The Chronicle of Belthaeous
by John W. Steele
Chapter 32: Croitus
A hum sighed in the elevator cabin. My ears popped with the change in air pressure during our ascent from the underground city. Adrian had granted me a five-day furlough, and I desperately wanted to see Heidi.
I sensed he allowed me the time because he needed to make secret modifications to the experiment that only he would know about. But it made no real difference to me; I felt thrilled to be out of the subterranean prison.
When we reached the airstrip, three psyops agents accompanied me to a black SUV. The Enukai had changed little. I noticed they now wore khaki overcoats rather than the threatening black jumpsuits they had on when I first met them. Narrow-brimmed fedoras sat like bottle caps fastened to their skulls; their sunglasses were simple aviator style with wire rims and black lenses.
These agents could easily pass for businessmen unless you knew what to look for. The eyes of an Enukai always gave them away; cold, dead eyes with a glossy conjunctiva and an oval slit in the middle.
I’d learned they usually avoid detection by wearing contact lenses, but now that I’d been around them a while, it was easy to distinguish them from souled humans. A cold aura surrounded them like a vacuous shell, and the faint trace of sulphonomides lingered in their wake.
The idea of being surrounded by this band of irascible morons again gave me the creeps, but Adrian warned me before I left that I would never be out of their sight. He informed me that Xenotula had instructed Croitus to hunt me down and kill me should I try to escape.
Only one of the men spoke, and I could tell by his voice it was Croitus. He flung open the door of the vehicle, barked something in their native dialect to the driver, then snorted with a chuckle. “You’s sit up front, Dr. Numbnuts. We’s ride in the rear. If you’s do anything foolish, I cave in the back of your skull with my power truncheon.”
His laugh sounded sinister. I did as he said, and he slammed the door behind me. All three Enukai climbed in the rear of the limo. They sat, rubbing their hands together. Their leather gloves created a skreighing sound that made me uneasy. They seemed to enjoy the noise and the creepy effect it had on me. They didn’t speak, but I sensed a telepathic communication between them.
Croitus tapped the driver on the shoulder and bellowed., “We’s are punching it!” Like a rocket the Cadillac Escalade shot forward, the tires squealed, and it swayed side to side like some kind of dragstrip funny car. The morons roared with laughter and punched each other in the shoulder with the same ribald enthusiasm as a gang of juvenile delinquents who’d stolen a vehicle for a joyride.
We raced through the darkness until the lights of a formidable-looking structure appeared in the distance.
The automobile slowed to a halt in front of what appeared to be a military checkpoint. A fence topped with razor wire surrounded the parameter. Guard towers supported by wide concrete pilasters stood on both sides of the gate, and dim lights burned behind the security glass.
Croitus made a vibrating sound with his lips and tongue that sounded like an enormous blast of flatus. They all roared with laughter like he was some kind of comic genius. He seemed to know exactly how to push my buttons, and he was one of the most annoying assholes I ever met. Then, like the flip of a person with a dissociative disorder, his voice grew hard as iron.
“Wait outside the vehicle until we’s ready to leave, doctor Numbnuts.”
“How am I supposed to get home? I thought we were heading to the airport?”
“Get out of the car now, Numbnuts. That’s an order,” he croaked.
I opened the door and stood on the road. The air felt chilly, and I placed my hands in my pockets. Blinding flashes of red and yellow light pulsed in the rear passenger compartment. A short time later, Croitus rolled down the window. The red lasers of his eyes had bloomed to a shade of neon green, and the smell of Cannabis wafted from the window.
“Hey, Neumann, you’s forgot your briefcase.” He laughed and snorted until I thought he would crap in his pants.
I had deliberately left my briefcase on the front seat. I walked over to the window, crouched down, and looked directly into his shades, the dots dilated.
“Hey, Coitus, there’s three pounds of C-4 packed in my attaché case. I’ve got the detonator in my pocket. If you try to follow me, guess what will happen.”
I turned and fled behind one of the barriers. I pulled the cell from the pocket of my jacket and thumbed a pad that made it beep. I peeked around the column to watch the show.
The lasers in his skull constricted. He twisted his head to the side and stared at his comrades. One of them fished a keypad from his pocket and fingered the buttons. The device chimed. Croitus looked at me and laughed a nervous chuckle. “I tell the jokes here, Numbnuts.”
I walked to the vehicle, opened the door and grabbed my attaché case. “Looks like you misunderestimated me, Coitus; maybe you need new chips for your head.”
The doors of the vehicle flew open, and the Enukai stumbled out onto the pavement. They fumbled with their glasses and then surrounded me like a gang of baboons.
Croitus made the sign of the fist. His lip quivered. “Five days, Dr. Neumann. We’s will see who is laughing from both sides of his mouth when you’s return. And you’s will return. We’s are counting on it. Now move, before I override my programming.”
The gates opened, and we walked through a long empty passageway that led into an immense hanger.
Before me, on the deck sat a spacecraft of a design and technology I’d never seen. The ship was jet black and shaped like a spade. Broad flanges on its wings formed a curve edge around its fuselage, and their tips curled towards the ground. The cruiser reminded me of an enormous manta ray, sleek and very symmetrical. The craft had no external engines or any kind of landing gear. It hovered perhaps six feet over the floor, as though supported by magnetic induction.
