Young genius Morag Chen doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Or not until a thousand gods show up in front of her, appearing from a clear-blue sky. The Architects are terrifying, they’re hypnotically attractive, and they’re real—but what are they, and what do they want, and why have they stolen the mind of Daniel Calder, the person she is closest to?
Ancient gods? Invading aliens? Everyone has a theory, but no one has guessed the truth. In this dark, suspenseful, mind-bending sequel to The Fire Seekers, Morag picks up the narration from Daniel as she works to accept that there’s more than one way to think about the nature of humanity. And she will find that the only way forward is through secrets that Daniel himself seems desperate but unable to convey.
A mysterious lab. The house of a dying billionaire. The hidden home of a strange and forgotten people. In each of these places, Morag and Daniel will come a step closer to answers, hope, and a way of fighting back.
Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you the whole story. Everything you missed, everything you were robbed of, everything that happened at the edge of your understanding when you were present but absent. Yes, the whole story of what I tried to make sense of, and what I tried to do to help you, and what happened instead. But I can’t do that, can’t give you a true picture of what happened out there in the world, without you knowing what I was dealing with privately, inside me, in here. (The public and the private. Facts versus feelings. Is and seems. “A theme to which we’ll return,” as your dad liked to say in his lectures. Oh aye.) And I want especially to make one wee detail of my inner emotional geography totally clear.
OK by you if we do that?
Cards on the table, before we move on?
So. The short version is that when we got back from Ararat, your famously brilliant, logical, levelheaded sister was a sniveling, useless mess. A mental and emotional farm-fry. Exhausted, rattled, a bag of nerves without a clue. I wanted answers, and I wanted them yesterday, and I had to face the fact that I didn’t even know what questions to ask.
Oh, and I was desperately, desperately thirsty for you to recognize me and say my name; failing that, to answer a question, or ask one; fail- ing that, to at least say something I could understand. But you weren’t there. Your will, your motivation, your self wasn’t there—or else it was there, but it was buried under layers of rubble, like an earthquake vic- tim, trying and failing to claw its way back to the surface.
“It’s everything, and it’s nothing,” you’d say. “It’s everywhere and nowhere. Now.”
“What is, D? Are you talking about the Architects? Are you talking about something you saw, something you experienced when they were there?”
“It’s light, everywhere. It’s a—, it’s a—” “A what?”
“A kind of perfection.”
“No bodies. No emotions. No time.”
Then there’d be five minutes of silence, or a day of silence, and you’d suddenly say: “They will return for us.”
That was the kind of thing that came out, when you spoke, and even the half-lucid moments were erratic and fleeting. You had a foot in two worlds, and you were fully present in neither of them. Limbo: isn’t that what Catholics call it—like, a traffic jam in the afterlife, when you’ve departed but you can’t arrive? Ninety-nine percent of the time you were silent, enigmatic, and unreachable. And on top of that you scared the crap out of me by shifting without warning between a manner that was relaxed, as if you were just an amused observer of the human comedy, and a burning anguish that only your eyes could articulate. Above all else, I wanted to find a way to bring you back, to rescue you from whatever had happened up there, but both your anxiousness and your long silences reminded me of the worst rumor from the outside world. One by one the Mysteries were “coming to a stop,” as someone had said, “like battery-powered toys when the juice runs out.” For all their superficial physical health, the people the Architects had left behind as blanks, as empty husks, were dying.
What was I to believe? What was I to do? Why could I no longer even concentrate on what to believe or do? One thing I did, even though I’d kind of guessed it’d be useless, was persuade Gabi Eisler to be the designated grown-up and take you to a doctor, then a neurologist, then a shrink. Three pale balding men in their fifties: they could have been brothers.
Or parrots on a perch: “We can do nothing for these people.”
I was really just going through the motions—no stone unturned and all. But “these people”—how dare they? Violent impulses aren’t usually my thing, but I imagined them saying what they were so clearly thinking—The Mysteries are a lost cause; let it go; we shouldn’t waste resources on them—and then I imagined punching their oversized noses.
It wasn’t their fault. I just wanted them to have answers because I didn’t. So much for the cool, intellectually hyperconfident, somewhere- on-the-spectrum savant. So much for the miniature know-it-all, blink- ing cutely in the glare of the Shanghai TV lights. That’s who I was supposed to be, D.
That’s how I’d been constructed. An adult genius in a child’s body. A thinking machine. A once-in-a-lifetime phenom. Daughter of archaeologists can speak twelve languages, has “unmeasurable” IQ, et cetera, et cetera, et bloody cetera. I’d spent seventeen years sur- rounded by those bright, tinny trumpet notes of amazement and ignorant praise. And now, when I needed it most, my confidence in my own understanding, even my own mental stability, was no longer just lower than people had come to expect.
It was zero.