Home > Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(13)

Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(13)
Author: Dan Brown

The assembled group all cocked their heads, studying the work again.

“And if you look over here,” Langdon said, pointing to the series of depressions to the left of the fish, “you can see that Edmond made footprints in the mud behind the fish, to represent the fish’s historic evolutionary step onto land.”

Heads began to nod appreciatively.

“And finally,” Langdon said, “the asymmetrical asterisk on the right—the symbol that the fish appears to be consuming—is one of history’s oldest symbols for God.”

The Botoxed woman turned and scowled at him. “A fish is eating God?”

“Apparently so. It’s a playful version of the Darwin fish—evolution consuming religion.” Langdon gave the group a casual shrug. “As I said, pretty clever.”

As Langdon walked off, he could hear the crowd muttering behind him, and Winston let out a laugh. “Very amusing, Professor! Edmond would have appreciated your impromptu lecture. Not many people decipher that one.”

“Well,” Langdon said, “that is, in fact, my job.”

“Yes, and I can now see why Mr. Kirsch asked me to consider you an extra-special guest. In fact, he asked me to show you something that none of the other guests are going to experience tonight.”

“Oh? What would that be?”

“To the right of the main windows, do you see a hallway that is cordoned off?”

Langdon peered to his right. “I do.”

“Good. Please follow my directions.”

Uncertain, Langdon obeyed Winston’s step-by-step instructions. He walked to the corridor entrance, and after double-checking that nobody was watching, he discreetly squeezed in behind the stanchions and slipped down the hallway out of sight.

Now, having left the atrium crowd behind, Langdon walked thirty feet to a metal door with a numeric keypad.

“Type these six digits,” Winston said, providing Langdon with the numbers.

Langdon typed the code, and the door clicked.

“Okay, Professor, please enter.”

Langdon stood a moment, uncertain what to expect. Then, gathering himself, he pushed open the door. The space beyond was almost entirely dark.

“I’ll bring the lights up for you,” Winston said. “Please walk in and close the door.”

Langdon inched inside, straining to see into the darkness. He closed the door behind him, and the lock clicked.

Gradually, soft lighting began to glow around the edges of the room, revealing an unthinkably cavernous space—a single gaping chamber—like an airplane hangar for a fleet of jumbo jets.

“Thirty-four thousand square feet,” Winston offered.

The room entirely dwarfed the atrium.

As the lights continued to glow brighter, Langdon could see a group of massive forms out on the floor—seven or eight murky silhouettes—like dinosaurs grazing in the night.

“What in the world am I looking at?” Langdon demanded.

“It’s called The Matter of Time.” Winston’s cheery voice reverberated through Langdon’s headset. “It’s the heaviest piece of art in the museum. Over two million pounds.”

Langdon was still trying to get his bearings. “And why am I in here alone?”

“As I said, Mr. Kirsch asked me to show you these amazing objects.”

The lights increased to full strength, flooding the vast space with a soft glow, and Langdon could only stare in bewilderment at the scene before him.

I’ve entered a parallel universe.


ADMIRAL LUIS ÁVILA arrived at the museum’s security checkpoint and glanced at his watch to assure himself he was on schedule.


He presented his Documento Nacional de Identidad to the employees manning the guest list. For a moment, Ávila’s pulse quickened when his name could not be located on the list. Finally, they found it at the bottom—a last-minute addition—and Ávila was allowed to enter.

Exactly as the Regent promised me. How he had accomplished this feat, Ávila had no idea. Tonight’s guest list was said to be ironclad.

He continued to the metal detector, where he removed his cell phone and placed it in the dish. Then, with extreme care, he extracted an unusually heavy set of rosary beads from his jacket pocket and laid it over his phone.

Gently, he told himself. Very gently.

The security guard waved him through the metal detector and carried the dish of personal items around to the other side.

“Que rosario tan bonito,” the guard said, admiring the metal rosary, which consisted of a strong beaded chain and a thick, rounded cross.

“Gracias,” Ávila replied. I constructed it myself.

Ávila walked through the detector without incident. On the other side, he collected his phone and the rosary, replacing them gently in his pocket before pressing on to a second checkpoint, where he was given an unusual audio headset.

I don’t need an audio tour, he thought. I have work to do.

As he moved across the atrium, he discreetly dumped the headset into a trash receptacle.

His heart was pounding as he scanned the building for a private place to contact the Regent and let him know he was safely inside.

For God, country, and king, he thought. But mostly for God.

At that moment, in the deepest recesses of the moonlit desert outside Dubai, the beloved seventy-eight-year-old allamah, Syed al-Fadl, strained in agony as he crawled through deep sand. He could go no farther.

Al-Fadl’s skin was blistered and burned, his throat so raw he could barely pull a breath. The sand-laden winds had blinded him hours ago, and still he crawled on. At one point, he thought he heard the distant whine of dune buggies, but it was probably just the howling wind. Al-Fadl’s faith that God would save him had long since passed. The vultures were no longer circling; they were walking beside him.

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