From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2015 by Richard B. Messer
The sun had washed the blue from the sky until a brilliant paleness shown down on the city below. He looked down from a second floor balcony, leaning over the red-painted wood railing to gaze down over the broad plaza that spread out before him.
The plaza was a broad display of colored flagging set in a mosaic, stretching for a hundred yards square before him. Around the perimeter were buildings of one and two stories, made of white stone and covered in green tile roofing, with doors, windows, and columns colored red. And that broadness was filled with various stalls that sold a variety of foodstuff and handmade items that the population felt it needed, or was worth taking home as gifts. The air was filled with the myriad smells of the food being offered and that brought a slight growl from his stomach. But it wasn’t his nose that he was relying on now. No, it was the visual pageantry being played out before him.
Never had he seen so many different kinds of fursonages as he did now; the major portion of the population was composed of a creature that was as bizarre as comical in appearance. Barely five feet tall, these creatures had a head that seemed to be half rounded muzzle and half skull. Large rounded ears look to stand out the back of its head with large bright eyes before them. And there seemed to be a stump of a tail protruding from their clothing. Those that did not wear any kind of head cover exposed a tuft of short hair, if male, or a mane if female. And their short body-fur was mostly tan to tawny, with a darker brown head-hair.
Among these funny creatures strolled two other furs that made up the scene. One seemed to be of a simian nature, but not of the heavy-jawed, beetle-browed kind he knew. Their features were refined, narrow and showed a more animated range of expressions. And hair and body fur spanned a range from a light red to black, though the exposed skin was of a curious dark pink tone. But those others of the shoppers seemed to be of a feline design. However, there was something else about them that didn’t seem right to him. Tall and lithe, they moved through the crowds with the grace granted by their leonine bodies, the long slender tails with their dark tuffs sweeping back and forth. As with the other people mingling and mixing around the market, these felinoids sported either short hair for the males or the long manes for their mates. Still, they had a feature about them that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Looking up from the life in motion he espied the far horizon of fields, rice paddies, streams, and wooded hills. Far to his left was a broad harbor filled with a variety of vessels either coming or going, and those tied up at quays before the myriad warehouses lining the bay. There were a few river courses winding towards the bay; stone and wooden bridges crossing at numerous places. But when he turned his attention to his right what he beheld struck his fancy the most.
A broad boulevard angled upwards to a low hill that was surmounted by a vast complex of what could be described as temples and palaces. And at the summit was a strange low tower that arched upward to hold what could only be thought of as a gargantuan discus. And even this was bizarre, as it appeared to be constructed from something of a silvery-gray metallic material. And as he continued to stare, transfixed, at this discus, there sounded below a peal of trumpets and the bellowing of oliphants. Dropping his gaze he noted for the first time the procession that appeared to be winding down that boulevard from the temple mount.
It was a large group of twenty or so individuals, passing through the street at a slow but steady pace. There were several large figures that could have been thought of as guards, for they were tall and thick-bodied, bearing round shields and what could be termed as halberds. Behind them followed a retinue of those simian and feline femmes, possibly ladies-in-waiting. For surrounded by the guards were three creatures that he had never seen before. Or so he thought. They were tall by the standards of which he judged them, maybe taller than him, but not the guards. Those figures strode with an economy of movement, neither swaying nor bouncing in their step. And they appeared to be of a canine race.
Their muzzles were sharp and the ears that rose above the jet black hair, tapered to points, though the back edges of those ears looked to have some roundness to them. The pair stepping together were of a dark gray-black to their fur. But it was the solitary figure that stood well before them and protected by the greater number of guards brought a catch to his breath and a skip to his heart.
