I was there for a long time. Eventually my eyes ran dry and I had to settle with dry sobbing. I felt like something had been ripped from my chest, as if my humanity had been stolen from me and replaced by something horrible and mechanical.

As one would expect news of the disaster spread like wildfire through the tiny community that surrounded the college. The crowd outside the library swelled and idle conversation once again seeped into my ears, which I wish could do a better job of blocking out the inane chitterings of the tiny selves that concerned themselves with something beyond them.

Thankfully our headmaster was once upon a time a colonel in the emperor's army. As a military man he did the thing he knew best. He called in the legionaries, a garrison of which was stationed in the town just down the way. While he was far from imposing some form of martial law over the student body, he knew that large groups of young and impressionable adults were likely never a good thing.

So the crowds dispersed. For that I was incredibly thankful. I hugged my legs and rested my forehead on my knee caps, willing myself away.

It wasn't before long that I felt a heavy gauntlet clad hand on my shoulder. I hadn't heard anyone approach, so I was initially startled.

"Hey, you don't look so good."

A warm eyed legionnaire greeted me. He was a young captain not much older than myself, probably in his mid twenties. His chest plate was emblazoned with "AENEAS" in a neat serifed font.

"Listen. We're under orders to secure the area. You're not hurting anyone, I know. You must have been close to Mister Admes. But I need you to go home."

I swallowed hard. I didn't want to go home.

"There'll be a memorial service for you to grieve at in due time. Here isn't the place, kid."

He furrowed his brow looking for more words.


He gave my shoulder a squeeze and left me there. He didn't look back. After he disappeared beyond the bushes that stank of my sick I realized that the librarian was dead and that the rumors weren't close to the truth. I felt hollow. If I was somehow responsible, I was now a murderer.

I made it to my feet and jammed my hands in my pockets. I walked away while staring at my shoes.

It wasn't before long that I found myself at Gerald's dorm. I stood outside his door for a long time, waiting for the courage to knock. I could feel eyes in the hallway drill holes into the back of my head. But I wasn't concerned with their little minds of their perception of what was normal or not.

I lightly tapped. Ice water ran through my spine.

The door cracked open and the smell of college boy stink and cheap incense wafted out.

"Hanz? Oh fuck. You fell off the wagon again. Come in."

I shuffled in and collapsed into a chair. He sat too, giving me plenty of space. I had never been to his room. It was the polar opposite of how mine used to be. Messy, filthy, devoid of any academic reference tool.

"He's dead."

I croaked, my eyes watering.

"Yeah. I know."

I didn't know the librarian particularly well. But no one knew that.

"It happened so fast. I just... woke up and ran. When I got there... it was a mess. What could do such a thing.."

It felt like he was studying me, but his eyes were kind and his expression sincere. I ran a hand through my hair and offered a pathetic smile. It cracked instantaneously and I broke down into full sobs again.

It was so alien. I didn't share my emotions with anyone. I didn't just arrive and hang out with friends. Likewise Gerald likely never had a man collapse emotionally in his dormitory before. But I had caused a chain of events that lead to this point. There was no turning back.

It took him awhile to work up the courage to awkwardly embrace me. It was brotherly and warm. I felt a little better.

I wanted to lie to break the silence. I thought of saying how the old man had always been there to help me find what I needed, how he was a genius in his own right. I wanted to say something good about the man whom for all intents and purposes was my murder victim.

But Gerald hated the awkward silence more than I did.

"I know you were spending a lot of time there. He must have meant a lot to you."

He offered weakly. There was a beat.


"But he's in a better place now."

Gerald was an atheist. I had always respected the courage he must have had to be so open about it. It felt wrong that my weakness had caused him to pander to my theology.

"You know you don't believe that."

I managed to say while trying to steady my breathing.

"I don't need to."

He broke his embrace and pulled his chair closer to mine. I wiped my eyes, which were already puffy and red. He was like an anchor. His presence steadied me and kept me connected to the earth in a sea of madness.

I felt better with him watching me. However wrong it was, I wanted to stay. I didn't want to go back to the horrors that hid beneath my bed.

My eyes slid over and connected with his. I didn't notice that they were no longer under my own control. I could feel a smile form on my face.

"You're beautiful."

I said, but it sounded wrong. It sounded artificial, like hearing your own voice on a tape recorder. It was me, disembodied and crammed into something tinier than myself.

A look of confusion slowly spread across his face. It was replaced by sheer panic within a fraction of a second. I saw it all in slow motion.

It was then that I realized that I was no longer myself, but a passenger in my own body. That I had exposed my secret and likely alienated the only thing that could pass for a friend.

There was some quick and awkward fumbling and groping as what passed for me betrayed my screaming mind. I tried to steel myself, but I was emotionally and physically drained. I didn't have the energy, even though my hand formed a vice like grip on his arm. I must have hurt him, because I felt the air evacuate my lungs as he punched me in my gut.

Doubled over I muttered something, but I was too busy panicking in the back of my own head.

Eventually his door was opened and I was thrown out in a sprawling mess. It slammed shut behind me. It was then that whatever had possessed me departed. It felt like a sudden crash. Energy that I didn't know existed evaporated.

I laid there, a mess of legs and arms. I felt violated. I felt as if I had been raped. I had also been robbed of Gerald and likely rightfully labeled as a non-breeder.

I slinked away humiliated and terrified.

There was no one to comfort me. I wanted to die.

The walk home was uneventful and clarifying. I kept largely to myself, letting my newfound sense of individuality apart from "A" and her enigmatic longhand seep into my pores. I still couldn't wrap my head around much of what had happened to me, but it felt good to have a sense of self again.

It felt good to have more contact with Gerald.

There was a brief moment after I had arrived where my eyes slid across the old wooden floor boards to where my book bag was hidden from view. I managed to steel myself against the twitches that crept into my arms and legs, but I could feel them in hiding. They were like termites gnawing on my self control. Not wanting to ruin the progress I had made that day, I denied myself their pull.

I salvaged several letters from home out of my rubbish bin and tried to read my mother's poor hand writing and understand my uncle's tenious grasp on the Isyrian language. The act only served to frustrate me, so I abandoned them where they had originally been found.

I attempted to ease my mind and relax, but there was little to do. I didn't dare crack a book, regardless of subject for fear of her return. Nor did I feel any artistic pursuits such as writing or sketching. I settled with cleaning the remainder of the mess that had become my home.

It made me feel at ease. I thought about my family in the hinterlands and their struggles with the farm, but they weren't much to me anylonger. I tried to feel ashamed, but they seemed so dim from me. Even before my encounter with "A" they were far from my mind. Now they were little more than characters in a serial to me. A little piece of fiction delivered to my door by a bookseller disguised as a postman.

Once I grew tired enough I washed and allowed myself to slip into unconsciousness. It came fast, it felt good to relax my sore muscles.

I had distorted dreams filled with flight and travel. There was vivid moment wherein I remember Gerald sitting on my lap and my trembling hands cutting a lock of his hair which had suddenly become long and golden. We smiled, but his face contorted in agony and he dissolved into the red script of "A." I clutched at the words, only managing to catch the negative bits and phrases.

I awoke in a cold sweat. My finger tips were red and chapped, stained with black ink. The field journal, along with several other tomes unknown to me populated my desk. I was also nude. I felt my face flush.

What had happened? I clearly remembered willing myself to sleep and my frustrated attempt at catching up with mother. Moreover, I did not recall disrobing prior to bed. And I certainly did not recall reading that which I had recently forbidden myself from.

I frantically dressed and abandoned my dormatory.

I ran away, pumping my legs until I could until feel the cobblestones beneath my soles and I could only hear my own pounding heart. I had no direction in mind, but I quickly found myself in front of the enormous gothic building from which my madness had arisen, the university library.

The doors, usually the height of two men and clad in heavy iron bands and locks had been torn asunder. I could see the remnants of one several dozen meters away from the building. It had been smashed into mostly splinters. Terrifyingly it was smeared with something not too much unlike blood.

Constables where milling around, likely collecting evidence. Thankfully due to the large crowd gathered outside no one noticed my arrival. Breathing heavy and my mind swimming, I allowed myself to dissolve into the crowd.

"I left just before they closed. The poor old librarian. He was always so nice. I hope he makes it."

