Part 9 – The Abyss She Cries So Sweet
Footsteps echoed up and down the corridor, leaping from wooden floor to cold stone walls only to be rebuffed by the glass ceilings; rejected, the echoes returned the way they came, confusing and distracting those using the corridor. The curious acoustic phenomena of the Meridional University’s interconnecting corridors was frequently commented upon by visitors who suffered badly from its disorienting dopplered echoes. It was not uncommon for residents and academics to collapse in confusion. The echoes had been known to reverberate for hours before finally dispersing. Countless ghost stories were spurred on by the regular sound of footsteps in deserted passages.
The only clear solution, as adopted by the forthright scholars who stalked the halls was to slap one’s feet down as hard as possible, and so dominate the echo effect until one reaches one’s destination. The result was one of auditory chaos. It was rare for students in their early years of study to brave the university’s corridors; they tended to use the windows that opened into the auditoria and lecture theatre that ringed the vast inaccessible quadrangle at the heart of the college. This greatly satisfied the already self-satisfied professors and ranking officials: the lengthy hallways became their private striding domain, suited to their status; cynics commented only on how much they enjoyed the sound of their own voices.
Two such gentlemen pounded along the polished planks, their footfalls oppressing a trio of undergraduates who cowered in a doorway. The broader of the men sneered at the students, driving them back into the room from which they had blundered. The gentlemen exchanged not a word, for fear of their conversation rebounding in the air long after they had departed. Lesser schemes than theirs had been pierced by a casual ear. They rounded the next corner (being briefly bombarded by echoes ricocheting from the next leg of the quad) and, pausing only for a token tap of the door, turned the handle and strode into the richly carpeted office behind it.
“Brelton! This is an outrage,” declared the larger, and sad to say, sweatier of the two intruders, “I demand that you recall that imbecile Traverstorm. This expedition has not been approved by the committee, this is unacceptable… this is – unsanctioned.”
Brelton, the accusee sighed and laid down his pen. “Hello Guldwych, how nice of you to drop in.”
“Don’t you dare brush me off with your friendly platitudes. You well know the committee’s stance on these outrageous adventures. How many more have to die before you finally ban that man from the university?”
“As I imagine you are aware, but choosing to ignore, Rosenhatch goes forth with my blessing, but not my permission – or the university’s funds.”
Without further debate, Guldlwych Ryme (Professor of Zoological Curiosities swept out of Brelton Name’s office and stormed off down the corridor, “outrageous” bouncing out of the office and up the hallway away from him. The much smaller man, Eslie Chem was swept up in his wake, though he at least gave a departing nod to Name as he tugged the door closed behind them. The offices of the more decorated academics were conveniently placed near each other to encourage discourse and collaboration. Naturally they enabled feuds and inter-disciplinary violence to break out equally readily.
Ryme tore open the door to his own office and hurled himself into the battered leather chair squatting behind his desk. He grasped moodily at the chair’s arms and then launched out of the chair into vigorous stomping about on his own plushly carpeted floor. Chem entered the professor’s office and took a seat. He waited patiently for Ryme to calm down. Their long association assured Chem that he had time to prepare his pipe before further discussion would be profitable. Ryme puffed and grumbled as he paced, growing shorter of breath with each angry ejaculation.
Chem lit his pipe and tapped the match into the empty ashtray on Ryme’s desk just as the larger man wheezed heavily and dropped back into his chair. The two men faced each other through a freshly blooming cloud of smoke.
“He’s right you know. Traverstorm’s got the backing of Corshorn and the Journals Biologinary. It doesn’t matter what Meridional does now.”
“You think I don’t know that? How many has he killed now – twenty, more?”
“And think of the articles he’s had published…”
Ryme’s face bulged with fury. As ever, Eslie Chem had depressed the appropriate buttons. He sat back and enjoyed his pipe.
“We cannot permit him to continue these ludicrous expeditions, that harm the name of the university, and rob real researchers of funding,” spluttered Ryme.
“Don’t forget the dead,” Chem chipped in.
“Well yes. There’s them too.”
“We know where they’re going. And we do have funds available.”
“You’re right. We can get there first, and give a truly scholarly account of the failings of his expedition.”
“By we, I presume you mean me?”
“Quite. No – not this time Eslie. This time I’ll be there to watch him fail.”
Ryme’s loathing of Rosenhatch Traverstorm had reached legendary proportions in the university’s community. A quite reasonable distaste for the upstart’s luck in uncovering the Tooth-Furred Gambimole was doubled, tripled quadrupled in each successive exploit. Not only did the man have few, and dubious qualifications but he was popular. Popular in spite of his incompetence and carelessness. And the Journals Biologinary had done a whole issue on Rosenhatch and his bloody cat.
“Find me an airship Chem, and some men. It’s time we killed his reputation once and for all.”
Chem emptied his pipe into the ashtray, shook the man’s hand and left Ryme’s office with a grim smile on his narrow face. He knew just the men for the job.
Next Week: Part 10 – A Grisly Adventure
In the same series:
- The Desert Crystals – Part Eight: Running Blind (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals – Part Seven: This Hellish Hole (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals – Part Six: The Sweet Night Air (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals – Part Five: The Obsidian Eyrie (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals: part 4 The Frothing Horror (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals: part 3 The Edge of Night (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals: part 2 (captainpigheart.com)
- The Desert Crystals: part 1 (captainpigheart.com)