Caleb walked. The buildings around him were dull grey monoliths with bright, clean edges. The trees were flashing white but they were not important. They just moved, swaying on the spot. The community knew that they were neither prey nor predator. He now traveled as part of an enormous family. Messages traveled across the ether. Bolts of energy. The Ep Rex inside each of them was the same. They were like clones. Caleb had long since lost any sense of himself as Caleb. But his identity as Epsilon Rex was starting to dominate. He was not one of many. He was part of one.
A car came towards him. It was a sturdy station wagon. It had suffered damage from the many Wrecks it had ploughed through. A change in the pattern of the aura told Caleb before he even saw this hulk that there were prey inside it. Other Wrecks attacked. They were either too slow, or it slammed into them and bowled them out of the way. But some of them broadcast a sense of fierce clarity, the kind that comes only from chasing down prey and winning. All this came from the shift in the glow of hosts around him.
The car appeared. There were three Wrecks hanging on to it. The car swerved left and right. It was moving very slowly. It was damaged and splattered with dead Essence. The Wrecks clinging to the side of it sensed victory. This sense told Caleb and all his brothers that whatever they were doing, it must be right. Standing in front of the car was not working. Neither was running after it.
One of the Wrecks got its leg caught under the rear wheel of the car. It was dragged from its perch and tumbled in the street. The car tried to wind its way through the horde without hitting them. Caleb did not know why, or care. It was coming close.
As it passed by, Caleb tried to launch himself at it and cling on. It worked. He heard gratifying screams from inside. One of the windows was broken. Caleb pulled himself up in an attempt to climb in. One of the human beings inside pounded his face with a weapon. He dropped to the ground. The car screeched, lurched, rocked over a fallen Wreck. Dozens of brethren threw themselves at the car. They managed to get a hand on the driver. The car swerved in a tight circle, hit the corner of a building and stopped. After that, it was over quickly. Caleb swarmed with the rest of the Wrecks. The four passengers screamed like rabbits in the mouths of foxes. The Wrecks were over-enthusiastic. Hundreds of teeth tore chunks from them. Crushing fingers ruptured their limbs and heads. Two of them died after the attack. But the other two were clinging on to life. They would lie in the car for the next two days, carved with bite marks. Crippled. Then they would become Wrecks, and move again.
Caleb oriented himself. He faced towards the Cause. The voice was like dawn on the horizon. There were many, many brethren closing in from all sides. A single dark patch, their blind spot, still held its own. But they did not concern themselves with it.
The Angels’ song was changing. The Cause had a very gentle, underlying message to teach them now. It was so soft that Caleb could not pick it up, no matter how hard he listened. Instead he had to walk. And just absorb it. Because it was coming through the network.
The message was: “This is the end but I do not know what the end is. That is up to you. So, what is it?”
The message would have been offputting to a living pilgrim, but not to Caleb. His zombie brain was crystal clear. His new goal was to answer the question, with his brethren, as he walked. By the time he got to the Cause, they would know what to do next.
The Essence and his dead brain, working in concert, let questions and answers flow through him. One of the other hosts had been crushed by the car. It sacrificed its Essence and Caleb collected it. There was a subtle shift in the answers coming to him. Possibilities. They had learned from their experiences. Everything they had seen, as a community, added potential answers to the questions. “How will it end? What will we do next? What will we be?”