The search for ancient technology opens the flood-gates of a forgotten curse.
“It just goes to show you, as one wise man said: There is no new thing under the sun!”
Phil Gnosis stepped down from the stage amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his colleagues. Noah felt again that familiar thrill of pride; his uncle might not be a leading archeologist, but he was an inspiring speaker.
Phil had first tested his presentation on his nephew, practicing until he was certain that his communication was clear, vivid, and informational. Tonight, however, it was as if Noah had heard it for the first time.
The man sitting beside Noah leaned to the side, whispering in Noah’s ear appreciatively, “Noah, your uncle Phil is a giant among men.”
Noah grinned, noticing how the master of the ceremonies towered over his uncle. Amusing wording, but the meaning was clear.
“Yes, sir. I think so too. A giant among men.”
“Mark my words, give Phil a few more years and he’ll be all over National Geographic and every science and historical magazine you can find.”
“I hope so. Most of those scientists call him a crackpot.”
“They called others crackpots too… until they were proved wrong. Give it a little while. Someday they’ll realized that Phil is an intellectual genius. Then he’ll get the recognition he deserves. And,” the man added slyly, “it’ll be good for you as well, you being his special partner or apprentice or whatever you want to call it.”
“Journalist. I’m just a journalist. But when I win fame and fortune, it won’t be because I’ve been riding on my uncle’s coattails.”
“Well said!” the man chuckled. “It’s that kind of attitude that takes you places, young man. Remember that.”
On the stage, the MC shook Phil’s hand, their shadows appearing large and warped on the projection screen against the backdrop of the presentation’s final panel. As Phil disappeared into the aisle, the MC began the wrapping-up speech, for Phil’s presentation had been the grand finale to an evening filled with archeological speeches and slideshows.
It had been a rousing event, for each speaker had put his reputation on the line in order to proclaim an unpopular idea. Most of these were brilliant men that attracted only the scorn of both the scientific and the historical fields. Noah understood a lot of the reservations—these men and women were talking about a type of science and history that would be difficult to prove—but they were willing to try. That curiosity, Noah felt, was the soul of science. And, after all, Phil had just given a brilliant example of the truths behind his claims. It was only a matter of time before people began to take notice.
There was only one niggling detail—neither Noah nor Phil could remember the author of the final quote of the presentation. Phil had attributed the words to Shakespeare; Noah was in favor of the poet Alexander Pope. In the end, they had decided it didn’t matter.
Noah met his uncle outside the building, having struggled through the crowds into the refreshingly cool air. Phil laughed when he found his nephew waiting by a fire hydrant. Sweat plastered their hair to their foreheads and caused their clothes to cling to their bodies. Neither dared raise his arms for fear of revealing the spreading damp stain on his garments.
Several colleagues congratulated Phil and spoke to him about some interesting points on his presentation. Noah listened politely and did not interfere in his uncle’s glorious moment.
The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a car which pulled up to the nearby curb.
“That’s my ride!” Phil waved to his colleagues. “Greg, if I don’t call you before Friday, make sure you give me a ring! Paul, nice seeing you again… Noah…”
With polite hastiness, Phil and Noah disengaged themselves and slid into the comfortable seats of the waiting vehicle. As they sped away, both Phil and Noah rolled down their windows, leaned their heads against the back of their seats, and sighed contentedly as the wind kissed their flushed faces with coolness.
The driver chuckled. Elijah Wordsworth was an old friend of Phil who had offered to provide a late evening supper for Phil and Noah after the conference. Noah reflected that, although his uncle and Elijah were physically and characteristically different, they both shared the same sense of humor. It was a testament to their friendship that they were able to overlook their differences in worldviews and find harmony in their similarities. The world would be a better place, Noah decided, if all men were like Elijah and Phil.
Elijah’s home was comfortable, perhaps a little small to accommodate the six children, but full of light and cheerfulness. Mrs. Wordsworth had prepared a meal befitting a president (or so Phil commented) and in a short time, Phil and Noah were sandwiched between various children at the large table. Elijah, a devout Christian, said a simple blessing and the meal commenced.
One of the young Wordsworths poked Noah in the ribs.
“Hey, Dad said you’re an archeologist.”
“Actually, I’m a journalist, but Phil is an archaeologist. I accompany him and help with his work.”
“Does that mean that you dig up mummies? Are you under Pharoah’s curse?”
Noah smothered a grin.
“Not really, David. Archeology isn’t all Indiana Jones.”
“What about dinosaurs? Do you dig them up?”
“No, that isn’t our field of expertise.”
“Then what do you do?”
“We try to learn about ancient cultures from the remnants that have been preserved from their civilizations. It’s our job to figure out how people lived thousands of years ago, or even millions of years ago.”
Noah remembered too late that the Wordsworths were Creationists—they didn’t believe that the earth was millions of years old.
Thankfully, Mrs. Wordsworth asked David to pass a particular dish and the little boy did not comment on Noah’s mistake.
At last, Elijah asked the inevitable question.
“I couldn’t make it to the conference, but I’m very curious. Can I see this fascinating project of yours?”
“I’ve been waiting for you to bring it up,” Phil said, leaping to his feet with enthusiasm.
Continued in Episode 2
Under Phil’s direction, the Wordsworths transformed one wall of their living room into a screen for the small projector. Phil opened his laptop computer and, after a moment, the first of his frames illuminated the bare wall.
“ ‘No New Thing Under the Sun,’” Phil read the title aloud, then added aside to the Wordsworth family, “I use a lot of special terms in this presentation, but for the sake of the kids, I’ll try to translate this into speech that is understandable.
“There is a great fountain deep in the heart of all humankind—a fountain that thirsts for knowledge, that seeks out the hidden things. It is the fountain that brought humans out of the Stone Age, that caused us to invent and discover, that brought us to the depths of the ocean and the heights of the sky. Many have sought the hidden Fountain of Youth, but it is the Fountain of Knowledge that will bring us into the greatest age this earth has ever seen.
“As you know, I’m an archeologist; I try to learn about the past by studying artifacts and other remnants of ancient civilizations. If you say my name, many people in my field will think that I’m a nutcase. That’s because I believe that, at one time long ago, human beings had technology far superior to ours. I have dedicated my life to discovering examples of that technology. I believe many specimens and artifacts have already been found, but there is evidence that it is being…well…suppressed. I’m not sure who is behind it—some of my colleagues say the government, some say people with international interests—but we all know of incredible finds that somehow never make it to the papers. Some of those finds are our own, and they are quietly set aside in some vault, never to be heard of again.
“Yet every so often, however, someone makes a discovery that tears a hole in the veil of silence. Let me take you on a tour of some of the more notable discoveries.
“In 1900, near the Greek island of Anitkythera, a diver discovered this.”
The slide showed what looked like a thick metal cog with four spokes, green and badly worn with long years in the sea.
“This may not look like much,” Phil continued. “But this is a tremendous link to the past. It was taken from a Greek ship that sank at about 65 B.C. After an arduous debate about the nature of this machine, scientists now believe it might be a kind of ‘computer’ to determine the complex motions of astronomical bodies such as the zodiac constellations and the planets. You can’t see much here, but the instrument has many gears, dials, and even instructions for its use carved into its side. This Anitkythera Machine, as it is called, indicates that ancient cultures were far more advanced than we had realized.
“More such finds have been cropping up in the last centruy or so. In 1898, an object was discovered in a tomb at Saqquara, Egypt. That object was a model airplane, perfectly proportioned and dating back to about 200 BC. A full-scale representation of that model would be able to achieve flight. This is not the only airplane model discovered; there are reports of other such models from regions such as Central and South America.
“In 1963, archeologists in Asia discovered an impression imbedded in a layer of strata that had been pushed to the surface of the earth by a recent earthquake. This is what the impression looked like.”
The screen showed a series of shallow indentations, all of them of varying cylindrical shapes.
“This, believe it or not, is all that remains of an engine. It’s different than the engines we use, but its nature is unmistakable. Furthermore, it bears a striking similarity to an airplane engine. The real shocker is this: the strata in which this impression was found was determined to be from five thousand years ago.
“Just a few years ago, a robotic shuttle sent to Jupiter detected very faint signals from somewhere beyond Uranus’s orbit. For three earth days, the shuttle received the signals, which were broken up and in a computer language unknown to us. Scientists began to wonder if the shuttle had unintentionally communicated with a shuttle manned by distant life forms, or aliens. But on the third and final day of the communication, a short audio message was relayed to earth through the robotic shuttle.”
Through intense interference, a deep masculine voice filled the room, the words imbued with richness and power, although they were unfamiliar. Phil continued once the audio segment had concluded.
“Although the words were indecipherable, several experts, when interviewed individually, all affirmed that it sounded like a version of the ancient Hebraic language. People began to wonder—did the early humans explore space?
“To answer the many questions, I will take you back roughly six thousand years. There have been many catastrophic events in our Earth’s history, but most archeologists agree that at one time there was a great flood. Most cultures around the world have stories of such a flood, and it is now generally accepted that such an event did take place, though the exact magnitude is uncertain. Most Christians, like yourselves, believe that it was a worldwide flood sent by God to destroy the wicked inhabitants of the earth. Myself, I’m not a student of that theory, but I do agree that there was a flood of immense proportions.
“In 1999, I and four other archeologists, funded by adventurous angel investors, were the first to begin a massive search in earth’s crust for evidence of ancient technology. We were convinced that there was an entire world of forgotten knowledge just waiting to be discovered. If we could unearth the secret technologies of the past, we could open up possibilities that even this advanced generation could never dream of. We could, essentially, adopt the ideas that had been destroyed by the cataclysmic flood event so long ago.
“It was a long, hard road, but in 2004, we found proof that we were on the right track. This instrument you see here in this slide detects anomalies in solid rock and can create an image of the variance in the rock. With this instrument, we discovered a cavity within a certain layer of strata. Now there are many such air pockets left when something that was buried in sediment has decomposed. This particular cavity had a human form, but there was something unnatural about it.
“One of its hands left a deep impression, but we saw that there were no lines on it—no hair, no papillae, no fingerprints. It was completely smooth. All of the fingernails were trimmed to exactly the same length, the cuticles were in perfect condition. The hand was too perfect to belong to a real human.
“Upon further examination, I found that the imprint of hair upon its head was unnatural as well—the hairline stopped abruptly at a certain point on the forehead and the impression of the fibers showed hairs that were thicker and more uniform than real hairs.
“But the real discovery came when Noah, who was working with me at the time, pointed to several indentations in the image which I had overlooked and said, ‘It seems funny, but this person must have had a prosthetic arm. Don’t you see the strong mechanical-looking lines there? Those are impressions of wires, not veins, and those grooves bear no resemblance to the shapes of either the radius or the ulna.’
“What Noah said revolutionized my perspective on our find and, over the next three years, our team began to realize that what we had found was not the figure of a human at all. It was a cleverly-crafted, well-designed android.”
The children crowed with excitement, leaning forward toward the screen’s image. Noah, standing in the doorway, smiled at their contagious enthusiasm as Phil began to detail the robot’s mechanism and other unique qualities. The young man glanced at his host, who stood in the back row, his face shadowed and his arms crossed comfortably.
Elijah was not smiling. Something in the set of his shoulders and his neck suggested tension. Noah frowned and reverted his gaze back to the presentation.
Phil was wrapping up now, his personality positively sparkling with zeal.
“…we are used to thinking that our present generation is the greatest the earth has ever seen—the most technologically advanced, the most scientifically superior. We believe that only we in this current age have discovered these new frontiers. But we know now that somewhere in earth’s history, lost in the mists of time, human beings had developed technology equal to or even greater than our own. If we could harness that technology, claim it for our own, we could reach into a realm greater than the wildest science fiction. It just goes to show you, as one wise man said: There is no new thing under the sun!”
Phil took a bow as the children clapped and Mrs. Wordsworth flicked the lightswitch and flooded the room with light. Noah glanced toward Elijah—there was now only the slightest trace of the shadow which had formerly dwelt on the man’s features, but Noah could sense it haunting him still.
“Thank you, Phil, for the educational and very fascinating presentation,” Mrs. Wordsworth said graciously. “Now, who’d like dessert?”
Continued in Episode 3
As the children made a mad rush for the cooling pies, Phil and Elijah met in the doorway. Elijah opened his mouth to speak, but Phil, pausing, asked quietly, “What’s the matter, Elijah?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Elijah drew Phil to the side of the room. Noah quietly drifted in their direction, mentally chiding himself for eavesdropping but goaded by curiosity. He touched the pages of an open Bible on a desktop, his eyes casually skimming across the page. He was pleasantly surprised; it was the account of the Great Flood. It seemed an amusing coincidence.
…There were giants in the earth in those days…And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…and God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth…
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood…in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
Noah’s reading broke off suddenly, as Elijah’s quietly-spoken words jolted him.
“Phil, this is dangerous stuff.”
After a tense interval, Phil replied, “I don’t understand. You mean the government wanting to hush things up…?”
Elijah shook his head, choosing his words carefully. “I know you don’t believe as I do, but Phil, I’m worried that you are meddling in things where the danger is far greater than you know. That culture—the pre-Flood culture—was so wicked that God destroyed it utterly, only sparing eight people and select pairs of animals. Why would we want to borrow anything from a civilization that was destroyed because of its wickedness?”
Phil thrust his hands into his pockets and eyed the buttons on his shirt. He tried to speak casually.
“Elijah, even considering your beliefs, don’t you think you’re taking this too seriously? There’s a world of knowledge out there and if we can borrow from an earlier civilization in order to give the current generation a better quality of life—who’s the worse off?”
Elijah lapsed into strained silence before choking out, almost reluctantly, “You spoke of the fountain deep in our hearts, but there is another fountain…” He blundered to a halt and at last said, “Some things are meant to remain lost.”
Noah’s cheeks burned and he wandered into the kitchen where Mrs. Wordsworth served him pie topped with a solid white mountain of vanilla ice cream. He smiled and thanked her, but it was tasteless to him.
Somehow, he survived the remainder of the evening, operating mechanically through a mask of gaiety and laughter. When he and Phil arrived at the hotel, Noah wordlessly began preparations for bed.
“You were talkative this evening after the presentation,” Phil said suddenly. Noah smiled wryly; for anyone else, being talkative was a good sign. He shrugged and squeezed toothpaste onto his toothbrush.
But Phil was not easily deterred.
“Why does it bother you so much?”
“Doesn’t it bother you?” Noah asked, wetting his brush. “He practically said you’re dabbling in witchcraft.”
“Don’t be hard on him, Noah. Elijah is a cautious person. And he takes his faith very seriously—more to his credit. I’m sure he’s convinced of the truth of what he says. But there’s science and there’s God, the physical and the spiritual. The two don’t mix.”
Noah nodded. Phil was right. Elijah was a good man and his concern was commendable, but he was no scientist.
Continued in Episode 4
The Middle Eastern sunlight glared down upon the archeologists as they sheltered beneath the rigged-up awnings set against their rugged RVs. Phil sat at his outdoor makeshift desk, peering through a special lens at the small object he held delicately between thumb and forefinger. Noah was polishing a journalistic piece that highlighted Phil’s “Discovery Team.”
“Are you about ready for a drink?” Phil called.
Noah expelled a long breath, clicked one last button, and stretched his arms luxuriously. Phil liesurely poured an ice-cold drink from the small refrigeration unit nearby, and passed it to Noah.
“Hard to believe it’s February, isn’t it?” Phil chuckled. “Clear sky, hot sun, dry and dusty—back in the States, it’d be blizzards and ice.”
“I don’t miss that,” Noah answered honestly. Phil laughed and they sipped their drinks together.
It had been seven months since they had last been in the United States and Phil had given his widely-acclaimed presentation at the conference. Following a busy semester at the university, Noah had returned to work with Phil while completing several online courses. There were now six men to Phil’s “Discovery Team,” if one counted Noah, whose dogged journalistic efforts had brought modest attention to the team’s work and secured a few new investors.
Noah’s pride in his uncle’s courage and tenacity was marred by one niggling doubt amidst his contentment and confidence. Ever since that day in Elijah’s house, he had wondered about the man’s words. When reason had tempered Noah’s first reaction of indignation, he had tried to forget the incident altogether. It would have been an easy matter, save for one thing. Elijah hadn’t finished one of his sentences.
“You spoke of the fountain deep in our hearts, but there is another fountain…”
It was a trivial thing, but to Noah, who had been trained to be curious, it was also annoying. What fountain did he speak of? Why did he mention it? Why hadn’t he finished what he had started to say?
“Well, Noah,” Phil interrupted Noah’s thoughts suddenly. “Are you about ready? We’ve found a fascinating structure that should set any journalist’s spine tingling with delight.”
Noah nodded and together they set out for the nearby worksite.
It was a beehive of activity already. The work crew, local men who had been hired to clear away rubble and to perform other such menial duties, were already at work. An entire hillside lay bare to the scorching sun, revealing stone steps that descended to an open doorway deep in the earth.
