There is a sudden, almost deafening silence, as all action stops and all eyes turn towards Jamila and the Book.
Her mouth opens, and a low but sensuous voice speaks a phrase in Kurmanji, the Kurdish dialect of the Yezidi tribe to which Jamila belongs. It is her language, and it is a language known to Angell, of course. And he does not believe his ears.
“In his house at Ur Il At, dead Kutulu waits … dreaming …”
Ur Il At, a Sumerian phrase that Angell roughly translates as “The Supreme City,” but which just as easily could be the fictional R’lyeh of the damned interloper who started all of this, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. His mind racing, he is struck by the way she pronounced the word Kutulu. It was not exactly the Arabic al-Qhadhulu, for “the Abandoner’, but more like the Akkadian qatalu: a word meaning “to kill.”
He tries to make sense of what she is saying because it seems to be central to the solution of all of this. The sense of inner heat is almost overpowering; the silence is as heavy as an anvil all around him in that wretched cavern. He looks up, finger on the trigger.
And Jamila hands him the Book.
“Terton,” she says. Naming him. Anointing him. Identifying him.
“IS R’LYEH BURNING?”
As I think of the many myths, there is one that is very harmful, and that is the myth of countries.
—Jorge Luis Borges, Artful Dodge
Monroe has been out of contact with his people for almost two days and is growing frantic. GPS chips in the uniforms and radios of the insertion team reveal that they are in the region of Nepal close to the border with Tibet, as planned, but that they have not been moving for almost twelve hours. That can only mean they are all dead.
Angell’s chip, however, showed movement until the signal became faint. It is possible that he is still alive, which means the Book still may be in play. The signal was lost in Khembalung and Monroe knows only too well that Angell could easily be wandering anywhere in the series of underground caves and caverns that comprise the “hidden country.”
Reports coming in from the US Seventh Fleet in the Pacific are alarming to a great degree. Even more worrying is the chatter coming in from all over the world. Expert at seeing patterns in seemingly unrelated phenomena Monroe sees that the seismic activity in the Pacific is linked to the political unrest in Asia and to a series of smaller earthquakes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The potential for armed conflict between China and India—with Nepal as the battleground—is very real. Central Asia is in an uproar, with government leaders in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan fleeing for their lives and holing up in safe houses in Iran and Armenia. The government in Iraq is no longer functioning even with a Shi’a majority and a Shi’a leadership. In Lebanon, Druze militia have been engaged in a life-or-death battle with Hezbollah. The Sunni population of
the Middle East and the Maghreb, previously so splintered and factional, are now dangerously united. There can only be one reason for that: a perceived threat that is greater than their differences.
Chatter about the “First Priest” is mixed with references to the Twelfth Imam, which is itself confused with mention of the Kalki Avatar: a purely Indo-Tibetan idea of a warrior king who will come out of the “hidden country” to wreak death and destruction on the world. Apocalyptic cults of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity all claim that their Apocalypse is at hand, and all centered around the same figure of the First Priest. This is further conflated with rumors concerning the Old Ones returning to the Earth, and no one but Monroe understands what that means. How such a concept became common currency among the terror cells and popular movements throughout the developing world frightens him. It means a paradigm shift in religious thinking, the kind of thing that concerned the Vatican years ago when talk of UFOs and life on other planets forced the cardinals to come up with some policy positions on aliens so that their hegemony over their followers would not be threatened. Islam—apparently alone of the major faiths—never had a problem accepting the possibility of life on other planets. But this?
A middle-aged man is arrested in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, covered in blood, a scimitar in his hands, standing in the middle of the street. Detective Cuneo is the first on the scene. He walks up to the man carefully, slowly, and hears him chanting an incantation to Cthulhu. Cuneo has left his file on the Ninth Ward homicide case in his car, sitting on the passenger seat. He tries to approach the man, to get him to put down the sword, when he turns and rushes Cuneo, screaming “Kutulu!.” Cuneo has no choice but to fire, and the man is down.
