I can’t see it, not with the naked eye but I know it’s out there. That black star, sweeping the heavens with its damnable beam. Rotating like a lighthouse on the shores of Hades, cursing all who should step within its radiation glare. I have a window here that looks out across the barren lands that make up this spit of land hanging off the Pacific Coast, a tangle of livestock farms and the bitter winds that blow all year round. The tourists stay away at night. Schooner Bay brings the fog right up to the building most mornings, but in the evenings, like now, I get a clear view of the horizon and the twisting patterns of the cosmos that stretch up and over the sky.
Point-Reyes Station was where I used to live. It was there I had my small observatory. Part-way between amateur and freelance professional. The money helped to buy more gear and so my knowledge expanded incrementally. Experimental astronomy and the mundane task of checking red-shift. I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty during the hours when most people slept.
Pankraz Laboratories had sent me some exotic lenses, hand ground from a rare crystal deposit mined by Borgendrill in some far flung outer reach of human-machine exploration. I had been very excited because the CEO of Pankraz had also instructed me to try them on a particular set of ecliptic coordinates where I would find “a surprise in waiting.”
I remember the night when I saw the pulsar and what its daemonic light revealed to me. Sitting on the crimson upholstery of my articulated chair, focussing the lenses where instructed. A warm night, I had the glass vents of my cramped observatory jammed open. The bullfrogs were loud and incessant and an unpleasant stench was wafting in. It disturbed my mood but I ignored it, keen to find something to amaze me. The angle of my observation was such that I had an uninterrupted view above the roofs of Point-Reyes Station towards the blunt peaks of Mount Tamalpais State Park.
And then I saw it. A city. Silent and void of motion, cast out of an age far gone from these lands, crowding a broad saddle between two forested mounds.
Temples with walls of a stone that was like glass, yet aged like the mountains themselves; mighty towers of metal pointed upwards to taunt the Moon which was strangely absent from this view. And central to it all, a colossus of grey stone of a shape that suggested organic but of no thing I could ever have imagined actually living. A monster of twisted dreams and the worst kind of nightmares. A grotesque head heaped upon a flabby body of immense proportions with huge tentacles coiled and looped about the base. What kind of statue held such a prominence in this demented, tortured city? And why was I seeing it?
Above it rotated that watching black star.
For a long time I waited and gazed in raw wonder at the phenomenon I was observing. Was it an optical illusion? Such as experienced by explorers in Antarctica, where nearby objects could be made to appear as distant mountains – and vice versa? Was this some echo of the past? Or of a yet unrevealed future? My mind was alive with theories and speculation.
The pulsar swept round and round; the touch of its alien beam jabbing deeper and deeper into my brain as the Pankraz lenses exposed me to it.
Movement in the city caused my mouth to hang open and for some time I barely dared to breath. Figures, tiny and remote, were parading across a vast open space by torchlight towards the statue. And I saw then that the statue was perched upon a ledge overlooking a steep ravine below the saddle and the peaks.
An idea formed in my mind. A fusion of madness and desire. I left my observatory, climbed into my electric pod and drove out of town, down the Pacific Highway, past the turn-off for Bolinas and then on to the dirt track that ran towards Wapasha Ridge. I had recognised the twin mounds either side of the saddle and had a feeling that the road here would lead me close enough to attempt to hike to the top.
Parking next to ominous, undulating mass of Nahuel Rock, I left the vehicle; carrying a small solite I kept in the charger. The powerful beam helped me pick my way through the expanse of ancient redwoods until I found a natural trail that wended its way upwards.
I did not know what to expect. Foolish and foolhardy was the sense of myself I carried up that long, at times precarious climb. But the desire to know propelled me ahead of my concerns.
Never could I have imagined what I found there.
The ground gave way to steps of a glassy substance that was as old as the stone the mountains were born from. Dazed, I half-stumbled, half-jogged up the temple-like ascent and found myself standing upon the edge of the very place I had observed earlier.
How was this possible? I didn’t know and I didn’t care.
Maybe the strange pulsar had done something to my senses? Or maybe I was hallucinating?
Men approached me, their faces concealed with the same blue and dusty robes they had wrapped around their bodies, and holding above them great burning torches of golden flame. Their green eyes glowed gently in the flickering light and I sensed them smile when they reached me. They welcomed me towards them, away from the dangerous ledge.
