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 57: The Confession
At the departure of the Aeons, the demon grew stronger; the flame in his eyes returned, and the gaping wound in his back ceased to hemorrhage. Tartarus twisted his head side to side, and his neck cracked with a snap like dried wood. A dribble of blood-tinged mucous fell from the corner of his mouth and landed with a splat on the nape of the sybarite.
“My king,” Xenotula said, “one more chore and I can return to Vulpecula. Release the Council of Five and I will tend to them in any fashion you choose.”
“They have all the courage of a snail,” Tartarus said. “They’ll emerge from their shell shortly.”
The membranous walls of the tetra dome began to vibrate and the structure destabilized to a scarlet mist. From the gaseous fortress, Raom’s voice channeled through the room.
“We intercepted your conversation while confined at the border of the Fourth, Tartarus. We survived the presence of the Light, but one in our socio-memory complex was mortally wounded, and we have all been injured to some degree.
“Xenotula has lied to you. We knew nothing of the Eye until now. We were content to allow the Nacroanus to rule. He feared us, and he dared not disobey our commandments. Neither were we aware of your contempt for him.”
Tartarus roared and beat his chest with his fist. “The Nacroanus believed he was my equal; that is why I destroyed him.”
Tartarus opened his arms in a beckoning gesture and glared into the electromagnetic cloud. In a voice hard as steel, he cried, “Who rules on the Third, bitch? Who’s your daddy?”
Without missing a beat, Raom exclaimed, “O mighty Tartarus, you are the supreme instrument of Mammon in this Density, and we shall never betray you, under penalty of death.”
“Good answer, bitch. I know you’re a liar, but you’re smart enough to understand patience. I know as well: if you get a chance, you’ll destroy me.”
The demon extended his jaws and snapped them closed with a clap. “You can come out of your shell, witch. You don’t have to trust me. I still need you. Now show yourself.”
Near the rim of the cloud, the haze began to evaporate. A long, slender hand emerged, followed by Raom’s emaciated body. The smooth, tight skin on her face now hung wrinkled and coarse like tanned leather. Scorched black craters dotted her luxuriant robe. Her amulet had lost its luster and hung from her neck like a tarnished brass disc. She eyed Tartarus, the intricacies of her features etched with terror.
“It’s wise to fear me, witch. I’m going to let you live for now. I have bigger fish to fry.
“Without the Eye, my vanity suffers. I thought perhaps I could possess the shell of Neumann to enjoy the pleasures of nymphs and satyrs... One needs both, for health. But the entity is thoroughly corrupted by Light. He is incorrigible, and there is a point of diminishing returns.
“Though our mission failed, in time I’ll gather enough Light, and I will sculpt a more durable Eye with which to savor my worlds. My Enukai legions are mounting a crusade to the Carina Nebula, as we speak.
“A civilization of innocent virgin Light beings is trapped in that sector, and they will fuel my cravings for a long time. I will steal their energy and harness its force to extend the borders of my kingdom.” The demon’s eyes smoldered like molten steel. “I’ll be back,” he said.
Tartarus looked down at Xenotula and pushed him away with his foot. “How did this piece of filth learn of the Eye, and of what use is he in our design?”
Beads of purple sweat broke out on the Baron’s forehead and his voice quavered when he spoke. “Lord Tartarus, I am a treasure of great value. I promised to deliver the Vulpeculan Council to you. They have plans within plans, and I shall reveal to you the depth of their treachery.”
“How did you learn of the Eye?” Raom channeled.
Xenotula did not speak. He prostrated himself before Tartarus, groveling on his knees and whimpering like a child.
Raom raised her hand and a current of amber energy swept over the baron’s robe. Bleeding welts opened on his legs and back, and he convulsed on the floor in great anguish.
“Speak, traitor, the truth! You will not be granted another opportunity.” Her forehead knitted and her eyes beamed with scorn.
“I beg of thee, Emperor Raom, spare me this torture. My molecules cannot tolerate this amplitude of energy. You’re roasting me alive.”
The fabric of his gown lost its corrugated texture and he moaned and sobbed in a fit of hysteria. “I knew the entity Whithers was of the Light, but she was of little importance until I perceived her feelings for Neumann. The Nacroanus informed me of their rendezvous, and I remained cloaked in the room when they met. That is how I learned of the Eye. Not even Nacroanus knew of my plans.”
Raom raised her hands and pleaded. “Now do you understand, Lord Tartarus? We have withheld nothing from you.”
The demon fixed her in his gaze. “You are free to go, Raom, but my Enukai assassins are ever vigilant. Should you stray from the course I have set for you, my loyal inquisitor, Atrocitous, will spread you wide and penetrate the parts of your anatomy where no masculine energy has deigned to enter.”
Raom’s face contorted in a look of puritan disgust and her mouth puckered to a wrinkled orifice. In a sour voice, she channeled, “He’s not going to dirty me! “
“Beware your thoughts, Raom. There is only one god in the material realm, and that’s me.”
“What about Xenotula?” she channeled.
“Take this sack of breathing feces with you. He’s far too stupid to be of any use to me. I cannot imagine that he would believe Mammon could be trusted.”
Tartarus shot the Empress an icy glance. “I know how anal-retentive you can be, witch. That is why I do not kill you. It would take valuable time to find a replacement as twisted as you are. As long as you retain your spunk, you may still be of service to me.”
Empress Raom glided on the floor and stood over the Baron, her eyes smoldering pools of vengeance. “You have failed in your mission, traitor. You have betrayed the Order and besmirched the Vulpeculan Council. It would be a simple act to vaporize you where you lie, but a delightfully exquisite fate awaits you.”
Xenotula fell to his side and placed his hands over his face. “I beg of you, my queen, have mercy on your loyal subject who has served you so long and so well.”
Raom raised her head and stared into space, her face smoldered with an eerie smile. “In the constellation Scorpius, there is a planet named Excraton. Its surface is an ocean of liquid methane and its core is composed of aggregated carbon allotropes. It lies three million light-years from its star. So far is it removed from solar gravitation that time is distorted in this place. One day equals ten thousand years.”
She pointed a bony finger at the baron, its rapier nail the color of sapphire and sharp as a serpent’s tooth. “I hold you responsible for the failure of our mission, Baron Xenotula. Your incompetence and dereliction of duty have brought shame and humiliation upon our Lord and King, Mammon, Supreme Commander of the counterfeit creation.
“Your reward for this transgression will be etched in a monument of bismuth, an element befitting the significance of your new station in the Vulpeculan hierarchy.
“Is not bismuth the most enduring of Mammon’s First-Density energies? Its half-life is over twenty billion years, more than the age of the universe itself.
“You will have much time to grow to understand the meaning of duty, Xenotula. Your form shall be cast into the bottomless ocean of Excraton where you will remain until every atom in your mineral body has decayed into its last alpha particle.”
With Raom’s remark, Xenotula’s bowels and bladder gave away and he lay in a puddle of his own filth. The Baron shuddered and tears dripped from his eyes. “I am a direct descendent of the Vulpeculan bloodline. Our DNA is nearly identical. It would be a great insult to our ancestors to sentence one of their own to such an abominable fate. Even obtunded by energies of First-Level awareness, I would suffer horribly. I beg thee, Empress Raom, have mercy and execute me. Death is preferable to eternity locked in mineral consciousness.”
Raom held her hand to her chin and tapped her finger on her lips. “First-Density awareness... What gives you the impression that you will be granted the mercy of First-Density awareness? You have betrayed the Order and dishonored the bloodline of the Archons. Extraordinary treason requires extraordinary punishment.
“Though your body shall be reduced to bismuth, I shall leave your mind intact. Your consciousness shall remain at the Fifth Level of awareness, but your magical powers shall be rendered inert. Perhaps an eternity of inconceivable madness can accomplish what freedom and self-indulgence could not.”
The queen raised her head and shared a sustained look with Tartarus. The demon nodded, and Raom placed her palms together in a gesture of veneration.
Her gaze returned to the Baron and her eyes shone with a black porcelain glaze. “Farewell, Xenotula. Not even I could endure the destiny you have earned.”
From the periphery of Raom’s skull, a green light pulsed in a hollow vortex. When the force reached her brow, the energy shot forth in a bolt of neon radiance.
