dusk country blues

This weekend I did something I’ve never done before. I took a break from the novel I’m writing to write something else.

Started it yesterday, finished it today: a grand total of just over 16,000 words.

It’s called The Dusk Country Blues and it’s certainly one of the strangest and most explicit things I’ve ever written. It’s also something I’m really proud of and happy with.

Here’s how it started.

Kyle Muntz showed me a story he was struggling with and asked for some suggestions. It was this story about two brothers and a girl with antlers living in this place called the dusk country, which is full of these huge abandoned manufacturing plants.

His story wasn’t working and we talked about it for about an hour. I kept getting more and more ideas and telling him about all kinds of things he could do with this story. Thing is, he’s trying to keep it a short story, so probably somewhere around 5,000 words. That made some of the ideas just too big to tackle in that amount of space and those ideas would’ve distracted from the real story: the relationship between the brothers and this antlered girl.

So I told him to write it a certain way for a short story and then to write it again as a novella or even a novel, if it turned that large.

Incidentally, this is exactly how the novel I’m working on began. A short story that was too big for its size, so I rewrote it into something very different, only to realise that if I combined the two short stories [which would work], then I could tell the whole story and I’d have a nice short novella. But then I got a few more ideas and now these two short stories are turning into a novel that may be up to 100,000 words.

Anyrate, so I suggested Kyle try that, but he told me he probably wouldn’t, and then he encouraged me to write the longer version of it.

I kind of shrugged that off, but over the next two days, all I could think about was the dusk country and these three people.

So I wrote the first half yesterday and sent it to Kyle.

His excitement got me really jazzed to finish it, so I wrote the second half today. Just finished about half an hour ago.

It’s really funny to me, because Kyle and I have often joked how we’re slowly becoming the same writer. We both come from experimental backgrounds and are sliding into more straightforward and less stylistic writing. We’re also diving into genre fiction, which has, I think, been freeing for both of us.

We often talk about stories and give each other suggestions. We’re typically each other’s first readers. And so it amuses me that he wrote a story that inspired me to essentially rewrite his story, coming up with something very different, but also intensely similar [for obvious reasons].

He’s writing another draft of his dusk country story soon.

But, yeah, maybe this isn’t interesting to other people, but I find it funny and exciting.

Also, a novel I plan on writing this summer was directly inspired by a story Kyle wrote a few months ago.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that talking about ideas and being unguarded with your suggestions and inspirations is useful for the creative process. It’s good to inspire one another and to work off each other’s inspirations.

Anyrate, I want to share one of my favorite bits from this novella. It gave me an interesting way to go about worldbuilding, which is to do it through absence or contrast.

“You awake?” I felt his voice vibrate through the mattress, through my skin pressed against him.


“Tell me a story?”

“What you wanna hear?”

He shifted beside me, his body coiling in on itself. “Something beautiful.”

The cracks in the ceiling were just large enough to see through but there was only blackness. The faint glow of the fireflies only revealed outlines of our room. I rolled over to face them, my back pressed against Abe’s. I imagined this is how we were in the womb. Reluctantly pressed together. All that’s desirable in a man pouring into him, while I leeched what I could to make myself whole. Somehow I stole enough to have the voice that belonged to him. The rich and unforgettable one that would fit inside his lungs and mouth so well, completing the image of a human perfected. But the voice was mine and Abe couldn’t sleep without it.

I stared at the fireflies rattling against the glass chaotically. “Years ago, the dusk country was alive. The hum of machinery was everywhere. The sun came up and stayed up for hours. It went up so high that you could look straight up and it would be there before it fell back down. Mothers and fathers went to work and made the machines sing. Children gathered together in the sunlight and played games. They didn’t just collect fireflies. They collected spiders and beetles and butterflies. They traded them, not as a commodity, but like treasures. The streets weren’t full of dust and grass didn’t break them up. No, people got in cars and made them move. They moved as fast as you can run and no one got tired. There was food everywhere too. People ate more than insects and plants. Even the river flowed clean. The dusk country was a town made of light. Even the streets had light. And night would come but there were stars. Like a thousand fireflies but way up in the air. So high you couldn’t even reach them standing on a building. And there was a moon. It was like the sun but smaller. Night lasted only a little while before the sun came back. The best part was seeing people smile. Seeing people everywhere, smiling. Just smiling for no good reason. Just smiling because the sun was shining.

