Excerpt from The Genesis Project, Part II, Revelation
The phone by the bed startled her awake before dawn. After two or three rings, she was aroused enough to know that it wasn’t her alarm and she wasn’t dreaming. The clock on her nightstand proclaimed in glowing blue digits that it was 4:02 a.m., two hours before she had to get up. Maybe a wrong number?
She snaked out an arm and snatched the portable phone off its charger, dragging it under the covers with her. Before she could mumble a word, the caller inquired in a strange but soothing voice if she were Elizabeth Burgess.
She acknowledged grumpily that she was, and the voice went on. "Will you be in your office today, Miss Burgess?"
"That’s the plan. Who is this?" Anyone who knew her well would have called her Libby. "And why are you calling me at four in the morning?"
"I have left a package for you on your desk that contains material of utmost significance. We would like you to read it immediately and act on it as soon as possible. Can you do that?"
Ah, Jeez — what kind of a looney was this? "Whoa! Slow down. It doesn’t work that way, my friend. I have a stack of manuscripts.... Who is this? Do you have a name?"
"Miss Burgess, excuse me." The voice was calm. "Please don’t fire me ... I’m sorry ... dismiss me ... until you read the material. Then, if you have questions you can reach me in accordance with the instructions in the package. I will only be available to you for seven days, starting today. Do you understand?"
Fire him? "Well, I hear what you’re saying but, no, I don’t understand. Besides, new submissions always go to the bottom of the stack," she lied. "And who are you, anyway? What’s your name? I’m sorry, you’ll just have to contact me at my office after nine o’clock. Do you have my office phone number?"
Silence, then a dial tone. "Jesus."
* * *
The offices of E & J Publishing Company were on Third Avenue in Manhattan, a sixty-plus block ride on the No. 6 line from her Upper East Side flat and a three block dash from the nearest subway station. The strange predawn phone call had prevented Libby from going back to sleep and some sense of curiosity had prompted her to drag herself out of bed, shower, grab a quick caffeine fix and head for the office an hour earlier than usual. For a Monday that was a rare occurrence.
At 8:00 a.m. she stomped leftover snow from her boots at the entrance to the lobby of her building. Walter, the ancient doorman, in his maroon greatcoat and gold braid, greeted her with his usual cheerfulness.
"Mawnin’, Miz Burgess. Yo sho is early this mawnin’." Walter was old-school, but she loved him dearly. Too bad that some of the guys she occasionally dated weren’t as charming.
"Good morning, Walter. Yeah, a little early, I guess. Heavy workload."
"Oh, Miz Burgess," Walter drawled after she passed through the door he held open for her. "They’s a message fo y’all at the reception desk. Night watchman left it, I think."
At the desk, Libby picked up her message. It was indeed written by the night watchman, who advised her that a well-dressed visitor had arrived in the middle of the night with a package which he claimed he had to deliver personally to her desk. Against his better judgment he allowed the stranger into the building, though he accompanied him to her office just in case. He seemed harmless, the watchman noted. He hoped it wasn’t a mistake.
She glanced at the log on the desk. There was an entry at three-thirty a.m. about one Garrick Noble, who entered with a package for Elizabeth Burgess. Departed three-forty-three.
Riding the elevator up to the twenty-third floor, she thought about the strange messenger. Never heard of a Garrick Noble. Who the hell was he anyway, and what gave him the right to barge into her office in the middle of the night with a manuscript that he insisted must go to the head of the line?
The editorial offices took up the whole floor and her own comfortable, but usually hectic, office was in the southeast corner with a commanding view of the East River and the lower Manhattan skyline. She hung her coat and wooly hat in the small closet and checked her appearance in the full-length mirror on the inside of the door.
Tch, tch — she hated what pulling off a wool hat did to her ash-blond locks on a cold, dry day. But even with that, her thirty-five-year-old face was still pretty enough and her body was even better, if she did say so herself. If she was ever gonna get hitched, she’d have to get on with it before gravity started having its way with her.
Then quickly, before somebody could walk in and catch her admiring herself, she turned to inspect what Mr. Garrick Noble had left for her. In the middle of her desk sat a wrapped box somewhat larger than manuscript size. It was addressed to Elizabeth Burgess, Executive Editor, E & J Publishing Company, and was boldly marked "Personal" and "For the eyes of Elizabeth Burgess only."
