The Threshold Archive sub-basement office was almost entirely yellow light. The quality was of goldenrod parchment and even the dust motes that hung in the air seemed to have their own ancient pallor, like moons bathing in corona. Snaking piles of paper and book stacks grew like musty stalagmites from the floor, leaving a well-worn goat path from the door to the right of the file cabinets, to the left of the desk and then straight on to the window just below the ceiling. In the center of it all was Dr. Ocation, as old and dry as the room he ruled, his archive a collective shrive of a world which people must not know.
Petri looked over a crop of papers that had book spines jutting out at intervals like vertebrae, up the column of tinder. He was flicking the stack with his fingertips, seeing that they were dated older than his great grandfather… and that was just the document at the top of the chest-high assemblage.
No human would stack books like this and never knock them down, over what seemed like more than 100 years of shoddy storage, though that couldn’t be. The Threshold was younger than this. He rubbed his hand on his pants.
“Which pile in these archives has the Declaration of Independence, doctor?”
“Agent Petri, this office only contains original, meritorious documents. Not falsified writs of Freemasonry. And this is one archive, not two. Archive-ah! Archivezzzz-ah! Which pile in this archive-ah has the Degradation of Subservience?”
Dr. Ocation glided around the stack leaning over his desk and handed Petri a cracked brown leather dossier which opened to reveal pages upon pages of Italian text and hand-drawn maps. The letterhead was the Vatican sigil. Petri sighed, but then held his breath right away as the dust danced along the path of his exhalation, like dolphins in a bow wake. He remitted the cough he owed.
“Agent Petri, in there you will read everything that you need to know about what Agent Connery took from that Dagonite church weeks ago and maybe, just perhaps… why he hasn’t returned yet? I trust you haven’t forgotten your native tongue?”
Petri raised his brow in mock alarm, though he knew better. “Doc, why is it whenever you hear from some far-flung cousin of yours about some deep hole in the Earth they’ve uncovered you call me and Connery?”
Ocation flicked a crooked index finger at Petri and mouthed, “R-E-A-D”.
Agent Petri coughed again, unbuttoned his trench coat and balanced his lucky hat on the pile which seemed least likely to crush him if toppled. He scanned the first page and stopped suddenly, reading over the sentence that froze him in his verbal tracks. Looking up, Petri matched Ocation’s watery gaze. “I called you because I always call your group and Connery always answers. Of the things you both experienced of late, Connery initiated on his own accord, as is his right as a field agent. But…” A cloud passed outside, flooding the floor with deepening blue-grey shadows like cave pools, as if the room was slowly sinking in dark water.
“Petri, do not take lightly what you hold in your hand. If you want to save Connery from what he has done then you better be a quick student. Pack your bag. You are going to Nepal.”
Petri couldn’t stop reading as Ocation spoke, and he protested dreamily as if his heart was not in the exchange, “Just like that, huh? But doc, I gotta find Connery. We have to link up about this god damned cult of yours. It’s turning up everywhere.”
Dr. Ocation was floating up from his desk towards the ceiling, his now-smoky form transparent, a daguerreotype in a colorfully-painted gallery. As the doctor faded into the gloom of the office, Petri stood up and put his lucky fedora back on. Dr. Ocation’s voice came to him as a diminishing whisper, “My boy, Connery is in Nepal. And as you said, they are everywhere…. ”
Petri stood in the dark room for a few minutes, digesting what the doctor had said. He turned and picked his way through the piles, closed the oaken door with a glun-dunk and struck it with an ornate lead padlock. He pocketed the keys spinning on his finger, gunslinger style. The junior agent tried and failed to catch Petri’s gaze and said, “Well boss? What did ol’ spooky give you?”
Petri tucked the dossier under his arm, then nudged his charge down the hallway.
“Squid-bait, Dr. Ocation didn’t give me anything. He gave Connery a second chance, that’s what. Let’s pack, we’ve a boat to catch.”
Next: Shipping Up to Boston (WAY-AYE-OOH)