The Keys to Beyond – Charlie Chitty
March 31, 2020
I will not give you his name.
But he wasn’t much liked by anyone, and had no family or friends. None that we know about anyway.
He was my late colleague, and this story is as much about him as it is about me.
We had travelled to the Himalayan mountains, a range far away from even the more obscure tourist destination. We had flown there on a biplane from Sikkim, past Marsyangdi and crossing just a few clicks away from Everest and the other iced mountains, crowned with hazy clouds.
You cannot go there.
It is only an old map, covered in bizarre etchings, that will allow you safe passage. I spent five years studying cartography just to understand the concentric circles and their meaning. As my colleague studied Himalayan journals for his entire life, neglecting to eat, shave or even leave the house for thirty years, convinced there was something buried in them. He was right on that count.
The descending fog forces us to land our plane and begin on foot across the forest. By design, of course.
The first men cut trees and moved mountains to make the journey inaccessible, before moving on out into the larger world, leaving the horrors behind them.
I remember, notably, the first time I met my travelling companion back in university. Even then he was well on his way towards being universally disliked. The quiet type, you know? But if there’s a joke he’ll laugh either before or everyone else. There’s just something off about him, you know?
He’d always add in weird snippets to conversation that nobody wanted. We’d be discussing the traffic and suddenly he’s talking about Obamacare secretly abducting unhealthy people tagged by drones in order to raise the health of the general population. You’re talking, in a restaurant, with a bunch of friends about whether to have the strawberry cheesecake or the salted caramel brownie and suddenly he’s off on one about how Hillary Clinton was in the same room with Monica Lewinsky when Bill cheated on her and the whole thing was a failed PR attempt to try and get Hillary elected over two decades later.
Like what the fuck I’m just trying to order dessert, why are you like this?
But the one thing that he’d always end up coming back to was the apparent forgery of The East African fossil records. When you’re eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, brushing your teeth or in the middle of masturbating or having sex, he’d just burst into the room and start screeching about fossil records.
I lost count of the number of times I’d be slowly cuddling up to a college girl, wend my arm around her as we watched some awful black and white movie from the 1970’s and her attention would turn from the godawful movie to me and she’d lean in and the door would burst open and he’d sprint in, spilling papers and notepads and weird journals all over the bedroom floor and yell something like:
“Mya H.habilis can’t be found because Louis Leakey made it all up! His wife changed palaeoanthropological inquiry in order to get more funding and so the rest of the family could become richer by pretending to study something that wasn’t there!”
At that point, the girl had left or was in the process of leaving or was too busy cowering away from the smell of my terrible roommate who perpetually smelt like gooseberries wrapped in old flannels on account of only washing on Monday because that was the only day “The government stops putting feminising chemicals in the water.”
He was something, was my friend.
And I’d turn back to the movie, sigh and flick it off. I’d never see that girl again.
And I’d never have Casablanca, either. Or was that Paris? Or the baby in the corner? Nobody cares, those old movies suck. It pains me to believe that people actually watch them for fun.
And he became convinced there was a global scientific experiment to debunk all of Christianity.
And that was another damn thing too. Not only was he painfully boring to be around, he kept wearing his goddamn crucifix necklace everywhere.
It’s weird, I started mapping the Himalayas as a side project because he’d buy me a case of beer every week (Hey, I was in college at the time.) but then I found myself slipping down that very same rabbit hole that he must’ve lived at the bottom of.
It started when I found sections of maps that didn’t fit together, some older maps having more of the Himalayas than the newer ones. That alone was odd, as most new maps have segments added or amended because people discover shit, right?
Put together a modern map of The Andes and it’s easy enough. It’s all been mapped. It’s all there.
Try putting together a map of the Himalayas and it’s like you’re chewing crazy pills. My room became a jigsaw maze where I tried to fit together landmass that couldn’t possibly exist next to landmass that time had seemingly forgotten, land stretching further and further with no settlements at all.
And in the other room was my friend. He didn’t chew crazy pills, but took five Adderall a day.
Symbols of Jesus and The Holy Trinity were pasted on the walls. Several multicoloured strings connected them. Cain. Abel. Adam. Eve. Noah. The mark, mark of the beast, mark of the devil, the keys, the keys. He was obsessed with keys. And something about a great deity lost out of all mythos.
Death-God was the term used, but the name Azathoth is used on several different occasions.
And so we set off.
“Do you think it’s much further?” I asked him, the chill of the snow sinking into my bones as we passed yet another forest.
He stopped in his tracks.
“What does the map say?”
I stare down at the map and across at the trees that exist on no map but the one I have in front of me, thin pencil dots guessed from ninety different maps I’ve spent five years making under so much stress that I’ve probably taken five years off of the back half as well.
“I don’t know.”
My friend’s face tightens. It reddens.
He opens his mouth to scream something at me, exercising that often foul temper of his and then I see it.
The shining path of gold, leading through the trees.
We followed the path of gold until it began to snow. We read the Enochian scriptures on the gold, only referenced by Aztecs in small scraps of parchment that remained.
The path glowed under each fleck of snow that landed upon it.
Further on ahead, we came to the pairing.
Two stasis chambers made of a plastic-like membrane that felt hot to the touch stood in the clearing. Lights without any discernible source glowed inside.
We squinted into them and could see a man in one and a woman in the other. Both were giant, and seemed to have large elongated heads like Egyptian headdresses.
“Aliens?” I asked.
“Think more local.” said my friend, pointing downwards.
Neither the man or the woman had navels. Just smooth alabaster stomachs.
It was getting cold, and so we kept walking. We wanted so much to stop, to take pictures or to look a little closer. But the temperature must have been close to freezing.
A little further along, we came across a giant outcrop, several miles high. But it wasn’t bedrock, it seemed to be petrified wood, hardened to a quartz-like sheen. We saw a cavernous opening and peered deep inside with our flashlights.
There was a console, complete with flashing diodes and a complex holographic navigational system. But the only sign of life were a hundred or so piles of animal skeletons, most of them reptilian in feature.
We moved on, heading up a large hill that was nestled between an array of conifers. By that point, we had been walking for over three days and had begun to tire.
The last of our food had all but been used up, including our trail bars and energy gel packs.
We both assumed the piano noise was part of our imagination as we stepped around the corpse of a giant, nine feet tall, with a segment of his skull bashed inwards. Part of a tree was sprouting through the gaping white hollow.
But the piano noise was entirely real.
“Oh.” said my friend, flicking through one of his journals. “Keys without locks. Makes sense.”
The music was strange, it was as if I’d heard the piano for my entire life, but could never place it until that moment. Something I’d heard all the time, no matter where I was. Had I drowned it out? Do others hear it? Questions. No answers.
We saw the man on the piano as we crested the hill, the organ gleaming in the magnificent orange sunset.
The man who played it was a visible giant, and he ran his fingers across the keys with such intensity, it was almost as if he was in a trance. His fingers were cleanly whittled down to the bone as they danced across the stained brown keys.
A brown mark sat upon the top of his head, bobbing in rhythm with the music as his eyes bulged from his sockets. His emaciated frame shook as he played.
“Please.” he murmured.
My friend put his arm out, playing the discordant keys with his left arm as Cain’s fell to his side. My friend played the song, key for key. As Cain slumped off of the wooden seat and hit the snow, my friend sat down, and he continued to play.
I went to touch my friend, only to try and get his attention.
The brush of his skin was enough.
There’s something beyond, man. It’s bigger than you can imagine. We are but the imagination of a fly, flitting aimlessly through a cathedral of gods all holding gospel sheets they could roll up to smite us with. And they would do so without thought.
At the altar, a revenant. Azathoth, they call him. The dead god, who brings. And you cannot know his plan. Even the wittering and accursed talk of his cursed congregation pales in comparison to the thoughts of Azathoth. For indeed, his thoughts are the physical realm, binding everything.
You are alive because Azathoth wills it, and you will only die when he is through with you.
And he wants many to die, an increasing amount with each passing year. I hear the congregation chant harmoniously forever as the discordant piano keys abrasively push me back into the real world and I fall to the snow.
My friend is the guardian, the second to hold the throne. His eyes are a solid milky white as he concentrates on the keys, keeping the choir of evil at bay. The chair creaks and seems to bind to him, as the man stands to look at my friend.
“He will not age, as long as he is sat. He will thirst, hunger and lust whilst sat, but he will never perish.”
I turn to see the man who had killed his brother. He had already crumbled apart at the seams, laughing as he was reduced to ash, and then nothing. Not even enough to blow away on the raw glacial breeze.
I left the mountain.
I tried to get home.
I woke up in the hospital, saved by two people who found me huddled under a pine tree, at the bottom of a Himalayan cliff which was seven or eight miles away.
I still hear him.
Playing for the world which hated him.
For the very universe that I thought he wanted no place in.
And as I’ve told you before,
I will not give you his name.