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 27: Atrocitous
My world imploded. I looked at the man I had always sensed was part of me and knew intuitively he was telling the truth.
Father: all my life I’d wondered about him, dreamed about him. But now that he’d revealed this fact to me, it mattered little. I felt no emotion. It was as if someone told me a giant asteroid had just blown a continent off the face of the earth. I felt powerless... stunned.
There is a time when the answer to the greatest question is revealed, long after the struggle to understand has passed; the present is the meaning of the answer. I had always sensed a powerful link between Adrian and myself, but because we shared no physical characteristics, I never imagined we were family.
“Don’t judge me too harshly, Rodney. All things have a cause. I felt you should know the truth before I journey into the unknown.”
“I’m not sure why you’re doing this, Adrian. Why are you telling me this now?”
“Motives are the roadmap to the future, son. It matters little what we do. The reason we act is our destiny. Before you condemn me, listen to what I have to tell you.”
Listening to Adrian came easy to me. I thought about my painful past, and all the reasons I should hate him. But there was no more hate in me; I’d pissed it all away on myself. I lowered my gaze and said nothing.
“I was born to a family of great wealth,” he said. “We made a fortune in land my father stole from the Indians. We owned thousands of acres of timber and coal. I never wanted for a thing.
“But to be born deformed and different is perhaps the cruelest fate the Lords of Karma can bestow on a person. I grew up alone. Literature and philosophy were my only companions. Even as a child, I spent long hours in contemplation and occult research.
“Though I had everything, I still felt great anger over the shame I suffered through the insults and ridicule of others. I could never quite put my finger on it, but it was there, in the eyes and faces of those who saw me as inferior, malformed... queer.
“I attended a private school. And it was at the Essex Academy where I learned the deepest significance of my affliction. Each day in that hellish cavern of programmed conformity, I endured the raucous jeers of others far less gifted than myself. They taunted me about my silver hair and my effeminate characteristics. They mocked my frail masculinity and the tone of my voice. But with every insult and every attempt to destroy me, I grew stronger, until the power of my will could not be defeated.
“My only friend was a mate named Jake. He was a colorless, crushed-looking fellow with sandy hair and a long, thin nose. He’d been born crippled, and his foot dragged on the floor like a brick attached to a string. Though we shared a mutual hatred for the students with the glowing rose complexions and well-formed athletic bodies, I never felt sorry for him. He got what he deserved.
“Every night, I prayed for a way to get even, crying into the darkness for a remedy to absolve all I’d suffered. Late one night in the light of a full moon, my supplications were answered in the form of a Vulpeculan deity who appeared in my room. The creature called himself Atrocitous. He was a tall, sinuous demon with a black cape that flowed like whirlwind about his emaciated torso.
“We had long conversations about Mammon and his plan for mankind. Atrocitous explained to me how someone with my gifts could be beneficial to the Order of Vulpecula. But he said I must prove myself worthy of Mammon’s attention. A test of my sincerity would be required before I could be ordained into the ancient order.
“Atrocitous had great understanding and revealed many things. He gave me a sense of power I’d never known.
“After a time, he brought me a ring he called the Loop of Saturn. The gemstone glimmered like a blue sapphire, and its focus rotated on a tiny hinge. A compartment behind the stone held a pulverized substance unknown on this earth. Atrocitous called the toxin the Venom of Cronus and claimed it would make amends for all I’d endured.
“When I asked him what I should do with the poison, he said, ‘You know its purpose already. Mammon has given you an opportunity to prove your loyalty. Use the venom to erase the pain you’ve suffered... Set them free.’
“On the night of my graduation from the Academy, I stood at the serving table in the pavilion. I reached for the ladle of the punchbowl and opened the compartment in the ring. A puff of green dust settled on the surface of the libation. I stirred the punch lightly and transferred a serving of the beverage into a footed silver cup.
“I handed the nectar to the escort my parents had arranged for me, a buxom glowing blonde named Maven. She wore a pink chiffon gown studded with rhinestones, and her breasts pressed firm against the fabric. A magnificent diadem resplendent with diamonds and pearls sat atop her flowing amber mane. Maven was as charming a feminine masterpiece as a body of flesh allows, and her very presence stimulated the senses.
“Though the symmetry of her form delighted all who beheld her, Maven’s admiration for herself was second to none. She’d been gifted with a dazzling electric smile and a mind of equally paralyzing stupidity. If it weren’t for my parents’ prominence, she would not have spit on me if I were covered in flames.
“I encouraged her to dance with the captain of the rugby team, a burly gorilla-faced cretin named Bradley. Before they headed for the dance floor, I handed him a cup of ambrosia, and he took a long drink.
“They strode out to the center of the ballroom like the demigods they would become when they stepped into this world of rank and privilege. I smiled at Jake and motioned him to come closer. He hobbled over and I handed him a serving of the Sauterne elixir of death.
“Then I retired to a pharaoh’s chair to watch the spectacle unfold. The chosen ones sauntered to the bowl for a quick goblet of punch before they entered the arena of their demise.
“And then they danced, swirling like marionettes beneath the glaring yellow lights of the marquee.
“I watched them glide and sway hypnotically to the blaring horns and pounding drumbeat of Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Then, one by one, like leaves falling from a tree, the graceful little cherubs tumbled to the floor. Their bodies convulsed like fish out of water, squirming and twisting in puddles of bloody vomit. Their eyes rolled back in their perfectly formed skulls. Tears of agony dripped from their faces, now blue and contorted from hypoxia. Someone screamed, and a great hysteria flooded the hall.
“The survivors scrambled for the exits, not one the least bit concerned for the welfare of their comrades. I walked over to the bowl. Jake lay on the rug. His tongue swollen and dangling from his mouth like a raw oyster.
“One hundred and ninety-seven people died that night, seven of them teachers. The spectacle was dubbed the night of the emasculate reception, and it had been my grandest accomplishment to date. But there would be more... much more.”
I squirmed in my seat. “What does that have to do with us, Adrian? I don’t need to know the shadowy details of your life.”
“Oh, but you do, my son. Fragmented knowledge is worse than no knowledge. That is why Mammon conceals much of what he wills. Mortals fill in the gaps with imaginings and fairy tales. The greatest lies are hidden in the web of illusion that forms the walls of reality in the material world. Samsara is a mixture of dreams and deceit hidden in plain sight, right beneath the nose of those too fascinated by phenomenon to see it.”
I took a deep breath. The depth of Adrian’s conviction held me spellbound. “You must be joking, Adrian. No one could get away with a crime of that magnitude.”
He smiled at me as if I were a child. “Everyone knew that I was responsible for the carnage, but no one dared speak out. In Mammon’s universe, courage is a voice only the unforgiven dare expose.
“There were five hundred and seventeen people in the dance hall that night. Mammon controls the best lawyers, judges, politicians, nearly anyone of authority. It’s a matter of stacking the odds.
“When it came time to testify, not one among them condemned me. The Chancellor himself claimed he’d observed me all evening and there was nothing I’d done that was suspicious or unusual. The poison could not be identified, and the deaths were blamed on the effluvial spores of toxic mushrooms.
“In the material world, the power of fear and corruption reigns supreme. There is nothing else to understand.”
I looked away from Adrian. The part of him I hated filled me with a sense of revulsion, and the part of him I loved felt like a cold, deep valley obscured by grey fog. I knew what I must do.
Adrian stood up and walked over to Belthaeous. The deity sat nearly comatose inside the clear glass chamber of the electromagnetic shroud. The ashen color of the Avatar’s face was now mottled with shades of ruby and white. I feared Belthaeous might try to contact me and reveal the secret we shared. I braced myself for the worst.
Adrian placed his forefinger on the plate glass and ran it slowly down the panel as though longing to touch the great angel. He stared into the chamber like one absorbed in a long forgotten reverie.
“Your mother was a beauty, Rodney. You have her eyes and her chin. Her name was Andrea. She was a full-figured woman with long, chestnut hair. It was pitiful that we’d been placed together. This stunningly attractive and naturally graceful siren, paired with an emasculated excuse for a man.
