On the Earth beneath us, darkness reigned. Slowly encroaching through valleys and forests, consuming all in its path. It left nothing but black. Buried in the cold, frigid air too dry for snow, we hid, working feverishly at Everest’s base, searching first for a cure to our homeworld’s impending death, for Mankind’s madness. Failing that we sought, even more desperately, for an escape from the end to which Earth already seemed fated. The hours grew long, and the days short.
Our species’ time had come to an end… or so it seemed.
As we worked frantically through our dimming hopes, failing with the world that perished around us, from the darkness crawled life. A man, ancient and sickly, tottered out from the shadows weakened, but alive. We knew not how he survived the depths, nor how he found our mountain lair. All he said as we gathered round him in hospice was, “Within me… the escape you seek, your hopes… they lie within me.”
Time collapsed around us as he showed us the way. How to metastasize the self, depart one’s own flesh and inhabit the mind of another. His own. In his consciousness, he promised, lay the gate to other worlds in another universe. We knew not how this was possible, or even if it was so, but with shadows looming, with every day the cackles of our lost brethren echoing louder on the mountain walls, we knew we had no other option than to believe.
And so, reality crumbling around us, we fled into his consciousness seeking reprieve from the danger behind. Though he lay dying, buried in his brain sat the embers for our escape. We fled into his mind, on little more than his word that therein lay a grand palace, a buffer between universes. One ending, one just being born. His final words as we slipped away echoed in our ears: “Do not dally. No matter what wonders or horrors you perceive, you must hurry. When I die, when this universe ends, your passage dies with us. You will be trapped, with no escape, lost in this plain’s self-absorption.”
Indeed, as we coalesced inside him, we were struck by the beauty of his world. Unbuttressed walls, extending so far their glowing marble cobbles eclipsed the sky, lined the hallway through which we walked. Outside, through stained glass windows that rippled like slow-moving waters disturbed by a skipping stone, whatever lay beyond remained unseen. Choked from our sight by a thick purple mist. We forced ourselves to walk past its unsettling biliousness and through the endless series of gates, layered with gothic ornamentation, which sectioned the passageway.
We were unnerved by its horrors, the further we traveled, the darker our surroundings. The windows ceased, robbing us of the comforting vision of the outside. In the black, we heard something scrabble at the walls from the outside, desperate to get in, desperate to claim this mind’s new visitors. The shadows in these halls moved, differing shades of murk dancing toward and around us. The air breathed. The hall… lived.
The further we traveled, the more lost we became and the more divorced we were from our physical selves. Our identities gradually stripped away. We forgot who we were, or why we fled. Only the door mattered. A small sliver of light growing closer in the dark. We knew we must reach it, but we knew not why.
Do not dally… do not dally… the warning, from an unknown source, rang in our ears.
And as we approached, our salvation nigh at hand, the hall trembled. The walls shattered. Deep within us, something remembered: The old man has died. Our old universe is done. If we do not hurry, we will subside with them and no one will remain to remember the lives that were.
We started to run, the world behind us fading as we ran. We hurried, and as we did, even our selves began to dissipate. Men are a part of the worlds we inhabit, tied to their fates. So when the old man’s mind collapsed, so too did we.
Closer and closer the door loomed, even as we crumbled, became consciousness and dust. The monster which had scrabbled against the walls, eager to claim our souls for themselves, cried out in anguish as the black consumed them.
The door creaked open as we approached, beckoning us toward survival.
We flowed through, just in time, our minds and memories coming apart at the seams as we barely escape a second death. We flow through the door, out of one dying universe into the black. Into the placental quiet, where we float, unformed, memories lost; unsure of who we were, who were are and what we were meant to do.
We look around us, see potential in the chaos, the building blocks of life. We gather them around us, though we know not why. We watch a new universe explode, becoming one with the nascent forming stars, the cooling planets, the viscera of space.
And as we fade, we whisper:
Let it begin again!