His blood ran cold. Above him, the stark, sleek, white high-rise of the school towered above every other building. Each gleaming window seemed like a seperate vein in the artifice of this spire of glass and steel - and from the posters he had seen on the sidewalk as he made his way to the building, he knew it was the building. Knew it.
But that changed nothing. He didn't want to be here, on this sunny bright day, when the rest of his old friends were in their normal schools, with their normal lives. He still remembered the childhood promise he'd made to his friend
_______ when they'd parted ways; that they'd graduate from the same university together, or failing that, always stay in contact.
Feeling his wrists trembling, he stepped into the common grounds, and was immediately surrounded by two well-dressed Educational Supervisors. They began to talk excitedly about his career opportuntities and the future he'd have from participating in the project, and they couldn't have been much older then him. And yet -
They carried knives, and the cold shine of gunbarrels extruded from open holsters upon their legs - making it clearer then ever that the school was not just a school, but an armed camp; and of it's soldiers, like him - they were all children.
Inside the Principal's office - no, the General's office, he reminded himself - patriotic posters plastered the wall. They'd been layered over each other so completely that it was impossible to tell what colour the wall itself had once been. The same posters that playfully exhorted students to join an after-school club were neck-in-neck with posters that told students to register for testing immediately. The General - an austere man who might have passed for a normal administrator save for the ornamental saber at his side - spoke easily, with a ready drawl.
"You're special, you know. You sure are special! There must be a dozen candidates out of the
______ that we surveyed, and yet you and you alone had the right stuff." The General surveyed him like a shark, eyes clinically evaluating every part of him in a way that made him think of a butcher marking the sections of the cattle to be sent to market, and those to be excised and ground into a fine paste.
"It's your body."
He tried to say that he knew - but the words wouldn't come.
"It generates phlogiston! More phlogiston then we've ever seen! It should be impossible for you to be alive son, and yet here you are! You're already a hero to your country, a hero to the world! But that's why we need you to do this. You understand, right?"
He thought of her, and nodded, trying to look confident.
The General licked his lips.
"Good. There are plenty of people who'd be envious, you know. Jealous even. Freaks the lot of them, but not you. A good, strong boy. Eh?"
The General slapped him harshly on the back, not trying to hide his contempt for a fraction of a second
"You get out there and make us proud. If you fail, well, I don't know what we'll do with you, but I can't imagine it'll be worse then what happens to the rest of us! AH HA HA HA!"
It didn't sound like laughter, but the General continued to make the hoarse and hateful sound even as the same supervisors as before led him out of the principal's former room, out into the courtyard, out into the hastily built bunker under the ruined chapel, and down floor after floor of equally hastily built military fortification.
The room didn't look like the sleek school above. It didn't look a military bunker, nor any other building he'd ever seen. The walls wriggled with a green slime, and shone with the myriad colors that reflected in a seashell - or an oil spill. There was no door - but as they approached, a slit opened up in the walls, and one of the interchangable advisors nudged him forward - and then kicked him into the room, even as he wordlessly screamed, trying to find a shred of personality that would allow him to challenge this nightmare.
But none emerged, and the door-slit sealed up behind him.
In the center of the room, it grew; towering and byzantine, anenome-like surface covered with a million openings that chattered rythmically. It was almost reminescent of chimes in the wind. Strangely beautiful, save for the unidentifiable fluid dripping from one scaly-shimmering frond to another.
" Y O u A r e h e r e !!"
It boomed inside of his mind, speaking in a voice that caused his eyes to swell up and dilate until they watered in pain and he collapsed to the floor. His vision swam even through his tightly shuttered eyes as he felt it dig through his mind, dig through his memories, finally find them, find her, and it sunk hooks into her memories and took her voice as it said:
"That is so much better! You are the one they chose. You are the one they chose. Aren't you?"
He murmured a reply that he was, the pain receeding as it shook, splattering the oily syrup around it in every direction. Some stuck to his white dress-shirt, shining a brilliant crystalline hue before turning grey and sludgen, hardening to his clothes like burnt clay.
"Good. What do you think of weather?"
Not the weather, it asked. She asked.
"I guess I like weather..? Sunny days... Are nice?"
He felt as if his reply had been mandated. It was forced, robotic, and it didn't match the smile that didn't match this room; but she couldn't tell. Maybe she was as confused as he was? He clung to the illusion, and decided it would be easier if he just shut his eyes for the process.
"I also enjoy SUNNY DAYS."
"Now let us Consulearn."
There was no time to say anything before several of the tendrils plastered him to the wall, carving incisions into his skin. They held the incisions open as something unfamiliar swept into his consciousness and his skull felt as if it would tear apart from the strain - then all he could perceive were colors, images dancing through his mind. A parade of memories and memories that never were, designed to put him at peace. Somehow he recognized that they were a crude anesthesic, and felt wave after wave of gratitude for the kind creature, even as he perceived his body, spasming below.
It was not a long process, and slowly the numb bliss faded away. Slowly, but too quickly for his liking. He felt nauseaus, and he was covered in the strange tar, which had hardened around his skin. But it was brittle, and shook off of him like dander as he rose unsteadily to his feet.
"The Consulearning was a success. I have analyzed the most worthwhile parts of your DNA. The Timeless Galaxy has seen fit to bless our union. Look; our progeny awaken."
He would have mistaken the sacs from the ceiling as some kind of alien lighting, but they were not. Though clearly unconnected to either he or she, they rapidly filled and swayed with the burgeoning of life -life that grew too quickly, too rapidly. Some of the sacs twitched and stopped moving. Others shattered, scattering living glass and slime to the ground.
None passed as humanoid, and yet he could see himself in all of them. Shivering and crying, his tears dragging slime contrails into his mouth, he knelt to the ground - reaching out a hand. The surviving brood rushed around the outstretched hand, extending tendrils and cooing in an alien symphony.
"Hey there, little guys. I guess... I'm your father."
And then suddenly it hit him, a swell of pride and fervor. He was their dad. And they were his, no, their, beloved children..! Laughing and sniffling, he let them sink tiny hooks into his back and climbed from the floor.
"All right, kids! So your dad what you've got!"
Their song swelled up in his mind, and she joined the song, and he stretched his voice and tried to join it as well, even though it hurt to sing that unfamiliar note. They returned up the elevator as one big family.
He saw the faces of the others. How they recoiled from his lovely wife. His first lovely wife, for he would produce as many child-weapons as needed. Ahead of them lay the Great Distortion; the same one that had spat forth his beloved family and their hated foes. His skin tingled with sweat; his children would destroy and consume all of the evil monsters that dwelled within. And he would make more, more, more!
Insane with happiness, he took his interchangeable wife-advisor-machine to his side and his intangible spawn to his skin and let the phlogiston he produced consume him. Of the man known as
_____ there was nothing more.
The Conception had began.