“The greatest disappointment in my life is that I could not love her the way a woman like her needs to be loved. She desperately wanted a son. Because of my genetic disorder, I could not give her one. My testes were too deformed to create the necessary sperm count required to impregnate her ovum. We both suffered needlessly, but she’d been given to me.”
Adrian slammed his fist on the window and bellowed, “She belonged to me! On the night she threatened to leave me, I doused her wine with laudanum, and Atrocitous strangled her as she slept.”
Nacroanus sighed, and looked into the distance his face blank, his eyes cold. “Such a pity. Without me, her life surely would have unwound like a magnificent symphony or work of art. But her DNA, the unique imprint of her beauty, would brighten my future. I would not allow it to be polluted by the likes of some bipedal mutated organic portal, ten millennia out of the trees.
“With the aid of Atrocitous, we removed her ovaries and placed them in an environment not unlike the natural conditions from which we dissected them. Shortly after that, I formed Genibolic Pharmaceutical. The rest is history.”
I remained silent and tried to piece together the fragments of the puzzle I’d always wondered about.
“Fifty years I worked continually on the formula the Vulpeculans provided,” Adrian said. “Day and night I struggled to perfect the plasma Eternulum in the xx and xy genotype.
“Countless lives were thrown away like disposable shells emptied of their contents. In time, it no longer mattered to me how many souls I sent back to the Astral. Once a man tastes the power over life and death, its glory holds no equal.
“Atrocitous brought me the specimens: drunks, whores, drug addicts, the mentally deranged, all fragmented tiles of the grand genetic puzzle. But without you, none of it would have been possible.
“I’d hit a stone wall. Not even the Vulpeculans could fathom the mystery in the fibers of the human genome. After decades of dedicated research, I discovered there are at least three other strands in the human DNA sequence that have been hidden from mankind. Only then did I begin to fathom the depth of Mammon’s galactic intelligence.
“Without your research, I’d never have found the secret hidden inside the protein complex other scientists referred to as junk DNA. Through your understanding of fractal analysis, I discovered the secrets that lead to the Eternulum elixir.”
Nacroanus looked in my eyes his face vibrant with adoration. “Without you, Eternulum and the total enslavement of mankind would have never been possible, Rodney.”
My heart pounded in my chest. “You abandoned me, Adrian. Why did you deliver me to those monsters?”
He walked back over to the monitor. The wires of the electrodes dangled from his skull. He looked like some kind of horrible postwar tin toy wound tight and ready to explode. “Because I had no choice,” he said.
“How could you do it, Adrian? How could you abandon your own son?”
He folded his arms on his chest and sighed. “There are circumstances that occur in this density that must be endured. The Lords of Karma require massive amounts of energy, and suffering is their food. I won’t ask for your forgiveness, my son, but you need to know more about how you came into this world.”
I wanted to sob, but my tears had formed a cold iron ball inside of me long ago, and I could find no way find to be rid of it. Even now I felt numb, and I knew I always would. Pain had mastered me in a way outsiders could never understand... And, despite our genetic connection, my father would always be an outsider.
A heavy silence hung in the air, and then he spoke. “Because of my condition, I could produce but one drop of semen in the span of a month or so. It took a long time but, after years, we concentrated enough healthy sperm to fertilize your mother’s ovum.
“Atrocitous procured a hearty Aryan female to serve as your surrogate mother. We inseminated her uterus, and she gave you a body. That is how you found your way to this life, my son.”
Adrian smiled. “I finally got what I wanted. Like me, you’re a freak of nature, a mutant with an unnatural IQ and a finely tuned and extraordinary mind. But I did not expect you to be fully and completely human. You were created to serve as my clone and rule with me on this plane.
“Despite my best efforts, you were born with something more, something outside the laws of science and the biochemical manipulation of your DNA. Something I did my best to eliminate.”
“And what was that, Adrian?”
He looked at me and sighed. “A conscience, Rodney, the only power that separates the race of Mammon from the race of the Divine.”
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele