I lost the rest of the night in a strange haze. It was as if much of it had been torn from me. The next morning over breakfast breads and tea I struggled to recall what exactly had happened but I ultimately failed. Even the act of love making was largely missing and I only managed to cling to a few wonderful scraps like a greedy child to a piece of candy. I treasured and savored them as they reminded me that my connection to the boys was something real, however twisted and horrible it really was.

I tried stretching my mind again, to see if I could peer into the space between them once more. But the ability was beyond me. I thought that maybe I was indeed hallucinating as I munched on breakfast amid the towers of leather and ancient paper. They seemed ignorant of my telepathic failures and instead reveled in each other's fierce scribblings, largely ignoring me.

The long weekend was quickly dissolving and soon I would be hard at work once again. So when they started to talk to one another about returning to the library for some supplemental material I graciously declined their hasty invitation. I saw them off like a mother, making sure Hanz had buttoned his coat and Gerald was wearing the hat I had knitted the previous winter. I kissed them both and tried not to think of them as the sacrificial monsters which I guiltily suspected them of being.

They said they'd be back before lunch, all too eager to return to the terrible place from which their madness seemed to originate. But I simply smiled and agreed without mentioning that I suspected that was where they'd spend the remainder of the day and possibly a large part of the evening.

I sat for a long time in that tiny room, alone and thinking about the mysteries that were laying out before me. There were of course no answers, but only more and more questions.

The piles of books before me still seemed to have a gravity about them, but like an airship I seemed only aware of this and largely unaffected. The odd pull was missing, but their power was still evident. So it still took courage to snatch one at random and crack open the cover.

There was a curious scrawl on the first page in a familiar red ink.

"Dedicated to Admiral Constantine. You made such a beautiful old corpse. It's a shame the nation which you served so nobly was unable to offer the service for which you had fought so long for."

It was obviously written after the publication. I ran my hand along the lettering, staring intently at the strange book. The ink felt slightly damp and hot, like gummy water from a kettle that wasn't quite whistling. I wondered who this admiral was and why a vandal would bother dedicating a book to him after the fact. The fact that it was hot to the touch oddly did not seem to jump out at me. It was as if that was how it was supposed to be.

Slowly, I turned the page. The author introduced the subject at hand in the soulless print that a mechanized press could only accomplish. It was drawl and boring. But in the margins of his long winded science the vandal persisted.

"I really tire of these old men and their scribblings. Their frail bodies and their stink. They think they are part of something bigger than themselves. Whether it's their god, or gods, or their demented magisterium of science they're always looking for the truth. Whether it be in the creations of their "Progenitors" or the words of their puny prophets.

"What they do not realize is that they are nothing in the face of nothing. They are not even an ant before a skyscraper. They court the unknown with romance. These academics, they think they celebrate their own discoveries. But in reality it's the unknown, their ignorance of the universe that they celebrate. It's contemptible and should be a crime in their crude excuse for a civilization. Like an old hag proud to cling to the shreds of a bygone era they revel in the mud and think themselves intellectuals. Some even think themselves beyond this."

The language was harsh and critical. But the logic didn't seem far from the truth. I half expected to lapse into a daze like before when I was exposed to the strange books that my boys seemed so interested in. But I remained aware and fully lucid. The vandal seemed aware of this fact as she continued on the next several pages in fragments. Not wanting to tempt fate and valuing my own clarity I closed the book and pushed it well away.

It seems mad, but I felt it watching me. It was the same feeling from the previous night, when I dredged the mind ether between my two boys for clues as to what exactly was happening. It was predatory and strange. It advanced and I could feel its influence increase. It was challenging me.

I had the option to play dead or submit. As its wholly alien influence brushed against my mind a courage came over me and I refused both. Yes, it was a terrifying creature beyond any earth bound animal that I could imagine. But I stood toe to toe with it nonetheless.

Instinctively I balled a fist even though I felt no physical danger from the tome. But I drew strength from it as I squeezed my fingernails into the palm of my hand. I felt strong. I felt ready for it.

The presence, creature, idea, hallucination or otherwise rushed over me. I could hear the slow clockwork of its terrible heart trying to move in rhythm with my own. I could feel the red hot embrace of its mind snuggled up against my own. But it recoiled and I felt its power diminish.

I was left feeling like I had accomplished something. What exactly was beyond my guess. But it felt critical, like I had just escaped a burning building. A shudder climbed my spine and I was left wondering what had just happened.


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