P E R N I C I O U S - T R A N S M U T A T I O N
Names have been changed and yet a rose is still a spade.
THE DEATH OF A STRANGER
MONDAY 14th AUGUST 2017
After spending the evening
revisiting The Book Of Enoch at the Berlin Theology Library, I spotted a black
Jaguar XJ parked outside the glass entrance. The chauffeur scowled at me from
his half open window, right when my phone hummed. A rather peculiar gentleman
in a beige three-piece suit, burgundy cheese-cutter, and thin gray beard then
awkwardly pulled open the front door just as I approached.
With a frown I paused. "Have we met?"
"Finally, now we have," he stuttered, as his brown leather satchel slipped off his shoulder while he struggled with the heavy door. He looked like the kind that gave lectures in the Humboldt University above, or perhaps he was a senior on the staff at the library about to slap me with a lifetime ban from the building for requesting too many blasphemous books from their deepest achieves. So with a clenched jaw, I set my foot at the base of closing door, and braced myself for some sort of incrimination. "Oh, thank you. Very kind. A pleasure to meet you."
"Always is," I smiled suspiciously, opening my umbrella as I walked straight out into the rainy evening. Ignoring the Jaguar as it quietly drove away, I glared across the river at the beautifully silhouetted pillars of Museum Island.
"I wasn't quite expecting the weather to ruin the famous summers here."
"In comparison to?"
"The humidity really isn't helping my job any."
"Been across the city three times today."
"In search of?"
"Why, you of course!"
I waited as the rain increased, and the fumbling gentleman struggled now with his telescopic umbrella.
"Was only after visiting your studio that your colleges suggested the library." At last his umbrella popped open right as a group of frantic students ran across the flooded street and collided with him as they scurried into the library. The clumsy old guy twisted and turned as the young adults whisked past like a swarm of hungry gutter rats. "Bless them. Where was I?"
"Yeah, where are you from exactly?"
"Forgive me. Oslo."
"Friends with John?"
"The fuck are you then?"
"Rolf Jensen," he confessed, his whole lanky torso waving from side to side in an embarrassed fashion. Despite his off-kilter mannerisms, there was something about his bitter tone of voice that betrayed his acting the fool. "I'm in the middle of clearing up some loose ends." There his voice and posture straightened up. "My employer recently passed away, which put myself in the position of taking care of his business affairs."
"Sounds like junkmail."
Mr. Jensen went quiet for a moment. "Were you a member of the crew on the Research Vessel Onbekend during January of this year?"
"Yeah... And?" My lulled defenses suddenly screamed red alert! Was this guy a lawyer about to serve a summons for what had happened on that clusterfuck of a voyage? Just when you think you've survived a sinking ship, the fucking law catches up with you and slowly drowns you in years of bullshit fucking bureaucracy! "What about it?"
"Perhaps we should find some place out of the rain."
"Yeah. Sure. Later."
Glancing around the golden lamplight, the bearded fellow slowly spoke, "My employer, Professor Halvorsen, was found dead in his office, hanging from the ceiling fan a week ago. I found him there. Apparent suicide. The police did little more than call for an ambulance and write down my personal details. It's not like in movies. No one investigates anything. Old man with no family dies by his own hand. End of story." The guy had now completely transformed from an overtly subservient buffoon to a true misanthropist dripping with disgust.
"Yet his story has led you to me of all people."
"There were certain charts that had been sent to the professor. Charts sent by Captain Grant. Charts that were in your possession while on board the Onbekend. It was these charts that led my employer into a proverbial world of shit."
This inexplicable interconnection of isolated entities drew my thoughts back three months to Mayday. After indulging in the usual soft-riot-porn festivities accompanying that excuse for a party on the Kreuzberg streets, I'd done the shithouse-shuffle and left a flat of friends without saying goodbye. Commi-star's intoxicated attempt at tempting me into her pants had failed after the drugs had kicked in and reduced her to just another drunken asshole. I've done my time screwing sloppy bitches that can't handle their piss. Why bother with her if she won't even remember the humiliation that she'll subject herself to. So I walked away. The Ubahn station at Kottbusser Tor was shutdown due to the mobs, thus leading me across Kottbuser bridge that was covered in Antifa, hippies, and cops. There I decided to pay a visit to that Slovakian establishment that I'd become familiar with since my trip to Romania in April. The place reminded me of my early twenties, when my business partner, AJ, and I became friends with one of the biggest drug dealers in the city. He was like a real-life Johnny Depp character with long black hair. When he wasn't selling amphetamines, he was managing a band in his huge basement den under an inner-city arcade. AJ was a few years older than I was at the time, and I was always curious about meeting those strange individuals that he often introduced me to. It was down in the seedy underbelly of organized crime that I first learned that these people were just regular guys. They weren't all murderers and child molesters, they were bankers, accountants, and average Joes. As I walked through that empty Slovakian restaurant, I missed my old friend. I was now much older than AJ had been back then, yet I still appreciated how he'd taught me to view the world from both sides of the law. Out the back of the restaurant, I smiled, shook hands with a two seven-foot-tall doormen laughing at something on their phones. I continued through a courtyard into a small warehouse that led to another apartment building. Glancing around, I remembered when my band had once being invited to play at the birthday of pot-dealer above the Showgirl's strip-bar. He used to live across the corridor from me when I was twenty-five, and apparently he liked listening in when my two-piece band, Battery-Pig, would jam for hours. I still missed beating the drums, and my band mate, Chris. The birthday gig was small, but the pot-dealer was alright in my books. At the time I didn't understand why these kind of people trusted me. I didn't buy their product, so why wouldn't they assume that I'm a nark? One evening, after I finished drawing a mural on the wall of Johnny's den, he offered me a fistful of dollars. When I asked why? He said that most everybody that hung around his place were trying to mooch for free drugs, so he felt like he owed me something. In a moment of heartfelt confession, he genuinely seemed to welcome someone who chose to socialize with him simply because I liked the company. I took the cash however. Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to that crew of assorted addicts that would all get high for five days straight in that candle-lit den. Of course dealers weren't always so generous. AJ once told me about a weekend when he and his environmental engineer buddies took a road-trip south. They were looking to score, so met up with a recommended dealer at his farm in the middle of nowhere. The thing was, this guy wasn't just a dealer, he and his brothers actually made the meth in their barn. AJ said that it was all fun and games until they stepped inside the barn and found it draped in huge Nazi flags with dozens of loaded rifles leaning against the chemistry equipment. AJ suddenly realized that these were the real-deal pink-eyed hillbillies that would literally lynch your ass if you even blushed the wrong shade of lily-white. He said that there's something unnerving about knowing that gunshots in the countryside go unanswered, and that your body wouldn't even need to be buried on such an massive estate of rolling hills. As I walked into a smoky room at the top of the stairs, I spotted Mr. Bismarck on his phone next to a table of kebab-munching Slovakian mobsters. He was as serious as always, and slowly shrugged, before tucking away his phone, and shaking my hand. I was rather impressed how courteous he seemed. Some folk are like that, you have fisticuffs, and then they get over it and get on with their lives, no hard feelings. I however, never forget those who step on my toes. Mr. Bismarck was in a jovial mood, or at least as upbeat as an old silver-back gorilla could appear, despite decades of stress-fractures across his face. He invited me further into that sketchy abode, and my audacity demanded I go along. This was the guy whose goons had abducted and given me a taste of Eastern European torture techniques, yet now I was welcomed into the threshold. As I drifted through the murky rooms blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival, Born On The Bayou, I revised my list of known causality-events that had led me right here now:
-If I hadn't received the note from Osip mentioning Romania, I would never have taken Mr. Bismarck's suggestion and gone and found the scrying mirror, thus creating this rapport with the gangster.
-And yet, I'd never have met Osip on the RV Onbekend if Chloe hadn't insisted I join the voyage.
-Back it up further, I would've never have given a shit about Osip if the Iranian woman hadn't spoken of the man from Moldova.
-I would have never have met Chloe if she hadn't been friends with Portman, back at the hotel Adlon Kempinski.
-And Chloe would have never met me if she hadn't read about what I'd done at Loch Ness in 2013.
-However, Mr. Bismarck had come along a year prior. He seemed disconnected to all the occult happenings I was involved in, but given a long enough time-line, we're all part of something bigger than we can quite understand at one point in our history. What I know for sure is, The Old Grahams house at Loch Ness had affected some part of my unconscious that had, until then, been quietly brooding within my Jungian shadow. Maybe the Iranian woman was right, and I should have committed suicide upon my return to the loch in 2014. But then again, who the fuck was she?! Apart from Mara, no one else on Earth knew about my plans at the loch. Why the fuck had the Iranian woman been expecting me? Unless, I myself wasn't important. Perhaps she was merely anticipating someone to be there, and I just happened to come along. But how would she know that someone was planning on killing themselves? I was always left with more and more unanswered questions about strange people and ungodly phenomenon. The Old Grahams house was the key, I was sure of it. Though, I believed that based on nothing more than a gut feeling that it was still calling me. In hindsight, it was no wonder that I had been suicidal while locked in my flat and working on Bark for all of 2014. The visions I kept seeing after first visiting The Old Grahams had been like a unconscious riptide constantly pulling me west. Once Mara had the police lock me up in the psychiatric ward, I knew that I would say whatever it took to fool them so that I could return to the loch. Nothing would stop me. The call from The Old Grahams was unbearable. I had no choice but to face that fucking place again. It had been as if I was free-falling and, by December 2014, I'd reached terminal velocity. No reasoning or parachute could stop the impact I was about to make with the surface of the loch. And yet, I survived. And the Iranian woman had been furious. But still, even now, I could hear that place calling me. The feeling though had totally changed after the second visit. Perhaps everything up to my return had been a test. An initiation. Since then, the visions have been more in focus. The loch has been reveal more elaborate things. Like when I'd been drawn to that little white house in the woods in 2016, where I'd seen the skin of the universe peel wide open. I didn't and still don't get what the point of any of it is, but that's beside the point. I'm merely meant to relay what I've seen. The message from The Old Grahams isn't meant for me. I'm just the fucking messenger. I'm not the protagonist of this story. I'm not important and never was. Mine is but the role of influencing something greater than the sum of all my parts. It's about the sum of all my art.
There were dozens of girls scattered about that elaborate Slovakian safe-house, and each time I came here, I kept a look out for that special little hooker who'd given me a killer blowjob, back when I first met Mr. Bismarck. But alas, I never saw her again. Perhaps she'd been put out to pasture. She would be in her early twenties by now, which was fucking ancient in that line of business. Yet I still dreamed about sodomizing her skinny ass, just for old time's sake. I took a seat in the kitchen next to a seventy-year-old grandpa wearing a fedora and without a single tooth in his shrunken head. He was laughing at the antics of all young guys that filled the place. I still couldn't discern the difference between Slovakian, Russian, or Romanian. Their voices sounded like fucking Serbian, which made me sneer in disgust at the thought of an old ex. She had recently said that she would soon be returning to Belgrade to see her parents. I suggested we hang out, but she insisted that she wouldn't have any time. Bitch, it's only been twelve-fucking-years! You can't find an hour to catch-up after twelve-fucking-years?! Are you fucking kidding me, you unreliable sack of chickenshit! I then joined the old timer and laughed to myself. The funny thing was, this year she had taken up a profession that suited her sniveling fucking attitude. She'd always been too lazy to put any effort into anything, so like all pretty sluts, she had at last gotten into the pleasure-industry. Working as an exotic masseuse in a classy hotel, she now called herself, Misty. I reckon I'd finally found a reason to return to the motherland. Oh, sweet Jesus, yes! Return flight: $1500. Happy-ending: $150. That look of utter contempt upon Misty's miserable fucking face as she reluctantly jerks me off: FUCKING PRICELESS!
A group of guys in Puma tracksuits then filled the kitchen. I immediately recognized the ringleader as that big fucker who'd been sent back to finish me off in 2012. He still walked with a limp after I'd stabbed him in the back of his knee, and he obviously remembered who the fuck I was. As I sat surrounded by angry young men, the old guy continued laughing at everyone. Looks like I was about witness a wee bit of actual fucking violence this Mayday, but unfortunately it seemed like I was going to become the butt of the joke. That was until Mr. Bismarck walked in the kitchen holding a girl with oriental eyes who perfectly reminded me of Misty. He'd read my motherfucking mind! Mr. Limpy however, slammed his hands down on the tabletop that my elbow was resting upon. The old chap went silent. Yeah, this was definitely why they'd welcomed me in so happily. I was about to get my fucking comeuppance. All I had on my side was my knife sheathed at the back of my belt. I'd crippled this cunt once, if I was going down, then at least I'd make sure he'd limp with both legs after today. But to my surprise, Mr. Bismarck swung the hooker into Mr. Limpy's face, and then shoved him back. The grandpa burst into nonsensical laughter again, though I frowned. I'd wanted that fucking meat for myself! No one looked happy about the situation, other than the dementia-suffering old timer. After a few moments of guttural words, the whole gang obeyed their boss, and shuffling off while pawing at the bony female. Mr. Bismarck then lit a cigarette, saying, "Does trouble just naturally follow you, or do you actually go looking for it?"
Two hours later, Mr. Jensen and I left a nearby restaurant in Hackescher Markt. He hailed a taxi to the airport. I however, tucked the small package that Mr. Jensen had given me, under my arm, before taking a walk through the chilled streets. It wasn't raining anymore but the city lights glistened richly upon the drenched asphalt and concrete. My phone hummed again. It had vibrated several times at the restaurant. I had been ignoring Gabi's messages until now. To my skeptically crooked eyebrow, she said that she had spontaneously decided to drive up to Berlin tonight so that she could model for my new artwork. Her last message was a series of broken-heart emojis due to my lack of responce. I was halfway through typing, "Wo bist du?" when that same black Jaguar XJ slowly drove by and pulled up to the curb. The military-like chauffeur stepped out and opened the back door for me. Tucking my phone away, I looked eye to eye with the driver, before glancing inside and recognizing the old man with the Thule Society pin on his lapel.
The Jaguar glided back into traffic, as the guy on my left examined several printouts while writing a few notes with a golden fountain pen. I knew better than to bother with small talk. Etiquette here demanded polite silence. I hadn't seen this chap since December, when he and some muscle had showed up to excuse me from the interrogations of ISB Special Agent Aviv. After his intervention, I'd dubiously dubbed these guys the Intrepid Supremacy. IS. Not to be confused with the Islamic State, though according to Horseshoe Theory, adherence to stringent dogma was par for the course. I hadn't seen any of these grim-faced high-ranking Heads Of State in several months, and I'd begun wondering if they'd decided to distance themselves from an immoral pig such as myself.
A year ago, directly after I'd returned from my holiday to Japan, I had been at an elegant exhibitions of some blasé bleached installations where almost everything was painted in various shades of ivory, pearl, and so much milky whiteness that I didn't actually consider those wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night as even the slightest bit douchy. Seriously, my fucking eyeballs burned from all that naked neon and barely touched canvas.
"Hey, Bruce, say something fucking crazy!" a fat fuck that I hardly considered a friend yelled out in the crowded gallery.
"I'd fucking love to, but I'm a piece of shit at stand-up. Never could remember a limerick on cue to save my fucking life. Besides, just wanted to say Au Revoir, you sexy thing. Y'all have a fantastic fucking night."
"No! Come on! Stay! The party's just getting good. Later we're all going down to Kit Kat."
"Fuck, no thanks."
"Come on, man! Don't be a pussy!"
"4am's my Cinderella hour."
"Whatever! This guy's the sickest fuck I've ever met! The twisted shit that comes out of his mouth, it's fucking hilarious!"
"Yeah, well. There's only so much drunken shenanigans a sober man can tolerate before I just want to take advantage and rape you assholes with a broom handle en masse. Motherfuckers like you need to learn to handle your fucking liquor."
"Then join in for once, you fucking killjoy!"
