Summer Solstice 2003
ND REMEMBER THAT A closed mind is a granite obstruction in the river of human knowledge. Too much denial concerning the unexplained phenomena which surrounds our everyday world ultimately leads to the quagmire of selfless ignorance. Chapter eight is due on Monday, test next Thursday. Have an enjoyable weekend."
Professor Jon Wilkins snapped the hardcover textbook shut in his firm hands and gave a curt nod signaling dismissal. He walked back to his immaculate mahogany desk, shuffling through an oak-brown folder as the students in his psychology class milled about, making their way to the door.
He licked his lips with a slit of tongue, already consumed in the translation of the ancient script tucked within the binding. Immersed in deciphering the Egyptian letters, he heard a low cough and looked up, realizing that a pair of students were standing nervously before his table.
"Jamie and Nelson - do you need something?"
The room was nearly empty, and the two young men glanced at each other nervously.
"Your lecture was very interesting, Mr. Wilkins." Jamie pushed his thick lenses past the bridge of his nose, a gesture of habit more than one serving practicality.
"Yes, we really liked it." Nelson was a stocky youth, his cherubic face grinning like a Jack-o-Lantern, with two teeth missing -- one from the top, the other the lower set.
Jon replied with a quick half-grin at their remarks, one which disappeared just as quickly.
"Thank you, gentlemen. I must say, you both are having a stellar term. Maintain your current standings, and the Dean's list should be a shoe-in."
"Thanks." They replied in unison, bowing their heads.
"Actually," said Jamie, "we're interested in today's material. It's so fascinating --the possibility of other worlds, psychic abilities. We've done a lot of reading in that field. Sort of a hobby."
"Oh, I wasn't aware -- glad to hear it, though. You know, it is one of my specialties. There are so many great mysteries to life's questions, and I do research to unravel what I can."
"We were wondering if we could discuss some of this with you outside of class." Nelson looked hopeful.
The professor sat, musing over the question as an idea formed in his mind.
"Sorry, maybe we shouldn't impose on your time. I'm sure you have a full schedule."
Jon held up a hand. "Not at all. I am always happy to spend extra time with students. Maybe I could assign a special project for the end of the semester. Such work accumulates favorably on your record. I usually devote my weekends to reading through old records and tomes."
"That would be great. How about tomorrow then? Our apartment is in the old Grayson building, room number five." Nelson scribbled the information while Jamie conveyed further directions.
"Ah, yes, know where you mean. I've been there. Are they still renovating?"
Jamie nodded his head, the red, short-cropped hair pasted to his scalp. "We signed on and received a lower rent because of the work. The cheapest room was in the basement, but we don't mind. We're always studying anyway."
"Yeah, we dug up several books in the library on Mid-Eastern occult practices." Nelson chimed in.
Won't find anything of import there, my young friends. Not like what I found. Maybe your ignorance can be of benefit to my research, however.
"I'll stop by tomorrow then, for a bit. Give you an idea about my latest work. How about six?"
"Great, we'll look forward to it, Mr. Wilkins." Nelson smiled again, and Jon felt mildly irritated by the look.
"See you then; good evening."
They walked away, Jamie dropping one of his texts on the floor. He turned around apologetically, but the professor fixed his gaze on his papers.
What a perfect pair of clumsy youths for an experiment. And in the Grayson Building, where no one will disturb us. Excellent.
He looked up as they closed the door behind them.
THE PARCHMENT WAS DISCOLORED, a stale, yellowish hue bordered by splotches of crimson. Jon smoothed the edges, wondering if the stains were from human blood. He sat in a tan swivel chair within the study of his modest campus home, probing the substance of his latest collected scroll.
A high price had been paid for him to have such writings sitting on his desk. Jon had visited Egypt several times in the past two years, befriending a thief named Ar-thet, remunerating the man handsomely for what he procured. Jon didn't care to dwell on the methods that Ar-thet used -- the man was an opportunist and a cutthroat. The professor hungered for all information concerning the sect of Mycropth, and would stop at nothing in his ravenous thirst for knowledge.
The last remaining temple was heavily guarded by the cult members, and Jon was certain that Ar-thet had help from the inside on this one. He reached into a drawer from the roll-top and picked up a small, crystal-like gem. It was a trance stone, and he was becoming quite adept at its use.
Fingering the achromatic bauble, he smiled darkly at the thought of channeling through the two unsuspecting students. Their latent energies might prove to be capable enough for his experiment. Jon desired a contact with the entities referred to within the aged parchment.
The old spirit-beings of Mycropth.
A BRISK AUTUMN WIND ran invisible fingers through Jon's hair as he paced along the cobblestone university pathway fronting the Grayson Building. Lifting his head, he gazed at the Archway Clock atop the library, the bell thudding ominously the hour of six o'clock.
The sky was drenched in a fading champagne brilliance, the rays of the sunlight approaching dormancy, giving way once more to the shield of darkness. Carrying a briefcase in one arm, Jon felt an almost greedy anticipation of the evening's meeting. For many years, he'd delved into secrets of the mysterious sect, reaching a considerable knowledge concerning their teachings and arcane practices. He desired to incorporate Western learning and apply it to the older ways -- this night would prove to be pivotal if he could tap into the energies that lay within the concealed reservoir of the human mind and create a link to the ancient, slumbering entities.
The power was there, but it needed a catalyst, a vessel to provide direction.
Into his eager hands.
The courtyard sat silent and empty, many students attending social functions in the recreational building or returning home for the weekend. Walking beneath the eaves of the red-brick structure, he entered into a gloomy foyer, housing locked letter boxes and little else. Dust covered the tile floor, specks of concrete scattered about in separate clusters, as if piled to be swept. A red sign stood in the near hallway, atoning for the unkempt appearance until the construction was finished.
The professor shook his head in distaste, not caring for untidiness in any capacity. Two corridors branched off, and he turned into the left one, following the markers which would lead him to the basement. The passage was bleak, lacking any adornment save for the door numbers.
The walkway ended in a flight of steps and he descended, gripping the wrought-iron railing, the metal cold to his touch. Jon's black-tipped boots echoed throughout the stairwell, and an unexpected shiver chilled him.
Must be a bit tense. I need to be calm to bring them under.
Jon reached the bottom and entered a low-ceilinged hallway. The air was musty and dimly lit. As he passed, miniature dust-clouds rose behind him, swirling lazily for a few seconds before floating back down to the cement floor. Room number five was not difficult to find, being the only locked door on that level. The others were open, leading either to the heating system or additional storage areas. He rapped lightly on the postern and was greeted by the huffing face of Nelson, his face looking flushed in the light pouring forth from the room behind him.
"Good evening, Mr. Wilkins, come inside."
Without answering, the professor stepped into the tight chamber, which consisted of a three-room apartment with scant furnishings.
"Sorry, it's not much to look at." Nelson led him towards a small sofa, sided by a rectangular table. "Have a seat. Would you like some hot tea?"
"Thanks, that will be fine."
"Jamie is on an errand at the moment -- should be back shortly."
That might work to my advantage. If I can put him under trance before his friend arrives, it will be that much easier.
"Oh, not to worry. We can discuss your interests now, and be ready when he arrives."
"Good idea. I'll be right in." He answered from the adjoining chamber, which served as the kitchen.
Jon pulled out his stone, admiring the cool texture. He was a trained hypnotist, and relished the ease at which he could work his skill. The two bumbling students would scarcely tax his ability, he thought.
"Actually, you and Jamie may be able to assist me in my research. I have several ideas for your involvement."
"Really? That sounds great."
"Nelson, can you tell me what your experience is with hypnosis, and if you have any reservations?"
There was a momentary pause. "Hypnosis? I know a little about the subject, why do you ask?"
"It is part of my work. If you have no objection, I would like to make trial with either you or Jamie -- if you are willing, of course."
Nelson waddled in from the kitchen, carrying a serving tray replete with a tea pitcher, sugar, cups and saucers. The youth wielded the assortment with unsteady hands, and Jon was convinced the whole collection would crash to the floor.
Nelson managed to bring it all to rest on the table, smiling apologetically. "Almost lost it, sorry." He sat down next to the professor, wiping sweating palms on his baggy shirt.
"Not a problem." Jon poured himself a drink, sipping the warm fluid. After a few moments, he set down his cup and showed the stone to Nelson.
"See this beautiful stone? It is the tool I use, a focus point for my subjects to concentrate on. What do you think?"
He stared into Nelson's eyes, searching for any hint of resistance, finding none.
"Sure," the youth answered. "When Jamie hears that we can actually work together with you, he'll certainly be excited."
"I'm sure he will." You don't know how excited I will be, too.
"All right, my boy. I need you to relax, and lean back into that chair. That's good. Now listen to my voice, and look at the stone -- imagine you are staring into a deep, cool well, and at the bottom is a bright tunnel. You feel yourself gliding down there, leaving your body behind."
Nelson's breathing grew steady, and Jon could not disguise the confident grin that crept across his face. Nelson opened his mouth, his lips moving as he mumbled something incoherent.
"What is it, Nelson? Are you trying to say -"
"Nthl'gur yeth Kuht."
Jon felt his body go numb as Nelson spoke the words, and watched helplessly as his own hands dropped to his sides like a puppet loosened from its strings. With revulsion and horror, he recognized the dialect that Nelson had uttered, the black and vile words filled with vitriolic power, the syllables dripping from his throat like acid.
The forgotten language of ancient Mycropth.
Jon couldn't move.
He was fully conscious, his senses at normal capacity, but he was entranced, encased within a psychic bond, shackled against his will. The charm was powerful. Nelson? Where had he learned the frightful sorcery?
There was a noise as someone entered the room. Jon was unable to look in the direction, but he was sure that Jamie had returned.
"Is everything all right?"
"Yes, the spell worked perfectly. It's incredible, he just went totally limp."
Jamie stood in front of the professor, joined by Nelson, his face looking more diabolic than innocent in the drastically reversed scenario.
"Did you get it?" Nelson asked, turning to his friend.
"In the bag." He held up a large paper satchel, setting it down on the table.
"I'll light the candles." Nelson hurried out to the kitchen again, as Jamie turned his back to Jon, rummaging through his belongings. Jon's temples were throbbing, as if suffering from a splitting headache. What are they doing to me, he thought?
Nelson reappeared, holding several long, twisted, ebony candles, etched with runes on their waxy surface. Jon's vision was clear, and when Jamie dimmed the lamps, the professor noticed a lack of impairment in spite of the obscured lighting. The spell seemed to enhance his eyesight to some degree. It horrified and fascinated him.
"Get the book, will you?" Jamie walked off into the opposite chamber, returning a few seconds later carrying a large, bulky tome, the cover tattered and scarred with dark blotches, as if from fire.
Nelson leaned towards Jon.
"You see, we are further along in our research than you would have ever imagined. Much of our thanks goes to your own work -- we tagged along for the ride, to be honest."
Jon listened to the terrible truth, merely an inactive pawn to their manipulations.
"You won't remember any of this, after we're through. And the spell doesn't wear off -- isn't that shocking? We can put you under with one careful phrase. Anyway, I'm getting a bit long here. Realizing the depth of your undertaking, we broke into your place and began collecting information, even the name of your man in Egypt. It's amazing, how some people will sell out anyone for the right price."
Ar-thet, you rotten bastard.
"He sent us the good stuff, in a nutshell."
"I'm all set." Jamie rubbed his hands together, sighing deeply.
"Good," said Nelson. "Mr. Wilkins -- I feel odd calling you that now -- we've found out how to open a gateway, a door that serves as entry to a different dimension, where the old ones of Mycropth supposedly dwell. I guess we'll find out the truth soon enough. Tonight, we are going to initiate the spell that will rend the fabric of space which locks them beyond our world."
No, you must not do this!
"Jamie brought the goat blood to keep them at bay, but we are fascinated in knowing what it looks like in their dimension. This is where you come in."
Nelson could have been a graven statue, his face void of emotion.
"You'll be our eyes when we place you in the opening."
No! Jon's mind screamed in agony.
What they were attempting was heinous, using him to peer into the forbidden realm. The spirits would be angry at the lack of a human offering.
"Stand up and wait in front of that wall." Nelson gestured, and Jon followed the pointing arm without hesitation.
Jamie held the book above the flickering candles, beginning to recite phrases which eluded the professor's hearing. Jon stared blankly at the plastered wall, feeling a wave of frigid air wash across his face. Energy surged within the small room as the enchantment took hold, the very air crackling with static. Nelson came forward, pouring red fluid onto the carpet before Jon, stepping backward quickly.
