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The Chronicle of Belthaeous

by John W. Steele

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Chapter 14: The Avatar

We walked through the cinders and approached Dr. Nacroanus.

He raised his arm and pointed at the horse. “That monstrosity will trample us to pieces if we set foot anywhere near the Avatar, Jigme. What are you going to do about it?”

Jigme eyed the creature. His face took on a smug expression, and his eyes beamed with confidence. “The Kamthaka is the last illusion to remain here, Dr. Nacroanus. When its magic is released, Belthaeous will be yours.”

I could tell by his cavalier attitude that Jigme knew precisely what we would encounter in this place. Demons are always one step ahead of you. Cunning and beguilement is their trademark. Jigme was right: the sons of darkness are better prepared to prosper in this world than those who rely on trust.

The Sherpa harnessed themselves to the sled. Jigme walked ahead and motioned us to follow. The men tugged on the lanyards, and we climbed down from the ridge. We trod across the rutted plateau of crusted ash. Dust swirled from our boots, and a pale grey powder clung to our beards and clothing.

We came to a halt perhaps five hundred meters from the beast. The monster stamped a heavy hoof, and a spray of cinders detonated at its feet. The creature whinnied in a terrifying voice, and its eyes grew wide. It reared, and a gust of fog exploded from its nares.

From a leather pouch that hung around his neck, Jigme fished out a small Buddha. The icon looked to be made of lead and was no bigger than a thimble. It dangled from a fine silver chain and weaved side to side like a serpent’s tongue.

A harsh growl erupted deep in his throat. Jigme raised his arm and twirled the talisman over his head. Faster and faster it spun until it hissed in the air. “Nirada,” he cried, and he loosed the tiny flail from his fingers. It sailed towards the stallion and landed several hundred meters in front of it.

The beast quaked, and its eyes leaped from their sockets. It groaned, and its massive frame quivered. The stallion charged toward us. There was nowhere to run, and I feared for our lives. As it grew closer it began to vaporize until it reduced to a ghostly specter of mist, like smoke from a stick of incense.

The hand of vapor snaked across the mesa until it merged with the talisman. Like some kind of hollow void, the Buddha swallowed it up. What appeared to be a formidable obstacle was only an illusion. Adrian sighed, and I felt a great sense of relief.

“Good work, Jigme,” Adrian said. “At last, Belthaeous is ours.”

The cave grew deathly silent. I peered into the distance. I saw what appeared to be a figure seated atop a broad stone altar.

Jigme led the procession, and we approached the edifice. As we neared the structure, the lines of its architecture changed. Their ratios grew disproportionate in relation to the distance. Like some kind of optical illusion, the temple expanded until it appeared the size of the great Parthenon.

It stood like an amphitheater, its visual harmony derived from the sacred geometry of its design. Whoever had built the enclosure had constructed it to house a deity.

Colossal Doric pillars lined the perimeter, each one embossed with fluted grooves and triglyphs. Shadowed patches of orange-yellow light poured through spacious arches in its walls illuminating the interior with a hazy neon glow.

We ascended a fabulous stairwell composed of brilliant white marble. Adrian led the caravan, and we marched across a floor laid with triangular slabs of agate.

Balconies lined the diagonals, and the mummified remains of ancient giants stood like petrified corpses in conclaves built into the walls. In their arms they held broadswords and battle-axes. Their jaws hung agape, the yellow palings of their teeth now crooked and broken. Their skin had dried to leather, the desiccated flesh stretched taut and cleaving to the bone.

I pointed at them. “What are those things, Adrian?”

He made the sign of the fist. “Nephilim. Mighty men were they; titans whose fathers descended to earth to control the Light in mankind. When the Archon is awakened, I will resurrect their DNA, and they will serve as my elite guard. But we have other business to attend to now. Hurry, Belthaeous must be prepared for the journey.”

We neared the far end of the structure. On an altar of gleaming alabaster rested a mummified humanoid of imposing stature. Belthaeous wore a heavy saffron robe. He sat erect, his legs folded in the full lotus posture. A pale, chromed nimbus circled his hairless skull, and his eyes were drawn to slits. His face was smooth and defined; neither young nor old, but ageless. A string of black prayer beads hung from his neck, and his hands formed a mundra beneath the draped sleeves of the vestment. Belthaeous was enchanting to behold, his presence firm and austere, yet simple and innocent.

All the Sherpas except Jigme fell to their knees and prostrated themselves before the great angel. I gaped upon the figure, transfixed by its wonder. A surge of energy erupted from the Eye. An agonizing tingle burned in my spine. The sensation quivered in my heart, and I stumbled as if I was about to faint. I grasped the icon, now secured by a bootlace around my neck and the energy evaporated.

Dr. Nacroanus approached Belthaeous, his eyes beaming and his face vibrant with delight. “So this is the Shadow of Life,” he said. His glossy tenor echoed inside the tomb. He turned and faced us. “Behold the instrument of Belthaeous. He’s not a myth after all. The power of Mammon has been delivered to me.”

Adrian’s face tightened and his expression grew stern. “Quickly, I need to examine the body. Help me up on the altar.”

Jigme nodded, and two burly Sherpas sprang up from the floor. They lifted Nacroanus and placed him on the throne. He stared at Belthaeous, his face hard with lust and his hands trembling. He pulled a small electrode from his pocket and clipped it on the angel’s thumb. His forehead wrinkled, and he began his assessment of the entity.

