Chapter 1


A sensation. A thought. A dawning sense of individuality drew my notice and woke me up. I had been drifting, caught up in the swirl of mass consciousness for how long I didn’t know. Time had no meaning here, or the Ascended existed outside of time, or all points of time at once. I knew not which.

Only now, terms such as I and me began to form in my psyche; words altogether foreign to the whole. Though we speak with many voices, the Ascended were of one mind; one being. Independence and individualism held no meaning for us; no importance. Instead of thinking in terms of we and us, this new possibility of existence including things such as I or me seemed new, yet somehow familiar. Words that made me separate from the whole, distinct in my own right.

Why was I different?


The whispering started again, pulled me back under, my brief moment of individuality swept under the weight of the hive mind. Other elements, other psyches left on occasion and came back. We changed in an endless ebb and flow of different minds, a kaleidoscope of personalities and souls, moving in shifting, myriad patterns. I allowed myself to be incorporated back into the whole without a fight. There was still so much left to learn and I wasn’t ready to stand on my own.

At least, that was what they kept telling me.

Yet something else continued to tug at my mind, keeping me from sinking back into oblivion. I shifted, flitting over other distinct psyches searching for the tether that insisted on propelling me ever onward. My systematic hunt was interrupted again and again as I lost track of my bearings as other minds came or left, forcing me to start from the beginning.

Then I realized the compelling force wasn’t coming from my companions. It was elsewhere; somewhere beyond the boundaries of my new world. Curious, I drifted. Sometimes old memories, strange desires darted through my mind before being forgotten again. I felt along the edges of the mass consciousness and realized there was yet another place that existed beyond my new life.

Somehow, I managed to find my way to the outer limits of the barrier and forced an opening to the other side. I wasn’t sure how I accomplished the feat and it was as if my eyes opened again. Or maybe a more apt term might be that I had my mind reawakened. All of existence unfurled before me, other dimensions, universes, galaxies, whole civilizations being born and others dying.

I froze. The vastness of the beyond was frightening, terrifying in its breadth and weight. It was enormous, mind-numbing, unbelievable and unfathomable by any one individual. Out there was to be alone, while here inside my bubble there was constant companionship. No, I would stay here where it was safe. Where I was safe. I was but newly born and needed to be with my family.

Then the call came again. No words, no thought behind it, just pure emotion driving away my fears with an overwhelming sense of loss and despair.

I slipped through the barrier separating me from the rest of existence and stood alone. The call was stronger here, almost agonizing in its intensity. My psyche took shape into a form I recognized and I trembled. My mind whirled, trying to decipher what it all meant. I could hear the Ascended whispering, calling me back home. There was something about them and the unique sound they made that was significant and teased my memory. But the other plea was stronger, almost shrieking, drowning out the Ascended and my nascent understanding. Yet I didn’t know how to find it or how to sever the connection.

As I struggled with the dilemma, another presence emerged next to me. Her semblance was as thin as mine. I knew her. Yet in the same moment I didn’t. Why couldn’t I remember? I had touched upon her once or twice in the mass, of that I was sure. But that wasn’t where I knew her from. It was someplace else, long gone and forgotten. Her hair was dark golden, her eyes a serious brown. Somehow, she seemed to be more a part of me than the other Ascended, yet I knew not why.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Her voice was gentle and coaxing. “You aren’t ready yet.”

“I know,” I replied and studied her face, searching for the elusive trigger that would cause everything to fall into place.

She held out her hand. “Come back with us. Come home.”

I started toward her, the sweet song of the other minds swelling, beckoning me into their comfortable anonymity. Then I hesitated, drawing back as my fetter yanked toward the unknown call. Through the connection, I could sense agony, a desperate loneliness and rage. I cried out, my mind spinning from the brief contact.

“It’s time to let him go,” she said, moving closer. “Your old life is long past. It doesn’t concern you now.”

Her words made sense, but I found myself moving away from her again, evading her hand. I sensed that, if she touched me, the link between myself and my unknown puppet master would be shattered once the Ascended enveloped me again. Maybe it was foolish, but I didn’t want to lose the part of myself that made me distinct from the rest.

“No… not yet.”

“If you wish.” She drew back, patience in her eyes. “In time it will become less on its own. We thought merely to ease your discomfort.”

Two sides pulled at me. One offered solace, new knowledge, and constant companionship, the other confusion and pain. It was a ludicrous decision, yet still I found myself letting the outside one pull me along. It needed me more.

She disappeared in a flash of confused images, too quick for me to make out. A distant world of blue and swirling white appeared before me and I hurtled toward it. Then it changed to a jumbled maze of concrete and glass, scents and sounds that left me aching.

He called again.


I struggled to make sense of it all, but the jigsaw puzzle refused to match up into a complete, sensible picture. He called me.

He who?

Too much information bombarded me; a whole world of sensation and memory and words. It was painful and I struggled to pull away again. Afraid, I wanted—no, needed—to go back to where I belonged. But he wouldn’t let me.


The world fell still.