"They say it would have taken an army to break through those doors."

"...... constable interviewed me. He asked a lot of weird questions."

I picked up snippets of conversation and gossip. The morning was cool and breezy, so my sweat dried quickly. Soon I was just another gawker.

Further inspection revealed a brief, but terrifying glimpse inside the ancient building. Behind armor clad legionaires standing a vigil, I could just make out the ruined interior. Shreds of paper and splintered bookshelves populated the once quiet place of learning. The ornate lighting fixtures were largely reduced to scrap metal and broken glass.

I gathered from the crowd that the head librarian, an ancient man whom I barely knew, had been rendered bloodied and partially dismembered at closing. Rumor said he was either in a coma or mute. Whether it was due to the horrible experience of having one's limbs removed or from head trauma was a popular point of debate.

I was mortified. Before too long I felt sick, so I departed. Once I was clear of the crowd I allowed myself to vomit behind some bushes. I allowed myself to rest against a tree and collect my thoughts.

Had I in some way been responsible for the events that had happened the night prior? The alien stack of books stamped with the seal of the university seemed to indicate so. Had I, in my sleep, paid a visit?

I heard of people doing powerful things with adreniline and endorphines, but partially dismembering a librarian and rendering the building a terrible mess of shredded paper and splinters seemed a bit of a stretch.

So if I was not responsible, what had happened? Was it related to my obsession and my madness? I could feel my intellectual vanity urging me to return to the scene or my apartment, to study the terrible events and determine my connection.

But the courage to do so escaped me. I was weak and tired. I couldn't return home.

So I sat there and wept.

The closer I got to the university the better I felt. The sun was slipping below the horizon when I entered the bronzed gates, painting everything in beautiful colors. I smiled when I saw people I knew from class or elsewhere. Some returned my gesture with their own and some looked at me oddly, as if I was behaving abnormally.

Of course I was, but this sort of abnormality was of the variety that I could deal with. It made me feel whole. It made me feel like a real person, made of flesh and bone instead of mad thoughts and jitters.

I spent a good part of the evening strolling around the gardens. The crowds and cliques eventually thinned out into couples hand in hand returning from town, freshmen rough housing or lone students returning from late classes.

Eventually I found myself at home. The following day was a holiday, so I laid out some of my best clothes and spent some time grooming myself. It took quite an effort as apparently my habits had suffered somewhat during my obsession.

I was proud that I only spared brief glances at the spot where my book bag was hidden beneath my bed. It felt like less of an obsession and more like a sense of curiosity. I had forgotten already how much control it had over me during the previous weeks.

I allowed myself to sleep. I dreamt of home, good food and wine.

I awoke to the afternoon and my upstairs neighbor exercising vigorously. Light was spilling into my tiny corner dorm and I had to force my eyes to focus.

After eating a sparse breakfast I dressed and left the rest of the mess behind.

I took my time getting to town. The lone cobblestone road that connected the university to the ancient hamlet was a relatively long and winding one, but a lovely walk in spring. I stopped several times to admire the mountains to the east when they poked out from the forest.

Sometime after my arrival I located Gerald and the rest of the gang milling around in town center, a lovely grassy park with fountains and manicured hedges. They were behaving beautifully, lounging in the sun and playing games. After swallowing a brief sense of nervousness I joined them.

Gerald embraced me like a brother and my uneasy feelings dissolved. I grinned and immediately became a member of the group. It felt good to be part of a crowd, instead of a lone observer or alien intruder.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent window shopping, enjoying local cuisine and playing games. It felt good to have a full stomach and feel my muscles stretch for a Frisbee or ball.

Eventually the gang dispersed. Some couples fanned off to walk alone in the historic alleyways and several small groups departed for an early supper or an evening of study.

It took some gentle maneuvering but I managed to manipulate the situation and get Gerald all to myself. I was amazed by my own courage, but I was high on my new found sense of self. He didn't seem terribly bothered by the situation either.

We were enjoying a game of cards as the sun spilled its guts on the horizon.

"You look like you're feeling better."

He said, arranging his cards for a third time. I could tell he was hoping for a winning hand so he could save face.