As Noah and Phil approached, one of the archeologists ascended from the excavation site, wiping his arm across his brow.
“When the press hears about this one, they’ll be all over it,” he said. “We’ve got two of the boys down there already. They think they’ve found another passage, maybe a room.”
“Well, I don’t want the press on this one, not yet,” Phil said. “You remember what happened with the robot. Once word leaked out, the government shut the whole project down. No more experiments, no more tests.”
“I remember,” the other archeologist answered. “Then they tried to buy us off, make us continue our work but under federal supervision.”
Phil nodded. “More money—a lot more money—but no freedom. I won’t live that way.”
He squinted against the sun’s glare and then apparently remembered that his sunglasses hung by one earpiece from his neckline. He slipped them over his eyes.
At that moment, his cell phone rang, jangling with a tinny rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Comin’.” Phil slid his thumb across his phone screen to answer the call.
“Phil Gnosis here.”
His puckered brow shot up with surprise.
“Elijah? What’s up, man? Is everything all right? You sound anxious.”
Noah watched emotions flicker across his uncle’s face—tension, worry, then skepticism, confusion, and finally blank puzzlement.
“Elijah, I’m…I’m not sure what you want me to do.”
He listened again, then shook his head.
“You know I can’t do that. We’re right on a breakthrough… No, Elijah, you know I can’t.”
He sighed heavily and Noah saw hardness pinch around Phil’s mouth.
“Elijah, I appreciate your concern, I really do. Please don’t worry. I’ll call you later, okay? All right, bye.”
“What was that about?” Noah asked.
Phil shook his head again, bewildered.
“He said he had a—I don’t know what evengelicals call it—a premonition or a word from the Holy Spirit or what. He said I’m in too deep with what he called the ‘pre-Flood evil.’ He wanted me to break off the dig. Pack up. Go home.”
“Did he say something was going to happen?”
“He said I was in danger. Me and everyone else.”
He smiled wryly.
“He’s a good friend. But he should know by now that I don’t give up. If he’s really concerned, he can pray to God for me.”
Noah cracked a mischievous grin and poked his uncle. “You don’t think the government might be sending hitmen to take care of wayward maverick scientists like you, do you?”
Phil shrugged. “He kept talking about fountains. He said—I’ll try to get the exact words—he said that when the Lord judges, even the fountains of the deep awake to answer.”
“What did he mean by that?”
“I don’t know!” Phil laughed suddenly. “Sometimes Elijah gets so wrapped up in his KJV that he can’t speak plain English. Come on.” He clapped Noah on the shoulder. “Let’s take a look at that possible new passage.”
Continued in Episode 5
Together they descended into the site, where the dust wafted up in a cloud with each footstep and the heat shimmered in the air. Then they passed into the blessed coolness of the doorway’s shadow.
They did not have to bend to enter the passage, and the steps were high; it was as if the passage was made for people of unusual height. The lightbeams from their headlamps illuminated smooth walls of something that looked like concrete, but which seemed both more flexible, breathable, and more resilient, hardly affected by damp and still sturdy after thousands of years. The atmosphere reminded Noah of a safe or a bomb-proof shelter.
“You know what I think?” Noah said, his voice startlingly loud in the silence.
“What do you think?” Phil asked, from several steps below.
“I think this was meant to be an underground building. Otherwise, why the long flight of stairs? I bet this is some sort of vault or storage chamber. Maybe even a test site for explosives or dangerous materials.”
“The thought did cross my mind. Once we get this thing fully excavated, we’ll know. At least, as much as we can know… One of the passages was blocked by an earthquake or some other cataclysm. We may or may not be able to reopen it. However, I’m hopeful that the new passage will lead to something worthwhile.”
Harsh electric lights illuminated the current work area, flooding the passage with daytime brightness and casting a razor-sharp shadow of one of the archaeologists against the wall.
“Hank,” Phil greeted his colleague. “Where are the others?”
Hank nodded wordlessly toward a square cavernous doorway in the wall, from which Noah could distinguish flickers of flashlight beams. “You’re not going in?”
Hank’s eyes slid away. “I don’t know why, but that place gives me the willies. I’m going up for my break now.”
Noah wondered if Elijah’s phone call had given him the jitters, but then he remembered. Hank had been down here, in the “vault,” when the call had come through.