Like a lover caressing the object of his desire, Nacroanus ran the tip of his finger along the Avatar’s scalp. He peered deep into the tiny opening in its brow. Adrian’s face took on an expression of ecstasy, and his eyelids converged in a rapturous swoon. He examined the palm of the exposed hand and fondled the lobes of its ears.

Like a lovesick ghoul, he stroked the Avatar’s eyelids and the soft tissue surrounding the orbits in its skull. He ran his fingers along the Archon’s jaw and lowered them to the throat. With gentle strokes, he palpated the Archon’s neck and lymph nodes.

“Belthaeous has not passed on. He will rise and live again. I will breathe life into this block of ice, and together we will astound the world. Dr. Neumann, prepare the EEG!”

I nodded to Jigme. He and another guide recalibrated the instrument. Jigme handed Nacroanus the electrodes. With great precision, he taped the pads to the icon’s skull, and I connected the wires to the polygraph. I nulled the harmonic distortion and tuned the frequencies.

My breathing stilled, and I gazed at the laptop. Time stood still, and my eyes locked on the wave form trailing on the screen. I searched for a faint quiver to leap in the window of liquid crystal. Nacroanus remained mute, awaiting my verdict.

The cranium contained no electrical activity, and after a sustained analysis I said, “The avatar has no brain waves, Dr. Nacroanus. He’s as dead as the slab he sits on.”

“Monitor the signal a while longer,” Dr. Neumann, we must be absolutely sure all biochemical activity has ceased in the body.”

The wave form meandered on. It did not oscillate or change frequency. “The cadaver has no brainwaves, Dr. Nacroanus. Belthaeous is clinically dead.”

“Wonderful,” Adrian exclaimed. “At this temperature, the damage to the dendrites should be minimal. We must examine the integrity of the cardiac chambers.”

I broke the seal on a pulmonary catheter and activated the laser in its tip. With unparalleled precision, Nacroanus inserted the filament deep in the Archon’s neck, and a soft hiss cut through the silence. I watched him tunnel through the coagulated plasma, and I could tell by the calibrations on the catheter that he had entered the superior vena cava.

Adrian clenched his jaw and, with imponderable dexterity, he maneuvered the wire into the Avatar’s heart. “We’re in the left ventricle,” he exclaimed.

I didn’t understand how he knew this. He was the only man alive who could perform such a miracle without aide of a fluoroscope.

“What is the temperature, Dr. Neumann?”

I double-checked the numbers on the display. “29 point 718 degrees, sir.”

“Excellent! The cardiac organ must remain at this heat density. If the energy varies by even a tenth of a degree, it could be disastrous.” He inflated the balloon in the catheter and carefully stapled the line in place.

Adrian’s eyes were on fire, and he was more animated than I’d seen him in years. He turned and spread wide his arms, as if preparing to deliver a sermon to an imaginary audience. His face glowed with sovereignty, and his voice resounded from the walls of the crumbling edifice. “It’s just as it was proclaimed in the scrolls of Belthaeous:

And the Avatar shall be reborn as the messiah of the damned.
And Mammon will sever the bond of spirit and flesh.
His Shadow on earth will lead them.
And the Shadow will smite all men with the sword of immortality,
that the Light will betray its first love and serve darkness forever and ever.”

A terrifying expression formed on Adrian’s face, like the scowl of a proctor soliciting a confession at an inquisition. I’d known Adrian for nearly three decades, and I’d never seen the look before. His countenance reflected undefiled darkness... He’s insane.

“Everything from this point on must be done exactly as I command.” Adrian looked hard at Jigme. “Anyone who varies from the procedures we’ve rehearsed will be shot in the back of the head. Is that understood?” Jigme smiled and nodded dutifully.

“We need to remove the Archon from this place immediately. Jigme, instruct your soldiers to prepare the mummy for departure from this infernal waste. It’s imperative that he remain in this state of suspended hypothermia until we finish our journey to the cryogenics lab. Now move!”

The Sherpas responded like the gears of a bell clock. Each one of them performed their task with meticulous precision. They draped the Avatar in a robe of silk and then covered it in a sheath of carbon-reinforced teflon.

The guides lowered the cadaver into a kiosk made of air bags that had been constructed to protect the angel on its journey to the surface. Only the Avatars head remained exposed, awaiting the special helmet Nacroanus had designed to shield it.

“Jigme,” Nacroanus barked, “send a cadre of guides ahead to act as scouts. Clear the passage of any debris created by the earthquake. The remainder of the guides will remain with me. We must leave this place now.”

Nacroanus linked the headgear to the telemetry and handed me the helmet. “Dr. Neumann, place the monitor over the cranium. I need to interpret any data it reveals.” He turned his back and busied himself with scanning the frequencies for any evidence of biological activity.

I gazed at the face of the Archon, and wondered how something that appeared so lifeless and benign could be the key to a new and perfect world.

A buzzing sound hummed in my ears, and a hollow pressure formed in my head. The Archon’s eyes sprang open, and I recoiled in horror. A grip of cold energy occluded my windpipe, and a feeling of impending doom flooded my awareness.

Deep in the sockets of its eyes, two opalescent pools glistened like ice. My bowels quaked, and an iron voice exploded in my skull: “I am Belthaeous.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele

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