When the dust cleared, I found myself in a sort of warehouse populated by row after row of stacked metal spheres. Cables and hoses trailing from all of them to a central, cylindrical collector hanging from the ceiling. I quieted my mind, and heard the frightened, confused wailing of the minds trapped here.
“That’s no good”, I thought. “There’s only one thing for it.” One by one, I cut open the hatch in the front of each sphere. Once loose, the blinding blue apparition inside burst forth from it, and set about helping me free the rest. As the number of them grew, so did the energy available to melt metal, until I was blasting the hatches off in rapid succession.
Once freed, they burrowed through the structure like hot bullets through butter until outside. I followed them, availing myself of the front door, and watched as they ascended gracefully towards the blue star. As each of them joined it, the mysterious force I’d once regarded as the enemy of mankind grew ever brighter. Welcoming its little ones home.
The liberated deviants joined me, floating to either side, their pristine white hospital gowns fluttering in the wind. The headaches chose that moment to return. Too long since I’d taken my meds. The least of my problems, really.
Robbed of the power source keeping them aloft, the platforms began to sink. Running on rapidly diminishing battery reserves, they would soon fall from the sky into the black sea below. The parks. The schools. The farms. My mother and father. Elena.
Panicked and desperate, I linked myself to the others. Fifty eight heads are better than one. And between us, we arrived at a solution I never would’ve on my own. Even our collective strength, after all, could not hold the platforms up.
Nor was that a longterm solution. I could see more clearly than ever before that this static condition we’d trapped ourselves in, which I once thought to be the crowning achievement of history, was sick and backwards. It had already gone on for far too long.
Together, as one mind, we focused. The sky faded to black. As did the clouds, the hospital, and the platforms. None of which concerned us. It was the people inside those structures we sought to locate. Keeping track of so many would’ve been impossible for me, had I tried it alone. Formerly an individual, to be subsumed into a whole consisting of many parts was indescribably strange. But I no longer feared strangeness, nor oneness.
Finally, we isolated every last living person in the city. Then further narrowed our focus to the swirling mass of brightly colored points inside their skulls. Those who were asleep found themselves suddenly awakened. Then, along with those who’d already been awake, they suffered rapidly escalating headaches.
The swirling I could see within them accelerated. Grew brighter, pulsated violently. Amidst it all, in the way only her brother could, I singled out Elena. Frightened, confused. In pain. I whispered to her, “Don’t be afraid”. She turned, looking frantically for the source of the voice. “Something wonderful is about to happen.”
The platforms began to fall. There was just no time left. A final surge, and everywhere throughout the city, heads burst into flame. Skin peeled away as terrified, agonized men and women clawed at their faces, then went limp. Holes appeared in their exposed skulls, rays of beautiful blue light issuing forth. Then, in twos and threes at first but then by the hundreds and thousands, they hatched.
From the plummeting remains of our city, monument to one man’s vain provincialism, we were reborn. Rising, spiraling, darting upwards, like fireflies out to greet the evening. Clusters of blue points of light, some close and other distant, rose steadily into the sky.
One by one, we joined them. The white clad, sickly looking fellows around me shed their bodies in sequence, brilliant blue glowing masses breaking loose from their prisons of flesh and bone, leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of human existence for bigger, better things. Once big fish in a small pond, all of a sudden thrown into the sea.
The wreckage of the only world I’d known until recently fell unceremoniously through the cloud layer. The last to go was the Academy. Appropriate, I thought. First to take flight, last to land. I looked on wistfully, thinking of how I’d onced stared in awe at the scenery on the doors. Fables from an atavistic era, when we’d valued only trivial things. Of all the breathtaking blue lights now sailing upwards to greet the blue star, I rejoiced that the Founder was not among them. If anything remained of him, it was buried deep in the black sea below, where it belonged.
Nowhere left to go, and nothing else to do. My people finally free, I at last understood that the blue star never meant us harm. It was only ever a gate keeper. Waiting for us to shed our fear of change. To grow up, before letting us leave the nest. So, I grew up. The heat was unbearable but did not last long.
In many ways I’d long since left my humanity behind, so it was a relief to finalize it. My flaming body tumbled end over end towards the cloud layer below as I looked down on it. No longer my concern. I then turned my gaze upward, towards the great blue light. All other desire left me, leaving only resounding joy as I contemplated the profound fulfillment I knew awaited me beyond the sky.
I cannot possibly articulate the majesty of it. As I approached I could see a faint hyperstructure within it, impossibly intricate, fractalized, and ever-changing. Soon it enveloped me, and in a moment of perfect bliss, I settled deep inside of it with the rest of my people. That’s when it began digesting us.
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