Chapter 12 Engineer Eclipsed
Daiva helped me lie down on the table. She straightened my grotesquely charred leg and began observing it. I closed my eyes and listened to the Gaelturi ships as they flew over us. I prayed that they would ignore such a quaint structure as our house. I looked up at Mary standing beside me, her eyes filled with anxiety.
“Can you really help him?” She asked. “Will he lose his leg?”
Daiva placed her hand on Mary’s shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile. “He’ll be fine. Thankfully, the bone is still intact; otherwise, it would take weeks to heal, even with my power.”
Daiva ignored her, gently placing her hands on my leg. My eyes were blinded by an eerie, red glow that surrounded the limb. I cringed as the feeling returned, that overwhelming burning sensation spreading throughout my body. When the light had faded, I looked up to find my leg completely healed! The charred flesh had been replaced with an almost iron-like substance. I sat up and ran my hand along my thigh. It was hard but warm, and—oddly enough—I could still feel my pulse in the limb. Mary inquisitively felt of it as well.
Daiva crossed her arms and expressed a look of satisfaction. “How does it feel?” She asked halfheartedly as if she already knew that it felt fine.
“I’m amazed that I can feel it at all!” I exclaimed. “What material is this, exactly?”
“I used a compound of muscle tissue and nerysite coated with a layer of iron and more nerysite. It should be much stronger now.”
I got off the table and began walking around the room to test its mobility. “Yes, it is! I’m impressed at how easily you repaired the joints as well as the nerves. It feels just as life-like as the original!”
“It isn’t so grand, Conrad. I’m capable of doing much more than simple procedures like that with the powers Nerys has granted me.”
I looked down at my leg and then back to her. “Yes, I’m sure you are . . .” I returned my attention to Mary. “Mary, would you spare us a moment of privacy?”
“Um-yes, of course . . .” She smiled and kissed my cheek. “I’m so glad you’re safe, dear.”
Mary hesitantly retired to her room. I then seated myself at the table and motioned for Daiva to join me. She sat across from me, her eyes feigning interest. It was obvious that she was very tired. I was exhausted as well, but there were far too many questions I had to ask; rest could wait.
“I believe the time is nigh that you tell the truth. Just who are you, Daiva?”
She was quite taken aback. It was true that we had become close friends, yet I found little room for trust in our opaque relationship.
Daiva rolled her eyes. “I told you that I am a servant of Nerys, here in this world as a prophet to warn of its coming and the doom it will bring.”
“Servants are not freely given the power to destroy their masters, and prophets cannot bend their prophecies however they wish.” I rose to my feet. “You destroyed the Devourer who you claim to be your master! Why would it grant you the power to destroy it?”
“Idiot! I didn’t destroy it. I sealed it away in Nerys before it could enter your world. You could show some gratitude instead of interrogating me.”
I calmed myself and returned to my seat. “I am thankful, believe me. All I want is for us to be honest with each other.”
Daiva sneered at me. “I have been. You just don’t trust me.”
“I’m sorry if I happen to show a little apprehension toward someone who faked their death, then, faked their insanity, and all the while excused her mysterious powers as the results of some experiment.”
“That procedure allowed me to control my powers that were already in this body. That wasn’t a complete lie, though, you do have a point. Perhaps I could afford to let you in on some secrets. First, Edith isn’t suffering in Nerys. She’s actually living quite comfortably.”
I was shocked and yet quite relieved. Knowing that Edith wasn’t suffering allowed at least some of my guilt to pass.
“But I heard her screams as the Devourer tried to consume me. They were hers. I know her voice.”
“The Devourer made you hear that, Conrad. Why do you think her screams held such priority over the others?”
I raised an eyebrow and nodded slowly. “You’re right. They were exceptionally louder than the others, but I thought it was just my trained ear. If she’s safe in Nerys, then does that mean that I can meet her?” I gasped. “Is she the one playing that music in your mansion?”
She shrugged. “I can say with all honesty that I have no idea what that music is, Conrad. I’ve never heard a single note of music played in Nerys all my life.”
I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. “If she isn’t making that music then what is? Could it all just be in my head? If so, why can I only hear it in Nerys?”
“That is beyond me, Conrad. Perhaps Edith is playing that music as a means to communicate with you.
“Yes, perhaps. I’ll be sure to ask her the next time I enter Nerys.”
Daiva glared at me. “You will not be meeting her.”
I crossed my arms. “Oh? And why is that?”
“Your sister is fine. She doesn’t need you. Right now, Mary is the one who needs your companionship.”
My entire body shook with anger. “You do not know Edith like I do! She might say that she is content, but I know that she is alone and desperately needs my company! She is simply too selfless to admit it.”
Daiva grabbed my arm, her eyes filled with rage. I had never seen her display such wrath.
“If Edith needs you then Mary needs you a hundred fold! Her mind is slowly withering away—a fate worse than death! I would rather kill her myself than watch the spirit of Nerys fill her body and corrupt it beyond recognition! There is nothing more painful than watching someone fall into the same darkness that you are in and be able to do nothing to stop it! How can you even stand to leave her side?”
I looked down at myself in shame. She was right, as usual, for I had no idea how much Daiva despised her power. Perhaps she was bound in service to that monster.
“I’m sorry. I did not know how you felt,” was all I could say. She bore a scornful expression, making sure that I felt as guilty as possible.
“What are you still doing here? Go and be with Mary before you lose her forever!” Daiva yelled vehemently.
I rose to my feet with a start and began walking toward our room. I stopped a little ways from the door and turned about to face Daiva once more.
She sighed and laid her head down on the table, “What do you want now?”
“You still haven’t explained how the Devourer nearly entered our world. You said it would take centuries, perhaps millennia before it could gather the power it needed.”
Daiva shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “That lake is known as the Devourer’s Blood. It is the manifestation of its power in this world and whoever drinks of its blood is cursed to suffer its eternal torment.”
“Then why did you let me drink it?” I interjected.
“I was lonely in Nerys. Now, don’t interrupt me!” She took a moment to calm herself. “To put it simply, when Mary entered the lake, the Devourer couldn’t resist using her to try and enter this world with what power it had. If it had been at full strength, there’s no way I could have stopped it. I told you that I was just a servant. That’s all I am and that’s all I’ve ever been. Now, go and comfort her!”
I smiled and nodded. “Thank you for protecting my sister. I’m in your debt.” I said and retired to our room, leaving her to her brooding self.
My eyes couldn’t help but glance back at her before I closed the door. Something still didn’t make sense to me. If the Devourer could use Mary to enter our world, then why didn’t it use Daiva when I bathed her in the lake? More importantly, why did Daiva allow Mary to even take a portion of her power when she just stated that she would rather her die? It seemed that she was contradicting herself. I decided not to press the matter. Right now, Mary was my top priority.
I closed the door and turned to face Mary. She had changed into her sleeping lingerie and was staring out the window, as though her gaze was still affixed on that dreaded lake. I sat down next to her and she gasped. Apparently, she hadn’t noticed me until now.
“How’s your leg?” She asked, stroking the metallic limb.
“It’s fine.” I touched her face. “Are you feeling well? You look quite shaken.”
She grabbed my hand and slowly pulled it away from her face as she began to cry. It was the first time she had wept since losing her memory.
“If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have been maimed like this. You nearly died, Conrad! I could never live with myself, knowing that I had killed you! Don’t you understand how much your life means to me? You’re all that I have!”
Obviously, Mary had been eavesdropping on us, though, I couldn’t blame her for simply wanting to know more about herself.
“That monster will destroy this world with or without you, Mary. Now, please, there is no reason to cry. It wasn’t your fault and besides, I’m still here, aren’t I?”
The last thing I wanted was for her to experience sorrow during her final days. She made no response.
I sighed. “If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine for taking you to that lake in the first place. I was a fool to go out without telling Daiva.”
Mary laughed half-heartedly. “Don’t blame yourself, Conrad. You didn’t know what would happen.” She frowned. “So much for our sanctuary . . . Who would have thought that that such a beautiful place could contain such evil?”
“Yes, what a pity . . .”
I looked down at my leg, its mangled appearance still fresh in my mind. “Evil is often gilded,” I began. “It may appeal to the eyes, but to the soul, it is a poison.”
“But not everything that’s beautiful is evil.′ Mary embraced me. “After all, you’re not evil.”
I began to laugh, for my soul was certainly corrupt, however, I abruptly stopped when I noticed the sincerity in Mary’s eyes. She leaned against me until we fell back onto the bed.
I gasped. “Mary?”
She laid her head against my chest and sighed.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
My worst fear had been realized. She must have heard about her condition from my heated conversation with Daiva. I should have known better than to raise my voice.
“I’m sorry, Mary. I did not mean for you to know. I only wanted your last days to be as pleasant as possible,” I laughed, “and look at how I’ve failed. I couldn’t even take you on a walk.”
She laughed with me and nodded. “Yes, you did fail. You failed quite miserably, but that’s fine. I’m not afraid to die as long as you stay with me.”
Misery me! It seemed that everyone I cared about was ready to jump into Death’s arms and never look back! I suppose I simply attract fearless women, or perhaps I somehow inspire them to be so brave and reckless.
I cleared my throat and said, “Mary, you should know that you will not experience physical death, but the person you are right now will surely die.”
Her eyes widened with interest. “Really? That would explain why I lost my memory and how I was connected to that demon. Still, I will always love you no matter what I become, and I know that you will do the same.” She paused. “I won’t turn into some monster will I?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“You shouldn’t lie to me, Conrad.” She chided. “Whatever my fate, I will accept it.”
I sighed. “You know me awfully well for someone who just learned of my name this morning. From what I understand, that monster at the lake is attempting to take possession of your body and use you as its servant. I’m sorry, Mary. You know that if I could stop it I would. The problem is that that monster’s spirit is the only thing keeping you alive. If we exorcised it from you, the elements of this planet would take your life.”
She did not seem nearly as horrified as I would have thought. In fact, she looked quite relieved to finally understand her situation.
“All right, Conrad, we’ve despaired enough. I’m exhausted from whatever that monster did to me, so I’ll probably lie down soon. Though, first, I’d like to hear a story, if you don’t mind.”
I didn’t want her to sleep. I wanted to spend every moment I could with her, making her laugh and seeing her smile.
“A story, you say?”
She nodded. I thought for moment and decided to tell her what I thought would be the perfect story: My own.
“In a distant land, there once lived an engineer who was very stubborn and didn’t quite understand anything beyond what he could see with his own eyes. The only love he ever had was for his sister and his country. Due to this passion for his home, he spent four years working on a very special engine that would allow him to travel through time. Once he had built this machine, his sister accompanied him as he traveled ten thousand years into the future. When he arrived in this new world, he met a girl who had experienced great sorrow. Her father had left her and she lived in a time of darkness and death. The engineer noticed this and wanted to see her smile more than anything, so he did whatever he could to make her happy. Unfortunately, he failed as he still didn’t even know joy himself. The girl already loved him as if she had known him her entire life. The reason for this was that she had kept his journal from millennia ago and read it constantly while she was a child. Though, she also knew from reading his journal that the two of them could not stay together forever. To the dismay of them both, the engineer would have to return to his own time. Despite knowing this, she did nothing to stop it and continued loving him even when she knew that following him would be the death of her. She did this because she would rather die in his arms than spend the rest of her life apart from him.” I paused and looked at her. She was staring intently into my eyes. “I’m sorry, but that’s the end. Sad, isn’t it?”
Mary shook her head. “No, it’s not sad at all. Actually, I thought it was quite romantic. I liked it.”
I couldn’t help but shed a single tear. I did not wipe it away. I wanted to savor it, for it brought me comfort to know that I could weep for those I loved.
“Dear, are you all right?” She asked, reaching her hand out to touch my face.
I smiled. “I’m fine . . . dear.” I said hoarsely.
She pulled me closer and our lips met. Obviously she thought me to be quite distressed and wasn’t at all satisfied with my response. I got off of the bed and pulled the cover over her.
“Goodnight, Mary.” I whispered and kissed her once more.
“Why don’t you lie down with me?” She asked with great concern.
I nodded. “I will, but first, allow me to check on Daiva.”
“All right, but don’t be long.”
I returned to the main room to find Daiva laying my uniform out on the table.
“You retrieved our clothes from the lake! Thank you, Daiva.” I said, throwing on my shirt and struggling to get my new leg into my pants.
“The Gaelturi were there.” She paused. “They said that Gael would be returning to Haul tomorrow to perform the ritual.”
“Tomorrow!” I exclaimed. “But Mary still has two days left. I can’t fight Gael with her here!”
Daiva laughed richly. “You do realize that this is the perfect opportunity to save our race, don’t you?”
I raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Explain.”
She glided over to me and began buttoning my shirt as she spoke. “How do you think Gael will react when he sees what has become of his sister, and how do you think all of the men will react when they realize that she is willing to give up everything to stay with you? They’ll realize their mistake and surrender to the Matriarchy after we destroy Nerys.”
I thought for a moment and shook my head. “The success of your plan depends entirely upon the consciences of our enemies. That is not wise.”
She sighed. “Well, if they don’t surrender, then I’ll slaughter them all. I intend to keep that monster in Nerys where it can be destroyed.
I laughed at her prideful statement. “There are sure to be millions of them at the ceremony, each possessing powers similar to your own. Are you sure that you can defeat them?”
She glared at me and smiled amusedly. “None of them, not even Gael, can comprehend my power. I’ll unleash the wrath of Nerys upon them if I must.”
“And what exactly does that entail?” I asked, making an effort to hide the fear in my voice.
She frowned and looked away from me. “They’ll wish I had simply killed them . . .” She gave me a stern look. “You’ll have to protect Mary. Be sure that she doesn’t look upon me when it happens.”
I nodded. “Whatever it takes. Though, I don’t see what good it would do to simply wipe out the Gaelturi.”
“Not to worry, Conrad.” She clasped my shoulder. “I will only do what is necessary to protect you. All we must do is kill Gael since he’s the only one who’s made enough sacrifices to perform the ritual.”
“Right, but will it be that easy? Gael has made millions of sacrifices; Nerys will have surely granted him a vast amount of its power.”
Daiva laughed. “Please, he’s nothing but a tool. If he summons the Devourer, it will consume him and all of his men. To that monster, he’s a means to an end—nothing more.”
I nodded. “I see. Well, then if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed. We’ll need all our strength if Gael is to return tomorrow.”
I began walking toward the door to my room when Daiva grabbed my arm.
“One more thing, Conrad . . . I’m dying.”
I stared at her blankly and then burst into laughter. It was hardly appropriate for such a solemn conversation, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. Thankfully, Daiva didn’t seem to mind.
“So are all of you ladies going to die and leave me? Am I that unpleasant?” I asked, still struggling to control my hysteria.
Daiva showed a faint smirk, but besides that, her expression did not change. She showed no fear against death. I suppose that she was already well acquainted with it.
“I’m sorry, Conrad, but when the Devourer discovered my treachery, it began feeding off of my life force. If we don’t kill it soon, I will perish. That is the real reason I allowed Mary to take my power. If we fail and the world is destroyed, Mary will become my successor and carry on the fight. Nerys will still try to possess her body, but she can fight it.”
I glared at her. I wasn’t at all happy with the way she had been using Mary. “And what if we succeed? If we destroy Nerys, will her memories return?”
Daiva laughed. “If you destroy Nerys, this entire planet will vanish and we’ll all die. Even if we made it off Haul before we struck, all of the seren in the universe would lose its power and you would be stranded in this future. Though, perhaps that would be quite convenient for you . . . Yes, you might want to consider it.”
I knew exactly what she meant. If the seren was to be destroyed, then I would be stuck in this future, at least for a few more years.
“I could still build a time engine like the one I used to get here, but that does sound like a fine excuse to stay.” I unfolded my coat and removed my journal from its breast pocket. “Unfortunately, if I don’t return this book to the Reich, then . . .” I faltered and stared at the little book. “Then this war will have never happened.”
Daiva smiled mischievously. “And is that such a bad thing?”
I returned the book to my pocket.
“It’s tempting, but unfortunately, the very fact that we’re standing here discussing this means that it will happen some way or another. Whatever actions I take to try and stop it are pointless. The timeline has already compensated for them.”
She laughed giddily. “Your reasoning never ceases to amuse me, Conrad. Good night. I’ll see you in Nerys.”
“Yes, of course . . . See you there.” I murmured and retired to my room.
Mary sat up with a start when I opened the door.
“You’re finally back!” She exclaimed. “Now, why don’t you lie down, dear?”
I sat our clothes down on the foot of the bed and took out my journal once more.
“I will, but first, allow me to write an entry for today.” I said as I rummaged around my uniform for a pen.
Mary peered over my shoulder. “Oh, is that your diary? Have you written anything about me?”
I pointed my pen at her face. “A journal, mind you, and yes, I’ve written plenty about your scientific exploits and achievements.”
She did not seem very satisfied with my answer.
“I suppose that’s something . . .” She said and withdrew herself from me.
Silence filled the room as I began to write. Not a sound could be heard, save the rhythmic scratching of my pen.
“Would you like something more . . . personal to right about me?”
“Of course. What did you have in mind?” I asked, my eyes still fixed on my journal.
Suddenly, Mary wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me down onto the bed.
“Ack! Mary!” I choked out as my journal flew from my grasp.
She lied down next to me on her side and began to caress my face. I gazed into her eyes in wonder. They were filled with love that I could never imagine. I would have never thought that this girl—her smile shining so brightly before me—knew that she would soon perish. She faced her death without fear. She refused to cower and wait for the end. Instead, she wanted to live now and love me, someone she barely knew. She trusted me unconditionally.
She leaned in closer and whispered, “I promise, dear, that no matter what I become, I will always love you.”
It was then that the engineer knew love. Yes, this had to be love. She was completely devoted to me and asked nothing in return. I never realized it, but I had felt the same way all along. Ever since Edith first mentioned staying, I had been in conflict with that cold-hearted engineer inside of me. The man that I was wanted to stay by her side and bring her out of her darkness while the engineer cared only for his own personal gain.
As I looked into her eyes, I saw the world through them—how she interpreted it. I no longer looked through the shallow film of science and reason. I dove into the world and let its life fill my spirit. I gazed in awe at its beauty as every detail filled me with emotions that I had never before known. To me, this was the Omega Point; the engineer was dead.
Suddenly, visions began rushing through my mind. I eventually realized that the man in these images was me, for I was experiencing them in third person. It appeared as though I was standing alone on a battlefield, smoke all about me. Then, a shot rang out, I fell forward into the dust, and after that, darkness. Once it had faded, Edith was leaning over me, crying as though I had died. I suppose to her, I had. There were two men standing beside her. I immediately recognized one as my uncle, the man who had taught me everything I knew about engineering and artillery. Though, the other man was unfamiliar. He looked similar to my uncle, but there was a more noble bearing about him. He was very well dressed and cast an aura of pride. It couldn’t be . . . It was my father! Until now I had thought that he had lost all love for us. I thought surely that he must have forgotten all about me, but he was there at my uncle’s home where I was being treated. Obviously, he still cared for me. I then decided that the first thing I would do when I returned to the Reich was find him. Several other memories filled my mind. I saw the day my mother gave her life to my sister, my father’s madness that ensued, and the countless days of struggle and pain that we endured thereafter. I spent ten years in that city, living on the streets and taking whatever job a child could do. It was no surprise how frail Edith had become and still was today for that matter. Then, our uncle saved us. He clothed us and took us into his home. Despite how peaceful our lives had become, Edith refused to leave my side. We had become so close after years of suffering. It had affected Edith even more so as she experienced them during her impressionable years of infancy. At that time I was fifteen and she was ten, going on eleven. Suddenly, a particular memory was revealed to my mind. It was a year later when I bought Edith her violin with the money I had saved up through my uncle’s apprenticeship.
“Here, Edith! I bought you this so you wouldn’t be bored all the time.” I said, holding out the instrument. I was speaking in German, giving the scene a sad feeling of nostalgia.
She took it silently and gazed in awe at the varnished wood. All her life she had never been given anything so superfluous.
“Wow! Thank you so much! I promise I’ll learn to play it just for you, brother!”
Her words warmed my heart. Sadly, the vision faded and I found myself sitting on a grassy hill. The sun was setting and the field below me was tinted with orange. Though that was not the only color it bore, for the ground was red with blood from the corpses strewn about it. I jumped up and began running down the hill to observe the horrid scene more closely. I stopped when I noticed a man astride a horse, riding amidst the bodies. No, it would be false to say he was a man, for he was more likened to an apparition. A shroud of darkness was about him and his countenance was one of doom.
I gasped and fell to my knees, blood splashing up onto me. This ghost of a man was me. I then realized that I did not fight in the war out of devotion for the Reich. No, I fought because I wanted to destroy the world. I sought vengeance for the suffering I had endured and that desire nearly ruined me.
I laughed quietly to myself. “If he still be alive, I should thank the Frenchman who was so kind as to shoot me.”
No, it wasn’t a bullet that caused me to forget my past. I chose to run away from it. I gave up and tried to throw away the man I had been by filling my life with whatever I could. My nationalism, my obsession with science and engineering, they were nothing more than distractions to keep me blind to the endless void of darkness and pain that I had plunged into. I even forsook all of my emotions out of fear that I would again fall into it. I was a coward for running away, but now I would stand proudly against whatever trials I faced and I would love the world and the God who created it, the God I had hated all my life and cast blame upon for mine and my sister’s suffering.
I watched the phantom ride off into the distance as the world dematerialized around him. I awakened from my dream to find Mary sleeping peacefully at my side. She must have thought that I had suddenly been overtaken with exhaustion and decided to rest as well. I looked upon her with my new eyes. It was as though an entirely new world had opened up to me. My heart began to race as I gazed at her beauty. The soft, blue glow of the seren reflected off of her gray skin, causing it to shine like the moon. I had seen this several times before, but only saw its beauty then as nothing more than a scientific phenomenon.
I couldn’t help but wake her, for I wanted her to share in my joy. We were close enough for me to kiss her, so I did, though very lightly. She opened her eyes and smiled blissfully. Her eyes were breathtaking. The love I could plainly see within them was overwhelming and her gentle smile warmed my soul.
“What is it, dear? Is there something you want?”
What a sweet voice she had! There could not be a more calming sound in the world. If Nerys were to take her and only her voice remained, that would be more than enough.
She embraced my neck and I felt the warmth of her touch. There was such detail in everything she did. Her actions were so much more than combined motions of muscles, bones, and joints as I had before interpreted. No, I could feel the care and tenderness in her every move.
“Is something wrong, dear?” She asked.
I must have indeed looked like a fool, gaping at her as I was.
I faltered. “What? Oh! No, I just wanted to thank you, Mary. You’ve definitely given me something to write.”
She laughed pleasantly. What a joyful sound it was!
“I’m glad I could help. Good night, dear.” She said and kissed me again.
It were as though I had never kissed her before. Such love and devotion could I feel in that simple act that I knew I could rest in her. I had never felt such solace.
She quickly returned to her peaceful slumber, but I could not rest. I was enraptured in her entire being. My mind was racing, though instead of trying to come up with some figures, it was trying desperately to find some way that I could reflect that love that she so bountifully gave to me.
Eventually, I stopped as simply looking at Mary eased my mind. I embraced her tightly and she half opened her eyes.
“I love you, dear,” she whispered.
I caressed her back and said, “I love you too, dear.”
I could tell by her smile that that was enough.