The Slow Remembrance of Lost Selves

                After who knows how long, an age spent wandering in the desert, the lost began begin to remember. No memory can be suppressed forever. Burrowed deep beneath years of disuse, the skeleton of the truth always remains, waiting for flesh to dress its bones once more. Waiting to be recalled, hungry to be acknowledged.

                “Sandals with wings,” One amnesiac soul muttered.

                The guide stopped in her tracks. “I’m sorry?” She asked, pretending disinterest.

                “I remember… wearing sandals with wings. I was a messenger. A messenger between…”

                “Yes, well, you are no longer,” She feigned Impertinence. It was her sworn duty to ensure they never rose again. She had promised the son. The fathers who had overthrown their own fathers would languish. Their own minds overthrown, memories of their former prominence buried under mountains of sand, the pressures of hell. But still within them, embers of old lives flickered, and to extinguish them was a delicate dance. In the balance hung her life.

                You do not want me to intercede, dear Pandora, if I do, the Gods may not survive. But you… you will most certainly perish.

                Fear thrilled within her. Pushed her to speak more than perhaps she should. ”Indeed, you never were. You must leave behind these fantasies of past lives. This heat, these sands, are all that are. Everything else is a lie, beyond you, beyond me… Let us accept our fate.”

                The Gods, who had forgotten themselves, and their station, strung out behind her. Refugees in an unforgiving landscape. Their eyes no longer even bothered to scan the horizon, for they knew that there awaited the same nothing that had greeted them for the same thousands score of days they trudged through the endless sun and the endless barrenness.  In most of their eyes lay defeat, the dull nothingness that reflected the world devouring them. But in a few eyes, long dormant flames were slowly stoked.

                In one skeletal messenger, each blink brought dreams of wings. And scoundrels, silver tongues and the wandering dead. His charges, his… worshipers. Souls that cried out to him still.

                In one blonde-haired maiden, each step brought memories of prose composed in her honor, sculpture worked by her patronage and inspiration. Human hands… humans, she mused at the word. Strange creatures, her strange creatures, motivated to sculpt by her power. Art, she remembered art.

                In one silver-haired giant, still broad-chested despite millennia of starvation, flickered dreams of… fathered hood. Strange images, bovine, golden rain, giving life again and again. Lust and jealousy, indefatigable hungers. He was… he was…

                “Father, they called me Father.” He whispers. And their guide turns back to him and says nothing, but in her heart, which pumps not blood but black ambrosia through her veins, despair trickles. They would remember. And in their remembrance came promised death. She hears the dark whispers of the king, perched perilously on his throne. Whose dominance predicated on these immortals remaining lost forever.

                I am watching you. Always. I will not allow failure. Not this time.

The King In A Tesseract Castle

                The castle contains all things and nothing, is constructed from all colors and none. Is built in the styles of every time, and thus reflected none of them. It is a horrid cube. A pyramid, a flat-line raised in the Nowhere. In it, rainbows haunt the darkness, and darkness meshes with light. All is clear, but the only certainties are the unknown.

                “Again,” The monarch’s tongue, forked and metal, slithers out from between the idea of lips, from within the fog, a hazy truth that existed at the center of all universe. Perched on a crystal throne at the center of a castle constructed beyond time’s ceaseless flow, he watches, on a screen made of air, the highlight of all creature’s suffering. Of genocide and heartbreak, death and abandonment, the evil we work on ourselves. The reel starts from the beginning; its images form a blooded, wailing chorus line.

                “Again.” Servants stand by him silently, each with a foot in a different reality, constantly feeding him that which keeps him alive: Schadenfreude. His eyes burn red, the still hot embers in a dying smelter’s fire at their core flare with pleasure in the presence of so much pain… but still. It is not enough. He can feel his heart slowing, he can feel the real start to break apart.

                “More… I require more. What haven’t I tasted in while.” The multiverse was infinite and so was he, a creature stretching across times. It is hard to find something new.

                “The Immortals, sire?” One of the blank faces, a reflection of his own, speaks. A servant in the back, a nameless regent of an unknown realm.

