Sun and Moon (part 22)

“No matter how I piece the words together, the totality makes no sense,” Francesca frowned. “Every combination produces only a string of nonsense phrases. I’m afraid, my dear, that I am defeated.”

Clay was pacing around the room, feeling exhausted and at wits end. “Let’s go over it one more time. Maybe there’s a clue we’ve missed. How about the infrared photos Julia took of the desk?”

“I transcribed all of the letters,” Francesca sighed. “Unless some letters were physically removed, I do not see what we could have missed. And it would have made no sense for our opponent to assemble his message without the use of all of the letters in the third box.” She reached over to one of the many stacks of papers in the room, picking up a file labeled “infrared photos” and handing it to Clay.

He looked through the images one at a time. “There’s something here, I’m convinced of it. Something we missed… Wait — did you say the third box? Where is the box in this picture, exactly? I see the two empty boxes — Sun/Moon and Earth — but I don’t see the box that contained the nouns.”

Francesca came over and peered over his shoulder, as they both went through the pages again. “Here,” she said, pointing with one long slender finger. “It is dark, but one can just barely make out a rectangular shape. This must be it.”

Clay peered down at the page where she was pointing. “Yes, I agree, but it’s almost impossible to see. Let’s have a look at Julia’s original downloaded images.” They went over to the computer, and soon they were staring at a dark and indistinct image on the screen. “Here you can see, when I zoom in, that it’s definitely a music box, the same size and shape as the others,” Clay said. “Only dark in color — very dark. I wonder what happens if we enhance the contrast way up, setting the cutoff shade down around here…” He fiddled with the sliders for a few moments, and then sat back in his chair. “Voila!”

“Yes,” Francesca nodded. “The image is grainy, but it is unmistakeable. The lid contains an image of a black spiral. It is like a smoothed out version of the Black Sun of Wewelsburg.” She pronounced this last word with a distinctly German accent.

Clay looked at her, puzzled. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” she explained. “You are too young, and that is your good fortune. The infamous black spiral sunwheel was originally an occult symbol, believed to have arisen during the great Allemanic migration period, around fifteen centuries ago. It was later adapted as the symbol of the Obergruppenführer of the Third Reich — the elite inner circle of generals who answered directly to the Führer himself. In my days of struggle against the ever arising forces of fascism I have come upon the black spiral many times. The Sonnenrad can denote great power and even greater evil. And yet its meaning is often ambiguous, changeable. This version of the dark symbol is particularly curious — the smoothed shape suggests that there is something else at work here, some other influence.” She looked at Clay.

“The other two boxes are Sun/Moon and Earth.” Clay mused. “What is the connection? Does the black spiral have any astronomical meaning?”

“Ah, of course!” Francesca said, excitedly. “More recently the symbol of the black sun has been adapted by some as the symbol for a cosmological black hole — a star that powerfully absorbs rather than emits light. It is a concept that of course did not exist at the time of the Third Reich.”

“So the symbol actually represents not so much a presence,” Clay said thoughtfully, “as an absence. Intriguing, but where is this going?”

“I see it now,” Francesca’s eyes flashed in sudden understanding. “You have provided the key. It is, as you say, not a presence, but an absence. This was the element that I had failed to grasp until now.”

“Sorry, I still don’t get it,” Clay said, shaking his head.

“These letters, which form the nouns of many origins, they are not meant to be added to the message my dear, they are meant to be subtracted!” Francesca said triumphantly.

“I see,” Clay smiled. “The black hole completes the answer, but in a negative way. Although it seems to take something away…”

“…It is actually providing what was missing!” Francesca completed the thought.

“Ok, then,” Clay said, now finding himself newly invigorated. “Let’s take away these letters and see what the message says!”

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