The Chronicle of Belthaeous
by John W. Steele
Rodney Neumann, a brilliant student of mathematics, has earned a scholarship at Columbia University. After years of spiritual struggle he has adopted materialism as his personal philosophy. In graduate school, he studies under, Dr. Adrian Nacroanus, an eccentric scientist who heads the Department of Genetic Engineering. The doctor’s advancements in biotechnology have earned him a reputation as a near-mythological being. In time, he and Rodney form a master-student relationship based on deep theosophical insights that Nacroanus reveals to him.
Dr. Nacroanus has developed a serum called Eternulum that he claims will increase human longevity. But before he can bestow his gift on humanity he must retrieve a mummified angel named Belthaeous, who has lain entombed in the Cave of the Ancients for thousands of years.
Rodney and Nacroanus journey to the Himalayas to find the hidden entity. Deep in the mountains, Rodney witnesses miracles that shatter his understanding of reality and confront him with forces of ultimate malevolence.
Chapter 21: Lydia
A matronly nurse with short blonde hair and wearing a crisp, white uniform walked into the room. She smiled. “I’m Bertha. Welcome to the safest place on earth.”
She helped me into a gown and took my vital signs. Malcolm nodded to the orderlies and together they left the room.
The chamber had the flair of a five-star hotel suite: very spacious and comfortably appointed. Everything in the room was white: the ceiling, the floor, the walls, even the nightstands. I raised my arm to shield my eyes from the glare. Bertha handed me a pair of sunglasses and I placed them on my nose.
Exhaustion ached to the marrow of my bones, but the level of my anxiety made it impossible to relax.
In a crisp tone, Bertha said, “Lie down.” She looked thoroughly benign, and I did exactly what she said.
She lifted my robe and began her assessment. “Is that a dressing? If you have a wound, I need to examine it.” She reached between my legs and tugged on the tape.
I grabbed her wrist.
Her eyes grew wide. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing really, I’m just a little strung out.”
“Did you injure yourself? If you’ve been wounded, we need to change the dressing.”
“It’s not a wound; it’s a token that’s been in my family for generations. It protects me from evil, and I’m never without it. Please don’t bother with it. I need it where it is.”
She knitted her forehead. “Well, I suppose it’s okay. That’s a strange place to wear a charm.”
I looked deep in her eyes. “Promise me you won’t allow anyone to take it, will you?”
“Of course not, but I assure you there is nowhere on the planet it could be any safer than here.”
I released her hand and she smiled.
When she finished the assessment, she said. “Dr. Brinson will be in to see you shortly. Is there anything I can get you?”
My tongue clung to my palate, and my mouth tasted like sand. The inside of my skull wobbled like a top. My hands trembled and I groaned softly. “I need something to ease me out of this. I’m not used to methamphetamine. My nerves feel like strands of fiberglass. I don’t know if I can handle this much longer.”
“I’m sure Dr. Brinson will treat you for that. Why don’t you lie back and try to rest?”
“How about some orange juice? I could use a pitcher of cold orange juice.”
“I’ll ask the doctor after he examines you. Now try and stay calm. He should be here any minute.” She patted my shoulder and left the room.
In the hospital bed, I felt I was lying on a cloud, but there would be no sleep. A sense of claustrophobia surrounded me, and the walls of the room contracted.
Phantoms lurked in the shadows and whirling demonic forms appeared in the walls. Dark humanoid spirits flashed out of the emptiness and then disappeared. The apparitions swirled like figures that dwell in the white noise of a television screen.
I knew these visions were hallucinations, and I knew that they existed on a plane just outside my awareness. But to understand that you’re losing your mind doesn’t make it any easier. I prayed the phantoms would return to their own reality, but they ignored my plea. When they came closer, I pulled the fixed blade from the sheath. I sprang out of bed and paced in the middle of the room.
A slouching, small-boned creature with beetle-like eyes and fine features entered the room. It wore a long white lab coat that hung nearly to the floor. I didn’t know if it was real, and I sensed it wanted to harm me. It drew nearer; I adopted a fighting stance and waved the blade before me. “Stay away from me, you son of a bitch,” I screamed, “or I’ll tear your head off.”
The man stopped dead in his tracks. “It’s all right, Mr. Neumann. I’m Dr. Brinson. I’m here to help you.”
I stared wide-eyed, trembling like a lunatic.
Two burly orderlies appeared at the door. Brinson motioned them to be still.
The doctor looked at me squarely. “Put the blade down, Mr. Neumann.”
“Put... the blade... down.”
I looked hard in his face and measured his eyes. His pupils were round.
I laid the knife on the nightstand. “I’m coming down hard, Doc. I need something before I crawl out of my skin.”
“Certainly, Mr. Neumann, just let me look you over. It won’t take long, and then I’ll prescribe something for your habituation.”
“It’s not habituation, it’s agony, asshole.”
He stared at me, his face as dead as plaster.
I fell into bed. “Whatever, just make it quick. Those things are getting nasty.”
Brinson summoned the nurse, who helped him perform a brief physical. Bertha taped electrodes to my chest, and the doctor studied the wave forms trailing on the graph paper. He shone a light in my eyes and I gritted my teeth against the burning glare.
