by John W. Steele
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
No one will believe what I am about to reveal, because I cannot believe it myself. But the memory that brings me to this place is still as fresh as yesterday in my mind. I’ve been instructed to record this document as a testament and place it in the gilded silver chest before me. I affirm that at this moment I am of sound mind and what I am about to do is a decision made of my own free will.
* * *
My name is Wilson Vangorder, though it makes little difference. I admit this only because there is no one to prepare my will or acknowledge that I ever existed. My wife died during childbirth forty years ago, and my parents were killed in a plane crash. I have been totally independent for a long time and, either because of this or in spite of it, I’ve grown bitter through the years. Solitude has always been my greatest consolation but, of course, all things precious are subject to devastation.
By profession, if you want to call it a profession, I am an antique dealer. I specialize in rare antiquarian books and manuscripts, and this niche leads me to unusual places and mysterious settings. Books of this nature have always been my greatest weakness, but this flaw in my character has often resulted in a handsome dividend.
Because there are so few people that can glimpse beyond the veil, subjects regarding the occult and esoterica are considered a form of heresy or insanity and, of course, to pursue ideas of this significance one must be guilty of both. When dealing with arcane knowledge, the first truth the seeker must understand is that if it can be proven, it’s a lie.
* * *
As of late, I’d been receiving a number of unusual phone calls. They often came deep in the night while I was sleeping. The stranger that called was a female. She claimed that I had a lost relative who shared my DNA, and this person would like to meet me. The ruse was quite convincing because she had a great deal of knowledge about my personal history that no one could possibly have known unless they were acquainted with my wife or my mother; and, of course, that would be impossible because they died long before anyone I ever knew had any contact with either of them.
A call from a silky female voice in the middle of the night is far from dreadful for a bachelor regardless of his age. In fact, it was stimulating... at first. She claimed her name was Julia. Of course the personal details she knew about my life made me uncomfortable but, on this night, she offered more than just information about a lost relative. Even now as I record this confession, I recall our conversation as clearly as I remember the Pledge of Allegiance.
At two a.m. the phone rang. When I answered, Julia opened our conversation with a heavy sigh. “Hi, Wilson. How are you tonight, honey?”
“You again!” I bellowed. “Why do you continue to torment me? I’ve already told you I have no interest in a lost relative or love child some fifty years old. If you’re going to file a paternity suit, just do it, and stop threatening me!”
“I’ve never accused you of anything, honey. Why are you so paranoid? I said only that your DNA matches someone dear to me. Besides, you’re not the father.”
“I warn you I’m going to hire a lawyer to track you down if you continue to harass me.”
“And tell them what, honey? That someone is trying to help you reconnect with a lost relative? Think about it, Wilson. Where is the crime in doing that? Besides, I’ve taped our conversations. In the beginning you were quite interested in me, weren’t you? I must admit some of your sexual fantasies are deliciously tantalizing.
“Thus far, our relationship is platonic, but I might be willing to take it to the next level if you’re interested. I’m not a whore, and I assure you that any intimacy shared between us would be purely consensual. And in case you’re wondering about me, I promise that you won’t be disappointed.”
“Why would you have any interest in me?” I asked.
“Wilson, how skeptical you are. I know you deal in rare books and I have one that may be of great interest to you. You never really knew your father, did you? Your parents died in a plane crash, didn’t they?”
“It’s none of your business but, since you already know, that’s what the nuns told me. What’s this book you’re talking about?”
“It’s called The Babylonian Talmud, written in Latin by a man named Breume, and it’s quite old. The person that bequeathed it to me claims it’s valuable. Personally, I’m not interested in ideas of this nature, but I’d be willing to sell it quite reasonably. I might even give it to you.”
“And why would you do that?”
“Let’s just say some things are more valuable than money. It would behoove you to come inspect the book, Wilson, maybe in more ways than one. I promise no harm will come to you and you’ll leave here a wealthier and perhaps more satisfied man than you are now.”
