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 33: Welcome Home
I sat for a long time in the circular drive of our English Tudor home. The house was far larger than we needed, and I never cared for the place. I had bought the mansion because it was big enough that Lydia and I could go our separate ways without bumping into each other. It seemed like the worse our marriage got, the more expensive it became to stay out of her way.
I wanted to hang on to the feelings I once had for her, but I never really gave a damn about luxury. There was something money couldn’t buy that was absent in my life, a priceless treasure that cost nothing, and I had found that treasure in Heidi.
Genibolic provided me with all the money I needed. I used it as an opiate to ease the pain of living with Lydia and to pacify her so she’d her keep her mouth shut. When I married her, she was sweet and simple, but now she seemed to only care about material things. I rationalized that my affairs with other women were retaliation for the way she treated me. I knew this house of cards would fall one day, but I didn’t want to face it.
Whenever I brought up the subject of divorce, she would have no part of it. I didn’t have the strength to fight her or deal with her fanatical religious convictions about the holy sanctity of marriage. I thought perhaps these ideals were a subtle message that she still cared for me, and we might be able to salvage something.
When I found Heidi, my whole life changed. She was an artist and had built a decent reputation over the years through her paintings. She didn’t give a damn about material possessions or the trappings of what she called the prison of security. She lived day to day, and made a fair income doing what she loved to do.
Heidi was the warmth of fire and the sparkle in a diamond, beautiful inside and out, a free spirit, natural and fresh, with nothing to prove. Heidi reflected everything in me Lydia could no longer see.
We’d lie in bed for hours making love and just talking. There are simple pleasures in life that have no parallel and that satisfy on a very deep emotional level. Heidi was these things. We were a matched set: she the positive dreamer with her head in the clouds and, I the pessimistic pragmatist locked in the world of science and logic. She had no fear of life or death... I feared both.
When Thrangu died, it struck a sore spot in my life. I realized I could not count on being alive for another hour, let alone thirty of forty more years. I understood I had been playing a game in an attempt to create something out of nothing. The doors of my prison were wide open. All I had to do was walk away, but all I did was complain about my prison cell.
Tonight was the night I would tell Lydia goodbye. I sensed she’d already been to a lawyer, and she was probably armed and ready, but I no longer cared. She could take it all. I’d start over with Heidi. Her love was priceless.
* * *
As usual, all the lights in the house were on. The glaring chandelier in the great room cast a latticed shadow from the windows on the blanket of snow in the yard. Whenever I complained to her about the way she wasted energy, my objections fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t a matter of being able to afford it; there was something about squandering for the sake of squandering that bothered me. But whenever I grumbled about it, she increased the intensity of her statement.
This same extravagant attitude had drifted into my sons. They had to have the best of everything, but neither of them ever worked a day in his life. Lydia and I argued about this whenever we were together. She felt it was our privilege to pamper them.
I wanted my sons to have the best, but I wanted them to understand that the world was nothing like the way they had been raised, and that much of humanity suffered and struggled just to have enough food to eat.
I sensed by my sons’ arrogance and superficial attitude about the human condition that they felt nothing for the underprivileged in this world. All they seemed to matter to them was the endless parties on campus. But I couldn’t blame them. I had neglected my sons, and it was their mother who had molded their minds.
To escape the emotional deficit I felt in my home life, I buried myself in my work. But there was no escape there, either. Nacroanus required intense dedication and could be very demanding.
I knew that I was involved in something I would one day regret, but it seemed there was no way out without extreme sacrifice. There are prisons of our own design, and success is one of them. No matter where I turned, I felt like a hypocrite, someone locked in a comfortable cell he despised.
I consulted a psychiatrist and spent a year in therapy. She claimed I had a schizoid personality and diagnosed my problem as something she called anhedonia. She asserted I needed to find something in life that mattered to me. I told her I’d already done that, and it was part of the problem.
After a while, I realized there are some things that can’t be taught, and there is no wisdom that can explain their meaning. These were things that could only be experienced. The wisdom came afterward, long after the ideal lost its meaning. I had it all, and yet I felt unfulfilled, as if life were little more than a movie on a screen. I hated this place, and I couldn’t understand why. I felt alone and estranged from my own family — and then Heidi had come along.
