The Chronicle of Belthaeous
by John W. Steele
Chapter 16: Adrian Reveals His Plan
Far below, on the snowfield where the avalanche had occurred, a large contingent of manpower awaited us. A scouting party of some type had built a scaffold that spanned far up the wall of the rock face. At the lip of the cliff, they’d secured a sturdy block and tackle.
Dr. Nacroanus gazed at the figures swarming like ants below. His breath flowed white in the air, and he tightened the drawstring of his hood.
“Who are all those men down there, Adrian? I thought our mission was a secret.”
He stroked his chin and squinted. “They’re of no consequence. They’re laborers we brought in from Burma. They don’t know the Avatar exists. They think their purpose is to facilitate the transfer of ancient archeological artifacts to base camp.”
Jigme barked out a command in Chinese, and from somewhere among the jagged boulders, the Sherpas uncovered a cache of arms. They took up assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and then assembled as if they were preparing for combat.
We approached the precipice, where at least a dozen new Sherpas were anchored to the dihedral. The men dangled from the rock face secured in heavy harnesses, and their crampons clawed into the wall. They peered upward awaiting the decent of the canopy.
Every precaution had been taken to ensure the safety of the Avatar. Our burly guides unwound the cable from the reel in a smooth measured motion; the coil groaned, and the aluminum cocoon eased gently down the rock face. The newer guides secured the canopy to their rigging and eased it to the scaffold anchored a hundred meters below. Dr. Nacroanus climbed into a harness and the Sherpas lowered him to the base of the cliff.
Our return from the Cave of the Ancients progressed smoothly. The platoon of fresh porters greatly reduced the burden. Jigme and our original guides now acted as mercenaries. They positioned themselves along the trail while the army of laborers maneuvered the sled through the ice-crusted undulations and rutted furrows of talus slop. With meticulous precision we inched down the steep decline that led to base camp.
We were forced to circumnavigate the worst of the avalanche, and I took a moment to pay my respects to Thrangu. Though he may have erred in judgment, I could not help but remember him for the fine man he was. In the end, he had paid dearly for his mistake, and I wondered why a man like him would do such a thing.
The fact that he’d seen his death coming and faced it with courage made me admire him all the more. I made a silent vow to him that I would make sure his cut of the bounty would go to his wife and newborn son.
In some ways, he and I were the same. We both wanted something other than what we had, and I could not judge him. I was involved in the same kind of struggle, and it drew any joy from my life.
Like an unwelcome memory the voice entered my head. “Oh, isn’t that sweet, dear, feeling a pang of pity for your friend. But was he your friend truly? The burden of the world rests on your shoulders now, my bright little star. Give the Eye back to me and I’ll remove the curse of death that follows it.”
The voice filled me with a sense of revulsion, like something filthy rubbed in my face. Now this Eye thing had a curse upon it.
A jagged crevasse near the bottom of the ledge fell straight to an ice field a mile below. I wanted to hurl the Eye into the gorge. What difference did my life make in the scheme of it all anyway?
Every path I followed seemed to lead me to the same fatuous conclusion. Unwittingly I’d become tangled up in a design I now wanted no part of. Dr. Nacroanus had opened a door that looked perfect until you crossed the threshold. But as I grew deeper into his world, it seemed that I stopped living, as though his mind controlled my own. I felt like I’d become a robot going through motions in a software program he had designed.
Despite my accomplishments, I felt like a failure. I didn’t know why I ended up with the talisman, but I sensed that this would be the last opportunity I would get to do one thing right in my life. I made a vow that I would never deliver the Eye of Mammon to anyone unless I understood exactly what they wanted it for. For me, the Eye had become a measure of my worth as a man, and I now understood to walk away from this challenge would be the equivalent of suicide.
The thought of Heidi cut through the gloom. I focused on her long, amber hair and the perfect curve in her hips, and I hoped that soon I would see her again.
It was nightfall by the time we reached base camp at thirteen thousand feet. The broad ice shelf glowed with a silver-grey luminescence beneath the timid sheen of a fading half-moon.
The Sherpas removed Belthaeous from the canopy and placed him in an environmentally controlled aluminum container that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
Nacroanus supervised the transfer, his eyes locked on their every movement. When they’d secured the Avatar to Adrian’s satisfaction he said, “So far so good, Rodney. We’ve completed the most difficult leg of the journey. In the morning, the Chinook will arrive. We’ll make a brief stop in Bonri to load the entity on a cargo plane. Disregarding cataclysmic misfortune, we’ll arrive in Calgary within twenty-four hours.”
