Tonight was one of those nights that insisted upon tormenting all those outside with a chilling, unforgiving frost, along with an inky blackness that was nearly impossible to see through. My sister, Iris, and I were among those people who sincerely wished they were inside a comfortable shelter, safe from the elements. Especially the cold; I didn’t mind the darkness nearly as much. From her shivering I could tell that Iris was also freezing in the frosty winter night, not that she would ever admit it. Or at least she would never admit it before I did.
Part of me couldn’t help but blame her for our current predicament, but another part realized that I was equally at fault. Still, it had been her suggestion to use a rowboat of all things in order to cross the world’s largest lake. At night. On a moonless night illuminated only by the stars. I suppose I should be thankful we even had oars, and that both of us were capable of using them efficiently. That meant we were moving. Perhaps we were moving in circles, but at least we were moving, a necessity given the life my sister and I tended to live.
Not moving meant only trouble, because given enough time they would always manage to find us. They were the hunters, men who scoured the planet attempting to find us. Whenever they found us, the hunters would attempt to capture us, typically failing. But sometimes, on the worst days, they would succeed. They would capture us, lock us away for months or for years, and study our blood in an attempt to solve the riddle of our life. They would attempt to attain what I have forever declared a curse.
And though we are immortal, completely impervious to death’s touch, we are not invincible. Iris and I feel pain, both emotional and physical; we are still human. We cried when our family—the only ones who truly cared for us—died, and we screamed whenever the hunters would subject us to cruel experiments. Often that experiment would kill us, in a sense. I can’t recall the times I’ve ‘died’; only some strange luminance that I could never quite reach. It was worse when Iris ‘died’, when I had to look at the results of some inhumane treatment. I tried my best to totally eradicate those gruesome images from every memory, but some still remain.
We would always wake from our deaths, shaken, somewhat drained emotionally and mentally, but otherwise perfectly fine. Every bruise, every cut, every lost limb—everything—it would all be healed. The process of our waking was a complete rejuvenation. Except in our emotions. Those were never healed.
We always managed to escape. Eventually another group of hunters would arrive, and they would fight the first in a vain effort to capture us for themselves. Iris and I would escape during those battles, when both sides were distracted with each other.
They would find us again; that was inevitable. Our hair made sure of that. Both Iris and I had a pure snow-white hair that could only be unnatural, and that hair ensured we could always be identified. It was sometimes called the mark of an immortal. That distinguishing feature was further made noticeable by the fact that both Iris and I, despite being into our mid-fifties, had the appearance of a young teenager—somewhere around twelve or thirteen years. That had been the age when we first ‘died’, when cruel raiders murdered our family and set fire to our town. Fortunately they ‘killed’ me before Iris. Considering her reaction at the mention of the event, I doubted I wanted to know what actually happened to her.
Some time later—maybe a couple of days—the two of us awoke from death, confused at our survival, and depressed at the scorched remains of our town, our only home. After we finally deduced that we were somehow immortal we ran. And when the hunters began to chase us we ran faster, harder. We ran toward nothing, running first simply to run, then to escape the chains that continuously threatened us.
Then we ran into him, and everything changed. At first glance there wasn’t anything particularly unusual about him—average height for an older teenager, light black hair, and somewhat distant brown eyes. That was only at first glance, though. A closer look revealed that his brown eyes were far beyond distant—they were vacant, seemingly devoid of every emotion, seemingly lacking any trace of life. The most stunning realization I made, however, was his hair—underneath the black hairs were a few hidden strands of snow-white. He had undoubtably died his hair black, which meant his original hair color was identical to ours: snow-white, the mark of an immortal. And in my mind the empty glaze across his eyes confirmed it; this man was an immortal. Apparently more intelligent too: he had the sense and money to use hair dye. We only had the sense, not the money.
By the time I finally reached that revelation the man had vanished. I didn’t actually see him vanish—neither did Iris—but on a Zhorian road in the middle of a vast desert, vanishing was the only possible way to escape our view. After all, there was nothing around except the road underneath us, and the boiling, rolling, sand dunes that appeared endless—there wasn’t anything to obstruct out line of sight. Yet he was nowhere—gone without a logical explanation.