The professor saw lurid shadows dancing wildly along the wall as the candle wicks fluttered in a preternatural gust of wind. Dread weighed down on his heart like an anvil of steel, threatening to rend asunder his grip on sanity. Power seeped from the wall in pulsing flashes of non-light as a vortex of atmospheric disruption formed, the air sparking and alive.
"It's working," hissed Jamie. "They come."
No greater horror could Jon have imagined than what took form before his disbelieving eyes. The wall peeled away, revealing a round hole, tinged with a greenish slime that dripped from within, the stench of brimstone and ashes blasting forth and assaulting his sense of smell. A low, terrible moan drifted out, as if from an abysmal depth, seizing his chest with dread.
Stop, you fools, before it's too late!
Drool spilled onto Jon's chin as his mouth hung open, his body reacting in fear despite the restraints of the spell.
"Look into the hole, and tell us what you see."
Nelson's words of command rang out like an verdict of condemnation, and Jon moved his head into the widening gap. It was as if he was placing his neck beneath the executioner's ax.
Hot, fetid air scalded his face, ravaging the exposed skin as he gazed into the doorway. His vision grew dark as he looked upon images that lay beyond human comprehension, eldritch terrors lurking beyond his capability to interpret and decipher into word or thought. Jon's mind went black, his body shuddering in convulsions, a physical and mental rejection against the perception of his tortured senses.
He collapsed to the floor as a massive tentacle issued forth from the gap - a pink, festered appendage steaming with an emerald vapor, grasping at the surrounding air, the end covered with clicking mandibles, greedily searching for a victim.
"Close it! Something's coming through!" Nelson shouted through the deafening noise, now rising to a feverish pitch, shrill and monotone.
A strangled gurgling echoed from the hole, and two more tentacles crawled out, writhing about like frenzied serpents.
Just beyond the opening appeared a crimson orb, a vast eye glaring with an intelligence which dwarfed the men who stared on in astonishment, feeling the aura of evil radiating outward in waves of unspeakable agony. The bulk of the creature remained hidden yet, as it probed the entrance separating dimensions, disturbed by the psychic intrusion into its lair.
Jamie's voice was pathetic and weak as he tried to recite the spell of banishment. Nelson cowered down, holding up his arms against the fearsome beast in a warding-off gesture. He backed away, heading for the doorway, while Jamie blurted out the harsh words of power. Another pair of tentacles lashed forth from the wall, the first seizing Jamie and dragging him towards the opening. The book dropped onto the floor, suddenly bursting into flames, as the second limb latched onto Nelson's waist, effortlessly lifting the hefty youth.
Their screams pierced the night as they were pulled through the portal, which was swiftly closing. The eye disappeared and the other tentacles withdrew as well, one of them briefly hovering over Jon's sprawled form but then retreating. The gap shrunk until only a thin, jagged crack in the wall remained.
Nelson's clenched fist was visible for a moment, desperately grabbing for a handhold, then vanished completely.
The room was again silent, the book of necromancy reduced to a pile of smoldering cinders.
Jon Wilkins lay unmoving on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. The smell of something burning drifted outside the chamber and along the dark passageways of the basement, the residue of arcane magicks. He lay in a state of cataleptic shock.
A half hour later, the university guard came knocking at the door of room number five. The school authorities were immediately notified, and the entire campus was shortly engaged in a massive search for the two missing youths, and any subsequent witnesses or explanations.
None were ever discovered.
It would be two long years later when Jon finally regained his senses, the madness finally put to rest, but the bodies of Jamie and Nelson remained undiscovered.
No recollection of that terrible evening would haunt his waking memories, but the professor's nightmares were so profound that he became suicidal, relying on heavy medication to wrest his mind from the brink of lunacy. Forced into an early retirement, he became a recluse, tormented by the ephemeral images lurking beyond the fringe of his awareness, shadows of abysmal suggestion, sinister and elusive.
He never challenged the old mysteries again.
© 2003 Paul Melniczek, all rights reserved
Summer Solstice 2003 Issue, Updated August 7, 2003
BLOOD ROSE is Copyright © M. W. Worthen.