THE CHILD OF PROPHECY
Months flew by and I was getting older by day. The older I got the slower the time seemed to go, which is very curious, because from what I understand most of the mortals perceive the time the other way around. Thirteen months passed from the day that marked my return from the Wasteland to the living world and I started remembering more and more from my previous life. I’ve always known that I had lost my immortality the day I died, but hopefully I have managed to preserve my magical powers in time. However, I could only be certain about that once I turned eighteen…
I loved spending my time in the playground nearby Lester’s house. At first I really enjoyed my loneliness, because I had plenty of time to contemplate my future. However, the hours soon started to drag on and I have become increasingly frustrated by how slowly the time seemed to pass. I could tell the time of day by looking at the shadow cast on the dry grass by the wooden pole in the middle of the playground tower. I caught myself hypnotizing the shadow for hours, trying to force it to move faster, but the more I tried the more the time seemed to stand still.
On rainy days, when the sun was hiding behind the dark clouds sailing across the gray sky, the pole wouldn’t cast any shadow on the ground and I would get sullen and angry, because I couldn’t tell what time it was. Sitting on the seesaw under the rain always made me depressed so I had to find another way to spend those gloomy days. Chasing butterflies and trying to catch them had always been my favorite childhood activity. I used to do that often with Yun when we were kids. I remember that my little sister would always be so happy when she caught a butterfly, but when she opened her tiny hands and the butterfly flew away, she would cry for hours.
One rainy day, when I was running around Arcadia trying to catch a blue swallowtail butterfly, I ran into the foal I saw upon my arrival to this abandoned mining settlement. I carefully approached the wild animal, taking one step at a time, slowly moving my arm towards its nose to let it sniff my hand .
Though, as soon as I got close enough to be able to touch its nose, the foal reared nearly striking me with its front legs. I got scared and almost fell in the mud on the ground. The foal snorted and fled away… I haven’t seen the foal for weeks. I was getting worried that maybe it had ran off and got lost in the vast emptiness of the desert surrounding Arcadia.
Then one day at dawn, Lester sent me to a little pond on the other side of the town to fill two garden cans with water. The pond behind his house was slowly drying out and he didn’t want to be the cause of its complete evaporation as some of the wildlife still came there in search of fresh water.
When I reached the little oasis and placed one of the garden cans on the surface of the water, I saw a wild horse standing on the other side of the pond. As soon as I noticed a foal sleeping on the ground, I quickly forgot about what I came here for and instead ran on top of the little hill to have a better view on the wild animals.
I have never come to this pond before, but since the day I discovered this place was a haven for wildlife, I have become its frequent visitor. I would spend my days observing the grazing horses, the fish jumping and splashing in the water, small vertebrates crawling amongst the grasses and water snakes zigzagging on the surface of the pond. This little oasis was indeed the most lively place in Arcadia.
Sometimes when I looked out the window, I would see the foal and its mother by the drying pond behind Lester’s house. I would run outside and observe the wild animals from close. I understood that if I got too close to them, they would get scared and run away, so I always kept my distance. One day, when I was searching for flat stones by the drying pond, the foal approached me. The wild horse trotted towards me and nuzzled its nose against my hand. I looked around searching for its mother, but she was nowhere to be seen. From that day onward, the foal followed me everywhere. I fed it carrots and apples from Lester’s garden everyday. I filled a big tank with water so it wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the pond on the other side of the town. After a couple of days its mother still hasn’t come searching for her baby. I asked Lester why did she abandon the foal and he told me that she got probably sick and died. I didn’t want to believe that, so I decided to find its mother myself.
I was very sad when I found the corpse of the horse rotting in the desert sun on the far end of the town. I ran back with tears in my eyes and informed Lester about my finding. He put a shovel in my hands and told me to dig a hole under her body and that the wind would do the rest… Two days later I returned to the place where I buried her. I wanted to build a cairn on her grave from the flat stones I collected in the pond. Unfortunately, the sand storm of the night before covered everything with a thick layer of sand and I could no longer tell the spot. On my way back I stopped by the pond where I first saw the wild horse with her foal. I skipped some of the stones across the calm water, but then I realized I could build the cairn in her memory right there. And so I did.
