The Chronicle of Belthaeous
by John W. Steele
Chapter 4: A Tin God’s Dream
In the distance, Thrangu stood motionless. He stared up at the black dot that peered like the eye of an angry Cyclops halfway up the buttress of the towering wall.
I approached him and squinted at the rock face. “I feel fortunate the weather is good today, Thrangu. The skies are clear and things should be easier now.”
His face hung with a blank stare, like a man in a daydream. “I never see mountain so friendly, is miracle.” He shuddered as though he was frightened.
“Mountain know my heart. Black path always easy in beginning. Powerful deities allow approach to Belthaeous, could crush us like ants if they want to.”
I’d grown tired of wallowing in the superstitions about the erratic nature of the gods. The tales about their moody personalities no longer frightened me. “Why is it the gods favor the pure of heart only in fairy tales, Thrangu? History proves they adore the wicked.”
The lama did not answer, and I felt annoyed.
“Why don’t the gods crush us, Thrangu? It’s no different here than the rest of the world, is it? Anything established beyond the senses depends on faith and the scare tactics developed by the ancient scam artists long ago. If the gods gave a damn about anything, we wouldn’t be here. Dr. Nacroanus is right: the world belongs to those brave enough to take what they want. Everyone else is expendable.”
Thrangu’s face softened. “No, no, not so, Dr. Neuma. We gods, too. Gods bound in prison made of shadows.”
I wanted to slap him across the face, and make him admit the truth. I wanted him to confess that he was a liar and the whole damn religious circus here and everywhere else was nothing but a freak show designed as another opiate to further hypnotize humanity into a coma. But I knew he was sincere. His faith in his beliefs was as solid as the peaks surrounding us. Frustration burned in the pit of my stomach. My questions evaporated in the face of the task at hand, but I knew they’d return. They always did.
Thrangu and three other Sherpas agreed to wait for us and meet us here when we returned. I thought about asking him one more time to go with us, but I knew it would be useless.
His eyes returned to the tiny black dot. I sensed a powerful attraction in him for that spot, like the needle of a compass aligned to true north.
Since my dream about the bodhisattva a haunting premonition dogged me, and I wondered if we weren’t on a journey from which none of us would return.
As a gesture of friendship, I took off my mitten and removed my Rolex Navigator wristwatch. I reached forth and rested my hand on Thrangu’s shoulder. “I’d like to give you this as a gift, my friend, a token of appreciation for all you have shown me.”
His face hung long and sad. He reminded me of a Basset hound: cheeks drooping, deep brown eyes forlorn and pleading for salvation. An old neuron fired in my head. I thought about the tale of Judas, and surmised the look must have been the same.
He took the gift from my hand and smiled without speaking.
“Well, Thrangu, it’s been real. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.”
He fixed me with a knowing eye and shook his head. Thrangu placed the watch in the chest pocket of his parka, and lowered his gaze. “I afraid that not possible, Dr. Neuma. You still own will. I choose different path, sell my heart. We not meet again.”
“Oh, don’t be such a bummer, Thrangu. Some of the Mongol women are adorable. In no time you’ll forget about your alleged transgression.”
He raised his hand and wiped his eyes. “I have no more time.”
I laughed. “What are you saying, Thrangu? You’re still a young man. You’re about to experience the wonder of your dreams. Why are you so gloomy?”
His shoulders slumped, and for the first time since I’d known him, he looked pathetic, like a cold empty shell. The blazing fire within him had died, and his eyes lost their burning intensity. “In beginning, gift the Aeons give I use to bring much good. Heal sick, reveal danger, ease suffering. Then one day I fall.”
“What do you mean, ‘fall’?”
“I learn truth about Belthaeous and lose faith in Divine. I struggle my entire life to find source of Light. What I find bring much pain. Great Archon Belthaeous learn truth, too. He sacrifice everything for sensation. Truth lead to only tears, Dr. Neuma. Cosmos finite and no escape. I cannot awaken master, for he will complete prophecy.
“Man damned regardless of virtue, may as well be damned serving self. Still, I want no part in new world. I cannot turn back now. Deed is done.”
I’d seen enough of the world to know that whatever ideas of persecution Thrangu was feeling, he wasn’t capable of evil. He didn’t have the mind for it.
“What could you have possibly done in this hell that will ever make a difference, Thrangu? I think you need to take your share of the bounty and get out of here. Go to Burma or India. You’ll have enough money to live like a king there for the rest of your life.”
A voice rang through the hypnotic stillness. “Wake up, Dr. Neumann,” Adrian cried. “We’re about to raid the Cave of the Ancients!”
I looked at Thrangu one last time. “Thank you for all you’ve given me, my friend.”
His face looked old and haggard. “Remember, Dr. Neuma, what you do in life create next life in prison called eternity. You broken now, but you heal. Never surrender will for anything.”
His words echoed in the center of my skull.
Thrangu reached beneath his parka and retrieved a fabulous jeweled amulet; a magnificent icon shaped like the eye of a tiger. Its focus contained an enormous black stone that sparkled like an opal. He handed me the treasure. Even through my burly mountain gloves, I felt a warm field of energy surrounding it.
“This is Eye of Mammon, Dr. Neuma. Once belong to Belthaeous. Great power in Eye. Was my duty to return to him, but I cast away duty for death. Bodhisattvas reveal to me, give to you.”
I gazed at the lustrous gem. I’d never seen anything like it. The stone swirled with strands of gold, orange, and aqua-colored energy. The Eye appeared vibrant and alive like a tiny living organism. Glimmering light flowed from its core, sending a torrent of shivers down my spine. A great sense of rapture surged through me like the rush of some exotic designer drug.
“This thing has to be priceless, Thrangu. How will I know when it’s time to relinquish it, even if I can?”
“I cannot tell you how to use Mammon, cannot know prophecy. Guard Eye with your life. You know when to act. Do not surrender Eye until you know for sure what you do. I think you cannot be what I am. Eye safe with you. You chosen one now.”
“What do you mean, ‘chosen one’?” I asked.
He threw his arms around my shoulders and patted me hard. “Time to go, Dr. Neuma. Hold onto Light; it never betray you.”
Adrian called out my name again, his voice eager, impatient.
Before I turned to leave, I looked once more at Thrangu. A dark shroud riddled with pins of scarlet energy hovered like a nimbus around his head. I didn’t like the looks of the shadow, but there was no time to study the phenomenon.
I turned and hurried to catch up with the ascent party. The Sherpas prepared the ropes, and I slid into my climbing harness. I turned to wave goodbye to my friend, but he was gone.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele