Another old man, thought Angell. An old woman would be nice for a change.

“Nicer for me than for you, I imagine,” said the shaman, reading his thoughts.

Angell turned to Adnan. “Put that thing away. This may be the one we are here to see.”

The shaman sat down on the ground as if it was an easy chair, old and comfortable, and he began to speak.

“I know why you are here. I will have to speak quickly, so please do not interrupt. You are in a beyul, a hidden country. But it’s not what you think. I am a Tibetan, but I am not a Buddhist and this is not a Buddhist beyul no matter what the guidebooks tell you. This place once concealed a great terma. You know terma? Many of Buddhism’s most important texts were originally termas. A terma is a hidden text, a spiritual document that was buried and appears only when times demand it. The great sages of Buddhism have discovered buried termas, which basically makes their reputation as great sages. The Bardo Thodol was one such terma. You know it as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, an unfortunate and wholly inaccurate characterization, but there you have it. These ‘hidden treasures’—for that is what the word terma means—are well-known in Bön religion, too. The sacred books of the Yezidi are termas. Those of the Kalasha are still lost, buried when the armies of the Prophet swept through their country.

“Unfortunately, not every terma is benign. Some are very dark indeed. They were buried not to be rediscovered at some later time but to remain hidden and buried forever … or at least until human beings were capable of reading them without losing their minds. The Book you seek is one such terma. It is a terma of darkness and death. It is a true ‘Book of the Dead,’ unlike the Bardo Thodol. It was buried here, in this place, centuries ago. But then some Chinese explorers found it, long ago, and its influence began to be felt around the world.

“Your Book concerns a being known as a kusu-lu. In our language, that means a shaman who has come back from the dead. I believe your people pronounce it as Kutulu or Cthulhu? No matter. It is the same being. A tulku. A tulku is a being sufficiently spiritually advanced that it can choose its own time and place of rebirth.

“The Dalai Lama is a tulku; he is reincarnated constantly, out of love for humanity. The kusu-lu, though, is a tulku who returns out of hatred for humanity. They are both spiritually advanced, just not in the same way. I believe it was the English author Arthur Machen who wrote that there are sacraments of evil as well as of good. He understood the concept. Many do not.

“Your Book, your Necronomicon, is a terma that was buried by the kusu-lu, the high priest of the Old Ones, until the time came for the destruction of the world. You see, the kusu-lu sees the world as a prison from which he desires to be liberated. The Necronomicon is the Tantra of his particular Liberation, his kusulu-pa: a word that can mean mysticism as well as exorcism, for the Necronomicon contains not only the mechanisms to open the Gates and free kusu-lu from his slumber of death; it also contains the formulas to imprison him forever.

“Kusu-lu, or Kutulu, resides in one of the beyul, in Aghartta. This is a kind of anti-Shambhala, a domain of dark powers. Khembalung leads to the Gate of Aghartta, but it is only one of many. Even now, at this very moment, devotees of Kusu-lu are making their way to the Tomb from different spots on the Earth. This is only one entrance. There are many more, all over the planet.”

Angell had heard enough. He stood up from where he had been squatting on the ground and addressed the shaman.

“What you are telling us are legends, old wives’ tales. Buried books, a high priest, Aghartta, Shambhala, and now you expect us to believe that

there are multiple entrances to this spot from places around the planet. A physical impossibility! All we want to know is the location of the Book so we can get it out of the hands of terrorists and murderers who would use it for propaganda purposes. Instead we get fairy tales! What you have told us is impossible and irrational …”

“When the stars are right, such considerations will mean nothing.”

But before the shaman can explain what he means, a flash-bang grenade is tossed into the cave from outside. Adnan hits the ground but he is too close to the device. Angell dives for cover in a corner of the entrance. The shaman simply sits where he is. There is a blinding light and an explosion, and when the smoke clears no one is moving.

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

THE CODEX VI

The Nazi that Robert Barlow has been seeking—Johann von Leers—has left South America for a permanent position in Egypt. A linguist fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Leers has used what leverage he has with the Nazi underground to buy his way into Nasser’s government. In Egypt, Leers converts to Islam and takes a Muslim name, Omar Amin, but his real agenda is the destruction of Israel and the rebirth of the Nazi Party.

He begins to form alliances with Nazi occult groups around the world, including the National Renaissance Party in New York City, which is run by the crazed theosophist James Madole. Word begins to spread in occult circles that Leers has access to the Necronomicon, taken out of Europe with him when he fled to Argentina. Rumors of Leers and the Necronomicon reach Barlow in Mexico City.

When Barlow realizes that the Black Book is out of his grasp and in the hands of Nazi maniacs, he falls into a deep depression. He begins contacting American and Israeli intelligence to urge them to seize the book from Leers in Cairo. Word of his campaign reaches the ears of ODESSA operatives in Mexico City, who approach him and threaten to reveal his homosexuality to the university authorities. It is 1950, and such a revelation would destroy him both professionally and socially.

On New Year’s Day, 1951, Robert H. Barlow commits suicide in his room at the college. His body is witnessed by William S. Burroughs, one of his students, who would become famous as a Beat writer and author of Naked Lunch.

He is also famous for having accidentally shot and killed his wife later that same year in Mexico City.

(In 1977, he would write a letter praising the publication of one recension of the Necronomicon, calling it a “landmark in the history of

spiritual liberation.”)

The last of the Lovecraft circle is now dead: Barlow, Robert E. Howard, both suicides, the Protestant minister and expert in Afro-Caribbean religions Henry St. Clair Whitehead, and Lovecraft himself. By this time Carl Tanzler is also dead—an effigy of Elena de Hoyos in his arms, unsuccessfully reanimated without the benefit of the Necronomicon—and the circle is now closed. The only ones who knew anything of the Necronomicon are Nazis, a scattering of cult leaders around the world, and a handful of impoverished academics. The Yezidi in Iraq and Turkey and the Nabataeans—as well as some Shiite and Sufi sects—are aware of the Book and its links to their own Sumerian origins, but do not possess the text.

After the death of Leers in 1965, the Yezidi in Lalish hear rumors that the Book has wound up with a neo-Nazi enclave in the United States from which it was stolen by two Eastern Orthodox monks, who then allow portions of it to be translated … but the original disappears again, only to resurface at the Baghdad Museum after it has been purchased on the black market by agents of Saddam Hussein. The invasion of Iraq and the attacks on the Baghdad Museum give a clan within the Yezidi an opportunity to seize the Book and conceal it at a secret shrine in Lalish, but word spread to agents of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Druze in Lebanon, and the Alawis in Syria, as well as Jemaah Islamiyyah in Southeast Asia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard—as well as new players such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant—that the Book is in play, and that it is both a threat to their ideologies and a potential source of great destructive power to vanquish their enemies.

But there is another group for which the Book has always been a core scripture, a terma, a buried treasure that has been discovered and which will be used to resurrect the tulku, the First Priest. This group is older than all the others, and is the root religion of all religions—for it is the religion of the founders of all life on the planet Earth, the source of its genetic code, the breath and blood from beyond the stars that gave life to the human race before trying to take it away again. And the followers of this cult, this Cult of Cthulhu, this priesthood of Dagon, has been waiting for this moment, this post-atomic age moment, this wholly integrated internet- enshrouded, spider-webbed world of data and instant messaging, to

reappear. The message of their Gods, of the Ancient Ones, is perfectly structured for this moment in human history when a thought, a word, an image travels from one end of the globe to the other in microseconds. This, they know, is consciousness: a simulacrum of the electrical signals of the brain’s neurons, firing in meaningful patterns, providing a material basis for the incarnation of their Gods.

The Book is both a guide for the worshippers of Kutulu / Kusulu / Cthulhu—the High Priest of the Ancient Ones, the Lord of the Underworld, the Shaman risen from the Dead, the Promised One, the Hidden Imam, the Mahdi, the Christ, the Anti-Christ, the Kalki Avatar who will return from his secret place of death below the earth and the oceans, to restore ownership of the planet to its original colonizers from beyond the stars—but it also contains the methods for stopping them. It is a Book about the opening of a Gate, but also the means of closing it. It is a Gospel that cannot be allowed to see the light of day: not by its adherents and devotees, and not by its fiercest opponents. This is a Secret that must remain a Secret. At least, until the stars are right.

And the global electronic-neuronal firing, the planetary cerebellum, begins to form new patterns as the Cult becomes emboldened, knowing that the day for which they have waited millennia is about to dawn. The cable television channels begin saturating the airwaves and high speed fiber optic networks with specials on Ancient Astronauts, Jonestown, Satanic cult murders, Aztec sacrifice, alien abductions, serial killers, the video-taped beheadings by members of terrorist groups, the murder of Muslim Rohingya by Burmese Buddhists, the crackdown on Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim separatists by Chinese Communists … internet podcasts and blogs reporting the presence of aliens and illuminati everywhere … insane speculation about lizard-like amphibians inhabiting the bodies of political and cultural icons … and everywhere else—the slaughter of women and children, their forced labor and sexual servitude, the gradual genocides in Africa and the elimination of religious and ethnic minorities—gradual so you don’t notice it and don’t do anything about it— are ignored, lumped in with the aliens and the illuminati and satanic cults so that the entire message is devalued, marginalized, stripped of any shred of journalistic integrity … a world where fiction becomes fact, and fact fiction … into all of this, into this Poesian maelstrom, the Necronomicon.

The ancient plea of the Sumerian high priests—Spirit of the Earth, Remember! Spirit of the Sky, Remember!—is about to be answered.

BOOK THREE

THE BLACK BOOK

CHAPTER THIRTY

THE TERTON

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.

—Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality

Adnan was the first to recover, pointing his pistol at the cave entrance and getting ready to fire at anyone or anything coming through. Angell still had ringing in his ears and a halo of light where his vision should be, due to the effects of the flash-bang grenade. The shaman was nowhere to be seen, but then no one was seeing much of anything at the moment.

Adnan yelled out to Angell, “You okay?”

Angell couldn’t hear him, so Adnan asked again, even louder.

It was then that Adnan realized that maybe Angell was answering him and he couldn’t hear.

He crawled along the floor of the cave, keeping his eyes on the entrance, towards where Angell had been when the grenade went off. He finally saw the professor leaning up against the cave wall, rubbing his eyes and trying to get his vision back.

He grabbed him by the leg and shook him, so that Angell had to look down and listen.

“Don’t rub your eyes. It will only make it worse. Wait a few minutes.

Your vision will come back.”

Angell just nodded, numb with the effects of the blast.

“When they come in I will hold them off as long as possible,” he shouted into Angell’s ear. “You go through the tunnel after the other guys. Tell them what’s happening.”

Angell nodded again, and started crawling over to the tunnel entrance. Adnan noticed he was trembling like a leaf, but said nothing. Once he made contact with the JSOC guys he would be okay.

Instead, he turned his attention towards the cave entrance. The blast had only been seconds ago but it seemed like an hour. At any moment whoever lobbed that grenade would come through, blasting away at anything that moved.

Angell got to the tunnel entrance. His vision was coming back. He could see the tunnel. He turned to look at Adnan, who had stationed himself off- center from the cave entrance, still sitting on the ground, and holding his automatic straight out in front of him with both hands.

Angell took a last look and squeezed himself through the tunnel aperture.

It was almost tall enough for him to stand upright, and wide enough—once past the aperture—that he was able to walk freely for some time. The tunnel permitted only one route for the first few hundred feet, but after that point it branched off. Ahead of him was the route the JSOC team took, because that is where they spotted the distant light. He was about to go that way when someone grabbed his left arm.

“Wait!” said a voice in the darkness.

Angell twisted his arm away and peered into the gloom. “Who’s that?” he whispered, thinking it was one of the team. “Namaste,” came the sarcastic reply.