World of Tiers 02 - The Gates of Creation, page 1
THE GATES OF CREATION
Philip Jose Farmer
Thousands of years ago, the lords had used drugs, electronics, hypnotism, and psychotechniques to do without sleep. Their bodies stayed fresh and vigorous, their eyes unclouded, for days and nights, for months. But their minds eventually crumbled. Hallucinations, unbounded anger, and an unreasonable sense of doom gripped them. Some went mad forever and had to be killed or imprisoned.
It was then that the Lords found that even they, makers of universes, owners of a science that put them only one step below the gods, must dream. The unconscious mind, denied communication with the sleeping conscious, revolted. Its weapon was madness, with which it toppled the pillars of reason.
So, all Lords now slept and dreamed.
Robert Wolff, once called Jadawin, Lord of the Planet of Many Levels, of a world that was constructed like a Tower of Babylon, dreamed.
He dreamed that a six-pointed star had drifted through a window into his bedroom. Whirling, it hung in the air above the foot of his bed. It was a pandoogaluz, one of the ancient symbols of the religion in which the Lords no longer believed. Wolff, who tended to think mostly in English, thought of it as a hexaculum. It was a six-sided star, its center glowing white, each of its facets flashing a ray, a scarlet, an orange, an azure, a purple, a black, and a yellow. The hexaculum pulsed like the heart of the sun, and the rays javelined out, raking his eyelids lightly. The beams scratched the skin as a house cat might extend a claw to wake its sleeping master with the tiniest sting.
"What do you want?" Wolff said, and knew he was dreaming. The hexaculum was a danger; even the shadows that formed between its beams were thick with evil. And he knew that the hexaculum had been sent by his father, Urizen, whom he had not seen for two thousand years. "Jadawin!"
The voice was silent, the words formed by the six rays, which now bent and coiled and writhed like snakes of fire. The letters into which they shaped themselves were of the ancient alphabet, the original writing of the Lords. He saw them glowing before him, yet he understood them not so much through the eye as through a voice that spoke deep within him. It was as if the colors reached into the center of his mind and evoked a long-dead voice. The voice was deep, so deep it vibrated his innermost being, whirled it, and threatened to bend it into nightmare figures that would forever keep their shape.
"Wake up, Jadawin!" his father's voice said. By these words, Wolff knew that the flashing-rayed hexaculum was not only in his mind but existed in reality. His eyes opened, and he stared up at the concave ceiling, self-luminous with a soft and shifting light, veined with red, black, yellow, and green. He put out his left hand to touch Chryseis, his wife, and found that her side of the bed was empty.
At this, he sat upright and looked to left and right and saw that she was not in the room. He called, "Chryseis!" Then he saw the glittering pulsing six-rayed object that hung six feet above the edge of his bed. Out of it came, in sound, not fire, his father's voice.
"Jadawin, my son, my enemy! Do not look for the lesser being you have honored by making your mate. She is gone and will not be back."
Wolff stood up and then sprang out of bed. How had this thing gotten into his supposedly impregnable castle? Long before it had reached the bedroom in the center of the castle, alarms should have wakened him, massive doors should have slid shut throughout the enormous building, laser beams should have been triggered in the many halls, ready to cut down intruders, the hundred different traps should have been set. The hexaculum should have been shattered, slashed, burned, exploded, crushed, drowned.
But not a single light shone on the great wall across the room, the wall that seemed only an arabesqued decoration but was the alarm and control diagram-panel of the castle. It glimmered quietly as if an uninvited guest were not within a million miles.
The voice of Urizen, his father, laughed, and said, "You did not think you could keep the Lord of Lords out with your puny weapons, did you? Jadawin, I could kill you now where you stand gaping so foolishly, so pale and quivering and filmed in sweat."
"Chryseis!" Wolff cried out again.
"Chryseis is gone. She is no longer safe in your bed and in your universe. She has been taken as quickly and as silently as a thief steals a jewel."
"What do you want, Father?" Wolff asked.
"I want you to come after her. Try to get her back."
Wolff bellowed, leaped up onto the bed, and launched himself over its edge at the hexaculum. For that moment, he forgot all reason and caution, which had told him that the object could be fatal. His hands gripped the many-colored glowing thing. They closed on air and came together and he was standing on the floor, looking up above him at the space where the hexaculum had been. Even as his hands touched the area filled by the starred polyhedron, it had vanished.
So, perhaps, it had not been physical. Perhaps it had after all been a projection stirred in him by some means.
He did not believe so. It was a configuration of energies, of fields momentarily held together and transmitted from some remote place. The projector might be in the universe next door or it might be a million universes away. The distance did not matter. What did matter was that Urizen had penetrated the walls of Wolff's personal world. And he had spirited Chryseis away.
Wolff did not expect any more word from his father. Urizen had not indicated where he had taken Chryseis, how Wolff was to find her, or what would be done to Chryseis. Yet Wolff knew what he had to do. Somehow, he would have to locate the hidden self-enclosed cosmos of his father. Then he would have to find the gate that would give entrance to the pocket universe. At the same time that he got access, he would have to detect and avoid the traps set for him by Urizen. If he succeeded in doing this-and the probabilities were very low-he would have to get to Urizen and kill him. Only thus could he rescue Chryseis.
This was the multimillennia-old pattern of the game played among the Lords. Wolff himself, as Jadawin, the seventh son of Urizen, had survived 10,000 years of the deadly amusement. But he had managed to do so largely by being content with staying in his own universe. Unlike many of the Lords, he had not grown tired of the world he had created. He had enjoyed it-although it had been a cruel enjoyment, he had to admit now. Not only had he exploited the natives of his world for his own purposes, he had set up defenses that had snared more than one Lord-male and female, some his own brothers and sisters-and the trapped ones had died slowly and horribly. Wolff felt contrition for what he had done to the inhabitants of his planet. For the Lords he had killed and tortured, he suffered no guilt. They knew what they were doing when they came into his world, and if they had beaten his defenses, they would have given him a painful time before he died.
Then Lord Vannax had succeeded in hurling him into the universe of Earth, although at the cost of being taken along with Jadawin. A third Lord, Arwoor, had moved in to possess Jadawin's world.
Jadawin's memory of his former life had been repressed by the shock of dispossession, of being cast weaponless into an alien universe and without the means to return to his own world; Jadawin had become a blank, a tabula rasa. Adopted by a Kentuckian named Wolff, the amnesiac Jadawin had taken the name of Robert Wolff. Not until he was sixty-six years old did he discover what had happened before the time that he had stumbled down a Kentucky mountain. He had retired from a lifetime of teaching Latin, Greek, and Hebrew to the Phoenix area of Arizona. And there, while looking through a newly built house for sale, he had begun the series of adventures that took him through a "gate" back into the universe he had created and had ruled as Lord for 10,000 years.
There he h
His tears, loosed by his anguish at the loss of Chryseis and the terror of what could happen to her, were proof of his humanity. No Lord shed tears over another living being, although it was said that Urizen had cried with joy when he had trapped two of his sons some thousands of years ago.
No time-waster, Wolff set about doing what had to be done. First, he must make sure that someone occupied the castle while he was gone. He did not want to repeat what had happened the last time he had left this world. On returning, he had found another Lord in his place. Now there was only one man who was capable of filling his shoes and whom he could trust. That was Kickaha (born Paul Janus Finnegan in Terre Haute, Indiana, Earth). It was Kickaha who had given him the horn that had enabled him to get back into this world.
Kickaha had given him the indispensable help that had permitted him to regain his Lordship.
With that, he would be able to track down Urizen's world and gain entrance to it! He strode across the chrysoprase floor to the wall and swung down a section of the wall, carved in the semblance of a giant eagless of this planet. He stopped and gasped with shock. The hiding place no longer had a horn to hide. The hollowed out part in which the horn had lain was empty.
So, Urizen had not only taken Chryseis but he had stolen the ancient Horn of Shambarimen.
So be it. Wolff would weep over Chryseis but he would spend no time in useless mourning for an artifact, no matter how treasured.
He walked swiftly through the halls, noting that none of the alarms were triggered. All slept as if this were just another day in the quiet but happy times since Wolff had regained possession of the palace on top of the world. He could not help shivering. He had always feared his father. Now that he had such evidence of his father's vast powers, he dreaded him even more. But he did not fear to go after him. He would track him down and kill him or die trying.
In one of the colossal control rooms, he seated himself before a pagoda-shaped console. He set a control which would automatically bring him, in sequence, views of all the places on this planet where he had set videos. There were ten thousand of these on each of the four lower levels, disguised as rocks or trees. They had been placed to allow him to see what was happening in various key areas. For two hours he sat while the screen flashed views. Then, knowing that he could be there for several days, he plugged in the eidolon of Kickaha and left the viewer. Now, if Kickaha were seen, the screen would lock on the scene and an alarm would notify Wolff.
He placed ten more consoles in operation. These automatically began to scan throughout the cosmos of the "parallel" universes to detect and identify them. The records were seventy years old, so it was to be presumed that universes created since then would swell the known number of one thousand and eight. It was these that Wolff was interested in. Urizen no longer lived in the original one of Gardazrintah, where Wolff had been raised with many of his brothers, sisters, and cousins. In fact, Urizen, who grew tired of entire worlds as swiftly as a spoiled child became weary with new toys, had moved three tunes since leaving Gardazrintah. And the chances were that he was now in a fourth and this last one had to be identified and penetrated.
