“I’ll tell you. For the sake of-” Farnsw-Peter stared me down, eyes like liquid fire, fierce and angry. “You won’t stop, will you?” His gaze locked on mine. I shook my head not able to utter a word. My mouth was dry. Funny. Never thought he had it in him. What a surprise!
“I won’t leave anything out. That’s what you’re afraid of. I don’t want fame or fortune. I don’t care about my mark in history. Not like this.” He expected something from me, but when he saw, I didn’t know what, he shook his head. He was disappointed with me?
“I’m sorry. I truly am, Peter.” I tried softly. Where was he heading? What did he want, if not being a part of such a significant, table-turning discovery? Was money on his mind?
“Fine, you won’t give up. Even if it kills you.” He stopped suddenly. “I know it did. It did kill you, Adam,” he sighed heavily. “I know you can’t believe that. How could you? Even I think it’s impossible.” The nurse puts a hand on his shoulder, and he smiled at her weakly. “I cannot prove anything,” he continued. “I only have my nightmares and memories of your screams, charred skin and dead weight, as I dragged you out of that cave.” Peter tried to swallow acid or sadness or terror, maybe only his memories. Whatever it was, it resisted.
This could be a pure money issue… Maybe blackmail, or some other kind of extortion for the trauma he had been through. The need for compensation? After all, everybody, even I, could see he wasn’t okay. Should I try to comfort him?
He huffed. “Better start chronologically. I know how efficient you are, how your mind digests data. That was what you were thinking, weren’t you? Even if you don’t believe it, I picked up some of your habits. Isn’t that pathetic?” He shook his head, lips pressed together to a bloodless slit. The tension was apparent. His jaw muscles did push-ups.
“Just,” I whispered.”Give it time. Go slowly, go easy, but go.”
“Have it your way then!” Peter slammed his palm unto the table, making the nurse jump. Made me jump too.
“We arrived on May 7th in Bucharest. The flight and hotel were okay. I organized transportation by train, and taxi to our guesthouse. You know, the basics for this little road trip, I hoped we… We would, uh,” he blushed, “nevermind.”
“The host, who owns the guesthouse asked if we were looking for gold and ancient art. You laughed when I translated. However, that man was a con, I found out later when I talked to the police here. But that’s another story. He gave us two horses, food, water, and two guns for the brazen marauding bears. Everything useless and broken, maybe he didn’t plan on any returning guests.” Peter swallowed, the fire from his eyes hid somewhere else, somewhere deeper.
“We started on a sunny day. Soon we left all tiny villages behind us, and the simple huts on the mountainsides. We followed your mystery map, which you never showed me. Bet you were afraid, I’d steal it. And as planned, the ancient forests of the Carpathians swallowed us. I remember, I felt watched. Somebody followed us for a while, maybe for two days. The person never showed him or herself though. You, as always, just shrugged it off. We camped, we searched for almost a week when you saw the cave entrance up the side of the mountain, under a cliff. What a painstaking struggle that was to get there. We got the ropes and climbed down. I knew it was THE place. All the symbols…”
“Symbols?” He nodded slowly, shifting position. The nurse’s pen scratched the notebook. I would need that notebook…
“We went in, squeezed deeper, sometimes crawled, and wiggled ourselves further in. You knew the way. I don’t know how, but you knew where to go, where to turn as if you’ve already been there. I even asked, but you do not answer my questions. Suddenly, there was a seemingly artificial tunnel. You had to find that damned door. It opened to a cavernous dome, perfectly carved. Judging from the echo, it was huge. The black hemisphere of doom. It was big. Bigger than anything I could have imaged.” Peter shook his head. “What I expected were ruins, an underground city, or even catacombs. Something we’d be able to bag or get to a museum… But not that.” He swallowed. “Then I saw the carvings near the door we came in. That was what made me double back. You were perfectly right. This place was nothing that had a place in the paradigm of history nowadays.”
Peter gestured vaguely. “I recognized DNA, complex geometrical figures, like telemetry data, or higher mathematics… I don’t know. I. I simply have no idea what that was. You had something else on your mind. You knew what to look for. The cave hummed, and dust rained down on us. I thought it was an earthquake, but-” He breathed faster. He hid his face, resting his head in his hands. “Uhm. Wasn’t an earthquake. It was the machines coming to live.”
“You never minded my protesting. You pushed down those symbols on the basalt slab.” He gasped, as if the memory cut through him. Neither the nurse nor I disturbed him. Peter was somewhere else. Far away. Trembling. Pale. Consumed.
“There was a flash of light, behind the stone, you had your hands on. I don’t know, why you didn’t see it. I tried to warn you, to pull you back. But.” He breathed, transfixed with the sight of his hands flatly pressed onto the table.
“It was too late.” His tone turned monotone.”It must have hurt so badly. You screamed horribly. Never heard a human ever do something like that. Nobody ever should… It sounded like death,” he paused and swallowed.
“I tried everything…” He closed his eyes, but a tremor went through him, like an earthquake. His whole body trembled. Nothing to block out the memory. The floodgates were open, and he wouldn’t be able to close them by himself. “That only slowed the process. There was so much blood! God, the stench of it. All the blood on the stone boiled.” His words were forced out, between teeth and lips pressed together. His voice shivered and hitched. “It ate away your skin, tore the muscles. It crushed you. I heard… I felt your bones snap under my grip.” He flinched, hands flying up as if he just let go of a decomposing carcass falling apart at his touch. “My hands did more damage.”
I could see he tried his best to hold back tears. Fluttering hands clenched into shaky fists, trying to subdue any telltale signs of falling apart. His shoulders went up to his ears. The misery, as visible as a supernova. A blinding beacon in the night, beauty and destruction, a burst of energy in the cold dead black nothingness… I felt reminded of something warm, and graceful, but impossibly delicate.
What was that?
“You begged me to shoot you, to cut your hands off. The look on your face… How will I ever forget that?”
I… I felt sorry for what he went through. Whatever he witnessed, it was true to him. I was compelled to soften to his suffering, to listen, to make him feel better. He was scared. I wanted to stop this interrogation, to comfort Peter.
to be continued…