“Is it parchment?” I asked.
“No, it appears to be made of animal skin.”
Vellum, I thought. “Where are you, and when should I arrive?”
There is no vision as powerful as money, sex, and vellum for one who craves all three and, like a moth drawn to a flame, I dove headlong into the maw of my sordid imaginings.
* * *
Julia asked me to meet her the next day in the town of Fairfield, about ninety miles away. As I climbed into my 99 Land Rover, I had a premonition that this call would be the one I’d never forget, the crowning jewel of achievement after years of shagging Stephen King first editions and early Harry Potter hardcovers with spelling errors. I already had a buyer that promised one hundred thousand dollars — no questions asked — for a copy of this manuscript even in fair condition.
She instructed me to arrive no earlier than eight p.m. at her estate on Mars Hill Road. This was an exclusive area populated by those who’d made their fortunes in the computer industry at the end of WWII. Most of the properties were well-kept mansions seated on sprawling tracts of land, and hers was no exception. Her domain was the last one on the road, and it stood at the top of the hill.
When I arrived, the gate was open, and I drove up the oak-lined macadam lane until I reached a forecourt. When I stepped from my vehicle, I marveled at the magnificent view that looked out over the valley. The ink-black sky was ablaze with stars and constellations, and I pondered how something of such magnitude could fit inside my head. Madness is the curse of those possessed by wonder, and only in the ancient archival texts is the wonder unveiled. For a glimpse of this separate reality I’d always been willing to travel to the ends of the earth.
* * *
The entry portal held a heavy brass lion’s-head knocker, and I struck it three times. When she opened the door, I wasn’t prepared for the figure that greeted me. Julia was an alluring woman to be sure, someone you might see as a starlet in a grade B horror movie. She was not the kind of female a hetero flesh and blood male could ignore.
Her cheeks were hollow and her panther-black hair cut Egyptian style hung to her shoulders. She wore a low-cut, black kimono printed with tiny red and gold stars. Her legs were naked below the knee, and she wore black-strap sandals with high heels. An Eye of Horus made of jade dangled from a leather cord strung around her neck, and the entire package fit together with meticulous detail and refinement.
She looked me over for a moment and said, “You’re pretty well preserved, aren’t you, Wilson? I thought you’d never arrive. Please come in, won’t you?” Though she was a pleasure to look at, she seemed smug. The “well preserved” remark didn’t sit right with me. I should’ve laughed, but I didn’t.
We walked down a wide hallway tiled in black granite where enormous Baccarat chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The portal flowed into a parlor that appeared too large to fit inside the mansion when viewed from the front perspective. There were no windows in the room, and the walls were made of gleaming copper panels. The floors were cloaked with rich oriental carpets, and the ceilings held more chandeliers that cast soft, golden light throughout the room.
Near the center of the chamber sat a broad library table that appeared to be made of ebony. It had checkered ivory inlay and the legs were carved with gargoyles. At the far end of the room stood two sophisticated-looking medical devices from which an array of computerized modules emerged and lined the wall. They looked like advanced MRI scanners. One had a triangular bore and the other a square one.
Julia walked over to the table and sat on a burgundy, button-tufted chair. “Come to me, Wilson. We have a great deal to discuss.” She waved her hand and motioned me to join her; I did.
At the center of the table sat the vellum masterpiece. I recognized it immediately and my heart skipped a beat. I sat down.
With little hesitation she asked, “Do you know who you are, Wilson?”
I couldn’t discern whether her query was a question or an insult. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. “Yes, I know who I am. I’m mister nobody. Why do you ask? It appears that you know more about me than I know about myself.”
Evidently she found my comment amusing. Her seductive laugh disarmed me, but I knew a woman of her charm would have many masks, and I didn’t trust her.