“What do you mean, ‘cataclysmic misfortune’?”
He looked up from the interface on the container. “In the battle for control of a mind, there are always hidden forces. Sometimes disasters foil the best of Mammon’s plans. But the Vulpeculans have assured me we’ll be victorious in our crusade. Can’t you feel Mammon’s presence? It’s all around us, protecting us, opening our eyes to the power of his will, and the glory that he’ll rain upon us.”
“To harbor no narcissistic virtue and accept the world for the whore that it is leads to freedom, Rodney, to true power. You can have whatever you want, if you’re man enough to take it. Can’t you understand? Mammon will aid you in ways you never dreamed possible if you do as he asks. Once you give him your heart, he will grant you the wishes you desire.
“Total control of this world is within my grasp. Soon Belthaeous will awaken, reborn as the heart of Mammon. Every eye shall see that I, Dr. Adrian Nacroanus, have tread asunder the power of death. The gift of immortality will be granted to anyone willing to pledge his soul to Darkness.”
“And then what, Adrian?”
“Then will come the greatest miracle ever witnessed by mankind. A new world will emerge, a world where death cannot destroy those who worship Darkness. A perfected species of humanity will arise, a superman freed from the burden of thought, the manacle of conscience, and the curse of death. Those who adhere to my ways shall be granted the gift of Eternulum, and I will hold the key to their survival.
“I will serve as Mammon’s shadow on this earth, and I will rule as a god, to administer years to his faithful and death to his enemies. We will liberate mankind from the toil of rebirth and provide him with an extended lifespan, not in some bogus fantasy land but right here on earth.
“Who among the flesh of this world would not sell their soul to live for a thousand years or to spare the death of their beloved one? The power over death is all that separates men from gods, and I am destined to become a god. The formula I developed retards the aging process, Rodney. I hold the key to immortality.
“You’ve questioned me for years about the better world I’ve envisioned. What could be more benevolent than a man who is willing to grant centuries of life to his subjects? I am the man-god who discovered the key to longevity, and I will pour this gift on all willing to bend the knee to Mammon.
“Those who refuse to submit to the Lord of this earth shall be separated like wheat from the chaff, their memory scattered to the far ends of the universe by the mindless winds of chaos.
“The infidels, the heretics, and all those who defy the new order shall have their Light ripped from the electromagnetic awareness. We will remove their Light by force and use it for our own purposes.
“We have the technology to accomplish this, Rodney. There will be no escape to the Astral. All men shall serve us until Eternulum no longer rejuvenates their DNA. And by then they will have created hundreds of clones to replace them.”
A feeling of despair weighed deep within me. Nacroanus was a man of astounding insight and superior imagination. He had the knowledge to turn his visions into reality... He’s serious.
“How will you accomplish such a feat, Adrian?”
A mindless smile formed in his features. The pupils of his eyes morphed into ovoid slits and he grew frightening to behold. “In time, all will all be revealed to you, my son. I have protected you, but I cannot do so much longer. In time, you will be required to prove your allegiance. Prepare yourself, Rodney; the forces we are dealing with are horrible, and the hand of Mammon is upon you.”
I retreated to my fortress of apathy and denial and remained silent.
His face flashed scarlet and he grabbed my parka with both hands. “You don’t go against the family! Do you understand me? You don’t know what they are capable of!”
His premonition stung like a whip, and I knew he was right. He lowered his hands from my parka and returned the freezer.
I ached from deep in my bones and longed for the oblivion of slumber. Morning would arrive too soon, and my eyes were heavy with exhaustion. I’d heard enough for now. The circuits in my brain were fried, and I could assimilate no more.
“I’m going to sleep, Dr. Nacroanus. I’m so grateful we’ve spent our last night in this cursed place.”
He turned. “Not so fast. I’ve scheduled a meeting. The Sherpas have served us well, and it’s time for them to collect their reward.” He pointed at the lanterns glowing in the mess tent. “Follow me.”
I walked behind him like some starving animal entirely dependent on its master. A meteor streaked through the heavens, and a premonition that something wasn’t right blipped on the radar of my intuition. Adrian’s revelation terrified me, and I finally accepted that there was nothing he wouldn’t do.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele