G.S. put away some of the manuscripts that he had brought out and he let them peruse through a few of the other books he had taken out in his collection.  Luckily quite a few of these had been translated in common language.  There were plenty interesting facts about t Nephilim history that seemed to confirm this ancient civilization’s knowledge of the existence of the Gradient.   Soon G.S. started to become more concerned about keeping his collection in mint condition rather than his guest’s passion to learn about esoteric mythology.

“Try not to stain the pages with your greasy fingers,” he said to them. “Use the wet-napkins that came with the order please.”

  But there was really nothing to worry about.  G.S.’s guests knew better than to treat these ancient documents with such disrespect.  Besides, as G.S. supervised them, he started to think up some questions of his own that he wanted to ask, and he started off his own interrogation with Seto.

 “Now what I want to know is: how do you know about things yourselves?” G.S. countered back.  “You are the ones coming here for answers, but you seem to hold a lot of secrets you’re not telling me.  Your full business is your own, but I’m no village idiot! I can sense when I’m being withheld information.” G.S. snorted and walked nervously around the dark wooden office.  Some of the book-stockpiled shelves shook lightly as he paced, and the light outside the window felt like a stargate into a brighter escape.

 “But then again, if at least what you’re telling me is true about you being part of the resistance,” he went on. The old man looked at his guests most appreciatively. “You offer me hope. As you know now, I am affiliated with some of the other underground movements here.  I know you at least are not spies, and Ryan right here already told me you belong to the Blood of the Olbaa-el:  Don’t worry; I won’t tell a soul, your secret is safe with me.”

  “Ryan?” asked Ivonne.

“Or whatever his real name is again,” said G.S. as he looked at Eit.  “Ok, so I know you’re all up to something,” he continued “So now we get to the main point of your visit here: you want to reach the hollow Earths, or at least find these experts that could tell you how to get to them.” G.S. started chuckling to himself.  Perhaps too long, and the way he seemed to keep his audience in suspense was driving Chilley crazy. 

 “You know, if I was younger,” he continued slowly, “I’d be joining the attempt to save the city right there with you.  The fact is, I think the resistance movement in this city is doing something commendable.  But I think there is another savior out there that could fix this city, if only they weren’t such xenophobes.” 

 “And who is that?” asked Ivonne.

 “I also believe the ‘Unknowns’ out there wandering the wilderlands could help,” the old man boldly replied.  “You vaguely asked me something about them,” he said looking at Eit.  “Something about if I knew anything of them; I’d tell you this:  I think they’re amongst us.   A lot of people don’t believe in them around here.  I personally think they’re related to a tribe of folks some of these manuscripts you have already seen: they have a name, you know.”

  “Really?”  Eit had to ask as he pretended to be completely clueless.  “I just thought they were folk-story by the Demodads to keep the people in this city here from daring to explore the wild. Them and those foul Mortriarchs.”

  “No! They’re very real!” G.S. said somewhat doggedly.  “Everything that’s known in this physical universe has been given a name one way or another; even if tradition has lamely ended up dubbing them ‘Unknowns’.  But I think these mystics out in the woods as the stories say, are not creatures…and though they dwelt here at one time amongst the Cercortlects, I believe they still live out there – purebred; somewhere in the wild.  Now what does this have to do with anything?” he kept them guessing stubbornly. 

  “You know an actual Unknown?” Eit asked with great curiosity. “One that actually lives here in this city??”

  “Yes and yes; I actually do:  Two actually.  One that I met long ago.  And another who lives now in this city. At least, I really do believe she is one.  She has claimed to have travelled to the hollow Earth’s and back again.  And if it wasn’t for the evidence in these manuscripts that describes how toxic the hollow Earths really are down there, I would have never been inclined to believe her. Except she also left me this.”

  G.S. went to a safe located behind a painting on the wall, and upon opening it, he drew out a little box which he placed on the desk.  Opening the box, he drew out a bright pinkish-blue ornament shaped like a grotesque three faced being with a knife blade for a body.  It looked like it was made of some sort of quartz and it Seto and Ivonne thought it looked almost Tibetan, but it kept radiating beautiful wisps of light like hazy clouds.  No one in the room was unimpressed, and G.S.’s guests were more than a little concerned.

  “Good God!” cried Ivonne. ‘Is that thing radioactive?”

  “You mean does this thing somehow kill you?” asked G.S. “Well, I haven’t died yet.  But it is beautiful, isn’t it?  Well, my colleague gave this to me.  It is a Nuits knife – which means ‘Knife of the night’ in ancient Kayo.   Supposedly made of and alloy of Vorcinellium and also Gylumno; the most rare of elements.  She said she had found it in the hollow Earths. You are looking at the main reason why I believe in the hollow Earths.”  

“Well if there is nothing else you can tell us about the hollow Earths, can you tell us exactly how to reach this Kroyel Society?” asked Chilley-Sue who was quickly starting to lose her patience. “Unless this is the Kroyel Society…possibly…right?”   G.S. said nothing but smiled.

 “What do you think?” he asked her, mistaking this time for playful teasing.

   Chilley was ready to lose it.  The meal they just had helped, but if she should have left with anything from this experience it was that G.S. seemed to excel in the ability of leaving her ‘hanging’ until it drove her mad.

   “I may know a few things about these hollow Earths,” G.S. rambled on, “but I’m not the best expert on these matters.  I happen to know of one person who I think you really need to speak to get your answers: I have some theories, but I think she would still be the best chance you have to tell you exactly how to get there.  I can direct you to this expert.”

  “I don’t get it!” cried Chilley-Sue who was confused, and lacking diplomacy skills, was in danger of jeopardizing the mission. She was really starting to lose her patience.  “So that is all you can tell us then about the hollow Earths?”

  “Yeah, we’ve come a long way here, and my own reputation is lying on the line here!” Ivonne chimed in loudly.  “Supposedly the Kroyel Society of Esoteric Studies is this supreme authority center on myths, mysticism and all these strange mysteries of the Earth.  I was recommended to come seek it by a woman named Tapanta Sepiako.  She was an archeologist I knew who claimed she had visited this place. I was even led to believe that they were experts on hollow Earth theory and maybe what lies beyond.   So just to be sure, this is not the Kroyel Society, is it?” she asked him bluntly, and at that, Chilley-Sue kind of grimaced.

G.S. looked at Ivonne with intense dark eyes.  “Young lady, first let me point something out: did I even say to you this was the Kroyel Society?  I never said that!  No; and I’m not an expert on hollow Earths.  I think I may have a few maps to show you and some ideas, but what I was trying to say is that the real expert you want to talk to is this woman known as ‘Wise Rae-Susan’.

  “Wait,” Ivonne interrupted, “Have you met her?  Did she even come here?” Ivonne asked hostilely.

  “What, your friend Tapanta?” G.S. replied. “Yes, maybe, but I don’t remember her: A lot of people stroll through here.”  But letting her frustrations get the better of her, Ivonne looked at Chilley-Sue:

  “You know, if I had known it would have been this difficult, I would have even attempted to get you out of Anakaland and taken you to Greenland to try to find some answers.  Maybe that would have been easier,” she muttered; not even caring if G.S. could hear her while Seto and the Berrebos bit their lip in disbelief:  It seemed the tensions in the room were high and it felt like a bomb of bad energy could go off in the air at any second and ruin any cordiality that had been made.

  “Maybe if you weren’t so impatient, I could finally answer your request,” G.S. said right back visibly offended.  “I am truly the best-known authority in this museum on these matters.   But you didn’t read between the lines: I also said ‘known’ authority.  But this Rae-Susan is the best ‘unknown’ authority.  Take that insinuation for whatever you want it to mean.  Ultimately, I don’t care.  If you think you can find this hollow Earth on your own without dying along the way, fine!  But if you’re smart, you should at least seek her before you leave!  She is even more of an expert on these esoteric matters about spooky stuff like the Balhrrama principle and other mystic mumbo jumbo.”

For a half-hour the old man gave them the details they had been looking for all along.

“Underground club?” asked Ivonne.  “You mean the Kroyel Society’s not even in a building?” She looked at the others in disbelief.  “We would have never found this place!”

 “Probably!” said the old man. “The facility itself is literally under the ground!  It was built under an actual physical construction that through a secret room leads down below where Wise Rae-Susan’s physically resides in as well as other members -- and all the reading material that it houses.  We don’t just invite anybody to share these secrets.  The Kroyel Society is not open to the public.”

  “Well then lead the way!” said Chilley excitedly.  The suspense was killing her. “My two friends and I spent a nearly a week travelling through the wilderness to get here just so we could learn about the hollow Earths is all about.  I wish we could stay; in fact, there’s so much more to explain than what we already told you, and I don’t know where to start.  But you know…” 

   “I agree with you,” said G.S., “There is so much more I could explain,” he said with a grin as he studied her face.  He reminded her that in either case they had to wait for the go-ahead from his contact.  “If you want,  I can take you to meet my colleague right now and knock on their door but I don’t think pushing yourselves on her will win her good graces.  Let me explain to you something: you vaguely asked me between the bathroom break just now if I knew anything about this Quetzalpalatus palace and the ‘Do-Not-Press-Button.  It would take time to tell you what I know.  Don’t think this is a movie or some story where the reader can rush to the good parts.  This is real life!  You don’t have a choice but wait for her reply after I try to set up for you to meet her.   While we wait you may as well get the most out of their experience here in the secret archives room.” 

  “There’s more?” asked Seto excitedly.

  “There’s more?!” Chilley asked politely but couldn’t hide her weariness.

  “Of course!” replied G.S. “There’s always more!”

***

   The manuscript looked just like every other Codex he had brought out.  But there was a series of illustrations at the top that resembled spherical gas clouds with vector arrows that suggested they were rotating around each other.   G.S. also brought out a separate manuscript that looked like a reprint of the entire codex with notes written on the margins.  It appeared to serve as a decoder for the language written on the first manuscript.  Then G.S. pulled out a few more manuscripts for the others; partially to keep them entertained.   They were large and folded, but to their delight they turned out to be beautifully drawn maps of Anakaland.

  “Here,” he said.  “I’m guessing you may want to take a look at these.  Two of these are maps that describe the mythological regions supposedly found somewhere inside the hollow Earths.  I don’t know how real any of this is, but perhaps it can help you.”

  Ivonne couldn’t believe their luck…possibly.  “We should keep these,” she told Chilley.  “But I don’t like this; I’ll admit it!” She rubbed her forehead in frustrated.  “Every step forward we take ---something unseen feels like it’s just there to ruin everything.”

 Chilley knew what she was getting at, and she hesitated to continue for detail. “And?”

 “And?” Ivonne shook her head. “It’s amplifying.  I don’t know how to explain it but you feel it too.  A friction is running harder to bring us trouble – a hidden friction; unseen force.  I can’t explain it but I can feel it -- now that we’re getting closer to the mark.”

Excerpt from Book V:  Concrete Forest of the Ancient World

Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes 

"Note the excerpts have been slightly edited and abridged for non spoiler content"

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