Except for a ridge along its midline that looked like a horizontal spinal column, the cruiser was nearly flat, and I wondered how anyone could stand upright in something so narrow. I wanted to ask about the ship, but one of the Enukai nudged me along the ramp that led to the hatch.
Once on board, Croitus entered a compartment that I assumed to be the cockpit. He turned and faced me, and his face contorted with a sinister grin. He made the sign of the fist and then sealed the port. The inside of the cabin was quite spacious, and I sensed my original view of the cruiser had been from an incomplete perspective.
The Enukai agent escorted me to a seat in an austere yet comfortable passenger cabin. He sat across from me on the other side of the aisle. He sprawled out on the lie-flat lounger and placed his feet up on the cushion. The alien remained silent, and glared like some kind of statue, the red lasers of his eyes intense and probing. The third agent disappeared, and I had no idea where he went.
The craft began to hum with a harmonic resonance that sounded like the sustained bass note of a piano. The frame of the ship disappeared, and I sat in empty space. I grew terrified and grabbed the armrest. Everything but the alien and the partition to the cockpit became invisible. The Enukai lay in the air, a look of amusement molded in his features.
The roof of the hangar dilated like the iris of a colossal eye, and we soared straight up into the night. I felt no G-force, and I watched in horror as the surface of the Earth grew smaller. In a few seconds the planet lay like a mottled blue sphere thousands of miles beneath my feet. But I had felt nothing, not a jerk or a tug or even a vibration. I could see the outline of North America and all of the oceans surrounding it. The cabin grew still. Not a sound could be heard.
With no warning, we began to descend at an astonishing velocity. I had journeyed to and from Seattle-Tacoma International so many times that I knew the design of the airport by memory. We shot straight down then halted abruptly and hovered in space. The roof of an immense hangar yawned open, and the craft descended into the maw of the fabricated steel structure.
Gradually the frame of the ship materialized, and Croitus emerged from the cockpit. He looked haggard, as if the flight had fatigued him. One of his cheeks drooped, and his shoulders were slumped. When he saw me, he frowned. Evidently I’d cast a cloud over his sunny disposition.
“Follow me, Numbnuts,” he barked. The third Enukai appeared out of nowhere, and I realized these freaks were so quick they could disappear in the blink of an eye. They placed a blindfold over my eyes and led me to a vehicle. A short time later, the blindfold was removed. We walked down an aisle and entered a private suite.
Croitus pulled a set of keys from his trench coat and threw them at me. I snatched them out of the air.
“There’s a black Eldorado parked at the entrance, Neumann. We’s will never be out of sight. Remember that when you’re boning your girlfriend. The world is about to be reborn in Mammon’s image, and for some depressing reason, you’re a part of it.”
He raised his arm and pointed at his eyes with his index and middle finger. “Remember, Dr. Neumann, we’s are watching you.”
I entered the Cadillac and sat for a moment, contemplating my predicament. As bad as things were, I dreaded the fact I now had to go home and face Lydia. I did not want to discuss our relationship any more. The rationalizations meant nothing. She would argue about anything, no matter how ridiculous or petty. As long as she had the last word, she felt satisfied. I’d given up trying to discuss anything with her years ago.
I pulled out my cell phone and called home. The answering machine played a recorded message:
“I’ve been waiting for you darling. I’ve made some renovations while you were gone. I think they’ll suit you. I hope you’ll stop home before you go to fornicate with the whore. A violation of the marriage bed is an abomination to the Lord. Oh, you need to take a look at your aquarium. The fish man didn’t show up this week.” The line went dead.
I didn’t like the tone of her voice or the comment about renovations. Whatever she did would be costly and unnecessary. The remark about my fish bothered me. I’d grown fond of those creatures. I’d even trained my pet octopus Oscar to feed from my hand. The marine aquarium specialist serviced the tank every week. I provided him with a key to the room adjacent to my office. Lydia had no responsibility for the aquarium, and her comment caused me a feeling of anxiety.
I could not accept the design or the reason for this insanity called reality. Though I had everything money could offer, none of it mattered. Except for Heidi, there wasn’t one dimension of my life I found satisfying.
The last two months had been like the delusional fantasy of a madman. I had witnessed things I would not have believed possible. The shattering revelations about Mammon’s control of this creation, the Vulpeculans, the possibly of the Avatar’s resurrection from the maw of death, all combined to fracture the foundations of my conditioning to such an extent that I wondered if I might be psychotic. I hated myself for the role I’d played in this supernatural freak show. Unwittingly I’d become a catalyst in a crime so heinous that it eclipsed anything evil I could ever imagine.
The burden of the Eye could not be abandoned, but all I cared about was Heidi and our life together. I never felt this cornered or hopeless. Every exit door was locked, and Mammon held the keys.
I reached down and felt my thigh. The Eye was intact. I wanted to pray but I’d grown to understand petitonery prayer is unnecessary. I no longer trusted anyone, especially invisible deities no one had ever seen who claimed they had my best interests at heart.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele