(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you happen to spot them, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks in advance!!)
The “borrowed” car drove on the lone stretch of the carefully maintained road leading up to the base of the huge white tower. When viewed from a distance, they were cutting through the beautiful lawn like a shark fin poking out of the green ocean’s surface.
Jack remained silent, his phobia and pain no longer making a fuss and making his life difficult. Because currently, he was concentrating very hard to recall every facet of his previous visit to this place, the one he made with his parents. Unfortunately, he could only recall a little. He was here, his mom and dad were here, Dana was here, but that was about it. This was some time soon after Min-jung became an employee of the man who owned his impressive structure.
Maybe, back then he was really too young, far too easily distracted, way too deep into his portable gaming device and its then-revolutionary graphics to truly commit everything to memory what happened on that trip. In his current predicament, he couldn’t help but feel regretful about his lack of foresight, but it was what it was – spilled milk and all that.
As the car neared, Jack raised his head and focused on the massive structure’s design. Some of the memories did manage to worm their way back, making him realize that he was indeed as awestruck back then as he was now. He just couldn’t even begin to imagine the sheer amount of resources that were spent in order to build something this humongous and ostentatious in nature.
Only the wealthiest and the most mysterious man alive could, just maybe, afford to splurge as extravagantly.
The tower’s design closely resembled a spire or maybe even that of a space-bound rocket straight out of an old steampunk fantasy novel, except that it was pure white in color rather than the commonly-seen bronze or copper. Near the top, Jack could see reflections from the rows of windows, denoting the area where the owner of the tower might be, observing the arrival of the guests like some kind of an evil overlord.
Other than that, there were no signs of life. Sure, insects buzzed about in the air, there were birds flapping their wings high up in the sky, but no humans anywhere, not even a shadow. It was oddly lifeless, this ambiance. And also a bit sterile as well.
And the silence cast over the area was like a deadly net, stifling any and all urges to inquire about his fate right out of Jack’s mouth. Not only him but the others were feeling the weight of this oppressive atmosphere as well. The three of them had never been here before, only having stolen a peek or two at the images of this compound in the military satellite photographs.
They had no idea what to expect. Cleo and Lei only followed Erik, believing in his words of the future without the Project’s overseers controlling every facet of their lives. Even Erik was scared, of being wrong and leading his friends down the path of no return. He had his fingers crossed, hoping for the best outcome for himself and for his companions.
The length between the gate and the tower’s foot was crossed quickly enough; what greeted them was an ominous-looking entrance to the underground parking structure that kind of reminded Jack of the mouth of Hell from the Divine Comedy, ready to swallow him whole in one gulp. Well, to any other folks, it’d be nothing more than a regular underground car park entrance, though.
Lei did her thing and the car effortlessly cruised to the entrance. There was a metallic gate blocking their way but as soon as their car came close, the shutters opened up as if in waiting. Jack noticed numerous cameras here as well, keeping a close watch on the car.
The underground parking lot was huge and also somewhat expectedly, devoid of any human activity. Again, not a soul was present. It’d be not unusual to spot a security personnel or two by now, but their lack of presence only served to tense up Jack and the company.
Jack got out of the car, he took another long look around the underground area, and noticed that there was a lot of things covered in the soft, gray material.
He could see that they were priceless, limited-edition supercars and luxury cars simply by taking a quick glance at their outlines. As a young, hot blooded and passionate man, he was naturally interested in stuff like this; even under the current situation he couldn’t help but feel envious of the lucky son of the gun who owned all these exotic and rare metals.
The whole underground area was constructed as a massive dome; there was a central pillar-like structure with an elevator, with its doors open and waiting for the passengers. Even here, no human presence. Everything was either fully automated, or all the staff members had to be on a very long holiday.
“Please use the elevator to come upstairs. The floor control is automatic, so do not worry. I’ll be waiting for you.”
A disembodied voice of a man suddenly came out of nowhere, startling the group of teens. Lei quickly fiddled around with her iPod, trying to locate the sources of the sound but even she couldn’t readily locate the speakers nor the cameras that were no doubt trained on them.
But the voice itself was quite pleasant, kinda like a cooling Summer breeze on the skin. It may have been alarming at first, but there didn’t seem any bad intent in the words and that put them at ease, with the exception of Jack. He had recognized this voice – it belonged to the person who owned this tower. And that realization only served to make his heart beat faster. Not in a good way, either.
“Okay, let’s get going,” said Erik as he goaded the others to follow him into the elevator.
Once the group entered it, the door silently closed and the lift began moving. The walls were finished in gleaming golden metal, polished to the very extreme and not a blemish in sight. The design itself was unusual in that there was no control panel on the walls, nor were there a display to show which floor they were on currently.
“So, uh, you nervous?” Erik asked Jack. He didn’t bother asking his companions because he knew them well enough – Cleo didn’t know better, and Lei wouldn’t say a word unless she was really unhappy. People who didn’t know her well sometimes thought she didn’t care about anything but Erik knew better, that Lei was just good at hiding her feelings.
“Should I be?”
Jack replied with a crumpled face.
“Well…. hmm. The thing is, I’ve never met the guy before.” Erik shrugged his shoulders and blushed a little. “But man…. how weird this is… Oh, right. You don’t know who we are meeting here. It’s The Maverick. The Maverick. The wealthiest, most powerful man alive. I am kind of nervous, to be honest.”
The Maverick, huh. Jack thought inwardly to himself. Right…. He’s the dude who owns the pharmaceutical company mom works at – The Faraday Laboratories. What a nickname. But the dude’s real name….
Jack frowned slightly as he drew blanks on what his face looked like or what his name was, which was strange to say the least. But perhaps, it made a bit of sense, as though the man himself was famous, he rarely did any interviews or publicity stunts. His public appearance over the years could be counted on one hand.
But Jack’s situation was different. Because he was pretty sure of meeting the man controlling the multi-billion dollar global conglomerate before when he came here with his mom.
So why couldn’t Jack recall the face of this billionaire? It was as if there was a thick veil of fog obscuring his mind. It sure made him feel somewhat anxious to meet this man who supposedly knew what was going on with him. The heavily beating heart in his chest was the proof of that feeling.
Jack placed a hand on his chest reflexively. Only then did he notice that all that pain from getting beat up by Cleo had largely subsided. Belatedly, he faintly sensed that there was some type of gentle, low-frequency humming coming from within the tower and that seemed to be the reason why he was feeling a lot better.
His fatigue progressively lessened to a point where he was feeling pretty relaxed and somewhat alert. Even with all of these improvements, he still couldn’t remember the face nor the name, though.
Soon, the elevator came to a gentle stop. The polished golden doors swished and opened to the sides, revealing a long white oval-shaped corridor devoid of any decoration. If one looked at this hallway objectively, it was something out of a Science Fiction movie with a huge budget and a set designer with an aesthetically cold but creative mind.
At the end of the corridor, there was another white door but it seemed closed for the moment with no way of opening it manually.
“Please step into the corridor. Forgive me for the momentary inconvenience, but it is absolutely necessary for you guys to go through this hallway as the area beyond the door is hermetically sealed.”
The voice intoned gently and it also sounded a bit apologetic as well. Jack had no recollection of this particular corridor. Probably it was built after his visit ten years ago. Whatever the case may be, they had to step into it anyway as the elevator behind them resolutely closed its doors, cutting off the only retreat out of here.
So, forward it was.
Cleo was the first. She usually was. Erik was right after her and Lei brought up the rear. As for Jack… He only hesitated for a second before starting to walk forward himself.
And with every step he took, the faster his heart beat with the unbearable anticipation, a dread of things to come. Because, he knew. He knew that there was an existence just beyond those doors capable of shattering his life as he knew it. The moment he stepped through those doors, his life would spiral out of his meager control.
But he also knew that this existence could help him. He could help Jack find a way out of this supernatural mystery. He could be the only one, in fact. Jack had to enter through those doors, even if it cost him his sanity.
The corridor darkened slowly and a hiss of air ejecting from somewhere came from above, from the sides, and even from the floor. A gentle but cold blast of air wrapped the group in its embrace. Then, a blast of hot air – followed by another cold one, but this time accompanied by the smell of chemicals that reminded Jack of disinfectants, only much stronger in its acrid sourness.
The alternating blasts of air continued for a few minutes before they stopped completely and the corridor brightened once more.
“Thank you for your patience, guys. Please, step forward. Come in.”
The metallic doors at the end of the corridor slid open almost soundlessly and Jack could just about make out the white walls and objects beyond. He didn’t see nor sense anything threatening from as far as the view was concerned, but still remained cautious and took a steady and measured step forward while doing his best to reign in the pounding heart.
It wasn’t as successful as he hoped for, however. His heart continued to beat madly as Jack’s foot slid past the door frame and directly into the chamber beyond.
He was immediately bathed in soft but bright glare of multiple LED lamps placed strategically in several angles all over. And these lights were illuminating several dozens of tall, large glass cabinets with incredibly thick glasses which even the naked eyes could discern quite easily.
Within each of these cabinets lay a stone tablet, the kind that Moses might have descended down Mount Sinai with. On it, ancient runes and symbols that should be nothing more than some incomprehensible chicken scratch were carefully carved into the surface.
Yet, when Jack took a casual glance at those carvings, he nearly gasped out in shock. Because he could read them.
He blinked his eyes for a good few seconds, but that didn’t really help. He could actually read them just fine, as if the bizarre words carved into these tablets were the very language he’d been speaking until now.
He had never, ever seen them – the letters, the stone tablets – before in his life. Not on television, not in a book, nor in the numerous websites of Internet. His heart pounded harder, madder. He felt like his chest might explode now. His entire being was prickling dangerously. No one could tell that other than himself but even Jack wasn’t sure of what he was feeling right in this moment.
Each of the cabinets had a polished bronze plaque attached in front with English translation of what was written on the tablet inside. Erik glanced over at the nearest one and murmured slowly.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh… Hmm. I heard that it was the oldest recorded story yet found. So these letters are cuneiforms, huh? But wow, they are so well preserved, as if someone carved them out yesterday.”
Jack’s mind almost reeled in dizziness. Gilgamesh? I know that name, don’t I?! But where did I hear that name before? Did I…. from the memory/dream?
Beyond the stone tablets, countless murals, some of them gigantic, adorned all of the walls, also encased in the thick layer of protective glass. The depictions of a tall, mustached man fighting against a humanoid creature, then a massive monster that resembled an ape and a bull mixed together, as well as numerous other fantastical creatures were vividly recreated on them. The more one gazed on these expressive murals, the more convinced the one became of these figures actually possessing life and thus capable of moving on their own.
And in the center of the chamber, a huge blood-red armor with no owner, also encased in a thick glass cabinet. The way it was positioned, anyone could see that this was supposed to be the center of the attraction.
“Oh, wow, that’s kickass,” said Cleo, her eyes shining at the sight of the majestic armor.
But the same couldn’t be said for Jack’s reaction. Because he recognized pretty much everything in this chamber. Each of the murals – almost all of them – were depictions of events Jack had seen in his dreams. His memories of the past. Only, his version was of course, far more life-like.
And when he saw the blood-red armor, all the pieces clicked into place.
“The Armor of Crimson Starlight….” Jack’s words left his mouth before he realized it. He stood there, trembling. He totally, definitely recognized this armor. Much more than the others here.
The main protagonist of Jack’s dream world was wearing this armor. He went off to countless battles with it. He fought against fearsome monsters with it. This armor formed a part of him.
In that dream, it was Jack who was wearing it.
Suddenly, his wildly beating heart stilled. An inexplicable nostalgic longing filled his whole being. Complicated emotions began to toy with him, making him wanting to break this glass open and reach out to the armor. To touch it, to feel it and wear it one more time.
“That is the armor that once belonged to the legendary God-King, Gilgamesh, or more correctly, Bilgamesh, as he was known back then.”
A cool, crisp voice came from behind one of the cabinets, surprising the group out of their silent observations of the many artifacts on display.
Jack reluctantly broke his gaze away from the armor and turned towards the source of the voice – the owner of the tower.
“….Mister Mylorne Akkad. We finally meet,” said Erik under his breath.
A man in early forties stepped out from behind the cabinet. He was devastatingly handsome in a completely indecipherable way. His ethnicity was hard to tell – he could be an Arab, he could be a Northern Caucasian or even Mediterranean. Greek? Egyptian? Indian? Eurasian?
His dark brown hair was shoulder length but neatly groomed. Just under six feet in height, he was neither too tall nor too short yet there was just something about the man that came off as powerful and imposing without even trying. Even Cleo withdrew slightly, instinctively sensing that this man was, for the lack of better word, not as simple as he looked, the gray T-shirt and a pair of washed-out jeans not weakening the impression one bit.
Jack was stunned into silence, though. The veil of fog shrouding his memories lifted as soon as he saw that face. And Jack could not believe his own eyes, nor could he trust his own mind. His legs shook, his fists were firmly clenched, beads of sweat were traveling down his backside like a waterfall.
Mylorne Akkad’s warm blue eyes, with a trace of purple, studied the four youths before him. A gentle smile bore his lips before he sighed in relief.
“Thank goodness, you guys have arrived without any incident. I’ve been waiting for so long for this day to talk to you face to face. The anticipation has been killing me. Please, make yourselves at home.”
Erik stepped forward and took charge of the communication right away. “Mister Akkad. We are here now as you have suggested. We sacrificed a lot by coming here, so please…. can you just tell us what we are? Why were we taken from our homes and placed in the military compounds over ten years ago?”
Mylorne smiled wryly at the pointed questions. “Well, in order to enlighten you all, including Mister Mercer here, we need to start from the very beginning. Follow me.”
And follow they did. Past the artifact chamber was a wide, spacious living area decked out top to bottom in white furniture. White sofas, white coffee tables, white floor lamps, even the super-giant white flatscreen TV that dominated the entirety of the wall it was mounted on. The only injection of color in this otherwise barren desert of whiteness was several expensive paintings that even someone untrained in art as Jack could recognize.
But none of that mattered for the moment as Jack was intensely staring at the back of the head belonging to Mylorne Akkad, his mind a complete mess.
That face… that face!! He… No, it can’t be. There is just no freaking way he’s the same person!! It just can not be!!
The wide vista of the outside world was visible through the windows; the near-endless sea of green, the fencing of the perimeter, then the brown of the world beyond. Jack was briefly reminded of the view he got from the tower in his dreams; it wasn’t a perfect carbon copy, but reasonably close. One more freakish coincidence for him to sweat over.
Didn’t seem like a mere chance the longer Jack sweated over the details, however. And that made Jack palpitate in buckets. The last vestige of his common sense was about to break into pieces and he was desperately trying to hold on here. With every step he took, that task became harder and harder to accomplish.
Mylorne offered seats to his guests on the pristine white couch and sofas. They looked ultra expensive – so much so that, even Cleo was feeling a bit weird to sit her ass down on them. But Lei, who had stopped fiddling with her iPod, saw no issues whatsoever and plonked down without a single shred of hesitation. Seeing that, the rest slowly sat down too.
“Refreshments? Surely, your throats are parched from the lengthy and difficult journey.”
A simple snap of his fingers, and a white robot on wheels whirred out from a corner. It carried a tray of drinks and snacks. The machine then busily arranged the food on the white coffee table with utmost efficiency.
After having gone through some strange ordeal, Jack thought this sight rather fitting. The sun was beginning to set now, and if there was a lazy lounge music playing in the background then the whole thing would have been postcard perfect.
The trio of teens, Erik, Lei and Cleo looked down on the snacks arranged on the table before them, not sure of what to feel or to say. No, they were waiting for someone to break the ice. Preferably Mylorne Akkad, seeing that he was the one who engineered this meeting after all. Eventually, curious Cleo reached down and picked up a biscuit, slowly shoving it in her mouth.
Her eyes went round the moment she chewed it.
“Holy cow, it’s delicious!!”
She then ravenously picked on the biscuits, devouring them like a hungry wolf.
Mylorne smiled pleasantly. “I’ll serve dinner in due course, so in the meantime, please enjoy yourselves with these. There are enough for everyone so don’t hold back.”
Erik decided to take the lead here since no one was capable of doing so in his eyes. Deciding to ignore Cleo, he leaned forward and took on a more serious tone. “Mister Akkad, please tell us what is going on. I’ve been holding onto those questions for over ten years now. I don’t think I can wait any longer.”
Lei pulled out her earphones as well, the first time Jack saw her do that. Her face was emotionless but her deep, dark eyes seemed to gleam with desire for the truth as well. Seeing the intensity of the two, Jack kept quiet, choosing to hold back his own questions for now. Even if he were to ask them right here, he figured that no satisfactory answer would be forthcoming.
Nodding, Mylorne sighed and slowly waved his hand. This brought up the curtains that automatically closed up the vast expense of the windows. The living room darkened significantly and the TV screen flickered into life.
“Let me start from the very beginning. It’s going to be a long story, so please, bear with me for a while.”
The date was February 11th, 1979.
The location? A dusty and mountainous region somewhere in Iran, closer to the Persian Gulf than to the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.
There was almost nothing here, unless one counted endless sea of sand as something useful to a person. The way Professor Evans saw it, the blowing sand was a dastardly enemy he had to struggle against every single day.
He looked at the wristwatch; it was only twenty past nine in the morning. The desert in the late winter could become prohibitively cold too, which was something most people initially wouldn’t have guessed.
Pulling the wool jumper close to his cheeks, Evans drew in a deep breath and turned back towards the peak of the hill. Near the top, a cave entrance could be seen, as well as a bevy of activities precipitated by a group of workers and archaeologists.
Evans came out of that very cavern not too long ago to get himself a breath of fresh, cold air. The night before had been too damn exhilarating and his heart couldn’t simply take the strain if he stayed in there any longer. Now that he got his intake of the refreshing air, his head was much clearer than before.
His neck ached slightly so he roughly massaged it as he ascended the hill. His assistant, Donald, was waving his hands animatedly at the relatively young and brilliant professor once their eyes met.
“Professor!! Come and take a look!! We’ve got something on the monitor!! The camera found something unbelievable!! It’s incredible, sir!!”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m coming, Donald. Hold your pants on, will you.”
Chuckling, Evans hurried his steps and entered the cave. The naturally formed mouth of the cavern didn’t extend too deep before the man made walls began to appear on all sides. Pristine murals, hieroglyphs and various statues and stone steles decorated the interior, denoting its incredible wealth as potentially the archaeological find of this century.
Countless lights were placed on the floor as well as on the walls to better illuminate all these priceless relics of the now-forgotten part of the history, highlighting many unusual symbols, runes, design flourishes and carving techniques on the myriad of surfaces present.
But oddly, the entire chamber didn’t seem all that big, no more than that of a, say, a fast-food restaurant’s eating area. Evans and his team of course knew why this was so. They were well aware of the fact that all these items in front of their eyes weren’t everything this… tomb had to offer. They spent weeks trying to locate the hidden chamber and the passageway that would lead them into it.
And they had found it last night. A small hole was drilled into the wall facing North and a PVC pipe with an advanced military-grade infrared camera inserted inside was placed within this hole.
The live feed was directed to the large banks of monitors set up near the wall in question, away from the devastating elements outside. The guy charged with operating all these expensive equipment sat on a chair in front, holding what looked like an ill-formed pleasure toy for the ladies.
Setting everything up took the whole night and carrying around the heavy equipment like a twenty-year-old freshman had done in Evans’ neck. Nothing could beat the relentless advent of time, it seemed. But he sure didn’t care when the breakthrough he had chased for all his life was just around the corner.
On the monitor, the hidden chamber showed itself. It was obviously dark – very dark. But even then, a faint outline of a huge, monolithic item could be seen. Evans felt his heartbeat rise at an alarming rate, the smile pasted on his face growing even faster.
“It’s THE sarcophagus. Can you position the camera closer? With more light? We need to see it better, on that side. Yeah, there, right there!!”
Evans pointed at the screen when the familiar cuneiforms showed up on it. The beaming smile solidified and even if he tried, he wouldn’t be able to undo it for the next ten weeks. That’s how good he felt right this moment.
The vindication he was feeling was indescribable; all the ridicule he’d received from his peers, all the weary gazes thrown at his way by the potential financiers. Enduring all that was totally worth it. Now, Evans could confidently shout at their conceited faces, “Eat this, you cheap, unbelieving pieces of….!!”
Donald noticed something on the monitor and shook Evans on the shoulder. “Look, professor. Look at that glowing thing, there on the corner.”
“What glowing thing?!”
Evans irritably slapped Donald’s hand off his shoulder and leaned in closer to take a look.
Indeed, there was something that faintly glowed in the dark, near the sarcophagus. The image quality was too vague to tell what it was.
“Probably a surface reflecting the light from the camera, nothing more,” Evans said dismissively. “Don’t stop. Keep on going and get closer to the sarcophagus until we can see more details. Come on, man!! Do hurry up!!”
The camera operator crinkled his brows but nodded his head and continued to manipulate the joystick. The camera closed in on the glowing thing and when it got close enough, the inevitable thing happened – the two touched.
Suddenly, the entire hill shook violently for a second. Everyone, even the ones outside, felt the tremor.
“An earthquake?!” Donald gasped and ducked below the banks of monitors faster than a speeding bullet.
Evans quickly scanned around after steadying himself, and found nothing was amiss – no falling debris, no loose rocks tumbling down on them, no nothing.
Shaking his head nervously, Evans shouted. “Hey, is everyone alright? Do a head count, Donald. Confirm that everyone is accounted for!!”
As soon as the words left his lips, the hill creaked again and shook even harder, this time for a longer period. The entire tomb shook and Evans fell on his butt, hard. So did the man operating the cameras, he too fell down and tried to hide under the whatever he could crawl beneath.
Sparks flew as the electric cords got violently tangled up and snapped, the monitors dying in an instant. And incredibly, the whole wall where the hole was drilled into, began to separate into two. Lots and lots of dust and sand fell on the crowd near it, including on Evans’ head.
The commotion continued for a minute as the wall completely split open, becoming a lengthy passageway leading to the burial chamber. Once the doors were fully opened, the shaking stopped and the deafening silence returned to the tomb. Of course, the camera equipment, as expensive as they were, were completely ruined, sucked into the wall along with the doors. But Evans was too elated to care for the cost.
Clearing his throat, he shouted. “Do the head count, Donald!! Make sure everyone is alright!! And go and find Mohammed and Salim!! Hey, what are you waiting for?! Go, I say!! Time is precious!! From the very first moment this chamber opened up, it’s being irreparably damaged by the contact with the outside air!! Hurry, man!!”
After giving out the orders, Evans snapped on the flashlight and shined its light on the dark passageway. The walls were smooth, no murals nor writings on them. He didn’t find signs of those deadly traps popularized by old adventure serials he used to watch as a child either. Which left him with a mixed bag of emotions, part of it relief and the other part very, very small disappointment.
The air was sterile, dank with mold, and smelt just a bit…. like an old burial chamber. But that only served to excite Evans further.
Drinking in the odor of his victory, Evans carefully stepped inside the dark chamber and slowly advanced forward while continuously shining the light everywhere.
And soon, the light of his torch landed on the large sarcophagus.
Evans sucked in the air. He uttered under his breath. “Beautiful…”
He was now in a dome-shaped chamber, with the sarcophagus placed smack dab in the middle. The entire chamber’s size exceeded well over that of a large mausoleum, granting Evans more than enough room to move around.
The light shined on the walls, and he drew in another sharp breath. There were so many cuneiforms adorning the walls here, it was just plainly insane. And even on a cursory glance, they were of different content from what was recorded on the outside. This was beyond a major discovery now. Evans had struck not only gold, but platinum, diamond, and plutonium all at once!!
He chuckled heartily to himself before noticing a small pedestal right next to the sarcophagus. The broken PVC pipe with the camera was lying on the ground next to it. On top of this strange pedestal, he saw a crystal that was rapidly losing its radiance.
“Is that what reflected the light from the camera?”
Evans frowned slightly and approached it, wondering just what purpose this thing served in a tomb. The height of the pedestal made it ideal for a grown man to stand still and press down on it as if it was a switch of some kind….
A brief thought flashed by in his head. What if this was the button to operate the walls? I mean, after all, the camera bumped into it and then the wall began to move….
Evans stared at the pedestal and the crystal for a second before snapping out of his thoughts.
No way. Nothing like this pedestal or the crystal could be found outside the burial chamber. That means it’s only in here. But what purpose would that serve?! Seriously, now – unless the dead guy decides to stand up suddenly and go for a stroll or some such nonsense…
Evans quickly threw the notion away. It was a ridiculous idea to begin with, anyways, so he saw no point in having it occupy a corner of his valuable mind.
Next, he studied the cuneiforms on the sarcophagus itself. The more he deciphered, the more excited he became.
“Gilgamesh, finally I found you. Welcome to the 20th Century.”
Chuckling, Evans tenderly touched the lid and sighed. It was then Donald came inside the chamber with a photographer in tow.
“Professor!! Everyone’s alright. Salim’s got a light bruising but he’ll be fine after some treatment. I’ve brought Mohammed in the meantime.”
“Good, good. Mohammed, please work your magic, my good man!! Because today, we are going to be famous!! Famous, I tell you!!”
Evans beamed brightly and vigorously slapped the photographer, Mohammed, on his shoulders.
“Whatever you say, professor.” Mohammed smiled wryly before hoisting his expensive camera and began to see through the lens. “We’ll need a lot of lights in here, Donald. Can you organize at least half a dozen?”
While the two of them were discussing the logistics of the lighting, Evans took another lengthy look at the walls.