Standing over him, he recognizes the face. It is on a photograph in his file, the one from 1907. A man called Castro.
Cuneo knows it’s impossible. The coroner’s van arrives at the scene and they remove the body. He asks if the man had any ID on him. They pull out the wallet from the man’s left back pocket.
Sure enough, the man’s name was Castro. Same name, same face as the guy who answered all the inspector’s questions more than one hundred years ago. It’s just a coincidence of course, but as he is looking down at the driver’s license and realizes that the address on the license is the same as
the house with the double homicide there is an explosion that rips through the Ward from a few blocks away.
His crime scene has just exploded. Gas main leak, they will tell him later.
In Beijing, in Tiananmen Square, a beautiful spring evening. A local woman from one of the hutongs off Wangfujing is standing in the center of the square. She is holding a string shopping bag and wearing sensible shoes. She looks very frightened when two men of the Public Security Bureau approach her because she has not moved from that spot in more than an hour. She is terrified, both at the fact that she cannot move and at the fact that the police are questioning her. She tries to answer their questions, but her responses come out funny.
She is speaking Sumerian.
In Chile, in the commune known as Villa Baviera—formerly a torture and interrogation center known as Colonia Dignidad, whose former Nazi leader was a convicted child molester—incense is being burned and the old flags, the swastika flags, the Blood Flag, are being raised as torches are lit in anticipation of the return of the Dark Lord.
In Uganda, the ritual killings of children as human sacrifice are on the rise.
In Bangkok, more than two thousand fetuses are found in plastic bags at a Buddhist temple. The smell alerted the authorities.
The United States now boasts the world’s largest prison population, of which the majority of inmates are African-American.
In Beijing again, a 350-year-old temple to a dragon deity is unearthed near the Olympic Village complex. Close by, another temple—this time to a fertility goddess—is also discovered.
In Houston, local law enforcement reveals that their city is now the world capital of sex trafficking.
In the United States, the number of suicides of returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns is larger than the number of those killed in action.
In Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome the faithful gather by thousands and then millions to pray for help from … they know not what. But it is not working. The old banishings and exorcisms do not seem to work. If this is not about God and the Devil, then what is it?
Monroe’s hands are tied. Due to the super-secret nature of his investigations and the off-the-books mission of Angell and the JSOC insertion team there is no one he can go to for help, not without jeopardizing the mission even further while he wastes time explaining things to someone over at DHS. The JSOC cowboys are on a need-to- know basis and believed they were taking orders from the White House. He was desperate then, so he took the chance of pulling a string and sending in JSOC to ensure success. That decision will come back to haunt him, he knows. He will face terrible legal repercussions from his actions, even criminal charges. But that did not matter to him now. What was important was the success of the mission. If it failed, prison time or even execution for treason would be the least of his problems.
While figuring out what to do next he sees a television report that shakes him to the core. He grabs the remote and un-mutes the sound only to learn that the latest earthquake in the South Pacific has revealed the existence of a city that was buried long ago, possibly an island that sank to the bottom of the ocean. Grain film footage taken by the crew of the US submarine shows some kind of architecture rising from the sea bed as the waves rush outward in a tsunami that threatens New Zealand and Australia. It is larger than the submerged temple complex at Mahabalipuram, uncovered by a tsunami on December 26, 2004; larger and older than the city complex at the Gulf of Khambat, discovered off the coast of India in 2002 and judged to be more than nine thousand years old. It was as he feared all along, and as his accumulated evidence suggested. The stories of H. P. Lovecraft were not fantasies but predictions. The tales of ancient aliens and their rule on this planet were
They were memories.
Monroe knows what he has to do. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. His entire life, from the Korean War to this day, flashes before his eyes in a sad parade of battles won and lost and the sacrifices he made to
keep his country—and now his planet—secure and safe from all its enemies, domestic and foreign. All of that is now in jeopardy. All of that may soon count for nothing.
He picks up the phone.
THE PANDORA EFFECT
May Heaven exist, even if my place is Hell.
—Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”
Jamila holds out the Book to Angell. Everyone else is frozen in place, except for Miller who is inching his way towards the couple, immune to the power emanating from Jamila, or the Book or both, but insistent on getting the Book away from them.
Angell reaches out and takes the Book, his eyes never leaving Jamila’s, feeling with unease the strange leather that covers the ancient pages. He later will learn that the Book was rebound by Leers in Berlin during the war, using leather made from human flesh from the death camps. At this time, though, all Angell knows is that the mission entrusted to him by Monroe is nearly accomplished. He has the Book in his hands.
Jamila drops her arms to her sides and lifts up her head to stare at the impossible curvatures of the ceiling, as if listening.
At the observatory in Leh, at that same moment, the astronomers sight what they have expected, and in precisely the same spot in the sky that was predicted: another supernova, emanating from the tail of the Great Bear. It is sighted simultaneously around the world, visible in daylight and at night, the brightest ever recorded since SN 1006. It is the signal the Cult has been awaiting: the sign that the Gate is opening.
In the cavern, Miller seems to sense it as well. Desperate to stop it from happening, he leaps over several supine bodies and races towards Angell who is staring down at the Book in his hands. Miller shouts at him: “You must close the Gate! Close the Gate!” But Angell is oblivious to everything but the force boiling up from the pages of the Necronomicon.
He reaches Angell and grabs the Book just as Jamila returns her attention to the scene around her. She sees Miller open the Book and lets out a long, terrifying scream.
Meanwhile Adnan has been trying to make sense of everything he is seeing. He doesn’t know who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. He sees Miller has taken the Book away from Angell, and he knows that Angell’s mission is to seize the Book and bring it back Stateside. So, he makes a decision.
Miller runs through the pages, half by sight and half by touch, until he comes to a page he has seen so many times over the past six months or more. In his dreams, in his visions. He places his hand over it as if reading Braille and begins to intone a prayer that will close the Gate and stop the alien/demonic hordes from swarming into the Earth’s biosphere. Angell hesitates between shooting Miller or allowing him to finish, because the rest of the demented assembly in the cavern has come out of their collective trance at the sound of Jamila’s scream and are steadily advancing on the trio.
Adnan moves slowly towards them from the other side, angling for a clear shot at Miller. The woman is in the way, and then Angell himself. On top of that, the freaks in the cavern have started moving again.
Jamila raises her arms to the heavens and begins her own insane chanting, an antiphon to which the cultists respond. The image that was plaguing Angell since he first saw Jamila has now coalesced into something he recognizes. Jamila is reciting an ancient hymn, the Descent of Inanna to the Underworld. Jamila has identified herself—or been identified—as the Sumerian goddess whose three-day sojourn in the realm of the dead and the demons has resulted in her resurrection but at a cost to humanity. For, as the hymn tells us, “her demons preceded her.” Angell realizes that these psychotic, deluded fools around him are performing a ritual that has not been celebrated in more than five thousand years. They want the demons released. They want the First Priest, the High Priest of the Old Ones, Cthulhu, to resurrect from its dead stupor.
Tanzler and his reanimation experiments. The Nazi cult that employed Leers, Evola and all the other occultist cranks at the SS-Ahnenerbe. The Twelver Shi’a and their belief in the imminent return of the Hidden Imam. Hitler and his Operation Barbarossa, an invasion of Russia named after a Teutonic king who is “dead but dreaming.” All those pop novels and
movies about zombies, vampires, and the other “undead,” preparing the world psychologically for what their creators secretly believed would happen in reality. All of this, and Angell’s mission too, predicated on the insane belief that the dead could be revived, even after thousands or millions of years. Jurassic Park. With demons.