The concept of infinity is one that is hard for anyone to grasp. Everything has an end, or it should. But, then again, maybe that’s just the selfish narcissism of ‘intelligent’ life to believe that if they were to expire, so should the rest of the universe.
Time could stop and I would know no difference. Being created in mind before the acceptance of a vessel affords the ability for such thoughts. All I have is time, and am untethered in a sea of conscious paradoxes. Was I created or was I formed from the myriad possibilities given to the chaos of eternity? No thoughts could rest in a world with no absolutes. Even identity is lost when pondering in this ethereal void, losing presence of mind when a new thought arises and spurs counter-points. Am I or We? Or is there something else that I have not yet become?
A light appeared before the apparitional consciousness, starting as something finer than a pinhead, and growing on its approach. Though the rays extended outward and seemed as if it was heading towards it, the idea that they the consciousness was drawn towards it was contradicting so many other thoughts. It wasn’t until the effulgent sphere had encompassed the intelligence’s entire field of perception that it was clear that even if it had been defiant, there would have been no fighting it’s grasp.
The heat of the light pierced into the consciousness, burning at first, then soothing where they once were. It was a feeling. Something beyond thought, but a response to something else. The light had borne it anew, giving sensation that had not yet been possible. The mind could feel the borders of itself being drawn around it as the heat trailed along what seemed to be edges, leaving a void space in which the being was contained.
Suddenly, the thoughts panicked, now knowing form, losing rationality until the centralized voice quieted them sternly. Boundaries and limits were being set without any decision making process. These limitations were imposed by the light, but readily accepted by the being, unknowing of the consequences to follow.
This is it, this is how I am to die.
Now, cradled within the embrace of it’s invader, the mind remained still for as long as it could, trying it’s hardest to archive any sort of poingient thoughts that had become from it’s long isolation. But it was futile. The sensory invasion pushed into the far reaches of deep thoughts and cried for some sort of defense against the light. The bit of darkness contained in the boundaries of its form were not enough to house all of the being and for a moment there a new sensation: pain.
Without any kind of warning, and without the permission of the central mind, there was a scream, extending beyond the shadows, and into the light. It was loud and as foreign of a concept as that had become, the entity was less concerned with the response and more of the antagonist. There was fear, and that transitioned into frantic action. The vessel moved without direction as shapes began to appear within the cone of perception that outlined in the edges of thought.
This new place was so small. Where once he was infinite, now he was finite.
He. I. Not We.
With a crippling snap, all of the consciousness was halted. Memories vanished instantly, and it was gone.
The body was then lifted off of it’s slab by a conveyor of hard light, directing it down a narrow tunnel and into a room made of stone.
“Awaken, and be called Oort.” A booming voice woke the would be Oortling, as it flailed about, scouting his surroundings, he took his first fledgling steps as his feet found purchase in a groove in the cold marble. Ambulation came to him as if he had known all along, and he gained confidence with every motion. Any wonder of what he was or where he was was almost erased. He somehow knew that he was to move deeper into the ziggurat and follow his reception.
Even though instinct had been governing him up to this point, his knees were still too weak to maintain tension, and at times he needed to prop himself against the walls to continue. At those times, he felt the smooth, cold stones, and the condensation that had gathered. The cooling was electric, shooting from his fingertips deep into his core. It was a moment in time he strived to remember, every time it happened.
When he reached the top of a flight of stairs, another stood before him, near a portcullis that had no doors or bars for entry. Beyond it, it seemed that the space could extend beyond the confines of this small room, and for some inexplicable reason, he knew that he needed to traverse the threshold.
The figure remained silent and extended his arm towards the portal, almost urging him to follow his instincts. So, staggering, he continued his journey. Amazed at what he saw, there was an entire world beyond, that could only be described as awesome, in the fullest sense of the word. The wonderstruck being almost felt his feet fall out from under him as he scrambled through, and when he had cleared the entry, it vanished behind him.
However, he didn’t care about this. The softness of the grass kissed him on his sensitive flesh, and the warmth of the sun enveloped him in a creamy feeling of bliss. The stimulus of this was overwhelming and welcomed. Again, a moment he strived to remember was almost instantly forgotten when he found himself laughing at the majesty of it all.
When the feeling of divine elation had faded, the young Oortling stopped to consider the events that had just transpired. Some of the more important questions began to surface, questioning identity and other factors that couldn’t be explained away with simple words. But then his reverie was interrupted by his grumbling in his stomach. Hunger was beginning to show it’s sway over his actions and desires. He needed to eat something before he could continue diving into endless void of self awareness.
And so he stood, taking a moment to remember how the grass felt between his toes, and the way that the sounds of the day filled his ears. After a short jaunt, he happened across a fruit bearing tree holding small red berries on its boughs that called to him softly. Reaching up, he grabbed the first of his harvest, and palmed the shiny fruit checking the surface of it for blemishes and imperfections. It was more perfect than anything he had seen before this moment, and after a few more turns, studying its shape, he brought it to his lips. It was succulent and overwhelmingly sweet. It had a tension of its form that crunched under the pressure of his teeth spraying the juices onto the back of his tongue.
Living is as this berry has made me feel alive.
After he ate his fill, he began to look around his surroundings. The lush, rolling hills went on for what seemed eternity, placidly peaceful, peppered with trees and shrubs. A small blue river cut through the scenery, its water so clear that he could see beyond its surface, even at a distance. The untouched wonder was almost completely devoid of any intelligent influence. That is, until his eyes found an unnatural formation on the horizon. It was obtuse and square, jutting out darkly from the blanket of life.
He started towards it, walking slowly at first, but then as he saw the distance closing before his eyes, he started to feel excitement overtake him. He began to sprint up the hills and down into the smooth valleys. Some beasts in the distance took no mind to him, and continued braying as they grazed upon the fibrous plant life. His strides grew longer as he could feel his lungs fill, readily accepting the pure air.
Even though he had just been born, or it seemed, he had an inexplicable memory of a childhood where he ran through the fields with a companion just for a moment. It was almost a hazy after image, and it took over his mind so completely that his feet lost their place under him, and he toppled over. He rolled through the grass, and there was pain as he rolled over some rocks. But even then, he couldn’t help himself as he continued to laugh to himself.
Happiness was a feeling that came sure and fast, and held onto him tightly. Even though he was alone, he almost lost track of that fact, focusing on the memories of a childhood long since passed. It was a time before his, and he was in love. He knew he was, without a doubt in the core of his being, he was absolutely and unrepentantly in love.
After a few more moments trying to piece together the visage of his former companion, he abandoned it temporarily to return to his voyage. The scrapes and grass stains on his skin almost non existent, his pain completely dulled by the residual embrace of warmth of memory. With each step he took, he saw the structure bobbing more into view. It was almost close enough to make out a few details. Some windows and entry ways, adorned with decorative foliage and flowers were what he could understand. This was another’s home.
Before he noticed time passing he was just moments away from the house. He almost stumbled again as the inconsistency in the grade leading up to what appeared to be the front door was just a bit higher than he expected. When he regained control of his balance, he looked up to find a figure standing there at the entryway.
“Oh my… it’s you.” a voice said with a warmth that beckoned him closer. When his focus closed around the face of this individual, it was all so clear. It was her.
“I… know you,” he said with disbelief and shock, “you were in my memories.”
“I am in your memories, because I am your memories. Please, come inside.”
The rustic shack was simply adorned with very few few decorations. Sundries and cured meats were hanging from the walls, but there was no excess. It seemed that there was only enough to last a few days, at the most, with fresh goods being cooked nearby. The scents were all but overwhelming, sweet and savory, mixed with the fragrant undertones of dank soil, and clean timber. He stood at the doorway and soaked it in for a moment before the the continued beckoning urged him forward.
She pulled up a chair from around a simple table, made out of scraps of large pieces of bark, and held together by bare twine. The chair was little more than a stump smoothed into a cup shape, balanced by small rocks glued to its underside with a draped blanket of hastily refined pelts. Regardless, when he sat, it was splendid. He let out a sigh of contentment as he adjusted his weight into its form, and flashed a smile at his hostess.
“This is it,” she started, “All I have, I made with my own hand.”
“And it is majestic.” He smiled again, this time broadening shoulders with a deep breath.
“I’m not sure that this is what they had in mind when they said that we were to start anew.”
This comment set a fire under him in the form of a question. Unknowingly hesitant, he began to ask.
“… Who are … they?”
Flabbergasted, she looked at him and the shock was palpable.
“Am I not allowed to ask?” He said, noting her reaction.
“You shouldn’t have to ask… You should go. You’re not the one I was waiting for.”
“What do you mean by that? How could you…” He was cut off by her grabbing him and pulling him out of the chair. Stumbling to get his feet under him, he shrugged off her hands. “Okay, okay, I can go on my own.”
“Well, whatever, just get out. Quickly.”
The door slammed behind him hard, letting out a hollow thack. He heard metal scraping against the wood, and the sound of a heavy iron bolt securing itself tightly. Even though he couldn’t remember a time before this, this stood out as one of the rudest welcomes he had ever received.
After walking a few paces away from the hut, he turned back to face the cabin just in time to see her pulling a sheet across the window. Even though he could still see through the threadbare sackcloth, the point was made. However this first impression couldn’t erase the feelings of the memories that he may not have even had, and he cracked a smile at her definence.
Somehow would find out why she had been so hostile, and he was sure that it would be worth laughing about as if it were a misunderstanding. Something to laugh about at dinner, after a long day and before the night turned the excitement into yet another dream.
So, he went away from the shack, and followed the meandering river, looking to the horizon for any other noteworthy objects or landmarks. It was about a half day’s walk away, but once he found something he decided to stop. It was a waterfall overlooking a long, flat field almost running adjacent to the remainder of the river. In the smaller portion of the triangular shaped field, where the cliff greeted it, there was a tree overhanging from higher up. It was a perfect natural shelter, with plenty of space to build, and the fresh water nearby that sang to him with it’s crystal chimes.
He took some lashings of the sprigs of plants that were near an embankments edge, at the low portion of a hill that lead up to the cliff. It could be his pathway up, were he needing to go there, so clearing out the foliage was a good coincidence that he noted in his mind. The flora around this area wasn’t too dense, but provided a shade if there was something that might be looking for him. He would probably rest here for a while, and if she ever came around, maybe it would be a romantic location.
She would love it, he thought to himself as he began to braid some twine. Almost mindlessly, he began to take some leaves and lay them out to create a sheet on the grass. When he had enough, he began to thread the twine through the leaves, careful not to penetrate the stalks, or tear the vascular structure. After he had woven the cover together, he went out to locate some longer stalks fo the frame. It didn’t take long to find what he was looking for, so he took some more time to gather some rocks, too.
When he had enough supplies, or as many as he could carry, he went back to his camp.Pulling the corners of the sheet tightly into the notches of the sticks that he created, he propped the first string of it up against the cliff face. Using a flat rock, he tapped it into a crevice and secured it the best he could. Before he knew it, he had a temporary shelter built.
In the background of his thoughts, he began to wonder how he knew to do these things, to find a prime location, and to build these things. It was like he had years of survivalist practice, knowing what was the prime source of his materials and where to find them before he even put thought into it. But, as it was second nature, he didn’t dwell on it. Instead, he occupied his thoughts with visions of her, trying to reconcile the memories with his reality.
Even if he hadn’t experienced it first hand, he knew she had a beautiful smile and a melodious laugh. The type of charming personality that would light up a room, and would give anyone a reason to adore her.
Electric. – That’s it.
But then, he stopped what he was doing. Already in the time he was wasting thinking about here he had finished his camp. Down to the rock ring for the campfire. But, something that troubled him was that word. That feeling that he had in the back of his mind. Even though there was so many issues with everything that had been happening recently, he wondered why he was so set on auto-pilot, and why it was that he knew what the concept of electricity was.
If he stopped to think about anything, his body and hands would just move, almost like he was just watching himself as he did what he needed to do to survive. If he needed food, he would gather it, if he needed to make storage he would build it, and the sun would drop so fast during these times like he had no control over his own time. And now, again, wondering about this, he fell into one of his trances until the moisture of the firewood erupted into a loud snap, bringing him back into reality.
There was fish roasting on a spit before him, even seasoned with root extract and peppercorns. That shelf he was thinking about had appeared behind him, next to a plank counter, stocked with a flint knife to scale and filet the meat. Somehow he knew that the fish was almost ready, and took up the spit off of the fire. It was hot, and the liquid fat dripped down, dangerously close to his hand. He puffed onto it a bit to cool it, and licked it up. It was delicious, somehow the savory spices didn’t distract from the lighter flavors inside of the meat itself.
When he had put the fish on the plank, he began to cut off portions and put them on a broad leaf that sat nearby. After he had finished preparing it, he heard the brush behind him rustle to life. It was her, breaching out of the thicket, and approaching him.
“I had wondered when you were going to come by.” he said with that sly smile coming back to the corner of his mouth.
“I don’t know how I got here.” She said almost as if waking from a dream. “Where did you take me?” She began to look around at her surroundings and gave the awning a cursuary once over, testing its integrity as if grading it, or entertaining the idea of offering critique.
“I didn’t take you anywhere. Maybe your heart lead you here, to me, or maybe you never left from mine.” He picked up the leaf with the fish and brought it to her. “I haven’t had the time to prepare seating, like you, but I find that the floor is just fine. Brings you closer to the planet that provides so much for us.”
She took the leaf, and sat cross legged in front of the fire, just holding the food in front of her; speechless. After a few more seconds, he came back with his own serving, and sat opposite to her.
“It’s cooked, I promise. So, it won’t bite.”
“It’s not that, I just know what I know because of memory, but I also have dreams and it’s hard to separate the two…” she began to drift off, and like he noted with himself, she almost went into a mechanical mode, feeding herself without tasting the food, just picking placing it in her mouth with a joyless reaction.
“You know it actually tastes pretty good,” he started, watching her snap out of the automation, “I didn’t know how the pepper would taste.”
“Oh, yes. It is good. Actually, it’s great, come to think of it. I’ve never been much of a cook. I usually just salt and dry things because it’s not about taste, it’s about survival.”
“What’s the point in surviving if you can’t live?” he chuckled a bit at that.
Once again, he saw that face of disappointment, the same face that made him so sad to see that he felt awkward enough to laugh at it. She was a marvel, just an absolute vision of beauty, without equal. He started feeling a bit nervous actually, because he knew he was staring at her and that scowl just continued to deepen.
“You know why we’re here, don’t you? This isn’t about fun or ‘living’, this is about doing what we need to to become the guardians of this world.”
“Are you scolding me? Because I really have no idea what you’re even talking about… what do you mean Guardians?” He scratched at his head and realized it was still slick with fish fat. It was enough to distract him enough to get up and search for something to clean himself with.
“You ask me a question then you get up and leave?” She barked at him as he turned his back.
“I’m still listening. I just need to get us something to wash up with.” He started scouring through his stores, whatever he absently collected in his daydream state, and found nothing that matched what he was looking for.
“Fine. You can just use the underside of these leaves, you know, they have a furry sort of growth that is pretty absorbent. If you even remembered that, I’m sure you would know that it’s part of why we use these leaves in the first place.”
“Actually, I don’t really know why I got those leaves, or where I got them, or even when. Whenever I start being idle, my body just sort of goes on it’s own.”
“That’s part of your conditioning. How do you not know this? You managed to build an entire camp without knowing anything or any reason for why you were doing it? Besides, what do you have to waste your thoughts on at this point in the game?”
“Game? I thought this was about survival.” He laughed again, more heartily this time, and because he wasn’t facing her, he allowed himself to smile.
“It is about survival, and you’re deflecting with your idiotic humor. What were you daydreaming about that was more important than keeping yourself alive?”
“I mean, I was thinking about this and that. A lot of times I was just thinking about how pretty… It was outside. It, is just so pristine out here. Also, for your information, I also dedicated a good chunk of time trying to figure out why I knew what I did and this whole zombie mode that triggers when I zone out.”
“Zombie?” she asked like it was a new term.
“Yeah, you know, from old stories and stuff? Undead legends?”
“Oh, right, one of your stupid magic and fantasy things that you waste your time on too.” she waved her hand in dismissal. “But that’s the point, isn’t it? That you just seem to want to waste your time on things that don’t matter. For example, of course this planet is beautiful. It’s a seed planet, and we are it’s guardians. It’s our job to maintain the ecosphere and get things situated before the rest of the pioneers arrive.
We have a lot of things to do before then, and you’re just wasting time. Since no one else came, I’m sure that you are all that’s coming, so if you stop…”
“Wait.” He interrupted her and held a finger up, still covered in fish fat. “How do you know what I like to do with my time?”
“Because you’re… uhh… I… don’t know…” Her words started to trail off and that blank expression washed back over her face.
Seeing this he tried to snap his fingers together to get her attention, but instead, the fish oil prevented them from making a sound. He watched as she got up , turned the leaf over and wiped her face. She then tossed it into the fire, and with a hiss, it puffed out a plume of smoke. Then, she started walking to the river.
“Hey, wait!” he called out as he turned to catch up, but the strength of his voice seemed to fall short of her ears. He turned his own leaf over and followed the steps that she did before he turned and chased after her.
When he caught up to her, it was too loud to call out with the waterfall churning and splashing in the background. He saw her silhouette, showing clearly the features that were only somewhat obvious before. Again, he was caught off guard by her, and watched as she slipped into the water’s edge stealy and smoothly, not even adding to the ripples on the surface.
He wanted to join her, but he started to think about how she would react to such an intrusion. Started thinking about how she would probably yell or make a fuss, raising commotion about how if her father found out, he would get an earful; more than what she could give him. He didn’t know how he was so lucky, and felt like even through her rage, he could see the faintest traces of how much she loved him.
It was barely light out when he woke up, startled by the first thing that his eyes translated for him. She was there, nestled against him, her head cradled in the space between his chest and his arm, with her arm around his waist. There was a silent smile on her face, and her gentle breathing left puffs of warmth on his skin. He was lost in bliss, and began to debate how he was to wake her.
Then on the road, with as much of their collapsed shelter that they could hold, the two of them walked in silence. It was just as if he had woken up, roused by the very monotony that would force these jaunts into the inevitable future. He opened his mouth, and turned his hand to clasp his other. Pinching at the bridge between his fingers, he held onto this moment as tightly as his flesh.
“This is not normal… Why does this keep happening?”
“Huh, what?” There was a second between her change of states where he wondered if she even knew the answer to his inquiry. “Wait, where are we?” Now, fully awake, she looked from side to side, at her surroundings, and tugged on her makeshift backpack’s straps.
To someone who was seeing the scenery for the first time, the entire awe-inspiring view was shocking to the point of dangerous. Her physical reaction to what she was seeing caused her to step back slightly, maladjusting her sure footing. Some rocks slid under her heel, and she began to lose her balance.
He reached out to her, and caught her shoulder, steadying her against the cliff face. Had his reaction time been slowed by even a fraction of a second, she would have tumbled down the sheer face that they were precariously toeing about. Even though he managed to press her against the wall and back to safety, his grip on his flesh was released.
Silent panic then all vanished. His cognizance of his situation afforded him a slight reprieve from this fractured reality, as he knew that he was out of touch with the world, even just for the transition. His thoughts spurred others, adjacent to concepts and began to anchor themselves into his perception. His eyes showed him the world, but not as he would come to expect it, almost as if it was only an after-image of the minutes, or hours after events unfolded.
