Chapter 8.6

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Then the vertical line hopped down a couple of spaces and letters began to appear, rolling across the page like a flag unfurling in the wind.

HELLO NICK

Nick pulled back.

Shut it, he thought. Shut it and get out.

But as if the thing had read his mind, more words appeared.

PLEASE DON'T GO

Nick stared at the page for a moment, breathing hard. Then he slowly reached for the tray of letters.

WHO ARE YOU

MY NAME IS JACOB DICKENS.

ARE YOU REAL WHERE ARE YOU

I'M REAL. I'M RIGHT HERE.

WHAT IS THIS PLACE

A MUSEUM. THEY ALWAYS PUT THE MOST INTERESTING EXHIBITS IN THE BASEMENT. LOL.

Nick wondered what LOL meant.

HOW DOES THIS MACHINE WORK he wrote.

ELECTRICITY. IT WAS SEALED IN A VACUUM, WHICH PRESERVED THE BATTERY. REMARKABLE EH?

Nick had never heard of electricity or vacuums. He thought batteries had something to do with war. What if this thing was a weapon?

IF YOURE HERE WHY CANT I SEE YOU

I'M TRAPPED INSIDE

WHO TRAPPED YOU

HATTO

Nick blinked with surprise, but more words were rolling across the screen.

THERE WAS A VIRUS. BILLIONS DEAD. THEN HATTO CAME, HATTO AND HIS FANATICS. HE BLAMED ME. I WORKED THERE, YOU SEE. IN THE LAB.

There was a pause. The vertical line blinked.

SO I HID

Nick knew of the Plague of course, and how Hatto and his followers, survivors of that apocalypse, had rebuilt the world. Everyone knew this.

BUT THAT WAS A THOUSAND YEARS AGO he wrote.

SO?

SO HOW ARE YOU STILL ALIVE

I'M NOT. There was a pause. HOW OLD ARE YOU?

12

DO YOUR PARENTS KNOW YOU'RE HERE?

MY PARENTS ARE DEAD

HOW DID THEY DIE?

THE BROTHERHOOD EXECUTED THEM

Another pause. When the letters appeared again they rolled out slowly and deliberately.

WE HAVE MUCH IN COMMON THEN, YOU AND I.

When Nick put his fingers back down to the letters his hands were shaking.

ARE YOU THE DARK TRAVELLER

Slowly, three letters appeared.

YES

A red rectangle suddenly popped up in the foreground, making a tiny farting noise. There was writing on it.

WHATS THAT

A WARNING. THE BATTERY IS DOWN TO FIVE PERCENT. WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME. I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU. I CAN HELP YOU DESTROY THE BROTHERHOOD.

Nick had a sudden aching vision of his parents swinging side by side at the Derricks, silhouetted blackly against the sky. Something rolled over inside him like a stone. He reached out slowly. His hands seemed disconnected from his body.

LET ME HELP YOU

The words flew by then.

FIND THE OLIPHANT. IT BELONGED TO DAVID NASSAR. THE LAB IS UNDER THE UNIVERSITY. THERE'S A CEMETERY. NEAR ROYAL PARADE AND

The lights on the machine went out. The whirring wound down and stopped. Nick pressed the round button several times but nothing happened.

He stood in the darkness for a long time, looking at the blank page where the words had been. Eventually he closed the lid.

As he lifted the lamp from the ground his eyes lighted on the symbol on the lid of the machine.

It was an apple.


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