Then the silence ended. Somewhere in the distance an ocean crashed against rocks; salt carried on the air filled my mouth and birds swooped and dived above me crying like children to each other. The rose was lying on the ground at my feet, its petals already fading.
Touch the rose and you will be there
I was surrounded by miles and miles of gold that glinted in the sun as far as the horizon; corn or something like it, gently swaying in the warm/cold breeze. I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. Instead, for the first time since Lila had been taken from me and the whole crazy parade of people who weren’t people at all, killing and being killed, had thrown my life into chaos, I was calm.
There was no sign of Sinistrus though I sensed him in everything. Suddenly a voice I recognised as his spoke to me. Not a sound. A knowing. Sinistrus was speaking to me without words.
“Welcome, Caleb,” the knowing said for the second time.
“Welcome to where? Where is this?”
“A place of safety – for a while.”
“Another world. Very different from your own.”
“Not so different. The sky is blue.”
“If you say so. The sky is whatever you wish it to be. That is the power you possess. The power of the nanites. Growing stronger within you.”
“No they aren’t inside me, not anymore.”
“Okay. A few. Most of them have been removed.”
“So what about the brain cancer? What about…”
He interrupted me. “Everything you’ve been told, all you have ever believed about yourself, is a lie. Your whole life as you understand it is a fantastic invention to keep you from discovering who you really are until the moment comes when you are needed. You asked for peace, Caleb. I brought you here. To this peaceful world.”
“To allow you to fulfil your destiny.”
“And what is my destiny?”
“To save your species.”
“Save it from what?”
“I’m lost, Sinistrus.”
He – whatever he was – whispered inside me. “Close your eyes. Close your eyes and dream, Caleb.”
I did as I was told. Gradually the ocean, the sea birds, the voice inside my head all faded and I was a boy again, on a beach with my parents. My father was talking to me, telling me things beyond my understanding. My mother stood behind him, smiling. Tears were running down her face. My father lifted me and started to walk. I buried myself against him, feeling his warmth. Perhaps I slept, but I woke on a bed with both my parents leaning over me. My mother fussed with my hair. “It’s alright, darling,” she said. “Daddy won’t hurt you.”
The images drifted and became smoke. Sinistrus returned. “You asked where you were, remember? I told you another world.”
“Where I would be safe.”
He sighed. “Just one more lie I’m afraid. You can never be safe. They will come after you. They are already coming. I can hear them tearing at the veil.”
“The invisible wall that separates this world from your own.”
Other worlds. Veils. Clones. It was too much. I said, “But what do they want from me? Why am I so important to them? I would’ve been happy to spend my life with Lila.”
Sinistrus shook his head. ‘Lila was one of them.”
I reacted. “No! No! We were in love. Lila put the nanites in me.”
“Wrong again, Caleb. She didn’t put them in.”
“But her kisses…”
“She was trying to suck them out of you.”
He turned his red eye on me. “Listen,” he said. “There isn’t time to explain. They have broken through. I will tell you only what you must know. Nothing more. Your father was a great scientist and an even greater human being. He was the one who created the nanites using your blood. And they killed him for it.”
“Your mother too.”
Sinistrus gave me a second to take in the murder of my parents.
“Your father was wise as well as brilliant. He foresaw his own death. But before they got to him, he planted – maybe I should say replanted since they were born of you – the nanites deep inside his son. Inside you.”
I stared at him unable to comprehend the fantastical things he was revealing.
“Nanites are the single most important creation in the history of mankind. Used well they can do anything. Anything. Think for a moment what that could mean. No more hunger. No more poverty or illness. No scarcity of any sort.”
“No need for conflict. World peace. Can you imagine? A perfect life made possible.”
He guessed my question. “Not everyone wishes for peace. Hatred is a drug and there are those who are addicted. Dark forces that prefer the world as it is. Those people cannot be allowed to control the nanites. What they would do with them is beyond evil.”
He held up a hand and turned his head. “Can you hear them? Can you hear them, Caleb? The pretence to being human has been abandoned. When you see them again you will see them as they really are. Savage souls without disguise.”
Sinistrus led me towards the distant sound of the sea. “Are you ready?’ he said.
“Ready to do what?”
“Own the power in you. Or destroy it. There is no other choice.”
“How? Tell me what to do.”
“Assume the terrible responsibility given to you by your father. Become who you really are.”
I was close to tears. It was too much. I was going insane. “You talk in riddles, Sinistrus. Just say it. Say it out loud.”
“Be. Be … Caleb.”
The tears came; I couldn’t stop them and I didn’t want to.
“Be who? BE WHO?”
“The Master of the Nanites. The most powerful man in this or any world.”
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