I stood and stepped from the wide sarcophagus. Dust like chalk covered all my skin and clothes. I thought that strange, as machines keep all such rooms quite clean. But he waved me closer. “Come here.”
I shrugged and walked to him. He reminded me of those hermitic scribes who claim the impossible oddness of the city when they first return to it after their long isolation. But it is they themselves who are strange, and therefore holy. Perhaps, I thought, knowing Jerem Cozak is like meeting one of them. But I knew even then that his strangeness would not pass.
When I reached him, he reached out his hands. Grasping my shoulders, he leaned forward. I thought we might kiss, but he only placed his head above my shoulder and exhaled, as one would trying to clean a glass or mirror. The smell of storms grew stronger still. It was only then that I realized that he stood a full head shorter than myself.
He stepped back, his eyes approving. A faint smile played across his lips. A white fog formed around my face. I started to wave it away, but Jerem Cozak grabbed my wrists. “Be still,” he said. “You did not know what you gave me. But they have not forgotten.”
I coughed, nervous. The mist was in my mouth and nostrils. Cool fire filled my head, a taste like silver on my tongue before it numbed. “It...” I said. “What’s happening?”
“They are machines, as the floor and ceiling and walls are machines. But these are the White Swarm, and will not be bound. What they are, what we will do, will shake the universe until the final moment of its collapse.”
I stood there in their cloud as cool fire shot through my body. Soon, the mist of machines poured out my nose and mouth. It pooled around our feet and rolled throughout the room, rising to our waists. I felt that I might sneeze, but instead I began to breathe better, I thought, than I ever had before.
“Follow me,” said Jerem Cozak, and touched his palm to the wall.