Editorial Reviews. lesforgesdessalles.info Review. Author Tim Powers evokes 17th-century England with The Anubis Gates (Ace Science Fiction) by [Powers, Tim]. Ebook The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers Read online Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly. Issuu is a digital publishing platform that makes it simple to publish magazines, catalogs, newspapers, books, and more online. Easily share.
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The Anubis Gates Tim PowersBOOK ONE—The Face Under the Fur PROLOGUE : FEBRUARY 2, "Tho' much is taken, much abides;. The Anubis Gates Tim Powers BOOK ONE—The Face Under the Fur PROLOGUE: FEBRUARY 2, "Tho' much is taken, much abides;. Take a dazzling journey through time with Tim Power's classic, Philip K. Dick Award-winning tale “There have been other novels in the genre.
Doyle nodded. He pulled his coat closer about his throat; the warmth had diminished too. What if we're clinging to a sinking ship? He saw Romany's hand draw back again. He couldn't afford not to check.
It looked, in fact, as though the French occupation would do for Egypt what Jenner's cowpox was evidently doing now for human bodies: Then, of course, it began to go wrong. Some lunatic from Aleppo stabbed Kleber to death in a Cairo street, and in the ensuing months of confusion the British took up the slack; by September of Kleber's inept successor had capitulated to the British in Cairo and Alexandria.
The British were in, and a single week saw the arrest of a dozen of the Master's agents. The new British governor even found reason to close the temples to the old gods that the Master had had erected outside the city. In desperation their Master sent for his two oldest and most powerful lieutenants, Amenophis Fikee from England and Doctor Monboddo Romanelli from Turkey, and unveiled to them the plan that, though fantastic to a degree that suggested senility in the ancient man, was, he insisted, the only way to scorch England from the world picture and restore Egypt's eons-lost ascendancy.
They had met him in the huge chamber in which he lived, alone except for his ushabtis, four life-size wax statues of men. From his peculiar ceiling perch he had begun by pointing out that Christianity, the harsh sun that had steamed the life-juices out of the now all but dry husk of sorcery, was at present veiled by clouds of doubt arising from the writings of people like Voltaire and Diderot and Godwin.
Romanelli, as impatient with the antique magician's extended metaphors as he was with most things, broke in to ask bluntly how all this might aid in evicting the British from Egypt. Page 5 "There is a magical procedure—" the Master began. It's easier to shout and wave a stick at them. I'm sure you haven't forgotten how you suffered after playing with the weather at the Bay of Aboukeer three years ago. Your eyes withered up like dates left too long in the sun, and your legs—!
Though I'll provide you with all the strongest remaining wards and protective amulets, the working of it will, as you suggest, consume quite a bit of the sorcerer. You will draw straws from the cloth on that table, and the man with the short straw will be the one to do it.
They reside now in the Tuaut, the underworld, the gates of which have been held shut for eighteen centuries by some pressure I do not understand but which I am sure is linked with Christianity. Anubis is the god of that world and the gates, but has no longer any form in which to appear here. This will allow the god to take physical form—yours. And as you are speaking that spell you will simultaneously be writing another, a magic I myself have composed that is calculated to open new gates between the two worlds—gates that shall pierce not only the wall of death but also the wall of time, for if it succeeds they will open out from the Tuaut of forty-three centuries ago, when the gods—and I—were in our prime.
At last Fikee spoke. The living Osiris and the Ra of the morning sky will dash the Christian churches to rubble, Horus and Khonsu will disperse all current wars by their own transcendent force, and the monsters Set and Sebek will devour all who resist!
Egypt will be restored to supremacy and the world will be made clean and new again. After all, the world already was young that way once, and an old man can't be made into a boy again any more than wine can go back to grape juice. What if we're clinging to a sinking ship? Page 6 "You want to get baptized? Do you know what a Christian baptism would do to you? Negate you—unmake you—salt on a snail, moth in a fire! You stinking, fearful body-vermin of a diseased whore! What if it should sink, is sinking, has sunk!
We'll ride it down. I'd rather be at the helm of this sunken ship than in the… cattle pen! Shall I—ack… ack… kha—" The tongue and lips of the wax statue broke off and were spat out by the still driving breath.
For several moments Master and ushabti gibbered together, then the Master regained control of himself and the statue fell silent. The silence in the chamber lengthened, unbroken except for the faint slapping sound of the ushabti's tongue on the floor tiles.
Fikee stepped over to it and drew out one of the straws. It was, of course, the short one. The Master sent them to the ruins of Memphis to copy from a hidden stone the, hieroglyphic characters that were his real name, and here too a shock awaited them, for they had seen the Master's name stone once before, many centuries ago, and the characters carved on it were two symbols like a fire in a dish followed by an owl and the looped cross: Tchatcha-em-Ankh, it spelled, Strengths in Life; but now different characters were incised in the ancient stone—now there were three umbrella shapes, a small bird, an owl, a foot, the bird again and a fish over a slug.
Khaibitu-em-Betu-Tuf, he read, and mentally translated it: Shadows of Abomination. Despite the baking desert heat the pit of his stomach went cold, but he remembered a thing that had whimpered and rolled about as it fell apart into dust, and so he only pursed his lips as he obediently copied down the name. Upon their return to Cairo the Master delayed Romanelli's return to Turkey long enough to fashion a duplicate of him out of the magical fluid paut. The animated duplicate, or ka, was ostensibly made to travel to England with Fikee and assist him in performing the Anubis summoning, but all three knew that its main task would be to serve as a guard over Fikee and prevent any dereliction of duty.
Since the odd pair would be living with Fikee's tribe of gypsies until the arrival of the Book and the vial of their Master's blood, Fikee dubbed the ka Doctor Romany, after the word the gypsies used for their language and culture. Another howl broke from the tent downstream, this one sounding more like pieces of metal being violined against each other than an issue from any organic throat. The sound rose in volume and pitch, drawing the air as taut as a bowstring, and for a moment, during which Romany numbly noted that the river was holding still like a pane of rippled glass, the ringing, grating peak note held, filling the dark countryside.
Then something seemed to break, as if a vast bubble over them had popped, silently but palpably. The ghastly howl broke too, and as the shattered bits of sound tumbled away in a mad, Page 7 despairing sobbing, Romany could feel the air spring back to its usual pressure; and as though the molecules of the black fabric had all abruptly relaxed even their usual clench, the tent burst into bright yellow flame. Romany sprinted down the bank, picking his footing with ease in the glare of the fire, and with scorching fingers flicked the burning entry curtain aside, and bounded into the smoky interior.
Fikee was a huddled, sobbing bulk in the corner. Romany slammed the Book of Thoth shut and put it in the gold box, tucked that under his arm and stumbled outside again.
Just as he got away from the intense heat, he heard a barking, whimpering sound behind him, and turned. Fikee had crawled out of the tent and was rolling on the ground, presumably to put out his smoldering clothes. Fikee stood up and turned on Romany a glance devoid of recognition, then threw his head back and howled like a jackal at the moon.
Instantly Romany reached into his coat with both hands and drew out two flintlock pistols. He aimed one and fired it, and Fikee folded up in midair and sat down hard several feet behind where he'd been standing; but a moment later he had rolled back up on his hands and knees and was scuttling away into the darkness, now on two legs, now on all fours. Romany aimed the other pistol as well as he could and fired again, but the loping shape didn't seem to falter and soon he lost sight of it. You do owe us that.
He shook his head in profound weariness.
Like most modern magics, he thought bitterly, while it probably did something, it didn't accomplish what it was supposed to. Finally he tucked the pistols away, picked up the Book and bobbed slowly back to the gypsy camp. Even the dogs had hidden, and Romany met no one as he made his way to Fikee's tent.
Once inside, he put down the gold box, lit a lamp, and then far into the night, with pendulum, level, a telescope and a tuning fork and reams of complicated calculations geometrical and alchemical, worked at determining to what extent, if any, the spell had succeeded.
CHAPTER 1 "In this flowing stream, then, on which there is no abiding, what is there of the things which hurry by on which a man would set a high price? It would be just as if a man should fall in love with one of the sparrows which fly by, but it has already passed out of sight. It was glaringly lit by electric lights on poles, and he could hear heavy machinery at work close by. The driver hopped nimbly out of the car and opened Doyle's door.
The night air was cold. Darrow is," the man explained. Doyle hadn't spoken during the ten-minute ride from Heathrow airport, but now nervousness overcame his reluctance to admit how little he knew about his situation.
Darrow will explain it fully, I'm sure," said the driver, who seemed much more relaxed now that his own part in the relay race was almost over. He rushed me six thousand miles overnight, to London"—and offered me twenty thousand dollars, he added mentally—"just to give a lecture?
As I say, he will explain—" "Do you know if it has anything to do with the position he recently hired Steerforth Benner for? Benner," said the driver cheerfully. Looking more closely, he saw little scraps of scribbled-on paper, and sprigs of what might have been mistletoe, tied on at intervals along the wire strands. On the other side of the fence a uniformed guard was hurrying toward them.
Well, you're in it now, Doyle told himself. At least you get to keep the five thousand dollar retainer check even if you decline his offer… whatever it turns out to be.
Doyle had been grateful, an hour earlier, when the stewardess woke him to tell him to fasten his seat belt, for he'd been dreaming about Rebecca's death again. Always in the first part of the dream he was a stranger with foreknowledge, trying desperately to find Brendan and Rebecca Doyle before they got on the bike, or at least before Doyle could gun the old Honda up the curling onramp from Beach Boulevard onto the Santa Ana Freeway—and always he was unsuccessful, screeching his car around the last corner only in time, tormentingly, to see the old bike speed up, lean into the curve and disappear around the landscaped bend.
Generally he was able to force himself awake at that point, but he'd had several scotches earlier, and this time he might not have been.
He sat up and blinked around at the spacious cabin and the people in the other seats. The lights were on, and only speckled blackness showed beyond the little window—it was night again, though he remembered seeing dawn over icy plains only a few hours ago. Jet air travel was disorienting enough, it seemed to Doyle, without doing it in over the pole jumps that left you unable to guess what day it was.
He stretched as well as he could in his seat, and a book and some papers slid off the fold-down tray in front of him and thump-fluttered to the floor. A lady across the aisle jumped, and he smiled in embarrassed apology as he leaned over to pick the stuff up. Sorting it out and noting the many blanks and question marks he'd scrawled, he wondered bleakly if even in England—for he was certainly going to take advantage of this free trip to try and pursue his own researches—he would be able to dig up some data on the poet whose definitive biography he'd been trying to write for two years.
Coleridge was easy, he thought as he tucked the papers back into the briefcase between his feet; William Ashbless is a goddamn cipher. The book that had fallen was Bailey's Life of William Ashbless.
It had landed open and several of the age-browned pages were broken. He laid them back in carefully, closed the book gently and brushed dust off his fingers, then stared at the unhelpful volume. It would be an understatement, he reflected disconsolately, to say that Ashbless' life was scantily documented. William Hazlitt had written a brief evaluation of his work in , and incidentally provided a few details about the man, and Ashbless' close friend James Bailey had written the cautious biography that was, for lack of anything else, considered the standard account.
Doyle had managed to supplement the narrative with a few illuminating letters and journals and police reports, but the poet's recorded life was still flawed by many gaps. Which town in Virginia was it, for example, that Ashbless lived in from his birth until ?
Ashbless at one time claimed Richmond and at another Norfolk, but no records of him had so far turned up at either place. Doyle was going on the assumption that the troublesome poet had changed his name when he arrived in London, and he had unearthed the names of several Virginians who disappeared in the summer of at about the age of twenty-five. Ashbless' years in London were fairly easy to trace—though the Bailey biography, being Ashbless' own version, was of dubious value—and his brief trip to Cairo in , while inexplicable, was at least a matter of record.
What's missing, Doyle thought, is all the details—and some of the undetailed areas tormented Doyle's curiosity. There was, for example, his possible connection with what Sheridan had lastingly dubbed the Dancing Ape Madness: Madame de Stael noted that Ashbless once, when drunk, told her that he knew more about the peculiar plague than he'd ever dare say, and it was fairly certain that he had killed one of the creatures in a coffee house near Threadneedle Street a week after his arrival in London… But there, to Doyle's chagrin, the trail ended.
Ashbless apparently never got drunk enough to tell de Stael the story—for she'd certainly have passed it on if he had—and of course the Bailey biography didn't refer to the matter at all.
And what, precisely, were the circumstances of his death? God knows, Doyle thought, the man made many enemies during his lifetime, but which one was it that caught up with him on, probably, the twelfth of April in ? His body was found in the marshes in May, decomposed but verifiably his, also verifiably killed by a sword thrust through the belly. Hell, thought Doyle, dejectedly staring at the book in his lap, more is known about the life of Shakespeare. And Ashbless was a contemporary of such appallingly thoroughly chronicled people as Lord Byron!
Granted, the man was a minor poet, whose scanty and difficult work would, if not for some derogatory remarks made about it by Hazlitt and Wordsworth, be absolutely forgotten instead of just Page 10 reprinted rarely in notably complete anthologies—still, the man's life ought to have left more marks. Across the aisle, through the windows on that side of the plane, he saw the twinkling lights of London rise as the huge plane banked, and he decided the stewardess wouldn't bring him another drink so near disembarking time.
He glanced around, then surreptitiously drew his flask out of his inside jacket pocket, unscrewed the top and poured an inch of Laphroaig into the plastic cup his last drink had arrived in. He put the flask away and relaxed, wishing he could also clip and light one of the Upmann cigars waiting in the opposite pocket. He took a sip of the warm scotch and smiled—Laphroaig was still damn good, if not quite the wonder it had been when it was being bottled at In fact, he thought, these new Upmann cigars from the Dominican Republic aren't nearly what they were when they were being rolled in the Canary Islands.
And none of the young ladies I've gone with since Rebecca have been interesting at all. He flipped open the old book and stared at the frontispiece engraving, a portrait done from the Thorwaldsen bust: And how was it in your day, William? Doyle thought.
Were the cigars and scotch and women any better? For a moment Doyle imagined that Ashbless' faint sardonic grin was directed at him… Then, in a moment of vertigo so strong that he nearly dropped his cup and grabbed the arms of the seat, it seemed that Ashbless really was looking at him, through a picture and across a hundred and fifty years, in scornful amusement.
Doyle shook his head sharply and closed the book again. That's how you know you're tired, he told himself: Never happened with Coleridge. He tucked the book into his briefcase next to the book he'd brought along to serve as his credentials—it was The Nigh-Related Guest, a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Brendan Doyle. He had wanted to follow it with a lengthy study of the Lake Poets, but the reviews of the Guest, and its sales, had caused his editor at the Devriess University Press to suggest he pursue, as the editor had put it, "a more uncharted sort of territory.
I've admired," the editor had gone on, "your two articles in the PMLA that attempted, with some success, to make sense of the murky verse of William Ashbless. Perhaps a biography of that odd poet would strike the critics—and the college librarians!
The plane was descending, and when he yawned his ears popped. Forget Ashbless for now. Whatever Darrow is paying you twenty thousand for, it has to do with Coleridge. He had another sip of the scotch, and hoped fervently that the job didn't also have to do with planchettes or Ouija boards or any such stuff.
He'd once seen a book of poems supposed to have been dictated by the ghost of Shelley, through a medium, and he half-suspected that this DIRE job might be a similar enterprise. He wondered, too, whether twenty thousand dollars might be enough to make him abandon his professional integrity and participate.
He drained the cup, as the plane seemed to be about to touch down. A month ago they'd offered a job to Steerforth Benner, the most brilliant English Literature graduate student Doyle had ever had. Doyle knew of the company, of course—from small beginnings in the s, it had become, under the shrewd guidance of its colorful founder, a pillar of American scientific industry rivalling IBM and Honeywell.
They'd been very big in things like the space program and undersea exploration, and during the 60s, Doyle recalled, they were always sponsoring Shakespeare plays on television without commercial interruptions. But the company had withdrawn from the public eye during the 70s, and Doyle had read somewhere—in the National Enquirer, he believed it was—that J. Cochran Darrow had learned he had cancer, and after exhausting all the scientific possibilities of a cure, had tried to turn the resources of DIRE toward the occult, in the hope of finding a cure in the dubious annals of magic.
Newsweek had only noted that DIRE was laying off most of its personnel and closing down their production centers, and Doyle remembered a Forbes article, titled something like "DIRE Straits," about the sudden worthlessness of their stock. And then Benner was approached by them and offered a high-paying, though unspecified, position.
Over a pitcher of beer one night Benner had told Doyle about all the tests he was taking in order to qualify: Benner had passed them all, and though he did tell Doyle afterward that he'd been accepted for the position, he completely, though amiably as ever, evaded all questions about the job itself. Well, Doyle thought as, sounding distant through the insulation, the wheels yelped against the runway, maybe I'm about to learn what Benner wouldn't tell me.
The guard unlocked the gate and took Doyle's suitcase from the driver, who nodded politely and walked back toward the purring BMW.
Doyle took a deep breath and stepped through, and the guard locked the gate behind him. Big yellow earth-moving tractors lurched and shifted from place to place, popping head-sized stones to dust under their mill wheel tires and sending up an unholy clattering roar as they pushed quantities of rubble into big heaps and then pushed these away somewhere out in the darkness; the rubble, Doyle noted, was fresh, the broken edges of stone still white and sharp-smelling.
And there were busy people hurrying about on foot, too, laying out thick power cables and peering through surveying instruments and calling numbers to each other over walkie-talkies. The ring of bright spotlights cast a half-dozen shadows from every object. The guard was six feet tall and taking long strides, and the shorter Doyle, having to jog occasionally to keep up, was soon puffing and wheezing. What's the goddamn hurry, he wondered angrily; though at the same time he promised himself that he'd start doing sit-ups and push-ups in the mornings again.
A battered old aluminum trailer stood at the periphery of the glare, moored to the activity by cables and telephone lines, and this proved to be their destination. The guard hopped up the three steps to the door and knocked, and when someone inside shouted, "Come in! Darrow will speak to you inside. The inside of the trailer was littered with books and charts, some looking old enough to belong in a museum and others obviously brand new; all Page 12 were clearly in use, the charts covered with penciled notes and colored pins, and the books, even the oldest and most fragile, propped carelessly open and marked up with felt-pen ink.
An old man stood up from behind one of the taller book stacks, and Doyle was impressed in spite of himself to recognize, from a hundred pictures in magazines and newspapers over the years, J.
Cochran Darrow. Doyle had been prepared to humor a wealthy but sick and almost certainly senile old man, but all such thoughts evaporated before the man's piercing and frostily humorous gaze. Though the hair was whiter and scantier than recent photographs had shown, the cheeks a little hollower, Doyle had no difficulty in believing that this was the man who had pioneered more fields of scientific research than Doyle could probably even spell, and, out of a small-town sheet-metal factory, built a financial empire that made J.
Pierpont Morgan look merely successful. Sit down, any space you can find. The old man sat down cross-legged on the other side of the stack, and Doyle was mortified to note that Darrow didn't have to suppress a grunt in lowering himself to the floor. Lots of push-ups and sit-ups, he vowed. It's got nothing to do with any of them. What was going on in London, in England, in the world?
I mean know 'em in your head, which is more portable. Answers still yes? The mother, not the one who wrote Frankenstein. She died in childb—" Page 13 "Did Coleridge really plagiarize Schlegel? The old man swore, got up and went over to the phone and, lifting the receiver, resumed what was obviously an argument in progress about particles and lead sheathing.
Both from politeness and lack of interest, Doyle made a show of being curious about a nearby book stack—and a moment later his interest became wide-eyed genuine, and very carefully he lifted the top volume. He opened it, and his half-incredulous suspicion was confirmed—it was the Journal of Lord Robb, which Doyle had been vainly begging the British Museum for a xerox copy of for a year.
How Darrow could have got actual possession of it was unguessable. Though Doyle had never seen the volume, he'd read descriptions of it and knew what it was. Lord Robb had been an amateur criminologist, and his journal was the only source of some of the most colorful, and in many cases implausible, crime stories of the s and 20s; among its tales of kill-trained rats, revenges from beyond the grave, and secret thief and beggar brotherhoods, it contained the only detailed account of the capture and execution of the semi-legendary London murderer known as Dog-Face Joe, popularly believed to have been a werewolf, who reputedly could exchange bodies with anyone he chose but was unable to leave behind the curse of lycanthropy.
Doyle had wanted to link this story somehow with the Dancing Ape Madness, at least to the extent of the kind of speculative footnote that's mainly meant to show how thoroughly the author has done his homework. When Darrow hung up the phone Doyle closed the book and laid it back on the stack, making a mental note to ask the old man later for a copy of the thing. Darrow sat down again beside the book stack with the cups and bottle on it, and picked up right where he'd left off.
For the next twenty minutes he fired questions at Doyle, hopping from subject to subject and rarely allowing him time to amplify—though occasionally he would demand every detail Doyle knew about some point; questions on the causes and effects of the French Revolution, the love life of the British Prince Regent, fine points of dress and architecture, differences in regional dialects.
And what with Doyle's good memory and his recent Ashbless researches, he managed to answer nearly all of them. Finally Darrow leaned back and fished a pack of unfiltered cigarettes out of his pocket. We're in a roomful of people, let's say, and several of 'em probably know more about literature than you do, but you're being billed as the resident expert, so you've got to at least look like you know everything.
So somebody asks you, uh, 'Mr. Doyle, to what extent, in your opinion, was Wordsworth influenced by the philosophy expressed in the verse plays of, I don't know, Sir Arky Malarkey? Only his very late efforts could possibly have appealed to Wordsworth, and as Fletcher and Cunningham point out in their Concordium there is no concrete evidence that Wordsworth ever actually read Malarkey. I think when trying to determine the philosophies that affected Wordsworth it would be more productive to consider—" He stopped, and grinned uncertainly at Darrow.
Would you call yourself cynical? I'm not in the habit, though, of claiming to know things I don't. In print, or in class, I'm always willing to admit—" Darrow laughed and raised a hand.
Nostrand's a fool, and I liked your bluff. What I meant was, are you cynical? Do you tend to reject new ideas if they resemble ideas you've already decided are nonsense? Would you listen? Probably not, though. Darrow nodded, seemingly pleased. One old fraud I talked to yesterday would have agreed that the moon is one of God's stray golf balls if I'd said it was. Hot for the twenty grand, he was. Well, let's give you a shot. Time is short, and I'm afraid you're the likeliest-looking Coleridge authority we're going to get.
It stretches us out like water weeds, from root to tip, from birth to death, curled around whatever rocks or snags happen to lie in our path; and no one can get out of the river because of the ice roof, and no one can turn back against the current for an instant. Doyle was distinctly disappointed to get vague platitudes when he'd expected to have his credulity strained by wild revelations.
Apparently there were a few stripped gears in the old man's head after all. Doyle could feel his face getting red. Darrow, and—" "You're right, Doyle, you're not cynical.
You're just stupid. Doyle, though, was too angry to sit down again. Said all you were good for was rearranging other people's research. Sit down, please. You should have met me thirty years ago. Just as, swimming up a river, you come to the tips of trailing weeds before you come to their roots.
Now—pay attention, this is the important part—sometime something happened to punch holes in the metaphorical ice cover. Don't ask me how it happened, but spread out across roughly six hundred years there's a… shotgun pattern of gaps, in which certain normal chemical reactions don't occur, complex machinery doesn't work … But the old systems we call magic do.
You get me? But wouldn't these gaps have been noticed? Those binders by the window are full of newspaper clippings and journal entries, dating back as far as , that mention occasions when magic has seemed actually, documentably, to work; and since the turn of the century there's usually some note, in the same day's issue, of a power failure or blanket radio interference in the same area.
Why, man, there's a street in Soho that some people still call the Auto Graveyard, because for six days in every car that drove into it conked out and had to be towed away—by horses!
And a third-rate part-time medium that lived there staged the last of her Saturday afternoon tea and seance sessions during that week—no one will ever know what happened, but the ladies were all found dead, ice cold after having been dead less than an hour in a warm room, and stamped on every face was, I understand, the most astonishing expression of dismayed terror.
The story was downplayed in the press, and the stalling of the cars was blamed on a, quote, accumulation of static electricity, unquote. And there are hundreds of similar examples. I found that these magic-yes-machinery-no fields are all in or around London and are scattered through history in a bell curve pattern whose peak extends roughly from to ; there were evidently a lot of them during those years, though they tended to be very brief in duration and small in area.
They become wider and less frequent farther away from the peak years. Still with me? So the gaps then would have been rare, but long when they did show up. And they quickened and shortened until they must have been banging by like clicks from a geiger counter in , say, and then they slowed down and broadened out again. Do they seem to damp out entirely at either end of the curve? The equations indicate that the earliest one occurred in , so the curve reaches about three hundred years in each direction, call it six hundred years all told.
So anyway, when I began to notice this pattern, I nearly forgot about my original purpose, I was so fascinated by this thing. I tried to get my research boys to work on the puzzle.
They knew senility when they saw it, and there were a couple of attempts to have me committed. But I ducked out of the net and forced them to continue, to program their computers with principles from Bessonus and Midorgius and Ernestus Burgravius; and in the end I did learn what the gaps were.
They were—are—gaps in the wall of time. All you can do is enter again through another gap. No, sorry, that's right, the holes only extend as far back as ; okay, watching London burn down in And there. You can't reenter at arbitrary points, only through an existing gap. And," he said with a note of discoverer's pride, "it is possible to aim for one gap rather than another—it depends on the amount of… propulsion used in exiting from your own gap.
And it is possible to pinpoint the locations of the gaps in time and space. They radiate out in a mathematically predictable pattern from their source—whatever that can have been—in early Cochran Darrow, even old and sick, at large in some previous century.
Do you know where Coleridge was on the evening of Saturday, the first of September, in ? William Ashbless arrived in London only… about a week later. But Coleridge?
I know he was living in London then…" "Yes. But it was Lycidas, wasn't it? Montagu wasn't present, and he got it wrong. No, two of the men who attended, a publisher's clerk and a schoolmaster, left journals which have come into my hands.
It was the Aereopagitica. The schoolteacher even managed to get a fair amount of the lecture down in shorthand. An unpublished Coleridge lecture! My God, he thought with a surge of bitter envy, if I'd had that two years ago, my Nigh-Related Guest would have got a different sort of review.
It was only in February that I got concrete results from the Denver crew, and since then DIRE has been obtaining every available book or journal concerning London in And unlike most gaps that close to the source, this one is four hours long. The excitement building in him was Page 18 so big that he tried to stifle it by reminding himself that what was being discussed here was, though fascinating, impossible.
Stick with it for the twenty thousand, he advised himself, and maybe the possibility of getting your hands on Robb's journal or that schoolteacher's notebook. But he wasn't fooling himself—he wanted to participate in this. We're"—Darrow looked at his watch—"still several hours upstream of it.
It's of a typical size for one this far from the source—the upstream edge is tonight, the downstream edge at about dawn of the day after tomorrow. As soon as Denver pinpointed this gap I bought the entire area the field would cover, and got busy levelling it. We don't want to take any buildings back with us, do we?
He picked up the phone just as it started to ring. Drop the efforts for Newnan and Sandoval. Well, radio Delmotte and tell him to turn around and take him right back to the airport. We've got our Coleridge man. We'll make the jump tomorrow evening at eight. There'll be a catered briefing session at six-thirty for our ten guests, and naturally for that we ought to have a recognized Coleridge authority. You'll give a brief speech on Coleridge and answer any questions the guests may have concerning him or his contemporaries or his times, and then you'll accompany the party through the jump and to the Crown and Anchor Tavern—along with a few competent guards who'll make sure no romantic soul attempts to go AWOL—take notes during the lecture and then, back home again in , comment on it and answer any further questions.
You should be grateful that all our efforts to get one of the more prominent Coleridge authorities failed. Then a thought struck him. Have you abandoned that? I'm working on it from a couple of angles these days. Nothing to do with this project.
There's one, it's forty-seven hours long in the summer of , and that's the last one, chronologically. I mean, if science could almost do it in , why by …" "It's very annoying, Doyle, to give someone a cursory glance at a project you've been working hard at Page 19 for a long time, and then have them brightly suggest courses which, as a matter of fact, you considered and dismissed as unworkable long ago.
Or what sort of awful police state might exist then? But that's it, of course, he thought—Darrow's been the captain of his own ship for so long that he'd rather sink with it than accept the condescension of a life preserver tossed from some Good Samaritan vessel, especially a grander one than his own.
Darrow too seemed eager to steer the conversation back to business. The sky had begun to pale in the east when Doyle was chauffeured by another driver to a hotel nearby, and he slept until, late in the afternoon, a third driver arrived to take him back to the site. The lot was now planed flat as a griddle, and all the tractors were gone; several men were at work with shovels and brooms cleaning up horse dung.
The trailer was still there, looking adrift now that its telephone and power cables had been removed. Another trailer, big enough to be called a mobile home, was pulled up alongside it.
As Doyle got out of the car he noticed pulleys and lines at intervals along the fence top and a collapsed tarpaulin lying at the base of the fence all around the perimeter. He grinned. The old man's shy, he thought. A guard opened the gate for him and led him to the new trailer, the door of which stood open. Doyle went inside. At the far end of the walnut-panelled and carpeted room Darrow, looking no more tired than he had last night, was talking to a tall blond man.
Both men were dressed in the pre-Regency style: The young man's once-long hair had been cut short and curled, and his wispy moustache, never very evident, was now shaved off. Doyle, we've got a period suit for you, and those doors at that end are changing rooms. I'm afraid you'll be supervised, but it's important that everyone dress the role from the skin out.
If one does, we don't want him to be carrying any evidence that he's from another century. Each guest will swallow a capsule, just before we go, of something I think I'll call Anti-Transchrono Trauma. What it will actually be, and please don't start yelling yet, Doyle, is a fatal dose of strychnine in a capsule set to dissolve after six hours.
Now when we get back they'll have their entire GI tracts pumped full of an activated charcoal solution. Each guest has agreed to these conditions, and I think most of them have guessed what they mean. Suddenly the whole project looked like lunacy again, and he imagined himself in court, some day soon, trying to explain why he hadn't informed the police about Darrow's intentions. Now I imagine you two would like to compare notes, so I'll get busy in my trailer.
Staff won't be permitted to drink at the briefing, but I don't see any harm if you have a couple right now. When he was gone Benner opened a cupboard that proved to be a liquor cabinet. He sipped it and grinned at Doyle. Didn't he explain how the jump will work? Or subatomic physics? But basically what's going to happen is we'll all be lined up in the path of a blast of insanely high frequency radiation, way up above gamma ray frequencies—photons haven't got any mass, you know, so you can send one phalanx of 'em out right after another without them stepping on each other's heels—and when it hits us, the odd properties of the gap field will prevent whatever would ordinarily occur.
I'm not sure what would ordinarily happen, though it'd certainly trash us. We'll see Coleridge, all right—we'll see him in Heaven. My God, man—" "It really is perfectly safe," Benner interrupted, still smiling. The man is probably a certifiable lunatic, and—" "Take it easy, Brendan, and listen. Do I look all right? Is the fence still standing? Then stop worrying, because I made a solo jump to a brief gap in two hours ago.
They dressed me up like—oh, picture a Ku Klux Klansman who favors metallic robes and doesn't need eyeholes—and then had me stand on a platform by the fence while they lined up their infernal machinery on the other side of the fence. And then whoosh! The first thing I saw when I ripped off the hood was the inside of this tent, and it was all fumy with incense and full of Egyptian-looking stuff, and there was a cadaverous old bald-headed guy staring at me in extreme surprise.
I got scared and ran outside, which wasn't easy in that robe, and it was English countryside I saw, and no highways or telephone poles, so I guess it really was There were a lot of horses and tents and gypsy types around, and all the gypsies were staring at me, but the gap came to its end just then—thank God I hadn't run outside the field—and the mobile hook snatched me back to here and now.
Though always amiable, Benner had never been trustworthy—but this wasn't how he lied. The man wasn't a good actor, and this story, especially the note of puzzlement about the old man in the tent, had been told with effortless conviction.
He realized dizzily that he believed it. What did the ground feel like? And the horses looked like horses. The gypsies were all fairly short, but maybe gypsies always are. The charcoal enemas will keep the guests healthy, and I'm not going to let any of them get away. You still want to call the cops? I want to see Coleridge. He stood up in the little office Darrow had let him use, sighed, and opened the door to the main room. A number of well-dressed people were milling around at the far end of the room, separated from him by a dozen or so empty chairs and a big central table.
The hundreds of candles in the chandeliers were lit, and the soft, gracious illumination gleamed off the polished panelling and the rows of glasses on the table; Page 22 faintly on the warm air he caught a smell of bell peppers and grilling steak. Benner looked up. Never mind, the guests are in the dressing rooms, you can change in a few minutes.
Come listen to my speech, will you? You know enough about—" "I don't have time, Brendan, but I'm sure it's fine. These damn people, each one of them thinks he's the maharajah of the world. Rich people! Come along, Doyle, you've got to head in this direction anyway. Treff," said Darrow, raising his thick white eyebrows, and his deep voice undercut and silenced all the others, "you have evidently misunderstood the dress requirements.
It's my doctor's orders, and I'm paying you a goddamn million dollars, and no fugitive from a nut hatch is going to—" Only because he happened to smile nervously just then at Benner did Doyle see him whip a thin knife out of his sleeve; but everyone saw him when he kicked forward in a graceful full-extension fencer's lunge and slipped the flat of the blade under the disputed bandage, paused for a theatrical moment, and then flicked it out sideways, cleanly slicing the layers of cloth through from top to bottom.
A good fistful of heavy, gleaming metallic objects thudded onto the carpet. In a quick glance Doyle recognized among them a Colibri Beam Sensor lighter, a Seiko quartz watch, a tiny notebook, a.
And in a spirit of friendly concern," he added, with the coldest smile Doyle had ever seen, "I do strongly advise you to leave here quietly. In you go, Brendan. There was a guard on a stool inside, and he looked relieved that this wasn't Treff coming back in. There was a door in the back of the dressing room, and the guard bustled away through it, taking Doyle's things with him. Doyle leaned against the wall, hoping they wouldn't forget about him.
He tried to scratch under the leather band on his forearm, but it was drawn too tight for him to get a finger under it. He gave up, resolving just to ignore the way the carved bit of green stone under the leather made his shaved skin itch.
A mobile hook, Darrow had called it, and he'd let Doyle look at the thing before it was covered by the strap that would hold it tightly against him. Doyle had turned the small lozenge of green stone in his fingers, noting the symbols carved on it—they seemed to be a mix of hieroglyphics and astrological notations.
When the gap comes to an end, this thing will pop back to the gap it came from, which is here and now, and as long as it's in contact with your flesh it'll take you back with it. If you were to lose it, you'd see us all disappear and you'd be marooned in ; which is why it's to be locked onto you. What, me worry? The guard came back and gave Doyle a set of clothes that presumably wouldn't raise any eyebrows in ; he also gave him directions on how to put them on, and had actually to assist him in tying the little bow at the front of the cravat.
That's it precisely, semi-Brutus style. Have a look at yourself now. He was wearing a Page 24 brown frockcoat with two rows of buttons; in the front it came down only to belt level, but in back it swept in a long tail that reached to the backs of his knees. He had on tight tan trousers and knee-high Hessian boots with tassels, and the white silk cravat visible between the high wings of the coat's collar gave him, he thought, if not an air of rakish handsomeness, at least one of dignity.
The clothes had none of the stiffness of brand new garments; though clean, they had clearly been worn before, and this had the effect of making Doyle feel relaxed and comfortable in them, and not as though he'd been shoehorned into some costume for a party. When he stepped back into the main room the guests were ambling toward the table, on which a colorful profusion of plates and platters and bottles had appeared.
Doyle filled a plate and, remembering that he was "staff," forced himself not to look at the selection of wines and beers but to grab a cup of coffee instead.
But their presence here reinforced the hopeful excitement he'd been feeling ever since hearing Benner describe jumping to If the Thibodeaus are taking it seriously, he thought, there's got to be a good chance of it working. The table and food had been cleared away and the ten chairs were now arranged in a semicircle before a podium.
Doyle embarrassedly told Benner to take the podium away, and he replaced it with the chair Treff would have got. Doyle sat down in it and met the gaze of each guest in turn. Of the nine of them, he recognized five: She'd better watch her tricks here in the gap, he thought uneasily, remembering Darrow's story about the seance on Auto Graveyard Street in He took a deep breath and began.
Born in Devonshire on October 21, , Coleridge early on exhibited the precocity and wide range of reading that he maintained all his life and that made him, among so many other things, the most fascinating conversationalist of an age that included such people as Byron and Sheridan…" As he went on, touching on the poet's scholastic career, his addiction to opium in the form of laudanum, his unfortunate marriage, his friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and the extended trips abroad occasioned by his horror of his wife, Doyle carefully watched his audience's response.
They seemed satisfied on the whole, frowning doubtfully or nodding from time to time, and he realized that his presence here was a gracious detail, like the fine china dishes on which the food had been served when paper plates would have done just as well. Darrow could probably have delivered a talk on Coleridge at least as effectively, but the old man had wanted a sure enough Coleridge authority to do it.
After about fifteen minutes he drew it to a close. Questions followed, all of which Doyle managed to Page 25 answer confidently, and at last Darrow stood up and walked over to stand beside Doyle's chair, effortlessly replacing him as the focus of attention.
He was carrying a lantern, and he waved it in the direction of the door. A hundred and seventy years, Doyle thought, is the distance to Can I get there by candlelight? Yes, and back again. He noted almost disinterestedly that his heart was pounding and that he didn't seem able to take a deep breath.
They all filed out onto the packed dirt of the lot. Two broughams, each with two horses harnessed to it, had been drawn up to within a few yards of the trailer, and by the light of the flickering coach lamps Doyle could see that the vehicles, like the period clothes they were all wearing, were clean and in good repair but obviously not new.
Staff rides up top. They walked around to the rear of the farther coach and climbed up to two little seats that projected from the back at the same height as the driver's. The night air was chilly, and Doyle was glad of the heat from the left rear lamp below his elbow.
From his perch he could see more horses being led in from the north end of the lot. The carriage rocked on its springs when two of the guards hoisted themselves up onto the driver's seat, and hearing metal clink close by, Doyle glanced toward Benner and saw the butts of two pistols sticking out of a leather pouch slung near Benner's left hand.
He heard reins snap and hooves clop on the dirt as the first carriage got moving. Do you see that low wooden platform? There's a truck pulled up right to the edge of the fence just outside. Looking back, he saw that the horses he'd noticed being led up were now harnessed to the two trailers and were pulling them away toward the north end. Benner followed his glance. The hook works like the rubber band on one of those paddleball things—energy's required to swat the ball away, and if a fly's in the way he'll go too, but only the ball comes back.
Even these coaches will stay there. In fact," he added, and there was enough light from the lamps for Doyle to see his grin, "I noted on my own jaunt that even one's clothes stay there, though hair and fingernails somehow stay attached. So Treff got in on at least part of the fun. The two coaches drew up to the fence, and through the chain links Doyle could see the truck, its wide side panel slid all the way open. A wooden stage, only about a foot high but more than a dozen yards long and wide, had been set up on the patch of dirt next to the truck but just inside the fence, and it boomed and rattled like a dozen drums when the drivers goaded the horses to pull the coaches up onto it.
A number of men, already looking anachronistic in jumpsuits, quickly set up aluminum poles and draped a stiff and evidently heavy cloth over them, so that the two coaches were in a large cubical tent. The fabric of the tent gleamed dully in the contained lamplight, and Doyle leaned way out of his seat to brush it with his fingers.
Just… dislocation. One of the horses echoingly stamped a hoof. The ground was no longer flat, and the poles toppled inward, burying everything a moment later under the heavy folds of the lead-sheathed fabric.
Doyle welcomed the pain when one of the falling poles rebounded from the coach roof and banged his shoulder, for it established the here and now for him. If it hurts it's got to be the real world, he thought dazedly, and he shook off the vivid memory of the motorcycle crash. The smell he so disliked was very intense, for a section of the collapsed tent was pressing his head down onto the coach roof.
And, he thought, probably nothing unites you with surrounding reality more thoroughly than being wringingly sick. Just when he thought he had gathered the energy, though, the lead curtain was hauled off him, and the fresh night air he found himself breathing made the whole idea of vomiting seem self-indulgent and affected. He looked around at the moonlit field the coaches stood in, bordered by tall trees.
Page 27 "You okay, Brendan? Jesus, what a jump, huh? Is everybody else okay? How about the horses? A moment later Doyle was reflecting that liquor was even more effective than pain—or, probably, throwing up—in reconciling one to reality.
Benner nodded, pocketed the flask, vaulted to the broken platform, and strode off it to where four of the six other guards were spading up a patch of earth and, with gloved hands, folding up the lead tent cloth; in so short a time that Doyle knew they must have practiced it they had buried the folded-up bale of fabric and scrambled back up to their places on the coaches.
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