The incorporeal voices seemed to come at him from all directions at once; they were as much a part of the room as was the blood-red lighting and the malodorous scent that assailed his nostrils.
"Your presence here at this time was foretold aeons ago." The room seemed to pulsate with power at these words.
"I don't believe in superstitious nonsense," the Professor replied, his voice sounding almost hollow compared to the unseen beings in the room with him. "Show yourselves," he demanded.
"Your primitive mind is not yet ready to behold our kind."
"For those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad," laughed the old man. "You don't want to see 'em, sonny."
Until he had spoken, the Professor had almost forgotten his travelling companion. While he didn't believe he was speaking with gods, he was certain now that the old man was indeed mad. Whether driven insane by his time spent in this Stygian place, or the beings to whom he was speaking, he wouldn't venture a guess.
"Do you know what these people look like?" he asked of his escort.
The old man didn't reply to his question directly, but attempted to skirt the matter entirely. "If I do, then you'll know won't you?"
"I'm tired of yours and your friends' games. This is all just some dream-inspired mumbo-jumbo based on things my mind is recalling from the Skipper's superstitions. I'm just more involved in this dream than others I've had in the past."
One of the disembodied voices spoke, making the entire room shudder, "You attempt to hide behind your logic, but your mind is as open to us as a book. That is not what you believe."
"You can't hide from them. They already know all about you."
Dreams create their own past, present and future, thought the Professor. "Whatever these creatures know, they've learned from me."
"You're half right, sonny. They already did learn from you."
The Professor whirled on the old man, grabbing him by the shoulders to look him squarely in the face. It was then when he noticed something vaguely familiar behind the madness revealed in those tired, old eyes.
"My god, man, you're—"
The man cut him off, "You're smarter than you look."
There hadn't been any choking sensation, and his stomach, which was already tied in knots, didn't seem the worse for wear. But Gilligan didn't feel like he had after the first time he ate those sunflower seeds. This time, he felt no effects. He looked over at Mary Ann, and she seemed to be having the same lack of reaction as he was.
"How are you feeling, friends?" asked the man who had handed them the seeds.
"You-you speak English?" asked the petite brunette.
The man shook his head. "I do not know what this 'English' you speak of is, but these seeds allow you to speak and understand our language."
"But how?" asked Gilligan. "When I tried the seeds in the past, they let us read other people's minds."
"Perhaps a different strain of the seed, or one found in another province?" he asked. "Forgive my manners, travellers," began the man. "I am called Natavee, and you are…"
"I'm Gilligan," said the first mate, and pointing to his companion, "This is Mary Ann."
"How do you do, Mr. Natavee," she said. "Could you tell us where we are?"
"You are in Bolariis. The capital city of Lemuria."
The two castaways looked perplexed; neither recognized the city or country name.
"But how did we get here?" asked Gilligan. "We were both asleep and dreaming—"
While Natavee's expression remained calm, he looked at the twosome in awe. "Lemuria has often welcomed travellers from other dimensions. But none that we know of from the realm of dreams."
Mary Ann and Gilligan stared at each other. "Other dimensions?" asked the first mate. "Isn't this Earth?"
"Of course," replied Natavee. "Are you from there as well?" The man's demeanour was so calm that they thought he wouldn't have been shocked if they said they were from Mars.
Gilligan had started to say something, but his mouth opened and closed like a fish. This whole being wide-awake, yet dreaming, confused him, and he didn't know what question to ask next; so many were going through his head.
Mary Ann saw her friend's confusion, and quickly answered, "Yes. But where we're from doesn't look anything like this." She pointed at the exquisite architecture that surrounded them. "And we've never heard of Lemuria before."
"Now, that is surprising," began Natavee. "our people have circumnavigated the globe, and been in contact with many different cultures. Perhaps yours was not among them?"
But how could you miss the United States? thought Gilligan, more confused than ever.
The Professor was horrified by what was revealed in the countenance of the old man. That doddering fool couldn't be who he would become in fifty or sixty years. It wasn't possible.
"How can he be me?" The scholar's voice practically caught in his throat.
"A conjurer's trick, nothing more," was the reply he received. "Time is irrelevant in this space."
And on the island, he thought.
His half-senile older-self smiled at him, "You've nearly got it," he said, as though able to read his younger self's mind. "Even death itself can die—under the right circumstances, of course."
"Your puny island has its part to play, too" echoed one of the voices.
"It served its purpose once; it will finally do so again."
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." The air trembled at those words.
Gilligan and Mary Ann followed Natavee into the heart of the city, to the accompanying stares of many of the citizenry.
Compared to the way they were dressed—she still in the Professor's nightshirt and bare feet, and Gilligan in his denim trousers, red shirt and sneakers—the people of Bolariis must have thought they were derelicts. But Natavee seemed not to notice her own discomfort, as he chattered on helpfully explaining the history and culture of Lemuria. Mary Ann wished the Professor were here—he would have been spellbound by the tale, and no doubt understood much of what the Lemurian was explaining—but he, like the other castaways, was no doubt still asleep on their island home.
"Where are we going?" asked Gilligan, quickly asking his question when Natavee paused briefly to take a breath.
"Friend Gilligan, we are headed to the oracle. They would be far better than I in explaining how you came to be here, and how to return to your homeland."
This was the first thing the man had said that caught the two travellers' interest.
"Can they really help us return home?" asked Mary Ann.
"They are the wisest in all of Lemuria. One of them will certainly be able to provide you with the answers you're seeking."
While the Professor didn't understand the sentence that was just uttered, he did recognise two of the words: Cthulhu and R'lyeh. There was a university in Arkham, Massachusetts that dealt with the global, sociological implications of the phenomena of the occult and paranormal—neither field was something that held the Professor's interest, but he was aware of that course of study. Cthulhu was believed to be some ancient deity, worshiped by primitive man, and R'lyeh was the city where it supposedly dwelt. That was as far as his familiarity went.
Did these beings actually believe they could somehow raise a non-existent being from a non-existent city?
"It is good that you are an unbeliever, Roy Hinkley, Jr.," said one voice.
While another hissed, "It makes things so much easier this way."