Between and Beyond
by Ricardo Madeira

Sometimes it is best if we
are totally ignorant!

A thousand points of light flicker in the midnight sky. Their number is infinite, yet we see so few. Vast is the distance that separates us from them, so incredibly vast in both space and time that no human brain can even begin to comprehend or imagine it. And yet this distance is not enough . . .

I wish I hadn't read that damned book. I wish I hadn't spent those childhood nights gazing at the stars, wondering what lay between them and beyond. I now know, and I regretfully wish I hadn't become an astronomer. If I could only forget all I have seen, all I have found, and be forever mercifully oblivious of all the knowledge I now possess . . .

I ask myself if I can live with what I know. The answer hasn't changed since I first asked the question, hours ago. I have already destroyed all the notes concerning my latest work, buried the crystal lens and burned the accursed book. I bought that vile thing in an auction over a year ago: the then-recently found journal of Luca Giordanni, an Italian astrologer of the 17th Century. It had been declared an elaborate hoax by the specialists. The thing contained astronomical data only recently discovered by our scientists and this had caused quite a stir, but further investigation into the matter had found that the chemical composition of the paper and the ink indicated they couldn't have been manufactured at the time. I am now positive they were, Giordanni was indeed a man of many talents. As a matter of fact, the other tests determined the book to be about three hundred years old, but this was dismissed as the result of some unknown aging process used by the prankster who created it, obviously someone learned in the ways of science.

I bought it out of curiosity. It seemed to have been Giordanni's journal between 1647 and 1649, the time of his mysterious disappearance. It contained records of many astrological and astronomical experiments that intrigued me very much. I became convinced of its authenticity, and I was able to confirm many of the facts described therein through correspondence with European astronomers and historians. I even managed to track down the telescope Giordanni had used in his late observations. Judging by the journal's annotations, it was blessed with an unbelievable magnifying power attributable to a special crystal lens made by an enigmatic foreign oculist. The telescope was in the possession of the owner of a small museum that had been forced to close down due to economic difficulties. I didn't have much trouble convincing him to sell it to me, promising him it would soon be on public display in our own museum here at Miskatonic University.

At first I was a bit disappointed. It just looked like any other old telescope, and peeping through it I couldn't see a goddamn thing! It seemed some of the lenses had been broken, so I disassembled the whole thing. Most of the lenses were indeed smashed or cracked, but the main one, a thick, strangely-shaped crystal lens, was intact. I had never seen anything like it! Its geometry was totally alien to me! On the inside, myriads of tiny surfaces seemed to cross each other at impossible angles. It was difficult to look at it better because the artificial light from the lamp in the ceiling reflected curiously back and forth on the intricate crystal patterns inside the lens, dazzling me.

The sky was very cloudy that night so I had to postpone most of my work. I took the lens to the Physics Department as soon has I had the chance. Dr. Chang, working after hours as usual, kindly permitted me the use of their optics lab. He was as intrigued by the thing as I was, and so he assisted me in the experiments. The optical properties of the crystal lens completely baffled all the computers and hi-tech scientific instruments of the lab. We even started a small fire when studying the refraction of a very low-powered laser beam when passing through the crystal. A few microseconds of emission at a certain precise angle were enough for it to burn through the delicate sensors of the instrument and its thermal protection, and to almost cut a hole in the lab's wall. A little before sunrise, I left to get me a cup of coffee. I was already feeling very tired, but Dr. Chang still had much energy left in him. Each problem and failure seemed to give him a renewed vigor, and he would set about devising and making new experiments.

The first rays of sunlight shyly appeared over the horizon as I drank my coffee outside. Wakened by the cold morning air, I walked back into the building. I was nearing the lab when I smelled smoke. I then heard a loud explosion and something came flying in my direction, I think it was a door.

Some hours later, I regained consciousness in St. Mary's Teaching Hospital. The night watchman who saved my life told me that the fire had been readily put out. Unfortunately, Dr. Chang perished amongst the hellish flames. The explosion and the fire were probably caused by an inflammable gas that was being temporarily stored there, or so the firemen thought. The inquiry into the accident would later came to an end with a lack of any conclusive evidence.

I left the hospital with a bandaged head late in that same afternoon. I dined at home and then I went to Miskatonic to get my car and maybe get some work done. Morbid curiosity prompted me to visit the place of the fatal accident. There I found the damned thing buried in the scorched rubble, still intact.

Today, when I think of it, I guess I know what really happened there . . . the sunlight entering through the windows . . . reaching the crystal . . . the fire everywhere . . . poor Dr. Chang . . .

I put it away and completely forgot about it for some weeks. I then thought of rebuilding and restoring the old telescope to find out what Giovanni really did see with it. Maybe I could even prove the journal was authentic. I ended up adapting the strange lens to one of our modern telescopes, which took me some work and lots of patience to make sure the alignment of all the lenses was perfect. I also had to come up with a way of controlling its magnifying capacity, so that I could see at great distances and also at relatively short ones. The results were totally unexpected and unparalleled. I, Bruno Vicenti, could look into the very heart of the Universe. I could see farther than any other astronomer. I could see marvelous crystal-clear sights of heavenly bodies that were nothing more than indistinct blurs on the computer enhanced photos of the Hubble!

I should have stopped then. I knew no earthly being could have fashioned that crystal thing. It defied any chemical analysis and resisted any attempt to identify it. I have tried to destroy it, but found that I couldn't, so I buried it where no one will find it.

I spent the last few nights gazing at the wonders of our Universe. So marvelled was I that I hardly took any notes or photos of what I was seeing, and there was so much to see. Each night I would look a bit farther, farther than Giovanni with his rudimentary instrument or any others after him.

I found so many new galaxies and stars and worlds, and I saw some strange heavenly bodies unknown to our science. Some of these were so black that I could only discern them because their blackness was impossibly darker than the growing void around them. Others, still, glowed with strange alien colors as incredible fires raged across their surface, stretching their powerful tongues far enough to set afire distant worlds orbiting distant stars.

I would have pointed the telescope directly to one of them if its blinding light could, in some way, erase from my eyes what I would see.

Some of my older colleagues might still remember the name "Paul Martin." He was a promising young French astronomer who worked in our Astronomy Department in the early twenties. He was a very educated man, and he would spend long hours in the Miskatonic Library peering through the old books in the "Special Collections." His notes show he was very interested in the Necronomicon, which somehow seemed to be connected with his work at the time. Today, this book, along with some others, has wisely been hidden in the underground vaults and has had its name erased from the library records. Only the director can grant someone permission to see it, but he vehemently denies its very existence to anybody fool enough to want to read that forbidden book.

They should burn them all because they contain the answers, the answers that have been with us even before our ancestors crawled out of the seas to conquer the land. The answers to questions we should not dare ask. Our scientific ranks still discuss the real age of the Universe, but could humanity maintain its faith in science if we knew that the indiscernible patterns the stars trace in the skies are older than the stars themselves? And more ancient than the universe which imprisons us? Could we live knowing of the formless horrors that sleep dead but dreaming in their sunken cities and mighty sepulchres? Civilization would be overthrown by chaos if we had a single glimpse of the cosmic horror that surrounds us, that hides below our very cities, that breeds within us all.

Some said Paul Martin was already mad before that morning when he was found wandering the corridors with a mad gleam in his bloodshot eyes. He would only shiver and drool, and he would gibber of a strange planet and the hideous shapes that crawled and oozed across its surface. He had to be committed to an asylum, and he wouldn't or couldn't sleep, so they had to drug him every night. He died a few months later.

I don't know what he saw, but I know that we are not alone in this universe, not even on this planet. They hover everywhere, swarms and swarms of them! Unspeakable horrors with gigantic membranous wings, feeding on inhabited worlds much like our own. The journal hinted of their existance and of their colossal bloated bodies, but nothing could have prepared me to stand such a blasphemous sight. And someday they will reach us, too.

And there are many others . . . many other beings . . . of other races and other dimensions . . .

* * *

This is a copy of the manuscript found in the possession of the late Dr. Vicenti. It was written by him in his study shortly before he committed suicide with a small caliber gun.

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© 1997 Edward P. Berglund
"Between and Beyond": © 1997 Ricardo Madeira. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1997 Old Arkham Graphics Design. All rights reserved. Email to: Corey T. Whitworth.

Created: June 27, 1997; Current Update: August 9, 2004