End And Beginning

                Picture the unfathomable darkness of the nowhere the universe has become. A black the pitch of moonless night, but instead of centered in the sky, it is everywhere. The whole of existence collapses in on itself, the crunch of entropy come to bear on a limitless expanse once filled with vibrance, with color. Now all is sublimed in frigid emptiness, and silence. God casts his canvas in shadow. No hint of the paint beneath remains. Nothing breaths, nothing moves, and nothing lives.

                Nothing, except for…

                One bright light in the corner of the frame. Glowing, burning, it dwindles, recedes, fades, then gathers itself again and fights to expand against the tide of absolute zero. Here lies the everything that once spread over several billion light-years, now smaller than an atom, barely a quark of light left to battle against nightfall. Listen closely, and inside it you hear the ghosts of those the universe once contained. A cacophonous song, a dirge, a chorus in a million different languages. Here is voiced the anguish, the joy, the relief that their struggles have come to an end, the sadness that so too has passed their time with loved ones. So many things left unsaid, so many sentiments impossible to vocalize. And all that remains is light.

                Were there any observer to peer into the light, to listen to its song, they might entertain its visions. That of a blue-green world circling around a yellow star. First it sings of its creation, burning dust and effluence cooling and coalescing around an iron-nickel core. It sings of the rain clouds, of the water that patters against the still-soft surface, filling its dimples as oceans. Life sludges forth from its oceans, first mindless protozoa. Eukaryotes with no sense of place swim and crawl of microscopic flagella. Those develop into primitive plant-life, into the first animals that, on some small level, perceive their own existence. Reptilian creatures, increasingly mobile mammals, love and destruction follow. A song that burns as brightly as it ends, with a pockmarked and radioactive surface. Lifeless, yet the planet still turns.

                The light also sings of an endless stretch of stars, of nebulae wherein hide creatures sized on an interstellar scale. They swim through space-dust, subsiding on ice and on the stars themselves. They speak to each other in burst of radiation, penetrating the void’s gloom on aquiline paths. Brilliant lights cast by celestial beasts. In the collision of these lights, more such creatures are born. Star orcas crafted of molten rock, organic comets obscured by dust clouds lightyears thick.

                The light sings of life beyond imagining. Invisible minds constructed of song and scent. A network of intelligence that extends through the universe. One heart, several souls, they dream of connection and thus seek the known reality for like beings. But they are alone. As were we all.

                Across the quark that possesses all these memories passes an invisible hand, stoking the fire. The only presence that burns still in a universe gone fallow. A voice, from nowhere, from everywhere, from here and from beyond, whispers into the light, reminding it of a once glorious purpose.

                What was… will be.

                And the light, in fits and starts, continues to grow.

We The Labyrinth

He didn't understand what he'd done to her, but he would by the time she was finished. Struggling against the bonds, seated in the same chair she had been hours before, he watched as she prepared the same experiment for him, the same 'transformation' she had just undergone. He regarded her silently, ever the scientist even through his terror, noting the subtle changes in her demeanor. In outward appearance she was the same as she had ever been, same warm smile, same bright intelligent eyes. She did not appear glassy or unfocused in her cognitive function, nor did it appear that when she moved some far off voice was telling her what to do. This was… not what he expected.

Most unnerving of all, it was clear she could read his thoughts.

"We are not what you thought."

This was not a question, but a plain-stated fact. One thing that had changed was how she moved. As she adjusted the settings on his enormous contraption in which he was bound, she moved about with preternatural grace. No wasted movement, no hesitation. There was what she had to do and no more, no less.

"Blame your movies, your speculative fiction for that. Collective is not something that is fought… but embraced," She turned to him and smiled openly, the only distance in her gaze was that of a patient teacher looking down on a slow student. "We will show you."

Finished with her ministrations, she turned to the lever, tightening his ankle straps and flowing back toward it all in one fluid movement. It should have been impossible, but there were no limits to her now. She seemed to exist, not just in her body, but also in the world. She was the machine, the chair that was his prison, even in his head, invading his very thoughts.

He spoke now, desperate to maintain some small measure of control.  "It took me hours to calibrate this m-"

She interrupted him. Not out of impatience, but because everything he would and might and did say was already apparent to her.

 "You are a novice fumbling with a trombone, finger painting with the finest oils. Did you think this machine was truly of your own inspiration? Did you not think it was us who whispered its machinations into your ear as you worked?"

She paused, and became even more remote. The chorus of voices that drove her grew louder.

"No, we suppose that you could not. It is beyond you to understand… but not for long." And then she flipped the switch. There was no noise, no obvious change, only a moment's static in the air.

"Mankind is a labyrinth," She explained, "We are the Minotaur. You are a vessel, we the travelers. This…" She caressed the machine as it once again hummed alive. "…is your birth canal. Come into the new world, eyes open."

She paused to assess his condition. Well, now their condition.

"You see?"

The scientist smiled.

"Yes, we do."