Chapter 3:

Enter the Void

City of Gods

My soles tingle from standing on the hot beach. Grains of sand grind between my toes as I flex my feet.

The rhythmic crashing of waves combines with the distant squawking of seabirds, creating a calming melody. Light reflects off of the seawater in front of me, causing a permanent squint in my eyes. The breeze is warm and comforting. The air is easy to breathe.

How did I get here?

To my left, a person is sitting down cross-legged in the sand. He is looking straight out into the ocean. Like me, he is wearing a white jumpsuit.

“What is this place?”, I yell at him.

He turns his head and looks at me with a smirk. He is not startled by my sudden yelling in the slightest.

“Do you not remember, this is where you’ve always dreamt of going. A shoreline far beyond the city.”

How does he know that?

Since it dried up, I’ve wanted to see the ocean again. I’ve always dreamt of finding a new one, untarnished by humankind.

“How long have I been standing here?”, I ask him.

“Only a few seconds,” he responds. “In the real world that is. I've been sitting here just as long as you've been standing there. It feels like I've been here for days, no months.”

In the real world? 

Ok, so this isn’t real. I must be in my head right now. Like the female voice said during the screening, you may enter a state of paralysis or a dreamlike state when the nanobots attempt to invade your mind.

“It feels like I’ve been standing here for as long as I can remember”, I say.

There is a pause in the conversation. We both take some time to look out into the vastness of the landscape. The sky is perfectly blue other than a few scattered wisps of white. At the horizon, the sky and ocean seamlessly merge.

“Vincent, I need to tell you something very important”, he says. “I’m not sure how to tell you this and I just want to say beforehand that I’m sorry. You don’t deserve any of it. But this path of suffering I am leading you down can only be walked by you. You may not believe what I tell you, you may not trust me and I understand that. Nonetheless, I must try to convince you, because if I don't many people will suffer.”

There is an intense seriousness in his voice but at the same time, it is sympathetic. Almost like he is reluctant to tell me whatever it is he is going to.

What could be so important?

I don't even know who this man is. For all I know, this interaction is not even real. He may not be real.

Maybe he is an embodiment of the newly injected nanobots attempting to invade my consciousness. After all, they are supposed to attack your mind and latch onto your brain.

For now, I’ll listen to what he has to say. As the screening mentioned, I am not supposed to resist the nanobots.

The man begins to speak again.

“How many times do you think you have received a nanotech injection in pursuit of becoming a rustwalker?”

I formulate a response.

“This is my first time. Nobody is supposed to get an injection more than once. At least that’s what it says on the rustwalker application form.”

I have never heard of someone receiving more than one injection. What is he trying to get at?

“This is your sixth time receiving the injection. As of tomorrow, you will be a rustwalker for six years straight”, he states.

I turn my focus away from the ocean and look at the man. His gaze is fixed on the horizon. It is intense and unwavering. He holds a pile of sand in his hand, the grains of which slip through his fingers and agglomerate back into the beach.

I begin to question the man and his motives.

“What are you trying to do here? Are you a piece of my mind? That's what this is right.”

“Yes Vincent, you are currently stranded in the void that is your mind. However, I am separate.”, He replies.

He stands up and lets out a sigh while brushing the sand off of his hands. He looks slightly annoyed like he expects me to know more about the situation I am in right now. He begins walking toward me.

“You will still have a heart”, he says.

He gets closer.

“You will still hurt”, he continues.

That's what the specialist who administered the injection just said to me.

He stops a couple of feet in front of me as I turn to face him.

“You must remember”, he says.

I manage to muster up a response, in an attempt to mask my shock.

“So you’re the specialist.....”

He interrupts me.

“Ozzie. That’s my name. Being called a specialist makes me feel like I’m one of them.”

He holds out his hand

“Nice to meet you again Vincent.”

As we are shaking hands I notice a multitude of scars on his fingers, palms and wrists. There are at least twenty of them.

“How are you communicating with me from inside my mind?”, I ask him.

Ozzie sits down in the sand beside me and picks up a handful of it, letting the grains fall through his fingers once again.

“A standard dose contains around one trillion nanobots held in an ounce of plasma-based catalyst. The plasma-based catalyst helps speed up the transfer of nanobots through the blood and is the reason the liquid inside the needle appears black. The trillion or so nanobots inside a standard dose are mindless. They contain no information and are not linked to anyone. It is only after they have been injected into someone that they become linked to that person's mind and can alter their physical appearance or contain specific information such as a person's memories and thoughts.

The injection I gave to you included a standard dose, plus a small drop of my blood.“

The wind begins to pick up and the sky darkens. I feel like I'm beginning to drift off as my senses are slowly dulling.

Ozzie continues.

“Normally mixing someone's blood that contains nanotech with someone else's blood that contains nanotech results in near-death or a personality override. In this case, I have only mixed a small amount of my nanotech-containing blood with yours, so it shouldn't have a harmful effect.”

I interrupt Ozzie.

“You're a rustwalker. That's what I heard right, your blood contains nanotech.”

“Yes, I'm a rustwalker. that is how I know you, Vincent. I'll explain soon.”

He looks somewhat disappointed that I didn’t know he was a rustwalker.

“As I was saying, the small amount of nanotech I injected into you is linked with my mind. Some of the nanobots linked to my mind must have contacted your brain unless we wouldn't be able to communicate right now. The nanotech linked to my brain can share thoughts and memories with the nanotech inside your brain. That is what's happening right now.”

It makes sense what Ozzie is saying but it is still overwhelming.

“So right now, are we in a memory?”, I ask him.

“We are”, he replies. "We are inside one of my memories."

Ozzie feels more real than someone made up by my mind and his explanation of how we are communicating makes sense but I am still having doubts. Why should I believe anything this man says.

“What is it you truly need to tell me, Ozzie”, I say.


I hear a faint laugh coming from Ozzie. His eyes are closed and a grin stretches from one cheek to the other.

“What’s so funny?”, I ask him.

He opens his eyes and looks up at the sky which is beginning to grow dark.

“I’m just happy that I’m finally able to talk to you. You are the most important person in the world to me Vincent, and you don't even realize it.”

Ozzie looks at me and continues.

“I’ll tell you everything, no matter how long it takes for you to understand.”