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“There is no sleeping sickness; that’s just a convenient way to describe it, and of course, most people don’t know any better,” said Dr. Cale. “What they have is a SymboGen implant that’s decided it’s tired of being treated like a slave in the only home it’s ever known. An implant that knows how to reproduce itself asexually, how to spread through muscle tissue without killing its host, and—most importantly of all, and the reason Richard initially argued against the use of Toxoplasma in anything that was intended to go into a human being—how to move into the brain.”

“Oh, God,” said Nathan. “This can’t be happening. I mean, it literally can’t. It’s not possible for this to be happening.”

“I went out alone,” said Dr. Cale. “I opened the broken doors. I’d close them if I could, Nathan, for your sake, and for the sake of everyone who’s been hurt by what’s come through, but it’s too late for that. Once a door is open, you have to live with what’s on the other side.”

Maybe we had to live with it, but Devi didn’t. Neither did Chave, or Sherman, or Katherine. We could live with things forever. They were never going to live with anything else, ever again. “So how do we wake them up?” I asked.

Dr. Cale turned toward me. Her expression was sympathetic. Somehow, that made my blood go cold. “I’m sorry, Sal. We can’t. If someone is sleepwalking, then the parasite is already in their brain. All we can do is hope that eventually, someone else gets the chance to wake up, and live.”

The sound of drums was loud and heavy in my ears as I considered the ramifications of that. Then my eyes rolled back in my head, and I pitched over backward. I never even felt myself hit the floor.

Right from the start, there were… surprises… in the behavior of D. symbogenesis. The first generation was larger than anyone had expected, with more healthy babies hatching, growing, and even thriving in the body we had provided for them. I’d been at the top of the lab betting pool; I was hoping for a dozen subjects. I got nearly a hundred. My star pupil was the sixth to hatch, and testing of genetic material extracted from its body showed an almost total integration of the human DNA I had pushed into the genome of the worm.

Can you imagine? For literally centuries scientists have been looking at their invertebrate test subjects and wondering what we can learn from them next. But in my lab, when those beautiful babies hatched, I became the first scientist whose subjects had even a rudimentary capacity for looking back. Every D. symbogenesis alive today is descended, at least in part, from my darling Adam.


I made one last attempt to speak with Steven yesterday, to make him understand that we had lost control. The dangers I foresaw, and he and Shanti willfully ignored, are coming to pass, and I know he must have seen the signs. They are so clear, if you know what you’re looking for.

He laughed at me. He laughed in my face, and said that it didn’t matter, because the die was cast; at this point, all we could do was try to make sure we remained as clean as possible. I asked if he’d spoken to Shanti. He stopped laughing, and told me that she was no longer a concern.

I haven’t seen her in over a year. I thought she was simply off spreading her rumors. Now I wonder if it might be worse than I had ever feared.

I knew that I had become a creator of monsters. I did not know, before I ran out of choices, that I had become a monster myself.


Chapter 13



Always the dark, warm, hot warm, the hot warm dark, and the distant sound of drumming. Always the hot warm dark and the drums, the comforting drums, the drums that define the world. Let me stay. Let me stay let me stay let me—

No. Calm. Heed the drums.

Nothing has to be remembered. Nothing has to be accepted. Leave it here. Leave it in the dark until the time is right.

Leave it.


The drums were still echoing in my ears, chasing away the fragments of my dreams, when I woke up on a narrow cot. Tansy loomed over me like a denim-clad gargoyle. I gasped, sitting up and scooting away from her in the same motion. The lab coat someone had spread over me to serve as a blanket fell away, pooling in my lap. For whatever reason, this made Tansy start to giggle madly. She abandoned her looming in favor of plopping down on the floor of the bowling alley, cross-legged, and clutching her own bare ankles in her hands.

“You’re funny,” she informed me. “I hoped you’d be nice, or at least interestingly dangerous, but I didn’t expect you to be funny.”

“Is that good?” I asked uneasily. I was trying to remember why I’d passed out, and what I’d dreamt about. After a day filled with horrible revelations, there had finally been something bad enough to make me lose consciousness. I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to remember. I was absolutely certain that it was something I needed to remember.

I was even more certain that I couldn’t let myself.

Not yet.

“It’s great!” Tansy leaned forward, murmuring conspiratorially, “I mean, not to be a tattletale or anything, but Doctor C doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about pretty much anything, and Adam’s such a mama’s boy that he doesn’t have a sense of humor about anything at all. It’s always dull, dull, dull around here. Science can be funny, you know? But nobody ever lets me blow anything up or even change the labels on things.”