by John W. Steele
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Early in the first decade, at the end of the age of Pisces and at the new dawn of Aquarius, a gleaming apparition appeared in the sky.
The miracle occurred with no forewarning or harbinger of things to come. One day the sun rose, and high in the turquoise stratosphere a great anomaly hung resplendent like a pillar of fire.
Of course the initial shock lasted for years. The president declared a triple-red critical alert on the threat of an alien invasion. And the televangelists grew rabid in a fit of wrathful delirium. The stock market crashed, and gold rose to ten thousand dollars an ounce.
Some people believed the object was part of a rescue mission sent by God, and others thought the Great Satan had arrived. Others ignored the spectacle and pretended it wasn’t there. Cults sprang up and the people of the world united in a shared sentiment of paranoia. The wars came to a standstill and the plans for Armageddon were put on hold.
Unwittingly and without any instruction or mystical indoctrination, in one day, the consciousness of mankind was altered irreparably. An unprecedented period of peace fell over the earth, and in its wake, true prosperity for all emerged. Despite its menacing presence, the luminosity remained benign, suspended in the heavens like some kind of miraculous omen too wondrous to understand.
The great light was dazzling to behold and could be observed during the daylight hours. It held a fixed position at the equator. As the world turned on its axis, every eye on the planet could view the supernal marvel.
Scientists determined that the craft, or hologram, or energy field, had a length of seventy-five hundred kilometers and a corona five thousand kilometers wide. The spindle-like form resembled a five-sided whorl and ended exactly ninety kilometers above the earth.
Though its shape varied little, the object collapsed upon itself, always returning to its original form, but constantly shifting in a state of flux. One could stare at the pillar for perhaps thirty seconds before the eyes began to tear and the retinas started to burn, scorched tender by the intensity of its chrome-colored radiance. This thing was not of this earth and no indication of its purpose or intentions could be ascertained.
Because the object offered no overt sign of aggression, the world watched it in fear and awe. Plans for a first strike were considered but never implemented. The military authorities understood they were powerless against this celestial behemoth, and they had no desire to provoke it.
Instead they focused on gathering as much information as possible about its design and purpose. In time the towering column lost a little of its frightening presence and became the subject of tabloids and talk show hosts; its manifestation an ever-present danger that could not be avoided or understood, a nebulous conceptual circumstance beyond explanation, like God, death, and taxes.
* * *
Deep in the heart of central Mexico, Juan Genaro trod the ancient road that had served as a war trail in a distant past. The morning sun shone like copper on his face, and his shadow fell long and narrow on the rust-colored sands of the chaparral. High overhead the alien monarch gleamed like a frozen comet, but the Indian no longer felt awed by its supernatural wonder. His concerns eclipsed the glare of the deity, and his problems had little to do with possibilities that existed just beyond tomorrow.
In this season, seven she-goats, a dozen rams, and nearly as many kids had been lost. The pattern was always the same. The animal’s blood was drained, the abdomen eviscerated, and the internal organs removed. Usually the flesh around the jaw was missing, along with the eyes and the tongue leaving the teeth and the mandible exposed.
It puzzled Juan sorely how the Chapucabras accomplished such a feat yet left never a track or a print in the fine powder of the desert. Only geometric patterns remained as evidence in the aftermath of the slaughter. Immense pentagrams and spirals, heptagons and cubes, icosahedrons and mesmerizing Euclidean diagrams lay spilled out like kaleidoscopic blueprints on the surface where the carnage occurred.
The formalized imprints hailed like some eerie ritualistic standard engraved to commemorate the massacre. The locals claimed it was the coyotes or the wild dogs and even the nearly extinct desert panthers that were to blame for the butchering. But Juan had seen the predators in visions, and fleeting glimpses of the other reality, and he knew the Chapucabras — the Lizard men — were destroying his herd.
The morning sun shed its veneer of innocence and its solar rays now burned with austerity upon on the surface of the painted sands. Juan stopped, and with a bandanna he wiped from his eyes a trickle of sweat. He loosed the heavy gourd from his shoulder and pulled the stopper from the mouth. The sweet taste of spring water washed his tongue and soothed the parched leather chaff in his throat.
In the distance the town of Matamoros could be seen on the horizon. The contours of its sun-baked structures rippled like some kind of trembling hallucination at the rim of infinity. Juan knew this was an auspicious day. He cinched the belt on his dungarees one notch tighter and quickened his pace. His mind’s eye held a comforting vision: in less than an hour he would stand in the presence of the venerable Julian Adames, a most respected man of knowledge.
* * *
The skulls of of two longhorn steers bleached paper-white by the sun hung mounted on posts at the gates of the villa. Each horn extended for perhaps three feet, partially occluding the entrance to the cactus-strewn courtyard.
Juan walked forward and stepped on the veranda. A short corridor of pale white adobe opened to a large chamber. Juan entered and trod gently on the rich tiled floor. The hall was cool, and the scent of sweet acacia hung in the air. He stepped into a sunken living room that ended with a large office.
At a desk, a mature and handsome lady sat studying a manuscript. Her raven-colored hair was streaked with strands of platinum, and when she saw Genaro she stood and greeted him amicably. “Welcome to our home, Don Genaro. Julian has been expecting you. My name is Magdalena. Please have a seat.” She lowered her gaze and bowed her head gracefully.
A young maiden with dark braided hair and eyes that sparkled like sapphire entered the office. In her hands she held a silver tray upon which stood a ewer and a stone goblet. The girl sat the tray on the desk. She turned to Juan and smiled, her lips the color of cherries against the gleam of her perfect teeth.
“Julian has asked me to inform you that he will arrive shortly,” she said. “Please refresh yourself and take comfort from your arduous journey.”
The girl smiled again and then turned and exited the room. Magdalena approached Juan and poured the libation into the chalice. “Please feel at home,” she said. “Julian has waited long to greet you.” The woman smiled and left the office.
Juan raised the cup to his lips and took a long swallow. The beverage was bittersweet and thoroughly refreshing. He closed his eyes for a moment, savoring the flavor of the luscious concoction.
When he opened them again, a salubrious-looking gentleman stood at the other side of the desk. Gleaming silver hair fell to his shoulders. On his neck, inked in colors of green and red, a cobra with hood inflated and fangs bared glared defiantly. A gilded alcove Juan had not noticed now adorned the wall behind the man, and in it sat a golden candelabra with seven arms.
The man wore an impeccably tailored white suit and a western tie with a turquoise bolo. A large golden ring shaped like a lion’s head encircled the middle finger of his left hand. The lion’s eyes were made of diamonds and shone as if they were alive.
The man’s face was round and benevolent, and its skin olive brown, smooth and tight. But it was Julian’s eyes that revealed the authority of his nature. Eyes like deep unfathomable pools, dark, austere, and unforgiving.
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by John W. Steele