He looks at the packed lecture hall and a chill runs through his blood. All these people will crucify me in a little while, he tells himself. They will rush without thinking to tear me limb from limb. These people, these people who do not know me, but will need to throw my body to the vultures. And I, who know that, I who am afraid of the pain, I, the two-cent Prometheus, am here to tell the truth.
Because I can no longer keep from telling it. I am trapped.
I am the innocent man who has met Fate in his path.
There is only the shrill voice of Herman Sotiriou in the dead silence. And the strange symbols of the Sacred Chart, identical to those inscribed on the Emerald Pillar. There lay the secrets of immortality, perhaps written by a divine hand. The secret herbs that Asclepius and Machaon and Polyeidos and Christ used, each of them from a different path, to effect cures and to raise the dead. But he said he would not reveal those things. He said he would keep those for himself—and perhaps for his crime ring. That unbounded power he wanted only for himself.
He clenches his fists. I won’t let you, scoundrel.
So great is the tension, the anguish, the fear, the anger, that he feels the shudders pouring over his body like a fever. Shudders, and sweat, and chills.
I must stand up… now, I must stand up now and stop the bastard… and yet he does not do it. He does not dare. In a minute. In the next minute I will stand up… and his feet are nailed to the floor.
He is raving within. They will take me away in handcuffs… I am lost…lost, and his mind slips… If he does not speak up now, he will never again speak up. And he knows that. Because after the presentation, no one will believe that it was the product of theft. After the presentation Sotiriou will triumph, so that no one ever, no one… Now, I must do it now… and he cannot. He cannot move even his little finger…. And that dream of the night before suddenly blended into his thoughts. His palms are moist and his breathing heavy. Pavlos and Kladas are silent. They are shaken, like the entire audience, by what they see on the screen. By what they are hearing.
The dream. The dream of the previous night tormented him. His cliff. For years, he had not dreamed of the cliff he would climb as a child to see the carvings hidden at the top. Since his childhood he had not seen that dream, and then, last night he was a child, climbing it again. He was climbing up high, scrambling, anguished, but he could not; he was sliding down like Sisyphos, as he did when he was a child. Until, in the end, the cliff itself began to crumble, and blood flowed down to his feet. The heart of the cliff melted as if it was his own heart.
Why, why this dream now? His anguish peaks.
Why me? Why me? He wants to shout once again. But it is not the moment. Suddenly, he hears wild applause and he is afraid. Is it over? Is the presentation ended?
He looks around to understand what is happening. No, fortunately, it has not ended yet. The wild applause was because he had reached the seventh parchment page of the Sacred Chart, where the cornerstones of immortality were—building blocks, in unchanging order, which served as a unit of natural selection and which the high-ranking criminal Herman intended to keep for himself. A madness comes over him. Two more parchment pages remained in the Sacred Chart—nine in all—and perhaps he would not talk about those either, because they contained the most important secrets, the methods that bring life to its immortality.
All these things he had read in Avgoustinos’ article, which contained all the scientific substantiation provided by contemporary cellular biology. He had found some of them in the manuscripts of Narkissos Mavroleon. It was clear that Avgoustinos was continuing the work of his father, he reflected quickly. And in his panic he sensed the same sadness that he was unable to understand the research, as he had never taken a course in the department of biology. He did not know, let us say, what thymini and guanini represented, and what the alphabet of four letters signified with its encoded orders of “beginning” and “end” that gave each individual his or her uniqueness. A uniqueness that now aims at conquering eternal time.
And now, the clever Herman Sotiriou wanted to appropriate this monumental effort of genius entirely for himself.
I will not let you, you angular-faced riff-raff.
I say, even if it costs me my life.
You are more powerful, but I am not afraid of you.
Nor will I let you commit sacrilege.
Merchant of human pain.
You will be consuming my being and I will be proclaiming my madness.
Because that is what I want to do.
He is terrified by his own thoughts.
His fists are clenched and he is sweating.
At this point, I have only the way forward, he says aloud, to hear it.
And he stands up.
He appears very tall; or the anger made him tall.
All eyes turn immediately toward him and watch.
Sh…is heard all around. How does he dare interrupt?
He moves forward steadily. His expression serious. Serious and also harsh. Determined. And he is not shaking; he is not shaking any longer. Fear has turned into strength. And he does not let his anger show. Calm. “As if ready for a long time…”
He stands in the middle of the packed auditorium. And Sotiriou is at a loss. He is the one sweating now. And he immediately nods toward his henchmen. But Adamantios Lampidis who understood more than Prometheus had said a short time before, imposes order.
His voice is stern:
“Let him speak…”
There is dead silence now.
Prometheus stands before the center of the huge screen and his voice is clear, a voice pierced by all the wayward centuries of human suffering.
“Out of respect for the toil and genius of those who have sacrificed their life for today’s revelation, I must tell you that…”
There is a disturbance, and he is frightened. He is in a rush to pronounce the substantive part: that the research was stolen and that Sotiriou will market it for his personal gain, but something is happening and he does not know what. He sees his step-father and the son who are moving threateningly toward him. Then he sees Iris faint. He tries to utter the essential phrase. But what is happening is beyond him. He looks up.
Tabor is coming toward him. He is walking alone–an erect elderly bearing–and his austere appearance evokes awe, he walks directly toward him, approaches him. His blind eyes are looking at him now. Then he turns his head and looks at Sotiriou, and the latter is shaken. He, he who had not hesitated to murder for this research, is shaken. And the entire audience is speechless now. What is a monk doing in this scientific gathering?
And blind…. He is blind… Whispers everywhere.
Again there is silence. A fragile silence, ready to shatter into a thousand pieces like sharp glass.
And Prometheus hurries to speak. Now, now that there is silence. And he takes the microphone.
“He stole this research… what you saw… not one word is his own… he stole it from Avgoustinos Mavroleon, who worked for years to decode the symbols, with the help of the monks… he also stole the Sacred Chart from the monastery of Saint Porphyrios, so that together with the international crime ring of which he is a part he could use this ancient knowledge selfishly. Or worse, market it. Because that is what he will do. But we will not let him. These treasures belong to every man… these treasures represent the end of pain and disease for every man… and I sent the text of the research in its entirety to the journal The Gene… Before long… it will be the possession of everyone…”
He sees Herman Sotiriou who is angrily rushing forward to attack him and is being restrained by a few men. He is shaking now. He looks at the audience which is ready to explode. He looks at his step-father and the latter’s son who are approaching him threateningly. He looks at the hard angular faces that are taking up positions of attack. And in the midst of all that he looks at his professor, Adamantios Lampidis, who is smiling in a curious way.
Sotiriou is now protesting that this is all lies and he shouts as loud as he can for order. But impossible. And enraged and unrestrainable, he again moves toward Prometheus. The latter pushes him away and steps back to gain time.
He is not finished. He has not finished saying all he had to say. And the anguish is exhausting him; he cannot breathe. He looks around the room; the disturbance is mounting, frustration, people gesturing and shouting. And he has not finished. There is something more he must say, and he does not remember. He has forgotten something significant. And the floor is giving way on one side, like a cliff, he feels that he will fall, that he will be carried down by the cliff before all eyes, he will collapse right there on the floor that is giving way, and he tries to hold on to something, somewhere, somewhere, and he sees an arm stretching toward him, an arm covered with a black cassock and in his shock he realizes that it is the hand of the monk Tabor.
He clutches it to his breast and makes a last effort to remember the significant thing he had to say. And he must hurry because he does not have much time; the angular faces are almost upon him, and the ceiling is falling now, the ceiling is falling on him.
The voice of Tabor brings him back. He says one word, only one:
But he does not understand. And he becomes angry. In that minute particle of time he wonders where the good man saw the blessing. And the thought passes through his mind that this is the fourth time he has doubted the monk. But he has no time for that. He tries to take a breath. One more; one more breath. Some men are pushing the monk. Pushing him roughly, ready to trample him. And he sees Nikolas rush up to lead him out.
Only a few moments have passed. Events are unfolding like lightning, and he feels that he is dying, that his life was over. He is anguished–to have the time to utter what he had forgotten. That significant thing.
And he is sinking; his weakened body is sinking now. All his life is lost. He wants to cry but he cannot. Not yet. He wants to remember what he had forgotten, but his mind is blank. One moment more… half a moment… everything is over, he feels it.
But no; in that chaotic state, he sees his professor, Adamantios Lampidis, who stands up. It is clear that he has been affected by what is happening. And in a loud voice that rises above the din, he looks Prometheus in the eye and asks him:
“Why did not Avgoustinos Mavroleon himself come to speak?”
He quickly recovers his clarity of mind. Recovers his calm.
That was what he wanted to say; that was what he had forgotten. And he smiles. In that pandemonium in that murderous hour, he was able to smile. And Iris, who is before him, now looks at him, like a lioness.
“They murdered him…” she cries out.
“He did not come because they murdered him, he repeats, in order to steal his research. And I will prove that…”
He did not have time to say anything else. They trampled him. On the spot where he stood. Before the shocked eyes of the audience they trampled him, while at that same moment Nikolas was dragging Iris away from the angry crowd. They beat him to a pulp. All the angular faces bent over him and like conjurers removed him from the auditorium. And as they were dragging him down the half-darkened aisle, he could hear Sotiriou shouting:
“I beg your pardon for this unfortunate incident… He is a student with a recurring mental disability… I am sorry, I am sorry… Here are his father and brother, and they are willing to attest to that… I was the victim of robbery… I… we can continue… shame, shame… even the monks came to entrap me… those God-possessed hypocrites… instead of being grateful to me for bringing renown to their monastery and bestowing value on their neglected parchments…”
Doubt had fractured the boundless admiration. One by one, the guests got up and left. And Sotiriou was rabid. He foamed at the mouth. What he feared was before him. And he was twice as rabid that he had not got rid of him when there was still time. He saw the step-father and his son, who were standing next to him. They had the same thought: they did not get rid of him when they had the chance, and now they would lose the house, too.
“We can prove that he is not right in his mind…,” they were shouting.
But no one was listening to them any longer. The fact that Adamantios Lampidis, the distinguished professor whom everyone respected, supported Prometheus with his stance had unsettled them. And what remained now was a vast curiosity. A curiosity that was growing into suspicion: why did he wish to conceal the most significant secrets of the Sacred Chart? Might Prometheus be telling the truth?
While they held him down, awaiting the police—his head was touching the cement, and he spat blood—he heard Ioannis and Nikolas pass by with Iris. And he was calmed. It was madness for her to speak, total madness.
Then he heard the angular faces speaking among themselves. “Antonio… be careful…,” said one. “protect Diedrich…,” said another. And in the prevailing panic, he thought he heard the voice of the asinine son, “hey, do him in; you are late…”
When chaos stirs, nothing can stop madness.
They came from the newspapers and asked to interview him, but could not find him anywhere.
He heard them, as he was bent over and spitting blood. Footsteps of reporters and photographers in the aisles. They were looking for him with unbridled frenzy. But no one knew, they said.
Only on the next day did they learn.