“We know who you are, Wilson. We’ve been looking for you for a long time. You’re quite a recluse, aren’t you? You have no friends, you have no family, the depth of your mind scares women away, and there are times you drink more than you should. You have little interest in consensus reality, and you spend most of your time in meditation, don’t you?”
How does she know this? I asked myself. “So... is independent thought a crime now? I’m no longer fascinated by the Matrix programs. If I’m so invisible, how did you find me?”
She looked at me and winked. “Virtual reality can be a drag unless you know how to embrace it. But to answer the question, your blood signature led us to you. There are certain markers we look for that can be traced from anywhere in the world. When you decided to donate blood a few months ago, these DNA frequencies showed up in our central scanning computers. It was a simple process to track you down once the source was identified.”
I felt uncomfortable and shifted in the chair. “I still don’t know why I did that. It was a karma thing, I guess. I felt like I was losing my mind, and I thought I would gain merit by giving up blood. It was the wrong motive, and I knew it when I did it. I get a wild hair from time to time, which usually leads me to an impulsive blunder, and that was one of them.”
Julia rubbed her thighs gently. “There is no such thing as karma, honey. All circumstances are arranged from before the moment you’re born. Look at the lives of those who rule. Do you think they arrived at their lofty stations through merit earned in previous lives? In our reality there is no uncertainty.”
In our reality... What is that supposed mean? I thought. I said, “I always knew that. No one ever agrees with me about anything; it’s the stranger in a strange land syndrome, you know? Everyone assumes that the Hindu Brahmans knew the truth about karma even though they were the earliest scam artists on record. My perspectives about this reality seem to be reversed. For me, it’s more difficult to swim downstream.”
She crossed her legs and sighed. “But downstream doesn’t have to be difficult at all, honey, if you learn how to float. Why do you think reality is the way it is? Once you understand its magic, anything you desire can be yours. Your father helped us sustain this reality, Wilson. What do you remember about him?”
“Nothing at all,” I said dryly.
“I know a great deal about him, Wilson. His name is Vernon, and he was my consort for more years than you can imagine.”
Somehow I knew this was coming, and I wanted to avoid it. “So that’s it... my father? Is that why you contacted me?”
“Yes, in part, but there’s more.”
That old feeling of dread popped into my head and whispered, You’re going to get screwed, but not the way you wanted to. “Ms. Julia, do you have any idea why I came here? I didn’t drive all this way to reminisce about a relative I never knew. I came here for the manuscript... and other reasons.”
“We shall see,” she said. She stood up and folded her arms across her breasts, then paced slowly back and forth at the end of the table. “What I have to tell you is truth, but you’ll need to hear me out. Are you willing to listen?”
“For a while,” I said.
“The course of our destiny depends on the deal we strike here tonight, Wilson. Listen to me carefully. Your father is of the Carnegie bloodline, and he is a wizard of considerable power. Our clan has a habit of spreading its DNA outside the family by impregnating as many women as possible. Vernon was a master of seduction, and you’re one of many children he sired.”
“Who was my mother?” I snapped.
“She was a Nordic... a source player. But we’ll discuss her later. When an offspring of a wizard reaches the age of three, he or she is taken to meet the high-level priestess in our family. Despite the odds against it, your DNA held a frequency that is terrible for us. The Grande Mother felt your Light right away, and she rejected you. You were to be sacrificed because your soul energy is coveted by our rulers on the astral plane; it is a precious aphrodisiac for them.”
I’d researched occult knowledge all my life but, now that it fell in my lap, I felt apprehensive. “Julia, I don’t know if this is going to work. There’s a lot about my past that’s a mystery, but I don’t have a drop of regal blood in my body. Nobody ever gave a damn if I was alive or dead, and now you’re telling me that my life matters? That’s Hollywood talking. It might be time for me to leave.”
She stopped and fixed me with a cold eye. “Wait, you need to let me finish.” Her face softened. “Please let me finish.”
I drew a deep breath. “Go on.”
Copyright © 2020 by John W. Steele