She (and it was definitely female) walked with that imperial air that strongly suggested she was of either noble birth, or a priestess of great standing. Her black hair was square-cut just above the eyes, with the rest falling straight to her waist. Beaded earrings that hung from her ears sparkled in the sunlight, as did the elaborate gorget resting on the swell of her tawny breasts, and the circlet with jeweled beads resting on her brow. So caught up was he in staring unabashedly at this beautiful creature that he was vaguely aware of a subtle knocking at the door to the apartment and the voice beyond it calling out a name . . .
“Mr. Baxter? Mr. Baxter!?”
It was a slow climb to reality from that well of dreams. The young whitetail deer raised his head slowly from where it had been face-down in the pillow. There was a terrible throbbing on the back of his head as well as in his head, mixed with the foul taste of something having died in his mouth. James Baxter groaned for any and all reasons as he struggled to push himself up into somewhat of a sitting position on the edge of the bunk. And still there was that persistent knocking and name calling.
Getting unsteadily to this feet the buck worked his way to the door of his cabin and managed to unlock it before opening it. The outside was bright, though cloudy, such that it made the pain in his skull that much worse. Staring blearily out, he noted the small figure of a Yorkshire terrier in waistcoat and shirt-sleeves.
“Oh, Mr. Baxter, there you are! His Lordship and other were terribly worried when you didn’t show up for breakfast!” Lionel Jeffries, Sir Albert’s manservant, looked unabashedly relieved at finding the American still alive. Then his eyes narrowed as he stared pointedly at the fellow’s chest. “Good heavens, sir! Have you been sick?”
Confused, Baxter looked down the front of his suit and realized that dried vomit had left a streak down the front of his rumpled jacket. He glanced up at the shorter canine.
“Seems I must have. Please tell the others to go ahead with breakfast while I clean up before joining them.”
“Very good, sir,” murmured the manservant, looking concerned at the other before heading back to the wardroom.
On shaky feet the buck made his way back to his bunk where he half-sat, half-fell onto the rumpled bedclothes. With unsteady hands he removed his clothing and threw them into a pile across the room. Then climbing unsteadily to his feet again, James Baxter staggered to the small toilet and started the shower going. Once it reached the temperature he thought tolerable, the deer stumbled into the falling water.
As the water cascaded over his rust-colored body, he scrubbed soap into it, cleaning away the foulness from the night before. Baxter’s mind turned back to that odd dream he had experienced, fantastic in its color and detail, more so than any dream he could remember. But it was not complete, like a drawing that was roughed in without certain features added. The buildings had color but no recognizable style to its architecture. The merchant’s stalls in the plaza were plain open tents, the noise from the shoppers indistinct from a general murmuring of a theater crowd before the curtain parts. The far hills looked no different from any photograph taken from any myriad scenes of farmlands around the world. And the harbor looked like a harbor; the shipping looked like shipping.
With a sharp shake of his head that caused the bump on the back of it to ache, the young buck stumbled out into the narrow confines that was his room’s toilet. Grabbing the towel from the bar, he began wiping himself down, being careful with back of his head and the two-tine antlers sprouting from the damp mop of brown hair. He paused to examine himself. Being close to thirty years of age Baxter was always infuriated by not having more tines to display as other bucks his age. He knew there should be at least five to six tines already, maybe even seven. And as far back as he could remember, his antler growth was even later than other whitetails. Maybe that was why the does in school wouldn’t go on dates with him; they viewed him as being immature, or defective.
Tossing the towel on the bed Baxter went to the narrow locker that was the closet. He pulled out a khaki shirt and trousers along with fresh underwear and socks. Once more he managed to seat himself on the bunk and began to pull on his new clothes, trying to think of what that dream meant. When he finished the buck glanced around the bunk and found the disk by the pillow. Picking it up, Baxter studied it closely.
