At least that’s how my grandfather always started the story. “Everything changed,” he would say—looking straight through the ceiling to the sky he always claimed was wrong. Then he would pause, let it sink in before continuing.
“The earth trembled and the sun turned red. We lost contact with all but the nearest towns. The Apocalypse had come at last, but we didn’t merit a visit from either Heaven or Hell. We could only watch as the earth died around us and the constellations took on strange shapes.” Then he would pause again, his ten-year-old self reliving the experience one more time. “Eventually we understood it to be Purgatory. And somehow that was a comfort.”
Sometimes that was the end of the story. Sometimes me or my sister would ask a question that sparked a further tale. Perhaps of how the Nephilim came to watch over us, settling in distant mountains that hadn’t existed before. Or of the beginnings of magic. They were related, he thought—the magic and the Nephilim. And I suppose it makes a strange kind of sense when you think about it. They brought the Tools, after all. Metal and wires that did impossible things, that made our lives bearable.
Later they taught us how to graft—even I remember that. One year my brother lost a hand in a rockslide, so he went to find them. The Nephilim, I mean. Whether he eventually succeeded, or simply found one of the clans who understood their craft, he never said. But months later he returned with a steel hand at the end of his wrist. I didn’t care for it. It was always humming—low, as if angry. But it got the job done. Opened and closed when he needed it to, though nobody knew how it understood his intentions. “Magic," he said. And maybe he was right.
Because there is magic now. Did you know I had some? I’ve forgotten how (not that I ever really understood) but I could make things float in the air. Small things—pebbles, sticks, or beetles. Not enough magic to be useful, but enough to be “special.” Only one other person had the gift in our whole town—a girl my age who made flashes of light. They taught her Morse code.
And that’s nothing to what folk can do now. I’ve heard of fire-orbs, of fetching things from afar. There still aren’t many with the gift, but they’re growing in number and power with each generation. One day everyone will have it.
My grandfather thought this was Purgatory, but he was mistaken. Everything changed, but only so we would be forced to take the next step. This is the final manifestation of our destiny.
And the Nephilim? I imagine they must have existed. We’ve all seen their machines and graftings—or bastard imitations of them. But even those are beginning to fail us. Were the Nephilim sent to guide us to our destiny, or keep us from it? It’s an important question, even if your generation doesn’t think to ask. But I’ll leave you with this: of what use are machines to those who will be gods?