The woman was stood over the sink, soapy bowl in one hand and dish cloth in the other, when a chill spread across her back, beginning at the base of her spine and working its way up to her neck. Who had said it? That word, tearing its way through her body and reducing it to a quaking wreck.
Nobody else was in the house, it was just her and Luke. But she had not imagined it, she was sure of that, as sure as she was of being awake. So there must be someone else here...but no, that was stupid. People don't just sneak quietly into your house like the movies would have us believe. The only way in was by breaking in through a door or window, and quite obviously she would have heard that.
The word came again. 'Sam...an...tha.' It was drawn out and indistinct. Not a word spoken menacingly, but rather as if the speaker had struggled with it. And then she knew. She turned around, now wishing she was asleep, and faced Luke where he sat in the lounge.
It must have been Luke. The word must have come from Luke, her six-month old son.
Twelve years later.
Samantha had not forgotten that day. And not just because it was so...well, unforgettable, for want of a better word. But because it had only been the beginning. By the age of one, Luke had been talking as a five year old would, and by that age he was not only fluent but knew words that Sarah could not even guess at the meaning of.
His advanced knowledge came from a love of news and documentary when most other children his age were enjoying 'watch with Mother' programs. But doing anything 'with Mother' had been an interest. Samantha had given birth. Her role as a Mother ended there. Luke neither seemed to want or need a parent figure. He had only cried on one day, the day he was born, and he had no desire for the warm embrace of another human.
All his basic needs had been satisfied early. He learnt to cook for himself, he kept his on room private, and before he was even in primary school he was earning his own money; the internet opening up huge entreprennurial possibilities for a determined mind.
And Luke was certainly that, if he was lacking in other things. He loved school in a way that very few children do, climbing to the top of each class and consuming every book on every subject. Sport was not off the agenda either and, before his body had developed enough to cope with the rigorous exercse, he ran, jumped, boxed and swam. What he had was thirst, a thirst for everything except human companionship.
Until, when he was eleven, he brought a friend home. Not a normal. In fact, every bit as abnormal as Luke himself was. The two did not come home to watch after school cartoon's. Instead they talked. Talked of philosophy, theology, pathology. And this did not change when he found more friends. It was just that the talks turned into formal meetings, and as they all grew up, the conversation centred more around politics and world order. Their favourite discussions being about the latest news: the breakthroughs in storm detection and prevention, which were saving more lives; genetics and the abolishment of illnesses and viruses; the raising of the life expectancy age through better health. All of which had lead to an increase in world population.
Twelve-and-a-half years after his birth, Luke was a member of an adult world in which he was more grown up than most of the other adults in it. And his friends - better that we call them cohorts, all alike - had grown to twelve.