Eventually, the wide smile slowly faded and was replaced by a more solemn expression. He pulled out his notebook and began to hurriedly jot down the rough translations. That was because the stuff he was reading right now…. barely made sense.
It didn’t even read like the usual cuneiforms either, with several unknown letters and symbols popping up everywhere, greatly confusing the professor. And he was someone possessing a lot of pride at being the preeminent expert on the long-dead language of the ancient Sumeria and Mesopotamia. But even he couldn’t bridge the gap here.
That was because from what he could understand so far, made him wonder if someone was pulling a practical joke on him.
What the hell…. is this? Why is it talking about some sort of cataclysmic war between the gods and…. men? And according to this, it hasn’t even taken place yet? Huh? And what the heck is this about the village chief of black? No, wait – that’s not right. Uh…. how about…. the lord of darkness? Hmm, that sounds better….
No, wait a freaking minute here, it does not sound better. What the hell is this?! Is this a goddamn fairy tale?! A Lord of Darkness? You must be kidding me.
Donald and Mohammed called out to Evans then and told him that they were stepping outside for a bit to get the rest of the lighting equipment. Evans, feeling somewhat hot under the collar, nodded his head without turning his head around, afraid that the two might figure something out from his current befuddled expression.
After they left him alone, Evans frowned and held his head. No matter how much he pondered, he couldn’t figure out what was going on. This was definitely the tomb of Gilgamesh the God-King, that much he was sure of.
But the hell was all that about this cautionary tale of warfare? All he could think about was that the fault, the reason for his confusion, lied with the damn indecipherable cuneiforms. It had to be.
And the state of those letters weren’t so hot, either. A few of them were damaged. Well, it wasn’t like he could translate them right away even if they were fine, but still.
Feeling frustrated, Evans brushed one of the confusing cuneiforms. He meant nothing by that gesture; it was something he wouldn’t have done if he was in the right frame of mind. But he wasn’t, and that’s when the rest of his life took a different turn.
The particular symbols depicting the Lord of Darkness slid in and an audible click could be heard from behind the wall. Evans stiffened. He had no time to back away before a ray of red light shot out from the sarcophagus and filled his head with indescribable, terrifying images, of the past and the future.
By the time Donald returned with the crew to set the lighting equipment, they found Evans slumped on the floor, hyperventilating.
The crew rushed him out of the tomb and brought him outside the cavern before the professor waved his hand and spoke to them. “I’m okay. I’m okay. Mohammed, Donald, take photos of everything inside, each and every symbol, letter, and rune and…. just take everything!! Since Salim’s injured, get someone else to take the recorder and video tape every inch of that place. And I do mean every inch!! And also, we need to take the sarcophagus out of there!!”
“Calm down, professor!! You know we can’t take out the coffin – that’s inadvisable at this stage of the dig!!”
“Just do as I say, will you, Donald?” Evans tiredly said to his assistant as he was supported into the tent.
Before he could be settled down on a chair, though, loud whirring noises shattered the calm air.
Frowning, Evans stood up, ignoring the onslaught of dizziness. He hurriedly stepped outside the tent to find out the cause of the noise, only to witness three military helicopters landing by the foot of the hill, where the rest of the team’s tents were pitched.
“What the…. what’s going on here?” Donald muttered in confusion. “What’s the U.S. Army doing here?”
Several soldiers poured out of the green helicopters. They then began to order the people around to do…. something, but since Evans and Donald were too far away they couldn’t tell what that was all about.
Evans noticed a young-ish soldier rushing up to where he was. He was dressed differently to the other soldiers, denoting that he was an officer, not a grunt.
The soldier took off his aviator shades and offered his right hand. “Professor Evans?”
“Yes, I am he. And you are?”
“Second Lieutenant Jonathan Williams, U.S. Marine Corps. I’ve come to extract you and your men out of here, sir. We’ve got a situation developing at Tehran.”
“What? What situation?”
“There’s been a coup. The remnant of Pahlavi regime has collapsed and as we speak, all American citizens are being evacuated from the country. You and your men are included in that as well.”
All of Evans’ strength suddenly left his body. He crumpled on the spot, dejected and his voice weak and trembling in shock. “No, this can’t be…. Lieutenant Williams, this… this place, do you know the significance of this place?! We can’t…. I can’t abandon this place!!”
“Sorry, Professor. I’ve got my orders, sir. And you are coming with me. Right now.”
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