The Traveler

Here is a short story I put together last summer. I had intended to submit it to a Lovecraftian anthology, but felt it needed more polish. I like the asymmetric inspirations for the story- Cold War politics and the Space Race meets Lovecraftian demiurge.


sputnik1

Dearest friend, do you not see All that we perceive – Only reflects and shadows forth What our eyes cannot see– Vladimir Soloviev

Man is destined to take possession of the universe … to extend his species into distant cosmic regions– Bolshevik pamphlet, 1917.

October 4, 1957 McNair Barracks Confinement Facility: West Berlin

“Tonight, God dies.”

“What are you talking about?” A frustrated Captain Leonard Moore locked his arms across his chest. “

Tonight, the U.S.S.R. will call out into space and God, his son and their acolytes will die,” explained prisoner Otto Hauptman.

“You are a rocket propellant engineer, Herr Hauptman. Not a theologian. Is it symbolic? Are the Soviets launching a rocket tonight?”

“Too simple. Missiles and rockets, that’s all you Americans think about. Such an inadequate people. You see me as engineer kidnapped by the Soviets to build their missiles. Too simple. Captain Moore, you need to look deeper,” Hauptman smirked mimicking his interrogator’s posture.

Three hours earlier Moore was rousted from bed by an authoritative rapping at his West Berlin apartment door. News of a “walk-in” at the Berlin barracks as wanted Nazi, Otto Hauptman, the “Wizard of Peenemunde” had turned himself in.

“Herr Hauptman, you are a wanted war-criminal. You appear here in Berlin after 13 years of work with my sworn enemy and now you mock me?”

The snapping movement of Moore’s wristwatch filled the room with a methodical, irritating ticking.

“What time is Captain?”

“23:00 hours.”

“It has begun,” Hauptman hissed.

“What has?” Moore was transfixed by Hauptman’s eerie coolness. Watching the old Nazi scientist gloat unsettled the World War II veteran turned Central Intelligence Agency interrogator.

A sharp bang outside the stout metal door into the visitor room startled Moore.

“Don’t move,” the interviewer pushed away from the table separating the two.

Moore burst into the secure hallway, “What the hell is going on out here!”

The Army MPs manning the barrack stockade hurriedly moved prisoners back into their cells as a distant phone rang unanswered. Moore grabbed a lanky, crisply uniformed Military Policeman, “Sarge, what’s going on?”

“The Reds! They did it! They launched a rocket into space….there is a Russian satellite in orbit!”

“What?”

A muffled shout from within the visitor room turned interrogation suite turned Moore’s attention once again. Moore slammed the door handle, “What did you say?”

“Sputnik,” Hauptman replied.

“What?” “Sputnik is the artificial satellite mentioned by your nervous Sergeant,” Hauptman nodded to the door.

Confused, Moore looked back at the heavy door, “How did you hear that?”

“Thirteen years in a Soviet laboratory prison, ones hearing is honed to pick up on the faintest morsel of conversation or rustle of humanity through the thickest steel or concrete.”

Astonished, Moore jabbed a finger at the prisoner, “Why are you here?”

“I possess information. Burdened with it is more appropriate, that I feel the Allies should know about it before the spectacular events unfold.”

“How benevolent of you,” Moore scoffed.

“Oh no my dear Captain, it is most malevolent of me.” Hauptman arched forward, his yellowed fingernails stroking the brown hued tabletop. The gentle strokes in the varnish went deeper and deeper with each pass. Splitting his fingernails Hauptman steadily peeled away curls of wood blotted with his own blood.

“Stop!” Moore slapped Hauptman’s hand flat.

The elderly German glared up at the interrogator, “I am writing out the story you so desperately want to know. Do not interrupt me again.”

Moore’s blood ran cold. Unconsciously, the old commando reached for where his .45 would normally be on his hip. It was gone, locked up at the sally port into the West Berlin confinement facility. Ten silent minutes passed. Moore watched Hauptman claw his fingers raw scarring a dizzying string of symbols and marks into the wooden table top.

A childhood stammer, buried by beatings from his father and gallons of castor oil, resurfaced this rainy October evening, “Is this an equation..?”

“Very good, Captain,” Hauptman pulled his hemorrhaging, trembling digits away from the table.

“But these aren’t numbers or letters I’ve seen,” Moore stooped to inspect each line. He also hoped he would hide his confused look by scrutinizing the etchings.

“The Soviets called it the Kobadesa Equation. Three hundred lines long in an alien language unknown to mankind. It was found by a trio of seminarians from Tiflis Theological school in 1899. A perfect stone sphere, with the equation spiraling around it, was discovered in the mountains north of Tehran.”

