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The Lost Temple Of Cahl: Chapter Two
Into The Basement
Next morning Richard woke to calm and serenity, an indication that he was home alone. A glance at the clock, which displayed ‘9:22’ in bright green LCD confirmed this.
Lazily Richard clambered out of bed and stumbled awkwardly down the stairs. The jobs paper still lay on the table, only this time it was open and upon on closer inspection, several of the jobs had been circled, presumably by Louise. Another one of her psychological games he observed. He gave a snort before scooping it up and tossing it emphatically in the bin. He knew what he wanted and some dead end full time job wasn’t it.
With that in mind, he raced back upstairs, gathered up his phone, which was still on charge and searched for Professor Berghausen’s contact number. He gave an annoyed grunt as he struggled to navigate the various features of his phone. Despite only being 19, Richard had always hated mobile phones, and could never understand why people were seemingly so obsessed with them. For him, a mobile phone was a rather mundane and practical item, only to be used when necessary.
He sniffed as he located the Professor’s name and pressed the green call button. He always felt strangely tense while waiting for the call to connect, but when he heard the dial tone he allowed himself a deep exhale. His eyes narrowed with concentration, as the dial tone disappeared to be replaced with a crackling noise. Finally a familiar voice sounded on the opposite end.
“Hello there, Richard my boy! How are you doing?” Richard couldn’t help but be swept up by the professor’s infectious buoyant enthusiasm. A typical eccentric academic, he mused to himself.
“I’m fine thank you Professor,” he replied sweetly. He went on to explain why exactly he’d dropped out and then asked whether it would be okay to have a chat in person.
“Of course! That is what I put in the letter after all. When were you thinking?”
After a brief pause, Richard decided that the sooner the better. It wasn’t like he had anything on today anyway, especially after discarding the jobs paper.
“Would it be okay, if we meet in a say an hour or so?” “Sure thing, have you got my address?” Richard detected that it was a rhetorical question and recited the address for the amusement of them both. “12 St Agatha’s Road, Moseley, Birmingham!”
Richard knew that it would take around an hour for him to get to the Professor’s from his place. That was the curse of not being able to afford a car; he was a slave to public transport and all that goes with it.
He took less than half an hour to get ready, such was his excitement, and that included the time it took to devour a bowl of cornflakes and a bacon sandwich plus a cup of weak tea. As per usual, he felt his jean pockets just as he was about to step the door, visibly relaxing when his mind affirmed that he had indeed remembered to bring his wallet. Stepping out into the wide world, he strode briskly down the street in a pair of black trainers, a pair of blue denim jeans and a simple plain black t-shirt; there was no need for a coat as evidenced by azure blue skies, warm air accompanied by a gentle breeze and of course that ever present glowing disc high up in the sky.
It was only a short walk to the bus stop which lay on the main Birmingham to Coventry road. His road, Manor Lane, was one of many in the near vicinity that adjoined it. The walk was made a little shorter by Richard catching a glimpse of the 11C out of the corner of his eye. With a quick burst of speed, he joined the orderly queue that filed slowly onto the lumbering juggernaut.
The journey itself was non eventful in Richard’s case. As soon as he sat down, he snuffed out the wider world by adjusting his earphones accordingly and listening to some music. Although he was temporarily distracted by the sight of an attractive young brunette who sat only a couple of seats in front of him; the distraction though was short lived as she promptly pulled out an iPhone and began flicking the screen backwards and forwards in the sort of manner that irritated him.
Three quarters of an hour later, a rather flustered looking Richard disembarked the bus in Moseley ‘town’ centre, allowing himself a quick glance back at the bus; he turned and proceeded up the High Street and onto the Professor’s house.
Moseley was one of many ‘town’ centres that made up the city of Birmingham. It was a hustling, bustling collection of shops, bars, restaurants and of course the people that go with it. To Richard, walking through a crowded street felt like walking through a dense forest. The people weren’t really people; they were simply moving trees, all avoiding contact with one another.
St Agatha’s was about a quarter of a mile from the centre in a more typically suburban area, an area of affluence, of big three storey houses, flashy cars and often, at least in Richard’s case, stuck up, spoon fed people. But Professor Berghausen was a notable exception. He was the most down to earth people he had ever met no airs and graces at all, a man totally comfortable and at ease with himself, a rare trait indeed. Richard rounded a bend, and almost stepped in dog mess before finally seeing a street sign on the corner that said ‘St Agnes Road’ in big bold black lettering. Allowing himself a slight smile, he said the number ‘14’ aloud as a quick reminder of which house to look for.
Fortunately he had turned down the right end of the road, as number 14 was only a few yards away. The houses in St Agnes Road were grand old hallmarks of Victorian architecture, with three towering storeys, intricate carvings above each of the windows and even black rail fencings that surrounded the front garden and steps that led to an old black door complete with a lion’s head knocker.