* * *
I pulled the car into a stall in the oversized garage and prepared to enter the house. A premonition that something wasn’t right flashed in my head the second I set foot on the floor. I hesitated a moment and then opened the door of the mudroom. The scent of petroleum flooded the air, and my stomach grew queasy.
The door to the kitchen was slightly ajar, but it wouldn’t budge. I heaved into it with my shoulder, and it gave way. I peered into the kitchen unprepared for the spectacle that awaited me.
The imported Italian marble on the kitchen floor had been doused with what looked like roof cement or asphalt. A black gooey substance spread from wall to wall covered the stainless steel appliances and smeared the granite counter tops. I kicked off my shoes and put on my rubber boots. I waded through the tar and entered the dining room.
Lydia had insisted upon a glamorous imported dining room set designed like those found in European palaces. Each piece had a luxurious pearlized champagne finish, and the frames were decorated with ornate filigree wood carvings.
The inch-thick beveled glass table top lay shattered on the floor. Every piece in the collection she “adored” had been damaged beyond repair, as though she’d hired a team of vandals to batter the furniture with sledge hammers. But the damage did not end there. The entire house had been trashed so completely that nothing could be salvaged.
Lydia and I had stopped sleeping together years earlier. She’d taken the master suite upstairs, and I slept in a large bedroom on the first floor. When I entered my room, the same twisted spectacle of depravity awaited me. The gooey pitch lay in puddles everywhere. The fine Oriental rug Adrian had given me for my birthday lay crumpled and stiff beneath an inch-thick coat of tar. My bed and every piece of furniture in the set had been destroyed.
I forced open the door of my closet. Because of the nature of my work and the functions I needed to attend, I required an extensive wardrobe. All my suits hung in shambles, as if someone had taken a razor to them. My leather jackets and topcoats were shredded, and my boots and shoes were plastered with pitch.
I felt no real attachment to these items. They were tools. All that mattered to me was the time it would take to replace them.
It seemed like I’d walked into a nightmare. Lydia could be verbally abusive, even cruel, but I never suspected the depth of her hatred for me. A deep sense of despair burned within. I remembered the comment she made about my fish, and I knew they’d been destroyed.
* * *
My office sat on the far side of the house above the garage. I waded through the devastation, each room in the seven thousand square-foot mansion wasted beyond recognition.
I’d installed a steel fire door at the entrance of my office. This room was my private space and reflected the many memories I had stored within. It held documents and research that spanned the working portion of my career, and it was off limits to everyone. No one but the bonded aquarium expert had a key to get in.
The fire door hung buckled in the center as though it had been assaulted with a battering ram. I took a deep breath and braced myself for the worst. I kicked the door open and stared for a moment. The stench of decay filled the air, and I rubbed my eyes hard.
The contents of the file cabinets that lined the far wall were strewn about the room and saturated with pitch. Twenty years of my life and research, and all the notes for my books were stored in hardcopy. A stabbing throb pounded in my ears, and I felt my head might explode. I would never be able to replace these documents or recover the ideas I’d managed to capture; traces of insight that appear and disappear like sparks in the darkness. Lydia would never understand how much she had wounded me ... or maybe she did.
This room was a hardcopy extension of my memories. It held mementoes, artifacts, from my travels around the world, priceless personal experiences that were precious and unique. The objects I’d recovered in my forays were displayed in large glass display cases. Every curio had been shattered, and the priceless relics destroyed.
Even the pictures of my sons taken when they were young lay broken and ruined on the floor.
I’d always been fond of animals, but I had no time for pets. My reef aquarium was a tiny facet of life that never lost its luster. The angelfish, harlequins, and rays provided me with a muse I found relaxing. Watching them, so free and contented in their artificial world, gave me a sense of hope, that something greater created this universe, something sweet enough to appreciate the beauty and wonder of these tiny creatures.
Some men are inspired by stained glass windows, but I found solace in this tiny coral reef. These fragments of life provided for me a hope that beyond the insanity of this material existence, there might be a trace of mercy in the infinite intelligence that would someday reveal itself. The fish had become a portal for me, suggesting the possibility of a perfected design beyond what appeared as only chaos and suffering.
Lydia knew my weakness, and the article of my flickering faith lay demolished on the floor, the scent of rotting flesh the only testament to the message I’d found in these adorable creatures. The fractured coral bed lay desiccated and lifeless, its vivid colors reduced to ashen grays and earth-tones.
