The Fourth Side
by Robert A. Lawler
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3-4, 5-6
Henderson did not go to the physicists’ meeting as he had promised. They could do without him. Instead, he went to the University Museum. Dr. Villers had come down from Yale; he had his translation, and more besides. Henderson saw that Professor Villers was a small, thin, nervous man not much older than himself.
“I’ll skip some of the details,” Villers began, “since Raymond and I have gone over them. The script is very old Avestan. I had a lot of trouble translating it, but I think I’ve pretty much got it right. With a few alterations, it’s the eleventh blessing-to-curse line from the opening of the Zend Avestra, the Creation. There are sixteen blessings created by Ahura Masda, the creative or good spirit. After each blessing however, Angra Mainyu creates a curse.”
“Who?” Henderson asked, his face turned ashen. “I thought his name was Ahriman!”
Villers explained: “Ahriman is just the later, classical-period pronunciation of Angra Mainyu, the destructive spirit.”
Henderson nearly fainted. “That’s what they called him... That’s what they called him.”
“Who called him?” Fowler held Henderson to steady him.
“In my dreams... The black figure. It was one of the words they seemed to keep repeating Agra Mainu, I thought it was. And Devas?”
“The Devas are the Daemons, the servants of Angra Mainyu,” Villers told him.
“Dahaka is the serpent coiled at Angra Mainyu’s feet on the face of the coin.” Villers’ face had also turned ashen.
Quickly, Henderson told the two men about his dreams. “You still haven’t told me the full translation,” he said to Villers.
“Oh... of course. As I said, it’s an altered version of the eleventh curse from the creation story.” Villers picked up the paper on which he’d written the translation. ‘Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he created the evil work of witchcraft.’ That’s the eleventh curse, and this is the added part: “And witchcraft is the sign by which the door is known.”
The three men fell silent for several seconds before Fowler spoke. “They must be stopped. That experiment must be stopped. That fourth side they’re looking for, that link to another dimension, it’s a door. And he’s waiting out there for us to open it.”
“We can’t get into the meeting,” Villers said. “Security is really tight. Some of America’s greatest scientists are there along with physicists from other countries.”
“I’ll go,” Henderson spoke gravely. “Fran wanted me there to tell everyone how I got it. She must have left orders for me to get in.”
“They’ll think you’re crazy,” Villers warned him.
“It’s my coin. Fran knows that. Kilroy knows that. The press have told the world that. If I tell them to stop, they gotta stop!”
“We’ll go with you,” Fowler joined.
“No, you can’t help there,” countered Henderson. “If I fail, we have only one chance. You’ll have to find some way to stop that thing.” Henderson turned towards the door.
“What do we know about stopping devil gods?” Villers was terrified at the idea.
Tapping the books the professor had brought from Yale, Henderson replied, “More than anybody I’ve ever met!” With that he hurried from the room. Fowler stared after him while Villers crossed himself and began to pray.
* * *
Henderson glanced at the time on his cell phone as he left the museum. Ten-forty it said, which was good; the experiment was not to start until after the meeting, which was not scheduled to end till eleven. He raced down 34th Street, and almost got killed by a cab. Turning unto Chestnut Street he ran the two blocks to Drexel’s Disque Hall.
The main entrance was mobbed by reporters and cameras. He tried a side entrance and got in without any reporters stopping him. However, he was stopped by security, and it took several minutes for the officers to accept that he was the John Henderson on the meeting list.
On the way to the elevator, the guard told him the meeting had ended early and everybody was in the lab on the fifth floor. Panic-stricken, Henderson jumped into the elevator and pressed “Five.” At the fifth floor, he was out the door before it was half-open, and then he sped down the hall.
He was stopped by two more security men at the door of the lab. Reaching for his wallet again, he cursed the lost time, but Dr. Seelöwe saw him and told the guards to let him in.
“Oh, John, you finally got here.” To the guards: “Gentlemen, please. After all, he started all this.”
John hurried after Dr. Seelöwe, trying to tell her of his fears. She seemed more preoccupied by the preparations going on around the huge electromagnet, which resembled the doughnut part of an MRI scanner and was in fact very similar in principle.
“Fran, listen to me,” he said. “I’ve got to talk to you.”
“I know, John, you’re sorry about missing the meeting but you can tell your story—”
“No, Fran,” he interrupted, “you don’t understand. You’re looking for a link to another dimension but you don’t know what’s out there.”
“Why, nothing probably,” she said offhandedly. “After all our universe is mostly empty space.”
“No, Fran, you’re wrong! I’ve been working with Professors Fowler and Villers over at the museum. We’re sure that that symbol is of a creature, a demon, and it’s waiting for us to open the door and let him in.” John was becoming hysterical, for he saw the experiment was beginning. “One Tesla,” he heard someone say.
