â€œâ€¦the captain insisted on running on the surface all day. The sea sickness is getting to me, though a shot of tea takes the edge off.â€
â€œIs that it?â€ Tarcia asked.
â€œFor the entry on Fiver January, let me, hmm,â€ he muttered, skimming through the entries. â€œAh, this looks like an interesting one.â€
â€œDoes it mention Dr Krim?â€ She asked expectantly,
â€œYes,â€ he replied, running his finger along the words. â€œEleven January, 1945. The rainforest coast is now within a stoneâ€™s throw of us. Dr. Krim has been pacing around in circles since I told him. Still have doubts about finding his lost city, but judging from the latest cable Iâ€™m glad to be on this side of the Atlantic.â€
â€œThat sounds like Krim,â€ Tarcia murmured quietly, looking back across the room.
â€œHmm, how do you knowâ€¦â€
â€œEver since I read his journal, Iâ€™ve become a mite obsessed with him. Iâ€™ve read everything I could get my hands on, I know him now; at least thatâ€™s how I feel.â€ She blushed, â€œSilly, true, but Iâ€™ve learned so much about him, how he thinks, what his ideas are, I got quite obsessed with him when…â€
A loud clatter jarred both of them to attention. Dirk saw Sofia picking a bark object off the floor and concealing it in her suit. She started along the effluent aqueduct, glancing at Tarcia and Dirk.
â€œOk you two lovebirds,â€ she hollered, â€œget up or get left behind.â€
Tarcia extinguished her lamp, sending them into darkness. Partially blinded from the sudden shift, the two stumbled after Sofia and her lone flickering light. Just as he reached the top of the stairs, a barely perceptible light flickered across the floor.
Dirk spun around, spotting glowing orb hovering high above them near the ceiling. He stared at it, dumbstruck. The orb wobbled around for a few seconds before zipping away into the gap at the top of the effluent waterfall and vanishing.
His mind reeled from the possibilities, unable to sort out just what he had witnessed. It was only after silence fell that he realized he was being left behind. Sofiaâ€™s light was a speck in the distance now. Panicked, dirk raced down the stairs, sprinting as fast as his feet would carry him.
Only as he neared the others, and could hear their footsteps again, did he slow his pace and take a look around. The walls were rough and still bore tool marks from the long dead work crews. In fact, Dirk spotted a pair of chisels lying, abandoned, not far away.
The sight bothered him somehow, though he couldnâ€™t say why. At the base of the stairs they came to a roughly square room with tunnels leading out in three directions. Sofia turned down the left hand one, leading them away from the effluent aqueduct that flowed down the middle passage.
For this, Dirk was grateful, as the stuff gave him the creeps. About a hundred feet down the hallway he began feeling fatigued. Having lose all sense of time and nearly all sense of space, Dirk couldnâ€™t guess how long they had been travelling.
The fatigue seemed to be spreading, as Sofiaâ€™s pace dropped off too.
â€œLetâ€™s find a place to rest,â€ she mumbled, turning off the main hall and into the roughest room yet.
â€œUh, you sure thatâ€™s a good idea?â€ Dirk asked nervously.
â€œIâ€™ll keep a machinegun pointed at the door; does that make you feel better?â€
â€œA little,â€ he mumbled, settling against the wall.
â€œJust keep quiet and youâ€™ll be fine.â€
Dirk took this advice to heart, falling silent. He pulled out the journal and waited for Tarcia to arrive. He light flickered on, and he delved back into the tome, knowing that he had to read it through.
â€œ14 January, 1945. Another bloody archaeologist deserted today, bringing out expedition to a dozen, even.Â Captain Schleimon wanted to hunt him down as an example, but it would have only delayed us.
â€œDr. Krim is still enthusiastic. I cannot fathom why, unless heâ€™s glad to have the extra rations.â€
â€œFascinating,â€ Tarcia whispered, snuggling closer to Dirk. â€œAnother.â€
â€œ17 January, 1945. Damn this jungle. Helmut received a snakebite around midday while being an idiot and has taken a turn for the worse. Dr. Krim is as cold as ever, telling all who would listen that we ought to abandon Helmut. Beginning toâ€¦â€
A rustling noise came from the other side of the wall, instantly quieting Dirk. He shushed Tarcia and listened hard, barely able to make out the sound of a bird flying. Puzzled, he inched to the door and looked out into the corridor. For an instant he saw a glow in the distance, though it vanished too quickly for him to be sure.
â€œWhat did you see?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what Iâ€™d like to know, too,â€ Sofia called, her voice barely audible.
â€œN-nothing, at least, nothing I can be sure of.â€
â€œGreat,â€ Sofia muttered, â€œoh well, get back to your story time.â€
â€œSkip to where they find the temple,â€ Tarcia requested, â€œI want to see Johanâ€™s reaction.â€
â€œHow do you know they found, the, oh, duh,â€ Dirk blushed, â€œerm, ah, 23 January, 1945. At long last we are at the end of the trail. The tomb of King Mominchallaval is a vine encrusted ruin, though this does anot seem to have dampened Dr. Krimâ€™s spirit. Tomorrow weâ€™ll survey the area before entering the tomb proper.â€
â€œ24 January, 1945. A real surprise today, there was a man in the tomb entrance. Some mad Spaniard it would seem. He speaks in circles, probably got lost and confused. The survey turned up a few spots where the structure might be compromised. Dr Krim has dismissed the observations. I am growing weary of him; there is touch of madness in his eyes.â€
â€œHe would call it that,â€ Tarcia whispered. â€œTypical.â€
â€œHuh, what did you justâ€¦â€
A flapping noise came from the hall, a glowing light flashing past the door. Dirk jumped to his feet, peering out into the hall. A flying light, like a firefly the size of a basketball, was hovering along the ceiling, flying away from him.
Unable to resist, he flowed the thing down the corridor. A yelp came from Tarcia, but he ignored it. Moments later she and Sofia raced after him. He blinked, realizing that he was running to catch the glowing thing, though he did not recall commencing his sprint.
The thing turned into a chamber on the side. Dirk raced around the corner after it, running headlong into a raised plinth. The impact knocked him to the floor. The other two race in behind him, both tripping over his prone form.
A loud shattering noise pierced the chamber as Sofia knocked a stone slab off the plinth. As the three got to their feet, they were finally able to take in the horror. The glowing being was a glowing orange orb with white wings protruding from the top.
It circled around the room, illuminating every inch of the room. The walls were covered in gruesome murals depicting infants being gutted and mummified, the room itself home to rows of tiny coffins on raised plinths. One of these had been knocked open, and revealed that the murals on the wall were indeed true.
Before Dirk could even begin wrapping his mind around what he was seeing a rumble emanated from above. On the far wall a pair of effluent fountains sprung to life. The flying orb then left the room through a door on the other side.
Dirk followed after the thing, knocking another lid off as he stumbled through the darkened room. Something bumped into him. He turned around and came face to face with Tarcia. Then an impossible sight met his eyes. Sofia turned on her lamp, the beam falling on one of the mummies which had risen from its coffin.
The creature stared at Sofia, who turned white, before jumping up to the lip of its coffin and bursting into flames. It let out a squeal before jumping at her. Lids began falling off of other coffins; flaming daemon possessed mummified babies emerging from their confinement.
Gunshots rang out as Sofia fired at the monsters, backing out of the room. The things began jumping towards her, lured by the noise and light.
On the verge of screaming, Dirk turned and ran out through the door, turning left and charging down the hall. Tarciaâ€™s lamp came on behind him, illuminating the barely craver out chamber they found themselves in. At the end stood an arched gate, though the doors had long ago turned to dust, leaving behind only bronze hinges hanging from the rock.
Through his gate they descended a spiraling ramp into another world. The walls turned to smooth granite before ending abruptly. They emerged into a marble lined chamber the size of a football stadium, the ramp spiraling down without sides to the floor below.
Rows of two story high shelves formed a small cityscape below, small glowbirds wafting around the rooftops. At the base of the ramp they slowed their pace, staring in awe at the chamber around them. Dirk approached one of the shelves, pulling out a stone tablet covered in strange markings. He guessed it was writing, though what it might say, or what language, he could not even fathom.
Tarcia snatched it away from him, eagerly looking it over. After running her finger down the columns of glyphs she replaced it on the shelf and then looked up at the ceiling far above.
â€œWe have arrived.â€
Chapter Twenty One
â€œTarcia, is there something you should tell me?â€
â€œJohan speculated that this place might exist at the root of the mad Nahuaâ€™s insanity. A place beyond the veil, where mankind cannot long endure.â€
â€œThe hell are you blabbering about? Tarcia, weâ€™re trapped, there were things, look, glowbirds. Ah. Oh-god.â€
â€œRelax, weâ€™re in a special place,â€ Tarcia said, as though oblivious to everything. â€œAll the records of the world are here, and more.â€
A shadow emerged from the darkness from behind the next corner. He grabbed Tarciaâ€™s hand and dragged her out of sight. A creature approached, slithering along the floor. A sharp clicking noise echoed from just out of sight. With all his courage, Dirk stole a glimpse around the end. The thing had the face of a man, but was colored a sickly grey and bore yellow eyes.
Unable stand the sight, Dirk pulled Tarcia down the dim isle, searching for an exit. Sound of flowing fluid and the scraping of stone emanated from the walls and floors. He closed his eyes, walking directionless through the maze of tablet shelves. A new filled Dirkâ€™s ears, drowning them out. It was his own teeth chattering, primal fear surging up from the depths of his consciousness.
He was running, dragging Tarcia through an arched doorway into a circular chamber, a large fountain of effluent in the centre. He searched for a way out, noticing two raised channels running along the walls. He approached one, noticing that it was empty. He walked along it, coming to a hole where the channel vanished down into the earth below.
Dirk turned around, spotting Tarcia standing by the fountain. Just as he moved to approach her, something broke the surface of the effluent. He stared, mind going blank, as a creature emerged. It was dark grey in pallor, bearing the claws of a lobster on the ends of its two arms, slithering on the belly of a snake. But most of all he centered on its face, that looked like that of a grasshopper.
The abomination grabbed Tarcia, dragging her towards the door. Rooted to the spot, he watched it carry her away. It was only when she made a sound that Dirk was able to move. He drew out the Lugar and took aim at the thing, but could not pull the trigger. His hands shook uncontrollably, tears welling under his eyes.
â€œWould it be right to shoot, knowing that I might harm her?â€ He asked himself, half expecting an answer from somewhere outside his head. â€œYes, put her out of her misery.â€
He pulled the trigger, the bullet slamming into the floor far from the target. Before he could follow it up, the abomination vanished into the library. It was only then that he spotted a second creature approaching him.
How it had gotten so close without his notice, he didnâ€™t know. He fired at it, the bullet bouncing uselessly off its carapace. Backed into a corner, he looked at the empty channel. As the thing got within striking distance he dove back and tumbled into the darkness.