TEC: Chapter 59: A Building That’s on Fire

Disappointing Bingston, who feels “like a kid in a candy shop,” Murphy moves the team on from the Chamber of Wonders…


…back to the hallway of secret heavy doors.  In fact, after a few minutes, they do find yet another secret door.  In a bizarre scene, it takes the three men FORTY MINUTES to shove it open.

(By the way, I know Isis is A Girl and all, but didn’t Phillips spend a lot of time in Ararat telling us how fit and athletic Isis is?  But no, A Girl can’t help.  I picture her sitting back and filing her nails as the wussy men heave and sweat.)

(Also also, you guys had some cool ideas about Meth and how he found everything the team is now re-re-discovering.  And no, Meth is not a secret angel.  Which makes it all the more bizarre that he has apparently been here before, ALONE, getting through doors that it now takes three young men forty minutes to open…then closing them again as he leaves.)

The doors opens into a dining room with long tables, which Murphy immediately intuits was Belshazzar’s banquet hall.

“I have a feeling that we’re going to discover the Handwriting on the Wall very soon.”

Well, you’re not technically discovering shit, Murph, since Meth was here doing the discovering not too long ago.

Bingster finds the throne, and Murphy snidely corrects Isis on a very minor point about who say in which chairs.  Then he Scooby-Doos that the writing must be on the opposite wall from the throne, where Bel could see it.  So they all walk over to the wall, and Murphy goes for the drama:

“Let’s do this together,” Murphy advised.  “Let’s all raise our lights at the same time and see what we might discover.”

Or, yanno, you could all just look however you like.  But Murphy has apparently decided they’re in a movie.  Either that, or if they all shine the lights at the same time, nobody will ever be able to claim they found the Handwriting before Murphy.

Yeah, I’m going with the latter option here.

And, of course, they immediately see the writing.  Though Jassim sees it first.


Isis, expert that she is, explains it all:

“It says ‘ene, Tekel, Uphars–‘  This is it!  The first Mene is missing along with the first letter of the second Mene.  The Tekel is quite clear, and two letters are missing off the back end of Upharsin.”

Wow, thanks, Isis.  It’s a damn good thing you’re here, as we could not have figured that out without you.

Jassim takes a zillion pictures while Murphy mopes.

“What’s wrong, Michael?  Aren’t you happy?” Isis asked.  “You’ve found the Handwriting on the Wall!”

“Well, Methuselah found it and dragged you to it by your nose, and the Marines did all the work, but still…you shined a flashlight!  That’s something!”

“But I’m wondering what will happen when we share this news with the world.  Will people believe it?  Will this discovery really change anyone’s behavior?  Will people understand the importance and significance of God’s coming judgment?  I feel like I’ve been standing outside a building thats on fire.  I yell for the people to come out and be saved from the flames, yet they ignore the warnings of smoke, heat, and my pleas.”

Well, I never thought I’d say this, but I get what Murphy means.  I now know exactly what it feels like to see horror coming, yell warnings, yet know that many people will dance happily to our collective doom.


The difference being, of course, that Donald is a real person in the real world, soon to be exercising real power.  As opposed to Murphy’s God.

And, of course, Murphy’s God certainly has no interest in preserving this thing after Murphy’s seen it, much like he had no interest in keeping the Ark out in the open after Murphy had found it.

Because JUST AT THAT MOMENT, an earthquake hits.

Everyone hits the deck (Murphy, because he’s the designated hero, gets to shove Girl Isis out of the way of falling debris).  Jassim gets his leg broken and Bingber helps him out of the tunnel, but silly Muslim Jassim is so pained by his little ole broken leg that he drops the camera, so heroic Christian Bingwold runs back to get it.

And just as he gets so far in that they can’t go in after him..an aftershock!

There was absolutely no hope that Will could have survived.

If you say so, man.

Murphy and the reader can mourn poor Bingbell’s death for half a sentence before…

[Murphy] felt a tap on his shoulder.  He spun round and there was Bangham—his clothes torn and dusty—with a huge grin on his face.  In his hand he held the camera, battered but intact.

“Looking for this, Murphy?” he asked.


Bob Phillips: not exactly the master of suspense.


Posted on November 18, 2016, in The Europa Conspiracy. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Will people believe it?

    It’s not terribly difficult to believe that there are words carved into a stone wall. That’s hardly proof of a supernatural scribe, however.

  2. It’s a good thing Bangham avoided injury because Murphy had already decided there was no point in checking if he’d survived.

  3. This is exactly the sort of nonsense that fundie Christians claim all the time, that they found archaeological evidence that supports their beliefs but it conveniently got destroyed somehow and all they have to prove it is some totally-not-faked pictures. Except in this story the nonsense claim is true, and I bet Murphy and co. aren’t smart enough to think to show any doubters exactly where they found the Writing on the Wall to prove it.

    • If Murphy had taken a GPS with him last time, they could’ve just dug up the Ark again, which was supposed to be magically indestructible.

  4. Isis: “Boys, have you tried pulling the door instead of pushing it?”
    The Murphy Gang: “I meant to do that.”

    As NBwaW says: so Murphy has found a chamber containing some writing which matches a biblical story. A story which has been in the legendry for thousands of years, during which time anyone could have written those words on any wall they liked, and many of them probably did. And this changes the world how, again? Get me some radionuclide analysis… oh, wait, you don’t believe in that because it disagrees with YEC… OK, some other dating on this that says it pre-dates the legend… and, well, it’s still writing on a wall. Maybe it’s where the legend started. But the path from “someone wrote something on a wall, that later became a legend” to “therefore I will resign my moral agency and give my life into someone else’s control” is, um, twisty and incomplete at best.

    Keulan, I agree that trying to match the “real world” is probably why this stuff keeps getting destroyed, but look at it in a diegetic sense: what does it mean in terms of the story’s own logic? At this point it seems pretty clear to me that God is telling Murphy: sure, these things exist, but I am not going to let you make them public and they are not going to change the world and you should be doing something worthwhile with your life instead.

  5. We ignore Murphy’s pleas, yes. But maybe if he could show us the actual fire, that’s help.

    But he can’t. For some reason, the fire can’t be seen. And the heat and smoke he points to are the warmth and the water vapors from our tea pot. We try to explain that this is perfectly normal and explainable from thermodynamics, but he angrily dismisses our scientific explanations as untrustworthy attempts to dismiss his warnings.

    And he’ll leap at any occupant who mentions that he or she is a little hot today as a sign that we can all feel the fire, we’re just stubbornly denying it because we’re to lazy to get up.
    Then there’s the problem that he and his friends have been predicting that the building will burn down any second now for days, and yet nothing is happening.

    Yet at the same time he hinders our attempts at fixing the roof that’s beginning to sag a bit. He scoffs at our worries that if we do not take action soon, it may threaten us all. Because his god told him that this building will be destroyed in a fire, it can’t possibly collapse before then. Our worries must therefore be an evil trick to get more repair men into the building to die when it burns down, and he’s not going to let us get away with that!

  6. This is a very strange archaeological site. Was this originally an above ground building that ended up buried over time? If so, you’d expect the interior to be filled as well. It should take months of excavating to clear the rooms and corridors enough to walk around in there.

    The fact that you can just lift one rock and gain access to easily navigable corridors, suggests that this was built to be an underground structure, like a catacomb. But why would the king have an underground banquet hall? Babylon was not inhabited by dwarves, was it?

    And why are all these tables and thrones, not to mention gold goblets, still there? This is not some sealed tomb with grave goods. This is a palace. Palaces are not built to be sealed away in secrecy, they are built to be highly visible centers of government. Everyone in the area would have known where it was located. So after the palace became abandoned, no-one ever thought to raid the treasury?!

    This feels exactly like some dungeon from a role-playing game. The heroes stumble across a supposedly abandoned, but surprisingly well-maintained, underground labyrinth filled with random piles of treasure.

    • This feels exactly like some dungeon from a role-playing game. The heroes stumble across a supposedly abandoned, but surprisingly well-maintained, underground labyrinth filled with random piles of treasure.

      Yes, but to be fair, the dungeons may be abandoned by their original builders, but they are usually inhabited by new beings who might prefer that the tunnels stay open.

      In the videogame Skyrim there is a dungeon that is actually buried, and filled with sand. Another character is willing to excavate it, providing you pick up the tab for hiring diggers. Of course, every now and then you get called back to kill the monsters they dig up (who of course have killed the diggers, requiring further investment . . .)

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for November 25th, 2016 | The Slacktiverse

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