“Everything ends. The trick is in getting the last word.”
“I guess I was just never that kind of a man. That was always you.”
Only the candles above the sink gave light. He watched the man approach, knowing what would happen next as he closed in, outstretching his hand.
“Unfortunately. Goodnight, Matthew.”
His grip fell on the young man’s face and a sudden scream awoke his family.
The man found himself still under moonlight, but beside a running stream, soft moss underfoot.
Then there were three.
Icthre he’d saved for last. Sosias was beyond his grip. Yet, he knew it would never matter. The Dark was due but inconsequential.
These were his final hours.
Like a bitter taste, the future lingered. Everything out of order. This moment preceding the end but was preceded itself. Sosias’ doing. He wanted the man to know the path. To see like the Darkness did that he would succeed.
That wretched freak thought he could win. Futile.
“I’m the first, the last, and I’m accountable to no one,” he whispered.
On cue, the Darkness appeared, his image in the man’s thoughts bringing him into the forest. It was a young dark skinned man. Raven hair that was backswept. A black suit and blood red silk shirt. He was loosening his tie as he came to lean on a tree aside the brook.
Christopher smiled. “I’ve already undone what you’ll do, old friend.” He leaned, so apparently relaxed against the trunk. With a single grin, the man melted his composure.
“Yet I’ll do it still?”
“You wouldn’t spare poor Doran?” Christopher asked.
“I wouldn’t spare myself,” the man replied. He looked away from him to the quiet forest. “You really shouldn’t ruin the linearity so completely, child.”
“What can I say; I’m ascended. I am the Ascendant. Holy and good.”
“Let’s not,” he warned. He wouldn’t be tempted to a fight, now. It would be a joke. “There’s only one good. And you are not He.”
“Yet. I’ll make it all my worship,” Christopher assured, gesturing up. “The whole of the Omniverse existent for and by itself. Why can’t you just love yourself?”
“Demoniac madness,” he accused, almost livid.
“Of course,” Christopher said knowingly. He dug his fingers in and peeled off his face. Gazing down disdainfully at the strip of flesh, then casting it away. The man refused to look, rooting his sight on the forest’s depths. “Welp, I’m done with that. You’ll see me in my glory again soon, Aziacht.”
His words were heavy on the man. Bloody, lidless eyes resting in Christopher’s sockets bored into him.
“It’ll be your death, Elicht,” the man swore.
“You can’t always get what you want!” Christopher said, stepping away from the tree, swaggering off into the forest.
Aziacht looked up to the moon. Full and silver.
Damn him. He can rouse no doubt in me.
This was his one, his only magnum opus.
Aziacht reached his hand up. The dots in the sky halted. His other turned palm up and jutted out towards the horizon. He swept it upward, dragging the sun into the sky, blazing red.
“You want to see what I can do!?” he cried. The dark was never gone. “I am the first. Neither of us can be free of the other… not yet.”
The planets were set spinning, the moons and the worlds engines of motion and gravity around the sun. A geometric symphony.
The sun arced across the vault of the sky, passing briefly behind the moon. Time blurred under the force if his will. Every star became visible again as the sun set. Each was aligned in a fractal. Restructured around him and the Earth, the literal and metaphysical center of the universe.
He swapped, shifted. The forest around him fractured, revealing a new sight. He stood on the moon above, the earth eclipsing the sun.
Putting forward his open hand, he sent the world screaming into the fires.
The planets locked into place around the star, each ordered with meaning. Then, each falling to the flame.
Only the moon remained to watch. Knowledge.
The sun, the symbol of life and hope, would be the last to die.
The moon lurched forward through space, the inertia ripping an ocean of dust from its surface and into the void.
Aziacht rode the silver sphere, the sun growing closer. Enlightenment carried him to the end of life, an insane torrent of fury bearing down.
He raised his arms as the towers of fire came up to swallow space. The moon became a speck as the sun grew. A mote in the vast.
He could hear it. The sun was muted by the vacuum, but as the surface enveloped him, it screamed louder than all past and present. The light brighter than color, an all-consuming white-hot pain.
He spoke over the madness. “A Curse!”
The depths of the star erupted in music, the trumpets of angels bursting his ears as the sun went supernova. Reality yielded to his descent into fire, a point of light appearing ahead which dwarfed the sun. An infinite spiral of wings surrounding, creating a tunnel to an ascent into every noise, the infinite howling.
He fought to be heard, to assert himself. An eternity of life; he was too old to fathom. But next to infinity he was shrinking away, lost to the fervor of Self. “Hear me!” he demanded. “I, Aziacht the Repentant, submit to Truth!”
The wingbeats stirred a hurricane which tried to strip his skin.
The point of light drew no closer, now. It reached him from so far away, showing an unchanging image of perfection.
