He stood before it with his hands
on his hips, eyeing it dubiously, and drew in a deep breath. It was pretty
ordinary looking: it had no markings, the paint was beginning to peel, and it
appeared to be made of cheap pinewood. The only odd thing about it was the
missing door handle.
So how the hell do I get in? he wondered.
Letting out the breath he’d been holding, he continued to stare at The Door. Whenever he focused strongly on a fixed point and then allowed his mind to wander where it chose, the answer eventually presented itself, usually with blazing clarity.
When he’d finally been recruited, it had amazed The Scientists how he could pass weeks of exhausting experiments and tests with complete ease. They quickly discovered that his mind was like no other they’d ever come across, even theirs. He created perfect, error-free solutions seemingly at random, with no distinguishable pattern or logic to speak of, and more often than not he had them cursing in amazement when he beat their mathematical challenges every time without them knowing exactly how he did it; his approach to their so-called puzzles and problems was always entirely unconventional and unexpected.
And, of course, that is why he’d been chosen to be the one to solve this particular puzzle.
A sudden thump made him start, and he whipped around and tilted his head, listening carefully. When it didn’t repeat, he forced himself to relax and turned back to face The Door. He absently scratched at his arm and winced when his skin burned fiercely. Rolling up his sleeve, he stared at the ugly tattoo with disdain, wishing they’d found another way. But this is the only way they knew of, they’d said.
He supposed he shouldn’t be complaining. They’d specifically elected him for this very important task, after all, dangerous though it was.
Barely eighteen years old, The Boy regarded his predicament with cold intensity, a curious characteristic for one so young, but he was quite different compared to other boys his age. And he’d only found out why after he’d agreed to help The Scientists, after he’d made a massive life changing decision. He’d been promised all the comforts of life for the rest of his existence if he helped them with just one thing. When he’d asked them what that one thing was he’d been told with profound gravity that once he knew, and if he then didn’t agree to help them, then, sixteen years old or not, they’d have to kill him.
His life had been pretty much a mess up to that point. Both his parents had died in a plane crash fourteen years before, and he’d been raised by an uncle who had verbally and physically abused him daily – using him for his own personal punching bag – until, at the age of fifteen, he decided to leave and make his own way in the world.
It didn’t take him long – desperation and starvation being brutal teachers – to learn how to find the best dumpster pickings from the alleyways, which enabled him to live like a raggedy alley-king for a long time. He barely managed to keep healthy, and when his clothes and shoes began to disintegrate he stole from people who, rather politely he thought, always forgot to lock their windows leading out onto their building’s exterior fire escape. He narrowly avoided the cops’ attentions too many times to count, becoming streetwise early on and learning to read the warning signs, like when to run and when to hide and who and who not to trust, easy to do with his vastly superior intelligence. He’d always known he was very smart – school (when he’d actually attended) had bored him to distraction – but until he met The Scientists he didn’t know just how smart.
The Boy shifted his weight and sighed loudly, all the while staying aware of the noises coming from above in case he needed to hide in a hurry. The Coffee Shop was bustling, and that’s why he’d chosen this time of the day to make his attempt. The staff (some who were undercover Deceiver drones) were too busy serving their customers lunch to effectively guard The Door. The restrooms were at the top of the badly hidden staircase (the arrogance of The Deceivers never failed to astound him), making it easy for him to quickly sneak down when no one was looking. The twists and turns of the dingy, narrow passageways to the cellar had been easy for him to navigate, offering no challenge whatsoever. There wasn’t much that could stop him once he put his mind to a task.
After a week of thinking things over carefully and deciding that his life couldn’t get much better if he continued as he was – starving and freezing and lonely – The Boy finally conceded to hear what The Scientists wanted from him.
But before they began their tests they told him what was happening to the world. He was left breathless and ill, speechless with both wonder and disgust. Hearing about the hidden threat to his planet was enough to convince The Boy that The Scientists were good people and were trying desperately to save mankind, not like The Deceivers, whom he learned were a small group of wealthy, influential, and evil, self-serving men and women who wanted power and glory and exclusive protection from what was happening...and the terrible truth was that they had started it all!
And just why exactly was the world dying? he asked, morbidly fascinated.
The story that followed was the reason he was now standing before a non-descript door trying to figure out how to continue.
Their world, The Scientists explained, had been exposed to an ancient and intensely powerful energy kept dormant for thousands of years far beneath the deserts of a faraway land. Now, to ancient Man any form of energy would have been considered magical and frightening, but this wasn’t just any ordinary energy that Man would eventually create millennia in the future; no, this energy held properties alien in composition. It contained what The Deceivers considered the answers to eternal life. It held the means of extending and improving one’s life and intelligence to the point where death was no longer a concern.
Unfortunately, The Deceivers had been the ones to discover its existence (their wealth and resources for funding research and archaeological expeditions endless), and began, in their mindless arrogance, to experiment with the energy in the hopes of bettering themselves. They wanted to unlock their full potential, that part of themselves that was only meant to be unleashed through man’s natural evolution over thousands of years. But The Deceivers were impatient; they wanted to speed up the process exponentially. In short, they wanted to rule the world!
In their investigations (begun when an ambitious archaeologist – funded by a Deceiver – found an ancient ruin through sheer chance on one of his expeditions), The Deceivers uncovered records of a time when early Man received an inexplicable surge of intelligence that unlocked their ability to create and learn and thus advance humankind dramatically overnight. About a year before this curious progression, according to those ancient records in the form of runes stamped on the surfaces of plaques made of a yet unidentified silver metal, a strange plague had ravaged the face of the young world, wiping out most of humankind. This had been pre-empted by a blinding blue streak of light that had suddenly appeared in the northern hemisphere’s night sky only to plunge to the planet and disappear without a sound. Moments later the ground had heaved, but not so violently as to cause damage or death. But what followed was the devastation of nearly every living being for months afterwards. However, what caught The Deceivers’ attention in the records was that out of the almost-annihilation some survivors emerged. These were human beings of a vastly superior intelligence, and just like that a new world and a new era were born.
The runes went on to explain that the blue ‘heaven-light’ was called The Catalyst by those who’d discovered it, and that it definitely began the great awakening, or enlightenment, of Man and, most shockingly, that The Catalyst did not work alone. As newly evolved man studied the alien energy to try unlock its origins and better understand its power, they discovered that its inexplicable effects on their physical and mental beings were triggered by something that already existed inside them, that was inherent to them and just needed the right key to unlock it, and, they eventually concluded, could only have been given to them by their Creator, the only One with the knowledge and omnipotence to create life. Here their investigations promptly ceased without further study of their bodies and blood, seemingly satisfied with the conclusions they’d drawn, and deciding that because they had been given the gift of a better life not to anger their God by questioning Him.
These superior beings then went on to establish bustling communities and produce great inventions and philosophies on which today’s civilisation rested. Many ancient religions recorded these beings as giants that walked the earth and lived for thousands of years, but the truth has as yet to be proven by archaeological findings.
The records stamped into the odd metal plaques ended with a frightening statement: The Catalyst had quickly and brutally killed those who did not have any traces of this Creator-virus within them, as these superior humans called the mysterious ‘something’ inside them. The runes recorded that when the last of the giants disappeared so did the origin of their superior intelligence – The alien Catalyst – and so did all their research and knowledge.
Until it was rediscovered by accident on an ordinary desert dig.
After interpreting the runes, The Archaeologist continued the dig and soon discovered an ancient city beneath the red sands, and lying in the very centre of the city were the remains of a massive temple.
Beyond excited, The Archaeologist immediately informed The Deceivers, and demanded they pour all their resources into excavating the temple, for, he believed, The Catalyst lay within!
The Deceivers didn’t hesitate, and only two weeks after the project was started they found the alien energy locked away in a casket of iron and bronze – and still very much alive! Sensing humans, it writhed and swirled and burned so brightly its light escaped the eroded seams of the box and burned the hands of the unfortunate person holding it at the time, which just happened to be The Archaeologist, but his joy and wonder surpassed the agony of his blistered hands. However, both his pain and pleasure didn’t last long.
When The Deceivers understood what they had, they took full control and ordered the immediate death of The Archaeologist – who had, unfortunately, voiced his ambitions to tell the world – and that of his family and everyone else who had worked on the dig. Their devious minds immediately realised the potential of this awesome power if they could find a way to harness it.
It was initially surmised by their army of scientists and researchers – after further in-depth study of the plaques – that the Creator-virus was not strictly a virus but a particular gene never before discovered, and they urged that studies be conducted immediately. Picking random patients at random hospitals across the globe, they tested their blood and soon discovered that the Creator-virus still indeed remained part of the human race and had successfully survived and been passed on from one generation to the next since time began, its potency still as powerful as when man was created.
Once The Deceivers discovered that there were still carriers in this present age, and that there were only very few of them left due to expansion and intermingling over millennia, they began searching for these individuals with a mindless disregard for innocent lives (kidnapping and murder a small price to pay), and placing them in secret facilities across the planet. They needed lab rats to experiment on; they needed to discover the makeup of the Creator-virus and learn how to genetically multiply it and insert it into those who did not possess it naturally. They’d already found a way to contain The Catalyst and drain its energy, the key to activating the gene, now they needed to harvest the gene and manipulate its unique power.
All this had taken place twenty years ago, The Scientists told The Boy.
Here they paused in their tale and gave The Boy a solemn look, and then shockingly revealed that he was one of these rare carriers, and that the mark on his arm proved it. The symbol was believed to have come into existence when Man changed and a new race was born, and it was believed to be, according to this newly evolved race, the Mark of God, identifying them as His. Carriers were always marked somewhere on their bodies from birth, The Scientists explained, a visual genetic anomaly from those ancient times.
The Boy stared at the small and unusual shape with new eyes for he’d always hated the ugly, dark-brown smudge on the underside of his upper arm. Still speechless, he indicated for them to continue their incredible story, morbidly curious to hear the conclusion.
The Deceivers changed tactics after only finding a handful of carriers after ten years of searching, a frustrating process made very difficult because the carriers could only be identified through very specific blood tests. (At this stage they did not yet know about the bodily markings on the carriers. It was a discovery made first by The Scientists years later). Using their enormous political influence, The Deceivers made it mandatory in every hospital and every kind of care facility to run these specific blood tests during routine check-ups or as part of the admission process for each person that came in. They extracted the genes through a complicated process of DNA ‘scraping’, a new technique devised specifically for this process. When they eventually acquired enough – and thirty people and their entire families had been horribly murdered in the process in order to protect The Deceivers’ identities and their clandestine activities – they began experimenting on non-carriers, and soon they found a way to imbue ‘normal’ humans with the Creator-virus.
But almost immediately things went awry. The Deceivers ended up having to seal their primary secret facility when, after exposing the first recipient to The Catalyst, it did not bond with the artificially implanted gene, and after brutally killing the man in seconds The Catalyst, now unfettered, escaped the isolation chamber in a swirl of crackling power. Although it remained inside the complex, over two hundred personnel died horribly from being exposed to its touch before it was once more contained. But The Deceivers weren’t perturbed by the failure and simply moved on to their secondary location to begin experimenting again.
It took another thirty deaths before The Deceivers had enough of the Creator-virus once more. This time the second test subject showed marked growth in intelligence and cognitive abilities almost overnight. But in their arrogance and haste The Deceivers and their scientists didn’t discover one very important factor: unless a human was born with the dormant Creator-virus The Catalyst would not recognise it; it would sense the absence of the virus in its natural habitat and turn aggressively on its host.
Unfortunately this time the test subject had been in a small open-air area within The Deceivers’ complex – a rare allowance for the young girl who had begged to see the sun “for only a few minutes, please” after being imprisoned in a windowless cell for months. The area had a clear view of the cloudless sky on a beautiful summer day. An energetic breeze was blowing when The Catalyst began its agonising navigation out of her body, eating away first bone then muscle and finally dissolving her skin all in the matter of three excruciating minutes.
The Deceivers and their scientists could do nothing but watch in horror while sealed inside the complex as the blue energy lifted off the macabre remains of the girl in a swirling, living, misty mass and took flight, carried away on the breeze towards the city to be breathed in by over three million people.
How did The Scientists discover all of this was happening? The Boy asked.
Fortunately, they had been alerted to The Deceivers’ experiments and diabolical plans almost from the beginning thanks to one of the historians who’d worked at the site where The Catalyst was discovered. His conscience had gotten the better of him when he’d overheard the intentions of The Deceivers and had immediately felt the need to protect his family, to save then from what was to come. He’d secretly, and at great risk to his life and his wife and two kids, approached the country’s most powerful law enforcement organisation, arriving on their doorstep terrified but determined, offering his services in exchange for protection.
It hadn’t taken The Organisation long to verify the man’s story, and then mere days after that to form the powerful group known as The Scientists, brilliant men and women who gave up their own illustrious careers in science and technology without hesitation to take up the enormous responsibility of protecting the human race.
Thanks to the risk The Historian took, The Scientists were immediately made aware of the accident when it occurred. As fast as they could spring into action, The Organisation raided The Deceivers’ complex only to find nothing there. It had been stripped clean, and all information irretrievably deleted off the massive, now useless computers left behind.
Since the accident The Scientists had been trying to find a way to stop the seemingly unstoppable invasion of The Catalyst into the world. It slowly, insidiously takes up residence inside every human that does not have the Creator-virus and begins eating away at them slowly but consistently until they suffer a sudden, violent, agonising death similar to how cancer eats away at the body – just much faster and nastier, and way more aggressive. With their stronger immune systems, it takes adults two to three days to die, but with children mere hours. At the time of The Scientists telling their awful tale to The Boy tens of thousands had already died, and there were already stirrings in the international media, mentions here and there, of the unexplained deaths. So far no one had connected the deaths globally as they were still quite widespread, and the authorities of each country affected had fortunately managed to contain the truth to avoid panic and the expected chaos. Once the deaths escalated however, which they had already begun to do at an alarming rate in less developed countries, then there would be no stopping the media and the world would soon learn that they were dying with no cure in sight!
With unlimited resources at their disposal from every government across the world, The Scientists had immediately begun searching for carriers in order to protect them and their families from The Deceivers. Using the blood of the small group of carriers they’d found so far, they’d tried to find a means to stop The Catalyst from destroying humankind. Or to permanently contain The Catalyst – whichever came first. So far they’d had no luck.
The story was surreal yet The Boy believed it, surprising himself. In some place deep inside him he knew what they were saying was true. Although he didn’t like the idea of being host to such a dangerous thing he imagined he could come to accept it over time, and he finally had the answer to his unusually high intelligence. Now he had something else to focus on besides his dreadful, pointless life.
When he asked The Scientists how long mankind had they grimly regarded him for a long time and then gave him a number: three years! They were losing the battle; The Catalyst was far beyond their limited understanding to control. Yet they refused to give up and continued to work unceasingly to find a solution.
And just what had they come up with so far? he asked them.
Nothing of any major significance yet, they replied with downcast eyes and sagging shoulders.
Then what could he do for them? He was just a skinny nobody.
Oh, he was much more than that, they said.
They then revealed to him that they’d been looking for him for years. His arrival into the world had been flagged when the attending doctor at his birth, a secret Scientist himself who’d been placed in the hospital as a watcher, had seen the mark on his arm and had immediately informed his colleagues who were only too pleased to learn of another carrier The Deceivers had not yet found. They’d watched him all his life from afar, until he’d completely disappeared after unexpectedly running away from his uncle. Fortunately, he was found again when he landed up in hospital after a car knocked him over while he tried to get away from pursuing cops after stealing food from a hotdog stand.
Keeping close watch over him as he grew up they soon noticed his superior intelligence and suspected he was more than just another carrier.
At this point The Boy grew sceptical. How could he, a mere boy with no future or hope, be significant? No, he didn’t believe it, he told them.
Would he allow them to test him, allow them to prove it to him?
For a long time he stared at them, asking himself if he wanted this. But in the end he agreed to help them because in the end he really wanted to live. And at least his life had purpose and meaning again, and he would be the centre of attention; this last appealed to his childish ego. Never mind the free food and accommodation he’d get while they did whatever they were going to do to him.
The tests quickly showed that he could understand things on a quantum level – that is, see beyond what was in front of him and view the Universe in a way no other human could. He could also solve complex problems in ways that no normal human brain could; and it was as if the exhaustive experiments unlocked what had remained dormant inside him, just waiting for the trigger that would set the fullness of his unique gifts free.
To say it was a shock to his system was a gross understatement. He struggled with the millions of bits of new information and unleashed cognitive awareness roiling around inside his head, experiencing severe headaches and massive mental and emotional distress as his mind fought to cope with it all. For days he couldn’t eat or drink anything – and forget about sleep! He was, in short, a wreck, and at one point he thought he’d go insane. He felt himself slipping away bit by bit every day and he couldn’t control it. In constant agony, he was powerless and terrified.
Then The Girl came and everything changed.
Ah, The Girl, he thought while staring harder at The Door and breathing in the delicious smells wafting down from the coffee shop above him. He sighed. She’d been his salvation alright; pure light and joy and relief from his agony. She had gently caressed his mind with her own, and had brought him back from the brink of fathomless darkness by ending his excruciating physical and mental pain. After six days he’d finally managed to gain control of his new abilities and focus them. She alone had taught him how to do that.
And then they’d taken her away and he’d only seen her again over a year later when she’d lead him to The Door.
Once it had been established he was in control of his gifts his involvement increased dramatically. He began intensive training with the best minds and physical trainers in The Organisation. He learned everything from hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills – the handling all types of rifles and handguns and knives – to computer skills and how to operate advanced technology. In everything he excelled beyond The Scientist’s and Organisation’s expectations.
His training lasted almost two years, and by the time he was eighteen he’d matured and hardened and lost his childish ways. His innocence was over the moment he witnessed firsthand the horrible suffering and deaths of the infected and had been appalled at just how fast the human race was dying.
By the end of his training almost half of every country’s population had perished, and by then the entire world knew that an epidemic of unknown origin was responsible. There’d been rioting and anarchy and blame thrown around, but when the general populace eventually discovered that their governments had no answers then despair had set in and hundreds of thousands of suicides had occurred world-wide. When the panic had been replaced by depression, apathy, and surrender to their fates, the streets emptied and the world’s economies came to a standstill. There were many, though, who still continued on with their lives as before because they had nothing else to do while they prayed that their governments would soon find a way to save them before The Catalyst infected them. This silent destruction of mankind more than anything terrified The Boy and drove him and his friends to work harder at finding a solution.
The Organisation had planted several spies amongst The Deceivers, one of them being The Girl, the one whom he saw as his own personal saviour. When he first discovered her role in everything a year after she’d helped him, he demanded that she be recalled, but The Organisation refused. She’s too valuable, they informed him bluntly. She works closely with our enemy’s leaders and has their full confidence. They also told him that The Deceivers were completely unaware that she was a carrier and vastly intelligent compared to them. Her superior gifts were fully evolved like his, and she was practised at using them, therefore she was able to supply many of The Deceivers’ secrets to The Organisation.
And it didn’t take long for her unique position to help her discover the biggest secret of all; she was the one to make them aware of The Door’s existence and to lead them directly to it.
The plan The Organisation immediately devised upon hearing about The Door was extremely dangerous and risky, and if it failed many would die, but if it meant the possible salvation for what remained of mankind then the risks were worth it.
Yes, dangerous, but definitely worth it if I succeed, he thought to himself as he absently brushed back a stray lock of blond hair and eyed is goal with renewed determination. The Girl was behind The Door, he didn’t doubt; they’d lost contact with her two weeks ago, and The Boy believed her trapped on the other side by being held against her will. He had to reach her for, you see, he was in love with her.
The Deceivers had murdered The Girl’s parents when the couple decided to defect to The Scientists after (like The Historian) their consciences had gotten the better of them. They’d worked for The Deceivers as researchers until they’d learned of their plans to do human testing, and had immediately understood the immense dangers the human race would face if something went wrong. They also feared greatly for their daughter, who they’d secretly discovered was a carrier. To protect her they decided, at great risk, to defect.
But they didn’t make it.
Fortunately, the night The Deceivers invaded her home and killed her parents, The Girl was with friends on the other side of the city, whose own parents were very influential in the government – especially the father, who knew the Vice-Chairman of The Organisation personally. Secretly, they’d been keeping a very close eye on The Girl’s parents, well aware that they worked for The Deceivers. When they died The Organisation was immediately informed and The Girl taken to headquarters for protection. She had been twelve at the time. After doing tests on her – similar to what they did on The Boy – The Scientists discovered what she was, and they wasted no time training her, and, in the process, discovering the fullness of her unique abilities. In no way did she resist her new, overturned life because revenge burned brightly inside her and drove The Girl to bring down her parents’ murderers.
The day The Girl and The Boy met for the second time they were both more mature and fully fledged agents in The Organisation, and the moment he saw her in a little café out in the country, away from prying eyes, he realised he’d forgotten how beautiful she was and his heart surrendered to her completely. She was breathtaking: her smile, her eyes, her voice, the way she moved! Words failed him as he tried to greet her, and when he reached for her hand instead he made a further idiot of himself by knocking over her coffee mug, spilling the dark liquid all over the table and drawing attention to them – a rookie mistake that made him cringe inside. He blushed bright red in embarrassment and stammered an apology, but she gave him a genuine smile and helped him clean up the mess. Her gentle tone assured him that she was fine, and, relieved, he smiled back and slowly started to relax.
Despite the shaky start the meeting went well. She asked after his health and finally he could thank her properly for helping him. That made her blush and she lowered her eyes coyly and told him it was only her pleasure. It is my gift, she explained, to ease the mental burdens of others.
And read minds, he said, smiling slyly.
A shy smile. Yes, and read minds, she said, her eyes sparkling.
Then she became serious again and, looking troubled, handed over a memory stick and urged him to take it to their superiors immediately. Seeing her distress, he instinctively reached for her hand and for a wonder she didn’t pull away, staring at him with the same shy curiosity and pleasure with which he was staring at her. Gently extracting her hand from his, she checked her watch and told him she’d been away from The Deceivers for too long and might make them suspicious. Jumping up and giving him a quick but friendly farewell, she ran out of the café with him calling after her. She didn’t turn back.
Trying not to feel hurt by her abrupt departure, he quickly returned to headquarters and handed over the memory stick to his superiors. With a room full of Scientists and military personnel they watched the report with intense concentration; the longer they listened the more charged with shock and disbelief the atmosphere became.
In The Girl’s report – a visual recording of herself – she told them about The Door and how it had come into existence:
Working undercover as one of The Deceivers’ scientists, she assisted in their search for a way to successfully manipulate the Creator-virus. Over the months she’d befriended many of the female scientists, and during a particularly informative gossip session one lunch-break one of the women complained about the tediousness of looking after the carrier-prisoners. She then mentioned she found it strange that she was not allowed into the lower levels where one of the prisoners was being kept and wondered who looked after him. He was the oldest, apparently, a man The Deceivers had kidnapped years ago; he was a lowly accountant in his fifties who, it was rumoured, had a special gift, which The Deceivers had discovered by sheer chance: he could control quantum fields of energy and transport himself to any place on the planet in an instant!
Instinctively The Girl knew this man to be significant and decided to risk finding him. Security was very tight, but that didn’t deter The Girl. When she managed to steal an access card from the main security station by distracting one of the guards with her charms, she bravely scoured the bowels of the complex until she found the prisoner. She introduced herself by bringing him a sumptuous meal and quickly befriended the very lonely man. After that first visit she slipped away from her duties whenever she found an opportunity and the two of them quickly became firm friends.
He was one of the first carriers they’d found almost twenty years ago, she learned, and had been one of the first lab rats. The Man had been kept locked away all that time in the lower levels of the complex in a cell made of lead to prevent him transporting away, and they had cruelly experimented on him in order to discover the secret to his powers while also extracting his blood everyday.
The Girl had offered him friendship and mercy in the form of personal care and attention, and he was so starved for it that the moment he found out what she could do – after she’d eased his suffering by bringing his mind peace after a particularly brutal bout of torture, and told him she actually worked for The Organisation against The Deceivers – he’d opened up and told her everything, believing she would be his means of escape and salvation. He’d created The Door for himself, he’d explained, so that if ever he got the chance to escape again he’d leave this dying world and seal the doorway from the other side forever. He’d escaped once before, shortly after being kidnapped, because The Deceivers did not then understand his gift. He’d just finished creating the portal in an old abandoned service tunnel beneath the city when they’d tracked him down and discovered his secret before he could seal it and get away. He’d been too weak to do either after using all his strength and energy to create The Door, and now The Deceivers used it for their own evil ends.
They’d immediately purchased all the land for a couple of miles in all directions from where The Door was located, and built it up, creating businesses and jobs as a ‘gift to the city’ to hide its existence from the world.
At the end of his sad tale he’d urged The Girl to tell The Organisation to find a way to seal The Door so that The Deceivers could no longer use it, or better yet to find a way to help him escape his imprisonment and then he’d help them take control of it. When she asked him what was on the other side all he said was, Paradise.
In the days following this revelation to The Girl, The Deceivers mercilessly continued their torture of The Man. They tried forcing him to tell them how to keep The Door open for as long as they needed it, and then how to close it permanently once all their people and uncontaminated friends and family were safely across (those whom they’d put in seclusion in one of their fully equipped underground compounds immediately after the accident that had released The Catalyst into the world). But The Man had stubbornly refused to tell them anything. The torture had then increased in brutality until eventually resulting in mortal injury to one of only three humans currently known to be fully evolved. He sadly died from his injuries only two days before The Girl’s emotional report.
Wiping away a stray tear, the worst part of her report then followed: soon after his death The Girl discovered that The Deceivers had found a way to control the portal. The entire complex was abuzz with the news. It seemed that in a moment of agony, when his self-control had been weakest, The Man had revealed something to them that had given their scientists all they needed to succeed.
After the viewing The Boy had been the first to speak: We need to find The Door immediately if we are to stand any chance of saving our race.
The Chairman agreed without hesitation and immediately ordered that a special unit be assembled to come up with a plan to take control of The Door...and The Boy, he said, was to take point. It is time, he added when some voiced their scepticism in his ability to lead such an important mission, but The Chairman reminded those doubters who The Boy was and what he could do, and that because of his unique skills no one else could solve the problem facing them but him. No one argued after that.
With The Girl’s help, The Boy and his team soon learned what was required to breach the tough security measures. The coffee shop was a stroke of genius, The Boy thought at the time, and still did. Right in the heart of the city lurked the most amazing discovery in human history (along with The Catalyst), and it was the only key to the human race’s continued survival.
His wandering mind came back into sharp focus, and he sighed again and continued to stare at The Door. If only to reach her he’d risk his life to go through. She was just like him: an orphan in a world that struggled to understand them. They were the first to experience mankind’s latest shift in evolution, to emerge into a higher state of being never before imagined; and so far no other carriers exhibited their preternatural abilities. But The Boy was only interested in one particular human being. Without her he didn’t think he had a reason to keep fighting. Oh, The Scientists had been like a family to him from the beginning but they were not blood. She was – quite literally.
Well, alien blood anyway, he thought, and grinned in the cool, murky darkness of the cellar.
Scratching at the tattoo once again, he hissed when his nail found a particularly sensitive spot. The tattoo was only two days old and burned and itched almost non-stop. In the last transmission from The Girl she’d included the specs for the tattoo, and the only further explanations she’d given was that it had to be on human flesh for it to be accepted by the scanners, and that it was a key.
But a key to what exactly? he wondered, fighting down frustration. The Door? The scanners? Both?
He cautiously approached The Door and placed his ear gingerly against the wood. He held his breath, trying to hear any noises from beyond, but it was dead quiet, although he was sure he could hear a very faint hum. But that could just be his imagination.
Straightening, he placed both hands on the wood and pushed. Nothing. No give at all. He pushed harder. Still nothing. Damn!
Suddenly a load thump sounded behind him and he jumped. The thump was soon followed by muffled voices and he quickly scrambled to crouch behind two large barrels he’d arranged immediately upon his arrival in the cellar just in case he needed to hide in a hurry. His forethought had paid off, it seemed.
The voices became more distinct, and suddenly the room was flooded with a pale yellow light coming from an uncovered light bulb in the ceiling. The Boy hunkered lower and held his breath. It was either shop staff looking for supplies or a couple of Deceivers. The moment he saw them, though, he knew it was the latter. Their beady eyes and mocking faces made it obvious. He wondered why all Deceivers appeared so feral to him. His personal hatred for them had grown steadily after he’d witnessed what their stupidity had done to their own race.
He watched closely as they approached The Door. Despite their hard features they appeared to be scientists, wearing blood-red lab coats and holding tablets which bathed their faces in an eerie green light making them appear rather ghoulish. The Boy risked a peek over the top of the barrels when they turned their backs to him. They stopped speaking as one of the men placed the palm of his hand with splayed fingers in the centre of The Door. The Boy barely held back a gasp when the wood beneath the man’s hand lit up in a circle of white light and he uttered a single word that sounded like, “Ascension”.
The faint hum he thought he’d imagined earlier became clear now, and with the dull thud of locks disengaging, followed by a loud hiss, The Door, much thicker than expected, opened, revealing a small, brightly lit, very white room; nothing and no one else appeared to be inside. The Deceivers stepped through and immediately The Door began closing again, but not before The Boy saw one of the scientists roll up his sleeve to reveal his own tattoo, raise it above his head, and look up. The Door closed with another hiss and dull thud as the locks re-engaged.
The Boy stood and quietly approached The Door. Once again he placed his ear against the wood and listened. Again he heard nothing. There must be a very tight airlock on the door sealing it perfectly, he surmised.
He waited about five minutes to give The Deceivers time to complete their journey through – although he had no idea how long that was. Then, taking a deep breath, he gave his right hand a look that said he doubted its ability to do what he’d seen done by another, placed it in the exact same spot, and pressed down.
For a while nothing happened. How does plain wood glow like that anyway? he wondered. He was just about to remove his hand, feeling foolish, when the spot directly beneath his palm grew warmer and lit up. He gasped, almost snatching it away, but he forced himself to remain calm and quickly said the word he thought he’d heard. Immediately the hum increased in volume and the ground beneath his feet vibrated ever so slightly, as did The Door against his hand. He heard an audible click and felt pressure against his palm and realised that The Door was pushing against him. Removing his hand from the rough surface, The Door softly creaked open. Wide-eyed, he poked his head through the doorway and checked out the pristine room, and finding it empty he stepped across the threshold before losing his nerve.
As soon as he was inside The Door slipped closed behind him with a soft sigh, and when he whirled around he could see no sign of it. Not even an outline was visible, just flawless, smooth wall! Heart pounding, he turned back round and stared at another wall with no grooves or hinges to speak of, and The Boy swallowed hard against rising panic. What if this was a trap and by stepping through he’d effectively ended his life? Just relax, he told himself. You’ve trained and prepared a long time for this.
There were no panels or other markings that gave him clues on how to open the second door he knew was there. Taking several deep breaths he stilled his mind and focused. He pushed aside the chaotic feelings that threatened to make him fail this task, a task only he could achieve. His uniquemind was the only one that could solve this puzzle, he was told by The Scientists; only he could disable the complex machine that threatened to close The Door permanently; only he could give the rest of humankind a chance to survive and start over. In effect, the entire world was relying on him to succeed.
During all the preparations the pressure had nearly driven him mad, but thanks to the kind and confident assurances of The Girl, who had promised him that reaching the machine would be easy once he crossed the threshold, he was able to continue with renewed purpose and hope. Curiously, he was left pretty much alone by The Scientists and The Organisation to get on with things, and even though at times he felt like they’d all lost interest in the project his own resolve never faltered.
Early this morning only a handful of Scientists and The Chairman had seen him off from headquarters. Oddly subdued, they’d wished him well and he’d left with a peculiar feeling they were hiding something from him. But he’d dismissed it as nerves, and he’d shifted into that flint-like focus only his vastly superior mind could achieve.
His focus once again fully restored, The Boy rolled up his sleeve and stared intently at the angry red tattoo, a narrow band made up of small lines of different lengths and thicknesses – very similar to a barcode – that stretched the entire length of the inside of his forearm. Trying not to feel foolish again, he copied what he saw the scientist do just before The Door closed: he raised his arm above his head and waited.
Time slipped by and he fought down apprehension. Had they been too hasty? Had The Girl perhaps been found out and purposefully given the wrong information without her knowledge? Were they waiting for him with guns ready to shoot or with their own scientists ready to do horrible experiments on him? He shivered and tried to keep calm.
All these thoughts and many darker ones flitted through his mind while he waited for something – anything! – to happen.
And when at last it did he cried out, immediately embarrassed at his skittishness as if his intensive military training had done nothing to harden and prepare him to face any scenario. He was glad no one was around to witness his cowardice and he cursed himself under his breath.
A sharply focused red beam suddenly appeared directly above him through the wall, and painlessly ran over the length of his forearm in seconds. The scan done, it disappeared again, leaving The Boy staring in vain at the spot from whence it had issued.
A soft hiss sounded and grooves magically appeared in the wall in a large circular shape. In complete silence, The Door – the real one, the portal to Man’s salvation – dematerialised...and The Boy gaped at what lay beyond.
A cavernous room filled with various computers and machines of enormous size lined the walls on either side of him. The bustling room was at least two hundred metres across and filled with people and equipment he couldn’t identify, and a broad metal walkway stretched away from him into the distance to a place he could only imagine. When he looked up he could not see the ceiling; it was in complete darkness, and he had the distinct feeling he teetered in the edge of the Universe! Countless people, all wearing red coats or overalls, milled about intent on their various tasks, and those who passed him stared in open, friendly curiosity. They bore no weapons that he could see, just tablets or clipboards or various technological and mechanical instruments.
The Boy realised he was drawing unwanted attention to himself and cautiously stepped over the second threshold into another world! He had to remind himself that if he’d made it here without raising the alarm then he would never be suspected of being a spy and therefore needed to act as though he belonged.
Forcing his features into a more neutral expression, he proceeded slowly down the walkway on legs that felt like rubber and smiled and greeted those who greeted him. It felt surreal that these people, his enemies, were greeting him like an old friend. When no one stopped him he began to breathe a little more easily. Turning his hesitant steps into more confident strides, he walked as if he had every right to be there, and everyone continued about their business and ignored him.
His thoughts went back to the day he’d watched the report from The Girl explaining how she’d discovered the existence of The Door and how she proposed exposing The Deceivers and stopping them. With that memory fresh in his mind, he began to search for a particular passage The Girl had mentioned that would lead him to a room where the machine’s controls were located, the only machine that controlled the opening and closing of the portal. The metal walkway felt like it would never end, but he refused to become despondent. He trusted The Girl implicitly, and he believed he had a very good chance of success because she did, too.
When, after walking for what felt like ages and passing endless machines and computers and the occasional red-clad human, he finally reached an entrance to a darker and narrower passage branching off from the main walkway to his left, and he recognised it immediately; it looked exactly like the one The Girl had described in great detail, and he smiled with relief. But before entering he glanced back to see just how far he’d come . . . and his jaw went slack in amazement. He could still see the portal clearly, and realised that his journey had felt much longer, an illusion of passing time brought on by stress.
The Door was much higher and wider now, a glowing wall of bluish light, and distorted images moved in its centre as if they were behind a thin veil of rippling water; there was no actual physical door to be seen! When he squinted he suddenly realised he recognised those images: The cellar was no longer there; it was as if The Door had changed location, something The Scientists and The Organisation didn’t know it could do. He saw a familiar street (the one the coffee shop was located on) and people walking by, oblivious to its presence.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Here he was, in another dimension; “a parallel universe” was how The Girl described it, and fully fit for human life; unpopulated by other sentient beings; untouched and pure and free from all disease and pollution and contaminants; a new Eden for them to start over. Amazing!
And what about The Catalyst? he’d asked The Girl the last time he’d seen her at The Organisation’s headquarters before she’d disappeared. Did it exist on the other side of The Door? Had The Deceivers learned to control it fully?
But she didn’t have an answer for him then, and it had left him feeling fearful and unsure. What was the point of starting over if they were going to end up with the same problems they were trying to leave behind?
He wondered how long it would be before The Deceivers were ready to seal The Door forever. Although The Scientists knew it would be soon they had no idea of an exact date and time. All they knew for certain was that they desperately needed to get as many uncontaminated humans through to this untouched paradise as soon as possible to preserve life or all would be lost. The Boy reminded himself that his main priority right now was to ensure The Door remained open until The Organisation heard from him and came through to take control of the entire operation. They had a massive offensive planned, and, unfortunately, before things got better they were going to get a lot worse. The Deceivers were powerful, but The Boy believed The Organisation had more firepower and more influence and, more importantly, the element of surprise – and that included spies amongst The Deceivers that would make the invasion happen a lot smoother this side of The Door when the fighting began. The Boy wasn’t aware of the spies’ identities and they didn’t know about him, either – a safety precaution in case any of them were captured before the main offensive.
Taking another deep breath to calm the sudden flutter in his belly, The Boy turned and entered the windowless passage, and fifty metres or so from the entrance he saw four elevators with frosted glass doors – two on either side. Just like the walkway, this passage also continued on and on with no end that he could see. He had an odd sensation that he was caught inside a huge maze! The Girl’s report included the description of the first cavernous room and metal walkway he’d just left behind, this corridor with the elevators, then the very high tower above him. Apparently the entire operation, including the machine that kept The Door open, was controlled from a single room on the top floor, and The Boy again prayed that he was not walking into a trap. He trusted The Girl completely, of course, but The Organisation had not heard from her for a while. Right now, though, he had no other choice than to follow her instructions to the letter.
He climbed into an empty elevator and pressed a button that read: ‘CR’ – for ‘Control Room’ most probably. The journey was amazingly smooth and fast, and after about twenty seconds the elevator slowed and then stopped soundlessly. The thick doors parted with a whisper revealing a room with high, seamless floor-to-ceiling windows and no furniture or equipment that he could see.
Cautiously stepping out onto a pristinely white, slightly glossy floor, his eyes darted furtively left and right and searched for danger, and when he saw none he let out the breath he was holding and turned around. The elevator had disappeared! When he studied the floor he saw faint grooves on the surface in the shape of a square, and realised that the elevator had sunk down into the floor. Incredible!
The Boy spun around and gasped in fright, which quickly turned to wary astonishment. There, standing a few metres away where he’d seen no one before, and looking radiant in a tight-fitting white, sleeveless dress, her straight, raven-black hair falling free to her lower back and framing a perfect oval face and dancing green eyes, was The Girl. “Wh...what are you doing here?” he asked. “Are you a prisoner? Is this a trap?” His voice sounded too high and he cleared his throat and stood straighter.
Her laugh was light and rang like pretty fairy-bells echoing around the room. “No, we are not prisoners,” she replied. “In fact, we are the two most important people here.”
The Boy frowned and took a few tentative steps towards her. Something felt wrong. She looked too relaxed. Confusion riddled his mind and again he looked around nervously, expecting The Deceivers to jump out from some hidden place at any moment. But there wasn’t anywhere to jump out from! And where was this machine The Girl had mentioned? He didn’t see anything.
“Don’t be afraid,” she assured him. “You are perfectly safe and so am I.” She sighed. “Incredibly, I always have been.”
His frown deepened and he studied her more closely. “What do you mean, you always have been?”
She held out her hand, waiting for him to take it. She’d anticipated this, of course – his confusion, his mistrust – and it was only going to get worse until he understood everything.
The Boy looked at her hand, wondering at the gesture, feeling like there was something going on he wasn’t going to like. Why was she standing there so calmly, smiling and looking so beautiful, when she was in her enemy’s lair? Was she acting to protect her cover? Were they being observed? Maybe this was another experiment and they were the rats in yet another Deceiver lab!
But despite his wariness and confusion his trust didn’t waver, and so he tentatively approached and took her hand; it was warm and soft and he smelt a hint of jasmine as she drew nearer to him. She led him right up to the windows, and for as long as he lived he never forgot the sight that greeted him. He’d been so focused on her and searching for signs of a threat that he had not taken the opportunity to look outside.
Below them, stretching away from the tower for at least five miles in every direction, was the most beautiful city he’d ever seen. Elegant, soaring towers (not quite as tall as the one they were in) made of white stone and shining steel and glass glinted in the sunlight, and other more humble structures of various sizes and shapes, also made of the same materials, formed the street blocks below. To The Boy the towers stood like glimmering sentinels protecting the city’s inhabitants from evil. Broad streets, lined with pink blossoming trees, led away from the tower like the spokes in a great wheel, and he noticed that their tower was the central point within the beautiful metropolis. In the distance, on the outskirts of the city, he saw construction going on, and as The Girl slowly led him around the entire circumference of the perfectly round room he saw more signs of active expansion. Sitting within a pretty, blue haze, massive mountain ranges protectively surrounded the entire city, which lay snugly in a valley filled with lush forests and blue-mirrored lakes of various sizes. It looked like the builders had tried very hard not to disturb those natural waters and forests that added such brilliant colour to the shimmering buildings. Attractive, unidentifiable birds flew past the tower on graceful wings, and he could only stare, speechless and stunned.
“This view never fails to take my breath away,” The Girl whispered. She had not let of go his hand as they’d walked and her shoulder now rested against his.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “Where are we exactly? I...I’m confused.” He sighed in frustration and indicated at the glorious vista with his free hand. “How . . . ? When did The Deceivers have the time to build an entire city? And why don’t we know about it?”
She turned to face him, smiling happily and ignoring his exasperation. “This is Haven’s Gate, mankind’s new home. Do you like it?”
He gritted his teeth hard. “It’s beautiful,” he said, “but why are you standing here looking like everything’s just fine and we’re not surrounded by our enemy? I don’t understand!” He pulled his hand out of hers. “I’ve been so worried about you,” he continued, gently gripping her shoulders and growing ever more suspicious of her relaxed attitude. “The Organisation lost all contact, and fearing the worst I decided to follow your instructions earlier than planned and come looking for you.” She smiled sadly and his suspicions flared. “And now here you stand looking like there’s nothing wrong, like...like...”
“Like she’s part of it all,” offered a voice behind him.
The Boy whirled around to see a Deceiver striding towards them. His tall frame, long, high-collared black coat, and chiselled face made him look menacing, instantly giving away his identity. The Boy stepped back in alarm and reached for the weapon he knew he didn’t have. He’d left all his weapons behind in case their presence set off any alarms, and he was meant to find some on this side before he did anything else, but being overwhelmed by his surroundings and then finding The Girl unexpectedly had made him forget. Heart pounding, he silently cursed himself for a fool!
The Deceiver stopped advancing and held up his hands, his face stoic. “Peace, my friend. I wish you no harm,” he said.
The Boy snorted derisively. “Of course you do,” he said. “You’re my enemy!”
“No, he’s not,” said The Girl, trying to explain, but she was immediately silenced by The Deceiver with a look and she bit her bottom lip and frowned at him. They had to tread carefully right now or all would be lost!
The Deceiver took another step towards The Boy and watched him back away, and he stopped advancing again. “Please listen to me,” he urged, and ignored The Boy’s sneer of contempt and his dark, angry eyes. And in those eyes he saw the panic of a trapped animal. It was expected, of course, until he understood. Carefully now. “Everything that has led you here has been purposefully devised by myself and our allies, those you know as The Scientists.” The Boy drew in a sharp breath and his eyes widened. “It’s true. For the last two years we have been working together to make this dream a reality.” The Deceiver walked up to the window, keeping his distance from The Boy so as not to frighten him further. His face took on a sad, faraway look as he spoke. “For so long we were enemies, working against each other to gain dominance, and I do admit The Deceivers were in the wrong more than The Scientists, but your adoptive family were as ambitious and desperate as we were to learn how to control The Catalyst once they learned we’d discovered its existence.”
“The Scientists would never work with you!” The Boy hissed in fury. How dare this man compare himself to them? “They’re nothing like you! You’re evil and cruel, torturing human beings and exposing them to agonising deaths all so that you can rule over the rest of us and turn our world into your playground!” He was trembling now. “You disgust me!”
The Deceiver’s face twisted in pain and regret and he sighed heavily, nodding his head. “Yes, I agree with you,” he admitted, and saw The Boy react in surprise. “To say it plainly, we are murderers, and we did many things to get what we wanted. But when we lost control of what we were doing we realised that our arrogance had led to mankind’s possible annihilation and we concluded that our ruinous attitudes were causing everyone to suffer, including ourselves. So we made a decision to cast off our mantles of evil and begin searching for ways to save mankind instead, our roles as Deceivers and dominators changing to that of severely humbled and chastised seekers of salvation.”
The Boy was shaking his head vigorously. “No, you’re born liars, agents of the devil, destroyers and anarchists!” he shouted. The man didn’t even wince; instead he looked melancholic and beaten down, but in his rage The Boy didn’t notice. “You murdered so many to get what you wanted! You murdered her parents, and now it seems you’ve brainwashed her.” His voice broke and he stared at The Girl in anguish, the one he’d given his entire heart to.
“No, that’s not true!” said The Girl, clearly distressed, and she walked quickly towards him.
He moved away from her and pressed his back firmly against the cold glass, acutely aware of the one hundred story drop to the ground below him but not caring. The pain of betrayal was bitter and agonising and he fought back tears of frustration and disbelief. Why her? Why?
“Please, listen to us,” she urged. “The Deceivers and Scientists have been working together for a long time to try and find a way out of our predicament. When I discovered the existence of The Door I immediately told The Scientists and The Organisation about it. That was my report on the memory disc I gave you at the café. But what you didn’t know was that after the viewing they realised I would soon find out about their alliance with The Deceivers if I continued working for them as a spy, and so decided to risk telling me everything. At first I, too, was horrified and refused to continue working for them, but when they clarified that The Deceivers had been working with them to find a solution to save all of mankind and not only themselves, I started listening. To further convince me they said The Deceivers knew who I was, that I was a carrier and that I was unique, and yet for years they never touched me.” She paused and took another step towards The Boy and placed herself directly before him. She was relieved to see he was listening, although his eyes burned with anger and hurt. “They also knew who you were and they never touched you, either. Don’t you see? They could have captured us at any time and tortured us and experimented on us, but they didn’t because – and you must listen to me now,” she said, reaching out to gently place a hand on his shoulder. “Look at me, please,” she whispered. When he didn’t she asked again, and this time he lifted tear-filled eyes to meet hers. “We – the two of us – are the salvation of our race.” The Boy’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, you heard me correctly. We are the salvation of our race, not the other carriers, not The Door, not this new world. This is just a place, an uncontaminated planet where we can reproduce and begin again. But,” she continued, sliding her hand down his arm and tentatively taking hold of his cold hand, “the two of us carry the fully developed gene that will help our entire race evolve. For you see, with all their experimenting The Deceivers finally found a way to transfer the Creator-virus safely into normal humans, and The Scientists helped them discover how to do it. The answer is not in transferring the virus physically from cell to cell, from a Petri-dish or a test tube or any other such scientific means, but by taking hold of The Catalyst, that most alien of life-giving power, and using purposeful, focused touch.”
The Boy stared at The Girl, confusion battling with the feelings he still had for her. “What do you mean?” he whispered.
“Do you know why I’m so good with my gifts?” she asked. He shook his head. “Do you remember when I helped you? What did I do to bring you back from the edge?”
He frowned and forced himself to think back to the first day he’d met her. He believed that even in his compromised mental state he’d fallen in love with her that day. “You, um...you took my hands in yours, then later you placed your hands around my head.”
“That’s right. I touched you. I strengthened your weak places. I focused on healing you and I did.” She smiled. “Without knowing it I was using the Creator-virus to influence your body and your other normal genes. I was, in effect, controlling the virus and manipulating it.” She squeezed his hand tightly, and continued to explain. “The Deceivers were curious to see if I could do the same with The Catalyst. So, beginning with only the smallest amount possible, I trained myself to use my mind to direct The Catalyst, to move it from one place to another. At first it didn’t work – I was too weak and The Catalyst was like a wild animal, entirely untameable.” She looked out the window and sighed softly. “Then I took a chance one day, after a long week of frustration, to physically touch the alien energy, much to the consternation of The Scientists and Deceivers. But I decided to follow my instincts and my risk paid off. The Catalyst recognised the Creator-virus within me. At first it coursed through me like fire, and for quite a few minutes all I knew was blinding agony.” She looked at him again and took both his hands in hers. “But soon the pain ended and The Catalyst surrounded me protectively, playing softly over my skin like a lover would with his tender kisses.” She smiled at the memory. “It was quite beautiful, actually.”
The Boy could do nothing else but stare at her radiant face; he was finding it very difficult to believe a word she was saying, yet when he looked deeply into her beautiful eyes he saw the truth and her undisguised love for him, and he released an unsteady breath and lowered his head.
“Now I have the ability to streamline The Catalyst, almost like a laser, and direct it to do exactly what I want,” she said. “It’s as though it has its own personality and it allowed me to become its friend. I can carefully and gently guide it and infuse the Creator-virus with its power, and then through touch insert it into a ‘normal’ human with just enough of a boost to encourage natural evolution to speed up, but with absolutely no harm done to the host.” She turned and smiled at The Deceiver. “And he was my first patient. Fortunately it succeeded, and without much pain.” She looked back at The Boy and her smile turned sympathetic when she saw the horror and disbelief in his eyes. She understood this was going to be hard, but it was better getting it all out now than dragging it out to spare his feelings. Anyway, there wasn’t any time left to waste. He had to know the full truth right now, especially because of what was coming. “This is something you can also learn to do,” she said. “Your mind is as powerful and capable as mine. I’ll teach you.”
The Boy reacted as though he’d been slapped. What? Why would I want to do that? This can’t be happening! How can all this be true? How can she . . . how can I be capable of handling such a destructive thing and changing humans into something . . . more? What if The Catalyst is more dangerous than they yet realise and it’s just waiting to wipe all of us out for good? Through a fog he heard The Deceiver speaking.
“Focused touch is the transfer method,” said The Deceiver, “for both the Creator-virus and The Catalyst. And only the two of you have the ability, the mind power, and the gifts right now to be able to control the immense power of the alien life-force that is The Catalyst. You have already evolved beyond ordinary human intelligence and ability to become the first humans to cross the threshold into the next evolutionary stage of our existence. And you are also the only two who can help the rest of us do the same. You will be our teachers.” He shook is head, his features reflecting his incredulity. “If we had known then what we know now so much pain and death could have been avoided.”
The Boy glared at him. “One cannot change from being so evil to being saviours overnight,” he said through gritted teeth. “I don’t believe for one second you’ve changed!” He looked at The Girl, begging her with his eyes, fear making him desperate. “I don’t know if I can believe everything you’ve told me. For all I know he and the rest of The Deceivers have lied to you and have found a way to manipulate you and The Scientists. You are all being deceived – they are incapable of being anything else but who they are. The Deceivers are going to experiment on us and torture us just like they did to so many before us.” His mind was reeling with the implications of what he’d heard. The thought of controlling the alien . . . thing that had already wiped out half the human race, of becoming someone with the power to change other humans into something else, perhaps something as far removed from being truly human as possible, disturbed him beyond all reason!
The Girl shook her head. “No, no, he’s not lying. He’s different. He’s no longer called Deceiver but Restorer. All the original Deceivers – the power-hungry, cruel men and women with no consciences – have either been removed or executed, the latter being for those who refused to change and threatened this joined attempt to save mankind. They still wanted power and control even when they saw what their arrogance had done.” She looked at The Restorer and smiled and he smiled back. “But the rest have changed their ways. And together with The Scientists we can help mankind start again. We can—”
“No!” The Boy wrenched his hands free from The Girl’s and shoving her aside ran towards the elevator, which, thankfully, had not sunk back into the ground after The Deceiver had arrived. He entered and frantically hit the down-button repeatedly as The Deceiver and The Girl called after him and begged him to listen, to understand. But he was done listening and he refused to understand. He’d been betrayed; mankind had been betrayed, and he wanted no part in it. He’d rather die with his people than live in a place pretending it was Utopia when in its seedy, dark underbelly the same evil bastards ran things and ruled with an iron fist. The sorrow he felt at losing the love of his life to that evil was tearing him up inside, but he couldn’t wallow in self-pity now. Now he had to escape. He had to find his way home.
After what seemed like an eternity the elevator doors finally opened, and he ran back down the passage that led to the walkway. Turning right, he ran all the way back to the cavernous room, and ignoring the curious looks his hurried pace drew, he jogged towards the glowing portal. Strangely, no alarms had gone off to alert security of his attempted escape. He didn’t know whether to be afraid or grateful, so instead just focused on reaching The Door.
He was only a few metres from freedom when a loud voice boomed behind him.
He did so immediately, having no choice. Turning around, he gaped in surprise at person whose voice had frozen him in place. It was one of The Scientists, one of the oldest who’d become like a doting grandfather to him since he’d joined them; someone he dearly loved. The Old Man slowly approached him and, matching his pace, The Boy backed away and edged closer to The Door.
The Old Man lifted his hands in a pleading gesture. “Please don’t go, Boy,” he urged. “It’s too late now, in any case.”
Everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing, he noticed, and a small crowd was beginning to form behind The Old Man. He suddenly became aware of a loud hum all around him and the ground beneath his feet vibrating. “What do you mean?” The Boy asked, fighting back tears at seeing him and so many of the other Scientists he’d worked with and come to trust surrounded by a sea of red and looking quite comfortable amongst their enemy.
“You were the last to come through,” he said. “You are safe now, Boy. Come to me.” The Old Man held out his arms, his eyes pleading and steady. “This is your home now.”
The Boy gasped softly, horrified at what he was hearing. “This will never be my home!” he yelled. His tears finally fell and he brushed them away angrily. “Why did you lie to me?” he asked with a broken voice. “Why keep this from me?”
The wrinkled face pulled into a sad smile. “Because you would not have believed us,” he said. “You had worked so hard to fight The Deceivers and had been witness to so many horrors instigated by them that we knew you would have refused to come through The Door voluntarily. And we certainly would not have forced you because we love you too much.” He moved forward again and The Boy took another step closer to the portal. The Old Man froze and said, “Did The Girl not explain how important you are to the human race, that without you, even though we have found this beautiful place, it wouldn’t matter because we would soon die without you?” The Boy let out a sob of misery and The Old Man sighed, hating to see his hurt. He had hope that time would mend The Boy’s heart and eventually he might forgive them for their necessary deception. “I’ll tell you the hard facts now, Boy. The Catalyst has infected all of us. This is the truth. Those that died horrible deaths on our world received a much larger, more direct dose, but it didn’t end with them. Now all of mankind carries the destructive alien Catalyst within and the only way we can survive is by you and The Girl touching us, healing us, changing us before we all die, before all of mankind is lost to this Universe forever.” The Boy was almost on top of the threshold now. If he stepped through then all was lost. The Scientist reached out his hands towards him. “Please, Boy, we need you.”
The Boy was astounded as much as he was hurt and angry. Was this all true? Did they really need him to survive? So far The Old Man was right about one thing for sure: if he had been told all this before coming through The Door, especially about The Scientists, The Organisation, and, even worse, The Girl working together with The Deceivers, then he most certainly would not have gone with them to Haven’s Gate. His heart would not have allowed it, despite being completely in love with The Girl.
“I still have a choice,” The Boy said, his throat tight with emotion. “You cannot take that from me.” He felt the hairs all over his body stand on end as a result of being in such close proximity to The Door. All he needed to do was take one more step backwards and he’d be home. But he saw something in The Old Man’s eyes that made him hesitate. He was looking past The Boy, looking at something behind him, and sorrow and regret and fear filled his wrinkly features. A sharp pang of fear gripped The Boy’s heart, and he whispered, “What is it?”
“Boy,” said The Old Man softly, pointing, “Look.”
The Boy turned, and what he saw made him take a few steps back, then brought him to his knees. He had not looked through The Door properly while he’d run towards his freedom, but now that he was so close he saw everything very clearly; perhaps too clearly. It was beyond imagining, and it ripped a new hole in his already shredded heart. A sob escaped his lips and he covered his face with his hands in misery, unable to gaze upon the nightmarish vision. A gentle hand touched his shoulder and he started, but he was too beaten down to push it away.
“Every person in our world that we can still save by our touch, that isn’t entirely ravished by The Catalyst, is this side of The Door,” The Girl explained. She knelt beside him and put her arm around his slouched shoulders. “It took us a long time to get them here but we eventually succeeded. We were only waiting for you.”
“All...all those people...,” he sobbed. “Why?” His body shook uncontrollably.
“This is best,” she said with profound sadness as she lifted her eyes to look at the last image of her world she’d ever see. “It was either quick, merciful deaths or a slow, agonising end. Which would you have wished for them?”
The Boy wept bitter tears, his entire body aching with sadness and the shock of what he’d just been through and what he’d just seen.
Through the haze of his grief he became aware of the air around him beginning to crackle. The humming he’d heard earlier grew louder and the vibrations beneath him grew stronger. Forcing himself to look up, he watched as The Door slowly grew smaller and smaller until finally, with a blinding burst of light, it closed forever, leaving a burning, decimated, dead world behind it.