The doctor palpated my inguinal area. “What’s this dressing?”
“It’s a minor excoriation, Elliot,” Bertha said. “I’ve treated it with ointment.”
The doctor said nothing to that but continued: “This man is extremely dehydrated. Begin bilateral intravenous therapy D5W with 60 units of potassium. He’ll need a sedative.”
Bertha looked at me and winked then turned and left the room.
The doctor eyed me coolly. “You’re in a state of nervous and physical exhaustion, but you’ll pull through without a problem. Right now, you need to sleep. I’m going to give you something that will help you with that. My suggestion is to enter rehab. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Bertha returned and started the IV’s. Malcolm arrived with a pitcher of orange juice. It tasted like nectar of ambrosia, and the acid cut the film of scum clinging to my tongue.
“Roll over, Mr. Neumann,” Bertha said. “I have something for you.”
I did as she asked. She raised my gown, a pinprick in my hip. I lay on my back. A feeling of golden euphoria exploded in my head and flowed into my muscles like the sweet caress of mercy. I closed my eyes and dove headlong into oblivion.
* * *
When I awoke, the worst of the ordeal lay behind me. A dark curtain surrounded my bed. I didn’t like the idea that they’d catheterized me, but I suppose it was better than the alternative. I felt for the talisman. It remained taped on my thigh, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
An attractive nurse stood at my bedside. She fiddled with a dial on a monitor over the nightstand. She turned her head and smiled. Her eyes held two golden sparks of light.
The nurse was striking to behold, her body lean and well-proportioned. Her lustrous black hair black gleamed, and her flawless complexion looked as smooth as ivory. So powerful was her presence, I wanted to reach out and pull her into bed. I coughed.
She lowered her arms and faced me. “Welcome back. My name is Sasha.”
“How long have I been asleep?”
“Nearly 48 hours.”
I fondled the tube.
She smiled. “Standard procedure, Dr. Brinson wanted to measure your I/O.”
“I don’t like it.”
She laughed. “You don’t have to. I’ll tell you what; I’ll say I have an order to remove it.”
When she completed the procedure, she said, “You need to get out of bed and move around. I’ve laid out your clothing. After you’ve showered, I’ll help you get dressed.”
“I don’t need any help.”
She raised her arm and looked at her watch. “It’s eleven a.m. You’ve got a meeting at three p.m. with the heads of genetic research. Dr. Nacroanus expects you to be there. You mustn’t be late. You’d better get a move on.” She slid back the curtain. “Here, let me help you up.”
My body felt stiff. My spine ached and my joints were sore. I ambled slowly across the room, my gait rigid and unsteady. The nurse held my arm and we walked for a while, until the dizzy feeling vanished.
“I need to make a phone call.”
“That can be arranged.” She rang the call light, and within seconds, the two brawny orderlies re-entered the room.
“Take Mr. Neumann to conference room C. Make sure he has what he needs.” She winked at the taller of the two, and he took my arm.
Malcolm met us in the corridor, and we walked slowly down the empty hallway. There wasn’t another person in sight and the annex was silent as a tomb.
“You’ve got top-secret security clearance,” the big man said. “Just remember: this mission is classified. Be careful what you say. I’ll be waiting just outside the door.” He shot me an icy glance, his eyes threatening and confident.
Malcolm touched my shoulder and looked at me warmly, his face genuine and sincere. “Do as he says, Dr. Neumann. It’s for your own good.”
I entered the room and closed the door behind me. I dialed the number and after the third ring, Lydia answered; her voice a harsh reminder of the anger seething beneath the surface of her passive-aggressive monotone. “Yeah.”
“Hello, Lydia. I’ve just returned to Canada.”
“Where were you this time?” she asked.
“I can’t say.”
“Did you take your little whore with you?”
“No. How are the boys?”
“They’re spending their father’s money. So is their mother.”
“Well, that’s what Dads are for, I guess.”
She laughed. “You’re incorrigible, aren’t you, lover boy. The Lord could change all that.”
“I’ll be home next week.”
“Home, since when? I won’t be here.”
“Where are you going?”
“Why would you possibly care where I go or what I do? You don’t care about anyone but yourself. What’s the matter, didn’t you enjoy your adulterous fornication?”
“It was business. It wasn’t much fun.”
“Oh, you didn’t have any fun? Poor baby men are as weak as piss. All adulterers shall burn in the lake of damnation.” Mando cusobo manavinga sandat!
I sighed mentally. Glossolalia again. But I forged ahead. “We need to talk, Lydia. I can’t go on like this.”
“We can’t talk. The words of a sinner are filled with snares, but the righteous know their heart. Swalabanga mustodo cupestal. Whoremongers shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and the righteous shall view them with scorn. Ieshingo rolestavo tamus.”
“Did the techie service my aquarium?” I asked.
She paused. “How would I know? I have nothing to do with that smelly tank.”
“Lydia, how can I get through to you? We’ve got serious problems.”
“It’s a pity you’re so godless. Quesito stohogebo. Go play with your slut. May the Lord sanctify thee in his grace.” The line went dead.
The orderlies returned me to my room. I showered and got dressed.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele