Nicias sat alone in the classroom, doing his assignment. He was drawing a perfect anatomy of the human body and detailing the functions of different organs. He was studying medicine at Atlantis academy to become a physician, and his professor was none other than the great Sophistews himself, the king’s own personal physician. To be trained by Sophistews was a huge privilege, for it was a guarantee that Nicias would one day become not only an excellent physician, but a scientist as well.
Professor Sophistews was not Atlantean. In fact, none of the six professors who taught at Atlantis academy were Atlantean. The sea brought them to Atlantis. Nicias was twelve years old, when one day news arrived that six elderly men were found shipwrecked on their island. They were quickly brought before King Theodores to explain who they were. It turned out that they were all teachers in fields that sounded stupendous. Sophistews taught medicine, Kalistian physics, Petrius mathematics, Seraphus geology, Dionitius astronomy, and Aeriz taught politics and the art of warfare.
Impressed by their vast knowledge, King Theodores not only welcomed them to Atlantis, but urged them to stay on and advance the education of the Atlantean youths. For the king’s ambition had always been to make Atlantis great through education.
After some initial hesitation, the newcomers agreed to stay on and make King Theodores’s dream a reality. It was a new beginning for Atlantis and the king hailed it as Atlantis’s golden age. The building projects were immense and immediate – scores of schools as well as a great academy were to be built. Every able Atlantean male was hired to work on the buildings. And no one sat idle. While men worked on the constructions sites, women ran the bakeries, the butcheries, the eateries and all other businesses that their men folks used to run.
When the buildings were completed, a tour was organized and citizens were invited to inspect the schools and the academy. No one had ever seen a school before, let alone an academy. Children were tutored at home either by their parents, or paid tutors if it so happened that their parents were wealthy enough. Upon reaching the age of fourteen, the Atlantean youths sat for a special exam to be tested on their knowledge, and, based on that result, the best were chosen to be trained either in oratory and law or the science of medicine. The rest were sent to learn a trade.
‘Nicias, have you finished?’
Nicias turned his head around. It was Prince Isodores, the son of King Theodores and his second wife Queen Hypatia. He was at the academy to study politics and the art of warfare, subjects befitting a future king.
‘You are early,’ Nicias cried. ‘You said noon.’
‘It will be in ten minutes,’ Isodores said, snapping his fingers. ‘How long will you be?’
‘Nearly done,’ Nicias said, and hurriedly finished writing the function of the heart.
‘Hurry up,’ Isodores urged, slapping Nicias on the back, ‘the hunting party won’t wait long.’
‘Oh please, they won’t go without you.’
‘The hunting party won’t wait for anyone, not even for the crown prince of Atlantis,’ Isodores said most seriously.
‘Oh really?’ Nicias chuckled.
‘You think I am joking?’
Nicias rolled his eyes. ‘I have to hand this to Professor Sophistews first,’ Nicias said, getting up to his feet and smoothing his new white tunic.
‘Who would have thought!’ Isodores exclaimed airily.
‘What?’ Nicias asked, looking confused, as the two of them exited the classroom and started walking down a long corridor, which led to Professor Sophistews’s office.
‘You and I,’ Isodores said.
‘What about you and I?’
‘Well, we have become so inseparable that I can’t even bring myself to attend a royal hunting party without you, when you and I—’
‘When you and I come from two different worlds,’ Nicias said, chuckling. ‘You are a prince and I am the son of your humble servants.’ Nicias’s father attended to the king’s horses and his mother was in charge of the palace kitchen.
‘And all because of that head of yours,’ Isodores said, laughing and rubbing Nicias’s head, disheveling his hair. Nicias’s path in life was to follow his father’s, but it was discovered from an early age that the boy had a keen intellect, which prompted the king to take an interest and have him tutored along with his own son. And when the time came for him to pursue an occupation, it was evident that Nicias was destined to be a physician.
‘We are here,’ Nicias said, smoothing his ruffled hair as they reached Professor Sophistews’s office. Nicias drew a nervous breath and gave a soft knock at the door.
‘Come in,’ the voice of Professor Sophistews boomed from behind the door.
As the two young men entered, Sophistews looked up from the scroll he was reading to see the eager faces of Isodores and Nicias looking back at him.
‘What is it?’
‘I finished my assignment, Professor,’ Nicias said, handing him his neatly rolled scroll.
‘Very good,’ Sophistews said, as he put Nicias’s scroll on his desk along with other scrolls.
‘May I ask a question, Professor?’ Isodores said.
‘Indeed. Ask, young prince. I am always interested in knowing what young minds think,’ Sophistews said, as he leaned back against his chair and folded his arms behind his head.
‘It is about life outside of Atlantis. We Atlanteans are strongly discouraged from having any communication with the outside world. Very few of us travel abroad and those who do, mainly do so for trade. Our government has always embraced a policy of peace and tells us that the outside world is full of backward barbarians who do nothing but wage war on each other. So, my question to you is this,’ Isodores paused for a moment before continuing, ‘if the outside world is so quarrelsome and barbaric, then how come it produced people like you?’
Sophistews smiled, unfolded his arms, and stroked his long white beard. ‘Yes, the world outside of Atlantis is rife with barbarity and warfare. And your government is quite wise to keep Atlantis safe by protecting its isolation. When we first landed here, we thought nothing special of this island, except its beauty, of course, but the peace that your government has brought to its people is truly remarkable. And it was this fact that made us stay here…’ Sophistews’s voice drifted away as he thought of the true reason behind their stay. They would have rejected the king’s request and would have left Atlantis, if they had not come across a peculiar energy field that emanated from its coastal waters.
‘What is it?’ Seraphus had asked. It was Kalistian who answered him. Not that he actually had an answer. Only that the storm they encountered was not a normal storm and that the energy field might have been responsible for creating it.
And Dionitius couldn’t shed any light on the matter either. Of course, Petrius couldn’t believe that they were all stumped by this energy field. For how could that be? Before the creation of the universe, they were the light of pure knowledge and it was them that gave birth to consciousness. Without them the universe would not have come to existence. Petrius complained, groaned, moaned, threw his hands up in the air, but couldn’t explain the energy field either.
It was Aeriz, whose expertise was not in science but in warfare and politics, who suggested that they should accept the king’s request and stay in Atlantis, for teaching the Atlantean youths was a perfect cover for them to conduct their own investigation into the energy field. And they all agreed.
Startled, Sophistews blinked. The young prince was waiting for his answer.
‘You haven’t yet said how the world outside produced people like you? The Atlanteans pride themselves on being highly intelligent, but in comparison to you we are but ants. If I didn’t know better, I would have said that you were gods.’
Sophistews laughed good-humoredly at the analogy. ‘What if we were? Would that change anything for you?’
Isodores and Nicias widened their eyes incredulously and said in unison: ‘Are you?’
‘Well, if we are, then we are poor gods, for we can’t stop our aging,’ Sophistews said, remembering that in the beginning they were all immortal, until they mated with humans and lost their immorality. ‘Any more questions?’
‘You haven’t answered my first one yet,’ Isodores returned.
‘Next time, young prince, next time. I am pressed for time right now,’ Sophistews said, smiling and busying himself with the scrolls.
‘I’ll hold you to that, Professor,’ Isodores said, returning Sophistews’s smile with one of his own.
Once they were outside, Isodores pulled Nicias to the side. ‘You want to come with me tonight?’
‘Tonight?’ Nicias raised his eyebrows. ‘Where?’
‘To the beach.’
‘The beach? What is in the beach?’
‘Our professors,’ Isodores whispered in his ear.
‘What do you mean?’ Nicias gasped.
‘I have been observing them for a while.’
‘You mean you have been spying on them,’ Nicias shrieked, frightened.
‘Shush! I said no such thing. I said observing.’
‘They are the same thing,’ Nicias shrieked again.
The conversation immediately halted when two students appeared in the corridor. Isodores leaned against the wall and watched them passively as they walked by.
‘We don’t know anything about these men,’ Isodores resumed, once they were alone again. ‘They came out of nowhere and no one, not even my father, ever bothered to ask them where they were from. Now, I find out that just about every night they walk around our shores as if they are looking for something. I need to know what is going on with them.’
Nicias stiffened his body to stop himself from shaking. The respect that their professors had in Atlantis was tremendous. To spy on them would be akin to an act of sacrilege.
‘But you are the future king. You can’t go around spying on people,’ Nicias tried to reason, though he knew it was in vain. Once Isodores set his mind on something, there was no changing it.
‘I told you this is not spying, this is observing. Kings need to be observant.’
‘But—but,’ Nicias stammered, gasping.
‘But what if you are imagining things?!’
‘Well then, come with me and see if I am.’
Nicias sighed a breath and nodded his head. ‘I guess we are going to the beach tonight.’
‘Good,’ Isodores said, patting him on the shoulder, ‘now let’s go. The hunting party awaits us.’
Sitting among lush green palm trees, Isodores made himself comfortable beside Nicias and opened a bag full of pickled olives and popped one into his mouth.
‘By the gods, it is the future King Isodores, lord of fruit of vegetables. Where is your leg of ox? Nicias said, chuckling.
‘Leg of ox? Don’t get me started on the main course! This is just an appetizer.’
‘I thought you were going to spy and here you are engaged in feasting.’
‘An astute king must be able to do both; feasting while keeping an observant eye on any conspiracies that might be forming in his court.’
‘Wouldn’t you have spies for that?’
‘The best spies are the king’s own two eyes.’
Nicias chuckled again only to be told to be quiet, for their teachers had arrived.
The six elderly men walked around on the beach. The energy field was always at its strongest during the night.
‘Have you been able to learn anything new of its nature yet?’ Sophistews asked Kalistian.
Kalistian shook his head, studying his hand-held monitor.
Petrius grunted in dismay. ‘How long will it take you to make any kind of progress regarding this damn field? By all the stars, the galaxies and the black holes in the universe, we have been here for five years now, and all you can say is’ —he made a sweeping gesture of the coastline— ‘this energy surrounds this entire island. We already know that,’ he cried.
‘And that will remain as my answer until I am able to build a proper laboratory with proper equipment where I can study this field closely.’
‘But I thought you didn’t want to expose these people to anything too sophisticated,’ Dionitius reminded him.
‘Hmm!’ Kalistian scratched his chin. ‘I have been thinking about that. These people are very different from others. They are a lot smarter and more at peace with themselves. So I think we should start teaching them everything we know—’
‘That would be unwise.’
With a start, the elderly men turned their heads around to see a middle-aged woman approaching them. Though they were shocked by her comment, they were more shocked that the woman could speak their language; a language that no human, Atlantean or not, would ever be able to understand or learn.
‘Who are you?’ Kalistian asked, with a curious frown.
‘I am Alexa, the high-priestess of Atlantis.’
‘We have heard of you, but we have never set eyes on you,’ Sophistews said, as he came forward.
‘A high-priestess almost never appears in public and rarely speaks to anyone other than the king himself.’
Sophistews nodded slowly and asked how did she know their language.
‘By touching your minds,’ Alexa said reverentially, lowering her gaze in respect.
‘But that is not possible,’ Sophistews said in a heavy tone. ‘No one can learn anything, let alone a language, by simply connecting their minds to another.’
‘And yet you find the Atlanteans highly intelligent … far, far more intelligent than any other people in the world…’
‘Do you know the reason for that?’ Kalistian asked, narrowing his eyes contemplatively.
‘I do. What you refer to as the energy field has formed the foundation of our religion. We refer to it as the oracle and only the high-priestess can communicate with it. But the oracle has also sharpened the minds of the people who are exposed to its power. It is by the power of this oracle that I have been able to tap into your minds and learn your language … and learn about you. Yes, I know of your true nature’ —she inclined her head apologetically— ‘I beg your pardon for this intrusion, but I felt that it was necessary. And now I am here to tell you that you are advancing our people far more rapidly than it is wise.’
‘Why do you say that?’ Dionitius inquired thoughtfully.
‘You are under the impression that there is peace here, no?’
‘Of course,’ Dionitius acknowledged. ‘We have been here for nearly five years and haven’t seen anything but peace.’
‘That peace, my lord Dionitius, may soon be a thing of the past. There are many intrigues going on in the palace, even now, as we stand here and speak. Do you know that every move you make is being watched? There are spies everywhere in Atlantis.’
Alarmed, the six elderly men looked at one another. They had been under the impression that the Atlanteans were completely ignorant of the energy field. But if this anomaly was the foundation of their religion, and if they were being spied upon, then perhaps there was a sinister aspect to the Atlantean society of which they were not aware.
‘My lords, please come to the Great Temple tomorrow night and I will give you all the answers that you seek. It is not safe for us to speak in the open,’ she said, and quickly departed.
‘What a strange woman!’ Sophistews exclaimed, his eyes following the retreating shadow of Alexa as she hurried away into the night. ‘What do you make of this, Kalistian?’
‘I don’t know what he makes of it,’ Aeriz interposed, ‘but I know what I make of it. Atlantis is no more at peace than the rest of the world.’
‘Well, one thing is for sure,’ Kalistian observed, ‘we have to find the source of this energy. So we’d better go to the Great Temple and learn what it is that the high-priestess knows.’
Isodores threw the bag of olives away and turned his face to Nicias. ‘You still think that I am imagining things?’
‘I—I,’ Nicias stammered, ‘I don’t know what to think? We couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying.’
‘And you don’t find that strange? The high-priestess of Atlantis coming here and meeting with our teachers in secret and she is speaking in their language. Something is going on.’
Isodores narrowed his eyes. ‘Have you noticed anything strange around the palace?’
Nicias shook his head. ‘No, not really.’
‘Well, people are changing.’
‘What do you mean? What people?’
‘Guards. Palace guards. They behave differently. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they are changing. They look the same, but they are not the same people I knew. Even my father has started to act strange.’
‘Assuming you are right, what has that got to do with our professors?’
‘Maybe everything; maybe nothing. I don’t know. But I am certain that something is not right. And the high-priestess just proved it. She wouldn’t have come here to talk to these men if something was not wrong. And whatever it is, it must be big. So keep your eyes open. Now let’s get out of here.’
The following night, six darkly clad figures entered the sacred precinct of the Great Temple of Atlantis.
‘Welcome,’ Alexa greeted her guests. ‘Follow me please.’
Alexa took her visitors into a large reception room, where normally the Atlantean priestly order held their annual day of thanksgiving to celebrate the birth of Atlantis.
‘Please be seated, my lords,’ she said. ‘I have been following your activities for quite a while now and so long as you were maintaining the course of just teaching our young people, I saw no cause for alarm. But then just the other day as I touched’ —her eyes wandered and settled on Kalistian— ‘as I touched your mind and saw that you were contemplating to advance our people beyond what is considered wise, I thought it necessary to contact you. You see, there are many things of which you are not aware. For instance, the geographic location of Atlantis—’
‘Excuse me!’ Kalistian interrupted impatiently. ‘We are quite aware of the geographic location of Atlantis.’
‘No, my lord Kalistian you are not. You see, Atlantis, geographically, is at the centre of this world and another.’
‘That is not possible,’ Kalistian refuted sharply. ‘There are no other worlds. There is only one world’ —he held up his forefinger for emphasis— ‘only one.’
Alexa shook her head. ‘That is not so, my lord. I am sorry, but that is simply not so. There is another world, another universe, a dark universe … like a dark mirror.’
‘You are wrong,’ Kalistian argued with absolute conviction, for he would surely know if such a world existed.
‘I know why you believe that, my lord. You and your friends are the original lords of knowledge, givers of light and all that is. You believe, and logically so, that you know everything that is knowable. But what you don’t know is that upon the birth of this universe, another was also born … its twin. And it is here in this place … in Atlantis … the bridge that connects this universe to its twin.’
‘That is not possible,’ Kalistian persisted, shaking his head.
‘Forgive me, but you are wrong, my lord Kalistian. You see, many, many centuries ago when our people first came to this island, they chanced upon a strange phenomenon – a black whirlpool standing perpendicular to the ground and having a diameter no larger than the size of an adult male. After their initial bewilderment passed, they naturally thought it to be of divine origin, so a priestly order was formed to serve it, and soon everyone began to call it the oracle. And they called it the oracle, not because of any oracular utterances they heard being issued from it, but because of the sense of peace they received from it.
‘You see, our people prior to coming to this island were quite warlike and aggressive. I guess one could say that they were even more aggressive than the rest of the people in the world. But as soon as they settled here, their aggression soon lifted and instead peace took over. And this peace bestowed upon our people two gifts: sharpness of mind and clarity of judgement. In a word, we became more intelligent as well as more peaceful. Then one day, as the high-priestess was praying to the oracle, a black stone was ejected from it, which upon touching it she immediately got a glorious vision of the future of Atlantis. On reporting this to the king, a beautiful temple was erected that housed the oracle.
‘From then on, access to the oracle was limited only to the high-priestess. In every endeavour that our nation was involved, the high-priestess consulted the stone for direction. Soon the stone came to be known as the stone of destiny. Gradually, other mysteries of the stone were discovered too. For upon holding it meditatively and for an extended period of time, often the mind, so the high-priestess recorded, expanded to such a degree of illumination that the very fabric of the physical body seemed to dissolve in a pool of light. This extraordinary transformation was called by the high-priestess as the state of absolute enlightenment. Thus, the stone of destiny and the oracle became the cornerstone of the Atlantean religion.
‘But this all changed when on her deathbed the high-priestess asked to hold the stone one last time. For upon touching it, instead of getting wonderful visions of the future of Atlantis, she got a glimpse into the heart of the oracle. Despite its many gifts upon our people, the oracle held a dark secret within, for it was a bridge that connected this world to its sinister twin.
‘Of course, she confided this to no one but Carmenta, her successor, who, immediately upon becoming the high-priestess of Atlantis, ordered the erection of a second temple atop the first one and the oracle was walled off. The purpose was to seal it from the view of people so that in time people would forget about it. What you can’t see, you’ll soon forget and then you won’t be able to talk about it. As time passed, people, even kings, forgot about the actual existence of the black whirlpool, but the faith in the oracle itself remained, as did the faith that only the high-priestess could communicate with it. The stone of destiny suffered a similar fate too, except that it was not buried along with the whirlpool. Carmenta thought it to be an important object, but one that had to remain exclusively in the hands of the high-priestess.’
‘Where is this stone now?’ Kalistian asked, with a sigh of boredom and discontent, not believing a word that Alexa was saying.
‘I have it,’ Alexa said, as she reached within the folds of her dress to produce a smooth black stone, which she then gave it to Kalistian.
Kalistian immediately began to scan the stone with his hand-held monitor. His face suddenly dropped when he read the energy level. ‘This is hard to believe, but this small stone emanates the same energy as the one that surrounds the island, only one hundred times stronger...’ Kalistian’s voice trailed off for a moment before it was picked up again. ‘This is not a stone…’
‘What do you mean?’ Seraphus asked, getting up from his chair and coming over to Kalistian to take a closer look at the stone. ‘It certainly looks like one.’
‘It may look like one, but it isn’t. This is a living organism but of which kind I couldn’t even hazard a guess.’
Alexa nodded. ‘I often suspected as much, mainly because of its ability to communicate. It is through this object that I am able to see what is and what is to come and it has been through this object that I have been able to connect with your minds and even learn your language.’
‘Is there a way to remove the walls around this whirlpool, so I could take a look at it?’ Kalistian asked.
‘The walls have already been removed, only not by us.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘No one aside from me has access to where the whirlpool is, so those who removed the walls were not Atlanteans, at least not Atlanteans from this world.’
Kalistian shook his head. ‘I can’t accept that. There is no other world, dark or otherwise. Besides, what proof do you have aside from this stone or this—this whirlpool?’
‘I have a very solid proof and his name is Staphores.’
‘Staphores?’ Kalistian grimaced, looking at the others to see a bewildered look on their faces too. Staphores was King Theodores’s first-born son by a foreign queen, who, according to the laws of Atlantis, could never become a king; hence, he was elected to become a high-priest.
‘He is secretly mounting a rebellion against his father…’ Alexa’s voice fell away in a thunder that was Aeriz’s laughter.
‘You can’t—you can’t seriously believe that because he is plotting a rebellion against his father that he comes from another world,’ Aeriz said, laughing raucously.
Alexa held a dignified expression on her face and waited patiently for Aeriz’s laughter to subside, before she could speak again. ‘My lord Aeriz,’ she began when Aeriz finished laughing, ‘Staphores cannot possibly mount a rebellion against his father. Prince Staphores was sent here a year ago by his father to be trained as the next high-priest under the supervision of Leon, the current high-priest. But Prince Staphores fell gravely ill. Which illness left him an invalid permanently, barely able to take a few steps without pain. He needed to be nursed around the clock—’
‘Why didn’t the king send for me?’ Sophistews interrupted. ‘I would have been able to help Staphores with his illness.’
‘My lord Sophistews, it is against our priestly rule to accept medical assistance from anyone, even you. I know it sounds absurd to you, but that is how things work here. If a priest or a priestess falls ill, only prayers are recommended for their recovery. They are, after all, servants of the gods, so gods alone must heal them. To do otherwise is to disrespect the gods and interfere with their will.’
Sophistews let out a sigh of despair and motioned with his hand for Alexa to continue.
‘As I was saying,’ Alexa resumed, ‘Prince Staphores needed to be nursed at all times. However, at about the same time that I discovered that the walls of the room containing the whirlpool had been removed, which was about three months ago, suddenly Prince Staphores disappeared and no one knew of his whereabouts until very recently…’
‘What did the king say about his son’s disappearance?’ Sophistews asked, not at all convinced that there was another world.
‘The king’s advisers offered him plenty of theories on the disappearance of Prince Staphores, but no one entertained the thought of him mounting a rebellion, for he was an invalid. The news of the rebellion only surfaced less than ten days ago.’
‘How is it that none of us knew anything about these events?’ Petrius asked.
‘You were not the only ones, my lords,’ Alexa said. ‘No other Atlantean knows of these events either, not even Queen Hypatia and Prince Isodores. The king has a great deal of difficulty believing that his severely invalid son, who is apparently not invalid now, is mounting a rebellion against him. So he is unwilling to inform his people or his family until he knows more about the situation. Of course, the king is not at all aware of the existence of this other universe, so he doesn’t know that this Staphores is not his son, but—’
‘With all due respect, high-priestess,’ Kalistian interjected, ‘I can’t accept your conclusion about the existence of this other world unless I see this … this whirlpool with my own eyes.’
‘Then I must take you…’ Alexa’s voice died in her throat by an arrow that shot through her neck.
Suddenly the doors to the room flung open and guards headed by Leon poured into the room.
The six elderly men jumped to their feet in alarm.
‘Arrest these men for murdering the high-priestess of Atlantis,’ Leon ordered.
‘But we are innocent,’ Seraphus protested.
‘We didn’t do anything,’ Sophistews cried.
‘We didn’t kill the high-priestess,’ Dionitius stressed.
‘You are arresting the wrong men,’ Kalistian tried to point out.
‘This is absurd. We are innocent,’ Petrius objected.
‘Look at the weapon and look at the evidence, man,’ Aeriz growled. ‘We couldn’t have possibly killed her. You can’t shoot an arrow at somebody from so close a distance. The arrow,’ —he pointed at a row of small square windows facing the courtyard— ‘must have been shot through one of those windows.’
But Leon wasn’t listening as he stood there unmoved, allowing the guards to manhandle the six elderly men and put them in irons.
‘Well, so much for Atlanteans being peace-loving,’ Seraphus grumbled, lying on the cold hard floor. ‘Without any trial whatsoever, without any investigation whatsoever, they threw us in this dungeon, then forgot about us. Five days! For five days we have been locked up here with dry stale bread and little water. Leon and his men are definitely from earth’s dark twin.’
‘At least there is some light here, courtesy of those torches on the walls outside,’ Petrius remarked, rubbing his aching knees.
‘What kind of people would build a dungeon beneath a temple?’ Dionitius wondered aloud.
‘This is not a dungeon,’ Aeriz observed, leaning against the iron bars of their prison cell.
‘Then what is it?’
‘This place is well fortified and by its appearance one might think that it is a dungeon, but it is not.’ Aeriz cast his gaze about. ‘Dungeons not only smell of blood, urine and faeces, but they bear the stains too. However, this place is clean – too clean. And then there is this relatively well-lit long corridor leading to this place, which suggests to me that someone must regularly frequent this place. So I believe that our prison is some kind of a storage area. But of what kind? It can’t be foodstuff. This place is too secure for that. No, this place was built to house something much more valuable than food … something like money…’
‘A treasury you mean?’ Petrius said.
‘Something like that. After all, Atlanteans do offer gifts of gold and silver to the temple.’
‘Do any of you believe Alexa?’ Sophistews asked, stretching and rubbing his aching back.
Aeriz gave a low grunt. ‘I don’t believe in twin universes, but I do believe in coups and this is a coup. Staphores, being the first born son, had been biding his time until such time that he could challenge his father’s decision in making his younger brother the successor to the throne. This whole episode of him being an invalid was just a ruse.’
‘I would have agreed with everything you just said, had it not been for that stone,’ Kalistian said slowly and thoughtfully. ‘I would have loved to study that thing further, had not that blockhead Leon crushed it beneath his boots.’ He sighed. ‘Lucky he didn’t crush my monitor the same way when he took it from me.’ He rubbed at his face hard. ‘I want my monitor,’ he cried in a voice of despair.
‘I want your monitor too,’ Aeriz growled. ‘If you had your monitor, we would have been out of here. That thing can be turned into a weapon in no time at all.’
‘If only we had our former strength,’ Sophistews groaned. ‘We could’ve bent these iron bars in no time and get out of here.’
‘It all makes sense now,’ Dionitius said, with a miserable sigh.
‘What makes sense?’ Petrius asked.
‘The reason that Alexa didn’t want us to further advance the education of the Atlantean youths. She feared that we were going to teach the wrong people – the people of this other—’
‘Hush! Footsteps! Someone is coming,’ Sophistews said, walking up to the iron bars of their prison.
‘What are you doing here, Nicias?’ Sophistews asked, glad to see him while at the same time feared for him.
‘Oh, Professor Sophistews, when I heard what happened to you, I was beside myself. I wanted to immediately come and rescue you, but I couldn’t.’
‘Who told you about us?’
‘My cousin told me. He is a priest in the service of Leon the high-priest. He told me that you and your friends were falsely accused of the murder of the high-priestess. And he is the one who provided me with this key,’ Nicias said, as he produced a key to unlock the door. ‘And this—’
‘Ah, bless you my son,’ Kalistian cried, jumping to his feet at the sight of his beloved monitor.
‘I would have come sooner, but events went from bad to worse,’ Nicias continued, as he opened the door and gave the monitor to Kalistian. ‘Three days ago, Staphores murdered the king and the queen and ordered for their bodies to be torn to pieces and thrown into the streets to be devoured by dogs. Staphores and his men have now taken over the palace and the army. The streets are full of soldiers and they all carry the most dreadful weapons that make a lot of loud noise and smoke.’
‘Gunpowder!’ Aeriz exclaimed, looking decidedly troubled.
‘Where did they get these weapons?’ Nicias asked, totally baffled.
‘They are not from your world,’ Aeriz answered thickly.
Nicias widened his eyes. ‘Yes, my cousin said something similar, that the high-priest was from a different Atlantis. But I didn’t believe him.’
‘Neither did we at first,’ Aeriz said.
‘What about your friend Prince Isodores? Where is he? How is he?’ Sophistews asked in an anxious tone.
‘Oh, Staphores is looking for him. But Prince Isodores is safe. He is waiting for you in a fishing boat. My father managed to secure a fishing boat to take you all away from here.’
‘What about you?’
‘I am a nobody, so nobody is going to concern themselves with me.’
‘But they would know that someone rescued us!’
‘Yes, but they wouldn’t be looking for me.’
‘Well, well, well, what do we have here?’ came a menacing voice.
They all turned to see a huge man approaching them, pointing at them a weapon which the elderly men immediately recognized as a rifle.
‘This is the weapon I was telling you about,’ Nicias murmured under his breath. ‘It fires and it kills...’
‘It certainly does both,’ Aeriz growled under his breath.
There would be no way now that they could escape their death. There was no time now to turn the monitor into a weapon that could vaporize the brute.
The brute grinned and aimed his rifle at them. ‘Who wants to go first?’ he sniggered.
It all happened too fast. One minute they were staring down at the muzzle of a gun barrel, next came the spray of blood from the back of his head and the brute fell down with a heavy thud. A dagger struck him right at the back of his head
‘Isodores,’ Nicias shrieked.
‘What? You think I am going to go and hide in a fishing boat like a coward while you risk your life for everyone else. I don’t think so. I may never wear a crown, but I am king, nonetheless, now that my father is dead.’
‘I taught you well, King Isodores,’ Aeriz said in a tone of admiration.
‘Yes sir, you did, and now we must go. No time to talk. The situation is extremely dangerous.’
Sophistews hesitated and looked to others.
They all nodded in understanding. They could not leave Atlantis. If a passage existed that connected this world to its dark twin, then they had to seal the entrance.
‘Sirs, please hurry! There is no time to think. We don’t have much time,’ Isodores urged.
Sophistews put one hand on Nicias’s shoulder and one hand on Isodores’s. ‘Nicias, take all your family members and together with King Isodores flee Atlantis and save yourselves. However, we must stay. We cannot leave.’
‘But they will kill you,’ Nicias said, with tears in his eyes.
