1.46 AM, 20th September 2006,
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Varun, with the special request from the Head of the Department, Native Symbology at Stanford, got his permission to stay late in the Library of Congress. There was a splash of surprise and a tinge of excitement on his face. He was sure that he is about to discover something that had been lost in the history. There was a book in his hand, which no one was aware that it still exists, “Rio de Orellana”, by Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish explorer. He was the first known explorer to travel down the Amazon river. It was believed to be lost during the World War I. Efforts were made, but in vain, to reclaim it. Somehow it found its way into the Library of Congress through an anonymous donor a few months ago and was placed in the restricted section upon the donor’s request. Varun was walking down the aisle with this book in his hand and carefully examining its pages. He wasn’t reading through the text, but was trying to find something. Carefully looking through the edges and a few particular portions of the text, he was jotting down alphabet from the paragraphs of text and scribbling some unknown symbols that he found on those corners of the pages and between the lines of text.
There was a pin drop silence in the whole of the library. Varun was so deeply engrossed into his work that he didn’t notice the trained eyes that were watching him.
*Click*. He swiftly looked behind him into the dark aisle in reaction to the sound.
“Who is it?” “Is there anyone else here?” called Varun, out of a slight panic. He walked a few steps, but could find nobody. He walked back to his table, dismissing the sound heard. He thought he was alone, but he didn’t know that he had been under watch for the past few weeks.
With a bleeding leg, he walked towards the crashed plane to find any first aid kit that was in good enough shape to help him dress his bleeding leg. After a few minutes of careful, but slow observation, he managed to find a first aid box with its top shattered open. He dressed his cuts and took a few painkillers into his mouth and the rest into his pockets.
“Ok. Now I need to think fast. Where am I? What is this place”
He got up with the help of a stick and walked forward towards the woods, slowly. The moment he entered into the woods, there were only streaks of sunlight passing through the thick canopy of the high rise trees. He walked further into the chirping of birds, thawing of monkeys, stares of the deer and hissing of snakes. The further he moved, the softer the turf felt. It was wet, more than what he would expect in a forest. He was writhing in pain, dying of thirst and could walk no longer. He leaned onto a tree and sat down. There was something moving above his head and he looked up. It was small creature with a golden fur that looked like a raccoon, teasing him with it’s long tongue.
“That’s it!” He found a Kinkajou, which is usually found in the Amazon rainforest.
Again, he was reminded that he was not alone when he realised that something is watching him. The creature dashed past behind him and in no time, Varun was on his feet, arming the stick in his hands. It was quick, it was dark and it seemed to be in a hurry. It attacked him in a flash from the behind and held him tight in its iron grip. He managed to shake it away and struck on its head with the stick. The creature lost its grip and dropped to the ground. Another similar creature squealed and attacked him, but he managed to dodge it and strike a blow on its back. It cried in pain and ran back into the woods.
Varun got back to the creature on the ground and observed it carefully. He fell back from the body with a horror on his face.
“This can’t be real. This cannot be real.” repeated Varun in a half-dead tone.
Varun breezed through the book again and again, but something seems to be out of place. He couldn’t decode the symbols and notations written in an ancient form of encryption, no matter how hard he tried with the unexpected symbols popping here and there.
“OK. I think I am going to need Marv’s help on this.” thought Varun about his childhood and his closest friend till date.
Varun flew back to California on the first flight in the morning from Washington D.C. to show Marv what he discovered in the book.
Varun and Marvin Rooseman have been the best of friends since childhood and were together at almost every point of their lives. Varun never let his wealth affect their friendship and he valued Marvin over everything else for the unconditional help and affection he always got when in need.
Marvin is a redhead with a tall and strongly built frame, though his face always seemed a little small for his body. His dark brown eyes are sharp and always curious to find the minute details. He is a specialist in cryptography and earned his Ph.D in Ancient Cryptography techniques. His father was one of the most trusted friends and close aides to Mr. Karan.
Marvin’s grand father, Bernard Rooseman, was a sailor in his early ages, but later settled down in the fishing industry. Marv and Varun grew up listening to his sailing stories, during his visits to New York. One of the most interesting stories he used to tell them was the adventure of Francisco de Orellana. Two years ago, when he was terminally ill, he wanted to see both these men for one last time. This time he mentioned that it is important for them to meet him, for he wanted to give them his personal journal, an account of all his sailing adventures and unsolved treasure hunts.
The flight landed at the San Francisco airport and he woke up from his memories.
“Hey, Marv.” smiled Varun.
“Varun! Wow. Great to see you, man.” hugged Marv. “So, what was it about that you wanted to see me immediately?” he asked, walking towards the couch.
“Yes. This is only to your ears. Remember the story of the Spanish explorer, Francisco De Orellana, who mysteriously died 4 years after his explorations of the Amazon basin in 1542?” explained Varun.
“Your grandfather’s journal mentioned a long lost book written by Francisco and I think we just found it. It was donated to the Library of Congress a few months ago. Your grandfather wasn’t wrong when he said that Francisco found something amazing, but no one knows what it is. Apparently, Orellana kept on mentioning that it changed his life and could alter the future of humanity, in his dialogues with his dearest. Luckily, I had the permission from the library to take a look at the book. I tried to decipher the clues but I think there’s something wrong. I need your help with this, Marv. I cannot go to anyone else for help, it can be only someone trustworthy and I don’t trust anyone more than I trust you.”
Varun showed his jot notes to Marv. He was surprised at the symbology and encryption used. But he noticed something that Varun couldn’t have, anyway.
“Varun, didn’t you say that this book was written around 1542?” questioned Marv and got a quick nod as a reply.
“I am not sure, but according to your notes, the symbols and encryption techniques used are pretty modern, developed only in the late 19th century. Let me show it to you.” said Marv rushing to his bookshelf to grab the books on encryption techniques and added “Looks like someone made a fake copy of the book that was long lost. Also, the thickness of the paper says it cannot be older than fifty years.”
“Wait, but this is the only book that exists, it has never been printed or distributed. So, how can it be a fake?” said Varun in a confused tone. “Why would someone donate a fake? Why donate a valuable artefact in the first place, that too anonymous?”
“May be we may find answers if we could find who the donor is. Give me a few days and I’ll try to get the details using my contacts at the library.” suggested Marv. “And get back to New York now, your family is worried about you.”
Three days later…
Marv used his contacts at the library to get the details of the donor and assured them that it would be only to his ears. He was taken aback by surprise when he discovered who the donor was. He took a flight to New York and informed Varun about his arrival. Varun went to the airport to pick him up.
“Varun, happy birthday, man.” hugged Marv, “Here, I have something for you. Something I think you should have, in your collection.” It was a Casio G-Shock and Varun was more than happy to take it. For him it was about who gave it, more than how valuable it was.
“Thanks a lot, Marvin” smiled Varun and drove out of the airport.
Varun was excited to know about the proceedings about the donor of the book. “So, what happened? Found anything about the donor?” asked a curious Varun.
“I don’t know, man. I am not sure if you should know this. You better leave it right here.” advised Marvin. But Varun insisted on knowing who it was.
“It was your Father. He was the one who donated the book to the library.” revealed Marvin. A shocked Varun brought the car to a screeching stop.
“This can’t be true! This can’t be true! My father? Why would he do that?”
To be continued…