or entities were, or are. In fact, I know that’s what was occurring.”

“Wait a minute, you’re saying you believe this? That’s crazy, Beckhart. Those primitive peoples saw gods and demons everywhere.”

“Crazy?” Beckhart said. He smiled at Marston. He stopped pacing and laid his hand on an ornately carved box on his desk for just a second. He looked down, caressed the box then snatched his hand away again. He looked at the box and then his hand, as if he had been touched by something. “Perhaps, but perhaps not. Those ancient peoples may have been on to something after all. I’ve found evidence.”

“Evidence? Evidence of what?”

“The ancients knew something about what they were doing. They were not stupid, and they would not have wasted thousands of years, and who knows how many lives, if something had not been actually happening. People today, they all believe our ancestors were such primitive and ignorant people. But they knew, Marston. They could see that something happened when they made sacrifice.”

Beckhart laid his hand back on the box, stroking its inlaid cover as he would a pet. “These things are certainly not part of our observed reality, but there may be energy states or wave patterns or something completely unknown to us. At times, when the energy state is right, we, and whatever lies on the other side, outside of our observed reality, can transfer energy back and forth between where we are and whatever else is over there. A blood sacrifice — the sacrifice of a life — facilitates this transfer, perhaps by releasing some kind of life force.”

Beckhart caressed the lid of the box again then looked at his hand again, holding it out in front of him. He turned his hand over, looking at it, then laid his palm flat on the surface of the box, leaning on it a little harder.

“Beckhart, I think you’ve gone off your rocker,” Marston said.

“Hear me out, Marston. I’m not mad. Not yet at least, or at least not completely.”

“That’s easy for you to say, but it’s not so clear from where I stand,” Marston said. Beckhart could hear the doubt in his friend’s voice.

“In his writings, Howard Phillips Lovecraft created a god or powerful entity he dubbed Yog Sothoth. Marston, I’ve been doing some digging, looking into a lot of old works. It turns out that Yog Sothoth might be a name coined from an ancient Egyptian concept, known from hieroglyphics, called the Sothis. Sothis means ‘Great Provider’.

The Sothis was intricately linked to the star Sirius in Egyptian myth. Rene’ A. Schwaller de Lubicz spent fifteen years studying the hieroglyphs depicting the Sothis in the Great Temple at Luxor. I have made a direct connection between de Lubicz’s work and Lovecraft’s fanciful alien gods. De Lubicz’s work is not recognized by modern science, but I’ve found other connections. I’ve spent the last year scouring the world looking for certain artifacts and I’ve found what I was looking for.

“Look here,” Beckhart said. He turned away from Marston, lifting the ornate box from his desk. Carefully, he carried it around to the other side of the desk. He stood before his great, overstuffed leather chair and laid the box carefully back on the desk. “Come up here and look, Marston. Look at what I’ve found.”

Marston walked up the three steps to stand before Beckhart’s desk. The dark mahogany gleamed in the dim light. It was one of the few things not covered in a thin film of dust. A glass ashtray held the remains of a half-smoked cigar, long extinguished. A bottle of brandy with no more than two fingers left in it stood to Marston’s right. Two glasses sat nearby. Except where the box sat, the rest of the desk was covered with books and papers holding Beckhart’s small, cramped handwriting..

The box itself was hinged with leather and brass and inscribed on all the sides that Marston could see with intricate hieroglyphics inlaid with what appeared to be silver. The box was four inches in thickness and about sixteen inches on each side. Marston had initially thought it might hold a book of some kind.

Beckhart opened a drawer in his desk and withdrew a large brass key. Showing it to Marston, he fitted it to a padlock on the side of the box. He did not turn the key immediately, simply placing the key in the lock.

Looking up, with one hand on the key and the other on the top of the box, Beckhart looked across the desk at his friend. “Now,” Beckhart said, “suppose everything I’ve said here is true. Not so long ago, we stopped making organized blood sacrifices to known and unknown gods. Just because we stopped making those sacrifices does not necessarily mean those entities stopped demanding them, needing the transfer of life energy. I think they found another way to feed their hunger.”

“And what might that way be?” Marston asked.

“It means they found other ways to feed, Marston. They learned, I think, to get the energy they needed a little bit at a time. A drop here, a drop there. In a way, I think that every time we shed blood we feed those unknown gods a little bit of our life force.

“When we bang our knuckles swinging a wrench. When we’re working on a car and we cut a finger. When a soldier bleeds out on the battlefield or when someone dies on the operating table or in a car accident, we’re feeding them just a little bit here, a little bit there. We make little sacrifices like that every day and by doing so, we feed the old gods, those entities whose presence we’ve long forgotten and which we never understood anyway.”

“This is preposterous!” Marston said. “You’re a man of science! How can you possibly have gotten this silly notion into your head?”

“A man of science learns a great many things over his lifetime and career, Marston. Some of it makes sense. Some of it doesn’t. It’s of no consequence how this idea came to me. It’s only important that you know.

“But I’m not finished with my tale yet. See, the old gods still need those sacrifices. They get some, as I said, a drop here and a drop there. I think they get larger meals through horrible vehicle and industrial accidents, acts of terrorism, and such. The most dramatic such accidents, such as the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, the attack on the World Trade Center, or terrorist bombings in the Middle East, are truly feasts for them.