                “Immortals?” It takes the king a moment to remember. “Ah, those long dead Gods? I sent them beyond my sight for a reason. Only they can-”

                “They will not escape sire, the Guide I provided them with can assure that. But in the meantime, they will suffer. Greatly. The deathless suffering of those who were once much more than they are.”

                “I sense danger in this. I sense…” The King is unsure why he hesitates. For one who exists in the future as well as the past, it was difficult for him to see either clearly, yet on his slivered tongue he feels danger, tastes blood. It does not scare him, but excites. Finally a chance for change.

                “Fine, show me…”

                The air shifts in an instant. Now showing the image of a desert in the furthest corner of the most distant reality. A ragtag band draped in rags and disillusionment, those who wandered so long they forgot who they were and what they must do. It shows their guide, the echo of a lie, who promises no escape, leading them further and further from their only exit and the thrones that were once theirs.

                “There is no exit, not for me or for you. This is the only world. It always has been.”

                One of the ex-Gods stops, scratching at his head, trying to remember. “But I swear, I remember blue… green… other colors that are not here. I remember… wielding… immense power. I remember…”

                “Dreams,” The guide interrupts quickly, hazarding a look at the space in Nowhere from whence the king watched their pilgrimage. “You remember nothing but dreams.”

                “A prior life perhaps?”

                “Perhaps,” She allows herself that small, dangerous confession.

                We must give them space for their doubt to fester, she thinks to the king. Otherwise, in their anger they might boil over to other world.

                Trust me, she implores the king. I am their master. I can continue to lead them astray.

                In the King’s gut of metal and magic, watching a God briefly recall a flash of itself, something new rumbles deep within. Fear, yes… but again excitement. He feels a dark hand reach towards him from the future.

                Something, or someone was coming. Perhaps a death he cannot see.

The World Beyond Life

                The Immortals craved death. But before them lay only desert. Behind them the same wastes, the same desolation. The sun-fired sands in turn cooked their feet. Their soles calloused and their skin burned brown, their entire bodies covered in the same even tone.  Their naked forms blistered in the sun, their shoes and clothes all long since lost to time. They needed not eat, drink or defecate. They did not even remember that once they did these things.

Hollow eyes fixed on the ground before them, on each shuffling step that carried them deeper into the burning sea. Each day carrion birds trailed them, hoping perhaps one of them might fall, or perhaps they too were cursed with infinite life amidst lifelessness, an existence without hope. They stumbled up dunes and then down again, indentations from their steps linger behind them in the windless steppe, where not even the sands shift, where they were the only things that moved.

“How long must we walk?” A Nameless one wondered aloud, punctuating centuries of silence. His fellow travelers stared at him mutely, perhaps they forgot how to speak, or why they even would.

                “How long until we die?” Shielding his face from the sun, which shined and shined and never set, under which they walked and walked and never slept, never stopped, he regarded it as if expecting an answer. But if indeed there was some intelligence who watched them, some force that had cursed them with survival, no answer forthcame from the skies.

                “Why are we here? Why? Why do we endure?”

                The susurrus rustle of men wading through still sands was the only reply.

                “Why I ask you? Why?” Finally he grabbed another of his compatriots, a nearby woman of indeterminate age and origin, face etched with deep lines but with shining brown hair and dark eyes that saw open and clear.

                He quickly realized: He did not know this woman. Into their hermetic desert entered something new

                “You are the ones that time forgot,” She addresses herself not just to this man, of no identity, no name, no memory. But to the group. “You are the ones life left behind.”

                “Who? Who are you?” One of them asked, which one mattered not, they all had long since ceased to be individuals, but empty husks. Full of blood but not verve, ambulatory but not alive.

                “I am your guide.”

                “Where are you taking us?” The initial questioner demanded, though the question echoed in every mind.

                “You are already there,” And with that, she turned and started walking back the way the group came, back over their innumerable footsteps. And, after a while, the men followed, lost in a world beyond life.