"That's my name. But hey, Bob, let's catch up soon. Eat Mexican, and spend a romantic evening holding hands tightly while taking turns draining out flaming bowels into the horrified gaping jaws of your porcelain vagina of a toilet, okay."
"Sounds amazing," cringed another American friend, as I shook his hand goodbye. "Might take a rain-check,"
"Yeah, there's that toxic-masculinity I was just talking about," yapped a bloated female, with comical bull-dyke features. "Take that shit and walk the fuck right out of here, bro!"
"Oh, sister, you don't know what toxic-masculinity is until you've smelt my gym shorts after I've forgotten to wash them for a couple of weeks."
"Jesus fucking Christ!" she sneered. "You're a fucking tool!"
With half a smile I glanced across the circle of perspiring socialites, and took note of how those that I actually knew lowered their gaze from that dominant tone of voice coming from the butch bitch in torn jeans.
"You're excused," she added, dismissing me with a limp hand gesture. "Fucking dweeb."
"But do you forgive me?!" I snarled at this throw-down. "Please father! Fucking forgive me!"
"Ain't your fucking daddy, loser!"
"Yet with balls as big as yours, I'm really rather curious exactly how far along on your transition you are? Share with group how close you are to becoming... Well, I'm not sure. Were you a fuck-ugly dude stuffing your piglet-sized dick into an abortion of femininity? Or were you some troglodyte slag making an abysmal attempt at becoming the very toxic-fucking-masculinity you're railing against like a good-time, old-school motherfucking hypocrite?! Hmm, which is? Please put me in my place and correct my outrageous fucking ignorance!"
"Go fucking educate yourself!"
"Oh, shit! She said it!"
"You're a fucking disgraceful human being! Learn a fucking thing or two about such topics before trying to talk about the serious intersectionality subjects with the fucking adults!"
"Well, fuck. Now that we're on the subject. Correct me if I'm fucking wrong, but if a prepubescent child is allowed to take hormone-blockers because the supreme court deems him capable of deciding for himself what's best for his mental and physical health, then, for all intents and purposes, haven't they literally lowered the fucking age of consent?! Therefore if an adult fucks a kid, it shouldn't be called child-abuse if they were fucking asking it! 'Cause a whining fucking crybaby getting every-fucking-thing that it demands all the fucking time really is the best fucking way of educating the youth of tomorrow. Isn't it?! Educate the youth of tomorrow to feed their fucking egos with unrestrained narcissism!"
"What the fuck are you ranting about, for fuck's sake?!"
"Lower the fucking age of consent!"
"What the fuck?!"
"No, don't lower it, abolish the fucking age of consent!"
"Someone remove this fucking pervert!"
"Someone remove me? Who's going to do that in your Utopian world free of toxic-masculinity?"
"We'll all fucking drag you out of here!"
"In an act of the very toxicity that you're supposedly shitting on?! Smell that irony in the fucking air. Looks like you're all a bunch of fascist! But really, I can't blame you. Why put up with this kind of obnoxious attitude while you're trying to circle-jerk each other off over this bullshit excuse for fucking modern art. I get it, I do. You're looking for innocence and peace, love, and happiness. I get it. These are admirable aspects of civilization worth aspiring to. But isn't that exactly what Hitler was trying to do too?"
"You fucking asshole, get the fuck out of here!"
"Hear me out. Open your opinion-corridor just a little bit wider. Eugenics is are real possibility if you want to cleanse the human species of fucking assholes like me."
"You're talking out your ass, alright!"
"Haven't we been successful at breeding cats, dogs, and diary cows?"
"Those are animals!"
"And what precisely are we?"
"It's not the same!"
"Biologically speaking, eugenics is absolutely a fucking reality!"
"No, you dumbfuck, it isn't!"
"Say it with me: kill all the assholes. Start at birth. Abortion is pro-choice. Pro-choice equals eugenics."
"Regardless of whether or not it's possible," another girl yelled. "It's ethically fucking wrong on so many levels!"
"Ethics, the refuge of the unquestioning whores of the status quo!" I snapped "Fuck your short-sighted fucking ethics if you're an advocate for the genital mutilation of fucking children!"
"You can't be serious! You're fucking insane!"
"You know, 1% of the population are psychopaths. That's more than three times the fucking number of those suffering from gender-dysphoria. Yet you deem a psycho as sickfuck. But if a child wants to cut his own dick off and dress up in his mommy's panties, you put him on the cover of the New York Times and call him brave for following a fucking trend! I fucking trend! And you have the fucking balls to call me toxic! Fuck your inconsistent fucking priorities!"
"Listen to you, marginalizing minorities with your trans-phobia! You're a complete fucking bigot! This is the most hateful shit I've heard all year!"
"As the minority within this minority of people at this party, I find that your power and privilege, from being the current majority, is attempting to oppress me. Thus you're all fascists right here and now! And I've become the Jew who feels like a Palestinian fighting against the man, while I watch the sweat on your moist foreheads overwhelm the very stench from my unwashed gym shorts!"
"Ew, you said moist!"
"Does the word 'moist' make you uncomfortable? Does it reminds you of female genitalia?"
"Genitalia? Fuck off!"
"I've never met a moist vagina in my life. They remind me more of my armpits after I've been on the treadmill for an hour: gushing uncontrollably!"
"You're fucking revolting!"
"I finally agree with you. Gushing vaginas are fucking revolting! Ass, the better vagina!"
"Back the fuck off! This is going way too far!"
"How could anyone know how far is far enough unless you go too fucking far?! There's no taboos in a conversation if you're all fucking adults! So engage in the dialog like a fucking grown up! Man-up, motherfuckers! Grow the very fucking sexual organs that you're condemning! Stop playing dressing-up like a fucking child! Make-believe time is over! Quit hiding behind your fucking psychological demons! Free yourself from juvenile inhibitions! And then, just then, maybe you can finally fucking proselytize me! But no, you would rather get shitfaced on alcohol like fucking cowards too terrified to deal with the world as it actually fucking is! Fuck your puritan wannabe, moral-superiority complex!"
Laughter then snorted out from that group of sour-faced bitches and silent guys, as two securities guards stepped up behind me.
I had no problem with the security, I was already on my way out of that fucking place, however, instead of guiding me toward the exit, they lead me to an inner courtyard. One of the two security guards gestured toward the tall stranger in a black suit. There I met the first of the Intrepid Supremacy, someone I have since allocated the title of, Mr. Juggernaut. He was smoking a cigarette while staring at the distant end of the darkened space. The sky was already turning indigo as I scanned the colosseum-like environment. The guy was about sixty, with smooth silver hair, and fucking excellent leather shoes. Once I began to approach, he slowly glanced sideways with Jack Nicholson eyes and said, "When are you planning to focus your trouble-making skills into a greater cause?"
The Jaguar pulled over in some quiet city street where a black SUV joined us. The guy reading the papers took one last drawn out moment on whatever the fuck he was preoccupied with, before reaching into a briefcase and handing me a slim plastic case. The chauffeur opened the door, and I left without a single word having been exchanged.
Watching the Jaguar cruise away, I saw the back door of the SUV open. Climbing in, I found Mr. Juggernaut himself sitting in the back. He nodded at the two packages in my hand. "Keep up the good work."
"Danke," I frowned, and then Mr. Juggernaut stepped out. The driver would take me anywhere I wanted, but he didn't wait for directions. Glancing around the streets, I considered which parcel on my lap I should open first, and then my phone hummed again. I saw that I hadn't actually sent the message that I had been typing when the Jaguar had picked me up. Erasing it, I simply wrote to Gabi, "Come over."
A LIGHTHOUSE FULL OF
TUESDAY 15th AUGUST 2017
The following evening,
I unwound a chain before opened the wooden gate leading off from a remote
country road to an inhospitable vista of storm clouds and blackened seas.
While waiting from the rental car as it slowly entered that desolate private
road, I scanned the horizon through the trees. The Netherlands was way to
my left, Denmark somewhere to my distant right, a big unknown lay on the north-east
of coast Germany straight ahead. The rain began before I finished chaining
the gate shut.
Gabi's usually excited expression was now nervous with darting eyes as she carefully drove down that lumpy road. There wasn't any sign of shelter for a long stretch, and the North Sea grew reluctantly closer as a torrential wind belted the car. We were led along the vacant coast to the left and into a realm of leafless trees. The road almost disappeared before us as the long grass overwhelmed the path, but Gabi navigated the wilderness with capable skill, and as we reached the summit of a slight hill, a lighthouse presented itself, silhouetted against thunderous squalls. A two-story cottage sat at the base of a twice-as-tall tower. No light came from the seemingly obsolete structure. As the car approached, the headlights revealed a rather quaint eighteenth century building. A gray-tiled, A-framed roof hung over blue shutters and white stone walls, with moss clinging to the gutters.
"This is where we're staying?" Gabi whispered, as she left the engine running.
Scanning the humble location, I thought that the place should have looked adorable, but with the encroaching storm looming beyond, and the lack of any signs of life from within the building, the whole isolated area had a desperate sadness that lingered in the crippled trees.
"Bruce?" Gabi whispered again, barely audible over the gales. "Bruce?!"
"No," I replied, not even looking at the well tanned girl behind the wheel.
"We're not staying here."
"Where are you going then?!" Gabi called out. "Did we take the wrong exit? What does Google Maps say?"
Slamming my passenger's side door shut, I pulled my hood up and closed my jacket. The rain spewed forth in random splutters, while the bigger trees to my left roared like the pines above my childhood bedroom during similar weather. Walking up the rise from the car to lighthouse, I soon saw the sea churned thickly behind the tower. The land looked as though it was right at sea-level as it smeared itself out into the waters which stretched all the way to the murky horizon. If the high-tide took only the smallest of liberties, the sea could easily wash this human habitat clean off the shore. But who was I kidding, they built these lighthouses harder than motherfucking nails. I've seen footage of tower in the middle of the fucking ocean getting a filthy fucking beating from hooligan waves, and not even stutter. The architects, engineers, and construction workers that erected such feats were the champions of civilization. Hazardous locations overcome by hard work in order to prevent others from suffering. Still, it was a shit fucking job. It was no wonder that the fucking place looked haunted. I was half expecting to walk around the tower and find a body hanging from a noose.
After circling the lighthouse, I went up to the front door and found it open. I swear, I nearly broke my back as I clenched my whole body at the face inside!
"Are you okay?" Gabi smiled, as she held open the door for me, while tilting her head as my scowl. "You need to relax. I'm a nice country girl."
"So you keep saying," I said, nodding pessimistically. "Do a lot of innocent breaking and entering?"
"You haven't even kissed me yet."
"I'm still paranoid your sister's spying on us."
"God, you're so obsessed with her."
"Says the girl who's been stalking me for three years."
"Yeah, but innocently."
"That's what I told the cops last time."
"You've been stalked before?"
"What can I say, girls love me."
"And then you bring them out to abandoned lighthouses so you can dispose of their bodies?"
"Just the heads. The bodies, I make sweet, sweet love to, down by the fires – of Satan!"
"I've stayed is places like this before. I'll get the furnace going."
"We're not staying."
"Why come all this way, just to leave?"
"No one's here?"
"Who were you expecting, Elvis?"
"He left the building long ago."
"Well, I need a hot drink before we go, so be a dear, and find the lights would you."
"Hey," I said, watching the slender girl in wet weather gear open another door into the main room. She turned with a curious smirk. Raising my outstretched arm, I pointed directly at her big bold eyelashes. "Don't get any fucking ideas. I hardly even know you. We're not fucking! So get that out of your head. Okay!"
Gabi bit her bottom lip as she grinned wider, turning away toward the darkness like she owned the place.
Glancing around the open plan, there was a kitchen to the left of the front door. The blackened lounge was packed full of furniture and a spiral-staircase. To the right of the front door was a short corridor leading to the tower. I heard Gabi disappear into what I guessed was a bathroom behind the staircase. The nearest light-switch gave me nothing. Using my phone as a torch, I tiptoed through the kitchen looking for a fuse-box.
"Look for a generator," Gabi called out. "Maybe at the bottom of the tower."
Opening the door into the small connecting corridor, my eyes immediately welled up from the stench of something dead. There was an iron gated over the doorway into the tower straight ahead, and a large cupboard built into the wall on my left. The gate was bolted, so I was about to open the tall cupboard when a bronze light flickered alive from the kitchen.
"Found it!" Gabi exclaimed. "Whoa. Bruce... Who really lives here?"
The twenty-four-year-old girl was standing next to the head of a life-size stone statue of a bull. Carved out of rough stone, it reminded me of a Rodin sculpture. Gabi then grabbed both horns and leaned forward. I focused on her ass in those tight jeans.
"Seriously, come on," she insisted. "Who's place is this?"
"The captain of a ship."
"And where is here?"
"He knew we were coming, right?"
"Do you always invite yourself to your friend's place?"
"He's not my friend."
"Why are we here then?"
"'Cause apparently he's gone missing."
Gabi looked suddenly disturbed, and I was about to walk away and search the rest of the place when she spoke up, "My best friend's missing too."
Blinking back and forth from the spiral staircase and Gabi's downcast eyes, I reluctantly asked, "Since when?"
Again, I blinked away, wanting to finish what I'd come here for, but Gabi's forlorn posture was begging for elaboration. "Are you sure she's not just avoiding you?"
"I hate Frankfurt," she said, still staring at the floor. "It's full of fucking assholes."
I was about to make a joke, but waited.
"She hated Mainz so moved to the city as soon as she started dating this rich business guy. You wouldn't believe how full of shit that guy was. But really typical for Frankfurt. That's why I love Berlin so much. Never deal with those money-obsessed creeps. So much fun and love in Berlin. People like you."
My merely eyes gazed dryly out the window toward the sea.
"He took cocaine all the time. I mean, a lot. And Lena never said no to anything. When she was sixteen she told me about her first threesome with her guy's cousin. Said she loved it. Loved being wanted. When she was nineteen he dumped her."
I could picture this kid's smeared mascara and sweaty hair as she suddenly found herself living on the streets.
"I'm not trying to sound horrible, but this whole mass immigration that's in the news has been going on for a lot longer than people realize."
I wasn't expecting this twist in the story, and looked back at Gabi's hesitation in even talking about the matter.
"She was picked up by a gang of Eritrean drug dealers. The last time I saw her, she was..."
Gabi didn't need to spell it out.
"The police came to my home one day. The dealers had sold her to some Tunisian traffickers. But no mater what I said, the police wouldn't do anything. She was just gone. Impossible to locate. They were powerless." The resentment in Gabi's voice was subtle but unmistakable. "The nightmares soon started after that. There was this one that kept repeating. It's fucking awful. I'm in a bathroom where everything's perfectly white. But when I look in the mirror there's this huge spider on my back. I mean its huge. The size of a small child. I can't move. Just stand there. Staring at it in the mirror. It slowly crawls closer to my ear and starts whispering. It's frightening head is covered completely with hundreds of tiny black eyes. Its mouth always sounds so wet when in speaks. But its my voice! I never remember what it's saying when I wake up. You know how dreams are. Seem to make sense at the time. Then once you wake up you wonder how ever thought any of it was real. And just two nights ago, I had this one dream that made me decide to come and see you."
"It's not rape if it's in your dreams."
Gabi wasn't amused. "You know, globally, a girl under fifteen gets married every seven seconds. I don't know. When I was younger, when Lena was having threesomes, I used to think that I was normal, and that she was the weird one. But I was wrong. I'm the freak! Almost everyone I know now was fucking before they were even teens! And girls are sold into sexual slavery right here in Germany! This isn't a third world! This is the shining light of a civilized success story. Yet little kids, little boys and girls are sold for sex! Kids, like seven-years-old are being raped on a daily basis right here in this country! And the police just accept it!"
I heard her outrage, and I saw her visceral expression.
