This Week’s Prompt: 47. From Arabia Encyc. Britan. II—255. Prehistoric fabulous tribes of Ad in the south, Thamood in the north, and Tasm and Jadis in the centre of the peninsula. “Very gorgeous are the descriptions given of Irem, the City of Pillars (as the Koran styles it) supposed to have been erected by Shedad, the latest despot of Ad, in the regions of Hadramaut, and which yet, after the annihilation of its tenants, remains entire, so Arabs say, invisible to ordinary eyes, but occasionally and at rare intervals, revealed to some heaven-favoured traveller.” // Rock excavations in N.W. Hejaz ascribed to Thamood tribe.
The Research: Pillars Lost In Shifting Sands
I recently came in the possession of a curiosity that has defied expectation. A set of papers, written in a slow long hand, coated in silver sand. The box of them was sold to me by an antiquarian by the docks, and the shopkeeper there informed me that he had purchased them from an Arab traveller, who had found them among the sands of Arabia. It records…well, I have reproduced the legible portions here. Needless to say, I belive it is of the upmost intreast to our society, and the common brotherhood of mankind, that this knowledge be considered and carefully revealed at the appropriate time.
I have long searched for Irem, City of Pillars, Atlantis of the Sands. A city of the primeval age, if the Mohammedan is to be believed, and thus host to secrets beyond imaging. The wonders of Alexandria, the prosperity of ancient kings of Egypt, the wonders that were ascribed to Daedulus and Zoaraster, the majesty of Ethiopia and the rest of the East African coast, all this can be traced to Irem. It sits at the center, like the nucleus of a great pulsing cell of life. From it emanates wisidom and prestige, the first birth place of mankind.
Recently, my search has come to an end. I have tracked down a guide to the deserts, who several trusted sources have verified can lead me to Irem. I made sure to consult sources that are beyond mortal keen, my crystal nearly cracking from over consultation and interrogation. The trusted guide has hence lead me out near the volcanic fields of the south, and told me that there, when the moon is full and the wind rides over the bubbling fields and makes a howling flute sound,the city of Irem appears for any to enter.
Overjoyed, I offered him the opportunity to join me, but he said it was not the place of living men to disturb Irem. Perhaps the superstitious fear to venture into the unknown, but I had already seen the terrible ruins of Sarnath in far Mnar, had often read of the dread plateau of Leng, and seen the distant black stars of Hali. I fear no place haunted by strange sounds and the flickering ghosts of the past. So I waited in the desert by a burning fire, with the gathered herbs to help see beyond the veil of the mortal world.
As the night went on, and the moon grew bright, I started to lose faith. The worm doubt was wrapped around my heart. But at last, I saw them. Men and women walking, as if fighting some great unseen wind, their bodies bright but without distinction. Like figures of smoke or made of cracked glass, they tumbled forward along desert slopes. I raced towards them, and saw rising behind them the lost mountains and towers of Irem.
The text here becomes somewhat illegible. However, it is clear that our traveler, by some means, managed to enter Irem, and records some of the wonders he saw as such.
…of marble, and towering edifices of basalt. I wondered the wide avenues for a brief time, and saw great giants, robed and with faces covered by veils. From each a singluar silver light shown through the veil. Some it seemed from an eye, others from their mouths, or perhaps they were built strangely. The whole place was covered in dark fog, and lighting crackled in the strange, dark sky. It was of every hue and, despite the apparent closeness of the arcs, there was no sound. The light was brilliant but faded fast. In an effort to avoid the gaze of the giants, for I could not discern their motives as they shuffled among their mountain dwellings, I hid by the wall of a great stone hall.
And there, as I got my bearings, I beheld a sight both wondrous and terrible. What I had thought were men and women fleeing the city were in fact the city’s outer wall. A mass, rising higher then I could see, of silver statues. Each was interlocked carefully, arranged to be impenetrable but striving forever away from the giant’s keep. A monument to those who it seemed had failed in their efforts to leave the city of pillars.