Richard paused briefly to lock eyes with a cat that for some reason looked rather guilty before opening the creaky gate and pacing up the steps. He knocked twice, before politely taking a step back and clasping his hands behind his back, as if he was meeting a dignitary. Biting his lip in anticipation he heard a key scrape in the lock, then the sound of a lock releasing and finally the door moved.
“You’re early!” remarked the Professor with a gentle chuckle and smile. Richard couldn’t help but smile back “Ah well, I wanted to get the bus ride out of the way,”
“Yes quite right. Abominable things,” he said still chuckling.
Professor Horace Berghausen was a small man with a kindly demeanour who carried a little extra timber. He kind of reminded Richard of a humble village baker complete with well-trimmed beard and moustache that curled slightly at the ends. He spoke with a strong West Country accent, which only added to the kindly demeanour that Richard had noticed right from the first time they’d met on induction day more than six months ago. The Professor beckoned him inside and guided him through to the lounge which like most rooms in the house was chock full of books, on almost every subject related to Ancient History. Richard allowed himself a nod of approval as he appraised the impressive book collection that seemed to surround him. The Professor indicated that he should sit down.
“Do you want anything to drink?” he requested. “Erm…just a tea, if that’s okay?
“Of course, be back in a jiff. Make yourself at home in the meantime,”
Richard watched the Professor exit the room, before allowing himself a panoramic view of the room. He tried to make a mental note of some of the titles, but the sheer volume of words seemed to confuse his brain, so he gave up and simply stared out into the garden, which looked a little unkempt, compared to the neat and tidy display on show in next doors garden. Not that it concerned Richard too much though, he wasn’t really the green fingered kind, his idea of serenity was to have his nose buried in a book rather than in a weed bed.
The Professor drew Richard out of his temporary trance by gently setting down a cup of tea before walking carefully over to his own seat a few yards away that face Richard. He flashed a smile before taking a quick sip accompanied by a quiet noise of approval. Richard did likewise but grimaced slightly, as the tea was a little hotter than was he used to. The Professor smirked at Richard’s temporary moment of discomfort and waited for him to set his cup down before speaking.
“How are things? Okay?” he asked casually. “Still the same, I’m still leaving, I’ve just got to try and find somewhere new,” The Professor digested the comments with a raised eyebrow, before taking another quick sip.
“So, you’re pretty sure about this? Because I’m disappointed so I am,” he said with genuine sadness. “I know, but I have to do what’s best for me. You know how things are at home. I have to get away and make a fresh start,” said Richard, who seemed surprised at just how sad the Professor was.
“I understand completely of course, dear boy. But I’ll be sad to see you go, so I will. You have tremendous talent and an enthusiasm for the subject that nearly rivals my own,” Richard nodded thanks for the Professor’s kind words, but his mind had been made up long ago and nothing could be done or said to alter it.
Both men fell silent for a while, almost as if both accepted that there was no turning back now. Each took it in turns to take a sip of tea before the conversation resumed. Richard shuffled slightly in his seat as he spoke:
“I was thinking of contacting my Uncle…you know, the astrophysicist at Oxford. I’m hoping I can persuade him to write me a good reference,” The Professor’s eyes brightened at the suggestion. “Good idea my boy, and of course I’ll write you one too as I promised. I believe you deserve to…what was that?” Both men fell silent instantly, cocking their heads towards an old white door opposite the living room which was in need of a lick of paint and led to the basement. Richard wanted to make a joke about rats, but correctly deduced that it would be most inappropriate. The Professor though seemed to read Richard’s mind.
“I don’t think its rats! It sounds far too loud,” Richard nodded in agreement. “Shall we check it out?” he ventured. The Professor hesitated for an instant before nodding and rising from his chair.
The noise seemed to grow louder as they neared the door, it was almost as if whatever was behind the door could sense that it was about to be discovered. Both men noted a buzzing noise which seemed to indicate some sort of flying insect.
“Must be a pretty big bee,” joked Richard simply to ease the building tension. “How often do you go down there?” he asked.
“Hardly ever,” replied the Professor who stared fixatedly at the door, a few beads of sweat appearing on his furrowed brow. “There’s a lot of old stuff down there, most of it left by the previous occupant…I’ve been meaning to sort it out, but I’ve been far too busy,”
Richard didn’t seem to hear the answer; instead he was more interested in dispelling the tension in a practical way by opening. He stretched out a tentative hand and placed it carefully on the handle. The Professor’s eyes widened as he beheld a slightly shaking hand grasp the hand and pull it slowly downwards. The door opened to pure darkness, the Professor leaned across to the right and groped for a light switch, after a moment or two he exhaled deeply as his groping fingers located a switch and flicked it. Light wafted through from below, displaying a staircase, but nothing of what lay beyond. Both men looked at each other pensively, asking each other mentally which one wanted to go first.
Eventually, the Professor, now perspiring noticeably, decided that it was up to him to go first. The two men descended slowly, the noise had gone temporarily quiet, but at the sound of creaking footsteps erupted again and drew closer. All of a sudden the light from the bottom of the staircase disappeared to be replaced by a dark flying form- the source of noise. The two men froze in their tracks, as they beheld probably the strangest thing they’d ever seen; a wasp, but not just any ordinary wasp; this one was the size of a crow. After pausing to seemingly size up the two men it now rushed up towards, straight towards them, arching its abdomen to point its vicious stinger at them.
Both Richard and the Professor scrambled back up the stairs as fast as they could go. Understandably, the younger of the two was quicker, and after a quick ascent, stretched out a hand to drag the Professor up. The wasp thrust with its stinger and caught the Professor’s trousers, tearing a sizeable hole in the right leg. Richard hauled him through the door, before slamming it shut, literally right against the imposing yellow and black insect. He collapsed next to the exhaling Professor and shut his eyes in relief. But any sort of relief was short lived, the buzzing hadn’t stopped. Richard opened his eyes and stared intently at the door…he heard a knocking noise, then another, and another before finally the wasp’s stinger penetrated the wooden door frame.
Swearing, Richard glanced at the Professor who also issued a profanity. Thinking quickly, Richard ran into the kitchen in search of any sort of makeshift weapon. The Professor followed him and produced a couple of things that might work; a cricket bat and some insect repellent in an aerosol can.
In the meantime, the giant wasp had continued to stab at the door with his stinger. It now dawned on both men that the wasp was using its stinger to try and break through it. Fortunately, it hadn’t got very far, but still, the sheer strength of the insect’s primary weapon held both of them in awe. The Professor sprayed some repellent through one of the holes already made and it seemed to work as the wasp shrank back, albeit temporarily. It soon came back to renew the assault.
“What does it want?” asked Richard with a genuine look of puzzlement on his young face. The Professor went to offer an opinion, but the sound of stinger piercing wood distracted him. “Wait! I’ve got an idea!” he exclaimed before rushing back towards the kitchen. Richard’s eyes widened with pure terror as he contemplated loneliness in a dangerous situation, even if it was for a matter of seconds.
The Professor returned promptly with a pair of shears fished from the garden shed. He waited patiently for the wasp to pierce another hole, which it did close to another one before attacking the stinger with his cutting tool. The shears sliced right through the stinger, sending it spiralling towards the ground, followed by a disgusting green fluid, which Richard deduced was the venom.
The wasp’s buzzing now became erratic, almost as if it was struggling with the shock of what had just happened to it. The noise from behind the door grew fainter, before trailing off into the distance.
“I think he’s gone,” ventured the Professor. “I hope so,” said Richard. “Shall we go and have a look?” The Professor nodded, but also added.
“We should find some more things to defend ourselves with,” The two men combed the kitchen and shed in search of anything they thought would be a reasonable anti wasp weapon. Richard found another pair of shears, while the Professor discarded his cricket bat, deciding that the shears were a good enough weapon along with the repellent. Once more Richard tentatively opened the door, and proceeded gingerly down the stairs, with the Professor following behind this time. For some strange reason, the silence was just as scary as the buzzing noise, which had now totally gone…well, almost.
Over in the far left hand corner of the basement, Richard observed the wasp crawl sheepishly towards a mirror that emanated an odd, bright glow, rather than the usual reflection. The wasp seemed conscious of the extra presence in the room and turned his head towards the men before crawling through the mirror.
Neither Richard nor the Professor could believe their eyes. How was that possible? Firstly how could a wasp ever grow to the size of a crow? And secondly, how could it just simply crawl through a mirror, as if the glass wasn’t there? Richard’s mind raced with questions, but he had no wish to ask the Professor. Instead he longed to at least confirm what he’d just seen.
With a remarkable show of confidence he strode up to the mirror, which still glowed bright blue. Peering deep, he noticed wisps of cloud and mist swirling constantly in an entrancing dance. The Professor, unashamedly more cautious than the teenager now joined Richard at the mirror and studied in a half confused, half baffled sort of way.
He glanced at the young man, as if expecting him to stretch out a hand to touch it. Richard, obviously felt tempted but was hesitant to touch it with a bare hand, so instead extended his shears towards the ‘glass.’
Whilst it wasn’t totally unexpected, both men’s faces contorted in shock as the shears sunk straight into the mirror. All of a sudden, Richard felt a tremendous force pull at his shears, and before he knew it, was dragged completely through.
“Oh bloody hell!” exclaimed the Professor loudly. “Richard!” he called more than once, but to no avail. With little other choice, he walked closer to the mirror, before being absorbed by it himself.