Image: Artefakt 4 Acryl-Öl auf Hartfaserplatte 50 x 40 cm

Bogan scratched his wrist, pulling up the bandage crusted with dried blood. It was his mark, the chineoid blessing so he may travel between zones, feeding the collective. Feeling the shifting pulse of internal chineites he fell to his knees in prayer, bright red blooms blossoming around his wrist, dripping on to the parched ground.

“Please bless this harvest, may the ones who sing in the light be praised. Submit to the body, become the body, forever without end.”

Idle winds stirred loose plastic bags snagged on jutting reinforced steel bars. It was hallowed ground, the interface between chineoid geometric purity and the cursed ruins of the past. Crumbling concrete was piled high in regular mounds, product of the relentless converters chewing through the bones of cursed cities.

Bogan lived near the blessed arch, the curving finger of mechoid gods. Some said it was a connection to the shard itself, the holy seed that sprouted a million fingers each spawning grand arcs of conversion. Like moving a finger through water, bow waves peeling back at curved angles.

The chineites were taking the old and making it new. The holy body, unity of spirit and mind.

Bogan often went to the great wall, throwing in found objects to be absorbed by the shifting surfaces of the chineoids, sometimes receiving blessings in return. His mark was necessary for travel, those that strayed too far from their zone became subject to the conversion process.

Old wives tales of youthful exuberance meeting a cursed end was commonplace. Bogan had seen them in his travels, bodies encased in teeming strands, eyes open and pleading. Some said they lived for many turns, until their bones were left gleaming in the sun.

Blasphemy was not tolerated.

The blessing could only come from the chines putting on the mark, the right of adulthood. Bogan had received his early, a rare exception that brought much speculation to his village. Was he the chosen? Whispered tales told around fires increased his desire to sift the sands for prized relics of the past.

They would never understand. Even those with the mark rarely sat at the great wall, after harvest was done to listen to the sounds. Tendrils of silver beauty waving in the breeze, the chineoids sang as the sun moved across the sky. Bogan would sit cross-legged, staff of metal planted in the ground resting on his forehead.

He would feel the song, deep in his mind. The mark was his connection, the will of the collective. He felt the need for relics, the old metal scraps in ruins of buildings near the wall’s edge. They would direct his hand, joyous light on success, burning pain on failure.

Bogan took the pain as a proof of sacrifice. He must improve to be admitted. Every day he strove to be faster and better, he wanted to be among the blessed few that came from the walls every new year. The blessed had converted faces intertwined with chineoid grace.

Holy clouds of chineoids hovered near their limbs churning and boiling in endless patterns. They would speak to the unconverted, the unmarked and unholy. A movement of their staff, and they would bring an entire village to its knees. If displeased, a finger of god itself would descend, spawning new rippled arcs of converting grace.

Bogan slid down the pile of concrete stones, careful not to lose any of his collected bounty. This offering would be the one, he was sure of it. The song from the collective was too joyous to be anything else. As he held the strange objects in his hands, he could feel the tug of the mark wanting to touch and convert it.

But these were for the holy wall alone.

Advancing to the great arc, standing tall in the noon-day sun. Bogan sat in his customary place marked by the stacking of stones. Sitting on the ground, he put the objects into his lap in a small pile. The wall shifted, questing tendrils dividing like branching rivers towards him.

He threw each object into the waiting fingers, each conveyed to the wall increasing the volume of the song. His last object, with strange buttons and a small window on to a darkened pane of glass. It was most precious of all. The rounded edges felt strange in his hands, like a stone smoothed by the passage of time.

He held it close to the swirling tendril tips, feeling the tug as they burrowed beneath the dark plastic surface tasting the materials hidden inside. The song swelled and silver ropes erupted from the ground, piercing his legs and torso. He was blessed by their touch, honored to be converted.

His vision clouding as chineoids surged through him.

Blessed be the collective, forever without end.