Eliza padded barefoot along the glass-smooth deck, humming softly to herself on her way to the simulum. He was waiting for her when she arrived. Right on time. He always appeared when she’d find him most distasteful.
The Avatar of the Apostle.
She walked right through him—his voxels exploding and reassembling in her wake—and took a seat on the lone sofa, already supremely put out. She crossed her arms and scowled at the virtual demon before her.
“It’s good to see you well,” he said.
He held up his palms placatingly. “As you’re aware, I have a vested interest in your well-being, and—”
“Why are you here? As in, why now?”
He lowered his hands slowly to his sides and frowned. He looked ridiculous, virtually clothed in asynchronous textiles: denim and linen. “Your question implies a causality orthogonal to reality.”
Eliza’s cheeks burned. She crossed one knee over the other and looked away. “Please, don’t start in with that again. I don’t subscribe to your peculiar twenty-third century meta-metaphysical techno-mysticism.”
“No, you’re very obviously an adherent of the reactionary philosophies of the neo-omnicynics of the late twenty-ninth. They brought my people to an end, of course. Does that bring you satisfaction, or even pause?”
“If you keep talking about the future like it’s the past I’ll bring you to and end, and that will bring me great satisfaction. That’s a fucking promise.”
“Promise or premonition?”
She ignored the provocation. “I came to see the Avatar of the Illusor, so if you don’t mind…” She returned her gaze to the Apostle. She held him in her eyes with all the coldness she could muster.
“Perhaps I am the Illusor. Disjunctive cognition, interobjectivity, compound errors of efficacy—”
“Stop! Don’t play with my mind like that. I’ve got a hundred lightyears of emptiness in every direction. Plenty of space for you. Elsewhere.”
“Ah, but that’s the crux, is it not? The space is full of emptiness. What room could be spared for another?” He smiled. It looked painful. “Eliza, dear, I do believe you will abide me and survive me. You are indeed the Final Prophet.”
“I AM NOT YOUR PROPHET!” She uncoiled her wrapped limbs and exploded off the sofa, conjuring a virtual stone in her hand—an odd, instinctual choice—and brought it crushingly to bear aside the Apostle’s skull. She felt the roughness of it, the weight of it. She bludgeoned his cackling mouth to unidentifiable flecks and bits of gore, but of course he laughed on, and his voxels blew away like windswept dandelion seeds. She was alone again in the empty simulum.
This was going to be a very long journey.