The Watchman sat on the fallen keystone of the high vault above him. While he remained, the chamber would not fall.
Behind him stood a door, vast, but simple.
Before him stood a wall.
There resounded a thunderous noise, that would have shook the chamber violently, but, while the Watchman sat, the chamber shook no more than the sun would shake in the sky.
A small gap appeared in the wall, the stones crumbling and rolling aside, and two men pulled themselves through the gap on their faces.
One seemed to be part German, and part Malay, his hair like dark, wiry wool, and a fine dusting of stubble covering most of his face. The other was clearly Mongolian, smaller than the first, and seemingly younger, though he was in fact fourteen years older. They quickly surveyed the room even as they rose from the ground. They stood still and studied the Watchman before they approached.
The Watchman’s nostrils were reddened, as if the friction of breathing for indefinite years had burnt the skin. His lips, however, were free of any discoloration: he never spoke. His eyelids too were crisp and clear: he never lowered them. His eyes blazed as if with terror, anger, or joy. His untouched hair, the color of pure light, spread over his entire body like dew, even to his feet and fingertips.
The intruders approached him without pausing to brush the dust from their clothes, and kneeled before him.
“I am Temdeg.” said the Mongolian.
“I am Penipuan.” said the other. “We desire to enter the other world.”
Temdeg asked, “Are these the doors of the night?”
The silence fell so deep that they could hear the three heartbeats in that room, and the blood streaming through their veins, yet nothing else seemed to move.
Penipuan said, “We are peaceful travellers…”
“Not so peaceful.” said Temdeg, taking a small submachine gun from under his coat, and laying it noiselessly on the stone ground. “But we mean no harm to you, nor to anything that you love.”
The silence returned. The Watchman’s eyes seemed to see all things, and be blind to anything individual.
Penipuan got to his feet, and walked to the vast, wooden door, giving the Watchman a wide berth. Temdeg followed him.
Penipuan ran his fingers over the door, and a terrible suspicion rose in his mind. He drew a small hammer from his belt, and struck the hairline crack where the two leaves of the gate met. A chip of tawny rock, not of dark wood, fell to the floor. The door was an image, portrayed on a stone wall identical to the wall they had broken through.
Another thought made them turn, and look across the room. The gap they had made in the wall was no longer there. There were no fallen stones, no cracks, no dust, no sign at all that they had forced an entrance. Temdeg looked down at his clothes: there was not a grain of dust to be seen on them: they were spotless.
The two of them retraced their steps and stood again before the Watchman.
Penipuan spoke, “I have come far, through worse than this. I will not allow you to kill us so easily.”
Temdeg seemed to be shocked by these words. His face seemed to turn into the stone that surrounded him.
Penipuan in a single movement leveled a pistol at the Watchman’s heart, just outside of arm’s reach. Temdeg turned away in mute indignation.
Penipuan fell sideways like a rope loosed from above, and the futile pistol clattered on the ground. In the silence, Temdeg could hear only two hearts beating. He spoke without turning,
“A fool escapes his own prison into that of God.” Then he turned to the Watchman. “He knew every act was his own doing. To send him into the world he sought not, but belonged to, was your first act since we came.”
He looked down at the corpse.
“Let him lie entombed here, to show any others who come as far, what a lie is.”
It was only when he kneeled that he could meet the fixed eyes of the Watchman. He pressed the palms of his hands together.
“Master, is there no way?”
The Watchman spoke, and the unprecedented movement of the lips seemed to send a weary ripple through his entire body.
“There is no way for any to enter.”
Temdeg did not falter.
“Can a way be made?”
Again the Watchman spoke.
“None of your kind can find a door into that world. That world is real, and your kind are from earth.”
Temdeg bowed his head, and said,
“Two real things cannot posses the same time and place. We would cease to be anywhere, before we could be there.”
But he raised his head again.
“Yet a word may be a scratch in stone, and be a man, in the same time and place.”
He pressed his hands together harder.
“May I pretend?”
The Watchman and Temdeg did not change outwardly in that silence as they faced each other, but they waited together in that moment as one being. Beside them the corpse of Penipuan grew as cold as his useless pistol.
“Yes.” the Watchman said. “Yes. After all, that only is how your kind have ever done anything.”
Temdeg saw above the Watchman’s head the nick made by the hammer in the wall, and saw it vanish. The massive, wooden gateway began to swing inwards, opening onto utter darkness.
Temdeg, on his knees, bowed, pressing his taut fingers to his trembling lips. Then he concealed the submachine gun inside his coat, rose, and went to stand at the brink of the darkness.
He heard the voice of the Watchman speak behind him.
“It is as you said: a word may be a scratch in stone, and a universe. This is that word:”
In that moment, to himself at least, Temdeg ceased to be.
The three in that chamber all spoke different languages, but the Spirit of God there gives understanding of tongues through his servant, the Watchman.
“Iniel” is the name of the other world I create, in one of the languages thereof. Roughly, “Temdeg” is Mongolian for “Symbol,” and “Penipuan” is Malaysian for “Lie”. I tried to think of nationalities that would be most likely to reach such a place as the Watchman’s seat.
I hope I succeeded in portraying Temdeg as older in behavior. Youth is no advantage in such adventures as his; I feel I am too young to be writing a story about him.
It occurred to me afterward that Temdeg pressing his hands together may be a more Chinese or Japanese gesture, and not actually be prevalent in Mongolia.
The Watchman is symbolic, of course. In fact he is practically symbolic of symbolism. You will notice that he adheres to the Buteyko breathing method (in his breathing through the nose). But of course it is supernatural that his eyes are not blind from being always open.
I feel that he should not speak at all. But I suppose Temdeg pretended that he spoke.
– Patrick Lauser