“You know what the best part was?”

“What?” his voice only a whisper.

“People didn’t just disappear.”

If you’re still reading this and want to read an extremely bizarre story about two brothers, a girl with antlers, an abandoned town full of abandoned buildings and machines, a place where the sun only ever reaches the horizon for a few hours before descending back into hours of night, then give me a shout.

Here’s a song by a guy with a beautiful voice.

the song of the black mages

My story about Vivi from FFIX came out from Cartridge Lit last week, which has to be the coolest idea for a magazine ever. Literature influenced and about videogames. It’s perfect.

The story’s called The Song of the Black Mages and is the first of many stories I’ve written/am writing about Vivi that takes place between the last battle of FFIX and its ending cinematic. I hope you dig it.

Over at Entropy I have a few things going on as well.

Short Film of the Week: On Your Mark by Hayao Miyazaki

Short Film of the Week: Red by Jorge Jaramillo & Carlo Guillot

Sunday Entropy List: Favorite Animated Films

Editors’ List: Favorite Books Translated into English

And then I’ll also just remind people that Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp is only a dollar and Twilight of the Wolves is only three, so go out and get them! They take place in the same world and are amongst my best writing, I think.

Oh, also, go buy Green Lights by Kyle Muntz! Read a review at HTMLGiant.

And since we’re talking about books released, a whole load of them were just released by Lazy Fascist Press, which means all kinds of awesome. Pay special attention to Michael J Seidlinger and Brian Allen Carr.

twilight of the wolves released today

Twilight of the Wolves - Edward J. Rathke

It’s finally available! Buy Twilight of the Wolves and earn my forever love! If you want to read more about the novel, click over to the page devoted to it where you can find reviews and so on. It’s being released by Perfect Edge Books, the brainchild of Phil Jourdan.


–Kyle Muntz, author of VII and Green Lights

Twilight of the Wolves is an unusual and poetic epic fantasy, with a world, civilizations, and mythologies all of its own, yet unmistakably reminiscent of our past and current world. Best of all, Twilight of the Wolves puts on center stage the people and socioeconomic classes who are often marginalized, suppressed, or overlooked in other types of epic fantasy and secondary worlds, in a passionate and compassionate study of love, languages, and humanness.

Berit Ellingsen, author of Beneath the Liquid Skin

I think these two blurbs capture exactly how it feels to me, and exactly what it means to me. I’ve always said that I’m more influenced, stylistically, by film than I am by literature, and I’ve always strived to capture that beautiful cinematic poetry of Terrence Malick, and I think, with this novel, I finally reached it. It’s an aesthetic I’ve worked for years to reach, and Twilight of the Wolves is the most perfect representation of that. And then there’s all the postcolonialism surging up through the cracks in the novel. My whole life is in this novel. My entire heart. I’m so immensely proud of it that I want to share it with the entire world, but a part of me fears no one will love or understand it.

So, yeah, I hope you love it. I’d recommend it to fans of experimental and postmodern literature as well as people who just love fantasy. It’s everything I ever wanted one of my novels to be and I’m so very proud of it.

Kyle Muntz also had this to say today over on the book of faces:

I’d add that this book stretches fantasy to the limit–with beautiful writing, formal experimentation, lots of feeling, and a profound look at themes of post-colonialism and sexuality–while always remaining true to the genre, which I think is really important and difficult to do.

Basically: I hope everyone takes a look at this book. I think anyone who does will definitely enjoy it.

So don’t just take my word for it! Mostly, I hope people just give it a chance. I’ve found that publishing a fantasy novel on a literary press is sort of a marketing tool fighting against itself. Literary minded folk aren’t interested and fantasy folk think it’s too high-minded, or something. I think it’s a blending of the two, and I hope it’s enjoyable to fans of both high literary genre and gritty fantasy.

It’s not a book for everyone, but I think it should work well for fans of Ursula K Le Guin, Samuel R Delany, Gene Wolfe, China Mieville, Steven Erikson, and George RR Martin.

