WINDOW BEYOND THE WORLD, CHAPTER 10, THE HOUSE OF GOD

Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including Amazon.com.

WINDOW BEYOND THE WORLD, CHAPTER 10, THE HOUSE OF GOD

Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and one of the most massive volcanoes
in the world. Its two main sections are Kibo, the huge, glacier-capped
crater dome, and Mawenzi, a cluster of jagged pinnacles to the east. The dramatic
summit, Uhuru Peak on Kibo, soars 19,340 feet above the endless African
savanna, with its perpetual snow cover that can be seen white against the
tropical sky for hundreds of miles in every direction. The Masai call it Ngaje
Ngai the House of God.

One of the first European explorers to see Kilimanjaro in 1871 heard legends
about spirits on the mountain that jealously guarded piles of silver and
precious stones. Anyone who tried to reach the summit, the natives believed,
would certainly be punished by the spirits with illness and freezing cold.

The summit finally was reached in 1889 by two German explorers and a
local native guide. They named the summit Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz. Later, when
Tanzania gained independence in 1961, the name of the summit was changed
to Uhuru, which means freedom in the dialect of the local Wachagga tribe.

Lance and Art started planning to climb Kilimanjaro when they were still in
high school. Their father, a naval officer, told the boys how he was captured in
the Indian Ocean off Tanganyika near the end of World War II and was
detained briefly by the Germans in Dar-es-Salaam. When Germany surrendered,
he celebrated with a couple of adventurous Australian buddies by hitchhiking
100 miles to Kilimanjaro. They then spent five days struggling up the
mountain to Gilman Point, a spot on the crater rim just below the summit.

There, he said, they signed a small logbook that climbers before them had
stashed in a tin can cached among the rocks.
John Segundo1944Freedom! the inscription read.

Their father told and retold the story to Lance and Art all during their
youth. That spontaneous adventure had changed his life, he said, and had
shown him the meaning of courage and perseverance. And, he said, in the thin
air and frozen mist of the great mountain, he had been closer to God than at
any time in his life.

So, sometime early in their adolescence, the brothers had made a solemn
pact that one day they, too, would go to Africa and climb the same mountain,
sign the same logbook and experience the same revelations about life as their
father.

At first, Lance and Art had planned the adventure for the summer following
Arts graduation from high school. But something came up and they put it off
for a year. And then another. First they didnt have enough money. Then they
didnt have enough time. And then Art met Gwen, and Kilimanjaro suddenly
wasnt as high on his priority list anymore.

But Lance persisted, and finally told Art that he was planning to go by himself.
For days after that, the brothers argued and bickered and threatened never
to speak to each other again, until Gwen finally offered a solution.

All three of them would go to Africa for a two-week photo safari in the great
Masai Mara and Amboseli game parks, then Lance and Art could take a week
to climb Kilimanjaro while Gwen relaxed at the posh Mt. Kenya Safari Club.

Her parents said they would pay for the boondoggle as an early wedding
present, and Art could get the time off from his job because he worked for
Gwens father.

This will give us all a chance to know each other better, Gwen had told
Lance in her flirtatious way. I want to make sure Im marrying the right
brother.

Lance pretended to ignore the remark, but he couldnt help feeling a little
aroused. Gwen was a very attractive young woman who enjoyed showing off
her slim, tan body with a wardrobe of short sundresses and tight T-shirts.

She liked to touch people when she talked to them, too. Usually it was just a
hand on the arm or maybe on the shoulder or the small of the back. But with
Lance, she often brushed his hip if they were sitting next to each other, or
tugged playfully at his belt if they were standing. Sometimes, if she came up
behind him, she would put her arms sensuously around his waist and snuggle
her curly blond hair against his neck.

Whenever Lance had a conversation with his future sister-in-law, he felt a
little flushed, a little excited, a little awkward.

Lance had mixed feelings about the new arrangement for the Kilimanjaro
expedition, but figured he didnt have much choice. Gwen and his brother had
recently become engaged, and Art was afraid, he said, maybe only half in jest,
that a two-week separation might give her an opportunity to change her mind.

So, Lance put himself in charge of planning and logistics and assigned Art
the responsibility of acquiring supplies and equipment. Gwen volunteered to
research the wildlife they would see on safari and perhaps learn a little Swahili.

The brothers already knew everything there was to know about Kilimanjaro.
They had detailed maps, journals from early expeditions, a collection of magazine
articles, and books ranging from Hemingway to high-altitude medicine.

And they were in good shape, often hiking all day long through the rugged San
Bernardino Mountains at altitudes above 9,000 feet, and sometimes 10,000 or
even 11,000 feet.

They knew the route they wanted to take, too. The most direct trail to the
summit, the one their father had taken years before, was now so frequently
traveled that serious climbers called it the tourist route. Instead, they
planned to take the longer, more challenging Machame Route that approaches
the summit through a notch in the great lava cliffs called the Western Breach.

The climb would take a couple of extra days, but the scenery was more spectacular
and the approach to the summit would be more exciting, requiring them
to traverse a narrow ledge in the dark using ice axes and crampons.

First, though, they would go on an African safari.

NEXT: CHAPTER 11, ON SAFARI.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including Amazon.com.