“For such feasting they repay humanity by allowing the achievement of greater things. Not just the repair of a simple machine like a car or a washer and dryer, but greater things like the harnessing of the atom and spaceflight. These sacrifices allow greater energy state transfers, you see.

“Think of it, Marston! How can you logically explain the success this country has had since its founding? I think it’s because of the sacrifices we’ve made in war, in automobile accidents, in a thousand other little bloody ways. Why, we sacrifice four hundred thousand people a year on our highways alone! Think of how satisfied the old gods must be by now! Think of how they must be feasting.”

Marston edged back away from Beckhart’s desk coming up against the railing that ran around the raised platform. He did not like the tone in Beckhart’s voice nor the sudden edge of excitement in his voice. Beckhart turned the key in the lock with a sudden twist of his wrist.

“Think of it, Marston! Think of all the power that must have flowed to the old gods down through the centuries untapped and untransferred back to our reality. It’s a cooperative effort, you see. They need us for what we can give them and they know they have to give back. Oh, not a lot. Just a little here, a little there.

“But they’re willing. They’ve shown me the way. They’re there. They’re right there waiting for someone to send back some of the power that’s been flowing to them all this time. What might a man accomplish if he knew how to harness even a small portion of the power they’re willing to give back?

“Some have seen it, surely. Hitler might have known part of it. Certainly some of his lieutenants knew. The Nazis delved deep into the occult, so I think some of them knew. But they didn’t know enough. Others might have discovered part of the secret too. Maybe Stalin, maybe Mao or Pol Pot. They certainly killed enough people. But they didn’t know enough. Think of the possibilities for one who truly knows how to harness the power of the old gods, Marston.”

“Beckhart, you’re insane,” Marston said. He began working his way along the railing towards the stairs up to Beckhart’s desk-throne. “You need help, man. You’ve been working too hard. Let me call someone for you.”

Beckhart did not listen. His left hand was pressed hard to the top of the box, his right hand still held the brass key in the now open lock. His eyes gleamed in the dim light from his desk lamp. He smiled as he looked at Marston.

With his right hand, he opened the lock and set it aside on his desk. At the same time, his left hand slid, almost of its own accord, across the top of the box to the edge, never leaving contact with it. He lifted it open as if he were opening the cover of a book.

His right hand went into the box and drew out an object wrapped in cloth. He held the object up with his right hand, took the free end in his left, holding it out to Marston like an offering. He walked around his desk, advancing on his friend. Slowly, with his left hand, he unwrapped the cloth from around the object. Marston’s eyes were locked on Beckhart as he stepped back to the first step down.

“Think of it, Marston. Think of it. All that power just waiting for someone to claim. Oh, how the old gods will favor that one. The one who can channel their power for them into our reality. I know, Marston. I know,” Beckhart said.

He continued advancing, holding an obsidian-bladed, silver-handled dagger horizontal in both hands. “It took me years, Marston. It took me decades. But I know how to claim that power. All I need do is act, to make that blood offering and it will all be mine. The rituals have all been done. Everything is in readiness for the final offering.”

“Beckhart, stop it. Stop this, right now!” Marston said. He stepped back, found the final step, turned to run for the study door.

Beckhart leaped at him like an animal, vaulting across the dais railing to land in front of Marston, blocking his escape. His eyes were wide, the whites shining in the dim light. Beckhart laughed. “You fool. You don’t understand,” Beckhart cried. “It is not you who must be the final offering. It is I!”

Marston’s feet were rooted to the study’s polished floor as he watched. Beckhart raised the dagger in his right and left hands, holding it by its silver blade, point down. He uttered words that Marston failed to recognize then drove the knife down into his own chest, worked the blade down. Marston threw his hands up as blood sprayed, jetting from the horrible wound.

But the blood was not red. It was black. More black sprayed from Beckhart’s chest as he stood there, mouthing more words. He pulled the dagger from his own chest, dropped it upon the floor, put fingers to the edge of the gaping wound. Marston cried out as Beckhart pried his hands into the wound, pulling it farther open.

Blackness poured from Beckhart’s chest. It spilled from him, splashing onto the floor of the study in an inky black pool that bubbled and pulsed with its own dark life. He dropped to his knees, surrounded by the pool as wash of black became a torrent and then a wave. Beckhart turned his face to the ceiling, spread his arms and screamed his welcome to the old gods.

He turned his face to his old friend. “I know, Marston. The others, they had it wrong, all wrong. But I know! I claim the power through the blood. In the manner of the Aztecs, I call upon Huitzilopochtli to come forth. Feed upon the Chalchihuatl and accept my offering. Come forth, Yog Sothoth! Come forth Sothis! Feed and bestow upon me the power you wield. Accept your servant.”

Marston screamed as the pool of ink bubbled, hissed, smoked and took form. He screamed again as it began to slide toward him. He looked for escape, but his way was blocked. He felt the touch of the ink as it slid around him, under him, as it began to creep up his body.

“You will see, Marston,” Beckhart said. He rose to his feet. He stepped through the pool, which slid aside for him, bubbling with preternatural life. He towered over his old friend. “Fear not. You are only the beginning. Soon, you will know, and we will walk the earth beside the old gods — forever...” Beckhart extended his hand as if in friendship.

Marston was still screaming as he took Beckhart’s hand in his own.

Copyright © 2008 by Gregory W. Ellis

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