Also, join me tomorrow night for my first and maybe last reading ever at The Beat Coffeehouse in Uptown, Minneapolis.

And now promotion for the next novel already begins. I have some amazing secret news about that too.

things to talk about

Many things, as it turns out, but I’ll probably be brief, because that’s just how I am.

First and most importantly: Entropy Magazine has launched! There’s seriously so much great content on there, and though I’m an editor, I can’t really take credit for any of it, though I did write about Fathoms by Joe Russ in my weekly column about short films.

I chose to write about short films because it seems like no one ever does, and because I wanted to engage with people about such a vibrant and awesome artform. It’s largely ignored, I think, but I’m hoping writing about it every week will grab some attention. So talk to me in the comments there. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Seriously though, there’s so much great content on Entropy. I’d link it all, but that would take too much time, so I’m just going to keep telling you to go to the website and enjoy the brilliance there.

Kyle Muntz, friend and possible genius, was interviewed by Literary Orphans today too. He talks about his own writing and video games, which I’ll probably make a post about soonishly.

My brother was on the front page of the Pioneer Press website today:

My first and possibly only reading ever will be this Saturday at The Beat Coffeehouse in Uptown. J Alexander Genz will be performing and Anthony Jacques arranged the whole thing.

And, finally, Twilight of the Wolves is officially released on Friday, but you can get some copies early on amazon. I’m hoping to have them sell out before the release, because that’d humor me.

But, yeah, not much else. Check out Entropy and buy my book!

woke up late

My alarm went off at 930am because I wanted to get an early jump on the writing, because I knew I was going to be busy tonight, but I must’ve hit the off button instead of the snooze because I didn’t wake up until 1130am.

Read a bit of Voices by Kyle Muntz. I’m really digging it so far, even though I’m only about thirty pages in. It feels like it’s narrated by someone who doesn’t think with language, which will be useful for me when it comes to writing part three of the novel, which is going to be an extended monologue by a man who learnt human language accidentally.

But, yeah, started writing around 1240pm, because it takes me a while to turn my brain on. It’s 3pm now, and I’ve written 5k words, which is very fast, even for me. I thought this was going to be a very difficult part of the book but it sort of just spilled out of me. There’s one more thing like this to write for part two, but then tomorrow it’s on to part three, which will be pretty different writing, in a stylistic sense.

Anyrate, here’s the next chapter, hot off the keyboard:

I’m off to Antiguoniño and there’s no telling what will happen there, so I’m leaving this behind. I’ve never seen the niños in the flesh, but if Haneul and Jiyun can do it, then so can I.

I didn’t ask to be Ming Faye, and I don’t know if I even want to be her, but this is all part of something so much larger. If I must play the part, then so be it.

I was born in Seoul to two women who collected bottles for a living. The city was on fire then. Walking the winding streets of Seoul between rusted ruins of the long gone away world I found solace in the wolves. There’s something about being a young girl in a world full of wolves. My mothers used to tell me stories about their childhoods and how the streets filled with cats and dogs of various breeds. I’ve never seen a cat, except in photographs and photographs were hard to come by in Seoul.

We lost so much. There was an aching pain in my parents’ generation. I wouldn’t understand it until later, but when they grew up Seoul was the heart of the empire. Edo was in decline then, constantly on fire and losing neighborhoods to disaster after disaster. The world didn’t want Edo anymore, but the Koreans were too proud to see the signs of the disease spreading.

But we’ll get to that. I was only a girl in Seoul and people dug through the landfills and gravesites for technologies of the past. They dug up cameras and computers and tried to connect them to Consciousness. Seoul was the network hub connecting us to Argentina. It was all we had to unite the two empires remaining but Seoul kept burning. They should’ve known it wouldn’t last.

But for the first time in a hundred years the world became analogue. My mothers told me about all the technologies there used to be. How you could grow an entire garden inside your apartment and how there were never food or water shortages. They talked about hooking straight into the Consciousness or even seeing the Womb.