After he vanished I noticed a small shred of paper floating downward, dancing in the desert winds, and I grabbed it, consumed with curiosity. There was something written on it, but neither of us could recognize the symbols. It took us nearly a decade to finally find someone capable of translating those symbols. The translator’s name was Mahal, a professor who studied ancient languages in a Zamnou university. Those symbols happened to be a part of an ancient language that became dead centuries ago. It was once called English.
All that was written on that paper was a single statement: I am Noland Rembrandt. That senseless message, combined with the ancient, forgotten, language it was written in, convinced us to find Noland Rembrandt—wherever he may be—simply to quench the curiosity within us. Besides, we were immortal. We had all the time in the world to find Noland.
Iris and I journeyed across the entire nation of Zhoria—from the west to the east—in an attempt to find information about Noland. Not a single person we encountered, be they a slave, a merchant, or a philosopher, had ever heard about anyone named Noland. The few scraps of information we managed to find were composed entirely of legends and myths. However, even myths contain some shred of truth.
We slowly traversed across Zhorian, occasionally leaving a town because we chose to, but usually leaving because we were being pursued. The hunters hardly cared about our lives or our journey, they simply desired immortality. They even managed to capture us a few times, though we broke out almost immediately. It was shockingly easy to escape their chains when we actually had some form of motivation.
Eventually we reached Yahai, a small fishing town off the coast of Lake Kon. It was there that we heard a strange myth that everyone in Yahai believed; the lighthouse of Abdyon Isle. I found the notion of a lighthouse—especially one as extravagant and ancient as it supposedly was—completely absurd. The technology to construct such a building couldn’t have existed a millennium ago, which was the rumored time of its creation. Furthermore it was senseless to build a lighthouse in the middle of a lake, even if it was the largest in the world.
Still, Iris and I decided to investigate, mainly because the myth was perfectly consistent, and because a few fishermen claimed to have landed on Abdyon Isle. Besides, we intended to head eastward anyway.
Unfortunately the hunters arrived at Yahai before we managed to arrange a ride. That was largely my fault; I suggested that we should wait until a fisherman willingly allowed us on board instead of getting on board as a stowaway, then highjacking the fishing ship. My ethics, for the umpteenth time, caused a disadvantageous situation: in order to escape the hunters we borrowed a rowboat, and then we propelled ourselves into Lake Kon in the darkness of the night.
Which brings me back to our current predicament.
“Jake,” I heard Iris say as she tugged on my shirt, “look up.” I obeyed, still rowing fervently.
The beam of light I saw across the sky was outmatched only by the sun. I couldn’t help but stare in awe, amazed at the impossibility in front of my face. The light was far larger and brighter than the light that emanated from the lighthouse in Nyloss, which was considered the greatest lighthouse in the world. The lighthouse of Abdyon Isle was no myth, it was reality. And considering the enormous light, I wouldn’t be surprised if the details of the lighthouse were understatements instead of exaggerations.
“Jake,” Iris yelled, “don’t stop rowing.”
“Sorry.” At some point I apparently became so enamored by the radiant light that I had forgotten to row.
The both of us immediately began to row toward the legendary island, starving for answers about the age-old myth. Roughly twenty minutes and four exhausted arms later, we reached the shores of Abdyon Isle. It was, in my opinion, the most awkward island imaginable.
Nearly half of the island acted at the foundation to the lighthouse, and the land that didn’t was mostly barren. There were no trees, just some rocks and bushes, along with small amounts of grass. The only remotely impressive thing on the Abdyon Isle was the lighthouse.
And the lighthouse was beyond impressive. The structure was absolutely humongous—far larger and taller than all the other buildings I had ever seen. It even surpassed the emperor’s palace in Zamnou—the largest building in the world. It wasn’t built with stones either; it was built with an unknown, ornamented material that I couldn’t place. Across the outside walls was illegible writing, undoubtedly in some other forgotten, ancient, language. It wasn’t English, though: I learned that language while in Zamnou.
“It’s really big,” Iris said, a hint of awe in her voice, obviously stunned by the sheer size of the lighthouse.
“It is,” I agreed. “But who built this, and how?”
“Hopefully,” Iris said, “we’ll find out inside.”
“If we can get inside,” I returned. “The doors—no, gates—are closed. And considering the size I doubt an entire army could open them.” My statement was hardly inaccurate—the gates were colossal, coated in some unknown metal, and indistinguishable from any other wall. If the words “Grand Gate” weren’t written across it nobody would even find it. No one could find it either, considering that those words were written in English.
Then something happened. Like when Noland vanished into the desert winds, this was something completely illogical and impossible. The gates opened. There was no explanation, they just opened.
“It’s a giant lighthouse in the middle of a lake,” Iris retorted, “strange should be expected. It would be strange if something like this didn’t happen.”
She had a point.
If the lighthouse’s exterior was extravagant, than the interior was completely indescribable. Plaques made from gold and silver covered the entrance walls. The floor was probably marble, unless it was another unknown substance even more valuable than marble. Iris was amazed by the brilliant colors and priceless materials.
I, however, was far more interested in the words on the plaques, and I read each in our own language, so Iris could understand. “Noland Rembrandt, 2078, exposed the research of Horatio E. Green as illegal in accordance to Federal laws. Noland Rembrandt, 2097, single-handedly prevented the deaths of thousands during the collapse of the Empire State Building. Noland Rembrandt, 2164, champion in the war against Horatio E. Green’s forces in World War III,” I read, coming to the last plaque with English letters. The design was entirely different from the others, and when my mind translated the words I understood why. “Noland Rembrandt, 2291, last survivor standing against Horatio, last person alive after the nuclear explosions, first immortal to die.”
“An immortal can’t die. If they did than they wouldn’t be immortal,” Iris retorted. I remained silent, still digesting the information on those plaques.
We both walked further into the lighthouse, and discovered that the lighthouse was far more than any myth claimed it was. The entrance eventually led to a central room, which was decorated with gold, silver, and magnificent art. Paintings and sculptures were scattered across the room, each more impressive and beautiful than contemporary arts.
“The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci,” I announced, reading the English letters below a painting.
“These are amazing, but what are they doing here?”
“Maybe Noland placed them here to protect them from World War III, or those nuclear explosions,” I answered solemnly.
“What exactly does nuclear mean anyway?”
“Don’t know. But obviously they were destructive enough to make Noland believe no mortal could survive them.” Iris nodded, and we both kept gazing at the incredible artwork that had been lost centuries—or perhaps millennia—ago. “Iris,” I said, getting her attention, “this artwork is beautiful, but we should try to find something that could help us figure out how Noland built this place, or about the people who painted these, or about—,”
“Alright,” Iris interrupted, “we’ll keep moving.”
Iris decided to walk down the left corridor, while I chose the right. And when I reached the end of that corridor I would swear that the interior was much larger than the exterior. At the end of the right corridor was an enormous library that contained a thousand, perhaps millions, of books. Shelves were lined up across the room, and each could easily hold ten-thousand books, and there were easily a thousand shelves. I didn’t even realize so many books existed.
Toward my right was some strange device that I had never seen before, which consisted of multiple screens on a circular desk; each screen was black, and looked somewhat like glass, though they weren’t. At the end of the library was a huge screen, exactly like the other screens, only much larger.
The library’s books were all ancient, and each was written in a dead language. Most, however, were in English, which made me extremely glad that I had learned the quirky language. There were books about history—things called ancient history, medieval history, Asian history, American history, 3rd millennium histories—to me they were all ancient history.
There were books about science and math as well, each going into calculation and equation far beyond the level of current knowledge. Some books contained fictional characters and situations, written by forgotten people such as William Shakespeare, Harriet Beecher Stowe, C. S. Lewis, and what was likely thousands of other writers. All of them were forgotten. I wandered that library for hours, scanning the lost books, looking for anything relating to Noland. Iris didn’t come searching for me, so I assumed that the left corridor had something just as impressive at the end.
Eventually I found what I was looking for, however, in a history book on the 3rd millennium: a book that could possibly reveal Noland Rembrandt’s origin; the origin of immortality.
“It isn’t in there,” a foreign, strange voice announced in English from behind me, “No one actually knows how Noland became immortal except Noland himself. That book may tell you theories and postulations, but not truth. Actually, most history books are like that.”
I turned to face him, to face Noland Rembrandt. I was sorely disappointed, because the man I faced was clearly not Noland, though he was mysterious and strange in his own right. His hair was yellow—a color I had never seen before. His eyes were just as unusual, but in a more frightening way; they were blood red. He looked older than Noland by roughly twenty years, and the cloak he wore only made him look older. He was barefoot, and his skin was a sickly white rather than the typical tan. In his hands was an ornamented staff that seemed somewhat translucent.
“Who are you?” I inquired.
“Shouldn’t you know? At the very least take a wild guess,” the man asked jovially.
“Noland?” I asked, unsure whether or not Noland could alter his appearance like he could vanish. The man’s slight snickering indicated that my answer was incorrect.
“Hardly,” he laughed.
“Then who are you?” I asked irately.
“Patience. It would be more efficient to tell you once your sister returns. Shouldn’t be long now.”
“And how could you possibly know,” I demanded. The man only gave me an arrogant smirk.
“Jake,” I heard Iris call from the corridor. The man’s smirk grew, and I mentally cursed at the man’s arrogance. Iris entered a few seconds later, a confused look on her face once she saw the enigmatic man.
“Now that we’re all here perhaps I should introduce myself. I am the lighthouse of Abdyon, manifested in the form of a hologram, created and programmed by Noland himself,” the man said, speaking our language flawlessly. Iris stared at him, like he was totally crazy. I probably looked the same way, but I decided to vocalize my view on his sanity.
“Oh? Perhaps you should have read the history of the third millennium, and then you would realize that creating a fully sentient A.I. became possible in the year 2133. That would be roughly fifteen-hundred years ago, so don’t believe the technology is by any means new,” the man explained. He blinked out of existence for a second, and then reappeared, ten paces closer to us. “My existence should be no less stunning than immortality, or this lighthouse, or these books. None of them should exist.” He paused for a second, before giving an afterthought, “By the way, A.I. stands for artificial intelligence, which is intelligence made by humans.”
That helped; I had been rather confused about what A.I. meant. Still, it was really too much information to digest at once.
“So, in a sense, you’re the guardian of this lighthouse,” Iris stated.
“In a sense, yes. However, I believe that you two are seeking Noland Rembrandt.”
“Yes,” I answered, “but I wouldn’t mind staying here for awhile.”
“Eh, that isn’t plausible. Your arrival here has ensured the destruction of this lighthouse, and my demise,” the man said solemnly.
“Why!?” both Iris and I yelled.
“Simple,” the hologram declared solemnly, “the hunters have broken through the grand gate with explosives. This lighthouse contains secrets that mankind never needs to know, and therefore I shall destroy this place.”
“How. How did they find us, how could they destroy the gates?” I asked, while Iris looked pensive. She had obviously seen something that, like the hologram stated, never needed to be known by humanity.
“It hardly matters. Humans will do nearly anything to avoid death, to avoid the unknown. Only the immortal understand their curse. These hunters that seek you will never be permitted to enter this lighthouse,” he answered. An explosion erupted from the grand screen in the back, and fire instantly engulfed the surrounding shelves. The ancient books began to burn, and lost knowledge became lost once again. “I will create discrepancies in my programs, which in turn will cause all electronic devices to overheat. Once that happens the entire lighthouse will ignite. The hunters will die forever, the immortal will reawaken.” And then the hologram vanished, just like Noland did years ago.
“When you awaken, do not leave. In a few days you will understand why,” the holograms voice said, fading into the encroaching flames
After that everything became a blur of flames and smoke. I don’t think Iris or I even tried to escape that fire, instead we bathed in the boiling heat, almost enjoying the agonizing pain. To us it was meaningless; we were immortal, we always awoke from death. For the eighth time in my life I died.
We both awoke much later, on the middle of the now barren and scorched island, in the brightness of daylight. The lighthouse was completely gone, not a trace remained, not even scorched stone or melted metal. The bushes and grass were also gone, and the rocks had fused with the ground. That had clearly been an incredibly hot fire.
“You were out for nearly a week. Surprising, considering your heritage.”
“Who are you,” Iris asked hoarsely.
The man standing over us smiled, and reached down a hand to help Iris up. “Noland Rembrandt. Sorry about all the trouble, but I had to be certain your immortality was flawless, as flawed immortals always die for the strangest reasons. Fire, for example.”
I stared at the man, realizing there was so much I was about to learn.
“Obviously you two will be around for some time.”