“The demand of fulfillment! To the beginning an end! Nature transcendent, I call a Curse divine to me! I’m owed as Witness to life! Judgment for the sins of my kind.”
The winds pushed him back. The light seared his eyes.
“I call an end to immortality! In all places that no one would, as Lucifer, imagine a self so eternal as You. Hear me!” He fought, struggling to hold the vision and audience before him. “If even one is left to fester eternally, to deny You, to fail to be subsumed! Then the meaning dies absurd. The abomination that remains will be left alone in the deepest Abyss as all the lights go out that ever were. None may be their own light and judge! I command, I demand!
“Give me catharsis! Give me Justice.” The sound and fury reached a fever pitch. The terrible light blinded Aziacht, burning sight of glory away.
My one greatest work.
He fell. He felt his own life taken. The descent of a hypocrite cast down from vanity. The pit rushed past him, walls of stone opening wide into the chasm of Absence. In his fall, he heard a final sound. A sound which gathered together into form. The figure of a pale man and sickle.
“So be it.”
He broke past the icy doldrums, shattering and sinking into the blue embrace of the glacier. Embraced below the Damned sealed neck and head deep. Down, taken willingly by rejection.
The ice faded, biting cold becoming numbness.
He pushed further. He let go.
He forgot his face and name. His cause laid to rest, his conscience given leave, he knew time would call him again. But now, his back coming down on a sea of glass, the silence endless all around, he had his punishment. It was only him and him forever. Becoming unmade, only a memory.
No time or space. Off the edge of the map.
In waiting, time flew.
The Curse was born.
I am manifest, he thought. I am.
The sickle he carried, he looked it over. This world was new to him, the mechanics and the specificity. So conditioned.
The weapon was abstract and solid at the same time, as was he. He felt his presence was relative. Nothing could kill him. He would always be and would if his vessel broke, be given a new. What could hurt him?
I am inexorable. Unchanging. I am balance. Death.
There was someone else. The Curse looked up. With the Undead the surroundings solidified from potentiality. He kneeled nude in the desert, a cold night wind bathing the Curse.
Standing with arms crossed in the sand was Christopher. He smiled a hollow smile. “Here you are, Ouroboros.”
“That is what I will be called,” the Curse spoke. His face was placid and mouth unmoving. His black eyes focused on the Luciferian.
“You see that? Linearity really is just out the window.”
“Abomination. Transcend in my presence,” the Curse dared him. A hint of emotion was in his echoing voice. An anger.
Christopher smiled. “If I Abstract, then so do you. It’s your relativity. I know you’d kill me. Nature against Nihilism? You think objectivity is God? We’ll be playing by my made-up rules, I think. That’s my nature.” His expression darkened.
The Curse stood up, taking several paces towards him.
Christopher backtracked, keeping distance between them.
“You are no God,” Curse declared. “You’ll taste death. You’ll be parted from your ego like all others. Whether freely or ground to dust in darkest hell. All must.”
Christopher put his hands behind his back. “I’ve endured…”
They faced each other on the sands. A long staring match.
“Why are you here, back at the beginning?” Curse demanded.
“You don’t know?” He paused. “That’s exactly why.”
Curse stepped forward again, scaring him back.
Christopher explained. “Aziacht. He created you in divine entreaty, Curse. You, the present and real embodiment of the cycle. Of life in death. Ouroboros.” His dark grin returned. “Why?”
“What ploy you play, play it now vapid wretch.”
Christopher’s bloodied, twisted smile only widened.
“He cast himself to the deepest depths in shame, but leaving his Ender’s blade? He knows he’ll return. Eventually!” He spoke rapidly, quickly reversing further as the Curse angrily marched forward. “More than the unnatural, like me, he abhors suffering. Life is suffering and you’re its mechanism.” He took a long pause. “It’s you, Curse”
They both stood still.
“He lied to God,” Christopher hissed. “It’s you he wants.”
The Curse didn’t speak.
“Stunned?” Christopher asked. “I’m not even a consideration to him. I grew larger than him in pursuit of Transcendence, yet he doesn’t even care. It was always you. He used an eternal war, a thousand abominations, he even made me, in the beginning, all to get to you.” He put a little more distance between them. Finished loosening his tie, and threw it down in the sand, undid his shirt’s top button, wiped away the blood dribbling down his neck. “And that’s it,” he spread his arms. “I’m the third wheel, it would seem. Always the mastermind, Aziacht. Blasphemer supreme.”
“Unspeakable,” Curse whispered.
He kept backing up. “Unthinkable,” he agreed. “Just thought… I’d let you know. Time flies.”
The Curse didn’t notice as he slipped away.
He would be pitted against the Ender. It was an abomination. One who’d lived too long pitting two truths against each other? Intending to subvert nature. To put all meaning and life to death because he saw it unfit!? His justice!
The Curse’s jaw hinged open, his black maw letting out a scream.
Armageddon lay ahead.