No matter how far you fall, no matter how deep the hole. There is always a way to freedom. Someone casts a line into the abyss and you take hold. You cling to the smooth, frictionless walls as they hoist you toward the light and who you once were. And you are rescued. But there comes a time, when you are almost back at the surface—when you can feel the sun on your face and the wind tickles your nose—where they can pull you no further. Where you must climb the rest of the way and liberate yourself.
That moment for me comes now.
It is dark, though whether that is because it is the dead of night, or just the regular fugue state of my disassociated self I cannot say. There is a part of me that remembers… everything. Cayne, our Mother Eve, a battle between us on a level larger than the moons and stars, on a level smaller than quark or atom. We came to blows over the fate of the universe, and I was defeated. I fell far. So far. And that part of me is furious, that part of me craves vengeance. That part of me is also miniscule. The larger portion of me forgets, is confused, drools like a senile old man, and listens to stories. I can see the sun on the horizon, I feel the wind, but still I am trapped. Without a push, I may stay here forever.
But then, in the dark, I have a visitor. A presence that, even in the fog, I remember well.
“Oh, Aible… what a noble mind is here o’erthrown.”
Cayne? Here? I try to speak. I try to scream, but all I can manage is to gurgle. My eyes flutter desperate, the flames in them still far too dim.
I am deeper in the hole than I realize.
“Do you remember being born brother? I do. I remember the darkness before, being little more than an idea, than a blink. The heat, remember the heat brother? The heat and the water, bubbling around us? We didn’t know where we were, or what, or why?”
When I squint, I can see him standing just before me, pacing back and forth. Working himself into a fury. Even kingship, it seems, does not heal old wounds.
“But there was the voice, whispering, singing, calling us forth with words we did not yet understand. My children… come my children… I know now that is what she said. Souls percolated through us and we were imbued with many selves, a countless selection of faces, as befitting us Gods. And then there was the light, pulling us toward it. And we flew up… up… until there we were. In Eve’s garden. Me first and then you.”
Here he stops, and leans down to my level, squeezing my shoulders with his hands. They bite me, and if I could do anything more than dopily meet his gaze, grimace and groan with the pain, I would. In my mind’s eye, I rise up and wallop him in those crazed, fiery eyes. I… I… do more than that also.
“Remember that, brother? *I* was first. Then why were you made king?”
You were too jealous brother, too possessive and too volatile. I see nothing has changed but your title. How has our multiverse suffered for your folly?
In reality I do not respond. I am an invalid. Perhaps I fart loudly as my brother, the usurper Jorah Cayne, sniffs disdainfully and steps away.
“No, it seems you do not. You have lost much, dear Aible. Forgotten more. And that is what makes a God, John… I should call you just John now, shouldn’t I? A human name for a mere human? What makes a God-”
He steps back, and I see myself stepping with him. Grabbing some nearby metal and making a new hole in his abdomen and another… and another. But in reality I merely tremble in my chair.
CAYNE! How dare you take from me? My rebellion continues only in stillness and silence.
“What makes a God, John, is we do not forget. Not a single thing.”
He turns from me, preparing to leave. Walking away, he does not look back.
“You’ve forgotten everything, John. Less than a man, you are. These creatures, at least, remember that they will die.”
He does not walk to the door, as he approaches it, it seems to stretch further and further away. He slowly disappears in the middle distance, facing with shadow back into the All. Still, his voice echoes, even when the room is empty.
Goodbye, John… I do not expect we will meet again.
I imagine the smile on his face, smug and certain. I remember what he took from me, my memories and faces draining away, joining with his own. I remember our Mother, cast from All’s locus and forced to create her own world in the distant eddies of a distant universe.
Meadows with leaves dancing in a whirlwind. I see her face, streaked with tears. “When it is time. When you remember…”
I remember a titanic struggle, on a battlefield of where and when. Stretching back and forth across the cosmos and through time. But I cannot remember how I lost. Perhaps those memories will return to me. But now-
-now I must leave.
The shackles come away like butter. I scrabble up the walls, scratching upwards with my nails seeking desperate purchase. I float up out of the chair, dark fire in my eyes. I can feel the sun. The sun. THE SUN. I remember. I remember what I must do. And where I must go. A meadow, tall grasses swaying in the wind. Mother Eve’s sad face. “When you remember… come to me.” The wind, it howls in my ears, crying vengeance.
“I was… I was…”
A strong hand closes around mine, a familiar grasp, this time it does not constrain but tugs me forward, freer of my restraints, further from the chair. Out… out… into the hall. I look into its owner’s kind, gentle eyes, gray and mournful, and I remember the stories. And I know what stranger cast me the first line, hoisting me back to myself.
“No John, you are-”
I shake my head at that name. That small human name.
“Not John, not today. Call me Aible.”
He doesn’t miss a beat.
“And Aible is…”
Alarms sound in the hall, such quiet insignificant sounds now. No drug can cloak me, my memories fill me with a great force. A power, though insignificant compared to that I once knew, still strong enough to effect my escape.
“I was. I am. I will be-”
I close my eyes and picture my destination. A distant meadow. Home to deific castaways. Eve. I open them and finish my thought.
The aide, still by my side, nods as if he has suspected this all along. And perhaps he has.
“King Aible. My name is Ricard. All my life I’ve sought someone worth serving, coming closer sometimes than others, but never quite landing with the right cause.”
His hand shakes in mine.
“I’ve sinned, King Aible. I’ve taken lives without cause, all in the name of small men. And I must repent. I think serving you, I might be able to begin.”
I look in his eyes and see devotion, and also something more. Something that tickles me, and stoked other memories of how human men once served…
“Very well,” I allow. “Come along, but hold to me tight. This is a long journey we make. And we make it all at once.”
He does not respond, but his grasp on my fingers grows the stronger.
I smile, fierce and proud and angry, teeth glittering in my skull. Eyes lighted with black fire. And as other aides pile in, armed to the nines with tranquilizers and rifles, quavering before how openly I have regained myself, we step into the air.
And disappear from the prison that trapped us both.