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The Chronicle of Belthaeous

by John W. Steele

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Chapter 6: Dharma Psychotics

It seems that disasters always occur in slow motion. The spectacle below unfolded like a movie on a screen. Gazing down at the juggernaut of ice and snow, I felt stunned, as if in a trance. The life of my friend had been snuffed out like the flame of a candle, and it was as if Thrangu had never existed.

His prognostication reverberated in my head. How could he have foreseen his death? Why did he allow the mountain to take him? He could have led us to the Belthaeous. Why did he give me the Eye of Mammon?

Too many coincidences and inauspicious miracles had occurred in the last few years. I could no longer write them off as the hand of fate. There is a purpose in disaster, something that defies chance, a wind that blows everything home. A state of reflection had awakened inside me, slowly illuminating the borders of my perceptions.

“Get me out of this thing!” Nacroanus barked. His voice cut through the cold like the screech of a crow. He tugged on the harness of the sled as I approached the canopy.

“Where are the ice monkeys? We need to secure the Archon as quickly as possible.”

The Sherpas formed a huddle and sat cross-legged near the edge of the precipice. Though they held Thrangu in high esteem, there was little evidence of it. They did not wail or lament over his departure. It seemed Thrangu’s death held no real significance. I sensed no sorrow in them. Then something he once said struck me: In the midst of battle one cannot lament for a fallen ally.

They appeared stoic as if their only concerns lay in the welfare of his departed spirit. I marveled that they were so convinced of an afterlife; they had no real fear of death.

But I was not like them... I feared the dark. The god of science had replaced the myths about the origin of the world and the fantasies about dimensions beyond this universe. The deeds of men had evaporated the cloud of ideals that once soothed my conscience. And, hidden in the shadows, I began to see their motives.

Through Dr. Nacroanus, I’d grown to understand the perfected ideology of Nihilism. All phenomena that cannot not be measured with acids, revealed by a cyclotron, or proven by scientific analysis, are only fantasies, the conceptual womb where great fortunes are conceived and the course of mankind is determined.

Nacroanus called out Jigme’s name and cursed him for his insolence. “Order the guides to get back to work.”.

I knew that nothing could stop them from performing their ritual, and I knew as well that Adrian was not a patient man. I needed to reason with him. He’d have no compunctions about shooting one or more of the guides to prove a point.

“Please, give them some time, Dr. Nacroanus. They won’t listen to me now. We’re at their mercy until they complete the ritual. Did you ever consider the role integrity plays in this expedition? They could wander into the mountains if they wanted to, and leave us here to die. You’ll have to be patient until they finish their shenanigans.”

His face sagged. “Bah! They’re nothing but Dharma psychotics lost in a psychedelic fairyland. They’re no different from the Indians. Men like me taught them about God, too. Their holy man is dead. Nothing will change that now.”

Adrian knitted his forehead and looked as if he were about to cry. “We’re so close. The Avatar has remained locked for a millennium in this horrific place. I’ll give them five minutes, and then I’ll deal with things my way. Help me out of this thing, I need to stand.”

Their mantra buzzed, saturating this tiny zone of ice where the earth meets the sky. I felt relieved when the chanting stopped and they returned to the task at hand. There would be a service for Thrangu, but there’s a time and place for everything, and this was neither.

Jigme approached, and we eased Necroanus from the canopy. Adrian climbed out of the cocoon, his legs wobbling and unsteady. He rested his hand on my shoulder. His breath flowed white and even, and his face shone with a scarlet hue. Jigme and another guide braced him with their powerful shoulders. The doctor walked a few yards with them and then shook them off.

Adrian gazed at the mouth of the cavern, and his face contorted with a smile. “It’s just as it was prophesied in the Chronicle of Belthaeous. And the gate to the wheel of empire shall be revealed to the overlord.”

Proceed to Chapter 7...

Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele

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