But maybe to remind me of the world I lived in, they let me play outside in the burning streets. Earthquakes shook often and the buildings all over the city crumbled to pieces, and then the rains came to batter away at the remnants of what still stood. It rained for months then, but at least the fires drowned.

We lost parts of Seoul then and a lake formed where no lake used to stand. We retreated to the mountains surrounding the city. My mother was pregnant with Jiyun.

I cried for the wolves who must be drowning but my mothers told me the wolves escaped weeks ago because animals know. They simply know.

In the mountains I saw a bird for the first time. Its wings ratty and disintegrating. It was black. Every centimeter of it black and it cawed menacingly. I reached out to touch it and it came to me. It rested on my hand and I fed it seeds.

When mother saw me she chased it away but it returned to me at night when I sneaked away.

We all slept in the same room in the mountains and we shared our apartment with two other families. Dressed in rags, eating rice with spiders, boiling rainwater to keep off the toxicity.

They called it acid rain and it wasn’t safe to be outside for too long in it. I saw wolves, their pelts all matted and rotting off, their jaws swollen with tumors. And then the neighbors, their daughter always crying. Her eyes melted out of her skull and her tongue swelled to fill her whole mouth. They feared she’d choke to Death on it, but what was there to do? Cut out her tongue?

The delegates from Mexico came when the rains stopped and the fires returned. Jiyun was born the same day as Haneul but her name was something else then. Something Spanish, but not Angel. That was who she became, not who she was. The city burned and I told my mother about how the animals followed me through the city. She told me I was special and that my sister, Jiyun, would be special too.

They photographed us together. They didn’t tell me where they got the camera though I begged. They didn’t tell me what they traded but it filled me with dread.

The Lunar Archipelago changed colors. No longer orange or red or yellow or faintly green, but a violent purple, and when the sky should’ve welcomed the sun there was only blackness.

We rushed to the hills, mothers, Jiyun, and me but there was always screaming behind us. Mothers told me to take Jiyun and carry her higher into the mountains while they went to see what they could do for others. So I kept walking, Jiyun so heavy in my arms. I was only five the day the world swallowed Seoul. That was the last time I saw my parents.

When I reached as high as I could go, I turned back to the fires below. And earthquake came and sucked the fires out with a great crack, as if the world had snapped. There was no explosion or anything like that, but the sun finally peered through the blackness. It must’ve been noon or later when I could see. There was no screaming except for Jiyun. No wind blew and no insects chirped and no wolves howled. The wolves followed me back down the mountain though, plodding behind me. If I had known wolves how other people knew wolves, I would’ve been afraid that they were going to eat me, but I believe they were protecting me and Jiyun. They knew we were meant for more.

The city was gone. Seoul had disappeared. There were no more crumbling buildings. There were no buildings at all. There was only nothing. A barren wasteland. Seoul became a desert and I carried Jiyun as far as I could. Far away I heard screaming so I told the wolves to see what it was. They returned with Haneul. That’s what I called her. And that’s the name I told them when they found us.

I don’t know what they thought when they finally arrived two days later, my sister and Haneul being nursed by a wolf while a hundred snarling wolves stood between us and them.

There were other survivors of the Seoul disaster but I think none of them had the same experience as we did.

They took us away to Pyongyang and they split us up. Jiyun and Haneul were raised in the same building but I was taken further away. It took me years to find my way back and meet my sister again.

My mothers were kind but they had no interest in reuniting me with my sister. We were cutoff from the Consciousness and the Womb in Pyongyang. A lot of people blamed both of those for what happened to Seoul. They didn’t hear the earth screaming. They didn’t see the messages written by the stars above telling us to run away or return to the earth. I didn’t really understand what the stars were saying but I felt it. I felt it deep in my bones. There was a right way to live and we weren’t doing it.

As years piled on I ran away often. It caused my mothers to beat me, and because they beat me I ran away more. Other girls mocked me as they went to school. I had only one uniform and sometimes they saw me washing it under a bridge or shitting in the trees at night. I always returned to my adopted mothers in winter. I knew they wanted to get rid of me but something kept them from doing it. I think they knew that giving me to what remained of the state was the same as giving me to the streets, and I already spent too much time out there. At least they could pretend they were trying.

The wolves became my family. I even spoke to them and they spoke to me. They had no names but they had smells. They knew one another by the smells, relying less on their eyes than we do. I heard the difference in their howls, in their growls. The girls from school called me a wolffucker and any other number of such things, but they didn’t understand. How could they? We live in a world without animals. All we have are the thousands and thousands of wolves.

A world belonging to wolves. They told me old stories. Old wolf stories. They told me they came from the moon and that the moon used to be whole, but that a great black beast of a wolf bit out the chunk and spit it into the earth. From the portion that struck the earth, they were born. They emerged as the Lunar Sea became the Lunar Forest became the world. They rose from the lunar land and colonised the earth, first in the world now dead, and on in all directions, to where the world was only dying. They told me humans had gone insane when they came to earth and killed one another by the billions.

I think population estimates at that time for the world was between one and three billion, but it was difficult to imagine the world they talked about. It was a world of several billion, and they told me how the population was cut in half by the war, and then increased tenfold after the war. They said that even just a hundred years ago, there were tens of billions of people on the earth.

It’s what killed it. They said we depleted the earth so fully that the old world simply died, and now it rots, consumed by fungus.

I asked them about my sister but they didn’t know what I meant. All wolves are sisters so they told me about every human who came and went in the city.

I was fifteen before I saw Jiyun again, and she was with Haneul.

My heart skipped a beat and I wept. I thought about running to them and hugging them, kissing them, but I held myself back. I had been outside all summer, living in rivers and fields and trees. They kicked me out of school by then, despite my grades and my abilities. They said I needed a home to go to school, and my seonsaengnim tried to take me in, but all I needed were the wolves.

And then I saw them, and I knew I needed to be human. I couldn’t meet them as a wolf and expect them to love me.

I returned to that seonsaengnim and she allowed me to wash and gave me a bed but I told the wolves to keep an eye on Haneul and Jiyun because I would want to meet them soon.

Me and seonsaengnim talked about so many things. She told me I was gifted at chemistry and physics and biology, that I should go into the sciences. I needed to apply son for the science academy. I was a little old to begin, but she said she understood my homelessness, and that the academy would understand, given my abilities.

What abilities, I said.

Her jaw dropped and her eyes went wide, You don’t know, do you? Jeongji, you see the patterns. I’ve seen your notebooks that you leave behind. Those drawings you do beside your notes, they’re a synthesis of all that I’ve taught you, and so much I haven’t taught you.

They’re just drawings, seonsaengnim.

She shook her head, Jeongji, they may be only drawings to you, but they’re a map to those who know better. I can tell you’re already above me so I shared them with my colleagues at the academy and they were very impressed. They were shocked! They didn’t believe that a child could do this kind of work. But you can.

Seonsaengnim, I don’t–

Jeongji, there are so many things we don’t want to do. There are so many things we’d rather be doing that the things we must. Do you know what the academy is? They’re trying to save the world. You see it and you know it. You see the way the world is dying. It’s not simply dying, Jeongji. It’s decaying. But the academy is trying to figure out a way to revitalise it. To bring the earth back from extinction and make it grow. Really and truly grow. Imagine trees and flowers everywhere. Imagine all the many animals there could be, like there once were. Jeongji, you may not believe this, but wolves are not the only animals native to this place. We once had so many birds and insects and cats and dogs and even bears. Deer. Oh, Jeongji, the world was once such a beautiful place. Even when I was a child it still held some of that beauty, but it’s dying, and now there are only us and the wolves still fighting to survive. So you may not want to go to the academy, but the academy needs people like you. The world needs people like you.

I nodded and agreed but I was already planning my escape.

After I cleaned myself and became human again, I asked the wolves to take me to Haneul and Jiyun.

They were so beautiful. Even though Haneul wasn’t Korean, her name fit her still. I was proud I had named her and that she had become so beautiful.

I came with the wolves and Jiyun’s eyes opened wide. She hugged them before she even looked at me. Haneul saw me first but pet the wolves all the same.

For a long time we just played with the wolves. I didn’t know where or how to begin. I couldn’t just tell them what happened. I wanted to, but they were both infants when they lost everything and became separated from me. I felt them. I felt the texture of their thoughts and hearts. I saw them building before my eyes and when we finally spoke, we said very little. I had waited and searched so long and had so much to tell them.

But I thought I had more time. I thought we could share in this life we fell into. I thought that was the first of many meetings.

When the lunar archipelago shined they returned home to their mothers and I returned to seonsaengnim. She told me she was afraid I had runaway again. I didn’t know what to say so I hugged her and thanked her.

She cried for a long time after that. I felt awkward. I wanted to explain that I really was leaving and that the only reason I returned was to use her. I just needed her washroom. But she cried so much that I let her hold me and I held her back.

She kept whispering, I’m sorry.

It didn’t mean anything to me at the time.

In the morning I was gone. They came and took me. They took me from Pyongyang. They took me from Korea. They took me from Jiyun and Haneul and the wolves. They stole my name and gave me a new one. They stole my from my family and seonsaengnim just kept crying, worthlessly.

The Academy is a nightmare but also a dream. A bootcamp for science. Aiko Tanizaki, the Director, kept us busy at all hours of the day solving puzzles, learning advanced physics, biology, and chemistry. He invented new fields of study that developed naturally out of our collaboration. That was a big part of the Academy: collaboration. For the next eleven years I spent with other women like me developing the sciences of the future. We rediscovered all that we had lost since the great Western Collapse. Genetics was a viable field again, and we spliced the world together to make new models.

History was important to them. We learnt about the Fifty Year War and the Century of Madness. We learnt the history of the Wombs and the Consciousness, how all the greatest minds of a generation left earth to restart civilisation on a new planet. They told us about how we overused the planet and sewed our own destruction. We murdered the planet to keep ourselves alive and now we persist in this dead and dying world.

We learnt about the last man on earth and how he killed himself out of fear. He was the only man resistant to the disease and his fear crippled him to the point of uselessness. And we learnt why the world had become so unalterably ruined.

Male policy. The white supremacist patriarchal world we descend from had an implicitly suicidal and megalomaniac bend. All the wars throughout history lead back to european savagery, and the destruction of the planet stems from their hubris. We came to discover how they treated women and how women of the old world had no rights or say in the governance of the planet. The earth struck back against european maleness in its final efforts to save itself. Unfortunately, this led to the Western Collapse as well. What happened to Seoul happened on a large scale to europe and america and australia. The world of white people disappeared 150 years ago, and now we, the long subjected and brutalised peoples of the world have inherited this dead and dying world.

In order to save itself, the earth may have expelled too much energy, but it also gave us the tools to revitalise itself. It regrows itself, and the earth will come back to life with or without us. The difference, however, is perhaps a million years. The fungus grows and revitalises the soil, but there are still the poisoned oceans to consider and the intense air pollution still hanging over europe and america. It’s unclear what happened to africa, and we never studied it. The continent escaped destruction. I’ve seen africans before, but they’re few and far between. I believe a different disease may be occurring there. Director Tanizaki knows. Of that I’m certain. She forbade us from studying africa when we were collecting samples from around the world.

They brought us to europe and america. It’s one thing to know the history but it’s a completely different thing to see what really happened. There’s a river that separates america from the Kingdom of Mexico and it’s one of the starkest lessons you’ll ever see. On the north side of the river, there’s only blackness. A great black desert. The Waste. Nothing lives there. Nothing grows there. And then just south of the river, the desert is brown and red. A hundred kilometers south and there’s plantlife and cities. Mexico flourishes just a couple hundred kilometers from the Waste. But the Waste spreads. The river keeps it at bay, but the river is drying and soon will disappear. In a hundred years the Waste will overtake Mexico City. In a thousand years it’ll take Argentina. The old world is dead, and the world that remains is dying. The lessons we learnt from europe are what bred our newest discoveries about life. From the Waste of europe came a fungus. Great giant mushrooms so black they disappear in the night. The mushrooms sprout from the site of the Lunar Forest. We collected soil samples there and brought them home to Shanghai, where the Academny regrew the world.

What we discovered from the european fungus created nanotechnology and biomanipulation. The soil where the fungus grew wasn’t like the soil in any other part of the world. Director Tanizaki believed it was because it came from the moon. He believed that it was a colony of new lifeforms. These lifeforms could have ridden an asteroid from a billion lightyears away carrying this genetic material. He think the asteroid that broke the moon apart grabbed onto the falling piece and entered earth. At the same time as our journey through europe, researchers discovered the archives of the pre-War world. Thousands upon thousands of genomes of earth lifeforms were now at our disposal for comparison. Everything just fell into our lap at the right time. We mapped the genome of the wolves and discovered they were fundamentally different from the wolves of the archives. This was anew breed and it was very similar, on a minute scale, the organisms we discovered in the soil and in the fungi. We didn’t know what to call it so we stole an old word. Nanobiotics. And this is the nanotechnology that people attribute to me.

One of the most important discoveries we made was on our return to europe. The soil had already changed. We had no idea how long the fungi had been present so it’s hard to scale it properly, but the soil was becoming fertile again. We took more samples and experimented in the lab.

With accelerated models, it was possible to revitalise the soil in less than a generation.

It can regrow anything, but to implement it is to fundamentally change what we are as humans. We will be like the wolves who have overrun the world. Apply this nanobiotic to any organism and it will take on a new life. It gets complicated to explain, but these little creatures form a symbiotic relationship with the organisms. It seeps into the bloodstream and begins rewriting DNA but it begins all at once. These organisms are unbelievably small. By way of comparison, a blood cell is a thousand times the size of the nanobiotics. They’re essentially quantum organisms, and they’re unfixed by time and place. They behave similarly to electrons. When we collect a sample, we’re really just grabbing a bunch of matter. Within that matter there are colonies of nanobiotics but we don’t know where they are until we stop and measure them. It took us a while to figure out how to map their behavior and about a year for us to figure out how to control their behavior. We use radiowave frequencies to direct their actions. When we hit the right frequency, they go into what we call rebuild mode, and they begin working on the host organism.

We tested this with cancerous rodents. We introduced the nanobiotics into the rat. The nanobiotics must fill it up before it’s effective. They need to coat the cells of the host. Until we tell them what to do, they don’t do very much. They just exist and swirl around, playing at quantum magic within the rat. They emit strange frequencies, however, but I’ll get to that. Once the nanobiotics are ready, we hit the rebuild frequency and they go about changing the DNA. Within minutes, the rat’s cancer is gone. However, if we hit the unbuild frequency, we get a mess. Within minutes, the rat no longer exists. I don’t mean it dies. I mean it ceases to be. The nanobiotics literally unbuild it. They take it apart electron by proton by neurtron until it’s no longer there.

It destroys energy and matter.

So while nanobiotics may save the earth, they also have the ability to destroy it.

The nanobiotics also emit frequencies. We discovered this accidentally. Something kept messing with our readings until we started listening to the nanobiotics.

They call for their hosts. They’re inviting us with assonance. It’s a strange kind of frequency. It’s something that skips sonic waves but feeds sound right into your brain. It’s not so much music or sound, but a feeling of contentment. They make us feel comfortable and happy.

It was an amazing discovery but we don’t entirely understand what it means. It appears that they’ve studied us. We’re not sure what they want with us, but it appears they may be sentient. Though it’s just as likely a defensive mechanism to being trapped within the confines of the lab. Since discovering their ability or at least attempts to communicate with us, we did more samples and found that we’ve all been contaminated by it.

We also don’t know what this means, but no one in the Academy studying nanobiotics became ill again. We’ve also been quarantined for the last three years.

When Jiyun discovered the niños nearly three years ago, we immediately sent a party to take samples and discover what’s happening in Antiguoniño. As we all know, the Tanizaki group never made it there, or never made it back. It’s unclear to us what happened, but we’re very interested in knowing. We sent a second mission but if they recovered the records of the original mission, they failed to return. It’s possible they joined the whores of Babylon, but it seems unlikely.

Both groups were uncontaminated by nanobiotics.

In the last three years, we’ve tested a wide range of things. We’ve injected diseases into one another, hacked off limbs, taken gunshots, and even measured sexual experiences. There are quite a few interesting results of this.

Because of their commitment to keep us happy and content, they actually stop the pain before it happens. It’s the craziest thing, but you can watch your hand be chopped off and feel nothing. This is both amazing and frightening. It means they have much more control than many of us are comfortable with. They’re rewriting our neural networks to the point of being able to suppress pain completely. More than that, there’s very little bleeding, and this is where the quantum stuff comes in. But they react before the event happens and they know exactly where the wound will occur before it happens. There’s actually a very strange thing that happens to the removed limb seconds before it’s removed. It becomes brittle and somewhat crystallised. This means that the nanobiotics are giving it up before the pain happens. All the blood retreats to the safe part of the arm and waits for the limb to fall off. Now, once this happens, the blood coagulated and sweet smelling fungi form on the nub. The chopped off hand actually shatters on the ground. This was a very unexpected event. Somehow more unexpected than the actual regrowth. But that’s what happens. Over the next half hour, the fungi grows and rapidly transforms into a hand. We’ve tried this with a number of limbs, but have yet to see what happens when we remove the head or cut the body in half. We believe there’s a limit, but there may not be.

Much the same happens with a gunshot. The place where the bullet would travel through becomes extremely brittle, allowing the bullet to pass through you without impediment. The fungus forms, emitting sweet smells, and then the wound closes.

When we study the new limbs or new skin, we find that it’s identical to the rest of our bodies, but that our bodies are dissimilar to what they were before contamination. We’ve evolved, in just a year.

Sexual pleasure is hard to describe because it’s difficult to remember what it was like before contamination. I imagine it’s like explaining sight to the blind, but sex transforms you. You’re no longer a single body, but everything within the area. We believe this is because the nanobiotics are communicating and sharing information.

This is where rumors of telepathy come from.

It’s possible we’re communicating with one another, but it’s unconscious, at this point. It may be something that will occur given enough time and development, but the nanobiotics are most definitely communicating with one another.

But, interestingly, we’ve found that we can communicate in languages we didn’t previously know. Everyone knows Spanish and Korean, of course, but I found myself speaking with Director Tanizaki the other day, and I realised the words we were speaking weren’t in Spanish, but were Japanese, and I’ve heard her speaking South Russian to several of the researchers there.

Director Tanizaki believes this is because the nanobiotics have mapped our language centers and so they’ve learnt all our languages, and with the constant communication and interaction between them in this quantum magical net they’ve created, it’s allowed us to speak in many languages we don’t actually know.

And then we heard about Dust. It appears to be similar to our nanobiotics, but it’s difficult to judge what’s happening there without real scientific evidence. All the reports are shrouded in pseudoscience and fanaticism. It’s just as likely that there’s a psychotropic element in the niños’ environment that’s causing much of this. But many of the anecdotes lead us to believe that Dust and nanobiotics may be similar, if not the same thing.

That’s what we go to learn, and it appears that I’m taking on the role of Ming Faye.

Who is Ming Faye?

Director Tanizaki believed it was necessary for the world to have a hero.

We grew up in an age without heroes, she told me, And we need to believe in hope, as a species, if we’re ever going to survive the destruction. The world needs a hero and so we give them Ming Faye. You must be Ming Faye because you are beautiful and still young. You also carry the nanobiotics in you. They will marvel at your abilities.

And so I go now to save humanity, perhaps, by giving them hope.

But the niños have killed my family. It eats me. Their tiny horrid mouths. Their brutal pale hands. I don’t believe Jiyun or Haneul wanted to be eaten. That’s absurd.

They were murdered by the people they fell in love with.

It’s been years since I’ve been with the wolves and staring at the lunar archipelago brings so much back. I miss the days when I was free. I miss the days being a child with the wolves. I miss having a family and hope. I miss having my name.

I never wanted to be a hero and I never wanted to know all that I know, but life asks us to be more than we are. It’s our choice. I was kidnapped from my life and all that I loved, but I still had the choice to fail out. No one forced me to succeed or to experiment on myself an others. I don;t have to be Ming Faye, but I will. If only to understand what happened to Jiyun and Haneul. I deserve to know.