Lester and I would often go scavenging for useful things in the abandoned houses scattered around Arcadia. We would usually find nothing special – mostly junk and rusty metal scrap – but one day we got lucky. In one of the houses near the entrance to the mines I found a brand new fishing rod. It was still wrapped in its original packaging. I asked Lester if I could keep it and he said yes. I had never gone fishing before, but Lester asked Bobby Bennett to lend me his Fisherman’s Pocket Guide. Bobby laughed, because he thought there was no fish in Arcadia. I shrugged and told him I would return his book once I learned everything I needed. He said he had no use of it anyway and that I could keep it.
My first catch wasn’t as impressive as I hoped it would be. In fact, it was quite embarrassing. I knew there were bigger fish swimming in the pond, I just needed to be patient. Bobby’s guide spoke about the use of bait in order to increase the chance of catching a desired species of fish, but because I knew that all those types of fish couldn’t possibly live in this little pond, I decided to skip that part.
My fishing skill has been improving exponentially as I was getting older. I used to spend quite a lot of time by the pond every day, occasionally staying past the sunset. The guide wasn’t lying when it said fish preferred early morning and evening sun to the bright sun of the midday. It made sense. If I were a fish I would move to the deep water to cool off on such hot sunny days, too.
Soon I learned to recognize certain types of fish without the need of catching them first. Sometimes, when I wasn’t in the mood to fish, I would just sit by the pond and observe the slimy animals splash in the water. I found it very relaxing.
Even though I enjoyed spending my time alone, Lester’s ghostly company was always a welcomed distraction. He would often talk about his life and family and about his work in the mines in the little desert town called Snake’s Canyon – nowadays the abandoned mines of Lucky Palms. He would always get so excited when he spoke about Arcadia, because it was him and his fellow miners who founded this mining settlement all those years ago. Sometimes, Lester would even talk about the devastating earthquake that turned everything into dust and trapped him in the collapsed mines where he starved to death. This always made him cry. The first time I saw his empty eyes flood with tears I was very surprised, because I didn’t know that ghosts had emotions or that they could cry, too.
One evening, Lester asked me to tell him about myself. He’s never shown any interest in my life before so I wasn’t sure if telling the truth was the right decision, but then I figured he couldn’t tell anyone anyway…
“The Dragon people were a powerful ancient race that walked the Earth together with the fearsome fire-spewing reptiles thousands of years ago. Cursed by the Great White One, Nyrog – a giant two-tailed albino dragon – to live and serve him until the End of Time, the Dragon people became immortal. The eternal life, however, became unbearable at the verge of the first thousand years, leading many to hopeless attempts to end their lives. ‘Life is a gift, not a curse’, a wise man once said. This man, Quiang was his name, stood at the birth of the Rebellion – the first anti-dragon revolt counting more than a half of the population. The wyverns joined the Rebellion soon after the first battle we had lost – the ultimate decision leading to the Eternal War that lasted for centuries. The Dragon people of the Rebellion fought their brothers and sisters in eternal battles, trying to kill each other over and over again. Most of them had eventually developed the chronic fatigue syndrome that turned the once lively people into a sea of living bones. Rabid and ravenous, their muffled voices called for mercy for thirteen moons, silently suffering in agonizing pain, never to escape life. Many wyverns were butchered by the much larger dragons, but in the end it was their keen intelligence that has beaten the size of their enemy. Nyrog’s last breath marked the beginning of a new era. The era of free people, the era of freedom and mortality.”
“My father was one of the three wyverns who killed Nyrog. I know it sounds like some out-of-this-world fantasy, but he was really my father. You see, there were very powerful sorcerers once, great wizards with magical powers who could transform into creatures with dragon’s head and wings, a reptilian body, two legs and a tail… While Nyrog’s blood was still pulsing in his veins, my father carved two wands out of the dragon’s horns and offered them to the other two wywerns as a trophy, but both of them refused to take possession of such a powerful token. My father took the wands and hid them in a well-protected place where they remained until the day he died.”
“A-a-and who h-has them n-n-now?” Lester asked from the edge of his seat.
“After my father’s soul left for the Netherworld, his protection spell faded away and the wands were no longer safe. My mother told me about them and after I learned how powerful the dragon wands were, I had set on a long journey to find them and to protect them.”
“W-wow! D-d-do y-you s-s-still ha-have them?” Lester stammered, his blank eyes widened with excitement.