A shout from the hall this time did not distract Moore who remained focused like a fencer’s foil on the prisoner.

“What is it,” Moore shouted over his shoulder as a timid MP was proceeded into the room by his gleaming polished helmet.

“The satellite, sir. It’s transmitting a signal.”

“Can we hear it?”

“Sir, it’s transmitting on 20 Mhz.”

Moore glared at Hauptman, “Soldier, bring in a speaker.”

“As I was saying,” Hauptman curled his lip, annoyed by the interruption, “These seminarians returned to the Czarist Russia believing the sphere held a forgotten lesson that would raise mankind to a higher, spiritual plane. Men like Georgi Gurdjieff pushed forward these transcendental beliefs. But it wasn’t until the Bolshevik Revolution when the importance of the Kobadesa Equation was realized.”

The creek of the interrogation room door produced a pair of distressed MPs hauling in a single speaker trailing a kinked wire.

“We’ve been put on a national security alert, sir,” the sergeant said uncoiling a power cord. “I am not sure if we can let you remain here.”

“You go and do what you need to sergeant,” Moore wiggled the speaker to the table edge. “We’ll be fine.”

Hauptman closed his eyes as the speaker hissed and crackled, electricity warming it and eventually producing a sound. A single electronic beep. Followed by another. Then another. Hauptman smiled. Moore began to sweat.

“A magical sound, don’t you think, Captain?”

“Not very daunting,” Moore was mesmerized by the rhythmic broadcast.

“You hear a comical tone, Captain Moore. But it’s what you are not hearing that is important. I was captured by the Soviets to help them decrypt the Kobadesa Equation and it resulted in this,” Hauptman pointed to the speaker.

Hauptman gloated with pleasure as he returned to his monologue, “Science will kill God. Knowledge elevates man to his next state of being, making him Trotsky’s ideal, immortal and master of the universe. Yet one cannot wipe God away with just a proletarian slogan, that is what the Communists that regularly beat me realized. They needed to kill God and replace him with tangible, scientific truth from outside our reality. And when the west sees there is no God, then Communism will become transcendent.”

Moore stared at the utilitarian amplifier, transfixed by the beats of the satellite.Louder and louder they grew, those repeating beeps from space. Hauptman eyed his inquisitor like wounded prey. Psychologically exposed and vulnerable, Moore had no tools left as interrogator and captor. The pallid hand of the German rested upon the amplifier like a faith healer coaxing demons from a possessed parishioner. His touch threw the radio into a fit as the monotonous beep screamed to life in a guttural chant.

“What are you doing, Hauptman?” Moore staggered away from the table.

“Nothing,” Hauptman shrugged demurely.

The chant moaned ever louder from within the speaker, pushing Moore further and further away from the box. Back against the door, Moore fumbled for the door handle as the fear trembling through him seemed to shake the whole building. A pulsing vibration, angry and recycling, pounded through the stout barracks walls, dropping Moore to his knees. Clapping his hands tightly over his ears, Moore attempted to muffle the demonic rhythmic hiss.

” What is it saying,” Moore curled on the floor as the walls fissure and ceiling bulged upwards.

Hauptmann craned his head back and closed his eyes, “My vengeance has split the abyss. I will push the gods of Earth aside and command them to bow before me. To fall as my inferiors did at the dawn of time. To the deceivers I will collapse upon them to smother and conquer.”

Heaving upward like a diaphragm, the interrogation room ceiling exploded upwards, showering the German and American in debris. The explosion snuffed out light and the ever present drone from Sputnik. A pair of worn brown leather shoes appeared at the top of Moore’s field of vision. His downcast eyes remained fixed on the ground, sure it would be the last thing he would see. As ugly as the filthy linoleum was, it surely paled at the horror that hovered overhead.

Those shoes were Hauptman’s and they paused in their progress towards Moore. Squinting against the tears and dread, Moore noticed the plain Oxfords hovered ever so slightly above the tile floor. Drawn upward, Moore saw Hauptman no longer tread the Earth, but dangled hideously from a greasy black tendril wrapping his neck. His absurd smile broadened as the tentacle slowly strangled the German engineer.

Moore followed the single feeler stretching up through gaping hole to a blanket of clouds.  Incomprehensibly long, a tentacle pulled taut, snapping Hauptman’s neck with a wet, muffled snap. A supple monstrous appendages swayed about delicately plucking life from the garden of humanity. Assaulted by the crawling sky, Moore felt a molesting caress circle his neck.

Then, a whisper from the darkness, “Look up to behold the face of the Traveler.”


© Copyright site content Asymmetric Creativity/Kevin Cooney 2014-. All rights reserved. Text may not be used or reproduced without explicit permission.

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