Even when all had been recorded, he could not be sure that his father's universe was located. If a universe were entirely sealed off, it was undetectable. A universe could be found only through the "gates," each of which gave off a unique frequency. If Urizen wanted to make it really difficult for Wolff to find him, he could set up an on-off-on gate. This would open at regular intervals or at random times, depending upon Urizen's choice. And if it happened not to open at the time that Wolff's scanner was searching that "parallel corridor," it would not be detected. As far as the scanners were concerned, that area would be an "empty" one.
However, Urizen wanted him to come after him and so should not make it too difficult or impossible for him to do so.
Lords must eat. Wolff had a light breakfast served by a talos, one of the half-protein robots, looking like knights in armor, of which he had over a thousand. Then he shaved and showered in a room carved out of a single emerald. Afterwards, he clothed himself. He wore corduroy shoes, tight-fitting corduroy trousers, a corduroy short-sleeved shirt, open at the neck but with a collar that curved up in back, a broad belt of mammoth leather, and a golden chain around his neck. From the chain hung a red jade image of Shambarimen, given to him by the great artist and artificer of the Lords, when he, Wolff, had been a boy of ten. The red of the jade was the only bright color of his garments, the rest being a thrush-brown. When in the castle, he dressed simply or not at all. Only during the rare occasions when he went down to the lower levels for state ceremonies did he dress in the magnificent robes and complex hat of a Lord. In most of his descents, he went incognito, clad in the garments or nongarments of the local natives.
He left the walls of the castle to go out onto one of the hundreds of great balcony-gardens. There was an Eye sitting in a tree, a raven large as a bald eagle. He was one of the few survivors of the onslaught on the castle when Wolff had taken this world back from Ar-woor. Now that Arwoor was dead, the ravens had transferred their loyalty to Wolff.
Wolff told the raven that he was to fly out and look for Kickaha. He would inform other Eyes of the Lord of his mission and also tell the eagles of Podarge. They must inform Kickaha that he was wanted at once. If Kickaha did get their message and came to the castle, only to find Wolff gone, he was to remain there as Lord pro tem. If, after a reasonable interval, Wolff did not return, Kickaha could then do whatever he wanted.
He knew that Kickaha would come after him and that it was no use forbidding him to do so.
The raven flew off, happy to have a mission. Wolff went back into the castle. The viewers were still searching, without success, for Kickaha. But the gate-finders, needing only microseconds to scan and identify, had gone through all the universes and were already on their sixth sweep. He allowed them to continue on the chance that some gates might be intermittent and the search scan and gate on-state had not coincided. The results of the first five searches were on paper, printed in the classical ideographs of the ancient language.
There were thirty-five new universes. Of these, only one had a single gate.
Wolff had the spectral image of this placed upon a screen. It was a six-pointed star with the center red instead of white as he had seen it. Red for danger.
As plainly as if Urizen had told him, he knew that this was the gate to Urizen's world. Here I am. Come and get me-if you dare.
He visualized his father's face, the handsome falcon features with large eyes like wet black diamonds. Lords were ageless, their bodies held in the physiological grip of the first twenty-five years of life. But emotions were stronger even than the science of the Lords-working with their ally, time, they slashed away at the rocks of flesh. And the last time he had seen his father, he had seen the lines of hate. God alone knew how deep they were now, since it was evident that Urizen had not ceased to hate.
As Jadawin, Wolff had returned his father's enmity. But he had not been like so many of his brothers and sisters in trying to kill him. Wolff had just not wanted to have anything at all to do with him. Now, he loathed him because of what he had done to innocent Chryseis. Now, he meant to slay him.
The fabrication of a gate which would match the frequency-image of the hexaculum-entrance to Urizen's world was automatic. Even so, it took twenty-two hours for the machines to finish the device. By then, the planetary viewers had all reported in. Kickaha was not in their line of sight. This did not mean that the elusive fellow was not on the planet. He could be just outside the scope of the viewers or he could be a hundred thousand places elsewhere. The planet had
Wolff decided not to waste any time. The second the matching hexaculum was finished, he went into action. He ate a light meal and drank water, since he did not know how long he might have to do without either once he stepped through the gate. He armed himself with a beamer, a knife, a bow, and a quiverful of arrows. The primitive weapons might seem curious arms to take along in view of the highly technological death-dispensers he would have to face. But it was one of the ironies of the Lords' technology that the set-ups in which they operated sometimes permitted such weapons to be effective.
Actually, he did not expect to be able to use any of his arms. He knew too well the many types of traps the Lords had used.
"And now," Wolff said, "it must be done. There is no use waiting any longer."
He walked into the narrow space inside the matching hexaculum. Wind whistled and tore at him. Blackness. A sense as of great hands gripping him. All in a dizzying flash.
He was standing upon grass, giant fronds at a distance from him, a blue sea close by, a red sky above, hugging the island and the rim of the sea. There was light from every quarter of the heavens and no sun. His clothes were still upon his body, although he had felt as if they were being ripped off when he had gone through the gate. Moreover, his weapons were still with him.
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