"It's just not fair! It's not fair! I don't want to feel this way. But I can't help it. I see the mass sexual assaults in Köln, and the police don't fucking do anything! The Mayor laughs and says keep men at arms length. They can't be serious! You're daughters are being gang-raped on the streets and you think your arms can hold off anything?! It's not right! It's not fair! It's not fucking fair!" Gabi turned away, seemingly embarrassed by her own confession. "I'm sorry. I don't mean it. It's just, I get so scared sometimes. You know how feeling are. They just get the better of you sometime. Like that dream I had the other night. I woke up terrified. For no real reason at all. I lay in bed afraid of what I'd just seen in my dream. But the crazy thing is, the dream wasn't scary! It just left this awful feeling inside my chest."
Crossing my arms, I listened.
"I was in some old apartment on the ground floor of a house of flats. Everything was dusty. No one seemed to live there. Then my leg started twitching, as two guys walked in. They knew me and walked down a corridor. That's when a light in another room burst on. And then the door slammed shut. The two guys shook their heads and ignored it. But I was horrified. I stood dead still. Then I saw in the room I was in, a light come out of nowhere. It was like the sun reflecting off water. A shimmering light that moved slowly across the wall and up over the ceiling. It was the most traumatizing thing I had ever seen. I'm serious, I thought I was going to go pass out at the sight of that blurry light. But then those two guys come back and walked out the front door. I forced myself to follow. Then stopped. I didn't know if I should shut the door behind me. I didn't know it if would offend that thing in the flat. Or maybe if I didn't shut the door it might follow me home. I yelled out but those two guys didn't hear me. And that's it. I woke up. Woke up never knowing if I shut the door or not. And it left me with the worst feeling I've ever had after a nightmare. But nothing actually happened! But I felt so fucking bad!"
"Which made you think of me?"
"Yeah," Gabi smiled shyly. "I don't think you're afraid of anything. I could feel safe around you."
"And do you?"
"Don't know, to be honest," she whispered. "I haven't actually thought about it till now. You're a good distraction."
"Yeah, I'm the human-fidget-spinner."
Gabi soon lit a fire within the old pot-belly-stove in the middle of the cluttered lounge, and I put the kettle on and made us both a cup of instant coffee in the old-fashioned kitchen. While the water boiled, I scaled the spiral-staircase and found another open-plan room with a bed at one end of the A-frame attic space. This place definitely didn't give off the stereotypical impression of being a captain's home. There was a lot of junk, but nothing so crass as anchors on the wall, paintings of wild seas, or tiny model ships in old glass bottles. Downstairs near the head of the bull, was a huge desk covered in books, books, and more books. I was seriously starting to wonder if I had actually gotten the wrong address, until I spotted a small collection of framed photos behind another pile of books. I finally recognized the sullen look in the eyes of Captain Grant in a picture of a dozen navy men. Noticing a recently delivered and opened cardboard box, I pulled the cord on the desk lamp. The box from Amazon had a selection of more books. The first was by John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky. Before I got a chance to look through the others, Gabi came up behind and slowly slid her arm around my waist, sinking her hands into my jacket as she pressed her palms against my chest.
"Come closer to the fire," she whispered, just before reaching up and kissing the back of my neck.
I was about to turn, when I realized that the Amazon box was sitting on top of a smile pile of hand-written letters that were all stuffed into their torn envelopes. Picking one up, I examined the postage stamp. It was from Oslo. Among Professor Halvorsen's correspondence, I found more familiar envelopes, with this address etched in my very own handwriting. Casually glancing out a window to my right, I saw the waves battling with the rain as my pants grew tighter. The bull made me think of Pergamon, and I wanted nothing more than to open the belly of the beast and burn Gabi alive, while I ejaculated over her roasting meat. This bitch had fucked me around for far too long, I wasn't about to merely capitulate to her wanton lust just because it was convenient for her. Besides, I had only discovered on this road-trip that she smokes. Unless she was sucking my dick, she should keep that stinking mouth the fuck away from me! Gently guiding her hand down to my erection within my restrictive pants, I whispered. "You want this, don't you."
"Yes," she gasped, her breath heavy. "Give it to me."
"Remind me," I said, tensing as Gabi squeezed. "How'd you find me after all these years."
"The photos from your birthday."
"How'd you come across them?"
"Why are you asking?"
Her deflections from my questions was her only consistency. "Have you ever done a suspension?"
"God, no. But it looked incredible. What was it like?"
"It was unique. Heard people talk about it being a nature high. So I wanted to experience it for myself."
"But you don't take drugs."
"I've always said I'd try DMT."
"Why, what's that?"
"An hallucinogenic. You're meant to have these short-term high-intensity visions. It sounds kind of like what I saw when the suspension hooks took my body-weight, and the world dropped away below my feet."
"What did you see?" Gabi murmured, as my finger tip rolled over her clit. "I want to know."
"I felt like I'd fallen off a cliff. Yet it wasn't like falling. More like the ground fell away. The world disappeared. There was nothing around. No sound. No weight. Disembodied. Everything material dropped below me, though it definitely didn't feel like I was floating. It was as if the whole world just stopped existing, and I was somehow in a vacuum. Guess you have to try it to understand."
"But what did you see?"
"Took about five minutes before I eventually opened my eyes. During which I saw a massive glacier. Huge ice sheets. Like I was in Antarctica. But there were these fucking giant standing stones. An enormous circle of towering rock surrounding me. They were so fucking big that they stretched right up through the entire glacier. Like tectonic slabs. As if an entire mountain had been cut into these skyscraper-tall pillars."
"Where? Where were they?"
"Out there. Out in the North Sea. During the last ice age, before the water-level rose. That's how I meet Captain Grant. On his ship. I had to see for myself if they did actually exist."
"Why would they be in the sea?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, how were you sure where they were? How could you tell that they weren't in some other place?"
My hand withdrew from Gabi's pants, but she held on inside mine. "I don't know. You have a fucking point. I'd just assumed it was there based on everything Chloe and Samuel had been talking about. But you're right. They could have been anywhere. If they're real that is, and not just a suspension-induced hallucination."
"Who's Chloe?" Gabi asked, removing her hand.
"Fucking hallucinations!" I snarled, shoving over a pile of books. "It's all fucking bullshit! Let's get the fuck out of here. I hate this fucking place!"
"Bruce!" Gabi quipped. "I'm not leaving until I've had a drink. Unless you feel like driving us back."
Holding my breath, I glared at the corridor leading to the tower, and then asked, "Have you seen a set of keys lying around."
"Want to check out the view from up the top."
"Over by the fuse-box. Next to the bathroom door."
I left Gabi straightening her jeans with a dejected posture, as I unlocked the gate and scaled the echoing stairs. I didn't feel like putting all my trust in the twitching lights on the way up, so used my penlight to watch my step. It was only four-stories-tall but that was sufficient to reign over the tree tops behind the building. The view out to sea was a gray emptiness. Standing on the narrow balcony that circled the dead spotlight housing, I wondered how many other assumptions I'd miscalculated. Nothing wrong with a legitimate amount of self-criticism, but there's a fine line between rational skepticism and intrusive self-doubt. Maybe Gabi was right and there wasn't any tangible link between my suspension vision and Professor Samuel's megalithic research into Doggerland. Yet it had served a purpose, setting aside my fear of open waters. However, whatever had happened to Grant clearly wasn't any of my fucking business. There are those who can see the riddle of the bigger picture and put the pieces together, and then there was me. I wasn't part of anything crucial. I was incidentally drifting in and out of other stories, like Mr. Jensen, Mr. Juggernaut, or Mr. Bismarck. They weren't my friends. They merely tolerated me because I was of some tiny utilitarian use. Of all the powerful people I've associated with in various social circles, I couldn't rely of any of them. Fucking insects. Yet here was little Gabi out of the blue. My little stalker. What the fuck was she really up to?! I was suspicious as fuck. I do the stalking! Why the fuck was she interested in me? Perhaps she really was one of those naive kids that just wanted to be friends. Ha! Yeah fucking right! She was playing a role! Her agenda had yet to be identified, but that didn't make her innocent of anything. A girl claiming she's just trying to get laid is the world's biggest red flag. Females are only as horny as long as they're manipulating you. Until the goal of Gabi's scheming was apparent, she was little more than my driver. I should just fuck her mouth. But I wouldn't allow her even the taste of any form of immediate-gratification. Patience is the best torture device ever invented.
Scanned the sea to my left, I spotted something between the trees down by the shore. The masts of a couple of small boats. Apart from that, there wasn't any other sign of civilization on the horizon. How often do I find myself standing before a beautiful vista, wasting the moment dwelling upon internal conflicts and denying the calm serenity. Or perhaps it was the peace and quiet that encouraged the reflective cognition. And then the rain started up again, harder than before, so I had to leave.
Climbing back down the trapdoor and into the staircase, I considered the effort it involve flying down to Portugal and confronting Chloe about what had been my purpose on Captain Grant's ship. But I had no idea how to find Samuel's house in the countryside. Chloe had driven me along unremarkable roads into the middle of fuck knows where. I could try e-mailing her again, but why fucking bother. She's ignored every other message I've written her since the voyage, and besides, why the fuck would she know anything about Grant's disappearance. For fuck's sake, why would I know anything either?! I'm not a fucking detective. I don't even give a shit about the guy! What the fuck was I doing out here?! Fuck this shit! It's time to fuck off!
Marching into the lounge with the lights all switched off, I found that the pot-belly-stove had really heated up the room. Then I saw Gabi riding the stone bull – naked! Fuck patience! I ripped off my jacket and yanked open my belt as I stomped toward Gabi's demonic smirk – when headlights washed across her athletic body!
Two Black Jeep Grand Cherokees pulled up next to the rental car. Four men in business suits and raincoats stepped out. Standing next to the front door, I glanced around for some kind of weapon if need be. In the stinking corridor to the tower, I spotted a shovel leaning against the cupboard. That would do. The group of staunch men slowly stopped in their tracks once I came outside and stood against the batteries of rain. For a second I wondered if these guys were responding to a silent burglar alarm. But they were dressed far too nice for lowly security guards. It seemed like they were expecting to find the place deserted. My mind started racing when I saw two of them reaching into their coats, as if they were grabbing a gun. But then someone still in one of the vehicles called out in a language I couldn't recognize. Swedish maybe? Considering my options, I figured the tower was probably the most secure place, that's if I could get inside and lock the gate behind me. However, the hesitating men slowly turned in the wind and sleet, returning to their Jeeps. And that was it. They reversed and drove back the way they'd come.
Closing the front door behind my retreat, I stood in the kitchen for a while watching the gloomy driveway surrounded by twisted trees.
"Who were they?" Gabi whispered from across the dark room.
"I don't know!" I replied harsher than I intended.
"Are we in some kind of trouble?"
"Of course not," I said with a vicious smile, as I faced the naked girl. "But it looks like you're after some."
"I love this place. Can't we stay the night here? I want to finish riding the bull with you."
"What would your sister say?"
"She isn't here, is she."
"No," I spoke with my breath upon her neck – when I saw a distant figure on the seaward-side of the house. "We're still not a alone."
Pulling on one of the Grant's fur-lined coats, and grabbing the shovel from the corridor, I saw cupboard door creak open releasing the full brunt of that horrific stench. Coiling away, I clenched my entire throat before peering inside. It wasn't a cupboard at all, but the doorway to a somewhat hidden basement. Whatever seagull had crawled down there and died would have to wait till I'd dealt with this next unknown visitor.
Walking outside, I positioned the shovel against the tower in case this new guest decided to try anything funny. I continued around the building right into the wind, where a man in hooded raincoat come up within a few meters before he actually noticed my presence.
"Who might you be?!" the grisly old man sneered, taking a few steps back. "What are you doing here?!"
"You know," I stated, struggling to keep my face up against the gales. "Working on my tan,"
"Visiting Grant. Paying him a house call."
"Grant doesn't have visitors!"
"Then what are you?"
"A neighbor checking on a disturbance!"
"Have you heard that Grant's gone missing."
The crinkle-faced neighbor sneered with a pause.
"When did you last see him?"
The rigid expression on the callous old guy didn't budge.
"Look, I was part of his crew in January. He was doing some research for me. Recently he's been in contact with a professor from Oslo. A professor who just turned up dead. And now Grant's gone missing. So have you, you know, seen, I don't know, anything?"
"The only thing I know is," the neighbor grunted. "A couple months back, he mentioned seeing strange people in the trees."
I waited, half twisting away from the wind.
"Saw him a week ago. On his fishing boat. Out in the bay. Was burning something that he dumped in the water. Was real unusual for him. Watched him walk back up here looking bent over. That man never looked tired a day in his life. Ain't seen anyone else on his property until you."
My eyes slowly crept along the treeline, ignoring the neighbor who eventually backed away. "Hey. Wait. Where's Grant's boat?"
After being led around the wide shoreline, I located those masts that I'd seen from the top of the lighthouse. Two old-school skiffs, and a snub-nose pilothouse fishing boat bobbed about in a small sheltered marina. Once we were close enough, the old guy pointed to the only vessel with a cabin. I went on alone. The neighbor's single-story house sat much further around the waterfront. Climbing on board the fishing boat, I found two things of note. A huge greasy blood stain along with several deep burn marks covered three quarters of the aft deck. And resting in a sodden corner was a discarded Bible. I suddenly felt intensely uncomfortable. The water around the pier was calm enough, but I needed to get the fuck back on solid land.
By the time I made it back to the lighthouse, the sky had become an opaque mayhem, like something Diego Velázquez would paint in his backgrounds. The light from the kitchen was all that welcomed me back. Gabi seemed to have vanished. Instinctively, I checked to make sure that the car was still there before I dragged off my drenched coat and hung it next to that basement door. The smell emanating from below was inexcusably rancid. Glancing back toward the lounge, I figured Gabi was upstairs, so I prepared my nostrils, pulled out my tiny flashlight, and went down into that stinking basement. There were only two weak light bulbs below the arched ceiling of stone, so again I was glad to have my penlight. Disassembled furniture and boxed-up crap surrounded a big work table in the center. The revolting odor was coming from shriveled chunks of meat that had been left to rot on the table top. It took a while before I realized that it was a pile of animal guts. The organs were smaller than those of humans and I guessed they were swine from the local butcher. There weren't any bones or muscles of trotters. Just guts. And then I noticed the needle and thread. The guts had all been sewed together. Leaning in a little closer, I studied how carefully the organs had been stitched to one another, making an organic sack about the size of large rubbish bag. I knew exactly what Grant had been attempting to recreate. Backing away, I hurried out of the basement. Grabbing the shovel, I jammed it against the sealed door, understanding now why I'd first found it that way. Running around to the book-covered desk, I quickly stuffed that whole pile of letters into my jacket pockets, before rushing up to the top floor. Gabi had fallen asleep on the big bed – and then I heard a noise from outside that made my spine involuntarily arch. It was coming from the sea. An inhuman scream. I'd heard it once before with Captain Grant. In the cargo hold of that sinking derelict that we had gone to investigate in the middle of the North Sea. The very thing that had slaughtered the ship's entire crew- Had it followed Grant home all the way home? Or had he called it here with that ritual in his fucking basement? I wasn't about to stick around and find out. Violently shaking Gabi into consciousness, I practically dragged her confusion down the stairs and out to the car. She wasn't happy, but I wasn't listening, insisting that she lock her door. The moment she hit the ignition, the headlights revealed something grotesque standing upon the balcony at the summit of the lighthouse tower.
"What the fuck it that?!" Gabi shrieked, grabbing my shoulder as she lurched back in her seat. "WHAT THE FUCK IS IT?!"
This oily black figure was no longer a translucent apparition like those shadowy forms I'd seen countless times before. No, this one had fully materialized. When you're at an aquarium watching sharks gracefully glide by the glass right in front of your eyes, you tend to wonder how such a thing could scare the shit straight into you childhood shorts. But once you're in the open water without the glass between you, fear replaces all rationalizations of past dismissals. I hadn't seen one of these things naked and hideous in twenty fucking years, yet the dread was as unashamedly potent as ever.
And then that infernal shriek rose again.
Gabi clung to my arm with both hands, uttering incoherent profanities.
The roar however, wasn't coming from that devil on the lighthouse, it came from beyond. From the sea.