Conversations were many and wondrous. I don’t know how much time elapsed but it felt like aeons, and yet not a single sunrise touched the glass walls or metal towers. No light came to illuminate the shadow-concealed form of the giant, grotesque statue.
Handed a scuffed gold goblet of some fluid that was called Bracken Bay water, I drank and felt more refreshed than at any time in my distant youth. I felt strong and bold. And I listened to the wise men tell me of the traditions they upheld. They were an outpost of the Merchants of Oropas and had a sacred duty to protect the world from things that were best left slumbering. They spoke of the great beast Tah-pah-sohej, and the dangers of the half-men from Aabic’a, who sailed the starwinds to land at distant ports and trade in things that men should not taste, see, or touch.
What they said held a certain resonance for me. The truth of their words could not be denied and I vowed to assist them, if I could.
I told them of my world and they nodded sagely.
They said I had been chosen, a great man who wore the crown of All Power had predicted a time of judgement when a stranger would appear amongst them speaking of such things.
Now was the time to see if that judgement was true. They gave me a torch with a tall bright flame that fluttered in the sticky warm breeze, and pointed at the base of the giant statue.
“Take the light and read the inscription. If you are the chosen then your eyes will see what we cannot, and forever you will condemn the monsters of Aabic’a to eternal sleep.”
The Crown of All Power.
I should have realised then the connotation to the name of the company that provided the strange crystal lenses, and the directions of where to look.
Pankraz. Pancratius. What a stupefying ignorant fool I was.
I took the torch and went to the base of that repellent mass of carved stone. I alone had the influence of that black star in my brain. I alone had the baleful power to cause a change. The glyphs and characters emerged like blood from a deep wound. Crimson and glowing with an internal lambency. Vowels formed on my tongue almost against my will. The symbols strung together in a sound that had not been uttered in a billion years.
And in doing so I called upon the city the hordes of a place beyond the shores of Hell.
They came scuttling through the forests beneath me like an army of swollen cockroaches with screaming semi-human faces; large, curving horns jutting out from thick carapaces, all black and glistening in the sulphurous light pouring from the hundreds of gaping mandibles; talons at the end of hairy limbs like wickedly serrated blades.
It was the true form of the half-men of Aabic’a, before they had mated with enough female slaves to breed out most of their non-human visage. Thus had it been told in The Testament of Carnamagos, a book written on the flayed flesh of the priests of Iod.
In a rage I yelled back those words and found they were words of great power indeed. For my voice took on the force of a Tsunami. It shook and crumbled the foundation stone of that mighty statue so that it toppled over the ledge and dropped, like a tumbling stone, down upon the slopes to deliver destruction against the upwards scrambling creatures. It wasn’t enough to stop them. And so I too plunged downwards, yelling those words, blasting chitin and bone into fragments, tearing apart their inner sponge-like flesh the tornado force of my voice. And what didn’t succumb to that onslaught was grappled in my arms, punched, kicked and stamped upon – broken forms left lying in the forest muck.
I was the chosen one. This was my judgement to make.
They found me, naked and babbling, in the mid-morning of the next day, slumped against the base of Nahuel Rock. Around me were the bruised and battered remains of a family of six adults and teenage children, who had heard my frenzied shouting as I ran down the hillside and thought I had needed help. Such was the violence of my attack that most of the victims were beyond recognition.
They put me here in a safe place, on the edges of Schooner Bay. I have no equipment to observe the celestial spaces that whirl past my window day and night, but I know that damnable black star is up there, winking away as it rotates. And I writhe against the restraints of the jacket they make me wear, not out of madness, but out of despair because I know that on the far side of this building is a view of the peaks of Mount Tamalpais State Park. I yearn to see that city and to know the state of those Merchants of Oropas. Did I succeed or fail in my fate? What was the judgement of the gods who remain so distant in love and yet quick to lash out in their hate.I have seen the pulsar. The black star that invaded my brain. It wove curious connections that allowed me to see beyond all boundaries of man and machine. I have seen the inner places and the monsters that slither through the deep of land and sea. But worst of all, I know that the massive shape that is Nahuel Rock, is the side of the head of Tah-pah-sohej. And I fear the day that the ground is cleared away to allow the light to touch that baleful countenance. For then it will awake. And no one shall be safe.