And I saw, in the dimly lit room I as in, that a multitude of others hid in carvings and outcoves along the great doors, like rats in the halls of terrible kings. Here I spent sometime, as I found a few who knew my languages. They were a frightful of the giants, and said that strange birds would drag them away in the night if caught on the street. At day, however, all was safe. The presence of the birds was their only means of discerning time, however, and it was by their terrible -illegible- where they detected before hand.
The people here are aware of the wall. If one tries to scale it or flee out the gate, at the wrong time, then they are trapped as ardent statues. However, the giants have some means of moving through the gate. They have seen strange figures coming through or venturing out the gate, and some believe that if one is cautious and quick they can sneak out with the procession. Such have never returned, but to those born in these warrens, wearing the scraps of silk left by great giants, why would they?
They have given my shelter and offered to show me the ways to find the giants hidden lore among their places of worship and laboratories in the depths of the city, where….lies sl….in abundance and ….
At this point the entire text again becomes illegible. By the various diagrams that were found amongst the texts, it appears that our entrepreneurial traveler had some skill as an artist. He has diagrammed and noted that the people had the features of many tribes of the earth, but their skin tone possessed an ashen, silver coloration. A few fragmentary pieces remain. I have arranged them in chronological order, roughly.
…within which a body might be preserved without regard for its…,something that even the best botanist might find astounding, especially with how functional the survivors told me their senses were. The sensation was akin to joy, pleasurable but now repulsive to the…. Who found it difficult to discuss. The production of such boxes and glass however is…..
…. expedition, I located a large, dark obelisk carved with ….like the skull of some lost bovine. The eyes appeared to have some awareness, and flashed various colors in response to lighting over head. I suspect it provides the dregs and…. with directions of some sort. Why such a monument would be necessary, I can’t say.
The silver gaze …incredibly painful. Needles through out the ligaments and bones, freezing in pain, matched only by….Hideous disposition. Luckily the creature did not notice me, distracted by Fernda’s more obvious form. She whimpered as it reached down and scooped her up with barely a worry in a single hand. Like an insect.
I know the face of one of the silver filled ones. …. her blood with …., replaced her mind …. sand, but I know her face. I saw her in a portrait in…. How long has he been here? And why is the sand so vibrant. I must…
…reflects some of their devices, making lines and patterns when near them. Enough of it, and one could move objects remotely by adjusting the machines nearby. They could even…. or perhaps communicate distant messages. What effects on the body must such irritations have? The impulses must be minute, if they are undetected…
And so ends the majority of the fragments. I have removed any of the small, one sentence or garbled letters that have no clear meaning. Sadly, either the shopkeeper or the Arabic tradesmen, failed to preserved the middle text. However, to what I am sure is our benefit, the ending of the story is preserved.
…the entrance to the great laboratories. I have bought myself time, after seeing the engines of the lords of this city. I have bought time with blood of others, and now, if my calculations are right, the moon shines again over the Arabian desert. I’ll send everything I’ve written out into the world, out where it can perhaps serve as a warning.
The mechanisms beneath the city are horrors of horrors. They are in possession of more than I dreamed of. Great crackling engines are down in that darkness, and I saw the bodies of even vaster titans. From these they directed dregs under the every watchful Anzu birds to carve more silver and iron. I have learned, that the engines send messages to others. Sleeping near them, I feel them shifting my dreams as I hid. I shudder at what they do when turned, focused onto the enemies of Irem. What power they hold over the mind, even here in their hidden city.
They speak in a buzzing tongue in their laboratories, and walk without veils. They speak with invisible whistling wind spirits, and strange demons, and send them out into the world to find precious…. That they might persist in their experiments. What ever work they do, it bodes poorly for the world, and that it is hidden makes their …like the roots of a twisted tree.
The possibility of such influence, unseen, among the people of our guarded nation must be investigated, I am sure you will agree. The nature of the influence itself would be of utmost interest of the society, I am sure. In these waning days of the world, we should be certain that no unseen hand pulls at our hearts or minds, nor any unguided or foreign pulse beat in our countryman’s minds.
This story I believe holds not only some promise for future visitations, but some genuine unnerving ideas with the interrupted narrative that is recovered. Next week, we again visit calamitous cities, but these now in their prime.
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