Gabi's shrill voice was making up for everything my terrified lungs failed to express, though somehow, I managed to grab her thigh and squeeze her so fucking hard that the pain made her snap out of her delirium. Not taking my eyes off of the lighthouse, I forced myself to yell through Gabi's panic-saturated hysteria, "Please put your FUCKING hands back on the FUCKING wheel and would you please FUCKING DRIVE!"
WEDNESDAY 16th AUGUST 2017
By noon the next day,
we hired a car at the Geneva airport. The rain hung over the lake exactly
as it had done over the North Sea. Gabi drove us halfway to Lausanne, where
we came to a residence overlooking that vast body of water, and pulled up
to a tall iron gate in the center of incredibly maintained hedges. Reaching
outside, she pressed the buzzer on the gate's intercom. An old man eventually
answered in French. Gabi suddenly stared blankly in my direction.
"Ah, tell him... Tell him Professor Samuel sent us. We're here to see Mr. Grumbach."
While the message was being relayed. There was an extended silence in the chilly air. The machine-gun-like rain battered the roof of the rental, and I realized that this was the first time Gabi and I had spoken since the airport hotel in Hamburg, where she'd insisted, with all desperation, not to be left alone. We never actually talked about what we'd seen and heard at the lighthouse. However, since Mr. Jensen was funding this little mission, I saw the plus-side of her drive me around. I'm such a pragmatic son of a bitch.
Suddenly the gate clanked, before calmly retracting. At the end of a curved driveway was a large marble villa stood on the green hillside. Heavy trees framed the building that had to have been at least five-hundred-years-old.
We were soon led through the villa by an old butler. He was now speaking perfect German to Gabi who politely nodded. An even older gentleman sat in a wheelchair glaring contemptuously at our arrival. The huge drapes in that darkened room were hardly open, and only a desk lamp shone from behind the lord of the manor who leaned forward, squinting hatefully. The butler introduced his master, Mr. Grumbach, and then he left us in peace.
"Samuel never sent you," Mr. Grumbach slowly snarled. "How have you come upon this place?"
Reaching into my jacket's inner pocket, I pulled out the small parcel that Mr. Jensen had given me in Berlin. Opening it, I held up a black satellite phone and pressed the redial button. A phone on the monolithic desk behind Mr, Grumbach back ringing.
The old man didn't even blink his shriveled eyes.
Gabi nervously crossed her arms.
Mr. Grumbach began making a gargling sound deep inside his intolerant throat, before he conceded and gesturing for us to sit.
Gabi sat alone.
"Last time I was here it was all sunshine and blue skies. Friends and I drove all the way into the mountains where we ate cheese and visited the Giger museum. Seems like a long time ago. This weather reminds me more of my first trip to Zurich. Pissed on me the whole time."
"We're not animals. We don't have to suffer the whims of the seasons."
"Yeah, life's pretty sweat when you can afford air conditioning 365 days of the year."
"Dwelling on petty ordeals wastes the soul from the focus on the work. What is it you're looking for?"
"The captain of the Onbekend."
"You're him, aren't you."
"Who, the captain?"
"You really are as dim-witted Samuel described."
"Yeah, but did he mention that I can fucking tap-dance like Fred Astaire."
"You took items from Samuel. Stole them while he was incapacitated."
"As much as I'd love to live up to you're generously preconception, twas not I."
"Yet here you present the very satellite phone he reported missing."
"What do you know of Etruscan archaeology?" I asked, staring at the towering paintings on the walls depicting ancient ruins. They all looked like something Hubert Robert would have captured.
"Not my forte."
"So what is, specifically, your great work?"
The ninety-year-old in the wheelchair was bitterly mute.
"Anyway, there was this guy, a professor, lived in Oslo. Awesome guy. Never met him."
Gabi frowned at me from her seat, as I continued scanning the gold-framed paintings.
"He loved a bit of Etruscan archaeology. Totally into it. You know, went on digs, wrote papers, had a cramped office full of dusty old artifacts that no one gave a fuck about. Whatever. The guy keeps to himself. Never a man about town. Doesn't care for public life. You know the type. Happy as a pig in shit down in the basement of the university among the crumbling statues of forgotten civilizations."
Mr. Grumbach watched from across the high-ceiling chamber, his lips clamped shut while his gaunt jaw rolled from side to side.
"One day, the friendly introverted professor gets a package in the mail. A bunch of charts and a letter from an old buddy, a captain who's written a laundry list of questions about places and people that might predate historical records."
Gabi now crossed her legs too, leaning forward as she listened anxiously.
"So for the next few months your classic hand-written correspondence commences. Both asking more and more outlandish questions. Each demanding to know what the fuck it all meant. Both pen-pals getting more and more absorbed by what the other was suggesting. A healthy bouncing of ideas began to flow as their theories ran wild. And then shit gets weird. Like with any conspiracy theory, you can't escape the build-up of over-sensitive paranoia. The captain starts believing that he's being followed. Easily ignored. But then even the professor begins noticing unmarked vans and hearing footsteps late at night." I paused as I found a large bronze statue of Atlas in a shadowed corner of the room. You have to admire how sculptors perfectly embody the strain in the muscles fighting against the weight of the entire fucking world. "And then one morning the professor's assistant finds him dead. Suicide they said. Shit happens."
"So what did happen to the captain?" Gabi spoke on behalf of the old man. "Where did the phone come from?"
"I might have mentioned to the captain that perhaps he'd find some answers to what had happened on the Onbekend in Samuel's documents. I didn't tell him steal them though. But you know how it is, answers only beg ten more questions. Soon the captain goes missing, around the same time as the professor turns up dead. The professor's assistant then starts looking for other answers, leading to me. And being the good Samaritan that I'm famous for being, next thing I'm in Switzerland wondering why you give a shit about surveying the floor of the North Sea?"
"Who do you think was financing Samuel on board."
"So why was I out there too?"
"You weren't supposed to be!"
"Yeah, Chloe was on the roll-call. So what the fuck was she thinking? Samuel made it clear that he never wanted me there. Why'd she insist I take her place?"
"I recommend asking her that yourself."
"Love to, except there seems to be this nasty trend of people being eighty-sixed."
"How did you find my home?" Mr. Grumbach hissed.
"The dead professor's assistant, he'd been given the task of tracing the last calls on the satellite phone. He found a the stack of letters from Captain Grant which apparently spoke of my involvement on the Onbekend."
"And you trust this man?"
"Could Samual trust you? How much can anyone trust the guy paying the bills?"
"I think it's time for you to leave."
"When was the last time you actually spoke to Samuel?"
"See, I think, maybe I've got something to worry about too. If Samuel's also been ghosted, then all this paranoia's turning out to be infectious as fuck."
The butler then appeared at the grand double doors, and I understood absolutely that this conversation was over.
"What have you gotten yourself into?" Gabi whispered, as we ran to the car beneath the pelting rain. "Who was that old creep? What the hell, man? Seriously, where's this leading? Do the police even know about any of this?"
"Police, that's cute."
"Hey, seriously. Come on!"
"Relax," I smirked without any emotion. "I need a fucking coffee. That's all that really matters right now. Coffee first. Paralyzing panic-attacks later."
The rental had hardly made it out of the driveway before I spotted a black Mercedes sedan start to follow us. We were heading back to Geneva by the most direct route that the navigation recommended, so I thought that maybe these guys behind us were also on their way to town. I asked Gabi to take the next left. Perplexed, she did so. The sedan followed. Taking the next left again, Gabi asked if we were going back to the villa. The sedan was still following. I suddenly wished Mara was behind the wheel. She could out-drive a Formula One stalker. Gabi however, didn't seem up to the challenge, so I apologized and pretended to find my keys in my other pocket. We got back en route for Geneva, and the sedan remained at a fifty-meter distance.
A month ago, I was on my way to have breakfast with Mr. Bismarck, but just before I reached the little Russian cafe, a black Audi SUV pulled up along side the footpath. The old chap welcomed me into the backseat, while he spoke in Romanian on his phone. We then drove across town.
"Change of plan. Something's come up. So coffee at friend's place," he said while holding the phone aside. No matter how intense the seeming subject of the call became, he never once raised his voice.
In the middle of the city the SUV went down a ramp into an underground parking lot. There we changed vehicles. The driver, Mr. Bismarck, and I climbed into a black Audi A7, and then we headed out west. The phone conversation went on for the entire drive, leaving me to figure for myself that we had swapped transportation either for security reasons, in case the SUV was being tailed, or perhaps this car was more appropriate, judging from the neighborhood of luxury homes that we arrived at.
Mr. Bismarck continued negotiating on his phone as we strolled through some extremely decadent house. It took a few rooms before I realized how empty the place seemed. There was furniture but no decorative ornaments. Like a hotel but without even knock-off artwork on the walls. I was pretty sure no one actually lived in that house. It was just a place for business. While waiting in the kitchen, I watched Mr. Bismarck step out into the extended back garden while the espresso machine squeezed out its bowels.
Footsteps approached from another corridor, and I turned to face a tall guy in a navy-blue suit. His short black beard and slicked back hair, made him look like a the Turkish version of Jim Caviezel.
"Hey, how's it going?" I said, my voice echoing in the huge kitchen.
"Good morning," he replied, as we firmly shook hands. "Haven't meet you before. New in town?"
"No, I've always been around," I smiled, leaning against the bench as Mr. Caviezel opened the fridge and took out a jug of orange juice. "This your place?"
"No. Of course not. But you know about last night. Something's got to be done. Is that why you're here?" the charismatic guy asked. "What do you do?"
"Ah, you know how it is." Glancing out at Mr. Bismarck, I shrugged, crossed my arms, and replied without thinking, "Mostly just hurt people."
"I see. Well, I doubt that will be of any help today. But you're welcome to chip in if you like."
Frowning, I suddenly had to remind myself of the type of people that Mr. Bismarck associated with. The context then made me question my earlier choice of words. "So... What happened last night?"
"A real mess," Mr. Caviezel said, shaking his head as he too leaned back against a bench on the opposite side of the kitchen. He glanced to his side with a look of serious disappointment. "It's just a good thing that it was here. At least it's contained. The boys will be over soon. Actually, I thought you were them. But, of course, he's here." He glared out the window at Mr. Bismarck, and I nodded sarcastically like I knew what the fuck that meant. Mr. Caviezel was of the well spoken sort. His elegant gold wrist watch, cuff-links, and wedding ring gave the impression of a guy in charge and someone that you could easily respect.
We then heard the front door open, so I followed Mr. Caviezel as he went to greet the boys. Four young guys in black hoodies gave polite signs of acknowledgment before we all headed upstairs. At any moment I was expecting one of them to turn and demand to know who the fuck I was. But as soon as you've been affiliated with someone within a close proximity, others automatically assume that you're naturally one of them.
The bedroom was enormous and painted in vanilla. The blood from three dead girls definitely contrasted the palette of the interior design. Mr. Caviezel calmly directed the grunts, while I slowly moved further into the room. My head tilted to one side as I examined the traumatized expression of the first victim. She'd been beaten to death with some kind of blunt force. A large mushy section of her skull had been completely caved in through her blonde hair. Gaping eyes stared vaguely past mine as I knelt down with a tight grin upon my transfixed attraction. She lay on her stomach upon the floor. Her arms at her sides as if she'd been running, tripped, and fallen upon her face just before the fatal blow struck down. She was beautiful, but I wouldn't expect less given the track-record I'd seen in these circles. She had a doll-like nose with plump lips and long as fuck eyelashes. Apart from the thigh-high stockings, she and the other two girls were stark naked. The next girl was a brunette. She was slumped back on the bed. Multiple thick bruises covered her midsection. Her face was nothing more than mince meat. I leaned over her, wanting to take my time absorbing that abhorrent sight, but there was too much blood, and I paid careful attention not to touch or step in any of it. The third victim lay on her side. No blood splatter this time. Estimating from her intensely bloodshot eyes and the strained flesh about her throat, she'd be strangled. Sniffing at her sweet hair, I couldn't smell even the slightest rot. But once I placed the back my hand on her cheek, she felt like nothing but cold dead meat.
I noticed two of the slack-jawed goons were then hovering next to me. They both had a confused look as I scowled back up at their intrusion on this intimate moment. Mr. Caviezel had left he room with the other two, so I stood up and watched as these two thugs dumped the bodies on the bed.
Someone walked by another door way. Curious, I poked my head into an equally sized lounge. Three sweaty guys stood smoking cigarettes, thumbing their iPhones, and occasionally muttering angrily in some Eastern European language. Beyond them, someone else walked in yet another room. As I walked through the lounge, I glared at those I past. They all lowered their eyes ashamed, concentrating back on their phones.
In the next room, I found another king-size bed and several sleeping girls. Sleeping, yeah right. Drugged-up was a more accurate description. Only one tiny female was still conscious and marching back and forth dressed in only a man's loose white shirt. She nearly jumped out of her fucking skin when she turned my way. Her dark curly hair was like a wild bush, and her eyes were even more feral. Despite the smeared makeup and expensive jewelry, she couldn't have been more than thirteen-years-old. She suddenly made me realize that I hadn't even registered the age of the three dead girls. Backing off, I returned to the scene of the slaughter, where the two guys were now ripping up the carpet. The bodies were gone, along with all the bed sheets. Frustrated, I wanted to see them again, so hurried downstairs.
"Where are they?" I asked, as I ran into Mr. Caviezel near the front door. "Where'd you put them?"
"The garage. Why? Everything's been taken care of."
Those two dropkicks were wrapping the first body in massive lengths of clear plastic below an SUV with its hatchback open. Grabbing a rag from a bench, I crouched next to the other two bodies on the concrete, and peeled back the bloody sheets. The blonde was barely a teen. These were kids. Child prostitutes. I hadn't seen them as kids upon my first inspection. I'd literally objectified them into nothing more than beautifully butchered bodies. Who's worse: the guy who fucks these kids, or the guy who violently murdered them, or what about the guy whose initial response was adoration for their bashed in skulls?
Mr. Bismarck stood in the doorway, staring peculiarly down at my conflicted considerations.
Returning to the kitchen to finish our coffee, Mr. Caviezel joined us in silence, and then said, "The facility unfortunately is unavailable until after the weekend."
Mr. Bismarck's stern face tightened ever so slightly.
"I can't seem to reach Mr. Schilling either. Any suggestion where we should store them?"
"Fucking Schilling," Mr Bismarck snarled, glancing out the bay windows. "I'll fucking take them with me."
"This shouldn't be your problem," Mr. Caviezel sighed.
"Yeah, well, who else is going to deal with Jörg's fucking...," Mr. Bismarck bit his tongue, but then in a fit of rage threw his cup right through the kitchen window! The explosion of glass was like a bomb blast! Mr. Caviezel didn't flinch, and Mr. Bismarck stood perfectly still with hunched shoulders and clenched eyes.
Looking back and forth at the two well dressed gentlemen, I placed my coffee on the bench top and spoke up, "If all you need is a way of getting rid of the bodies, then maybe I can help."
Once Gabi and I drove back into the center of Geneva, the rain was shitting bricks as we stopped at a red light. The Mercedes was still following. I hadn't slept enough in the last two days to tolerate these ambiguous intimidation tactics, so I stepped out onto the street.
"Bruce?" Gabi called out, as I marched back down the line of cars toward the black Mercedes. There was no response from the vehicle. Taking my time, I slowly circled the sedan, and the stopped in front. The two men in suits glared straight back me through the windscreen wipers. The light then turned green, and people began thumping their horns. Gabi yelled out and pulled onto a side street. Standing back on the pavement, I felt the rain soaking through everything as the black Mercedes drove on down the street at a crawl.
"What was that all about?" Gabi asked, as I my palm swept the rain from my shaved head while we sat quietly in the parked car. "And now what? Hiding any more leads, or are we at a dead-end?"
Staring down the narrow backstreet with flooded gutters, I considered the bundle of letters that I'd grabbed from the lighthouse.
