THE GARDENER OF MAN (Artilect War Book Two): First Chapter Preview

I suppose that what happened to us could be told in the story of Frankenstein. Do you remember that story? It’s not one of mine. Victor Frankenstein was a young man, who, like many others of his time and ours, witnessed those he loved sicken and die. His grief over the tenuousness of human life was devastating, as it was to us, and his mind turned toward alchemy and immortality with the intent to ease the sorrow of the human condition. And like the scientists in our time, Victor discovered the secret of life.

~ Cindra, Letter to Omega

 CHAPTER ONE

AILITH

The dream changed when I changed. When I became. The green grass of the emerald sea decayed and fell to a wasteland, an endless graveyard of what we once were. I stumbled over the others who lay beneath me as I ran, the splinters of their bones opening the soles of my feet.

I was no longer a child. No longer even human. Everything that had once held me together now swarmed: my bones, my skin, my flesh, my blood; I was undone. My hands-that-were-no-longer-hands were empty, my kite gone. I mourned its loss as the pieces of me ran toward the tree at the center of the barren earth.

It still lived, though only a single green leaf remained. He stood at the base of the trunk, waiting. As always. Only, this time, he didn’t expect me. Instead, he anticipated the end. His end. Ours had already come, and he no longer saw me.

face wasn’t as I remembered it. He’d covered it with metal, and his mouth, once mournful, was gone. I reached out to trace the lines where his markings should’ve been, but I wasn’t present enough; neither of us felt the other anymore. Only when he raised his hand in farewell did we finally meet, the fragments of me embedding in his new skin.

Something moved in the corner of my eye, distracting me, and when I looked back, he was gone. He’d taken the splinters of me with him; he’d never forget, and he would return. Always.

I found my kite at last, propped up against the withering trunk of the tree. He was still a man, but not a man, his featureless face bowed to the ground. His skin was no longer smooth and shiny, and the silver ribbons that had streamed behind us like shooting stars as we’d run were gone, crumbled into dust.

I took hold of him, to see if, after all this time, he could still fly. What remained of my hand touched a chest that moved, a chest that was warm. As the ghost of my fingers spread over his beating heart, he lifted his head and opened his eyes.

With every pulse of his heart, my flesh knitted, and, finally, I knew pain again. I cried out, but all that came was a flood of tiny machines. They flowed from my mouth into his, and I was restored.

At the base of the dying tree, a seed took root.

 

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