From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2017 by Richard Messer
It was as James Baxter had predicted: The doors on the opposite side of the corridor lead to the “Transmitting Rooms.” However, their layout was the opposite as well. Instead of a central table, there were two ledges running along the walls, with similar chairs and those curious holes set back almost against the walls.
And Sir Albert kept muttering darkly about not having a camera on hand, wishing he had either his Kershaw or Ensign available.
“Hell, I’d give £50 for a good Austrian Leica right now!”
The American buck could only watch with a growing appreciation for the trials his English mentor was going through. A camera would have provided more convincing evidence of the pair’s studies of this unknown mystery. But all they had right now were sketches and diagrams to provide their best proof of being here, and those would be discounted out of hand as fantasies and flights of fancy.
Finishing packing away the tape measure and flashlight, the young whitetail deer could only nod his understanding at what the simian peer was going through.
“Just the same, Sir Albert, we could still be branded as charlatans if we did have photographic proof of our visit.”
Nodding his great black head, the English archaeologist could only acknowledge the simple truth of that statement.
“Aye, you're right, lad, you're right. Even if we somehow managed to bring back some kind of bird or animal, there will be someone claiming to have seen something similar somewhere. It would be our word against someone who would do his best to refute our claim every step of the way! And that someone could be of a higher standing within the exploratory world as well!”
Baxter nodded, then looked up from the knapsack. He cast his gaze around the room, noting something that hadn’t occurred to him before now.
“Have you, by any chance, noticed any ducting or ventilation louvers in any of the rooms we’ve been in?”
The simian gave the buck a puzzled look. “How do you mean?”
Standing up the whitetail made a motion towards the ceiling. “What I mean is, had you seen anyway for air to get in and out of these rooms?”
The English archaeologist looked around as well, arriving at the same conclusion.
“By Geoffrey, your right!” He licked a thick forefinger and held it aloft. He felt nothing. ”No hint of air movement whatsoever. Now that is another mystery to go with your ‘broadcast power’ theory.”
An uneasiness settled into the pit of the American’s stomach. How are they breathing in these rooms when there was no evidence of air being exchanged continuously!
“The mysteries do keep piling up,” James Baxter murmured as he scratched behind a rounded ear. Then he shrugged and said, lightheartedly, “Maybe the walls breathe?”
Sir Albert Wednesday shot him a look. “Do you really mean that?”
The American buck gave a lopsided grin. “Don’t see why not! I mean, there are no obvious switching for the lights.” He nodded towards the glowing globes overhead. “Those panels in the ‘Operations Room’ come on at a touch, and they don’t having any wiring running to them that we’ve been able to find. In the rooms on both sides of the hall here have been sockets of sorts in the tops of these ‘tables’, though we have no way of knowing whether there is power to them or not.
“What I’m trying to get at is: Whoever, or whatever, built this place, had the means to a type of construction that we can’t even begin to imagine! Maybe the duct works are an integral part of the walls and ceilings! Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t include them in the floor itself!”
The ape caught the rising note of excitement in his companion’s voice. And it seemed to be bordering on the edge of hysteria! With a sudden grasping of both hands the simian grabbed the buck by the shoulders and drew him in until their noses touched.
“Get a grip on yourself, James!” the English ape growled deeply in his massive chest. Baxter blinked twice in surprise, just as the realization of what he had been saying slowly sank in.
“Yes, sir,” came the sheepish reply as the buck bowed his head in shame.
Wednesday let him go. “This is not the time to start losing our heads, lad! We’ve seen mysteries piled on mysteries since coming to this place of yours, and we don’t know what else to expect around the next corner! So now we need to be levelheaded from this point on, and not give way to such hysterics. Now let’s take stock of what we’ve discovered, okay?”
The buck merely nodded.
With another nod of his head the simian began ticking items off on thick fingers.
“First of all, we have made a transition from our world to another, correct? Two, the atmospheric and gravitational conditions here are similar to Earth’s, correct? Three, there is nothing poisonous in this atmosphere that is affecting us, eh, so far, correct? Four, we’ve discovered the relics and construction techniques far beyond anything we ever could imagine, correct?”
With every point the chimpanzee made on his fingers, James Baxter merely nodded in ascension.
There was no way he could argue any of those points; he was too fully in agreement with the English ape. But he still couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that on the edge of his consciousness, something far greater was about to be discovered. And it terrified him!
“Now, is there something we have not found in our travails so far?”
Sir Albert cocked an eyebrow at the young American, like a teacher trying to coax an answer from a confused student.
Baxter cudgeled his thoughts, trying to get them in some order, before the older ape could lecture him again. Then a thought did come to him, though he wasn’t sure how the other would take it.
“If we try to look at this place from a point of reference, say at Luxor in Egypt, and this was a temple to one of the greater Egyptian gods, the priests would use the ‘Operations Center’ to administer the day to day prayers and offer blessings to the masses.”
He stepped out into the corridor and pointed to the doors along the hallway.
“The transition from Earth to, ah, ‘here’, could be seen as the means for a priest to enter this world to commune with the ‘gods’, or of a ‘god’s’ passage into the realm of the mortals.” Baxter pointed in a way that meant the room beyond the Operations Center by which both buck and ape had entered this new world. "That is to say, if someone, or someones, had found a way to get ‘From Heaven to Earth’, then this would be their way of doing so.”
All the while he spoke, the young whitetail never looked up into that dark simian face, his attention towards his hands as he was making motions to convey his thoughts and feelings to the English ape. Uncertainty had settled into his being, having been shaken by the other for his rising hysteria. Baxter was now trying to rationalize those thoughts into a way that could be seen from a supplicant to his priest/priestess who were the conduits to the gods. Or a graduate student defending his thesis before a Board of Review.
Then he paused again, head cocked, as another idea came to the fore that appeared totally off the wall from his presentation. He looked up to Sir Albert, and frowned!
“But there are two things we need to find to add credence to the daily life of these ‘gods’.”
The older archaeologists widen his eyes as a means to bring forth the answer from his ‘student’.
“And what would those ‘two things’ be, Mr. Baxter?”
Cocking his head to one side, James Baxter considered the ape with a mild amusement.
“Where would they go for a drink of water, and where would they go to relieve themselves?”
* * * * * * *
They were closer to finding that out in short order when they passed through the other door at the end of the corridor. There was no ‘palm panel’ (Sir Albert’s definition of the item) to the side of the door, just that bulge over the top of the door. And what they found on the other side left them wide-eyed and speechless for several minutes!
This room was at least twice the diameter of the Operations Room, and nearly half again as tall! There were ten great arches of stone rising from a floor that had been carefully flagged in concentric rings of different colored slate! But what made the vaulting of the ceiling even more spectacular where the equal number of glass panels fitted between the arches that allowed sunlight to enter!
Both stood and stared about, trying to take in this fantastic scene compared to the pale white ceramic composite material of the working world they had just left behind. Through those slices of clear glass (if indeed it was glass!), James Baxter stared in rapt fascination at the bright, pale blue sky that was dry brushed with the wisps and curls of Cirrus clouds. But Sir Albert Wednesday made his way over to one of those stone arches.
His hand glided over the smooth surface of what he interpreted to be a pale yellow granite. His dark eyes glittered in childish glee as he craned his neck to visually follow the graceful curve to its apex. There he noted how all the arches, as well as the glass windows, met in a circular point. And from that point hung a sculpted stalactite, from which dangled a massive crystalline structure that could only be thought of as a ‘chandelier’. Clusters of giant crystal ‘flakes’ were suspended from the structure, dappling the flooring with myriads of rainbow patterns.
The simian stepped closer to the arch, marveling at how its width was greater than the span of his arms. Then he took a closer look at the surface, fingertips feeling at its finished smoothness. From a jacket pocket he removed a loupe, peered through the magnifying lens at the grain of the stone, and gave a low whistle.
“James, come on over here,” he called over his shoulder, “you have to see this!” He turned to where is young companion was rooted to the flagstone flooring, gaping up at something else that the ape had overlooked.
Towering up from the floor below the chandelier was a free-form structure that defied description and confused the eye as to its purpose. James Baxter stared at this ‘thing’ that rose from a shallow bowl in the flooring for several minutes, his mind working through permutations as to what purpose it served, until he looked down into the bowl. There arose what appeared to be several rocks, set in a random pattern around the structure, and sitting off of the surface of the bowl by means he couldn’t see. The buck ignored the simian’s call as he made a slow walk along the rim of the bowl. Something familiar about the structure’s purpose nagged at the back of his mind as continued his walk, left hand behind his back while he rubbed at his chin with the right. It was when he was half way around that the solution finally came to him.
“My God,” the whitetail shouted, his voice echoing throughout the chamber. “It’s a damn fountain!” He dashed around the rest of the way, eyes wide as he paused now and then to drop to his knees and stare under those rock within the bowl. Yes, there were what looked like grills of a sort under them!
Buoyed by his discovery he ran to where Sir Albert still remained by the granite arch, waiting patiently for his colleague to arrive. But the English peer held up both hands to ward off the sudden outburst from the other.
“Yes, lad, it does look like a fountain! What else could it be?”
The younger archaeologist froze in place as he felt his enthusiasm deflate. The chimpanzee laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “From all appearances this could be a mall or a gathering area of some type. An atrium, maybe.”
Baxter nodded. “Yes, you’re probably right.” He then made a sweeping motion with his left hand. “Imagine this place full of people, milling about, watching the water spraying from that fountain, filling the air with the sound of falling water that mixes with the chatter and laughter of those people. There were probably benches or seating of some kind for them to sit and talk. And think of children running around, making children noises and getting into trouble with their parents.” He looked about the place, imagines from his dreams of those people that populated them. He turned back to Sir Albert.
“If this was an operations center of some sort, wouldn’t there possibly be a cafeteria, water fountains, and toilets for the visitors as well as those who would have worked here?”
The simian nodded quickly, while trying to direct his companion’s attention to his own discovery. He handed the loupe to the buck and pointed out the spot on the stone archway to look. James Baxter leaned in, the magnifying lens to his eye and peered closely. And what he saw made his head come up.
The English peer grinned broadly. “Yes, my boy, gold! And there are several other quartz veins running through this granite that are filled with the metal.” He made his own sweeping gesture up to the ceiling where the other arches met. “And I’ll bet you English pounds to Reich marks that they all have it!”
With a shake of his head, for the idea of having such a precious ore present for all to see left the whitetail confused, James Baxter said, “Maybe they had gone beyond a gold standard for their economy?”
Sir Albert could only shrug. “Maybe,” he echoed. “They probably traded in some commodity far more superior than such means. But we’ll never know.”
The young American slowly walked out towards the fountain, trying to see, with his mind’s eye, the water spraying or simply bubbling down that odd construct, adding its own musical rhapsody to the confusion of talking, laughing, shouting and crying that would fill a regular train station back on Earth.
Back on Earth? The very thought filled Baxter with a sudden ache of homesickness, and thought it was strange that he would be experiencing this feeling now, of all times. The American deer stopped, and wondered at this. He and his senior colleague were here for the first ever journey beyond anything they had ever imagined... and yet, it felt so familiar to the buck. He did a slow turn in place, eyeing this chamber, marveling at the vastness of it, and the grand scheme of the architecture that encompassed the whole idea of this being some center of operations. But what operation, and for who? What was with that elaborate room and its myriad translucent panels with that vaguely familiar keyboard patterns? Had the population of this world visited Earth in its past? Was the small chamber on Malo Moko Island just an entry point between worlds?
A slow throbbing began to work its way up the back of the buck’s skull, heading for what promised to be a first rate headache! He started to turn back to where the peer stood watching him when he saw something that offered, for the first time, a possible means of enlightening the reason for this whole setup.
With fast feet, James Baxter made his way towards what were a set of doors that he didn’t see before, because he had first thought of them as entryways to other rooms within the vast complex. And as he drew closer he had a growing feeling that they led outside, and he would get to see his world as he dreamt of. Behind him came troubled shouting as the chimpanzee came to the realization of what his American partner might be attempting.
As he practically ran towards them, the detector about the door noted the buck’s presence and slowly drew open two panels instead of three. And beyond these doors were other doors, and Baxter realized that the glass – if such – were deeply tinted on both the inner and outer doors, so that once he was passed the closer pair, he could see the dim sunlight beyond the next pair. And as those opened, James Baxter was overwhelmed by the brightness of the sun and the heavy humidity of the atmosphere that awaited him.
Once outside he took in deep drafts of the air, noting how sweet it tasted without any automobile exhaust or the stifling smoke of a factory. He looked about and found he was on a broad plaza with other buildings to either hand. But he recognized that truncated pyramid before him, upon which sat that massive discus shaped vehicle he watched lift off into the sky. Behind him came the excited shouting of Sir Albert Wednesday. Not waiting for the older fellow, Baxter raced around the building to the side where he could look down upon his beloved market place and its milling throng. But when he halted at the stone railing, what he saw made his heart leap into his throat!