‘Yes, they will,’ Isodores stressed. ‘They will kill you, sir. All of you. All of our soldiers are either dead or replaced by their doppelgangers. I can’t even save our own people, but at least I can save you.’
‘Oh, my young friends, do not fear for us. Was it not just a few days ago that you two referred to us as gods?’
‘Yes, I do remember,’ Nicias said quickly. ‘I remember it very well, but I also remember that you said you were poor gods, for you could not stop your aging.’
Sophistews chuckled. ‘You two must leave this place, but we have to remain here. We will either save Atlantis, or the world from Atlantis, but saving is what we will do…’
Both Nicias and Isodores looked at Sophistews in awe, then at the others. ‘You are all gods, aren’t you?’ they said in unison.
‘Sophistews smiled. ‘Go! And may the fair wind be at your backs.’
‘What now?’ Sophistews asked, as they stood in front of the black whirlpool.’
‘It is a vortex of some kind,’ Kalistian observed, walking around it with his hand-held monitor.
‘So, how are we going to do this?’ Seraphus asked, rubbing the back of his stiff sore neck.
‘Do what?’ Kalistian said distractedly, studying the schematics on his monitor.
‘To seal the passage with this other world.’
Kalistian drew a sharp breath. ‘This vortex has similar properties to a singularity, and it definitely leads to another universe. Which universe? I fear to hazard a guess. But in order to sever the connection, this vortex must be destroyed. And I can do that. I just did my preliminary calculations and I can do it, but here is the problem: it will take us with it.’
‘That’s it?’ Sophistews said, shrugging and waving a hand, knowing very well that dying was not a problem for them.
Kalistian hissed a breath. You are not going to like this, Sophistews, but destroying this vortex will produce a subterranean kervon wave that will weaken the intermolecular binding forces that hold this island mass together, causing it to collapse beneath its own weight.’
‘Well, we can’t do that,’ Sophistews said in a grave tone. ‘We can’t condemn a whole nation to death.’
‘But can we condemn a whole world to death?’ Aeriz interposed.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Now that the Atlanteans of the twin earth have gained access to this world, it would be a matter of time, probably a very short time, before a titanic clash arises between these two worlds, and the winner would not be this earth. Since it is quite evident that the people of the twin earth are not only more advanced than the people of this earth, given the fact that they are already using firearms and have discovered how to cross worlds, but they are also more aggressive, given their conduct so far.’
‘But we can’t let the Atlanteans die,’ Sophistews cried.
‘I am sorry, but there is no other way around it,’ Kalistian said grimly.
Sophistews shook his head. ‘Yes there is. While you take care of things here, the rest of us can go and help as many people as possible onto boats.’
‘To what purpose?’ Kalistian said, frowning.
‘To get away from here.’
‘Getting people onto boats won’t save them, Sophistews. Once Atlantis sinks, the resulting landslides will agitate the surrounding seawater to such an extent that any nearby boats or ships will capsize.’
‘Then we just have to delay destroying this vortex until we can rescue as many people as we—’
‘Sophistews, you are not thinking clearly,’ Aeriz interposed again. ‘First of all, boats won’t suffice. To rescue a large number of people, we need ships, and that means we need access to the Atlantean fleet, and they would be under the control of Staphores’s dark twin. If we go out there, trying to rescue people, all we will end up doing is to draw a lot of attention to ourselves and quite possibly get ourselves killed. Now where does that leave the people of this world? You have to think beyond Atlantis. You have to think about this world as a whole! And this world is a lot bigger than Atlantis…’
‘Oh, but so many people will die,’ Sophistews groaned in despair.
‘I wish there was another way, but there isn’t,’ Kalistian said, looking pained.
Petrius sighed mournfully. ‘I grieve for those poor souls that are soon to be perished, but I also grieve for ourselves, for we will never learn how any of this came to be. My mind staggers when I think that there is another universe, dark or otherwise, of which we knew nothing. My mind staggers when I think that this other universe, fed no doubt by the energy that we are witnessing from this vortex – the same energy that brought peace to the Atlanteans of this world – became more advanced and yet at the same time more savage. My mind staggers when I think of that mysterious stone that enabled Alexa to learn everything about us, even our language, a language that cannot be learnt. And I cannot help but wonder why didn’t that same stone, the stone of destiny, warn her of her own death?’
‘Perhaps the stone of destiny couldn’t see her death, for to see her death was to see its own death,’ said Aeriz.