Keepers of the Knowledge

A strange tale of an alien, a time travelling woman and a man with a library of hidden knowledge, the tale of their adventure through a desert when they are chased by a mysterious phantom.

Reading time: 15 minutes 25 seconds.


Previously - An Evoking from the Stars – An alien lands in ancient Egypt and walks across the middle east following a signal, looking for someone.

&

The Creator and the Creation – Bela decides to fix the time machine that she found in her basement to go meet her father who went missing before she was born.



Chapter One

The Explorer's Tales xtales.net

The dry and hot desert was unwelcoming. The scorching heat was like hell-fire. The sun may as well have sucked the life out of any inhabitants right way instead of drying them up bit by bit. The hot winds were no comfort either. Every gust was like a slap to the face. Every shrug was a decree of death to the ears. The hot sand covered the land that one could see from their feet to the horizon. There was not a single tree in sight, a petty little patch of shade anywhere so one could take shelter from the fire-breathing-dragon in the sky even for a second. No one would dare to step a foot in this desert but there they were, walking in the vast desert looking like ants leaving a trail of footprints which the winds would fill up in a few hours or maybe minutes. They were all walking, all three of them, Wadj, the alien, Bela, the time traveller and their impending death, slowly creeping behind them, retracing their steps, their final steps. None of them remembered how long they had been walking in this barren land. No one remembered when was the last time they had eaten anything or drunk. And of all things, they couldn’t remember when they had said a word to each other. The heat was drenching the life out of them, it was already torture, the silence made it worse. Someone had to say something.

“Are you—” Bela coughed, her throat was dry than the desert, “Are you sure this is the right way?"

“Well, according to the maps that we have, it is the right way,” Wadj replied.

“And what if the maps are wrong? Oh god! I would give my soul for a bottle of water right now.”

“There are, I would say, chances of error but we would be fine. We just need a hint in the right direction." Wadj was leading, talking to Bela without looking back. He was focused on the route.

“You and I have a very different sense of the word 'Fine'. I can’t do photosynthesis like you. I need food.”

“I can’t do it either. There’s no water in the air. It’s dry. We need to reach the closest habitation by the night or we are dead.”

And they kept walking. Bela didn’t say anything back. The silence took over again. It made Wadj feel strange like he didn’t have the strength to walk the rest of the desert. He went on.

“It would be nicer to have one of those technologies from your time, right? What was it that you told me about? GPS was it?”

“Yeah, but it only shows the route, it doesn't take you there any faster. We would need a faster mode of travel like an aeropl—”

A thud.

Wadj didn’t notice it instantly. He was just confused by Bela stopping abruptly. “Bela?” he asked but when Bela didn’t answer, he stopped and turned back. “Bela?”

Bela probably had dropped unconscious because of the heat. Wadj ran to her and tried waking her up calling her name, shaking her, patting her face but Bela lay still. Wadj knew they still had a few hours left before they would reach the nearest village. He looked around and the only sane thought he had in his mind was to carry her there. So he picked her up in his arms and started walking but it wasn’t that easy.

Every step required a drop of his remaining strength and his remaining life that he was losing his grip on. The sand was shining bright in sunlight but darkness crept in his vision, slowly making its way to the top and finally, after a few minutes, he didn’t feel anything. He saw nothing but the darkness taking over his strength, his vision and his life.

...

Whatever he was laying on was cold. Darkness was still creeping in his eyes. He opened his eyes as he felt a breeze drifting over his face. Where was he? 

It was already night. He could see the stars in the sky smiling at him, congratulating him on having survived the hell version of the desert. He was laying in the sand but it was cold and comforting. He sat upright and looked around. It looked like a whole camelcade had come to a stop, to stay the night probably. Dozens of camels sat behind him, some resting and sleeping, other awake and ruminating. He looked around for their owner but saw nobody. Where was he? How did he get here? When he started thinking about the last thing he remembered, when his memories came back live, he jumped. 

“Bela? BELA?”

“Don’t worry she's safe.”

It was a male voice. It came from the other side of the flock. Wadj walked around and he saw Bela viciously eating something out of a bowl. She was eating so fast that she didn't even look at Wadj. A smile stretched across Wadj's face. Then he turned to the man. He was eating too but not as fast as Bela. He looked at Wadj and motion him to sit. Wadj walked up to them and sat on the carpet they had laid on.

“Thank you for saving us,” Wadj said.

The man smiled and replied, “It would be immoral to just leave you two to die. Sit my friend, eat something. You look weak. What is your name by the way? Your friend here said something as she woke up but she was so weak I couldn’t understand.”

“Wadj.”

“Egyptian? Hmm... Interesting,” the man looked at Wadj for a second without blinking.

“Uh who are you?”

The man kept looking. He smiled and answered, still without blinking, “My name is Qasid, and I am one of the keepers.”


Chapter Two

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Wadj waited for Qasid to continue but he didn't so Wadj asked, “Keepers of what?”

“Uh keepers of the knowledge. Everything known or unknown to humankind.” Qasid offered Wadj a bowl full of pottage. He was still smiling. It was as if he had been travelling for a long time and was happy to see someone else.

Wadj took the bowl and started eating. It was delicious. He understood why Bela wasn't paying attention to anything. She still hadn't asked him how he was. He too did not speak anything for a few minutes. They all enjoyed the cold wind and soothing silence. When Wadj almost finished and now that he could talk again, he asked the very thing that was troubling him. "You said known and unknown to humankind, you said unknown. How is that possible?" 

“I misspoke,” Qasid replied, “I meant unknown to the common folk. This,”—he pointed at the sacks loaded on the camels— “is all the knowledge unknown to humankind. Every dark secret. All in one place.”

"Where are you taking this?"

“A safer place. We move them once every thousand years. But this time we had to leave early.”

“Why?”

“We were attacked. We were not supposed to move them for another three hundred years but under the current circumstances I was forced to do this.”

“I am sorry, attacked by whom?”

“We don’t know. They were dark forces, evil. They summoned creatures that we have never seen or heard about and we were the keepers. We are supposed to know everything. They killed us. They killed everyone. My people sacrificed their lives so I could escape. We had to protect our knowledge. This knowledge is the key to maintain a balance between darkness and light, between good and evil. If we lose this, those dark forces will prevail. They'll take over everything. That’s why they don’t want this Knowledge in the hands of humankind.”

“I don't get it,” Bela spoke who had finished eating and had been listening to Qasid, “If this is all a secret, why are you telling us?”

“Okay, now I know that it sounds a little weird—”

Bela let out a peal of slow but lasting laughter, “Oh you'd be surprised to know the kind of weird we have heard and told. We actually had a bet about whose story was weirder. I won.”

“It was not a bet,” said Wadj looking at Bela with eyes that said 'This is not the time'.

Bela read his eyes, turned to Qasid and, “Sorry, go on,” she said.

"Um yeah, look I know how this all sounds but I am all that's left to protect these and if I die then this knowledge, our best defence against evil will be lost forever and that is why—”

He was interrupted, again, this time by Wadj.

“That is why you are telling us. You want our help.”

“Yes.”

“Listen, Qasid, I would gladly help you but how do I know that you are telling the truth?”

“What? I saved your lives. If I intended to harm you why would I do that?" 

“No, no,” Bela started, “He is not saying that you are trying to hurt us, we know you are a good person but how can we be sure that there's actually someone chasing you, chasing to kill you or—"

Bela didn’t have to finish her question because she was about to get the answer as all of them felt another presence.


Chapter Three

The Explorer's Tales xtales.net

The temperature of the surroundings dropped significantly. They all started to shiver instantly. The flock of the camels also felt something. They all went unrested. Then a figure rose from the ground, it was as if it had been hiding beneath the sand all this time. But the fact that the figure had just appeared out of nowhere and that it was covered in a decaying robe all over wasn't as terrifying as the fact that it was composed of the darkness. Yes, it seemed that the figure was made of smoke, it was hovering a few inches above the ground. Then a lot of things happened at the same time.

The camels started to fall away from each other. Wadj and Bela were terrified. They held each other's hand and were slowly stepping backwards away from the smoky figure but Qasid screamed, pulled a dagger and dashed towards it who simply flicked its hand in the air, it must have because it tossed Qasid away.

“STOP HIM,” he shouted as he was flung a few tens of feet away from them.

The figure moved forward, not towards Qasid or Bela and Wadj but towards the sacks that the camels had dropped. He was hovering all his way up to those sacks, then he started moving its shadowy head examining them as if it was scanning them looking for something but he was interrupted.

Wadj had somehow mustered enough courage to throw a bowl at the figure. Which obviously didn’t do it any damage. It hit the air a few inches behind its head but it managed to get its attention. It turned and then suddenly it dashed towards Wadj with light speed. It felt like the figure had teleported. The strong force and the gust of wind knocked the air out of Wadj's lungs but the figure just didn’t stop there, it grabbed his throat.

Bela was just a few steps behind him and couldn't do anything. She was struck dead with fear. The shadowy figure was choking the life out of Wadj but was saved by Qasid who had returned, well prepared this time.

Qasid threw what Bela thought was dust at this figure and it tore it in half like a hot knife going through butter melting it. Both halves of it were still hovering in the air but it let go of Wadj. Qasid smiled as if he was performing an experiment and it was successful. The figure turned and both of its parts chased towards Qasid but he reached into a small pouch and pulled some more of whatever it was that he threw seconds ago. He opened his palm, pulled it up to his mouth and blew the dust towards the figure.

The figure disappeared. It felt as if it was never there, to begin with. The smoke mixed with the particles of the dust and settled with it, on the cold sand.

Qasid ran and helped Wadj get back up then he shook Bela to pull her out of shock.

“It’s okay, now I know what it was, we are safe. The only problem is my camels ran away. I need them to—”

“It’s okay. I'll go get them,” Wadj replied and ran away in the direction the camels had run off to.

“HOW?” asked Qasid but Wadj was already out of earshot.

“He can talk to animals,” Bela replied, “He is an alien.”

Qasid didn’t speak or ask anything. He just kept looking at Bela hoping she would say it was a joke. It was at least what Bela thought he was thinking about but when he spoke, it surprised Bela even more.

“Is he a Naba'at Bashariin?”

"Is he what?"

“They have many names, Naba'at Bashariin, Masnie Dhiki, Kayin Fadayiyin, you know plant-like people from another world.”

“How do you know about them?”

“I am a keeper of knowledge. We know many things. They have been here a long time ago.”

“Wait, you are saying there’s more of them?”

“Yeah, they came here thousands of years ago. Most of them left but they are Eternals, they never get old so some of them might still be here."

“Wait, they never get old? Wadj said to me that he just lives longer than us, he's been here for about four thousands years. Maybe he doesn’t know. He's never met anyone else of his kind.”

“Yeah, maybe but they don’t talk to animals. They can only understand their emotions like fear, happiness, oh— I see what you meant.”

They looked away at the horizon where Wadj had just appeared riding a camel which was followed by a train of its fellows.

They loaded all the books, scrolls and strangely a very heavy sack back onto camels and resumed their journey. They travelled for days. Made a few stops at settlements that fell in their way and soon got back to their journey. The desert was enormous. The climate was unforgiving. The thing that held all three of them together was themselves. Only the nights were pleasant. That’s when they would talk and share and laugh.

Qasid told them that as the dark figure appeared, the temperature dropped so he concluded that it might be a ghost, a very powerful evil spirit which he didn't know before because he had never come face to face with it. He used Goofer dust to drive it away. Though he couldn't understand how it was capable of travelling distances as they haunt a specific place and why it was trying to destroy their knowledge. He also told some of his weird stories but none could compete with Bela's story.

Bela told him how a failed attempt to search for her father who she never had met got her to the year she was born. Then another failed attempt brought her way in the past, in the fifteenth century where she met Wadj. Qasid was really surprised this time.

“You are a time traveller? Ya Allah, I thought I was the keeper. Turns out there are things that I didn’t know. I was wrong.”

“Well, technically you are not. I am from five hundred years in the future. Your future generations will know all of these things, they are not secret, hidden knowledge. They are general knowledge.”

“Would we really go to the moon?”

“Qasid, there’s an alien from another planet far away from the moon right next to you, is it really a surprise?”

“No, I guess not,” Qasid replied. He looked up in the sky at the moon, held his hand up as if he was trying to touch it. He smiled but it vanished pretty quickly because the moon disappeared. A cloud of smoke, thick black and chilled smoke covered them. Their breaths were frozen. “It’s back!”

They all stopped. Even the camels were frozen with fear this time. Qasid reached into his pocket and pulled out the pouch of Goofer dust and was ready. He heard a burst of laughter. 

They all turned towards the sound. It was more of a soft, hissing noise than laughter but they all knew that it was laughing. The dark-robed figure, made of smoke and thick black clouds, hovering in the air, prepared. It hissed again. It was difficult to understand. "Oh, clever, clever keeper, always prepared, prepared to die.”

And then they all were distracted by a loud howl followed by a few more. Qasid, Wadj and Bela looked away. A pack of gigantic wolves was charging towards them. One of them jumped Qasid, the rest cornered Wadj and Bela. When they were all neutralized, the figure made its move. It moved towards Qasid and the flock who either couldn’t run away or the figure wouldn’t let them. It strolled past a few sacks scanning them and stopped next to the heavy one.

Qasid was on the ground with the front paws of the wolf on his chest, who was growling and drooling on his face. Qasid tried to distract the figure. “I won’t let you win. I won’t let you destroy it. I won’t let you burn all of our knowledge. I won’t let you. I won’t.”

Surprisingly, the figure stopped. It turned and, "Burn your knowledge? Do you mean these books and scrolls? These parchments filled with spells and witchcraft?” It laughed. “This useless library of yours? This garbage?” It put its hand in the heavy sack and pulled a long, shiny, sword. It glimmered in the darkness even without the moonlight. The figure held it up, admiring it. “This– this is what I was looking for.”

“Why?” Qasid asked.

“Oh, you keepers think you know everything but the truth is that you are still swimming at the surface. This sword is one of the few things that can kill us, we can’t leave this lying around on the surface, have to take it back down.”

The figure was enjoying its victory. It had no idea that the things were about to turn upside down. Wadj was trying to communicate with the wolves, trying to take them under control, making them stand down. Soon their growls turned into whimpers. Wadj was petting them as if they were newborn puppies. 

The figure looked behind and hissed in anger. “Kill the alien,” it ordered the only wolf left under its control. The wolf dashed towards Wadj but as it jumped, Bela threw herself between it and Wadj. The wolf's sharp long teeth sank deep into Bela's flesh. A stream of hot blood shot out of her wounds. The wolf didn’t stop there. It aggressively kept tearing down Bela's skin and spilling out her organs, turning the cold sand below her red and wet with her warm blood.

The figure hissed again. It was laughing and enjoying the wolf mauling Bela. The only downside was that the wolf was holding Qasid down who was now free. He jumped on the figure. He felt like he had jumped into a cloud of ice. He couldn’t touch it though as if the air around it was solid. They both struggled in the sand while other wolves attacked the one on Bela. They soon tore it apart. Wadj crashed right next to Bela who was holding onto life, struggling with it. Wadj looked at his best friend and started crying. Not out loud, not shouting or screaming but silently and shaking as tears rolled down his eyes.

At the other side the skirmish was still going on, but not for too long because the shadowy figure had gained the upper hand without any effort. It was now hovering over Qasid and chocking him when a bright beam of light shot through its dark robe. Qasid focused his eyes and saw that it was the sword. The whole dark figure was now engulfed in the light as if it was burning. It screamed in pain and horror as it along with its hounds evaporated into the night which was now again illuminated by the moonlight. Qasid took a long breath and the desert appeared before his eyes again and he saw Wadj holding the sword, his face covered in tears. He dropped the sword and ran back to Bela.

Qasid pretended to get the sword back and help his flock get to normal so Wadj could be alone with his friend. He knew there was no way to save her now. It was just a matter of time or maybe he was crying too and didn't want him to see.

Wadj was holding Bela in his arms while she was counting her last minutes. She hissed. Wadj, for a second thought that the dark figure was back but it was just her, struggling to say something.

“Wadj—fin—find my fa—find my fath—father—ugh—tell hi—tell him I—I forgive—I forgive him. Plea—please—for me—for me.”

Wadj closed his eyes as Bela closed hers but the only difference was that she would never open them again and he could never close them, not without seeing that dying face of his time travelling friend, not without hearing her voice, her last words. 

...

“We buried our friend in the desert and soon resumed our journey. When we arrived in the magical land beyond the Indus river, the enchanted land ruled by the Mughal Empire. That’s when my friend Wadj decided to leave. He said he had to find someone and he would have to wait five hundred years for it. The shadowy figure never appeared again. I never saw or heard about it. The knowledge was safe.

“In my journey, I learned something. I learned that it doesn’t matter how much we try, how much knowledge we acquire, there will always be something that we wouldn’t know about. I hope that future generations of keepers would stop swimming at the surface and would take risks. I hope they would dive deeper." 

Mansi finished reading the journal. She put it back in the shelf, crossed the length of almost an entire football field jammed with shelves as high as the ceiling stacked with old books. She turned the lights off and climbed the stairs which took her back to the surface. She locked the basement door shut and just then, her phone that was on the desk on the opposite side of what appeared to be a library started to ring. She walked up to the desk, picked up the phone to look at the screen. It was Arjun who she had sent on a case of Vampires in Metro City. She answered it.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey there, just came back from the morgue. I looked at the bodies.”

“And?”

“They drained the blood but with a syringe, though I did find bite marks on the bodies but—”

“But what?” she asked.

“But they are not the bite marks of a Vampire."

...


The alien will return.

Next week, read the story of Arjun on his next case to solve the mystery of the Vampires.


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Comments

  1. I loved it, Thanks for yet another great piece of writing. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I could really use some suggestions though, to improve my writing.

      Delete
    2. Thank you 😊.
      But there's always room for improvement.

      Delete

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