In the chamber is a statue of a strange Creature, half-cephalopod, half- humanoid, the image from the Cthulhu File. Before it is a young woman, drugged, dressed like the Sumerian goddess Inanna or the Babylonian Ishtar. She reclines on a low couch. As her face turns in the light of the fire

we see a marked resemblance to Jamila, the Yezidi seeress. The high priest reveals a curved blade.

From the other side of the chamber a Being enters. A human in a mask, perhaps. Or perhaps not. It is a man, but with the face of a bird and large wings like a peacock. He has come to take the sacrifice away, to entice the Old Ones to return. To rescue their weak and vulnerable creation from the horrors that will come. Wars, famines, pestilence. Holocaust. The sacrifice is the elixir that revives and restores. It is the blood of the priestess, the earthly representative of Inanna, of Ishtar, the Goddess who descended to the Underworld and then let loose the demons and the dead who dwell below.

Below the ziggurat there is a large pool of water. The Absu, the abyss. It is the entrance to the Underworld. To Kutu. Gudua. Cutha. The sacrifice will be thrown from the mountain of the ziggurat into the ocean of the Absu, to entreat the First Priest, the Kutu-lu, to awaken from his timeless chamber of death to return to the World and call forth the Old Ones again.

Miller shakes his head, coming to consciousness. That last viewing was intense, and dangerous because he lost contact momentarily with what was happening around him. It was an involuntary viewing, and it frightened him. His eyes focus and he sees that the devotees—the followers of Cthulhu, the Keepers of the Book—have arrayed themselves around the walls of the cavern, facing towards the center.

A woman is being brought out. Angell, on the other side of the cavern from Miller, recognizes with a jolt young Jamila from the Yezidi camp. As his eyes grow accustomed to the torchlight he can make out many nationalities, many races among the cultists. There are even a few faces he recognizes: from the news, from celebrity sightings, and even from the journals of religion and spirituality he subscribes to as a professor. This is not real, he tells himself. This is a kind of nightmare experience. A hallucination, probably brought on by whatever herb it is they are burning as incense. Juniper? He noticed it grows in profusion on the mountainside. Maybe the sense memory of it, the association with the scene in Kamdesh

Jamila—it is Jamila, from the refugee camp—is speaking in tongues. A kind of satanic glossolalia. Her eyes are turned upwards in her head and she appears to be in a trance. Miller is responding to it, fighting the urge to

join her in this unholy communion with the Other. His men, the Tibetans, have totally lost their concentration on Angell and Adnan, and are transfixed by this young woman in the center of the cavernous temple, the templous cavern, this Tomb of the High Priest. They have heard of such things before. They have seen their shamans and their monks perform miracles; have watched as the State Oracle of Tibet went into a similar trance, speaking in tongues. But this … no, not this. This is not right. This is … wrong.

Jamila is dressed in a costume of some kind, chaste but somehow degenerate at the same time, as if the material that covers her from neck to toes is swimming on her or around her, a gauze like silver smoke. The leader of the cult is bald, a head like a torpedo, and large. He is arrayed in a black and gold vestment with symbols embroidered on it that were derived from the Black Book in his hand, the one he still holds over the heads of the congregation. He is speaking, inaudibly, an incantation and his devotees are responding in kind in a sub-vocal chant that nevertheless stands Angell’s hair on end.

Adnan wants to shoot something. Almost anything at this point. This is truly out of hand. And the JSOC team is nowhere to be found. He eyes the Book in the leader’s hands and calculates the distance and the time needed to get to it and grab Angell and get the hell out of the caves.

Then abruptly Jamila’s voice changes and what comes out of her mouth is a sound unlike any Angell has ever heard. It has more in common with the ululation he heard at Tell Ibrahim, but it is coming out of a single throat and not dozens. He doesn’t know how she is doing that. It is not a human voice, but something halfway between animal and machine.

Miller and Angell come to the same realization at the same time: Jamila is channeling the creature in the Tomb. She is channeling Cthulhu and giving orders to his devotees. The floor—the wide, geometrically- impossible stone floor with the weird bas-relief in Riemann-like dimensions—begins to tremble, and it is at that moment that Angell realizes that the enormous stone floor beneath his feet is the Tomb. They have all been standing on it the entire time.

The cult leader opens the Book to begin to read from it aloud.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

LOSING MY RELIGION

In war magic, anger, the fury of attack, the emotions of combative passion, are frequently expressed in a more or less direct manner. In the magic of terror, in the exorcism directed against the powers of darkness and evil, the magician behaves as if himself overcome by the emotion of fear, or at least violently struggling against it. Shouts, brandishing of weapons, the use of lighted torches, form often the substance of this rite.

—Bronislaw Malinowski, Myth in Primitive Psychology

As the Keeper of the Book begins to intone the incantation that will raise Cthulhu from his Tomb, Chinese troops begin to mass on the Tibetan- Nepali border in anticipation of a massive terrorist campaign being run out of Khembalung, or at least that’s the cover story. The Indian and Pakistani armies respond in kind, and a major military confrontation between three countries over the territory of a fourth appears to be inevitable.

Half a world away, Russian troops pour into Ukraine at the same time as Boko Haram accelerates their process of slaughter in Nigeria, especially of women and girls. Child soldiers run amok in Cambodia while Burmese Buddhists begin a campaign of eradication against the Muslim Rohingya. Crack-addled former soldiers of Charles Taylor’s Liberian militia come out of hiding; dressed in odds and ends of women’s clothing and sporting Halloween masks they go on a rampage of rape and murder. Women as the enemy; women as objects of desire. Desire as enemy.

In Afghanistan, former leaders of the Northern Alliance gather for a celebration. They know something is in the air. A change is coming. The world will never be the same. So they are hosting a dance competition

among their boys. The infamous practice of bacha bazi is all the rage among these grizzled elders, who steal or buy boys as young as six or seven and groom them to be exotic dancers who wear women’s clothing and make-up and who service the adult males sexually until they age-out at seventeen or eighteen at which time they are discarded. An underground nationalist network as an underground pedophile network. The Taliban put a stop to that in their territory, thank Dagon; instead they buy or steal women and girls as slaves for their friends and colleagues in Al-Qaeda, or as commodities to be sold on the open market for easy money. And when the Taliban frees one of the boys used as a sex slave by the Northern Alliance, they turn him into a child soldier and send him to kill Afghan policemen. Jesus may have wept, but Cthulhu laughs. “Suffer the little children,” he gurgles in his putrescent palisade. “Indeed.”

A US Los Angeles class submarine detects strong seismic activity at or near Point Nemo in the Pacific Ocean and what appears to be frantic escape maneuvers by a school of giant cephalopods. The seismic activity seems to stop abruptly … then just as abruptly turns into an undersea earthquake as volcanoes around the Ring of Fire begin shooting jets of rock and lava into the sky and the submarine is tossed like a paper boat on shockwaves emanating from a deep fissure in the sub-oceanic soil.

Of course, none of this is known to the inhabitants of the cavern. The Tomb of the First Priest is trembling with what might be more seismic activity, following a fault line that runs from somewhere below the Indian Ocean and into the sub-continent itself. Is this what the shaman meant when he said the Tomb of the First Priest could be reached from various places around the world?

Adnan notices Angell starting to move towards the cult leader. The professor is slowly raising the muzzle of his weapon and Adnan knows he is about to fire. He reaches over and whispers, “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“I have to stop him. Whatever he’s doing, whatever he’s saying, he’s making it worse.”

Angell doesn’t have to explain what ‘it’ means. There is a growing tremor from beneath the floor where they stand. The chanting from the crowd is building in intensity. Even Miller is swaying a little, eyes closed, lost in his own reverie. And Jamila … the Yezidi woman seems to be an

extension of the Tomb itself, moving in its oddly-syncopated rhythms, lowering herself closer and closer to the floor. What histories are in her head! What a collection of arcane lore, spirit possession, violence, assault, and finally the kidnapping by the Cthulhu Cult to bring her to this place: first from Iraq, then Syria, then a refugee camp in Turkey, and finally across half of the world and all of Central Asia to reach this cavern in this tunnel below this Himalayan mountain in the company of men who do not speak her language, far from her beloved neighbor Fahim, far from her homeland in Lalish. She knows, but cannot say, that another cult of death and depravity—ISIL—is now moving on her people at Sinjar with the intention of killing every last one. Like the Cathars from a land she never knew, like the Jews of Masada, they will climb to the mountain top and resist, and hide their books and their sacred implements while they await the call of Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel.

But Jamila knows this is now. Jamila knows this is here. If anyone is going to defend her people, her Yezidi family, the thousands of men, women and children who have been reviled and oppressed and slaughtered throughout all of human history since the days of ancient Sumer, it will have to be now, and here, and with this god they call Kutulu.

Because no one else will.

The leader, the one she was told to call the priest of Dagon, has the Book in his hands, the Book she had rescued herself from the Mukhabarat so many years ago. He defiles it even as it defiles him. He has begun to intone a chant over the droning of his followers, in a rising and falling tempo that seems simultaneously desperate and angry.

Before he knows what he has done—a question he will ask himself for the rest of his life—a shot rings out and it dawns on Angell that he has fired it, fired the weapon and put a bullet through the heart of the chanting priest.

Miller’s eyes slam open at the sound which has sent an echo running in ovoid spheres around the cavern, cutting off the priest’s voice in mid- oration. Angell doesn’t know what he is doing, but he knows that if he doesn’t put a stop to the ritual, somehow, that terrible things—sick, hideous, loathsome things—will take place, and these diseased human beings will be sent to run wild in the streets of the world’s cities and towns, causing more chaos and bloodshed than the world has ever known … and

that’s saying something. Maybe he has been infected with the same bloodlust as the people who now surround him, hatred in their eyes, as they raise ceremonial daggers and scimitar swords to flay and slice the flesh from his body.

All he knows is that, for the first time, he has taken a human life. The sensation of the weapon bucking in his hands. The smell of the cordite. The sickening sense that he has somehow been changed, been ruined, soiled—that is replaced by a deeper disgust that he has come to this. He has killed. A man is dead or dying, leaving the world forever, because of him and a book. A book … a book has become the reason that human beings die. He can’t stand the thought. A book! But he has no time to grieve.

Angell fingers the trigger on his weapon, heart pounding, ready to take a few with him but knowing that his life is over no matter what happens next.

More shots ring out. Adnan opens fire on the advancing cultists as Miller and his men begin shooting in the same direction. Miller is shooting and running, heading for the body of the slain priest just as it starts to fall. Angell knows Miller is going for the Book. He fires into the crowd himself, suddenly a commando—telling himself it’s okay, it’s alright, they’re trying to kill me, too—trying to shoot his way through to the Book before Miller can reach it. Others have the same idea and Angell knows he will never make it in time … when the Book seems to rise into the air of its own accord.

It is Jamila, who seems to have come out of her trance at the sound of the gunfire—unwelcome reminders of an entire life lived at the mercy of armed men—and who has seized the Book and is now moving with it towards Angell. There is something about her at that moment that nags at something in Angell’s own memory but he can’t place it. With no time to wonder about it he races towards Jamila, stumbling over falling bodies as he goes, hearing Miller’s frantic shouts at his men to cut him off and seize the Book.

Then, in a replay of what transpired in the basement in Mosul in 2003 with Fahim, the Mukhabarat, and Jamila, there is a shudder that runs through the entire cavern and the sound as of a beast growling either in pain or in hatred or both, and a feeling of almost unbearable warmth runs through Angell’s body as if an ocean of heat was pouring through his veins

and running from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, nearly blinding him on the way. The warmth, the heat, the vertical ascent … Angell knows enough to realize it is the Serpent, the one depicted on the side of the Yezidi shrines, the rising Serpent, the Goddess herself, call her Shahmaram or Kundalini, the real source of life and energy, not that … that Thing in the Tomb. But it is happening to him, not from him. It is coming from Outside. This is no yoga meditation happening here. It is violence and death and … and initiation.