“No. I don’t,” I sighed heavily and looked at the globe by the fireplace. “My sister… maybe she still has her wand,” I whispered to myself, not sure if Lester heard me.
After a long moment of silence I finally turned my eyes to Lester. He looked shocked. Even though all of this sounded normal to my ears, I have underestimated the impact my past could have on a modern human. Or actually, a ghost in Lester’s case.
“I killed a woman the day I was born,” I said while looking straight into his eyes, trying to sound as burdened by my act as possible. Lester suddenly didn’t look so comfortable. He moved further from me, trying to squeeze his transparent body in the corner of the sofa. I didn’t really care if he wanted to hear about it, I just simply needed to get it all out.
“You don’t have to be afraid, Lester. I’m not gonna kill you,” I tried to put him at ease. “Plus, you’re already dead anyway,” I teased him. Lester’s lips curved into a slight smile.
“My real name is Huang Loong, also known as the Yellow Dragon. In my past life I was the imperial sorcerer, the protector of the First Emperor of China and the son of the most powerful enchanter of the Dragon race, Xun Loong. In this world I am known as Nathan. A prodigy, a test subject, a victim of crime and… a killer,” I swallowed hard, feeling the stab of heartache slide over the lump in my throat. I had much better reputation once, I thought to myself and looked back at the globe by the fire, acutely searching for my homeland.
“When I was betrayed by the Emperor who thought I was the one planning his assassination, a tyrant named Dong Huo, who was in fact the real assassin of the late Emperor, buried me alive deep within the Dragon Cave located on top of the Dragon Mountain in Shang Simla, the capital of the Chinese Empire at the time. In my last agonizing moments inside the sarcophagus, few hours before the Death finally took me, I had cast a very powerful spell on my journal. A spell only a sorcerer who is dying in vain can cast – the Binding Spell. By casting the Binding Spell on an inanimate object one is able to bind his soul to that object with a possibility of returning to the world through a living one – The Mother.”
I looked at Lester who seemed more relaxed now than he was before. He stared back at me, but when I thought he was finally going to say something, instead, he hovered towards the door of the abandoned house and left. I remained sitting by the fire for the rest of the evening, silently observing the dancing flames and trying to figure out a way to save my sister. When I looked closely at the spherical model of Earth and studied it more carefully, I soon noticed a big shape with the letters ‘C’, ‘H’, ‘I’, ‘N’, ‘A’ written across it. Could it be? I thought to myself when I looked closer and saw much smaller letters forming the name ‘Shang Simla’ close to the letter ‘N’. I quickly spun the globe, searching for the word ‘Arcadia’, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find it… Although I had no idea where I was in the world at the moment, I knew that all hope wasn’t lost. Shang Simla still existed and if I were to find my sister, I knew where to search for her.
I haven’t seen Lester for days after I told him the truth about myself. I didn’t know what he thought of me, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t change the past, but I could decide who I was going to be this time. I had nobody to protect and nobody to fear. I had nobody to love and nobody to die for. At the moment I was all alone in this world and I could do whatever I pleased with my life. I knew I had a baby sister somewhere in the world and a ghost mother closely watching my every step, but they weren’t really my family. My only living relative was the last of the Dragon people, Yun. I haven’t forgotten why I returned in the world of the living, however until I will have regained my abilities I can’t do much to save my sister.
I spent most of my evenings fishing or riding Sun. Over the course of time I became quite good at horse riding. In fact, I enjoyed it very much. I had no idea I knew how to ride a horse until one day I jumped atop Sun and rode her towards the sunset. It all came very natural to me, I felt as if I had it inside of me since always.
When I was in the company of my equine friend I was the happiest. Lester has been still avoiding me, leaving quickly the very moment we found ourselves in the same place. Ever since I learned to ride, I haven’t really sought after his company anymore. I talked to Sun instead. She never answered, but I felt there was a special bond between us.
One night, the dead miners invited me to play a billiard game at the local abandoned bar. I knew that Lester was probably going to be there, but I decided to go anyway. I’ve never played this game before, but I soon understood the rules. After a few expired last century beers nobody played by the rules anyway, so the main goal was to actually hit any of the balls and deposit them in one of the six pockets along the rails.