She unwrapped the box and removed from it another box, a heavy one, of some bright metal which she took to be brass. That box was liberally sculpted with odd but beautiful designs unlike anything she had ever seen. It appeared to be quite solid but, on closer inspection, she was able to discern that it had a lid so finely fit as to be practically invisible.
Just then Jenny, her faithful assistant and friend, walked in with a pot of hot coffee. "Hey, girl, you’re here bright and early. Guess you didn’t have a wild weekend, which, as I keep telling you, you need once in a while." She held up the pot in her hand. "Wild weekend or not, I thought you might want a hot fix."
She spotted the box on the desk. "Whoa! Speaking of ‘bright,' what the hell is that?"
"Beats me but good morning and thanks for the coffee." Libby told her briefly about her early morning phone call.
"Amazing! Does it open?" They both stood staring at the beautiful objet d'art on the desk.
After a moment, Jenny ventured, "Are you gonna open it, or what?" She leaned over for a closer look and, after a moment, allowed that apparently the box did have a lid.
"Why not?" Libby said. "That’s what it’s here for, I guess." She reached over and gingerly lifted the lid which slid off effortlessly, as if it were on bearings. Inside was a sheaf of paper — a manuscript, presumably — enclosed in some kind of clear plastic bag. Opening the bag, she pulled out the contents and was immediately struck by the quality of the paper. It had a strange otherworldly feel and look about it. A shiver went up her spine. Was she becoming spooked by this whole thing?
She laid the manuscript down on the desktop and stood back in contemplation.
Jenny reached out to pick it up and immediately dropped it. "Wow! What is that? It feels so strange, like it has no texture."
Looking closer, Libby saw that there was a letter on top of the manuscript and the letter was addressed to her. At that point she remembered the admonition on the wrapping that the contents were for her eyes only. So she apologized to Jenny and asked if she could have some time alone to see what it was all about.
Jenny looked a little disappointed, but graciously backed away toward the door, obviously reluctant to take her eyes off what was on the desk.
"And, by the way," Libby said, "keep all of this to yourself for the time being, okay?"
"Okay, sure. Let me know if you need anything." She backed out the door.
Libby turned again to the letter, which was several pages long, and began to read:
Dear Miss Burgess:
Holy mother of God. What was this? Not another kook! They must be running in pairs today. Curious, she read on...
I have chosen you to receive this proposal, Miss Burgess, because as a well-educated, respected and widely known editor of scientific and philosophic literature, you may be in a unique position to understand the importance of this opportunity and to take the steps that I will suggest to you in the following paragraphs. I beseech you to keep an open mind regarding my authenticity and to understand it is a difficult task that I, through you, must try to accomplish.
Now she was starting to get scared! Who did this guy think he was? He — she assumed it was a ‘he’ — had such great information that he could save the world? Elik? What kind of a name was ‘Elik’? Not Western. Maybe Middle Eastern? If so, was it male or female? Who was this guy? And how did he know so much about her? She continued to read.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I will be brief. Since mankind first walked upright on your planet there has been a never-ending quest for knowledge — for truth. From the very earliest time, man has evolved a belief in mystical deities to account for whatever he couldn’t understand, which, to begin with, was everything. So, in early times, there were many gods and they all had to be worshiped. Hence the seeds of religion were planted.
In due time some of the more intellectual individuals began to explore the world in more physical terms, looking for truth in what could be proved by means of tests, observations and reasoning, including mathematics. Science thus had its genesis. Both movements were supposedly dedicated to finding — and later protecting — "The Truth" about the world and its environs.
But, from the start, these two endeavors were not compatible and became hostile, one to the other. Not only that, but within each branch — the religious and the scientific — separate factions evolved which became antagonistic, to one degree or another, among themselves. For example, as you are aware, there are many different religions and different sects within religions, each believing theirs is the "true" religion or sect and that only their sect knows the "real" Truth. Even though, logically, they can’t all be correct, these beliefs are held with such zeal that millions of people have died over the centuries in the process of defending them. Similar visceral differences also exist within the scientific community, though they are not as fiercely defended.
