There’s something you must understand about this place.
Here, the land is filled with humanoids of all different makes and models, some with big heads, some with small. A few with no head at all but brains in their stomachs. Yet, our extremities are thankfully ignored in a way they wouldn’t be in other realms; instead, everyone here makes themselves pre-occupied with what’s most important: the search for Truth. Who made us? Why are we here?
But Truth is hard to find in a world where time moves forward, and everyone has a deadline. Our knowledge passes with us, and the newborns remain as uninformed as the dying.
We do know, however, who does the killing. That’s all up to Him.
There’s no one left who’s sure where He came from, but most of us believe he’s still there. We don’t actually talk about Him save in the most private of affairs; we’ve got to keep up the façade, you see, that we are not concerned with our deaths at all.
It’s a lot of work.
That’s why this message has been sent into the Void, in the hopes that this story of Him will reach a sympathetic and understanding ear. It was passed on to me by the very girl you’re going to read about, before she left.
I remember her perfectly, no taller than a toddler, but certainly much older than one… her violet eyes the negatives of moons. No hair or nose to speak of, and dull, silvery skin. Just beautiful, if a little heavy in her mind…
I get away from myself. Perhaps her story contains a hint I am too close to see.
Please, help us find the Truth?
“This room was endless, though white walls appeared sometimes to give the illusion of closure. Sitting on a dais above the rest, I could see Him: his pale, drained eyes slowly swiveling back and forth in slight disinterest at all those below, floating together without any purpose but to represent, a mass of ethereal images drifting above a white tiled floor leaving no shadow.”
“Those images are us,” she had said, “or not us really, but copies of us, so that he knows where we are at all times, what we are doing”.
“Otherwise,” she continued, drawing her knees closer to her chest, “he sat alone in that room, both somewhere and nowhere, overflowing with shadows of life but devoid of any true company. For anyone else, it would be impossible to single out one ghost from the others, yet he seemed to have no trouble.”
“Slowly, he raised an arm toward one of them – a woman, elderly by any standard – and beckoned her to come forward. She hobbled across the room amidst other apparitions who could not see her, until she stood under Him.
It was Time. His eyes swirled with a brazen crimson light. And as the woman turned to stare, I could see that her eyes were equally crimson and fixed on his. Then she nodded once, almost imperceptibly, before disappearing completely.” Her head shook a little bit before continuing.
“When his eyes returned to their tepid grey, it seemed Him had no idea what had happened, though his shoulders were a little heavier than before. Finally, fingertips to forehead, Him closed his eyes, rubbed his temples, and rested for a moment, pausing quietly from his life of taking lives.”
“Then, from behind Him, my small door appeared. As I stepped through, I felt distinct, quite sharp in contrast to the haze of the room. It was easy to find Him then, the only other solid thing, seated high above the others, certainly too high up for me to reach. But I had a task, and tiptoeing toward, I forgot all else.”
“Never had I seen One so big. The wrinkles of his shapeless shift folded and unfolded with each great breath, his bald head, forward on his chest, shone greyly. Up close, he was almost ugly, and seemed long forgotten.”
“Minutes passed. I was to wait. But the rising and falling of his broad chest seemed to hypnotize me, and as the muscles of my neck grew tired with craning up at Him, I found myself curling at his feet, sightlessly humming along to his rumbling snores.”
“I couldn’t tell you how much time passed before he must have opened his eyes, looked down, and seen a solid silver blip on the floor, fast asleep. All I know is, I was already there on his pedestal with Him, only taking up as much room as one of his hands.”
“There was excitement in me,” she continued, “I was doing what I had been made for.”
And what then, was that? I had asked, to no avail. She simply went on, almost rolling with words then, as if she was burdened also with the task of telling.
“Although I still had to look up to see Him, I shouted the greeting I was told he would understand. I remember laughing a little as it echoed off the momentary walls and was lost. But… he didn’t return the sentiment.”
“So, I asked him who he was – in the language he would understand – but still he remained quiet, just staring with blank eyes shrouded by sagging grey skin. I wasn’t even sure he could see me at all, so I waited some time before asking him again, louder, slower: ‘Who are you?’”