I was the only one who wasn’t drinking – for obvious reasons. The beer didn’t taste like beer anymore, but the ghosts didn’t seem to mind. I didn’t understand if they were playing at being drunk or if they were tipsy for real. One way or another, it was a pretty fun night.
I got the chance to get to know better with the rest of the ghosts that night. Bobby Bennett was only seventeen when he died in the mines. Even though he was the youngest of them all, he earned their respect. Bobby’s parents passed away when he was just a little boy. He lived all of his short life with his grandmother who was seriously ill. This young man took the job in the mines to cover all of her health costs and expensive medicine. He had never imagined, that his grandmother would outlive her grandson.
Ever since he was six years old, Russell Jones had dreamed of becoming a famous adventurer and travel the world for living. He had dreamed about visiting every country and write a book about his travels and adventures. Unfortunately, neither he was born into a rich family, so he first had to earn enough money to be able to set on his journey. His life ended tragically before he was able to add one part of his first paycheck to the lifetime savings inside of his pig-shaped money-box…
Darrell Watson’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy only a week before the tragic catastrophe in which most of the inhabitants of Snake’s Canyon lost their lives. This man didn’t even get the chance to hold his newborn son. He’s been watching his boy grow up, being raised by another man. He watched this man make love to his wife in his own bed. He watched this man wear his best clothes to the church every Sunday. Only when his wife gave birth to the other man’s child, Darrell decided to go his own way and to never look back.
All of them were good, hard-working men who worked long shifts to put a warm meal on the table at the end of the day. Some of them had families, others didn’t. Some of them had plans for the future, others had lost all hopes for a better life a long time before they have started working in the mines. Even though I didn’t know these men when they were still alive, their sad fate has really touched my heart. I had starved to death myself. I knew what excruciating agony these poor guys went through. But here they were having fun at the billiard table, joking, laughing, drinking expired beers, listening to their favorite songs, dancing and looking happy. Who ever said that there was no afterlife?
Lester continued to avoid me even after the night at the bar. I partly understood why he didn’t want to be around me, but I was no longer Huang Loong. There was no dragon blood running in my veins anymore. I was an ordinary mortal…
… and even if I regained my powers, I could never become immortal again. I have been thinking about this for a very long time now and it all makes sense. When Xun Loong created the Dragon wands, he probably didn’t realize that even though Nyrog was dead, it were his horns that cast the curse of immortality upon the Dragon people all those centuries ago. He carved these two wands out of these very horns, thus unintentionally creating two extremely powerful artifacts – the wands of eternal life. I had not realized how powerful the Dragon wands really were until Dong Huo sealed me in the sarcophagus and left me to starve to death. When his mortal hands took possession of my wand, I have lost my immortality for good.
I got completely lost in my thoughts that I haven’t even realized that the red sky got suddenly so bright. A thick white mist flooded my field of view. All of a sudden, I couldn’t see the tip of my fishing rod. I couldn’t even see the pond itself! I looked down at the tips of my worn-out shoes, but I could no longer feel the sand under my feet. I didn’t know if I had hallucinations or if I was hovering above the ground for real.
The doe which was staring at me from the other side of the pond fled aside as soon as I rose in the mid-air. I had no idea what was happening. I tightly clutched the fishing rod in my hands, ready to face anyone or anything coming my way. After a short moment when my body floated nearly eight feet above the ground, the tension finally dropped and I fell down.
“Ouch!” I cried out loud when I landed straight on a rock. I slowly rose to my feet while keeping my hand on my left buttock, trying to ease the pain with circular movements. Suddenly, the hand became so hot that I almost thought it must have burned a hole in my shorts. Like a miracle, I felt no pain anymore. Confused by the strangeness of the situation, I looked at my hands. There was a sparkle.
I opened my right hand with a slow movement as more sparks came out of my palm. The doe observed me carefully from the other side of the pond. She was the only witness of this great happening. I have finally regained my powers. My reincarnation was complete.
I believe it was no coincidence it was a full moon that night. The Dragon people believed the white dragons descended on Earth from the Moon, taking a part of its magic down with them. I don’t know if there’s a bit of truth about this legend, but I believe there must be something magical and intense about the moon…
A new day dawned on Arcadia and I had an uncontrollable urge to tell Lester about my powers. However, since we weren’t still talking to each other, I decided to keep it a secret. Or actually, I told Sun to keep it a secret.
My dear equine friend grew up to be a strong and healthy mare. She loved red apples above all the fruits and vegetables I learned to grow in my little garden and she would always be there for me when I felt lonely. Sun was a true friend.
When I was eleven I accidentally burned all the plants in Lester’s garden. It was the moment I understood that even a simple activity such as gardening had its rules. Now, after seven months, I still remember the exact words that Lester told me when he was disposing off of all dead plants in his perfect garden.
Never water your garden in the full glare of the midday sun, but don’t wait until the soil is bone-dry and cracked. Consistent watering helps the plants to deal with the stress of high temperatures when there’s no rain, and repeated wilting and re-hydrating helps them cope with diseases and insects. Remember, that watering your garden early in the day is most efficient.
I had no idea that plants, flowers or even trees could get stressed. Lester taught me to care for the garden with extreme caution, to talk to the plants and even to sing lullabies as if they were little babies. At first I thought the solitude of this town was the cause of his insanity, but soon I understood he was right. The plants benefited from this extra care and if I really payed enough attention to my garden the plants would repay me with the sweetest fruits and the juiciest vegetables. I have learned so much about gardening from my ghostly friend. How I miss the days we used to spend scavenging about town and gardening together. Sometimes I really wish I had never told him about my past…
One day in the morning when I was watering Glados, one of my potato plants, Lester appeared in the garden with a woman standing by his side. It was a bit of a shock for me to see a living human being after more than a year of seclusion. We stared at each other for a long moment before Lester finally spoke.
“T-t-t-this is y-y-your grandm-m-mother. She has c-c-come all the w-way he-he-here s-s-searching for her l-l-l-lost g-grands-s-son. It’s ti-time to go-go ho-home, Nathan,” Lester stuttered.
“What did you say?” I asked in disbelief, unconsciously dropping the watering can on the ground. How can this woman be my grandmother if she doesn’t even know that I exist?! How can she assume that I am her grandson if I am a grown up man already? Wait a second, how come she can see Lester!? Did he somehow manage to find the Mother and inform himself after everything I told him about my reincarnation? Why hasn’t she come to see me anymore? Is this the reason why he’s been avoiding me for all this time? How much does he know? How much does this woman know?! My mind raced at speeds I couldn’t even comprehend. I spent long months all alone in this peaceful blankness, being able to focus on every little detail. Now, I can’t understand how this woman came to know about me and how come she knows that I am her grandson?
“It’s alright, Nathan. You don’t have to be afraid,” the woman said softly and touched my arm with her hand.
“I am not afraid,” I said under my breath without realizing that my hands began warming up.
“Lester has told me everything,” she said and slid her wrinkled hand down my sleeve to touch my hand. “I am not mad at you. Come home with me,” she continued and squeezed my hand in hers. I pulled away my hand and took a few steps back.
“Arcadia is my home,” I said, put my hands in the pockets of my old dirty jeans, leaned on the garden fence and looked at the woman. “I’m staying here.”
“I should have expected that you’d be stubborn as a mule. You’re the son of my daughter after all,” the woman continued, trying to break the ice with a little joke. The corners of my mouth twitched, but I didn’t let them see my amusement. It was actually nice to hear that I took after the Mother.
“I didn’t know your daughter was a mule,” I smirked, hoping my grandmother would get offended.
“I see stubbornness isn’t the only trait my daughter passed on you, Nathan,” she said with a giggle.
“As I can see, it isn’t,” I said, looked at Lester and walked towards her. “How come you can see ghosts?” I asked my grandmother, looking straight in her eyes.
“That’s a good question, Nathan. I will tell you once we’re back home.”
“Are you trying to blackmail me? It’s not that I need to know, I was just wondering,” I said, trying to stand my ground. No matter how much she’d try to convince me to leave Arcadia I was determined to stay and plan the rescue of my sister in peace.
“Is this your horse?” my grandmother asked me in excitement when Sun suddenly approached her.
“She’s nobody’s horse, but she’s my friend. Her name is Sun.”
“I used to have a horse who looked very similar to this beauty… Her name was Bella.”
“What happened to her?”
“She passed away a long time ago. Now I have a snow white Lipizzaner. She’s truly beautiful. You should come and see for yourself…”
“So, theoretically speaking, if I decide to go back with you, what happens then? I know I have a twin sister who’s still a baby while I am a grown up man… How can I live in your home and be who I am without hiding away from your friends and neighbors?”
“I see you’ve already met with Elisabeth,” my grandmother proudly smiled at me. “Nathalie isn’t a baby anymore, she’s a toddler plus she learns really fast. She’ll walk and talk in no time!” she said enthusiastically. “As for your age difference… Well, you’ll obviously have to explain a few things, but I believe the family will understand.”
“And what about the neighbors? Will I be able to normally go out of the house and walk the streets or will you lock me in like a prisoner?”
“Oh, Nathan! Of course we will not do that! Why should we? You are as important to me as any other member of our family and you have the same rights as everybody else. I promise to you, that if your, um…,” my grandmother trailed off, probably searching for the right word to use.
“Abnormality?” I did her the favor and filled in the missing word.
“That’s not the word I wanted to use,” she complained.
“But I believe it has the same meaning, doesn’t it?”
“You’re an incredibly gifted young man, Nathan. If anyone ever picks on you I swear they will regret it.”
“I think I can take care of that myself… in case,” I said as I caressed my left hand with the palm of the right one. I knew my grandmother knew I had some superpowers, I just wasn’t sure I wanted her to know what kind.
“What I wanted to tell you before is that if you ever decide to leave Monte Vista for whatever reason, you are free to do so. However, I hope that day will never come, or at least not while I’m still around…”
“And if I wanted to travel abroad, would that be a problem?”
“I suppose not. Is there a place you would like to visit?” she inquired.
“China,” I said decisively.
“Shang Simla?” my grandmother asked, trying to hide the unpleasant surprise in her voice with a smile.
“Yes, Shang Simla.”
“Why would you want to… oh, I understand. Well, I cannot really tell you not to go, also because China is your real home in a way.”
“Thank you, grandmother,” I said politely.
“There’s nothing to thank me for, Nathan. And you can call me Kate.”
And just like that I came to the conclusion that I could be really better off with ‘my family’ in Monte Vista. Even though Lester assured me that he would take a good care of Sun, I was tempted to turn her into a pocket-size horse and take her ‘home’ with me.
I said goodbye to all the miners, hugging their invisible bodies one by one. Seeing their sad faces didn’t really make my departure easy, but I knew they would be fine again once I was gone. However, before I could leave Arcadia for good, there was one more thing I needed to take care of…
“I know we haven’t talked much lately and I am really sorry about that,” I said to Lester who looked like he could start crying any second. “Hopefully, this gift will make you think of me better and maybe you’ll never forget about me.”
“I c-c-can’t be-believe you-you’re gi-giv-ving me a g-g-gift! It’s be-been d-d-decades since I r-r-received m-my last g-g-gift!” Lester cheered. “W-w-what is it? Is it w-w-wrapped in a fa-fa-fancy p-p-paper with even f-f-fancier b-bow?”
“Actually, it’s something you cannot touch.”
“W-what? W-w-what kind o-o-of g-g-gift is that?” Lester felt suddenly very unhappy and cheated.
“Stand over there and let me show you,” I told him and pointed my hand at a spot on the ground. Lester slowly hovered over there while mumbling something about the unfairness of life to himself.
“Now, close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you,” I said and when Lester closed his blank eyes I moved my hands in the air, drawing the shape of lips.
“W-w-what a-a-are you do-doing?!” Lester panicked when he opened his eyes before I told him to do so. Before he was able to stutter another word, a rainbow of colors spurted out of my hand and painlessly hit him in the chest.
“What is going on with me?” he called as an unknown feeling flooded his invisible body. “Oh my! I can finally talk! I can talk! This is amazing! I cannot believe this! Thank you so much, Nathan! Thank you!”
Curing Lester’s speech disorder with the use of white magic felt so incredibly great. In my whole past life I had rarely used magic to do something good, but that was going to change. I promised to myself that I would use my powers only for good purposes from now on. No more evil spells and curses. I am not the Yellow Dragon anymore. There is no dragon blood running in my veins. I am an ordinary mortal known as Nathan Loewe. The Child of Prophecy.
My big thanks goes to Money1000125, the talented creator of Arcadia, an amazing desert post-apocalyptic world! You can download the world here.