Baron Xenotula raised his arm and screeched a blood-curdling lamentation. Emerald energies penetrated his body and, like water transformed to ice, the molecules of his body petrified.
Emperor Raom stared at the Baron, her eyes spiteful and ripe with delight. She bent slightly at the waist and addressed the shadow of Mammon. “Is there any other duty you require of me at this time, my king?”
Tartarus walked over to the statue and ran his hand over its surface. “Yeah that’s bismuth all right. I love that stuff, saves me a ton of aggravation. Now get out of here, and don’t forget to take the doorstop with you. My Enukai agents will inform you of your next assignment. I need a short vacation. Nothing’s really changed. Time is my ally and through its wonder I can accomplish the impossible. Now, beat it.”
Raom lowered her head, and then entered the cloud. Like a spike drawn to a magnet, Xenotula shot into the mist. The vapor evaporated, and they were gone.
Tartarus turned towards me and, for reasons I could not understand, he looked less formidable. He did not speak, and we stared at each other, our eyes taut with attention. “What are you looking at, cherub? Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
“Am I going to die?” I asked.
Tartarus lowered his gaze. “No, my little cherub, you’re going to live. Eternity is your birthright... and your curse. It would be foolish for me to take you now. The Astral cannot hold one who has seen the Light. Heaven is for those who adore their earthly existence. I would not want you to expose your heresy in that place. Let them enjoy their reward. They end up back here soon enough.”
A streak of blood dripped from the demon’s nose and he wiped it away with a scorched hand. “The war has not ended. We both know that. There is a temporary reprieve at the end of all wars, a moment of silence, when the victors measure the spoils and prepare their next strategy.
“You’re safe for now; divine providence protects you. But I’ll be watching you, Neumann, every step you take, every thought you make. One slip, and I’ll summon every demon, robot, and depraved entity assigned to your vibration to bring you down. I want you, Neumann. I’ve always wanted you.”
The Draco giant turned and ambled towards the exit. His wings were burnt and withered, and a large bony prominence bulged from the lumbar area of his spine. He limped in a hobbling gait, and I sensed he’d been wounded severely.
Near the center of the hall, he turned towards me. “In a journey of a hundred miles, consider the first ninety as half, Neumann. You’re halfway home. Only old age and death await you, my two favorite torments. I am vigilant, cherub. I’ll remain at your side, just outside the borders of your awareness, until the final breath sighs from your body.”
The demon’s gaze fell on me once again, and he began to weep. Long and bitter were his tears, his lamentation pitiful and devout. He reminded me of a mighty lion, its leg hopelessly ensnared in the snare of a trap.
“I feel sorry for every permanent life form trapped in your creation, Mammon, but I will never feel any sympathy for you. Your journey of one hundred miles will never be completed. It was doomed from the beginning.”
Tartarus raised his tired head and his lips curled in a defiant sneer. “There are traces of ego in your sentiment, my son. I can use that,” he said.
The king of darkness spread his tattered wings and gazed towards the ceiling. A whirling gale of dust engulfed him, and he began to contract. The floor and the furniture nearby warped and distorted like liquid plastic drawn into a tiny black hole. An ear-splitting clap filled the auditorium and he imploded upon himself.
The hall was nearly empty, and I stood alone on the platform. I walked over to my father and gazed down at his lifeless corpse. No tears came, and I knew the world was better off without him. Perhaps the mercy of true Light is greater than I could ever know and, despite my lack of faith, I uttered a silent prayer.
Like the survivor of a massacre, I ambled from the building out into the street. The lights of the city were beginning to return. Skyscrapers lit up like Christmas trees, one building at a time, and solitary street lamps blinked on the avenue. Far in the distance, sirens blared and the cries of the wounded hung in the air.
Nothing in the world had changed, and yet it would never be the same. The insanity that had torn me apart now made perfect sense. The grand illusion dissolved, leaving only traces of its former significance. Reality and fantasy inverted and, in their final statement, there was little difference between them. It no longer mattered to me what lay beyond the veil. Inside and outside were one, and the one had reduced to infinity.
Despite the demons that would torment me always, I’d been granted a second chance; probably the finest gift a mortal can receive. I pulled the cell phone from my pocket and called Heidi.
Copyright © 2014 by John W. Steele