I am sure none of this is news to you, Miss Burgess, and I apologize if I seem patronizing. Let me assure you that none of the aforementioned factions, whether they be of a religious or a scientific bent, have discovered what is known to me to be the real Truth. It is my intent to impart some of that truth to the people of Earth. Not the whole truth, perhaps, but more truth than your planet has ever known and, given your proclivity for killing yourselves while defending what you think is true, more than you are ever likely to discover — and accept — in the time you have left on the planet.
Whoa! The time we have left? That sounded pretty ominous.
What I need from you, Miss Burgess, is your help in selecting and gathering together certain members of the scientific and religious communities, whom you feel will be receptive, for a symposium at which I will reveal information about your universe, your planet, your people and your very lives that has heretofore not been known to anyone on Earth. The enclosed documents will provide further details and identify certain individuals with whom you might consider making contact.
I must tell you that your success in getting this accomplished is definitely not assured. Such is the inclination and power of organized interests — especially religious interests — to cover up, rather than expose real truth, that your chance of success is minimal at best. Not only that, but your reputation and your very life may be at risk by just taking on this endeavor and promoting the knowledge I will impart. I do not wish to frighten you, yet I believe the future of human life, if not the planet itself, depends on your success — and subsequently mine.
I can tell you all this with authority, dear editor, because I am none other than the entity your religions unwittingly refer to as "God." But let me hasten to assure you that I am not a god in that sense and, furthermore, no such god exists. I am just a student of science and a proponent of an academic endeavor. However, in that capacity I am, along with my colleagues, responsible for creating your entire universe and everything in it.
Oh, is that all? Well, with the creator of the universe on her side, how could she possibly fail? Good, um, God. This thing was getting crazier by the minute.
So, as you see, I am giving you a difficult challenge and I hope, for the sake of your world, if not your entire universe, that you will believe what I am telling you and that you will take up this challenge.
Well, she’d give the guy one thing at least. She’d heard a lot of reasons why some author’s deathless prose should get her attention, but none that topped this one. She couldn’t wait to get to the rest of his story. So much for him going to the bottom of the pile.
While I am prevented by protocol from providing direct proof that what I say is true, I would ask that you have this document and the box that held it analyzed by a capable laboratory. The results may surprise you and give you and your colleagues some reason to have confidence in my assertions. If you should have any problems or questions, please contact my emissary, who has been identified to you as Mr. Garrick Noble. You may reach him by calling within seven days the number engraved on the bottom of the container in which this arrived.
The letter concluded with a simple signature. The manuscript — or document — remaining in the box appeared to be a more detailed explanation of who this Elik Mangor was — or claimed to be — and what he had to say. She planned to read it thoroughly later.
In the meantime, to say she was flabbergasted
would be the understatement of the century. How was one supposed to
react to a situation like that? Her natural instinct was to consider the
whole thing a hoax and throw it to Jenny — or better yet, to a first
reader — and let them worry about it. But, strange as it seemed, she
somehow genuinely felt she was being trusted to handle this one herself.
And so she would, for the moment at least. In fact, for some equally
strange reason she was anxious to get started. But first she’d have the
document copied right there under her nose and then call a friend on
staff at her alma mater who, she hoped, could get some discreet
physical analysis done as suggested in the letter.
* * *
But that night, after reading the rest of the contents of the mysterious box, she fell into a restless sleep and had a very realistic dream. Elik Mangor was making his case, in her dream, for why she must not fail him. When she awoke to her alarm, she knew for a certainty that, somehow, she had to go forward with this strange project.
Even more surprisingly, not long after she reached her desk Tuesday morning, her bosses called her in. She hoped they wouldn't fire her over this. But on the contrary, both gentlemen had mysteriously and independently changed their minds and wanted her to pursue the matter, discreetly but positively. They didn’t mention any dreams or strange voices but she couldn’t help wondering what had turned them around.
Later that day her friend at Columbia called her. "The heavy box turns out to be plated with a thick coat of twenty-four carat gold over a base metal."
"Gold?" She let that sink in a minute. "And what base metal would that be?" she asked.
"That hasn’t been completely determined yet, but we don't believe it originated on this planet."
"Not on this planet?" The letter-writer had been telling the truth. Her skin crawled.
"Also, the paper the documents were printed on," her friend continued, "as well as the printing ink used, are also unknown to any of the scientists here. Both are fireproof and appear virtually indestructible."