The Loveliest Abyss in the Universe
Free Sample of the Novelette
Andrew M. Crusoe
A low hum oozed through the unlit passages, flowing throughout a dizzying labyrinth of underground tunnels that the world above could never have imagined.
The source of the hum was located far below any level that the Nirangi Order had permitted for mere members. Only the most holy, the most clever, and the most cunning had attained the clearance to reach the lowest levels of the complex. Only these select few knew of the machine’s existence.
The product of decades of unrelenting work, the machine rested at the lowest level of the complex, in a hexagonal room with unlit corners that seemed to creep of their own accord and a ceiling so high that not even the lead scientists had bothered to bring in enough illumination to light it. It was deemed unnecessary.
Instead, the resources had been focused on defense, with holy guards placed liberally along the path to the machine room, which could only be accessed by a hidden door.
The Order of Nirangi had gone to great lengths to keep the machine secret. And as it sat in the center of its hexagonal home, the machine rumbled, stewing with a dark energy and an even darker purpose.
Anyone standing beside it might have remarked at how bizarrely sharp the edge of the machine looked, haloed in a series of thin, metallic rings that grew thicker toward the center, forming a horrendous bowl that stood just over a meter high. Upon closer examination, it was easy to see how nearly every element in its design had been focused toward the center, toward a large hollow space that was filled with a bubbling, oozing darkness that had not been there just a moment before. The darkness grew until it touched a tiny probe on the edge of the bowl.
At long last, the machine had found Maraka.
Everyone on the council had concluded that Maraka’s bones would be perfect to pinpoint the coordinates of the Abyss. Building upon previous experiments that showed how one’s energetic body imprinted on the physical body before death, the machine had taken the concept a step further. Once it had compiled the complete energetic signature of Maraka’s bones, they set it to work on finding Maraka’s soul. After all, who better to locate the Abyss than the most notorious murderer to have ever lived? His soul would surely have had no other fate than the Abyss itself.
The only difficulty was time. While the machine’s mechanism was well understood, its speed was not, and no one could say with certainty how long the machine would take to work. Dozens of theories had been put forth, but they were all thrown out as unsubstantiated. And many of the scientists had resigned themselves to visiting the machine whenever they had the chance, vainly hoping that perhaps, just perhaps, they might be there when the machine at last opened the viewing portal.
Holy guards had been placed outside the room to keep watch, until one scientist, the youngest, got the bright idea to design a probe to set off a silent alarm when the viewing portal finally opened. Many of the other scientists smacked their forehead when they heard this, wondering why they hadn’t thought of that. Many of them grew increasingly wary of the project, and once the machine had been completed, most of them had enjoyed a well-deserved holiday to the nearby archipelago.
All the while, the youngest scientist stayed within Zaamani’s borders. In fact, he scarcely left the basilica complex. Although the machine would surely show them something quite horrendous, he was nonetheless electrified with excitement at the thought of it finally working. Indeed, unbeknownst to everyone else, he’d programmed the probe to message his comm first.
And so the probe, a tiny silver orb connected by a thin wire to a charge-sensitive alarm, waited to trigger. With each passing morning, Sujan’s anticipation grew, because he knew, deep down, that when the probe fired, it wouldn’t merely make him and his team famous, it would make their names immortal.
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