In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Forty Five
BY AL BRUNO III
The man that had once been an undergraduate professor of archeology and comparative religion was one of the few that remained. The six of them huddled before the mouth of the cave, dressed in rags, surrounded by bones and filth.
Studies had brought him here, studies that led him to notice a single phrase that was perfectly repeated in two very different Gnostic texts. At first he just dismissed this as a coincidence or a quirk of translation but then he caught the phrase a third time.
Curiosity birthed an obsession; he soon forgot everything else and spent all his time searching for this one phrase. He traveled all across the world reading from rare and obscure religious volumes. He found the phrase in three other books and then he realized that a sentence from the one of those ancient texts was repeated in the original volume he had begun with.
His already complex notes became wild and confused; he found connections everywhere- in mathematical treatises, in pulp novels, even in a cookbook. He tore pages out, made mimeographs and kept everything stuffed into a bulging brown folder. He rarely spoke to anyone anymore but he always listened, hoping to catch one of those key words falling in the right order.
If he did hear them he would accost that person, demanding to know what they knew.
His family and friends tried to be patient and understanding but soon there was talk about having the undergraduate professor committed.
Before that could happen he sold everything he owned and made his way to Eastern Europe traveling by ship and train. He traveled with nothing but the clothes on his back and his folder of notes and pages. When his money ran dry he lived as a beggar and a thief. He slowly made his way further and further northeast. There was no room for doubts in his mind, no room for thoughts at all. He simply followed the trail he had discovered in those mismatched phrases and equations.
Before long he discovered that he was not the only one making his way through the Siberian forest. Some of his fellow travelers were like him, scientists and educated men; others were ordinary folk, driven by half remembered dreams.
Their journey ended at the base of a small stony outcropping, it looked like a beast with a great yawning cave for a mouth. Nothing grew nearby and the tall trees made a ring around it.
The strange pilgrims were miles from even the smallest settlements and none of them had brought even rudimentary supplies. The ones that died off helped the rest to stave off the cold and starvation for a little while longer.
By the third week of waiting the man that had once been an undergraduate professor was too frail to move, his every breath was a watery rattle. He had lost his precious notes but it didn’t matter, he knew them so well that he muttered them in his sleep.
He dying when it began, when the cave mouth began to silently widen further and further open. Shadows slid out of the cave, glittering and tracing paths along the cold stone.
Whatever those shimmering veins of blackness touched they infected and destroyed. Trees, ground and even the pilgrims themselves became silhouettes and crumbled away.
The others ran but the undergraduate professor kept his place, shouting the words and equations again and again until he felt an otherworldly consciousnesses latch hold of his mind. He had been an academic, then a pilgrim but in his last moments he acted as a midwife.
Reality itself reacted to the intrusion with an explosion that destroyed the Siberian forest for 30 miles in every direction. It was a birth cry that was heard over a continent away and left the June skies glowing for days afterward.