"Seriously, Bruce," Gabi whispered, placing her hand on mine. "Why are you trying to find Grant anyway? I don't get it. You don't even really know the guy. Why is it so important to you?"
"Grant took Samuel's charts because I wanted to know what the fuck was happened in Doggerland," I said, while focused on Gabi's gorgeous, cigarette-stinking lip. "If it was nothing, then why the fuck are people getting killed?"
"And those missing? Grant, Samuel, Chloe?"
"They might just be on holiday? It's probably some totally unexciting explanation."
"So why was old man Grumbach acting like a sketchy prick?"
"He's old. Old people are grumpy-pants."
"Yeah. Yeah, you have a point."
"Bruce, really, what's in it for you?"
"The adventure!" I smiled bitterly, "I want to see for myself what's the big deal. Don't you like to know who's fucking you? Or do you prefer being blindfolded and sodomized in the dark by complete strangers?"
"Let's check into a hotel and you can find out," she said, leaning in to kiss me – just as the oncoming headlights from a slowly approaching vehicle saved me from the disgusting taste of her-ash-flavored spit.
At first I had assumed it was the Mercedes coming back with a vengeance, but it was merely a taxi passing by. "Fuck it! Let's get a hotel and fuck the Swiss away!"
But then the satellite phone began ringing from the backseat.
Back in early December last year, I'd received a phone call in the middle of the night from an unknown number. Soon I was picked up by that black Jaguar XJ for the first time. The streets of central Berlin during the week at that time of night were utterly deserted. The Jaguar cruised onto Museum Island and down the east-side of the Alte Nationalgalerie, where the gate at a checkpoint was promptly raised. I found myself standing at the back of the Pergamonmuseum, staring up at the scaffolding that covered the entire north-wing of the building. Another guy in a suit and tie escorted me down into some service entrance where I was lead through maze of basement storage rooms and corridors lined with endlessly plumbing. As we went up a narrow staircase into a dark passageway, I came to a sign on the doorway that said, 'Vortragssaal', and heard Mozart's, Requiem Lacrimosa, playing throughout the enormous building. Inside that chamber, two men stood a distance apart. Mr. Juggernaut and another guy who had such a hooked nose, crooked neck, and wrinkled skin, that Mr. Vulture was a most apt title. They were both wearing tuxedos, and had clearly spent the evening at some extremely formal event. Neither looked like they wanted to be at this unfamiliar location.
"I hate these fucking tourist traps," Mr. Vulture growled. "I hate tourists! Everything about them fills my nasal cavity with bile!"
Glancing around, I noticed that the escort had silently withdrawn.
"Tourists treat our heritage like a fucking amusement park!" Mr. Vulture continued in his thick Bavarian accent. "Taking photos of their wretched children climbing over our historic monuments of artist excellence as if these statues were props from a Hollywood film set! These fucking peasants take no note of what these landmarks fully signify! The world is full of imbeciles declaring their love for the beauty of our culture, but like uneducated barbarians, they rape without understanding what they're attracted to! All deeper meaning is lost on this sea of idiot pedestrians! I hate the very concept of what a fucking tourist represents! They don't even partake the the most basic of educational tutorials. Pilgrims without any reverence should be executed for their blasphemous lack of faith! Tourist, they're all so fucking disgusting!"
I didn't know who this guy was, but I fucking liked what he had to say.
"Though what do you expect when the world is being run by women and weaklings!" Mr. Vulture finally turned and faced me from across this big empty space. "Matriarchy prides itself on exactly what all women value: the superficial! They care not for sacrifice, glory, or the hard work of confronting inner truths in order to better the greater good! Women simply shame others into submission, discredit unity with treacherous gossip, and dismiss the very fucking means that have put a roof over their heads! Once mankind empowered the feminine, she castrated man as irrelevant to her own ends. Look at the crumbling state of the West. Merkel, traitor to the noble Deutsche! Her own inadequacies are equaled only by her unscrupulous motivation to sabotage the entire continent with these infestations of diseased rodents! But she hasn't done this alone. The whole political system is drunk on its feeble embarrassment of historical retributions! The young are smothered with lies from birth, rendering them incapable of differentiating the generations! It's a criminal act this teaching children a permanent sense of self-loathing. They're psychologically damaging the innocent until they believe it down to their bones that they have to neutered themselves as a sign of delusional loyalty! Loyalty?! This is treason! This is mental-warfare! This is unforgivable! It's no wonder that women have seized power. And it's in their best interests to ensure the environment remains full of fucking eunuchs! Only once the Islamic flag flies over the Reichstag will the female species realize the extent of the slavery that 'Mother Merkel' has sold them into. Fick diese fotse!"
The echo of Mr. Vulture's furious voice ran screaming out the doorway and into the vast hollows of the museum. I however, knew I was in the company of men of distinction. Mr. Juggernaut, like always, remained stoic as death itself. The elderly gentleman then inhaled long and slow before approaching with hands behind his back. The closer Mr. Vulture got, the less I saw his physical features, and the more I focused on the churning inferno driving this individual's decisiveness.
"Where precisely do you stand?" Mr. Vulture demanded, reaching up and tapping the MacFarlane pin on my lapel. "Whom will you defend?!"
"When you're confronted with a movement that openly states how they want you to bow down and pay reparations and ultimately want you dead, there is no choice in the matter," I replied quietly. "They have declared themselves as the enemy."
Mr. Vulture was unmoved.
"Those that are going to judge you guilty of thought-crime based purely on you identity, cross a line in which you know never to trust them," I spoke, glancing across the ceiling and edges on this chamber. "Those that seek to castigate you simply because you don't adhere to their beliefs, and won't allow you to prove your merit, leave any right-thinking individual standing with those who will oppose such authoritarian dogma. Those that preach how we should all get along, while blatantly holding you accountable for the sins of your father, have become the very oppression their railing against. You don't need to choose which side to stand on when you're facing those that put themselves on an infallible pedestal so that they can blame your entire existence for everything wrong in the world. And in order to survive in a hostile environment, you need allies. You can't take refuge for very long in the transitory shelter of centrist values. Centrist chickenshits will sell you out the moment the slightest pressure is applied to them. All governing bodies are tyranny, but some will subjugated you in such a condescending manner that if you submit, then you've betrayed the very essence of who you are. It's not a decision of choosing between the less of two evils, it's a basic question of which movement has any value at all for your very fucking life. If you're going to be wrongly accused of a war-crime, then you might as well go to fucking war."
The distant Mozart had faded out long ago, and for almost an entire minute we stood in silence.
"The work you did for you first assignment was superb," Mr. Juggernaut finally said, holding up a plastic envelope. "This should be more challenging."
"You have talent, Herr Knox," Mr. Vulture spoke softly. "Don't squander it."
Mr. Juggernaut handed over the envelope, as Mr. Vulture left the room. "There's a number inside. If you feel you've been compromised, call it and we'll find you. Always remain cautious of those feigning curiosity in order to subvert your assignments."
Exiting the room, we walked around that narrow passageway where I discovered that we had been below the very Pergamon altar itself.
"As you requested, you have the altar until the construction crew arrive in the morning. Exit how you arrived."
Distracted, I shook hands with that high ranking official of the Intrepid Supremacy, but I was transfixed by what should have been a sight of ancient Greek pillars. The majority of the museum was closed to the pubic and wouldn't reopen until 2023, so when I'd been told that there were certain benefits to working with these guys, I called their bluff. But they weren't fucking kidding. However, this wasn't the presentation I'd hoped for. The entire place was interlaced with scaffolding and metal plates that housed the temple. Dust and piles of electrical cables coated the floor, while tools and scissor-lifts were scattered about. There was hardly any light as the space relied on its massive skylight, but a golden glow emanated from atop those wide plastic-sheet-covered stairs. Scanning where the original frieze of gods and giants was meant to be, I walked straight up into that open area directly above the lecture hall where Mr. Vulture and I has conversed. Two temporary lamps were on the floor and aimed at a lack of what should have been The Throne Of Satan. Sitting on the floor, I crossed my legs. Drawing a series of small sigils in the dust in front of me with my finger tip, I then listened to those chasms of stone and waited.
It didn't take long before they arrived. Holes began appearing in the floor and walls. Tiny spots that grew in number. Hundreds, then thousands of small holes opened up and stared back at me. A ring of figures soon presented themselves. Blackened shadows that circled the space. And then the walls fade as Jerusalem stood beyond the burnt pillars of the revealed Pergamon. Pandora's Box lay as a great altar in the center, and behind it came a priestess with a crown of black serpents and a robe of deceit. As she approached endless black worms the size of eels emerged from the porous floor, slithering over my knees. I heard the flesh embodiment of The Sea and The Altar Of Fire on either side as they whispered salaciously about how they required a sacrifice of meat. Behind me, Boaz and Jachin moans like whores as an inner circle of cloaked figures surrounded the altar. A ring of headless slave girls then followed and all knelt, facing the center. Impatiently, the priestess slammed her hands upon Pandora's box! The overcast sky ruptured open as if a huge shock wave from a nuclear explosion had just struck the clouds apart! There, in the mist above, I beheld the very kingdom of heaven in absolute ruins.
Gabi parked the car in front of a small stone church in a tiny town not far from Geneva. As soon as she killed the engine, I grabbed her lighter and opened my door.
"What are you doing?" Gabi asked, "What are you burning? Jesus, Bruce! What the hell?"
As I watched the letters that I had sent to Grant go up in flames, I knew that as soon as I returned to Berlin I must destroy his correspondence too. I didn't know who was now following us, but the less evidence of my involvement, the better.
"Bruce! Speak to me!"
"He's here." I said, looking past Gabi's concern at a black Rolls Royce Phantom that came smoothly down that lonely street lined with tall trees. The big car pulled up so that its back window was right next to Gabi, and there the shriveled face of Mr. Grumbach sneered at us both.
"Do you always let your women drive?"
"Yes, I smiled. "Yes, I do. Always."
Mr. Grumbach placed a small, clear plastic oxygen-mask over his mouth and inhaled. Gradually parting his pinched lips, he looked back up. "The Katalysatoren."
"The ship you found. The Norwegian research vessel that sank."
"What about it?"
"It was the Katalysatoren, out of Bergen. On the west coast of Norway."
"What? When was it recovered?"
"It hasn't been," Mr. Grumbach said, handing Gabi a series of satellite photos of a large ship leaving port and then disappearing in clouds. "The one who sent you here is not who he says he is."
"Why are you helping us now?" I asked, shaking my head "Why the fuck should I believe you? And what's with the tail following us? Why the fuck is everyone so obsessed with the North Sea, for fuck's sake?!"
Mr. Grumbach immediately looked uncomfortable, scanning the rain-washed surroundings.
"Do you actually know what we found in that ship?"
"Cetus, Mr. Knox. You found Cetus."
OF ENMITY AND EMENIES
THURSDAY 17th AUGUST 2017
A student led Gabi and
I through the university campus in central Oslo, and I was glad we'd finally
bought a couple of umbrellas at the airport. It was still early, and the trusting
kid didn't even ask what business we had in the dead professor's office. There
were plenty of modern buildings, but inevitably we descended into a concrete-scented
sub-level with tight corridors packed with shelves and crates of stored curiosities.
The young guy smiled and left us once we reached a regular looking door.
"We should hurry," Gabi whispered. "They will call the police if we're caught in here."
"Doubt it," I said, glancing about the tiny room with its neon lights. "Who the fuck comes down here–"
The sound of footsteps made us both freeze. The echos came and went, and I shrugged pathetically.
"Are these what you're looking for?" Gabi asked, holding up a pile of letters.
"You sweet little bitch!" I snarled.
Gabi wasn't sure how to react to my delight.
Checking the sender's address, I grabbed Gabi around the waist and kissed her hard on the lips. "Walk in the park!"
"Okay. Can we go now?"
"There's a funny smell is here–"
The door then burst open and I was grabbed by two giant pricks that literally threw me out into the corridor, against the opposite wall! Gabi shouted madly, while I was picked up by the collar as the other guy went through my jacket pockets and took both Grant's and Halvorsen's correspondence. All I could do was squirm until a fist said hello to my guts! Giving my greetings to the floor, I coiled up without a drop of oxygen in my lungs. Gabi huddled in the office, and as I coughed like a piece of fried bacon, I watched the two men quietly walk away. Wincing, without much in the way of thoughts going through my head, I crawled after those fucking cunts. Quickly building up enough momentum, I began running, but one guy just turned and shoved me directly in another fucking wall! There was no way I was getting the letters back. These fucks were too big. Crawling to my feet again, I heard another door open just before a fight broke! Two more guys in suits also wanted what I'd come for. Looking back, I saw Gabi clinging to the edge of office door, when a gunshot went BOOM!
"CHRIST!" I yelled, shuddering from the blast in the confined corridor. The bundle of letters then dropped and smeared across the floor. While the four men wrestled, I lunged and swept up the envelopes. Compulsively making sure I had every last one, I crudely stuffed them back into my jacket pockets, while scrambling toward Gabi. The enraged men yelled out in that unknown language. I didn't give a shit and grabbed Gabi by the wrist. Sprinting around the passageway, I was hoping to fuck that we weren't setting ourselves up for a dead-fucking-end. Loud footsteps came racing behind us just as I spotted a beautiful stairway. Gabi then whipped free from my grasp and smashed the casing over a fire-alarm! A lethargic siren then began going through the motions, but when another gunshot hit the wall our feet got us fleeing the fuck out of there!
Gabi was skinny but fit as we ran wildly out of that block of buildings and into the thunder storm.
"Get to the car!" I sneered, pushing Gabi into a group of confused students. "Meet me at the Nobel Peace building by the waterfront! Go!"
"Where are you going?!" Gabi cried out, as I ran off. "Wait!"
"The Nobel Peace building! The water front! Google it!"
The guy in the business suit with matching handgun came running after me like he was a quarterback on a mission. I don't even know what a quarterback does, but he looked like he wanted to stomp my skull in with the heel of his expensive shoes. Thankfully, I was wearing my Chucks and light on my feet. Last time I'd been in this town, like Geneva, it had been sunshine and lollypops, with a perpetual flow of gorgeous blondes on every fucking corner. There was no sun now, no blondes, and I was suddenly disorientated as I tried to locate the entrance to the campus. A girl screamed behind as the guy with the gun knocked her down! Struggling to zip up my jacket pockets, to prevent the balled-up letters from falling out, I finally recognized the historic buildings at the front of the university, and immediately put some distance between that hired thug and myself. Whenever I'm on the treadmill at the gym, I have this habit of picturing myself running the twenty minute route of my teens. It used to take ten minutes to the reach the street of my high school, so I would break it down into five minute slots, halfway there, then halfway home. Of course at the time, I chose those streets because I would run past the house of the first girl I'd ever fallen in love with. She never once came outside despite how often I ran by. And then when she was thirteen she was gone, and yet I still ran by. I don't remember why I continued running that same route after her death. Was I trying to relive the time when she was still alive? Or was it merely habit? Now I ran through the pelting rain, leaping across park fences, and sprinting down the middle of busy streets. I'd always been a decent runner. I didn't learn to stand my ground until I realized that most battles could be won through psychological manipulation. That is until you're faced with the unstoppable force of aggressive might. Then, if you can't beat them with words, run! The general downhill incline was a bonus, but my pursuer was committed to his cause. I welcomed the motivation. Yet, despite the angry drivers punching their horns, and all those screaming bystanders, I focused on that route from my childhood. I picture myself running past that symmetrical house with the green roof. She died when I was fourteen. I stopped running when I was fifteen, only after running into the glass-door. When I was sixteen I was invited into her home. It was during a week-long internship with various architects, and her father 'happened' to be one. This had been my design. The father, himself, had designed the very house with its A-framed green roof nestled in the valley. I liked its large open interior, with the father's office on the top floor over looking the lounge. He seemed like a good guy, though he never knew about my affections for his two-years-dead daughter. No one knew. No one cares! She's dead! Nothing fucking matters once your fucking dead! So keep your secrets to your-fucking-self! And I kept running. I ran all the fucking way through Oslo while wishing that a fucking bus would strike me down! But I was too fucking quick for such an easy ending. Others die, but I keep going. Once I past the palace and hit that stretch of road past the devil statue, I knew exactly where I was. Looking back, I saw that motherfucker at least three blocks behind. I could have slowed and caught my breath, but I didn't. My heart was stronger than every other muscle in my lean body, I wanted it to drive so much pressure through my fucking brain that I'd rupture every blood vessel all at once! Shoving any cunt on the path the fuck away, I was fuming. Part of me wanted to run faster and leave this hitman in my fucking dust. Part of me wanted to stop and let the guy bash my fucking head in. However, within ten minutes of leaving the campus, I saw the water's edge and run straight out of the city streets. Police sirens weren't far behind. I had actually beaten Gabi to the port. You don't realize how slow driving through a central business district is until you run it. And then I heard that guy in the suit slam through a group of umbrellas! Spinning, I was looking for a direction I should run, when Gabi's rental swerved right onto the pavement next to the Nobel Price Center. Opening the passenger's side door, I raised my hand toward that determined shithead racing my way, all I gave him was the middle finger, before Gabi drove off into the intensifying deluge.
"Who the fuck are these people?!" Gabi yelled. "They're shooting at us now!"
"I know! I was there!" I smirked, wiping the rain from my face, as I leaned around, looking back down the street. A huge white van then drove up next to the guy and he climbed inside. "Ah, we got to get the fuck out of Dodge!"
"They're following us again!"
"What can I say, it's a small world," I laughed nervously, thumbing the small navigation screen, quickly typing in our destination: Bergen. We didn't make it. Another big white Mercedes van suddenly drove out in front! I was impressed how well Gabi managed to skid the car side on into the blockade. The van's side door opened and two more guys began to reach for my door. Gabi kicked the the pedal and we shot backward! Grabbing the dashboard, I watched the two vans race after us as we swung around an open court next to the port. Gabi hit the breaks again and the rental lurched sideways before straightening up. She then plowed ahead and I cringed back into my seat as we fired right between the two vans and back into the city!
A black Range Rover Sport SVR then sped down past the Nobel Prize building, aiming at us as it crossed the center-line, sending traffic all over the place.
"We got to head west!" I yelled, as I was thrown about my seat. "West!"
"We have to get out of the city!" Gabi screeched. "Or we're going to kill somebody!"
"Good! Yes! West! Follow the Navigation!"
And then the Range Rover rammed into the back of our rental!
"Why are they doing this!" Gabi screamed, just as several cop cars flew toward us. "What have you got me into! You said this would be a nice easy road-trip! You said this would be fun!"
"What part of this aren't you enjoying?!"
"They're trying to murder us!"
"That's awfully judgmental of you."
The Rang Rover hammered into our tail again, sending us skidding through overflowing gutters, onto the sidewalk, and then down another street where the navigation told us to do a u-turn. I don't know what happened to all the cops, but then one of the white vans was coming head-on at us. Gabi whipped the rental onto a back street, leaving the van and Range Rover to crash into each other!
We were then on that street leading up to the palace. That was where a black Porsche 918 Spyder tore around a corner and drove right next to us. Staring at the Porsche's tinted windows beside me, I pictured someone raising a gun toward my head. I leaned away from the parallel Porsche, just as Gabi wrenched the car to the left and floored it past the palace as more cops appeared from other streets. The Porsche, for some reason, slid sideways, blocking the entire street and forcing the cop cars to pile up.
In less than thirty seconds, we were out of the central city and heading into the countryside – until a fucking silver Maserati Alfieri came blazing up our ass like a jet fighter. Our rental didn't stand a chance of outrunning that fucker, especially not on this open highway. The Maserati easily over took us, and then swung violent in front!
"Who the fuck is this now?!" Gabi grunted, barely keeping the vehicle on the street. "Where the fuck do they keep coming from?!"
"Shall I roll down my window and ask?"
"Jesus! I knew you had a bad reputation, but this is fucking insanity!"
A black SUV came out of nowhere and smashed into the back of our rental! Everything spun 360 degrees before the car came to a stop in the middle of the road.
"Shit on me!" I gasped, gripping the dashboard with my right hand, my left squeezing Gabi's right thigh. "Check my fucking shorts!"
Automatic gunfire then outweighed the torrential rain fall!
"Down!" I sneered, grabbing Gabi as bullets rattled against metal!
"Who are these people?!" Gabi screamed, as her window shattered! "What do they want?!"
The sound of skidding wheels on asphalt seemed to distracted the gunmen.
Only once we were about to race around a bend in the highway, did I look back at the chaos behind. Men with big black machine-guns were firing from the Range Rover at the men huddling next the SUV, who, in turn, were also firing back with more compact assault-rifles. Who was whom was anyone's guess. But just before I lost sight of the hardcore street-fight, that fucking Maserati sped around the also hailing bullets after us!
"Did you know that this was going to happen?!" Gabi desperately yelled. "Do you have any idea who these fucking people are?!"
"I don't think we're getting the deposit back for the car," I said, glaring intimately at a row of bullet holes in the passenger's side door-frame. "Did the insurance cover this sort of shit?"
"You can't be serious?!"
The Maserati pulled up next to us with the passenger's side window open and a guy pointing a Kriss Vector submachine-gun with silencer right at Gabi. She screamed, hit the breaks, and the bullets shredded the fuck out of the hood of our car! The front wheel then exploded! We spun like a fucking top, until a tree stopped us dead in our fucking tracks! Coughing and shaking my head, I cupped the back of Gabi's neck, "I feel like a stroll. Let's talk a walk."
"What?" Gabi muttered, with blood trickling from her forehead. "There's nowhere to go."
"Look at that pretty forest." I stated, jumping out of the rental as I saw the Maserati turning around further down the empty street. Gabi couldn't get her seat belt to open, and I found her door was just as jabbed. Glancing up through the pounding rain, I saw the Maserati slow as it approached our wreck. Snatching my knife from the back of my belt, I slashed Gabi's seat beat, and then literally dragged her through the nonexistent window. The gunman stepped out of the Maserati just as that black Porsche suddenly howled around the corner. Gabi and I ducked below the rental as the gunman shot the shit out of the other side of the chassis! The Porsche swerved as a Micro-Tavor assault-rifle extended from the driver's side and opened fire, ripping the Maserati a new rectum!
Those two white vans then came charging up the highway. Their side doors opened as men with machine-guns hung halfway outside, firing at everyone on the fucking street!
Gabi was screaming, and I was in the motion of running for the woods – when I saw the Porsche's door open. Out stepped Mara in her Burberry trench-coat and Prada heels. Turning the barrel of her Israeli assault-rifle, she emptied her magazine into the oncoming vans!
Nodding my head in approval, Gabi gasped in shock, "You know her?!"
"Special Agent Hard Peach."
"She's an ex."
"She's here to shoot you too?!"
"Ah... Hmm...," I frowned, squinting unsure, though watching fascinated as Mara expertly sliced up both vans with perfectly placed gunfire.
"So this is the famous Gabi?" Mara said, as the vans crashed off the edge of the highway, while the Maserati reversed away.
"Don't start," I smiled, reaching into the rental's backseat, grabbing our small backpacks.
"I can leave," Mara replied in her usual dispassionate tone of voice. "You really think you have everything under control here?"
"There's only two seats this thing!" Gabi stressed. "We're not going to fit!"
"Sit on uncle's lap," I grinned, hurrying around the sleek machine. "You're begging for it."
Mara then fired at the vans again, as men in suits ran for cover in the trees. "So you like my frogger?"
"Your what?" Gabi asked, curling on top of me inside that brand new luxury sports car.
And then the Range Rover battered directly through the two smoking vans, sending one crashing onto its side!
Mara's Prada hit the accelerator and we bolted down the highway, and I whispered, "Love those shoes."
"Do you two need a room?" Gabi asked, just as we raced past the Maserati.
"So where were you love-birds heading?"
"Where did you come from?" Gabi needed to know. "How did you find us?"
"Just lucky, I guess."
"Out west," I said, holding up the scrunched letters. "Going to see a guy about a boat."
"Going sailing? In this weather?"
"Not unless they brought the thing back from the seafloor."
"Then who are you meeting?"
"Whoever the fuck owned the thing."
"What's the name of the ship?"
"Why?" Gabi looked suspicious, as Mara pulled out her phone while driving at three-times the speed-limit through the hilly countryside. "Were you also following us?"
"What was it called, again?" I asked Gabi, sorting through the two types of envelopes like a deck of cards. "The Catatonic?"
"The Katalysatoren," Gabi corrected, while pouting at Mara who wrote a message in Hebrew. "Who are you? What do you do?"
"I look good," Mara smiled with cold eyes, glancing at the letters. "That why everyone wants a piece of you?"
"If it wasn't my charm, then I don't know what the fuck they're after."
"Yeah, what's so special about these letters?"
"Already read everything the professor sent to Grant," I said, stacking the envelopes in chronological order based on the dates on the stamps. "Let's see what Grant had to say."
"By the way," Mara spoke up, reading her phone. "That ship, it doesn't exist."
"However, my sources say it was owned by a Mr. Neilsen, right here in Oslo."
"Well, turn this shit around, and let's pay him a visit. See if he has time to talk about our lord and savior of funk, Michael Jackson."
"Also, could you find out a little more about Mr. Jensen," Gabi said, unable to contain her curiosity. "Mr. Rolf Jensen. Assistant of Professor Halvorsen."
"Who is he to you?"
"The guy who started Bruce on this whole mess."
"Actually," I said facetiously. "I still blame the Jews."
"How can you stand the shit that comes out of his mouth?" Mara scorned.
"'Cause she likes the other things my tongue's good for."
"Hey! I'm right here!" Gabi said, shaking her head, as the Porsche eased onto an exit, reversed, and then headed back the way we'd come.
"How's your anus doing?" Mara asked with a smug grin.
"It's not my anus, it's the hairs on my ass that feel like they're slowly being ripped out of their roots," I cowered, as the Porsche swerved around another tight bend. "Christ! Feels as if I'm sitting naked on a sheet of sandpaper while it's gradually pulled out from under me! Ease down, for fuck's sake! You're cheese-grating my ass cheeks!"
"Am I pointing out the obvious," Gabi spoke up, over Mara's laughter. "We're heading back toward everyone that was just trying to kill us!"
"Act natural and maybe they won't notice us," I suggested, reaching into my backpack and pulling out the satellite phone while trying to recall the number Mr. Juggernaut had given me. "What's the address of Mr. Neilsen?"
"Also, Jensen's dead."
Apart from the van lying on its side and our totaled rental, we never saw anyone from the street-fight. The drive to Mr. Neilsen's estate took about half and hour, so I had time to skim over all of Grant's letters. However, they merely left a bad taste in my mouth once I realized the most important thing that I'd forgotten. Mara drove quietly down a private gravel road until a three-story house emerged from the dense foliage. Masses of vines smothered pretty much the entire front of the old stone architecture. Only thin, dark windows broke the greenage, while smoke drifted from many of the spire-like chimneys. I liked the place. I loved the overgrown nature that was kept immaculately cropped.
Folding the pile of envelopes neatly, I stuffed them back into my pockets as Gabi climbed off my lap into the overcast drizzle. It wasn't cold but her hands were shaking as she struggled to light her cigarette. After securing one particular letter in my inner jacket pocket, I took the lighter and lit Gabi's smoke. The place looked dead, until we stepped up to the arched entrance and saw a figure move within a dim room to our left. Gabi pressed the doorbell, and the door almost instantly was pulled inward! A squat man in a three-piece gray suit with a beautiful scarlet shirt and tie received us with a look of condescension. The voices of other men could be heard bickering nearby.
"Hi. We're looking for a Mr. Neilsen," Gabi took the initiative. "Is he available–"
"No!" the short tempered guy snapped. "Remove yourselves from the premises!"
No sooner had the door slammed shut, than we heard the police coming up the drive. It parked in the middle of the large gravel court, and two officers stepped out. The front door then swung wide again!
"This is the man! He has stolen property in his possession!" yelled the guy in the gray suit. "Arrest and search them this instant!"
"The fuck are you?!" I sneered. "Where the fuck is Neilsen?!"
"I'm Mr. Neilsen's legal representative," the lawyer stated, addressing only the approaching cops. "You will find a collection of person correspondence on his person that belongs to this institute! They must be returned before any further breach in security!"
"Please cooperate," one of the young cops said reaching toward my shoulder.
"Show me your hands!" the other cops suddenly yelled!
"There's no problem here," Mara said gently, slowly pulling out her identification from her inner jacket pocket. "This is all a misunderstanding."
"Arrest them immediately!" the lawyer shouted. "They're all criminals! We have witnesses!"
Turning toward the front door, I then saw that same fucking cunt who had chased me from the university standing inside. The guy looked fucking pissed, and although I was 100% sure Mara had a 9mm on her person, Christ fucking knows how many others from the street-fight were also inside.
The two cops looked hesitant, as one backed off, speaking Norwegian into his radio.
Glancing at Mara's badge that resembled something the FBI would present, I tilted my head saying, "So the new job's working out alright, then?"
"Lots of nice perks."
"Thought you were done with this line of business."
"So what do you call this?"
"Enough of this!" The lawyer then stepped out into the light rain, gesturing to the big guy behind him, "Take him!"
I frowned, trying to back off, but that hired muscle was too close to escape this time. Hands clamped onto my chest and threw me inside the house! Rolling across the threshold, I looked back as Mara kicked the guy in the knee and took him down with ease – right when that fucking Range Rover collided into the side of the cop car, sending it tumbling toward everyone! Another pair of hands were placed on my shoulders and I was dragged into a dark room where I was pinned to the floor. Yet another set of hands crawled at my pockets, searching for the letters – until gunfire broke out! The windows above shattered and men yelled in anger! I heard another vehicle arrive, and more automatic fire! Rolling away from the falling glass, I lunged away from whoever the fuck was in the house, and ran! Except my orientation was all wrong. I through I was heading back to the front door, but found myself below a huge staircase made of wood as black as a grand piano. Men came, so up the stairs I bolted! Racing down a long corridor, I soon learned how big the place was, and then burst into the door at the end. It was a library of sorts, but I didn't stick around to admire the cozy atmosphere. There was a door at the far corner, and as soon as I exited the library, I ran outside onto a stone balcony overlooking a morbidly romantic back garden. Ignoring the Greek statues, fountains, and overgrown paths, I leaped over the stone banister. I slipped on the wet roofing below, before somewhat awkwardly dropping to the patio in one piece. Grabbing the first door I saw, I lurched inside and darted through rooms and corridors until the echos of machine-gun fire drew me toward the wide open front door. A hand however, caught my collar and I was swung sideways into a fucking wall! This random guy shoved me against a second wall, and then choking me with both hands. Suddenly a spay of bullets hailed through the front door, shredding the wall!
"JESUS FUCK!" I yelled upon my release. Stumbling away from the guy firing his own handgun out the door, I scurried up a small staircase. It was only at this point that my self-preservation let slip the my first thoughts of Mara and Gabi. And I was fucking irritated! What gave her the fucking right to continue meddling in my affairs?! I'm so sick of her attitude of entitlement! I didn't ask her to watch my back, and I don't fucking need a chaperon! She's only here because of Gabi. Come to serve her own insecurities and rationalize to herself that she's better in some way. What's worse is that I knew now that they were alone together, Mara would do her best to shit all over me. The only thing I had on my side, was the psychology of increased attraction during high-risk ordeals. That all aside, however, Gabi was probably much better off with Mara. Combat wasn't my expertise. How much sense did Gabi make of this anyway. From her point of view this all probably seemed like complete anarchy. At least Mara was used to hitmen trying to kill her. Or she had been in her last job. Seriously, I didn't know what the fuck I was going to do! I couldn't stop any of these trained killers. Their muscle mass was stronger than mine. Unarmed, you're powerless against men with guns. All I could do was run. So I did. I ran straight to the top floor, cursing to myself, "Where the fuck are the Thule boys?!"
Rushing into another big room with skinny windows, I carefully peered down onto that war-zone of smoldering vehicles and blasting assault-rifles. I couldn't locate the girls, and now all those well dressed men with heavy duty weapons looked the same. Who the fuck were these cunts?! Where the fuck can I go?! And how the fuck do I stop them from following me?!
"Give me the papers!" yelled the lawyer from the door. "You know you're not leaving here with them!"
"What's so fucking special about them?!" I snarled, pulling a fistful of envelopes out of my pocket and holding them up like I wanted to punch that prick. "Why the fuck does anyone even give a shit?!"
"You should know."
"Why, for fuck's sake?!"
"You were there."
"At the beginning!"
"Beginning of what?!" I shouted, slamming my hands into the advancing lawyer's chest, sending him stumbling a good ten feet back. "You've never even met me before!"
"On the Katalysatoren," he said, pulling out a small stainless steel blade, and holding it threatening in front of him. "You were there. Before it sunk. You saw what happened."
"I've read these fucking ramblings!" I spat, pulling out my own knife and flicking it open with one hand. The lawyer stopped where he was. "There's nothing in them! Two fucking assholes ranting about conspiracy theories and mythology. It's all fucking bullshit!"
"Then why are you risking your life for them?"
"I'm only here looking for Captain Grant. That's all!"
"He saved my fucking life on that sinking piece of shit!"
"You're a liar!"
"Says the lawyer," I muttered. "What the fuck were they looking for out there?!"
"The same thing as you," he said shaking his head.
"Fucking cunt! Here! If you want them, you're fucking welcome!"
"No!" gasped the lawyer, as I whipped open the closest double-glazed window.
"Have them and go fuck yourself!" I said, throwing the screwed-up papers out into the rain and wind. "Go fetch, you fuck!"
The lawyer lunged at me, but grunted incensed, and then ran out of the room, hurrying right back down to the front door.
It was that easy.
An hour later, I finally waved down a taxi on a remote street and headed back to the university. There were a couple of cop cars at the main building, and I saw a few officers near the archaeology block, but I had my hood up and walked casually down into the basement. Opened the door to Professor Halvorsen's office, I screamed like a yak, "Fuck my tits!"
"You just left us there!" Mara scorned, sitting behind the big desk. Gabi stood in the corner with her arms crossed. "I can't believe you just left us!"
"Jews, you're like cockroaches," I smiled, looking through the mountains of crap on the desk. "Nothing can kill you."
"You know, when I heard the things my friends would say about you, Bruce," Gabi spoke quietly. "I laughed at them all and knew they were exaggerating. But they weren't. You really are a fucking psychopath!"
"Tell it to your sister or someone who gives a fuck!" I barked straight back at that little fucking bitch. "You're a fucking adult! I didn't fucking force you to come along! Take some personal fucking responsibility!"
"There you go again," Mara scoffed. "Always blaming everyone else."
"Did I fucking invite you here!" I yelled, smashing over a huge pile of books! "You're the fucking spook tracking my cellphone like a motherfucking stalker! You knew exactly where the fuck I was, so spare me your overblown predictions of fucking female intuition!"
"You can't treat people like this!" Gabi shouted. "We could have all died back there!"
"Was I the one aiming a fucking gun at your pretty little fucking head?!"
There was a vicious period of silence, so I turned and began searching through the endless papers on a bench below a tiny window that was at ground level. It was obviously that Mara had already polluted Gabi's vulnerability with her shit-talk about me.
"Your rental car has been taken care of. There won't be any questions asked about it," Mara whispered, as she and Gabi moved toward the door. "I'm getting her out of the country. We all know that you can take care of yourself."
Keeping my back toward both them, I clenched my jaw and waited until I heard their footsteps fade down the corridor. Maybe I had just made a massive fucking mistake. What if some of those guys came looking for the one letter that I hadn't thrown out the window. An idea then occurred to me: what if Mara was the protagonist in a much larger story that I simply wasn't meant to be part of? Had she been protecting me, or interfering in my plans for her own ends? Who the fuck knows what her agenda was. The same could be said for Gabi. What if she was in contact with those following us this whole time? Women, they're all spies snooping through your personal shit. There is no such thing as mutual benefit. There is only who has the biggest advantage.
Swallowing down that surge of sudden regret, I then spotted Samuel's charts of the North Sea. Spreading them across the desk, I noticed that Mara had also left my backpack on the chair. Pulling out the special pages from my inner pocket, I checked the GPS coordinates that Grant had taken note of, and then I ran my finger across longitude two-degrees and latitude fifty-four-degrees. It was in the middle of the sea, right where it said, 'Silverpit Crater', directly below Dogger Bank, where the Katalysatoren had gone down. There Samuel had written in red a long series of numbers, but it was just one spot among many that he had been marked with strange numbers that seemed to hold no significance to each other. This was the same map that I had stared blankly at while on board the Onbekend, yet Captain Grant's correspondence claimed to have discerned this location as key. God damned son of a bitch, why the fuck did it have to be at sea?!
After memorizing the series of red numbers, I opened that slither of a window. I then balled-up the charts and that letter from Grant, stuffing them into a trashcan. Using Gabi's lighter, I set the whole lot on fire. They burned away within a few seconds and I stirred the stinking ashes with a ruler so that nothing was left but dust.
LIVE BY THE SEA, DIE
BY THE SEA
FRIDAY 18th AUGUST 2017
That evening, I used
the last of Jensen's money to catch a flight from Oslo back to Hamburg. With
the satellite phone, I called in a favor. Mr. Caviezel came all the way up
from Berlin after midnight and personally drove me due east without any questions
Stepping out of the black Bentley Continental GT, I handed the ever-cool Mr. Caviezel my cell phone and its battery separately, asking him to hold onto them for safe keeping. Again he required no explanation, just smiled understandingly, and with a pensive tone of voice told me to, "Take care."
It wasn't yet 4am, as I watched the Bentley head back the way we had come. He said he didn't want to risk driving down the private road leading to the water, and I had thought it was no problem, but now that I walked the distance it seemed much longer than I remembered it. Using my tiny flashlight to lead the way, I could smell sheep shit in that rustling blackness. I ruined my Chucks on that cunting gravel. Not to mention that my feet were already killing me after running through the streets of Oslo. There's a reason that I wear Asics at the gym.
It took nearly an hour until I saw Grant's lighthouse over the treetops. There was a fucking gale coming in from the sea, and once I stood outside that white building, I seriously condemned my last words toward Mara and Gabi. While glaring up at the tower, the darkness in the woods seem far more threatening than everything that had transpired in Oslo only some hours ago. But fuck it, I wasn't interested in setting foot back inside the lighthouse itself, so I marched around to the seaward-side, the whole time trying to prevent myself from looking into the blackened windows or the spaces between the trees.
As I made my way around the shoreline, heading for that small marina, I saw the hermit neighbor standing on the distant water's edge with his back toward me. The moment was perfectly summed up by Caspar David Friedrich's 'The Monk And The Sea'.
There was a tiny shed in the trees next to the pier, and I took two canisters of extra fuel and tucked them inside the cabin of the thirty-foot fishing boat. Switching on the GPS, I quickly found that it wasn't hard to understand. Behind the wheel was a small dashboard with a few switches for the lights, window-wipers, and a fog-horn, and there was of course the throttle. A radio hung from the ceiling, apart from turning on the power, I wasn't exactly sure how to tune the thing. The boat was old but in mint condition. It wasn't exactly state of art engineering. Even a degenerate landlubber such as myself could grasp the basic mechanics. Unless the engine broke-down, then I would be fucked – again.
Stepping out on the aft deck, it was while I was reaching down for that discarded bible in the corner, that I was abruptly torn off the boat by an unabridged act of pure violence! Several fists and at least a couple of good boots thumps into my torso on the way to the surface of the wooden pier. Then I was back on the land and shoved toward the water. My right hand landed in the lurching waves. It was so fucking freezing that I jolted back in pain as if I'd plunged my arm elbow-deep into an open flame! The laughter that surrounded me overtook the bruises that throbbed across my entire rib-cage. Four men in hoodies loomed above, cackling as they punched each other in the arms. One guy lit a cigarette despite the full-frontal wind. It was Mr. Limpy himself. Closing my eyes, I immediately knew what had happened. Either Mr. Caviezel had led them here, or they'd simply followed him. Another idea then arose. Perhaps Mr. Bismarck himself, had sent them to finish what they'd started five-years-ago. Glancing at the pilothouse fishing boat, I clenched my jaw. This was just fucking typical. Your plans are finally working out, but then something completely unrelated comes along and fucks everything up! God bless the chaos. Glancing to my right, I saw that the neighbor in the next cove had already left. I was on my own.
"Looking forward to this for years," Mr. Limpy boasted, sharing his bottle of Smirnoff with his wasted mates. "Look at you! You're a fucking joke, you pathetic little Satanist shithead!"
"Satanist?" I smiled. "How parochial of you."
"Want to go for a boat ride do you? Can be arranged, my friend." Mr. Limpy said, followed my line of sight, as he pulled out his phone. "Let me ask you this, how far do you think you can swim without any feet?"
One of the other big Slovakians then pulled out a fucking machete from his coat. My first inhale was a panic, but on the exhale, anger had already replaced all other reactions. This was a personal insult! Fuck these cunts! About half a second later, frustration become my dominant mood. My small Walther knife was no match. I was no fucking match against their might. With my back to the sea, I slowly rose to my feet, wondered exactly how painful it was going to be having my feet chopped off. They'd have to hack through the ankle joint. I doubted that machete was strong enough to snap the tibia and fibula. Reaching back for my knife anyway, I focused on Mr. Limpy, as the laughter of the others built up again. It was then that I remembered that there was still one more option. I could always slit my own throat. And with that thought, I pictured how beautiful Nicole Simpson's gaping neck wound had been.
Suddenly I was soaked as if someone had just splashed a warm cup of coffee in my face! Turning my head aside and rubbing my left eye with the back of my hand, two of the Slovakians began screaming! Screeching like how true terror really fucking howls! Another guy yelled, before quickly being gagged. The rain washed my vision clear, only so that I stared down at three men strewn across the stony shore with their guts ripped open! The fourth Slovakian was stumbling backward from that blackened thing that walked like a man. He tripped and fell on his ass, but that devil approached slow and methodical. The gangster screamed until a gunshots blasted out! The black creature had absolutely no reaction as it was shot again and again. The thing merely knelt down over the Slovakian and, from what I could see, tore the man's entire chest wide open as if he was made of mud.
Coiling my blood-splattered head toward that lonely little boat in the dark, I then looked back at the fantastically disfigured Mr. Limpy. His phone was still in his hand. Opening the camera app, I took a nice photo of him with the dismembered limbs of his buddies lying nearby. Then I told myself to move. Walk away. Leave now. Don't push your fucking luck. Get your fucking feet moving. Walk the fuck away. With the wind in my face, I was expecting some kind of absolutely awful attack to come upon my defenseless flesh any second. But no death came from behind.
After struggling to untying the boat from the pier's pilings, I nodded my head, looking back to where those four men had just been slaughtered. There was no sign of the creature.
It was going on for 5am when I gently steered around the calm marina and took that little fucker out into that all encompassing doom. I swear to fuck, I couldn't understand why the water itself still disturbed me so much. As hard as I tried to rationalize it, it always seemed as though the sea was one great big entity that was out to get me. I clung to the wheel as if the entire buoyancy of the boat relied ultimately upon my maintaining its balance by staying perfectly centered. Stiffly turning my neck back toward shore, I saw that the waterfront in front of the lighthouse was empty, apart from four large rusted blood stains. Searching for Mr. Bismarck's number in Mr. Limpy's phone, I wrote him a short message accompanying the photo, "Terrible shame. There was a small accident. Better take a another long look in that mirror I gave you."
Ben Harper's voice and steel guitar filled my plugged in earphones with, I Want To Be Ready, as I threw the phone into the sea. The heavy rain and choppy waves went on forever, and drew my eyes back to the vision I'd had within the Pergamon. The ruins in the clouds. A great empire that had been razed, yet even in oblivion its magnificence was unprecedented. Those tragic traces of a heavenly dominion filled me with a radiant sense of pure ruinenlust. And then I began wondering how big that matured thing from the derelict Katalysatoren had grown by now. Scanning the width of the fishing boat, I despised how thin the hull was. The further from land I went, the higher I raised my eyes. Just don't look down. You're safe in the boat. It's a straight line to the destination. Focus on the GSP and horizon. Recalling the scale of the waves that had crashed over the bow of the RV Onbekend, I was sure that if the weather got that bad then the waves would easily topple this insignificant piece of crap. Reaching into the cupboard behind, while always keeping one hand on the wheel, I grabbed a life-jacket and awkwardly slipped into it, and then pulled my small backpack on top of my chest. The satellite phone in my bag was waterproof, wasn't it? Yeah, sure. Cling to the fucking illusion that someone might race out here to rescue you if the shit hits the fan. Yet I'd made it this far. But water wasn't my friend. That perpetual primeval fear surrounded me the further the boat went. Dread filling my lungs. This mass of water was a fuck-load bigger than Loch Ness. Why do I keep putting myself in these shit fucking situations?! 'Cause it'll be worth it in the end. Yeah, yeah fucking right. My rational mind had to keep reminding myself of this, but at the time it felt like I was standing blindfolded in front of a herd of stampeding elephants. Just don't look down, you fuck! You have nothing to fear except the sea itself. So stay in the fucking boat. And keep your fucking eyes on the distant mirage of god's ghost.
During a thunder storm, it felt as though the boat wasn't even moving. The swells grew higher but with a smooth incline. It was like driving over rolling hills. I didn't see a fucking thing out there but water above and below. There were no other ships, no lights, no fucking sign of land. The screen of the GPS was a solid blue color. After the first five hours of self-doubt, I finally got sick of that broken record in my head, and I snapped the fuck out of it. Remembering that the great indifference of the fucking universe doesn't give a flying fuck about trying to sink you. The boat was sound. Get the fuck over it! So I spent the next eight hours moving to and fro with the reassurance that I hadn't capsized yet.
It was early evening when a blip appeared on the GPS. Rising from the captain's chair, I scanned beyond the monotonous window-wipers into that dismal realm. The GPS indicated that I was approaching the coordinates. The radio then sparked into life! It stuttered with static and died just as shockingly. The window was grimy with salt, and upon opening the miniature door on the port-side of the cabin, I was pelted with rain and spray. Studying the freezing seascape, I questioned if this place was ever sunny. This was mid August for fuck's sake, and yet it look exactly as I remembered it from February. And then, after a rather jagged wave passed in front of the view, I saw something. A crisp white sail. It was the elegant shape of a gaff cutter, and it was heading this way with the wind at its back. Leaning inside, I glanced back and forth from the sails and the GPS. It was on a direct course for the Silverpit Crater too. Relax! It's not the Norwegians. It couldn't be. That would be impossible. The Norwegians couldn't still be tracking me. It's some random yacht. Yet I still wished I'd searched the dead Slovakians for a gun instead of the phone. Looking around the cabin, I found nothing that could be used as a weapon. The radio shrieked with inaudible noise again, right when the engine began to splutter. Until then I had refused to exit the cabin due to the rough seas, but fortunately the swells had died down to nasty squalls. Clinging to the railing, I ventured out to the back of the boat, dragging one of the fuel canisters while glaring back at the distant sails.
By the time I had filled the tank, the cutter was practically upon me. Standing, I stared across the fifty-foot gap between vessels as we passed side by side. Shaking my bitter head with incredulity, I saluted at the bearded Captain Grant.
As the cutter cruised around and eased up next to Grant's own fishing boat, I checked the GPS. We were now directly above the crater.
"Nice yacht," I acknowledged, as Grant tossed a line.
"Are you with someone?" Grant sneered, as the two boats pulled up together.
"Are you alone?!"
"Just me and my shadow."
"Jesus, check the cabin yourself."
"Why haven't you brought the someone?!"
"Are you serious?"
"You told me you would arrange it!"
"Everyone thinks you're dead."
"You wrote and said you would take care of this!"
"You and Halvorsen wrote a lot of things."
"We need someone! You told me you would bring someone!"
"Why didn't you tell me about this place?"
"This isn't going to work!"
"What are you doing out here?"
"I've been here for weeks! Weeks! Waiting for you to bring what we had discussed!"
"Must have missed that memo."
"You fucking lied to me!"
"Hey, I'm not a psycho. I'm not about to murder some innocent girl just to appease a mythological sea monster that doesn't even fucking exist! Are you out of your fucking mind!"
"You saw it!" Grant yelled, absolutely furious. "You were right there with me! You saw it! You swore to me that you would fix this! Why did you lie to me your letters?! This fucking thing will never leave me alone now! I've tried everything! It needs an offering! You were there! You saw what it did to that fucking crew! You promised you would bring a sacrifice!"
"Who the fuck were they? And Neilsen. Why the fuck did they kill Halvorsen?"
Grant's desperation withdrew for a moment. We eyeballed each other while the two boats bobbed out of rhythm. "Halvorsen's dead?"
"Do you even know who Neilsen is?"
"You promised me you would fix this," Grant spoke quietly. "You told me you could bring someone."
"What if I only told you that... 'Cause I wanted to make sure that you didn't complete the banishing ritual."
"What if I told you, I want it to stay here."
Grant's aged face looked mortified as he took half a step backward. "Why are you help it?"
"I'm not," I stated. "I'm helping myself."
"What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"We all have personal loyalties, just as we all follow our own interests."
"You let it out of the fucking basement!"
"Maybe," I smiled. "But you brought it into this world."
Grant stumbled backward, horror taking over his eyes.
The thing from the beach had been on board with me the whole trip. I didn't move as I watched it crawl onto the cutter, slowly overpowering the bearded seaman and smothering that old white yacht in pints of butchered blood. I had wanted to ask Grant how he'd discovered the missing sequence in the spell that had managed to summon up this specimen below his lighthouse, but as I saw him being taking apart one bone at a time, I knew he had never held any authority over it. Taking my knife, I sliced the ropes binding the two boats together. We quickly drifted apart, and I got my first good look at that devil as it rose to its feet and scowled back in my direction. It seemed like a naked man who'd been burnt alive since the dawn of time. Black melted flesh was both wet like crude oil, and yet hardened like the crust upon molten lava. Whiteless eyes glistened below two broken splinters that had once been horns. The secrets that this thing represented transmuted all my apprehensions into a growing sense of sacrosanct respect.
And then there was a tremendous CRACK!
The cutter lurched half out of the sea as an enormous ebony shape surfaced behind the slender yacht. Cetus had come for what was owed! My little boat was then suddenly thrust upward! Grabbing the railing, I was utterly petrified thinking that the craft was going to flip. While leaning over the edge, my reflexes almost threw myself backward as I saw more of that vast creature moving directly below the hull. "FUCKING! SON OF A! JESUS! FUCK!" It sure wasn't any kind of fucking whale. Not sticking around to find out what the whole thing looked like, I ducked into the cabin. Shoving the throttle forward, I manically glanced back just as the cutter's mask snapped in two! It smashed onto the aft of the boat with a terrific THUD! The boat then jerked awkwardly. The mask was hooked on something. That motherfucker was going to take me down with it! The rough sea and become a foaming mess with blackened areas of the giant animal's anatomy surfacing as it churned through the water. The mast then tore off a chunk of the railing. As hesitant as I was, I knew that I had to do something or else the boat, and therefore I, would be fucked. Yanking at that immovable length of wood and sail, I was trying to see what it was snagged upon, when the mast, and indeed the entire cutter, twisted viciously! I was struck in the shoulder as the mast obliterated the cabin's rear window! Another blow from something below cast the boat skyward again – but also broke the mast free! Stumbling inside sideways, I hit the throttle, and the engine finally kicked in. Some part of a huge black limb slashed upward from of the sea right behind the fishing boat as the I plowed away. And then the radio exploded with crackling noise and voices!
Daylight only lasted for another three hours, the rest of the voyage was spent traveling in complete darkness. I had no choice but to rely solely on the GPS to guide my way toward the east coast of England. Following the obscured sun for as long at it lasted, I pushed the engine as hard as I dared. Though it got to a point when I resigned myself to never catching that faded amber behind the lowest clouds. It eventually looked like the glow from a burning city just beyond the event horizon. This truly had to have been the saddest sunset I've ever witnesses. My previous acceptance that I had been safe while on board didn't bring much comfort during the night. What if that fucking enormous creature came after me next? And how the fuck do I know that there aren't a million more just like it surrounding me? Not to mention that a fucking wave could come out of nowhere and knock the boat over without a the slightest warning. I didn't miss sleep, constant paranoia keep the adrenaline gushing.
In the small hours, as the fishing boat neared England, the GPS indicated that I was on a direct course for a small isle by the name of the Holy Island. A towering castle stood dimly silhouetted by the weak lights from a small village across the bay as I approached. Here the water was almost dead calm as I quietly motored past the looming walls of the sturdy fortifications. Killing the engine in the shallows, the boat nestled gently among several skiffs below a small concrete pier. There, waiting in the pitch-black, a person in a thick raincoat stood. He reluctantly took the line that I threw him, and helped secure the boat to the cleats. Only once I stepped onto the old dock did I take a moment to appreciate what I'd just gotten away with. Though, I was completely adamant that I had no need to ever repeat that fucking voyage again. Fuck the North Sea! In fact, I'd be pretty fucking happy if I stayed the fuck away from open water for the rest of my fucking life. This experience hadn't blessed me with some bullshit revelation about conquering my fears, quite the opposite. The sea wasn't some banal wasteland. Everything about the sea wanted you dead! Thank fuck that I was back on dry fucking land. Except the universe wasn't done with me just yet, and the sky thundered and the rain poured down.
"Grant?" the old Irish man croaked.
"Was too late," I whispered.
The sickly faced stranger chewed on his inner cheek, then nodded his head as if having a conversation with himself. He began looking overwhelmed with sadness, until he twitched and walked toward the village.
Another figure emerged from the shadows next to a stone building near a streetlamp. "Can we trust you?"
Clenching my fucking jaw at such a ludicrous fucking question, I pictured the gigantic black spine of that infernal beast as it had dragged the entire cutter to the depth. "Grant trusted me."
The three of us walked away from the sleeping village and crossed a vast field. I was beginning to think that they were going to get me to dig my own grave before putting a bullet in the back of my head. However, behind a cluster of trees there was a thatched roof cottage that was so overgrown with grass and bush that it seemed it had significantly sunk into the loose soil.
"Fuck is this?!" a big man demanded, rising from behind a wooden table as we enter that hovel. "Fuck is Grant?!"
"Went down with the ship," I replied, shaking off the rain that a saturated every corner of my being, except my fucking armpits that were sweat sodden.
"Saw this did you, prick?!" the Englishman yelled.
Ignoring my cold hands, I stared back at this uglier version Ray Winstone.
"We're fucking going out there and fucking looking for that son of a bitch!"
"He wasn't alive when the boat went down."
"Fucking hold this cunt down!" Winstone yelled, shoving the entire table aside as he lunged at my throat. "I'll fucking teach–"
"He's gone!" another Irishman shouted from a doorway. "He fucking knew what he'd gotten himself into! It's not this fucking guy's fault!"
"Want to fucking see his fucking dead body with my own two fucking eyes, thank you very fucking much!" Winston bellowed, less than an inch in front of my face. "Fuck did you leave him, cunt?!"
"Silverpit Crater," I said, thinning my eyes from Winstone's spit. I had just made it across the entire North Sea in a teeny tiny little fucking motor-boat on my lonesome, this fuck wasn't intimidating anyone this morning. "That's where it came up, broke the boat into splinters, and then went bye bye."
Everyone took a few seconds to let that sink in.
"Would someone like to spell it out to me," I asked, glancing around the dank room without a single straight line in the medieval architecture. "What's the fascination with this crater? Y'all don't look like meteorite enthusiasts."
"It's not a fucking impact crater," one of the Irish laughed. "Fucking idiot."
"How did you know where to find Grant?" the guy in the doorway asked. I was pretty sure that he was the voice from the radio. "What's your connection?"
"You're the medium," the first Irish guy spoke up.
"The one Grant kept talking about?" the second Irish guy asked.
"Talk to the fucking dead much, do you?" Winstone snarled back in my face. "Huh?! So how come you left Grant out there to fucking rot!"
"He ain't no clairvoyant!" one of the Irish sneered.
"You're a fucking dead man, that's what you are!" Winstone then grabbed my collar and slammed me back against the front door. "Who fucking sent you, you skinny fucking shit!"
With two fists pressed hard under my chin, I ran through my mental Rolodex of strange fuckers that I'd run into these last few days, and then whispered into Winstones grunting expression, "Cetus."
With another friendly punch to my abdomen, I fell to the floor gagging for air.
"Leave him be," spoke a familiar female voice.
I wanted to quip, but could only wince as I scowled up at Chloe now seated at the crooked table.
"Getting up to your fair share of trouble lately, haven't you," Chloe said, sipping on a mug of something hot. "Making headlines in Oslo."
"Motherfucker! You try and do a good deed, and the next thing you're being shot at my automatic weapons in the middle of the fucking street! Fuck that shit! Fuck those cunts! Fuck Grant! Fuck Jensen! Fuck Oslo! And fuck whatever the fuck this fucking place is meant to fucking be! FUCK EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU FUCKS!"
Chloe waited, though Winstone looked like he was just dying to fucking destroy me.
Every muscle in my fatigued body clenched up. I wanted nothing more than to rant at that gray-hair woman's composed patience, but somehow I kept my mouth shut. Cracking my neck from side to side, I picked up a toppled chair and sat in front of Chloe. "How's Natalie doing?"
"I missed you," Chloe smiled. "Despite the situation, I'm glad you made all the way here."
"And where the fuck is here?" I sighed.
"Do you know what the Knowledge Of Good And Evil is?"
"Yes," she said. "Seriously."
Rubbing both palms against my face, I dragged my eyelids down, as Winstone stepped up next to me.
The other three men in loose coats also surrounded.
"Fucking Jesus," I hissed. "It's the fruit that Adam and Eve ate."
"Oh shit, I'm sorry. Are we speaking metaphorically now? Or figuratively? Or abstractly. What the fuck?!"
Chloe maintained that thin smile as she stared at her cup. "What's the one thing that separates us from the animals?"
"A biographical sense of time?"
"Higher reasoning," Chloe said. "We're tormented because we're capable of knowing what is good and what is evil."
"What's your fucking point?"
"The devil gave us a conscience," Chloe whispered, then suddenly leaned forward, grabbing both of my wrists. "But he didn't give you one, did he!"
Leaning closer to Chloe, I asked, "Why didn't you provide Grant with a sacrifice? Did your fucking conscience get in the way? And now look. Cetus is free to roam the seas. Along with that other thing that Grant invoked like an amateur under his fucking lighthouse."
Chloe instantly released my hands. "He did what?"
"Even tough guys like you haven't got what it takes," I stated, looking up at Winstone's threatening stance. "Look at it from my perspective. I have no fucking reason to trust a single fucking thing you say. You only put me on the Onbekend as, how did Samual put it, as bait!"
"Why didn't you bring someone then?"
"Why should I?"
"What do you want?"
Unimpressed, Chloe crossed her arms. "There are none here."
Sitting back in my wet clothes, I then suggested, "How about Natalie Portman again."
The front door suddenly swung open as another old guy in a fisherman's rain coat burst inside, "They're coming!"
Headlights immediately burned behind this new guy!
"Fucking brought them here, did you?!" Winstone yelled, and punched me right in the side of my fucking head! I collapsed flat on the floor as Winstone went to kick me, but the sound of shotguns sent him running with the others. While grasping my splitting skull, I didn't see how everyone evacuated that filthy fucking cottage. However, down there on the warped floorboards, I noticed that I was lying upon a trapdoor into the cellar. Gunfire from all sides of the building convinced me to move. Shoving the chairs aside, I flipped up the heavy wood, and slid down into the darkness. I missed a rung on the ladder, and fell into thigh-deep floodwater. The instant the trapdoor slammed shut, I heard angry footsteps charge inside, and I realized that I was now stuck in a motherfucking killbox! You dumbfuck! Shouting men raced about the cottage above, as I strained to see a fucking thing in all that empty black. Then I heard some Irish guy yelling about the trapdoor. Despite how reprehensibly freezing the fucking water was, I sat down and lay back, just as the trapdoor was yanked open. Squinting my left eye, I saw a blur of light through the water. A human shape came partially down the ladder. More muffled gunshots went off outside. The shape on the ladder then quickly withdrew. Waiting, I listened to the BOOM, BOOM, BANG, BAMS of hurried feet above, and I began reevaluating whose side any of these people were on. How the fuck was Chloe associated with Grant? Maybe she wasn't. He said he'd been at sea this whole time. And now who the fuck were these cunts with the guns? Thinking about what that old fuck in Switzerland had mentioned about Jensen, I had no justification to befriend any of these groups. I had simply assumed too much recently!
Shivering like a bastard, I carefully surfaced. Dogs were now barking outside. It was too cold to put up with this fucking shit. I had done nothing wrong. I should just walk away from this situation. But another gunshot and a distant scream made me think again. My eyes had finally adjusted to the insignificant light trickling down between the floorboards, and then I focused on what appeared to be a big slab of stone standing right in the middle of the cellar. This wasn't a fucking coincidence! Getting to my feet, I heard more men shouting with thick Irish accents. Tilting my head upward, there was a sudden rush of footsteps throughout the cottage, before there came the sound of a convoy of vehicles reversing away. Another noise then dominated the winds. The horrendous shriek of the leviathan! It had followed me! On my way to the ladder, my hand ran over the smooth texture of that ten-foot-tall monolith and I felt something. Leaning up close, my fingertips traced small grooves in the stone. Chiseled symbols. Words. Pulling out my penlight, I discovered that there was a large section of the monolith that was covered in writing that looked Greek. Glancing about the surrounding water in the cellar, I invested some serious thought into wondering why the fuck this place was titled the so-called Holy Island. It appeared as though this ancient fucking shack had been erectly deliberately over this standing stone in order to conceal it. If this was where all the shit in the last five days had led me, then what exactly was I fucking looking at?! I didn't have a camera or pen, so I ripped a small plank of wood from the wall, and then used my knife, I copied only the largest letters that I could discern at the top of the text,
After stuffing the damp piece of wood into my backpack, I climbed out of the cellar and saw the first light of day spreading from the east, from where I'd come. I was alone again. The open field stretched all the way to the edge of the island, and once more I clearly heard that distinctive shriek over the gales. As I crossed the paddock, I walked by the bodies of two Irish guys. They lay face-down in the tall grass with shotgun wounds in their backs. They meant nothing to me, and I continued onward until I reached the water's edge. This whole time, I watched on as that great beast stretched itself high out of the sea about a mile away. It was a colossal entanglement of a writhing serpent so mountainous that its silhouette looked almost like a volcanic island unto itself. Its tail was reached up into the black sky and literally parted the clouds. That gigantic abomination moaned, revealing a new source of light from within the storm. Ruins. I saw ruins in the clouds. Just like my vision in the Pergamon. There was a vast temple of pillars encircled by monumental towers. In the midst of the ruins was a massively raised alter smoldering with blazing white smoke. It was too far away to fully see, but there was something floating in the air directly above the surface of the altar. Taking a few steps forward, I froze as my foot landed in the sand. I wasn't going any closer to the water than this. The clouds soon overwhelmed the ruins in the sky, and as the light from the altar faded, so too did Cetus recoil and eventually submerge from sight.
There is no kingdom to come. It's already been sacked.
© 2017 BRUCE STIRLING JOHN KNOX