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Saito Tachibana’s bowels were engaged in a collision of a non-scientific sort 100 metres below the Jura Mountains near Geneva when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exploded. The toilet floor heaved, then trembled, and the lights above spasmed into flickering frenzies before diving into darkness.

Saito fumbled for his mobile phone in the back pocket of his pants, which were in a heap at his ankles. A few taps later, the flashlight feature on his phone sprang to life. He gingerly opened the cubicle door to find a CERN engineer lying facedown on the floor. When he turned the charred corpse over, crystals bloomed from its eye sockets. Saito screamed.

He clambered out of the Gents to the panicked wail of sirens and acrid smoke barrelling down the corridor. Chunks of the ceiling had collapsed. Apart from the crushed remains of CERN staff along the passageway, the other bodies had carbonised into gruesome statues with crystals for eyes, just like the engineer in the toilet. What the hell happened, Saito thought. He kept to the ground, steering clear of the smoke, his fingers navigating a path forward. Along the way he unbuckled a hard hat from one of the dead scientists and put it on. The CERN control centre might have answers. It was going to be a long crawl.

The CERN control centre was the only place in the underground facility awash with white light and strangely cocooned from the catastrophe. Champagne bottles lining one shelf remained intact, mementoes following the discovery of the Higgs boson. The God particle, as they called it. Rows of unmanned computers were still humming, processing and delivering data to God-knows-where. Where was the data coming from? The control centre reminded Saito of a cemetery, its screens headstones.

On one of the computer terminals Saito saw what had become of the Collider. Protons coursing the 27-kilometre ring had become unstable, rupturing the structure 40 million times per second. The resultant explosion let loose so much energy that the LHC became a veritable ring of fire, melting huge dipole magnets and towering steel beams like ice on a frying pan. It seemed almost alive, how the liquid metal devoured corpses and everything else it laid waste to. The security cameras were spared. Whoever—or whatever—orchestrated this clearly wanted witnesses to watch.

Hovering above the molten tsunami were four silhouettes. The shadows had bodies resembling ferrofluid, deep and dark and cold as the remotest reaches of space. Their smooth skin bristled and sparked, rippling purposefully with every stride. The rumbling onslaught stopped. The beings turned in unison to one of the security cameras. Saito noticed their heads were smooth globes devoid of identifying features. Saito could not tell if they regarded him with condescension, curiosity, or both, no way of knowing if they even possessed a soul.

The dark intruders did not move. They knew Saito was observing them from the control centre, for they were watching him too. Saito backed away from the monitor. Suddenly his head snapped back violently as though manipulated by a malevolent fishing rod. His mouth foamed. His limbs twitched. He tried to scream, but his throat could only muster terror. His eyes were open yet unseeing, but Saito could see the aliens’ words in his mind. He could taste the electricity of their intent scorching his tongue and eardrums like white-hot coals. Their message was clear:

Your species constructed the Large Hadron Collider to unlock the universe. Unbeknownst to you your breakthroughs in particle physics were nothing but observations of a locked safe from the standpoint of its constituent components. You possess no understanding of how and why the parts come together. You thought by compressing protons and accelerating them you had somehow obtained the key. Building a toy so big for a particle so small…such is the extent of your hubris.

Your glorious device was the dial to a door whose combination your kind never grasped. Day after day the dial turns at almost the speed of light, its tumblers clicking to your equations. Every click you detected you mistook for data, the key to the universe. So you kept turning until one day we decided to open the safe for you.

We possess no names. We have no use for them. We exist to balance, to rectify. You are an aberration given mass and time to proliferate. Do not get us wrong. We are not antithetical to you; good-evil, love-hate, victor-victim, right-wrong, these variables do not compute. There is only 0 and 1, one or the other. We execute as one, pure and simple as a line of computer code. Simply put, we are antibodies to the affliction called humanity.

Saito’s eyes, ears and nose were bleeding profusely by the time the invaders’ declaration was over. CERN did more than gift mankind with knowledge of the Higgs boson; it gave him the Apocalypse. This was just the beginning. These aliens have blown the door away and stepped in to ensure no one hindered the universe from purifying itself. Their invasion would have been flawless had it not been for one miscalculation: persuading Saito to join them.

About the Author: 
Loh Guan Liang is the author of Transparent Strangers (Math Paper Press, 2012) and the co-translator of Art Studio (Math Paper Press, 2014), originally written in Chinese by Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon. He updates at