If Phil was affected by Hank’s feelings, he did not show it. He led the way boldly through the doorway and Noah followed.
“’Morning, Jake, Rob,” Phil greeted the other men. Noah’s jaw dropped.
The room was shaped like an enormous egg, with a domed ceiling and curved walls. At the center of the room stood a raised cylindrical pedestal, about ten inches in diameter, with a reflective black domed top. Along the perimeter of the wall, a shelf of synthetic material wrapped around the room. Every shelf level was occupied by small, square flat objects, about the breadth of a man’s hand, stack upon stack, row upon row.
“Take a look,” Jake said in wonder. “I know it sounds incredible, but I think this is a vault of some kind of records.”
“Check out the writing,” Rob invited. “It reminds me of Phoenician or ancient Hebrew, but it’s not the same.”
Noah peered at the writing on the spine of one of the flat objects and tapped it with a fingernail.
“It doesn’t feel like plastic or metal.”
He reached into his pocket for a brush and gently whisked the dust away from the top of the pile. Then he picked up the topmost object and observed it closely.
“It’s heavy,” he remarked. “And it looks like the writing was done in laser. It’s very precise.”
“Noah!” Phil barked. “You know we need to catalogue everything before we move anything.”
Noah immediately moved his hands to the thin side of the object, holding it by the corners to keep from touching the object too invasively. Suddenly he lost his grip on the object…it seemed to be shrinking…it fell from his grasp…
With a heavy clunk! the object dropped to the floor and rolled with the distinct sound of a bowling ball.
The men stared.
“Wasn’t it a square before?” Rob asked.
“It…it shifted,” Noah gasped. “It changed shape when I pressed the corners. It was like it condensed into a sphere.”
Phil stooped to pick up the ball, which was about as large as a croquet ball, and brought it up to eye level, staring at it.
“Fascinating,” he murmured. “It’s opaque, but I seem to glimpse some kind of blue light deep inside it. See?”
Noah squinted into the depths of the orb, trembling with excitement. When Phil relinquished the object to his nephew, Noah seated himself at the base of the pedestal, overwhelmed with curiosity.
Rapid footsteps sounded down the hall, and Hank arrived, his face red, his eyes darting nervously to and fro. He was followed by the sixth archaelogist of the team, whose expression wore a troubled frown.
“Hank?” Phil asked.
“The workers up top, they said there is death down here,” Hank panted. “I can’t calm them down. They’re deserting in droves.”
“They keep babbling something about the judgment and the fountains of the deep… I don’t know what they’re talking about. I think it’s some sort of superstition like Pharaoh’s curse.”
As Noah rose from his seat at the base of the pedestal, he pressed his open palm against the dome as a support. With a cry of surprise, he leaped back.
“Noah, why are you so twitchy today?” Phil turned to his nephew with mild irritation, then stopped. The black dome retracted, curling into the pedestal until only a bowl-shaped depression remained at the peak of the pedestal. It was exactly the same size as the ball in Noah’s hand.
Noah held the sphere as if it were an enormous pearl, and gently lowered the ball into place.
“What are you doing?” Hank shouted and there was terror in his voice. “I don’t think you should…”
Continued in Episode 6
A blue light flashed inside the ball, then leaped like a flame, and enveloped the surface of the sphere until it spun with light. The arched ceiling above them suddenly flickered like lightning and Noah found himself staring at images, people, moving to and fro, a green landscape, a blue sky. He could feel the breeze and the heat, smell the sweat and the earth, hear the sounds of a language completely foreign to his ears. He felt completely disoriented, as if he had been sucked from the vault straight into the ancient Middle East.
“It’s a film,” Phil breathed with wonder. “No, better than any film.”
“Those people are huge,” Jake gasped. “Look at them. Look at the scale! They’ve got to be eight, nine, ten feet tall!”
“What is that?” Rob pointed as a huge image overtook the screen.
“It looks like some kind of massive wooden building,” Phil guessed. “No. It’s a large boat, like a cruise ship.”
“They seem to think it’s funny,” Jake noted. “They’re making fun of it.”
“Noah?” Phil spoke sharply. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know.” Noah found himself trembling. “I might be sick.”
Something about that spinning sphere and those ancient people and the boat gripped his insides with ice-cold fingers. It was a little like the terror he had experienced as a boy when he wandered through a haunted house with some friends near Halloween, but it was magnified a hundredfold, paralyzing him. Something was wrong—very wrong.
