The grass was greener than it had ever been before. It had grown and was actually making waves as it rippled in the wind. Kaleem could see it more clearly this time than he had ever seen it before. He soon found the familiar brick building, in front of which the children normally played. There were no children, though, this time. He was standing closer to it than ever before. He could see the bricks more easily. They were mainly a dark, rusty red, but now and then there was a black one, which made the whole building look dark. He had always thought that it had no roof, but as he looked up, he could see that there was something at the top, which seemed to be made from red tiles.
He looked for the children, but he could not see them. The grass seemed to stretch in front of him for miles. There were hills. It almost looked like a green sea with a huge swell. In the distance, he could see some white specks.
I wonder if they’re daisies, he thought. He knew the children liked to make necklaces with daisies. He started walking towards them.
His legs were moving. The grass was still rippling, but he could not feel the breeze that was causing the movement. He could not feel the movement in his legs. He did not seem to be getting any nearer to the daisies.
Suddenly, though, the daisies changed shape and grew larger. At was as if he was being propelled forward. They were there. They weren’t daisies at all. They were the children.
Kaleem braced himself. He hated the moment when they turned and faced him. It wasn’t so much the strange puffed up eyes and the little stubby noses that bothered him. It wasn’t even that their faces looked sixty years older than their bodies. It was more that sad, questioning expression in their eyes. It was as if they were expecting him to do something he hadn’t yet done, to answer some question only he could answer. Each time they seemed more disappointed, more accusing. He dreaded meeting them.
One of them spotted him. Kaleem heard him shout to the others. Two of them were running towards him.
‘Kaleem, Kaleem,’ shouted the boy. ‘We thought you would never come again. Why have you been so long?’
Two old faces were turned up to him. They were actually smiling. They took his hand and lead him towards the others.
‘We have been waiting for you, Kaleem,’ said the boy holding his left hand.
‘It must be soon,’ said the girl holding his right hand. ‘It is to be written.’
He had never heard them speak so much before. They were actually speaking Zandrian.
But I first came here when I was living on Terrestra, thought Kaleem.
The other children were running towards him now.
‘Kaleem, Kaleem,’ they shouted. ‘Kaleem has come.’
They formed a circle around him. The faces were solemn now, but not so sad as they normally were.
The girl Kaleem remembered from the last time stepped into the circle.
‘Kaleem,’ she said. ‘It is almost time. We welcome you.’
The others gathered around them began to cheer and clap.
The girl took Kaleem’s hand. She led him towards the edge of the circle. The children stepped aside so that they could walk through. Suddenly they were right by the brick building. She led him through a door, which Kaleem had never seen before.
The book was open on a table on a raised platform. She smiled and pointed.
‘To-day you can read the story so far written,’ she said.
She nodded to him that he should go up the wooden steps to the platform. Kaleem thought he could hear faint music playing in the background.
The marks started appearing on the pages as soon as he looked at them. This time, though, they seemed more familiar. They were almost like Wordtext. At first they kept changing faster than Kaleem could read. The pages filled with black marks, then scrunched themselves up and disappeared, just as before, to be replaced by pure white pieces of paper.
Gradually, though, this time, the marks appeared more and more slowly. They were indeed forming Wordtext. He could read what they said. Even so, before he came to the bottom of each page, it would tear itself out and start again.
Kaleem felt hot and slightly dizzy as he gradually realised what he was reading. It was the story of the tower. It was being written and rewritten, each time sounding better.
Suddenly, it changed again. Gradually, the whole story, as he knew it, began to appear. The blue and gold illustrations formed themselves in front of him. Soon, the book was complete.
‘Read it through,’ whispered the girl.
Kaleem started to read. He could hear the workmen building the tower. He saw the people making their way up it. He could hear the excitement in their voices. He felt the shaking as the tower began to topple.
‘It must be finished,’ he heard the girl whisper. ‘It must be finished.’
The shaking was getting more violent now. It was not just a picture in Kaleem’s head. He could hear the children outside shouting.
‘Run Kaleem, Pahandra,’ they cried. ‘The tower is falling.’
Kaleem’s feet were glued to the spot.
A new page appeared on the book.
“The Prophecy and its Fulfilment”, he read.
‘It is not quite time,’ whispered Pahandra. ‘If you stay, you will not be able to complete it.’
She grabbed his hand, and soon they were running out of the building.
‘Detran, Detran,’ he heard someone calling.
The furniture in his apartment gradually came into focus. Kaleem woke up to find himself covered in sweat. The message alert was sounding on his dataserve. His throat was sore and every muscle in his body seemed to ache. He was thirsty, and although he was covered in sweat, he was shivering.
Oh no, he thought. Not that again. It’s come back.