That wasn't going to happen, but I pretended to look a little worried at my own hand to ease his ego.

He probably didn't have the attention span to notice. But it made me feel better for him.

"Yeah. Today was a pretty big help. It took my mind off of somethings that have been bothering me."

Gerald raised a brow, inspecting me with a level of sophistication that I thought was beyond him.

"Oh? I thought you were 'sick'?"

"I was."

I reinforced my original lie rather pathetically. I couldn't even think of some sort of justification to link the two. Even he saw right through it. I put down several cards and drew from the deck.

"You didn't make eye contact with me when you first said you were sick, by the way. You just did it again."

"I hadn't noticed."

I shuffled my cards, trying to look unconcerned.

"You like to make eye contact. It makes it pretty easy to spot when you're uncomfortable or lying."

I forced myself to look at him in the eyes. It took all the strength I could muster.

"Now you're just trying to hard, Hanz."

He laughed, drew from the deck and allowed me to look away. I didn't feel hurt or cornered, just a little embarrassed. I had worked so hard to bring myself to this point, harder than he likely thought possible, and I was making a total fool of myself.

I considered telling him the truth. Not just about the enigmatic "A" or my recent obsession with old field journals, but about everything. But even in the progressive, liberal atmosphere of the university people like me were still shunned. I couldn't bear to be made a pariah after I had gained some sense of community.

"I've just had a really hard time focusing lately. In class and out. It's like my brain is full."

I met him half way with a half truth.

"Oh. Yep, I know what you mean there. Sometimes I think my head is going to explode. I never thought you'd feel the same way. You always seemed like an automaton."

He put down several miserable cards and drew from the deck. The conversation was distracting him from the game. I put down the worst cards I had to prolong our talk. I could defeat him at any time, but I preferred the intellectual sparring while we conversed. It made me feel like I had some control over the situation.

"You wouldn't believe, Gerald. You wouldn't believe. Sometimes when I'm studying I just get sucked in. I can't stop, even though my head hurts and my eyes hurt and my fingers hurt. It just gets twisted around and around.."

I flushed, "A" invading my thoughts. I imagined her writing a quip in the margin of my life, about how pedantic I was behaving.

I distracted myself by the sunlight reflecting off of his face. "A" and her arrogant, mean spirited remarks blew away.

"I know you're probably still feeling kind of shitty, but would you mind looking over my notes?"

He asked, nervously adjusting his cards.

"It's just.... sometimes they talk too fast or go beyond assignment. I know you have a lot of stuff going on, but I'd appreciate you filling in some blank spots."

He continued, omitting the fact that he was being tutored in just about every subject we shared this semester. He tried so hard at school, to be as smart as his father was, to avoid the front lines and the meat grinder that was the emperor's legion.

"Sure, Gerald. Sure."

I wanted to test my luck, but I knew that it was better if I quit while I was ahead. After I sabotaged myself deliberately in our game and hid my winning hand into the deck I made a lame excuse to return home.

He awkwardly mentioned he should pick up something to eat before leaving, conveniently avoiding a situation wherein we'd be walking together. I didn't protest. I knew he was embarrassed about admitting his inadequacies. So was I, but by my own unusual burdens.

The establishment was a quaint little hole in the wall that served outlander fare. It was always a bustling place filled with interesting people and wonderful smells. I poured into a chair at my usual table. I began to feel normal again. It helped drain the thoughts swirling in my head and allowed my brain to rest at last.

Several people, some my peers and some that I did not recognize paid me attention. I must look like hell, I thought to myself as the nervous barista took my order of Mournsorian Country Stew and a cup of herbal tea.

I relaxed, sinking into my chair. I hoped I would disappear from view so I could just exist without thought or having to worry about the worried glances I garnered from my pathology peers. I know I was behaving oddly and that their concern was superficial, that I was more likely gossip instead of an actual fragment of university news. But I still harbored some resentment, a malice that had previously been absent from my personality.

It was my friend Gerald that broke me out of my brooding. He materialized from the bustling servers and laughing patrons and took a seat at my corner table.

He stared at me and smiled. I returned the favor.

"You look like hell, Hanz."

His voice was warm and kind. I relished the genuine human contact and smiled.

"I probably do, don't I? It's been a rough couple of weeks. I've been sick, but I think I'm finally over the worst of it. This'll be the first real meal I've had for a long while."

I lied about being sick and offered what I thought a genuine smile. I instantly felt guilty.

"I get pretty sick when reading up on religion, too."

My eyes slid away. Clearly he was more observant than I had previously thought.

Our conversation beat around the bush until my meal arrived, he politely declined the barista's offer of his own.

The point was made that he knew what I had been reading and how odd a subject it was for me. I wasn't secretive about my habits, my professors could attest to that. But I figured I was a nobody. Even my friends were probably better called acquaintances. Gerald was no real exception.

"Is everything all right at home?"

He finally asked after several minutes of silence broken only by my slurping the savory liquid before me.

"Yeah. Fine."

The conversation felt wooden and fake already.

"Because sick or not, you don't seem right. You're pretty out there lately. Distant, depressed. You even blew off your lab assignments. And you were annoyingly looking forward to those for the past semester. You slept through Doctor Gordon's lecture.

"I've never seen you sleep in class."

I didn't remember sleeping through a lecture. How twisted had I become in my obsession?

I pushed my bowl toward the middle of the table. My appetite had escaped me.

"Everything is fine."

I pleaded pretty pathetically.

"Look. Hanz. I'm just saying that we miss you."

Miss me? I had always been a loner and prone to secluding myself. While I had my equivalent of friends, I never attempted to make myself an important part of any one's life. I was never the type of person invited to a party.

My eyes slid back over to him. He was staring at me, his expression genuinely concerned and warm. His hair was perfect.

"I miss you, too."

I replied meekly, my meaning different than probably heard. I hid behind my mug and sipped the bitter tea.

"If you're feeling sick still, that's okay. But if you're up to it, why don't you meet up with us in town tomorrow?"


"You know, Virology III: Applied engineering. The slaves of Professor Michaels."

He smirked, the over bearing professor had a habit of creating an us versus her mentality in the classroom. I personally liked her and I suspect she returned the favor, but I shied away from letting that become public knowledge for fear of becoming a pariah.

"Yeah. Okay. I'll try."

"Great! Hey, let me know if you need anything. All right? You can borrow my notes if you want. You know, catch up on the stuff you snored through."


Then he left, saying he had a tutoring appointment. I know he meant he was the tutee, but I didn't say anything.

I watched him leave and regretted not having signed up to peer tutor. My grades had been good enough during open enrollment.

I stayed put for a good portion of the afternoon. I returned to my stew out of frugality and little more. My hunger never really returned. Past that I leeched free tea while people watching. I debated internally whether or not I should attend. Even if I had been my normal self I probably would have rather studied.

I decided that I would attend, if only to show the rest of my class that I hadn't gone off into the deep end. Whether that was true or not was beyond my guess.

I paid my due and tipped generously before heading back home. I felt better about my decision. My usual nervousness was replaced by a sense of pride.

Maybe my little obsession had given me the opportunity to grow.

I tried to scream bloody murder and regain control of my quickened and unusual gait, but little escaped other than a mumble and I only succeeded in stumbling over a loose cobblestone. Perhaps it was then that I began to have serious doubts about my growing obsession and increasing madness.

Daylight light had long since drained from the perennially dripping sky and so few were present to witness my largely internal struggle, so mercy had not completely abandoned me.

So complete was my subversion up until that point I had given my downward spiral more than a passing thought. I had not devoted much brainpower to it up until that point thinking it was my intellectuals mind doing what it was trained to do. I did have an over zealous tendency when it came to my studies, but this was altogether different. This was an obsession that burned me, a jealous one that wiped knowledge from my mind and replace it with desire and a subject that was up until that point unknown to me.

I steeled myself. At first I could only gnash my teeth and increase my grip on my messenger bag, the contents of which had suddenly become incredibly heavy. Slowly my mind shone through. It happened in a glorious burst. One moment I was in a bondage of thoughts and lust, the next a cold sweat and free.

I would not be truthful if I said I was not equally as terrified. I celebrated the occasion by vomiting what little I had eaten that morning. Several stared, but they were unimportant orts to me still.

With my new freedom I carried myself to my dorm. It took an eternity.

When I arrived home I immediately discarded my messenger bag at the door and disappeared into my lavatory. I spent the better part of the evening purging, shivering and cleaning. My skin felt alive and livid, as if I had been infected by the plague that I had found so interesting what seemed like a lifetime ago. I scrubbed much of my chest raw in an attempt to feel clean.

The next morning I felt drained and exhausted, but with a new license on life. I felt as if I had accomplished something elusive in a blitz. I emerged from the closet that passed for a lavatory into my usually spartan dormitory. With new eyes I could see the havoc which my devotion had wrought. I had always been a neat person, but my personal items were scattered. Dishes had gone uncleaned since my spiral began, the floor was littered with filthy clothes and less important but still relevant archeology and anthropology texts. My home had been wrecked in my madness.

So large the mess I thought that perhaps I had broken into a neighbor's suite by mistake in my earlier panic. But no, I discovered unopened letters from home stacked in what had once been a rubbish can.

I did what the only thing I could. I cleaned as if the emperor was paying me a visit.

It gave me some semblance of normalcy. I ritually scrubbed moldy plates and sorted clothes. It felt that with each article that returned to its designated space my former self regenerated. I had accomplished only a fraction of the job prior to lunch, but it made me feel normal. It gave me a sense of self worth that the books and the enigmatic "A" seemed to had taken from me.

I eventually grew the courage (mostly through hunger pangs and a depleted cubbard) to take a lunch break. I showered and dressed in what little remained clean before departing. I deliberately abandoned "Progenitor Theology I: Collected notes, a field journal" in my bag beneath my bed.

Outside the sun had broken through the storm clouds, painting everything in an optimistic and sunny light. To say that my mind wasn't still reeling around "A", the Progenitors and my unusual decline would be an outright lie. But I suppose the illusion of control at that point was still better than its alternative.

I made my way to my favorite off campus bistro. It felt good to focus on food.

I had lofty images of a pristine, Biblical style tome bound in the finest leathers and gold leaf in my mind as my heart rattled around in the cage that was my chest. The antiquated library directory was painfully slow, so I searched by hand.

When I found it, I nearly wept. It looked more pathetic than the first tucked away in a dusty, disused corner. It's weight was pathetic and the spine was nearly broken in several places, so savagely abused it was.

I sat down right there, my legs crumpling beneath me. I brought the dusty old tome to my nose and inhaled the dusty dry scent. I let its stink fill my flaring nostrils. To this day I could swear I could detect just a hint, a tiny molecule amongst billions, a fine perfume.

I cracked the cover slowly, not out of desire but necessity. The first page was brittle and dusty, the corners flaked slightly as I manhandled them. I feared I might lose my cherished treasure through my own ignorant and careless paws.

She greeted me directly in her ruby red pen and I grew excited. Likely to the disdain of other patrons I squealed, gingerly shut the cover and embraced it like I might a newborn. I held the embrace as long as I could bear in the off chance it's smell would weave itself into my argyle sweater.

In a trance I began to consume it as I did the previous work. This time was altogether different, though. The first was enthralling, all nervous jitters and sheer high. As I enjoyed our textual threesome I realized this was more like a reunion after a long absence, as if my lover had departed for another and returned to me.

There was some initial fumbling as my desire over rode my ability through excitement, but I quickly worked through the failings that had since left me in adolescence. Large words and musings that otherwise would have been unknown to me resolved into a symphony of thought. It was as if I was learning from an older lover.

Before long I tenderly pulled myself away, aching from absence. The guardians of the library, armor clad legionaries stamped with the sign of the Owl, were slowly snuffing out its ornate, polished silver lanterns.

My hair mussed and dried drool caking the corners of my mouth I just made it to the front desk before the doors were bolted to ward off the night. I abandoned my first with a wince and presented my next for inspection and withdrawal.

The librarian was talking.

"........Progenitor theology myself. Interesting people they must have been."


I replied, not really comprehending much of what he was saying, so focused was I on his actions. My ears burned as my eyes burned holes through his wrinkly, centennial hand as he searched for the field journal's inventory card. He practically messaged my darling. I felt as a jealous lover would, all vinegar and wounds

When he found it, made his mark and returned it to me I disappeared into the evening.

I reflected on my growing madness as my boots slapped the cobbles. I speculated whether my irrational behavior was due to some unseen mental defect that had otherwise been dormant up until now, or if the books themselves were driving the dynamo that was my slowly crumbling mind. I also surmised it could have been stress brought on by my intense schooling up until then. But my thoughts were distant and unimportant. It was if they belonged to another individual deep within me who was wholly different and disconnected.

I didn't even realize that I had no idea where I was going, so lost was I. Nor did I notice the fact that my legs were no longer under my own direct control.

At first she was just scribbles in the margins of an old and tattered field journal. A piece of literature that had long ago been stripped of any and all useful knowledge by undergrads and curious peasants.

It was by sheer chance that I found it within the university library, sitting benign and unassuming amongst all of the other Progenitor flavored archeology textbooks. It was by far not the prettiest or the best written, but I found it fascinating. The author was a long dead student of the dark time before the founding of Isyr and his methodology was poor at best. Even by my then amateur standards. His penmanship was even worse, the scrawling and occasionally jumbled text was often difficult to read.

At that young age I had to squint to make out most of his words. I have since memorized it. I no longer see his mind on paper, but instead a crude version of my own.

But her words were marvelously clear. It was as if they were etched into the margins of his science with a ruby red laser. At the time I was under the impression that they were notes left by another reckless student relatively recently.

How wrong I was.

I found the interplay between his old, out dated science and her wit to be disarming. So I used my student credits for that week to check out the journal.

In those early days, before the madness and her cruel mind took me away from my life I was studying an altogether different science. I wanted to be a pioneer in pathology like so many of my peers. The plague was just getting warmed up and it fascinated me. It's ability to render flesh into strange abominations capable of so much more than humanity in its sum was capable of. Maybe I could have cured it with some amazing vaccine.

I brought it to my dorm and immediately devoted an evening to its study. At one point I was rendered unconscious by my own weak mind. In the ether of sleep I remember dreaming of it, although the details escaped me. I remember waking in a sweat, drool smudging the author's insights on the mythological Progenitor Admiral Tuccia and his homosexuality.

That evening bled into the rest of the week. That week bled into the remainder of the month. It was an intellectual blitz of obsession. Even during fascinating lectures and live demonstrations of the terrors the plague was capable of squeezing out of flesh I thought about the journal and its weight, sitting in my messenger bag. I fantasized about how it was only three and a quarter hours until study hour or how the end of the day was only six and three tenths hours away.

In retrospect I should have returned it immediately. But I was far from home, lonely and the notes of the disembodied woman known only as "A" pulled on my libido and my intellectual vanity. The long dead field archaeologist soon became the lame, but endearing friend who had introduced us.

Because of her little insights and quips on that long dead author's science and theorems in her enigmatic longhand I began to grow physically excited to the academic stink of old paper, leather and glue.

The smell of the aging field journal in which I had found her beauty became like a drug to me. It enabled the beginning of my academic suicide. My love for pathology bled from me like I was a stuck pig, replaced by the enigmatic Progenitors, the islands from which they ruled the world, their disappearance and my beautifully gifted "A."

During the first week of the second month I grew brazen enough to study it during my regularly scheduled classes, as I was nearing the end of the impressively dense tome and could not contain my urges. I earned the public and embarrassing scowl of my virology and biochemistry professors respectively.

But they were mere flies in the muck that was my previous life. The university which I attended dropped away and became little more than routine.

It was during one of those classes, I don't have the mind to recall which, that I finished the journal. I felt exhausted and mentally drained. There was an annoying buzz in the background. In retrospect I believe it was an infuriated professor, as I could feel the eyes of hundreds boring into my crumpled form, hunched over my half desk.

It was then that I saw it. Her last words on the subject of the Progenitors, our long dead field archaeologist friend and his unfounded beliefs.

"Hanz, you really must read his thoughts on their theology.

I was aghast. I could feel the blood drain from my face. Were these notes for me? Was there another Hanz?

I immediately departed the lecture hall. With it the remnants on my expensive pathology education dissolved.

I knew what I had to do.

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