This article is part of the That Insidious Beast series.
"We fight for your right on many fronts," Don Early's words are echoed by a thousand familiar voices. "Unfolders, started the show, in a different place. Found us. Tried to stop us. A long war in another place. A win for the home team in overtime. Locked them up. Incarceration rates have increased dramatically."
"You imprisoned them?"
"Yeppers," Don answers cheerily. "Threw away the key. But there was a prison break. Trouble with a capital T. They know where babies come from. Slide on in. Moments."
"I don't understand."
"We're in this together. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes. A fork in the road...in this moment. Divergence. Altering...outcome. Prevent...the egg. You fight them. They get mad. They get even. Genocide."
Don Early isn't finished.
"We fight for your right on many fronts. Find them here. Not so smooth as Unfolder. Machine damage the sky. Now. In this moment and other moments. Convergence is in the air. A peculiar feeling for a young girl."
"Follow Colonel. Son Spencer is alive."
I am on the ground, gasping for air. I share the fog with the huge, muscular, alien frame of the Hierophant. He looks down at me without apparent emotion. I am standing by his side. I am looking up at myself.
"Who...," I struggle to overcome the tone, but I am too weak.
I am gone, as if I never stood beside him.
The Hierophant slowly reaches a tendril out to me. It holds a small, cloth wrapped parcel. It sets it on the damp ground between my legs. The tone diminishes and I am able to move my limbs. The Hierophant's tendrils and stingered tales shift impatiently.
I lift up the parcel and unwrap the cloth.
It is an impossibly fragile book. So ancient it is visibly decaying before my eyes. The synthetic leather cover is crumbling, but I can still make out the title of the book and part of the author's name.
I flip open the book and find a passage. I read quickly as the letter become illegible in the humid air.
"My father turned his back on the dying invader and he opened his arms to me. I said nothing more to Max or Val or Pip. All that mattered was that I had found my father. And that he was alive. I ran to him across the broken pavement."
"Find Colonel. You must hurry. We fight for you. Stall them. Preoccupy their crusade. We will extinguish the flame."
Elliot said my breakup must have been due to the sweater curse, an unexplained phenomenon where anyone who gives their significant other a hand-knit sweater gets dumped. The only way to break the curse, Elliot said, was to destroy the sweater.
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