It was three inches in diameter as he noted last night. It looked to be about a quarter of an inch thick, too. And rubbing it between fingertips seem to indicate the surface felt slick, like soapstone, though it had an off-white color to it. The buck turned it over and noticed the odd carving on it. It had a circle within a circle, and a large dot at its center, all equidistant from the center. And along the circumference of the outer circle there were four short ‘spokes’ projecting out towards the edge of the disk. There were three thick spokes evenly spaced along the outer rim of the circle, with a narrower spoke opposite the middle one. It was an odd design that left the deer wondering as to what it meant. But as he turned it over to study the obverse side there was a catch in his breathing and a skip to his heart.
Baxter vaguely recalled the face on it last night, but wasn’t able to discern the features then. Now he stared dumbstruck at the elegant countenance that seemed to be staring back at him. And the oddness of it dealt with the profile not being sideways, as on all coins he had seen. This face was carved in a quarter right profile so that whoever viewed it could see both eyes – and it was looking at him! Another aspect of this face left him holding his breath, for the face was of that fantastically beautiful creature in his dream!
There was that sharp muzzle, the long tapering ears, and those big eyes! She wore the circlet from the dream, with the strings of beads hanging down to chin-level all around her head. And that smile! Baxter blinked at that playful curl at the corner of her mouth; a smile that hinted at some mischief that was lurking in her mind. He snapped his head up, tearing his eyes away from that bewitching face. His breath had quickened and his heart threaten to beat itself out of his chest. The buck took deep breaths to calm himself. Closing his eyes Baxter felt himself calming down after a minute; before he dared to look once more on that disk.
He flipped the disk to where he could study the edge. Tiny glyphs were etched into the material all around the edge. Squinting his eyes and holding the disk closer to his face the whitetail deer could discern the pattern to the glyphs. They appeared to be more of a style of rune than a hieroglyph or cuneiform. And what he thought were round dots turned out to be square in shape.
Baxter sat up and stared blankly at the far wall. This was something of great importance, and evidence that a wholly unknown civilization had been established here in the Pacific Ocean! It had nothing to do with the Atlantis legend since Plato’s time, nor any relation to Egypt, Sumeria, Babylon, or even the Phoenicians. The disk was totally unique and represented a departure from what had been viewed as accepted dogma in archeology. The thought of such a discovery would bring some honor and prestige back to Miskatonic University and make a name for James Baxter. However, there was something that was crawling around the edge of his consciousness, quietly calling for his attention. He turned back to the face and studied it closer.
Other than that Mona Lisa smile there was a difference to her face from what he seemed to remember. It reminded him of the Anubian carvings he had seen from photos of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Still, there were subtle details that could be easily overlooked. And the more Baxter studied that face, those details became apparent. The muzzle was not as sharp as a jackals but shorter and broader in its morphology. The ears were not as tall as what were shown in the carvings, and they looked to be facing more outward than any other canines. However, it was the eyes that drew his attention. They had a faint almond shape and a bit of an upward tilt at the outer corners, at least what the buck could deduce from seeing the right eye. It was as if this lady was of an oriental background.
Oriental? Unabashedly, Baxter stared closely at the face. Yes, there was something of the oriental about her, something that suggested a hint of Chinese or Japanese. But what would they be doing out here so far from familiar waters? The Japanese never wandered from home waters beyond the sight of land, except to trade with Korea or China to the west. And there had been evidence that the Chinese used to send trading expeditions far to the south as the Philippines, and along the coastline around what is now French Indochina to Burma, Siam and India. There was even some suggestion that they had gone as far as Africa. No, this was something that hinted at a far deeper mystery, a mystery that reaches farther back into the misty shadows of time. This ‘coin’ was a link to a civilization far older than the rise of the samurai in Japan, or when the Chinese first began setting the foundations of the Forbidden City or threw up the first great wall to keep out marauding bandits. And if it was a far older civilization than what had been found in Africa or Asia, what was it?
A sudden thought erupted in his mind. Something that had been overlooked for so long that it was lost in the background noise of Atlantis. A rising excitement grew in the pit of his stomach that was leaving the buck giddy. Could he have found evidence to back the notion that they were looking into the remains of Lemuria?