The first thing Philippe sees as he approaches the rim of the pit is the now glowing joint where the two ‘pillars’ of the object meet. Just as Oscar had said there is a shimmer spanning what had once been the void between them. The shimmer moves like water. The archaeologist finds it vaguely hypnotising.
The other members of the expedition are a little ways back from the edge. It seems someone had the forethought to demand everyone clear the area.
“What did this?” Doctor Akinpelu questions. His hazel eyes scan the faces closest to him. He gets nothing but shrugs and blank faced head shakes. It seems no one has a clue as to how the object has activated. A little concerning but nothing to worry about, he tells himself.
“What do you think it is doctor?” Is the question Ethan feels he must ask.
“It looks like a doorway. This discovery is even more astonishing than I first thought.” Philippe is fixated on the object now. He can’t take his eyes off it. He needs to know more and so edges forward.
The steps are almost completely unearthed now. He descends them slowly. The archaeologist moves as though he is a hunter approaching his prey. He feels a need to keep quiet, to not make too much noise. He can’t say why.
He leaves the black stone steps. The heat radiating from the object is considerable. Not overwhelmingly so but enough that the doctor can feel sweat begin to bead around his hairline and across his forehead. It is fresh sweat and not the result of the descending sun at his back. That he can feel the warmth of but finds very different. It isn’t concentrated like the warmth from the object is. He has a fear that the heat might be too great once he is close to the structure and its shimmer slit of rippling. He can see nothing through the shimmer. There are only reflections, distorted and twisted, visible in the surface. The archaeologist wonders if he should determine it a portal. Perhaps, but that might be jumping to conclusions. After all, he has no evidence to suggest the shimmer is a doorway to elsewhere. It could be purely decorative. It doesn’t strike him as decorative, not one bit. It strikes him as a gateway, a passage that leads somewhere else. Is it safe? He cannot know that, of course.
He is close to the object in its current form now. The heat radiating from it is no more intense than it had been during his approach. His head tilts left and right as he analyses the surface of the ‘pillars.’ The runes are glowing faint amber-red. Previously they were a shiny black as if they had been freshly carved. This added light cast by the glowing runes brings out the blue-grey hue of the material.
“Has anyone analysed the matter it is composed of?”
“It came back as silicon doctor.” Someone shouts back in reply.
The voice barely reached his ears. He hadn’t realised it until now but the hum from the object is significant. He nods having grasped what he thinks the words that reached his ears were. Silicon was the third conclusion he reached. How odd.
The doctor has never heard of any structure being constructed from the material. It tends to be crystalline in nature and far too brittle for structures such as this to be formed without them perishing. His hand, instinctively, moves toward the surface of the ‘pillars.’
“Is that wise doctor?” A voice queries but it is too late, Philippe’s hands reach the surface of the object. Again he feels warmth in response to his touch. He lets out a sigh of familiarity feeling soothed, only to soon move his hand toward the shimmer. There are audible gasps from the assembled crowd. The archaeologist hears none of them. His fingertips glance across the surface of the shimmer. In response ripples form and flow outward.
It responds to my touch! Philippe is taken aback by the revelation. He smiles then runs more of his fingers across the surface. The ripples are at first lost, confused by his touch, where they leave the surface they then begin to flutter outwards toward the edge. When they reach said edges they rebound. It’s a new development. They had not done this before.
“Is it safe?” A decidedly cautious soul queries loudly. This time the words reach his ears. Philippe chuckles twice, withdraws his hand and then turns. “I would say so.”
“What is it Doctor?” Bianca questions excitedly.
“It appears to be a doorway.” That is his succinct reciprocal statement meant to answer her query in the vaguest of terms. He has no more information than that which he is capable of giving. To know more will take time.
“Where do you believe it leads?” Ethan feels he must know.
“I cannot say.” Is the honest reply from Doctor Akinpelu shortly before he continues, “But I intend that we find out. Sooner rather than later would be best. Especially, as we do not know what triggered this event. As such it could close at any moment. Time is of the essence. Everyone should…” Philippe is cut off when one of the contractors interjects to say, “Is that wise? If we know so little all we might achieve is risking life and limb. Such things have often throughout history proved foolish. We should notify someone.”
“We shall do no such thing.” Philippe is outraged but continues, “This is our discovery and we shall probe its secrets, for that is our duty.”
There is a quick semi-cheer. It appears that the outspoken contractor is not alone in her caution. The archaeologist is a little disheartened to bear witness to that but forges ahead nonetheless. “I need four volunteers to accompany me.”
Bianca is the first to offer, followed by Ethan and Amelia. Philippe is pleased by that but is shocked when the final spot is filled by Oscar. Of all people Philippe would never have considered the panicked man would want to be part of what will come next. The fact that he does brings a smile to the doctors’ face.
“Come, time is short and we must hurry.” Philippe declares with a wave of his arm meant to gesture them forward.
Barely more than a minute later and his four volunteers are gathered about him ready and eager. Everyone else looks nervous and has taken a further two steps back from the rim of the pit. Philippe thinks them short-sighted and foolish. It’s why he gestures for the five of them to huddle together for what he has to say next.
“This is a brave new day. And we will experience what perhaps no one else in all human history has. What do you say to that?” A wide smile is plastered across the archaeologists’ face, his eyes burning brilliantly as he scans the faces around him. Each of the four who volunteered have expressions much the same as his, including Oscar. Philippe gets the feeling that perhaps the hired hand here to help with excavation knows more than he is letting on. It could be that he is the one who activated, unintentionally, the portal. Later, Philippe will find reason to be alone with him, so they can chat freely.
“We’re ready doctor.” Bianca assures and with that they turn to face the object and its shimmering doorway. Philippe and Oscar go first as the eldest members of the small group.
To the archaeologists surprise the surface of the shimmer provides a great deal more resistance than he would’ve anticipated. Still, with a decent push he begins to break through. He leads with his vaguely outstretched arm. It disappears. He feels no discomfort, only warmth. Then his face pushes through. He closes his eyes. He feels compelled to. He does not question it, he obeys. His leg goes through next followed right after by the rest of him.
When he next opens his eyes he is presented with a sight unlike any other he has ever had the privilege to see. You see, before Philippe is a tower of cubes interlocked and stacked in what he would call a haphazard nature. They stretch high into the ‘sky.’ These cubes unlike the object do not possess a blue-grey hue. Rather, they are metallic in their colourings. He would call the shade copper, whether they actually are formed from the metal or not he cannot say.
Around the edges of these cubes shine soft yellow lights. They are so pale that at first glance it is possible to mistake them as being white. However, unlike most lights they appear to not have been inlaid into the edges of the cubes but what the core of the blocks are made of. He finds that revelation fascinating. He even notes that it is like something out of one of his childhood conjurings. Yet, Philippe pains to see more of this place, this realm, this dimension. He doesn’t know which, if any it is. It could be they are none or all of those.
The sky above him is fire. He realises that he is staring into a star, like the Sun but not. It should blind him and yet it does not. Confusion claws at him. So many unanswered questions form in his mind to join those already present. They dance around his head. He has to know more. He looks to his side, Oscar is alongside him. He hears a low sucking sound and turns his head to crane a look over his shoulder. In an instant Amelia, Bianca and Ethan appear.
The portal on this side doesn’t shimmer. It is like the surface of a still lake. Surprising he thinks, given the recent emergence of the three undergraduates.
“Oh my…” Amelia blurts. Her voice trails off leaving her mouth to silently mouth the rest of her exclamation.
Bianca and Ethan meanwhile gaze all around them. Their eyes are wide and staring. They cannot take it all in. This place is too much for them to comprehend. Philippe smirks as he turns his attention back so that he might continue his analysis of their surroundings.
The doctor can see nothing he would determine as floral or fauna. He finds such a realisation odd. After all, something would have to have built the tower formed from cubes.
Suddenly, the tower begins to move. First the tower begins a slow rotation along its x-axis. Shortly after, some of the cubes begin to shift and move. They drift through the air as if weightless; up, down and across. It’s a spectacle to behold and Philippe cannot explain a lick of it. That impresses him most. In truth, what they have found is all he’s ever wanted and so much more.
“Let’s explore.” Oscar exclaims much to the relief of the trio of undergraduates who had been slowly edging outward in hopes of getting closer to all the marvels that surround them.
“Carefully, this is not our…” Philippe begins to say. He never gets to finish as Oscar exclaims, “Ouch!”
“What is it?” Doctor Akinpelu demands to know. He feels a great unease in his chest. The wonder of this place feels as though it has turned oppressive.
“This thing cut me. I barely touched it.” Oscar informs while pointing to a strange blade like flower stem configuration that doesn’t look as though it belongs where it stands.
Oscar begins to shake his hand back and forth as if the movement will lessen the pain somehow. It’s an old primitive reaction but a normal one. That eases Philippe’s unease a smidge.
“Doctor…” Amelia blurts sounding very off. He resists the urge to turn toward her. Instead, for reasons he cannot give he turns back to face front. He gulps loudly at the sight of the things stood before him. They are humanoid, if humans possessed no skin or muscle structure and were purely skeletal, but unlike humans possess four eyes. They sit in two pairs with one stacked atop the other. Something about these things as they stand motionless strikes primordial fear into Philippe. He feels foolish to have such a reaction but cannot dislodge its presence no matter how much he tries.
“I think it’s time we leave everyone. Back up, slowly.” The archaeologist hears himself say. They are not the words he intended to speak. However, he is not about to contradict them.
“What are they?”
“I don’t know but something tells me they aren’t friendly, now back up.” Philippe is talking through gritted teeth while he begins to back away from the forms. They are well out of arms reach and yet that is not the point. Something about the cold black of their four eyes as well as their skeletal forms suggests they are hyper-advanced and not inclined to forgive this trespass.
Your opinions have changed? Yes they have, he replies to his own internal query when out of nowhere a new voice, one comprised of what sounds like two women declares, “Danger shall come to all who link the arch. We did sever the connection to stop the shadow. They would collect our bodies to twist and pollute. Never repeat the mistake in which we partook.”
“ARGH!” Oscar screams. Philippe dares to look away from the forms only to find that Oscar’s forearm is wrong somehow. He can’t get a full look at it but…
“Run!” Philippe hears himself say aloud. He doesn’t know what prompted the demand exactly but isn’t inclined to argue or retract it.
Amelia, Ethan and Bianca leap back through the portal. Oscar stumbles and clatters to the floor. Philippe turns to aid him but before he can Oscar roars with wide eyes. Philippe turns. The forms have not only multiplied but surrounded them.
It is only now that the archaeologist realises that the form have no mouths or noses, and that where their lower jaws and chin should be there is nothing. Philippe feels his skin crawl. Decision made, he grabs a hold of Oscar’s normal arm and hauls him back to his feet and to the portal.
A series of noises fills Philippe’s ears once Oscar is through. They don’t sound like anything to him. He can only surmise they are some kind of language. The one they converse in. He doesn’t remember hearing it previously and then opening his closed eyes finds he is back in the pit that is the dig site. Ethan, Amelia and Bianca have fled the pit leaving the just returned Philippe and Oscar down there.
The same sounds the archaeologist had heard from the forms a moment before his departure from wherever he had been blare from the object. Philippe stares at it expecting them to march through at any moment. They do not. Oscar screams in agony. Philippe turns toward the screams to find Oscar is on the ground, cradling his arm.
“What is it Oscar?” Philippe queries fearfully.
The terrified member of the expedition team uncovers his forearm. There is no trace of flesh or muscle now. Instead, much like the forms it looks identical to the skeletal structure of a human forearm; however it continues to operate like any arm should. Philippe does not understand. He cannot comprehend how that is possible without the presence of muscle and connecting tissue. Irrelevant, it is evidently causing Oscar pain and Philippe soon learns why when Oscar’s elbow morphs from flesh and bone to a crystal like structure. The crystals are not visible for long as they are replaced by what the doctor would term as a mechanical replacement. Yet someone, Philippe feels that it may not be metal at all. Rather, it could very well be silicon.
Screams fill the air. Philippe looks up to the source of the screams only to see a decent number of those assembled pointing toward the object which is behind him. Philippe gulps. He doesn’t want to turn but feels he has to. He does and is met with the sight of the forms as they step through the portal. They look larger now and their eyes, as black as they are, look angry and filled with violent malintent.
“What do you want?” Philippe demands to know.
The response is swift, “Oblivion.”
Philippe wonders what he has done, what he has unleashed upon Earth. Regrets fill his head. He can’t clear it from his mind, and then the same piercing noises fill his ears. He screams for they are agonising. Throughout his screaming he waits to die. He has no doubt that is the fate that waits him but pleads mercy be shown to all the other souls that live upon the Earth.