Shadowridge Press titles in detail...
P. Gardner Goldsmith
Trade paperback / 5 x 8 / 154 pages / Publication date / Feb 2017
JUNE, 1966. OXFORD, ENGLAND:
Robert Fitch and Toby Chalmers are two obscure professors defending an unorthodox theory…
Both men believe that, thousands of years before what we have been told was the start of human history, there were other cultures – powerful, strange cultures -- that traded and communicated around the globe. When peers bother to acknowledge the two men, their views are met with scorn and derision, their names mentioned to the accompaniment of chuckles and jabs…
But that is about to change.
The academics have come into possession of a relic that predates Dynastic China by thousands of years. This ancient, strangely marked brick could be the only surviving piece of a giant barrier dubbed “The Wall Before the Wall”, and it very well could vindicate them both… But as they try to cross the border into the totalitarian nation to prove their theory, Fitch and Chalmers might wish they had stayed in Oxford…
Because it’s possible the Wall was built to keep out something very, very malevolent… Something that has been waiting… for them.
Included is “Assassin”, the prequel short story about that ancient structure - the pair of tales represent a significant link to the larger schema of Goldsmith’s cosmic psychological fiction.
HERE'S A PREVIEW OF WALL
15:06, Friday, the Third of June, 1966
“You understand this has profound political implications.”
Fitch removed his spectacles, looked up from the report. “Of course, Toby. We knew that all along. Even the map seemed to radiate trouble. But we’re agreed, we see this through.”
The lanky man got up from his torn office chair and put the papers atop one of the mounds on his desk. For a moment, he appeared thoughtful, stuffing his hands into his pants pockets and looking out the cellar window. In the diffuse light, his thinning blonde hair seemed transparent, angelic.
“No one else has seen the results…?” he asked.
“No one. I did the tests myself, just as we agreed,” Chalmers replied. He watched Fitch guardedly, wondering if his old friend and rival still had it in him, still felt the hunger for more than comfort and a stable, unrewarding career.
“You know, Toby… I can’t count how many times I’ve stared out this window at the Oxford skyline in the past fifteen years. And each time, I’ve felt like a prisoner, an animal caged. Nothing I do, none of the theories I expound and none of the evidence I offer is taken seriously. My peers scoff. ‘Pre-flood architecture?’ ‘Nautical Paleolithic cultures?’ ‘Ancient civilizations connected around the world? Rubbish!’ I sometimes understand why Benedict was nearly driven to suicide after Gobekli Tepe.”
Very slowly, like a waxwork on a Lazy Susan, he turned on his heel, then shook his head.
“But Chalmers…” He clenched his fist, face suddenly alight. “By the Devil, man, you’ve done it!”
Chalmers smiled and took Fitch’s cool, clammy hand in an energetic grip as the other man moved around the desk.
“This is going to rewrite history, Toby,” Fitch said, and the two held each other in a brief hug. “No one will be laughing at us in a few months.”
He wound back to the papers, lifted the results.
“You know they’ll hate us for this…” Chalmers warned.
“Oh, they will, indeed.” Fitch’s smile was mischievous. “Pack your bags, Toby. I’ll book the flights."
06:42, Friday, the Fifth of August
Chalmers had forgotten how much he hated air travel, forgotten why he hadn’t set foot on a boat in years. But as he and Fitch stepped onto British Airways flight 763 out of Heathrow, and the metal doorframe smacked him in the head, the primary reasons came back in a rush.
His 6’5” body and tiny interiors weren’t well suited for one another. Confining spaces, confining relationships… neither had been healthy in his experience. After slaving for Pop in that goddamned trawler all those years and wasting almost as much time keeping the marriage afloat, he could understand what Fitch had felt while staring out his basement window.
It was easy to dislike being locked in a cell.
“They’ll think us involved in some kind of Maoist plot if we’re not on our guard,” the spare-framed man ahead of him was saying, not bothering to look back.
Fitch was excited, almost ebullient, and Chalmers could have dismissed the quip as the self-important rambling of an underappreciated bookworm, except for the fact that the words had merit, and contained more than a hint of sinister implication. Both professors knew that traveling to Hong Kong wouldn’t be easy. Weeks of surreptitious preparation, a two-hour train ride, and a twelve-hour flight were not enviable challenges. But the hurdles after Hong Kong would be far more difficult and dangerous.
Getting to the colony was a Punch and Judy show compared to the sophisticated political theatre of breaking into the mainland. Neither man could name one academic peer who had legally pulled it off, and they were aware of no one who had arranged it through other means. Essentially, the border was closed to people from the West; it was so impenetrable, in fact, that not even the Beatles had been able to get from Kowloon to Changhai.
Fitch settled beside the window and Chalmers folded his big Hibernian body into the seat along the isle. Despite supposed “improvements” BA had made to their cabins, the seating still seemed designed for infants. He let his right knee go wide as he fumbled for the safety belt beneath him, hoping he wouldn’t get hit by a passing bag or coffee cart. Then he clicked the little metal buckle, put his briefcase on his lap, leaned back in his flimsy seat, and watched Fitch reach into the doctor’s bag between his shoes.
Slowly, with a fluidity that belied his sixty years and gave him the appearance of an assassin retrieving a gun, he withdrew a small cloth satchel and, from within that, the remains of a russet-hued, mortar-caked brick. The look in his eyes was starlit, pure energy – the expectation of victory or revenge, and Chalmers found himself nodding for no good reason other than his own excitement.
“To think it was here, in England, all this time, Chalmers. Mislabeled and tossed aside. Revealed now, when the West and East are at such odds…” He hefted it in his right palm. “To hold in my hand an archeological find of such significance is almost enough to make me believe in God.”
“Any particular god?”
Fitch smirked at him. “Take your pick. If it hadn’t been for you and the map…”
“True... Of the map, anyway. One confirms the other, almost as if fated. I merely got lucky in Bristol.”
Fitch shook his head. “Do not undersell yourself, my friend. The bookshop owner had no idea what he had. But you… Your cartographical knowledge and sailing skills… If it weren’t for your purchase, we wouldn’t be here, ready to change the world.”
Chalmers opened his briefcase and withdrew the tube holding the map. A copy of a copy. The map he’d found in Bristol was safely tucked away in Oxford; and the one on which that was based… well, who knew?
Prior to conducting the test on the brick, Chalmers had suspected the map could be something similar to the Piri Re’is, a medieval cartographer’s amalgamation of other, much older guides dating back to the time of Alexander. Controversial, yes. The Piri Re’is was the subject of hot debate because it depicted landmasses that had not been discovered at the time of its creation. Chalmers’ American counterpart, Charles Hapgood, and his team at Keene State, were under fire even now for devoting time and attention to it.
But this was different. This was less Piri Re’is and more Oronteus Finaeus, less a collage of images possibly culled from ancient local maps than it was a singular, triumphal whole. A statement from beyond antiquity, this map spoke to all who would see. This was a challenge from a lost era, a lightning bolt striking the earth, and it made a thunderous sound that rang in the head like a Nephilim’s voice, bellowing something that needed to be understood.
Once the results of the C-14 scan on the brick came back, Chalmers knew the voice was older than any yet encountered. It was prehistoric, it was real, and it was saying, “We were here.”
“I still can’t believe you found the connection,” he told Fitch, nodding at the brick and admiring the strange, hair-thin runes inscribed on its surface.
“Just a matter of pattern recognition and process of elimination, Chalmers. Without undeniable evidence, I’d given up trying to prove my theory. The idea that a Chinese culture predating the Chu by ten thousand years could have built a Wall before the Great Wall? That its second emperor could have torn down the barrier as a symbol of peace, commissioned sailors to circumnavigate the globe and bring trade, leaving those pieces as greetings cards in every corner of the Earth? The Trustees laughed! They wouldn’t even let me get close to the Carbon Fourteen equipment until you came along. Why, the brick was just a strange oddity from one of Edward Wright’s Yorkshire finds. Just a trinket from a stranded Viking ship. It couldn’t have been there prior to their landing, or found by them, or brought to them. I was a dreamer, not a scientist!
“But the moment you asked me to work on translating those symbols and you showed me the map, I knew everything was going to change.”
He reached over and drew his boney index finger along one of the lines on the projection.
“Routes tracing all the way from Lintao to Ferriby… The matching symbols reading, ‘key’ and ‘stone’… Even the traces of human DNA in the mortar hinting of the terrible legend of First Emperor Wazah… Once the map appeared, they couldn’t deny me any longer.”
He nodded and gave Chalmers a deeply appreciative smile.
“I have you to thank for that, my old adversary.”
“Hah!” Chalmers laughed, delighted that after so many early years spent as rivals, they had come together to embark on a journey that would shatter the accepted history of the world. They still had the thirst for academic blood, but now they would quench it together. “We’ve been friends too long to be rivals any more, Fitch,” he said. “But since you’re in a charitable mood, I’ll let you get the first round of drinks to take the edge off sitting in this damned tin box.”
Fitch put the brick on his lap.
“I’d be honored, my good man. Let’s get out our notes and make sure we’re organized before we let Jack Daniels lull us to sleep.” Then he extended his hand. “Do I have a deal?”
Chalmers grinned and gripped the smaller man’s hand.
“You do, indeed.”