“John, are you serious?” Fran seemed amused.
“Put it in your terms. That coin isn’t a phenomenon; it’s technology, and whoever made it isn’t friendly.” By the look on her face, he could see he was starting to get through.
“You’ve got to stop this right—” He halted as he felt a hand on his shoulder. A security man had come up behind him.
“Dr. Seelöwe,” the man said, “would you like me to take your friend out for some air?”
“That won’t be necessary,” she answered in a small voice.
“Fran, that coin is mine, I want this experiment stopped or I’ll take it and throw it in the fucking ocean.”
Dr. Seelöwe was now concerned. “John, think of what you’re doing. This is a chance—”
“That can wait,” he cut her short. “Later on, when we’re sure it’s safe—”
A gasp from the crowd told him he’d failed. At a magnetic field of 4.8 Tesla, the coin disappeared and was replace by a black dot of unusual properties. It had absolutely no thickness, as if in gaining size in the unknown dimension, it had to lose all size in one of the other three we know. Also, the dot was growing, although it took perhaps a minute for anybody to notice, soon it was twice its original size.
The crowd quieted down finally, and it was then Henderson heard the music. He was the first to hear it because he knew it would be there. Like the music of Hell, the obscene flute melody of his dreams drifted into the room.
“Do you hear that?” he cried. “That’s his music. You’ve got to stop this now.”
Dr. Seelöwe was alarmed now as she heard the music and saw the dot continue to grow. It was about six inches across now. She turned and gave orders to the technician to turn off the field. However, the dot remained, and someone in the room screamed as it continued to grow. It was a foot in diameter now. Immediately she ordered the field reversed and power reapplied, hoping that would turn the thing off. There was a sense of urgency in the scientists now, a growing sense of danger.
It was when the hole was two feet across that the horror first struck. A great black tentacle, like the tail of a immense snake, shot out of the hole and wrapped itself around Sally Jackson. Instantly, there was screaming and panic as the assemblage rushed towards the doors. But horribly, inexplicably, the doors, which possessed no locks, would not open.
When Henderson saw the tentacle strike, all the knowledge of horror that the universe possessed came to him, and his mind broke rather than face the truth. While the crowd rushed to the doors, he ran to the hole. Falling to his knees, with his arms flung wide in adoration he cried, “Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death...”
Another tentacle appeared, capturing a noted physicist from MIT. The scientists were wildly trying to use chairs, tables, anything, to smash against windows that did not break.
“And he created the evil work of witchcraft, and this is the sign by which it is known...”
The black dot was now six feet across, and the crowd seemed on the point of insanity. One of the security men, who was using an ax against a door, now in desperation attacked one of the tentacles, of which there were now four, only to be seized by one himself.
“Wheresoever they may go and raise a cry of sorcery, there the worst works of witchcraft go forth...”
When the pit was ten feet across, and the crowd mad with fear, the horror became a physical reality as Ahriman entered the room.
Of the strange accident which caused the deaths of twenty-eight people, including twenty-three renowned scientists, little is known for certain. Investigators theorize that the experiment on the strange coin may have resulted in the release of an unknown form of radiation, causing the fatalities. Although several of the deceased were found to have minor injuries, none had been serious enough to be the cause of death.
The autopsy reports, several days later, gave support to that theory. In each case, the cause of death was brain damage of an unheard-of extent. Every brain had been completely dried, some even charred, without damage to the head or skull. According to the medical examiner it was “as if their heads had been placed in a microwave oven.”
The main problem with the radiation theory was that there was a survivor. He is John Henderson, the original discoverer of the coin. No one has any idea now he survived, and he cannot give his account of the event, for it seems the tragedy was too much for him. He is now quite mad.
When the accident was discovered, Henderson was found crouching in a corner of the room with his face against the wall. His state of mind prior to the experiment is now being investigated, and his father has told authorities that John seemed nervous, fearful and subject to nightmares. In any case, he is now beyond all rational thought, and doctors see little hope of a quick recovery. Although non-violent at present, he has been admitted to the Pennsylvania State Hospital at Byberry.
As to the location of the strange coin which caused the tragedy, it was not found at the scene. Some scientists working on the case believe it may have been consumed in the burst of radiation that caused the deaths and is now lost to science.
The Philadelphia police are not totally satisfied however. A man whom Drexel cannot account for was seen by several witnesses leaving Disque Hall just minutes after the accident would have taken place. He was described by the witnesses as a tall, very dark male with a beard.
Copyright © 2015 by Robert A. Lawler