“Soon the desired sound came through his cracked lips in a mottled way that told me he hadn’t used his voice in a long time. But the resounding “I’m” that swept across the plane and got lost in the fog wasn’t exactly an answer; it was more syllable than word.”
“What was I to do but ask other things? I asked Him again who he was, and waited. I asked what he did, whether he ever stepped down into the crowd to look at them closely. But still, there was nothing save an almost imperceptible shake of his great head.”
“I was angry then, at Him. Didn’t he know I was there to help? Didn’t he understand how long I’d been preparing to come? Then, an idea came to me as I looked down at the shadows, all going about their daily business: I would be more specific. I would ask about a person, individually.”
“My eyes worked to single out someone, anyone, in the crowd below, but so many of them were bound together, not aware of the other, bending and fishing, or washing their dishes, or engaging in sex; it was a long while before I could differentiate between them. But as they became clearer, I found a small boy who couldn’t have been older than seven. He was skipping unseen rocks over an invisible ocean, bending, searching, finding, then standing and releasing with precision another stone into the water. His head bobbed as he watched it skip, once, twice, three times before turning again to the unseen sand.”
“I pointed and moved to ask Him about the boy, only to find that the crimson light had returned in his eyes, and that he was already pointing to the boy along with me.”
“‘I take them,’ he said.”
“The words were so simple, so monotone, so heartless. There was no attachment. I knew then what I hadn’t before; the reason why I had been sent: to see if the small heart he’d been given still existed. If it didn’t, Him would be replaced.”
“Then, without pause, he raised his index finger as I knew he would in the boy’s direction. Stopping in his search for yet another flat stone, the boy turned toward Him, watery eyes fixed and red, before turning away with one last blink. He took off his shirt, his shoes, and folded them up neatly at his feet before wading into the current I could not see. Soon, like many had before him, he disappeared.”
“Only then did I realize that my hands covered my mouth, or that my breathing had become heavy, sob-like. As I watched, the other shadows returned, covering the space where the little boy had been a moment before, their silhouettes more haunting than they’d been.”
She was silent then, in her telling, a difficult lump rising to her throat. An impulse to ask her what happened next almost defeated me, but before I could question, she continued:
“I hadn’t felt emotions like the ones I felt then. My training was textbook compared to the real thing. There were so many questions in my head, riding over the others to be heard, but only one made it to my lips. I turned, stared into those eyes that were again grey, and asked, ‘Why?’”
“I hadn’t expected an answer, but his bored, ‘That is the way things must be’ was worse than silence to me. Yet, his answer had freed a thread in my mind; a thread which struggled to bring my own answers through the tumble and twirl of everything else.”
“What was the answer?” I asked impatiently.
“It had to be Him.” she said peacefully, “no One else.”
With that, she left me. Stepped out from the sidewalk into the middle of the road, walking along the division as if performing a balancing act.
Then she was gone.
Back in the room, Him sits alone above them all as usual. Her face has been etched into the walls of his mind, and without blinking, he works to scrub them clean, to forget her and her questions. Without them, he can be at peace again.
But they prove hard to remove. Minutes tick by and the Time does not come, though many of his audience now stare up at Him, waiting for their deaths with open, welcoming arms. Their faces, so many now, overwhelm Him, force his fingers to pull grey eye-lids down to erase them all, but no; he can still feel their stares, can almost hear as their many voices rise up and plead with Him to do his duty.
Then amid all the voices, there is a soft tinkling of laughter. Opening his eyes, he tries to pinpoint the sound and turns his back on all who wait in order to find her.
Pushing effortlessly through the ghostly crowd, she dances around as one of them. At his feet, she stops, cranes her neck once more and mouths a few words that make his choice clear. He looks down for the last time at her little feet, then stares into her violet eyes, watching as they slowly change colour. For a moment, all who surround her disappear, leaving her very alone – though still smiling – on a blank canvas of tile. Her gaze fades slowly, as does the rest of her, and with one final, crimson blink, she’s gone.
Him never thinks of her again.