Suddenly, the room filled with a brightness that burned. Noah could not tell if it originated from the film or from elsewhere. A sound like the noise of many thunders and rushing waters shook the room. A voice spoke in a language he did not know, yet, strangely, the cadence reminded him of words he had heard before.
“The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth…”
Where had he heard those words before?
All at once the lights went out and they plunged into darkness. Noah felt as if his heart had stopped.
A faint click echoed in the chamber and Phil’s face appeared in the beam of his flashlight. Rob covered his face to ward off the light.
“What just happened?” Jake gasped, turning on his own flashlight. The others also turned on their flashlights.
“I don’t know.” Even Phil’s voice was unsteady.
“What’s that?” Noah moved suddenly. Then, in astonishment: “It’s water! Something’s leaking!”
“Water?” Rob snorted. “Can’t be. This place is dry as a bone. We’ve tested it.”
“It’s water, I tell you. Look!”
This time they all heard the splash and tinkle of water, and Phil’s flashlight glittered from a dark pool that slowly spread across the floor.
“Maybe that loud audio unsettled something,” Phil guessed. “Are we near the water table?”
“I’m going up top!” Hank snapped, turning suddenly and disappearing into the dark passage beyond the doorway.
“Phil…” Noah’s voice sounded faint, even to himself.
“We should all go up,” Phil decided. “If anything’s unstable, we’ll need to make sure it’s safe before we proceed.”
“Besides, someone needs to go make sure we don’t lose all our workers. Rob, you’ve worked the most with those guys. See if you can talk sense to them.”
“Tell them there is no danger… What, Noah?”
They all listened and then they heard it—a roar deep in the earth, a rumbling and a rushing far beneath them. Then, from the passage outside, a light trickle that broadened and gushed and rippled…
Then, from inside the room, a liquid gurgle and swish. Water swirled around their feet, rising to their ankles.
“What the…?” Phil began but he was interrupted by the heavy, rhythmic splashes of someone running through water. Hank appeared in the passageway and he was wet to the knees. His eyes stared wildly from his pale face.
“It’s coming down the stairs like a river. I can’t get up…too slippery!”
“Down the stairs?!” Phil barked, striding forward. “How could it be coming down the stairs? Are the workers playing some kind of trick on us?”
“Be reasonable, man!” Hank snapped. “Where would they get all that water?”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Jake said. “Water might seep in this far underground, especially if the loud audio created a small quake and cracked open a vein of water. But coming from near the surface, in the amounts you’re talking about? I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it.”
“Come see for yourself!” Hank grabbed Phil by the elbow and pulled him into the hallway. The water deepened as they ran, first up to their ankles, then their knees, then their thighs, their waists…
They came around the last corner and stared at what had once been the stairs.
It was like a cascade of water, pouring down, curling, leaping, frothing. A wall of water scrabbled toward them, like grasping white fingers. Then it hit with fury and they found themselves wet up to the chest, swept backward with the current. Noah’s hands clawed at the sides of the passage.
The flashlights flickered out. Phil swore vehemently; it was the first time Noah had ever heard him curse.
“Oh God,” Noah pleaded, seized by panic. “Oh God…”
A fresh wave caught him in the mouth and for several terrible moments, he could not tell which way was up. Then the wave subsided and he came gasping to the surface. Around him, he heard the heavy breathing of the other men, against the reverberating background roar of something deep in the earth. Water surged from behind, water poured from ahead.
And the fountains of the deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened…
No, not that. Anything but that. Elijah was right. The workers were right. Phil should have listened. It was too late. Water everywhere. The fountains of the deep had awoken.
“Oh God, oh God, please…”
* * *
To Elijah Wordsworth:
By now you have heard the news. They say that I am the only one who survived. The workers who saw it happen said that it was like the water erupted from the earth.
The scholars and reporters and scientists say that is impossible. But I believe the workers. I was there.
The medics who came to the scene said that it was as if I had been coughed up out of the water, spit out by the earth. Apparently the only thing that saved me was a cross-piece of wood that I had grabbed onto, but I don’t remember it.
It is a mystery to me, but perhaps not to you. You knew and you tried to warn us. We did not listen. Now I am the only survivor.
I am coming on the next plane. I want to speak with you. I believe you will know the answers to my questions.
Sincerely, Noah Patterson