Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • THE TREMORS hit the Library again.
    “Motherfrick,” Officer John Deaver cursed as he spilled coffee down the front of his trenchcoat — again. “I think that one was bigger. Was it bigger? I think it was bigger.”
    The circular room rattled so hard this time around that Deaver felt his back teeth chatter. And he even saw the air shimmer with the force of the vibration. The twenty or so police officers and structural engineers in the room with him eyed the domed ceiling nervously.
    And the sound —! The horrible sound that accompanied the shaking was somewhere between a trumpet blast and the creepy sound of wind howling through an open door.
    Without warning, the shaking stopped.
    “Goddammit,” Deaver muttered. New Yorkers didn’t do earthquakes. That last one in August of 2011 — the one that had cracked the friggin’ Washington Monument — had spooked him and good. But what he really hated were all the Tweets from his California friends. Haha! Wook at those widdle New Yorkers with their widdle 5.0! He hoped a meteor, a mudslide, a fire and an earthquake pounded —
    “But it’s not an earthquake,” Cesar Brend said. Brend was a wiry, yappy little structural engineer. It was his scientific crap that littered the floor — his power cables snaking everywhere, computers and imaging technology. “I keep telling you that. And yes, you’re right: that one was bigger. A lot bigger.”
    “So what is it?” Deaver said. “Stop telling me what it’s not and tell me what it is.”
    “We — it — that is to say, we don’t know. Not yet.” Brend sagged. “The building is solid: we don’t see any cracks or anything that would be causing this.”
    At that moment, a powerfully built, somewhat tan man with a close-cropped haircut entered the room at a quick stride. For some reason, Deaver thought of a turn-of-century circus strongman. All he was missing was one of those old-timey twirly moustaches.
    He almost laughed.
    The man stopped abruptly. He took one quick look around, and then, he aimed his snappy stride at the center of the Library, utterly ignoring everyone around him.
    Deaver’s near-smile faded. The assuming manner of this man set him on tilt. “The Christ. Now what?” Deaver said. “Who’s this ass-monkey?”
    Deaver crushed his empty Foamlastik cup with a timpanic-tickling squeaky noise. He came up behind the man. Deaver’s mouth opened to bark —
    But the man spun suddenly and jabbed a finger at Deaver. “Listen. Clear this room. Now. Get these people out. Leave the gear behind. Do it. Do it now, before people start getting killed.”
    What?
    Had this prick just told him what to do?
    But the man had already dismissed him, moving onto more important matters.
    Deaver shouted at his back. “Hey! Who in the frick are you?”
    The man spun and held up a wait a second finger. Then, he turned again and shouted at the door. “Come on! Hurry up with that stuff! I don’t know how long we have until the next one!”
    Two men entered with wheelbarrows filled with sacks.
    Deaver’s head just about popped off his shoulders when he saw this. “HEY! I asked you a question!”
    The man turned. He held out a hand. “Armand Ptolemy.”
    “And are you with NYPD?”
    “No.”
    “Then why are you here? Cesar! Is this guy yours?”
    Cesar looked up vaguely from his iPad. “Nope.”
    “What do you do?”
    “You mean for a living? Online store. Antiques, mostly. Sort like eBay but for —“
    “Antiques? Does this look like a frickin’ flea market to you? That’s it. Dantzler! Lamont! Get this clown out of here!” Two officers approached.
    “Wait!” Ptolemy shouted as he was pulled back towards the door. “I was called in by the Mayor! He asked me to come help out.”
    Deaver cocked an eyebrow. “Matello sent you?”
    “Yes,” Ptolemy confirmed. “Look. Cesar, right? How long have you guys been at this? A week?” Cesar nodded. “Okay. And you still don’t know what’s going on. All your computers and things aren’t helping.”
    “What’s your point?” Cesar asked, bristling now.
    “You’re looking in the wrong places,” Ptolemy said. “This wing was built in 1912. And whatever’s making this happen is beneath our feet. But it’s not seismic. You already know that. So what does that leave?”
    Cesar shrugged.
    “An antique,” Ptolemy said, looking pointedly at Deaver. “Somebody put something beneath this Library back in 1912 that is causing all this shaking.”
    Deaver and Cesar exchanged glances.
    “Can I see your data?” Ptolemy asked Cesar. Cesar looked a question at Deaver, who nodded cautiously.
    Ptolemy held out his hand for Cesar’s iPad. “Right,” Ptolemy said, studying the scatterplot. “Here. Look at this. The soundwave starts beneath our feet. But then it expands outward and hits the surrounding buildings. Where it is reflected back, amplified. That’s why it’s getting stronger each time. It’s oscillating, building up towards a crescendo of some sort. A detonation. And when that happens, every building in the surrounding few blocks are going to come down.”
    Deaver’s lip curled into a snarl. That sounded 9/11-y to him. This situation was a lot worse than anyone had suspected.
    Cesar ripped the iPad from his hands. “What? Let me see that.” After a moment he nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. But it’s too perfect. The soundwave would have to be custom-designed to do this. You’d have to know the exact shape and materials composition of the surrounding buildings.”
    “So?” Ptolemy said.
    “So it can’t be an antique,” Cesar said smugly. “It had to have been put down there recently.”
    “Terrorists,” Deaver said. A new look of wet-eyed madness had come into his eyes since the mention of buildings coming down. “I’m calling for backup.” He turned and huddled with his radio.
    Ptolemy ignored him and cocked an eyebrow at Cesar. “How could that have happened? I checked the construction records on the way over here: there has been absolutely no work done beneath the building — no pipes, no subways, nothing.”
    “This whole thing’s impossible anyway,” Cesar said, throwing his hands in the air. “There is no technology we have that could generate a sound wave that powerful in the first place.”
    “And yet, here we are,” Ptolemy said.
    “Yes, here we are,” Deaver said, back now. “So one thing is clear from HQ: we dig. We rip up the floor and go get that thing and shut it off. Now.”
    “You should let me do this,” Ptolemy said hotly.
    At that, Deaver positively unloaded on Ptolemy, screaming in his face. But Ptolemy’s mind was suddenly elsewhere. He noticed the decorative symbols around the room now for the first time.
    They were very familiar to him.
    There was the tiled pyramid, with a blazing sun in the middle. The sphinx-heads, casually carved into pillars, with black-marbled busts and bronze headdresses. The giant tiled sunburst set into the dome ceiling, inlaid with the signs of the zodiac, with exactly 72 points on it.
    And something new he’d never seen before: several art-deco egyptian cartouches. They depicted row upon row of jackal-headed humanoids — like Anubis — but wearing business suits.
    There was more — much more — but he’d seen enough. This place, this building was far more lethal than he’d thought.
    “Hey Lieutenant,” the officer called Dantzler yelled. “Looks like there’s a cellar door or something beneath this slab.” He’d managed to move the stone a little bit with the help of another officer.
    “Break it!” Deaver yelled. “Jackhammer it off!”
    Ptolemy looked on, helpless. Within moments, the jackhammer had split apart the marble floor. Danztler bent down.
    “Officer Deaver,” Ptolemy said, as politely as he could muster. “The minute he opens that door, that man is dead. I’m begging you: don’t do this!”
    Deaver ignored him.
    Dantzler turned the handle.
    And the Library shook again. This was a strange vibration; it was less intense, somehow … different from the other tremors they’d witnessed. But, there! There that was again. That strange shimmering in the air. Deaver saw it, just like last time.
    It emanated from the floor, and spread out in a circle, bisecting the two large pillars on either side of the room, vaporizing about an inch of stone as it passed.
    The remainder of the pillar’s weight slammed down through that now-empty inch, temporarily compressing the pillar below.
    And two black diamonds set into the pillars popped free, spit out at blinding speeds, entering Danztler’s head at exactly 180 degrees from each other, turning Dantzler into a twin-fountained bubbler of deep red, soundlessly popping out either side of his head and drenching the people and equipment nearby.
    “Aw, hell!” Deaver shouted. “Nobody move! Just — stay put for a moment!”
    Ptolemy glared at Deaver, who simply steamed.
    “Officer Deaver,” Ptolemy said quietly. “Please. Let me take it from here.”
    “Shit, shit, shit,” Deaver muttered, shaken completely to the core. “Okay … okay. Ptolemy. Your name is Ptolemy, right? Okay, I’ll give you your shot.”
    Ptolemy nodded. “Right. Okay. First, everyone stay still. Got it?”
    The whole room nodded nervously: nobody even wanted to talk, let alone move.
    “Now,” Ptolemy said, clapping his hands. “This could get a little dicey so keep your eyes open.”
    Deaver was still too stunned to respond. Ptolemy stepped towards the center of the room and examined the door handle. Very carefully, he touched it. He very specifically did not try to open it
    The he walked away from it several paces and knelt on the floor. He put his ear to the ground.
    “Amazing,” Ptolemy said. “I can actually hear the gears in the mechanism down there.”
    But then, something astonishing happened. The trumpet blast sounded again, although this time it sounded very much nearer and … heavier. It was lower, richer and more sonorous than before.
    And then the floor cracked in several places. Black soot blasted up from the places where the stone split.
    Since the room was circular, the cracked floor now looked like so many pie slice wedges. And their tips began to rise, slowly. Ptolemy jerked up in astonishment as the marble floor beneath his feet began floating — and tilting.
    What?
    Floating stone —?
    Great hunks of rock hung soundlessly in the air, rising up in unison. The floor was floating towards the domed ceiling in pieces.
    The other men in the room did their best to keep their promise of remaining still, but several started to lose their footing against the tilt of the floor.
    “Huh,” Deaver said, pushing on one nearby every so slightly.
    It moved easily enough. But then it collided with its neighbor, and the orderliness of the situation changed dramatically in an instant. The stone shards started to hit one another like billiards, causing some to bounce into the walls.
    And wherever they did so, the wall was gouged into a wound that bled falling books and granite chunks.
    Deaver stepped back and screamed to his men, “Move, move, move, move! Get out of the room!”
    Some of the men jumped easily enough from their floating stone to the doorway and exited in a hurry. But most were stranded and struggled to keep their balance.
    Already, one fell to his death with a horrible scream of surprise. He landed and his body lay at a crooked angle that a body should never be in.
    Ptolemy’s own stone started to spin vertically. Quickly, he tumbled down towards the bottom — and did a handspring to an adjoining stone with all the fleetness of a practiced acrobat.
    Ptolemy quickly calculated that these massive monoliths weighed several tons. And although they were weightless, the still had massive inertia. They were incredibly dangerous.
    And when one crushed another of Deaver’s men against the wall, other then a quick, surprised scream, all that was left of the man was a sort of gelatin of crushed bone and blood.
    The stones were whirring and slicing through the air faster now like a tumbling asteroid field. Each successive trumpet blast noise was adding energy, increasing the speed of the whizzing and spinning.
    “Here!” Ptolemy yelled to three men nearby. He held out his hand. “Take it!”
    Ptolemy pulled the first man from his stone onto his own with surprising speed. He did the same with the next two. When he was sure they were safe for the moment, Ptolemy leapt off. “Head for the exit!” he yelled over his shoulder.
    Ptolemy jumped, rolled, ducked, and even danced to keep from getting killed. Several times he barely escaped the collision of two of these cromlechs, one time by shimmying up them — his hands on one and his feet on the other — as they closed the distance between them for a handclap of stone.
    As he did so, he managed to get more men to safety by first getting to them a slow-moving stone and then pushing another stone into the one the men were standing on, which bounced it directly to the exit.
    And while he was contemplating this latest success, another man was smashed like a bug between two floating boulders, trapped unexpectedly with no space in the dice-roll of stone.
    There was one boulder that was almost round in shape, a ball of obsidian. Ptolemy jumped atop it and ran in place while he got his bearings. He tried to get a clear view of what had been revealed by the removal of the floor. And it was just as he suspected: a massive clockwork powering with looked like an array of drumheads in a semi-circle. He could see the thing vibrating now, pushing shimmers of air out in rapid succession like the beating of a great dark heart.
    And finally, all of the men were out of harm’s way. He hadn’t lost more than four … and that was something, he told himself. It had to be.
    He couldn’t think about it otherwise.
    And then he spotted the wheelbarrow containing the two bags. He aimed himself at them, but the floating stone dervishes kept keeping driving him ever upwards towards the ceiling … there was no safe way to get down there.
    But then at last, he saw an opening. He slid, jumped and tumbled downward from monolith to monolith, finally reaching the mechanism beneath the Library.
    With no time to lose, Ptolemy knifed open one of his bags. Black powder spilled out. Ptolemy lifted it and emptied the it into the air. But the powder did not drop to the ground — instead it flew violently at the gears of the mechanism in a shadowy fog.
    A sound like sand rattling against tin filled the air as it infiltrated the intricate clockworks. Ptolemy emptied the second bag in the same way — and then ran for his life.
    The trumpet sound became a horrible gnashing ruckus. The gears caught and stuck. Iron clanged and rang and split and ripped.
    With no sound to keep them aloft, the floating stones stopped floating — and fell.
    Great shards of marble and granite cam crashing down. They sliced through the machine like it was made of ribbons.
    In the adjoining hallway, Ptolemy covered his mouth from the white cloud of particle debris that whooshed in from behind him. He coughed and gagged.
    Deaver pulled him out and into an adjoining room and shut the door.
    “It’s done,” Ptolemy managed to say at last. “I shut it down.”
    “How?” Deaver asked.
    “Magnetic powder,” Ptolemy explained. “Gummed it up. I knew whatever was down there would have to be a precision machine of some kind to do what it was doing — and I knew it had to be mechanical. So I brought along magnetic filings. Once I tossed them into the — whatever that is — it threw everything out of whack.”
    Deaver nodded his head in appreciation, but his eyes still looked a question. “Yeah I see … but how did you do all that … acrobat shit?”
    “Oh that,” Ptolemy smiled. “I was in the circus. A long time ago.”
    “Oh. Like Cirque de Soliel,” Deaver said, nodding. “I seen that once. In Vegas. Kind of fruity, if you ask me.”
    Ptolemy coughed out a laugh. “Something like that, yeah.”
    “So the city block …?”
    “Out of danger,” Ptolemy coughed. “You have nothing to worry about now except for that mess in there.”

    THE CLEANUP of the Library debris began the next day. Both Officer Deaver and Armand Ptolemy were on site as the myriad workmen in jumpsuits and masks began breaking up the stone and hauling it out. Both men wanted to know what was below the rubble, and to get a better look at what was left of the device that had caused all of this in the first place.
    And the Mayor was calling Deaver and Ptolemy constantly, asking for updates. He wanted to know exactly why this had happened — and whether it could happen again.
    Fortunately, the mainstream media and bloggers had not gotten even a whiff of the real story. It was all being played off as an old, crumbling building that finally collapsed. Building codes would have to be revisited, inspection procedures revised. It was lucky no one injured, blahty-blah.
    “Mr. Ptolemy, tell me,” Deaver said, handing him a coffee. “What happened in there? I mean … the floating rocks. How is that even possible?”
    Ptolemy snorted out a laugh. “Most of the time I don’t bother trying to explain these things. Most people don’t believe me. But now you’ve see it for yourself, so you know it’s real.”
    Deaver nodded. “Oh yeah. You betcha I know it’s real. I’ll never forget that shit, long as I live.”
    “The same thing that made those stones float is the same thing that allowed the Egyptians to construct the Pyramids: sound. Otherwise known as Geomancy: the sorcery of stone. Certain sound frequencies aimed in certain ways can make matter behave in strangely.
    “In this case: sound made several-ton stones weightless.”
    Deaver looked at him like he was pulling his leg. “Noooooo. C’mon. Don’t bullshit me.”
    “I’m not,” Ptolemy replied, genuinely taken aback. “Google it for yourself. All over the world — literally — there are giant stone buildings made with monoliths weighing hundreds of tons that we could not make today with modern technology, even with the world’s largest cranes. The Pyramids are the best-know example of course, but there’s also the temple at Baalbek in Lebanon, also known as the City of the Sun or Heliopolis. 200-ton stones were used to build the base of that complex. There’s also the massive Moai statues on Easter Island. When asked how the statues were moved into place, the natives said they ‘walked’ there when their ancestors sang to them.
    “There is also a well-known, first-hand scientific account of acoustic levitation by a certain Dr. Jarl, reported in 1939. Jarl describes a circle of Tibetan monks, seated at the base of a mountain with a semi-circle of drums and trumpets. Several large stone blocks sat in the field. The monks would create a din of drumming and trumpeting and praying, and one by one, the stones would sway and then suddenly leap into the air in a parabolic flight, landing on the mountain high above.
    “And if you still don’t believe me, there’s an example of this right here in America — in Florida, actually. It’s called the Coral Castle, and it was built by one man in secret. Edward Leedskalnin was jilted by his sixteen year old fiancee just one day before the wedding. He spent the next 28 years building the Coral Castle to win her back. He refused to tell anyone how he moved the massive blocks of coral by himself, but two teenagers claimed to have seen him do it at night. They say that he sang to the blocks and made them float like balloons. But Leedskalnin did claim that he had discovered the secret of building the Pyramids. I, for one, believe him.”
    “How come we don’t know about this stuff?” Deaver said. “I mean, why don’t they teach this in school or something.”
    “There are people who want to keep knowledge secret,” Ptolemy said with a wry smile. “These days, science is as rigid and dogmatic as the Catholic Church used to be in medieval times. If a new discovery pops up that threatens someone powerful, they just fund all kinds of peer review studies that mock the discovery. It’s easy to bury even the hardest evidence. The scientist is made to look like a quack, is discredited and his funding cut. You tow the line, or you get mowed down. It’s not about proof, it’s about politics, my friend.”
    “Lieutenant Deaver! Sir!” came a voice down near where the debris pile was. “Sir, we found something. You should have a look. And bring Mr. Ptolemy!”

    THE GEARS and cogs had been moved away from the center of the mechanism, revealing a thick black cylinder. This seemed to be the heart of the machine, the core drum that had generated the horrific sound. It was cracked in several places and clearly inert at this point.
    But as Ptolemy approached it and put on his glasses, he saw that a dull silver plaque had been affixed to it. It read:

    ARMAND PTOLEMY
    EITHER YOU ARE DEAD OR YOU ARE READING THIS MESSAGE.
    REST ASSURED THAT IF YOU LIVE, YOU SOON WILL BE DEAD.
    YOU HAVE NOT ESCAPED ME.
    KINDEST REGARDS,
    K.P.

    Deaver stared at the message. “You mean … this … this was all about you? This thing was trying to kill you?”
    Ptolemy nodded. “The Mayor will never believe that, of course.”
    “Who is … K.P.?”
    “An old friend. A very old friend.”


    Ptolemy nodded. “The Mayor will never believe that, of course.”
    “Who is … K.P.?”
    “An old friend. A very old friend.”
    • Share

    Connected stories:

About

Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.