* * *
Lydia had no reason to behave with such malevolence. I’d have given her whatever she wanted. Her display of hostility was an act of pure evil and wanton destruction.
She had suffered from hormonal imbalances for years. Her doctor called it peri-menopause. She’d grown hyper-religious and fanatical about attending church. What started as a healthy respect for religion grew into a personal crusade to save my soul. She berated me unmercifully for my godless behavior and because I refused to accept the ridiculous tenets of the ideology she referred to as holy salvation. I now realized her sanctimonious attitude was the catalyst that had destroyed our marriage. Everything else was a side-effect.
Despite the fact I’d been an atheist, I could not have done something like this on the worst day of my life. I wondered what she’d accomplished through this exercise in atonement. If she was an example of what it meant to be saved... I wanted no part of heaven. It always seemed to me that to be religious meant to abandon everything spiritual, and to trade the conscience for some form of dogma and overly zealous form of mind control.
The power of fanaticism lies in its hypnosis of the mob. Through the years, I’d found the holiest and most righteous were always the most destructive and warlike, always disparaging any idea that did not correlate with the canon of their own broken Id. Regardless of the psychotic motives of their holy men and teachers, they remained sheep, waiting for angels and saints to save them from Mammon’s curse. I could not accept Mammon’s premise, no matter how popular his doctrine. Neither could I ignore my gift of reason for the security of conformity... I was alone.
I wandered out on the lanai and collapsed in a bamboo lounge chair. The idea that this world was hell once again ignited in my skull. I buried my head in my hands. I wept for Lydia, I wept for myself, and I wept for the fleeting memories of our love that had died.
When I could cry no more, I raised my head and realized that the lights in the pool were off. I switched them on, unprepared for the final statement of her vengeance.
An oil slick floated on the surface of the water. Beneath the haze, I saw the outlines of something large and symmetrically proportioned. I looked closer and realized the form submerged and lying on the floor of the pool was my cherished Corvette.
This would be the final injury. There was little more she could do to harm me tangibly. I realized a chapter in my life had come to an end, but despite its gloomy denouement, for some reason I felt grateful it was over.
I pulled out my cellphone and dialed Heidi’s number. I wanted to appear strong, but when she answered I started to sob. “It’s over, Heidi... The nightmare’s over.”
“Rodney, is that you? I’ve been worried sick about you. Where are you, honey?”
“I’m... I’m here.”
“Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know... I just am. I’m hurting awful, Heidi. I’m homeless.”
Oh, Rodney. I’m so sorry. Don’t go anywhere. I’m coming to get you. Promise me you’ll wait for me until I arrive.”
“What am I going to do? You can’t understand.”
“I know all I need to know, honey. Don’t worry; I’m coming for you. This is a corner you had to turn. Now we can be together.”
“I never dreamed it could end, Heidi, but now that it has, I’m glad. You don’t need to come for me. I’ve got a vehicle. I’m on my way to Seattle. I’ll be there in an hour or so.”
“Are you sure you’re okay, baby?”
“I’m not sure of anything but how I feel about you, Heidi. I love you more than I thought possible. Don’t worry. I’ve been through much worse than this... all my life to be exact. I’m on my way.”
“I’m waiting for you, Rodney. I’ll always wait for you.”
“I’ll call you again in a half hour, Heidi. Don’t you worry, okay?”
“I love you, Rodney.”
I glanced once again at the elegant prison that held the shambles of my life. Memories paraded like frames in a movie. Despite what she’d done, I’d always love Lydia. The hardest part was to accept that our time together had expired, and I had to let go.
A strange sensation came over me, a hopeless irrational feeling that I sensed only the truly broken could understand. I laughed like a man standing on the gallows about to be executed for a crime he did not commit. Yes... Jerus was right: the world is an illusion; our lives are molded by powers that we can’t understand and that are nearly impossible to overcome.
I stared into the water. I knew my problems here were small compared to the trials that awaited me. I began to understand that Light arrives with a lash, not a caress.
The awakening is the most difficult fate a man can endure. Like a flash it dawned on me that good and evil are artificial creations designed to force man ever deeper into the Matrix paradigm where he is forced to take sides; each one leading to rebirth in this counterfeit creation.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele