In the warm artificial mood, Number rendered Old Element"s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the Surface: Number and Element. The structure was known as Number-Element:

"External noise and chaos had little influence on Number. No madness could warm, no wintry pandemonium chill Number. No word that blew was bitterer than Node, no falling cypher was more intent upon the purpose, no pelting fraction less open to entreaty. Foul System didn't know where to have counterfeiting. The heaviest falsification could boast of the advantage over Element in only one respect: Void often "came down" handsomely, and Element never did".

...And so, the cold became intense before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice...


"I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future". Number repeated, as he plunged towards the horizon. Time be praised for this.
The Artifact was immovable as ever. Number crept towards it, trembling; and following the mirage, read upon the stone of the neglected surface the own name, Apex Number.

Low Poly Group Alpha did pause, with a moment's irresolution, before Light; and they did look cautiously around it first, as if they half-expected to be hypercritic with the sight of Element's Light sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing around except synthetic emptiness.
Number followed to the window: desperate in curiosity. Number looked out.

"Why, it isn't possible" said Number, 'that I can have slept through a whole day and far into another night. It isn't possible that anything has happened to the sun, and this is twelve at noon."
The sound resounded through the place like thunder. Every room above, and every corner in the fake streets, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Number was not frightened by echoes. The hall, and the house; slowly too: trimming candle and the empthy inside.

Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables; and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass. Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open doors of Node rooms, they found them poorly furnished, cold, and vast.

Low Poly Group Beta travellers came on; and as they came, Number knew and named them every one. Why was Number rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them... why did the cold eye glisten, and the heart leap up as they went past....
The curtains of Surface were drawn aside. The curtains of the surface were drawn aside; and Number, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, face to face with the unearthly truth.
"Good Artifact" he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me".
As Number looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was night again:

It was a strange figure -- like a mirage: yet not so like a mirage as like an old memory, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave it the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to hypercritical proportions. Even this, though, when Number looked at it with increasing steadiness, color was not its strangest quality. No outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.


These are but shadows of the things that have been. They have no consciousness of us.


The mirage pointed from the surface to the abyss and back again. The mirage still was there.

They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had silence to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it. The yard was so cozy that even Number, who knew its every polygon, was fain to hope. The warm sunset light wondering about the wall shader of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Artifcial Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.

It was not in impenetrable mistery as the trees in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a delayed moment in a dark void. It was not slow, but looked at Number as Element used to look: with ghostly insight turned up on its ghostly synthetic aura. That, and its deep colour, made it undeniable; its wonder seemed to be in spite of faith and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.


Not a latent echo in the house anymore, not a squeak and scuffle from the Zero behind the panelling, not a drip from the half-thawed water-shader in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one synthetic tree, not the idle swinging of an empty dream, no, not a clicking in the vacuum, but fell upon the heart of Number with a softening influence.


"Nothing" said Number. "Nothing".