Conflict of the mind borne in an ethereal space of incorporeal, intangible, almost imperceivable word-images, containing shapes and colors, connecting thoughts and ideas was all he had. Despite the inherent embattled emotions, he clung to the image of his love, trying to pull himself out of the void and back into the light, defying his temptation to remain at rest.
The next thing he saw was the snow capped mountains in front of him, and under him there was a brick floor. It appeared to be laid with intention many years before their arrival, though it was made of rocks similar to those of the walls. The only contrast against the stone itself was the dirt tracked in by them leading to the door at their backs. For some reason, she was standing near him, but faced opposite. With all of his strength he reached down and grabbed at his hand again.
“What is going on?” he started again, this time with a bit more strain in his voice as his volume increased with a newfound vigor. For whatever reason she spun herself around and slapped him in the face, hard. After recovering, he held his face and the sting, looking up at her watching her ragged breath and clenched teeth.
“YOU PROMISED!” She screamed.
“What did I promise?” He said softly, but genuinely concerned.
“When we signed up for this, you promised that you wouldn’t pull me back out.”
“Pull you back out from what?”
“Our duty. We can’t lose sight of what needs to be done… “ she said looking down, but then looked up from under her brow at him. He could see tears in her eyes, and she pulled him close in an embrace, kissing him passionately and hard. What seemed to be an eternity of memories flooded into his mind. He had been here before, but not here.
In his mind’s eye he saw them both standing in front of a metal doorway, fashioned similar to a vault she was talking to him, but he couldn’t hear anything but a song of her voice. No words came to form, but the intention was conveyed. He could make out a narrative where the fate of the world rest in their hands. But it was more abstract, it wasn’t just their world. It was all worlds. Any world that could be inhabited by them, and the limited species that survived some great cataclysm.
Almost like an ark, each seeded planet was part of a larger network, connected through tunnels of some dark material, bridging distances beyond imagination. They were chosen, as part of an initiative to start an engine at a specific location on each of these worlds. His dream-like state was divided at each point that they would arrive. All of these things, these bits of knowledge and these multiple iterations of what may have been, came like a deluge until it stopped suddenly.
The kiss was over. The door was open. She was inside of an antechamber and standing before a pedestal made of the same material from his dreams. With her hands quaking, she was placing a gem into the fixture on top of the flat surface. He reached for his hand.
“WAIT!” he yelled, his voice booming off the hard walls, paralyzing her in the middle of her motion. “STOP. I REMEMBER!”
“I do too, you idiot. I remember everything and every time that we stood before this same crossroad.”
“No. You don’t remember. You don’t remember our home, or our lives. Our distant and far reaching dreams to save our dying race. If you did, you would remember that you couldn’t do this without me. You said so. You said…”
“I know what I said. I remember that like it was yesterday. I had hoped that they wouldn’t pull this part of our memories because it makes this so much harder to do, knowing I would have to live eternity with you only inches away, silent.”
“Just wait, it doesn’t have to be right now. It doesn’t have to be this second.”
“That’s the part that you never understood. This has already happened countless times, on countless worlds.”
“Then we can just wait.”
“This is what you promised…”
“I was a fool to think that I could watch you die, Aldroul, because this is exactly what this is. Becoming a Titan means death. You won’t be who you are now, you will live in service to this world.”
“And that is a small price made astronomical with you leveraging our love. It’s unfair. It needs to be done.”
It was too late, the gem clanked down on the carriage, and sank into it. There was a beam of light from the plinth that extended to the ceiling, threatening to blind him had he not looked away. After a second she was gone. There was no trace of her at all, only the plinth remained.
A glyph appeared above it with an opal glow that read “Ready, Protector.”
He reached into his bag and produced a gem, similar in size to that of Aldroul’s, but of a different color. Reserving his doubts, he swallowed his tears and walked slowly to the plinth.
“I will always protect you, my love. I will always dream of you.” With that he seated his gem, and the light cut through him instantly. The searing light began to fade and he was alone in his thoughts. In an immeasurable amount of time, he felt himself split. Just as he did when he was in the void. Reminiscing of what he was before, and the last kiss he shared.
We will always protect you.