From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2016 by Richard Messer
Like walking through a thickly silted river, thought James Baxter, as he passed into the black void beyond the doorway. Only the feeling fully engulfed his being. Now what?
He paused and felt around himself, arms extended and fingers spread, trying to find anything tangible to give the young buck some sense of place in this darkness.
Well, I really got myself into some shit now! How am I going to get out of it?
With a sigh he slowly turned around in place again. Everything was still black and now he felt lost. And it was all his fault for stepping through the door!
They must have had some sense of where they were going, or some means of getting from one doorway to another. Or maybe they took the disk as a means of guiding them to their destination. But that three inch coin-like thing was set into the recess in the wall as the only way of unlocking the door. Without it the young American buck could be lost in this empty someplace-else for eternity.
Dammit, James, get a hold of yourself! You got yourself into this mess! You can get out of it; you have before! But this was a new experience far beyond anything he had encountered in his nearly thirty years of existence. And he really yiffed it this time! Or maybe not, as a slowly growing glow appeared off in the distance, though Baxter couldn’t begin to say where it was in relation to his starting point. But it was a destination so he headed that way.
The glow grew brighter until it resolved into a doorway that seemed similar to the one he came through. Shielding his eyes against it he carefully stepped through. A feeling of solidness, more so than the void he had been in, shot up the buck’s legs. Baxter took time for his eyes to adjust to his new surroundings. And what he saw caused him to gasp in surprise.
The room was like a vast domed cylinder, at least a hundred feet across, with a vaulted ceiling about sixty feet at its peak. Glowing orbs at the end of pendants hung from the ribbings in two circles. The light from the orbs showed that the wall was made from the same type of ceramic-like material as the rooms on Malo-Moko Island. When the American turned around he noticed that the door was set into a flat wall, in contrast to the circular room, and it all stood on a long dais. Three shallow steps led down to the main floor, and to either side of the steps were what looked like pedestals for holding large tomes. Looking down Baxter was surprised to see, as an inlay into the dais, the two concentric rings with the large dot in the center, all in a bright blue. The thin arm projecting from the outer ring pointed towards the door he entered from. The three shorter, broader arms were aimed at both pedestals and the steps.
The young buck archaeologist stepped across the dais, marveling at how his tread hardly made a sound, then down the steps. They were broad, about twenty feet from pedestal to pedestal. To one of these Baxter went and was once more surprised to see the panel as being translucent as milky glass. He stared at the surface of it, puzzled as to its function. Curiously, he touched it with a fingertip. Instantly the panel glowed with a soft blue illumination as odd features appeared along with that equally odd script found on the island. After half a minute the light died out, leaving the panel in its milkiness once more.
Turning away from the pedestal the American buck looked around and found another door at an angle to his right. There was nothing else in the room. Giving a sigh he headed towards that door. There was no obvious opening in the wall by the door to take one of those disks. Instead there was a panel raised out from the wall slightly. It was bigger than his hand. And that gave him an idea. Slowly he brought his right hand up and placed it on the panel. At first it felt cool and slick like the ceramic material that lined the walls of the cave rooms. Then the panel grew warm and glowed pink before a subtle click sounded somewhere in the wall. The panels of the doors performed their three-way split, showing a layout that left the buck frozen wide-eyed in place.
It was a place that went beyond the farthest reaches of imagination. At least three times greater than the place he had just stepped out of... James Baxter could only stare in disbelief. There were light globes just now coming on, with the same intensity as those floodlights he remembered seeing on the college football field for night games. Along the circular wall were large milky white panels, only much larger than those on the pedestals. Below these were smaller panels, set at angle before what appeared to be chairs. But in the center of that vast chamber stood a circular platform about half the diameter of the room. Across its surface there appeared to be what might be called engravings and inlays for whatever purposes they engendered. Around the platform were the same inclined white panels with a chair for each.
With hesitant steps the young American worked his way down steps that angled off of the platform he entered onto, his hand gliding along tubular railings. Again his footfalls sounded softly, making him wonder if the flooring had some means of absorbing sound. Judging by the size of the room and all the seating this place must have been crowded, noisy and busy. A chill played along his spine as his mind tried to take in the vastness of this chamber, and whatever function it served. It was science fiction beyond anything he had read in journals and those visionary publications expounding what the coming future would offer to the world. At the moment the only future for the world was the expansion of war in either Asia or Africa. And there had been talk of a civil war erupting in Spain.
When he reached the platform in the middle of the chamber he was amazed at how high it rose from the floor, reaching the middle of his chest. Baxter set out a hesitant hand and touch the side. It was smooth and slick, but not like the porcelain rooms back on Earth . . . The buck stopped his rumination, realizing what the thought represented. Back on Earth?
A temerity settled over him with a smothering embrace, settling like frost in his bones. To be somewhere else, to have traveled to someplace far beyond anything he had ever experience nearly caused Baxter to collapse in a quaking fear. The buck couldn’t grasp the concept as much as he could grab a wisp of steam. He sat heavily in one of those odd chairs and lowered his head into his hands.
Oh, god! What have I done? I stepped through an unknown door and traveled to who knows where!
Tears began dripping into his palms. Like a child realizing he’s lost from his parents, James Baxter bawled his eyes out. The dream of making a name for himself; to become a member of the prestigious Howard Carter Society, drove him to make such a rash move of stepping through that black doorway without a second thought. It was several minutes before he regained his composure, sniffling and rubbing the wetness from eyes. The room swam through his tears as he worked at composing himself. Behind him were two of those translucent panels; one at an upward angle to whoever sat in the chair, at the height one would face a typewriter, while the other was just above the head of the operator but tilted slightly down towards him. The function of the panels puzzled the American. Could whomever sat here touch the lower panel while watching the upper one? The idea intrigued Baxter as he remembered the panel in the other room and how it reacted to his touch. He turned about - as the chair could swivel - and began to lift a finger to test his theory. However, he stopped. The panel in the other room may have been simpler in operation as it seemed to operate the door to wherever someone wanted to travel. But this set-up appeared to be far more complex than the buck could even begin to comprehend. He looked around the room, slowly studying the other stations along the outer wall.
The upper panels were far larger than the ones encircling the platform. Did they provide more information to its operators? Maybe, though he was just guessing. The young archaeologist turned back to the platform. He eyed it critically. In the back of his mind was a nagging thought that this structure may be the core to what happens in this vaulted chamber. Rubbing his eyes because all this thinking was giving him a headache, James Baxter got up out of the chair and was starting to determine what his next move should be when he paused. He cocked his head, twisting his large ears to discern what he thought was a voice.
Getting up from the alien chair the buck followed the sound towards those steps he descended earlier. He dashed up to the door and halted when it split open. Standing there was the English chimpanzee, Sir Albert Wednesday. Both were startled by the appearance of the other. Baxter was first to recover.
“Sir Albert, you won’t believe this place! It’s fantastic!”
The young buck was stepping forward, a wide grin on his face as he held out his hand in greeting. What he got was a scowl on that dark brown face, as well as a massive fist delivering a right hook!