A Return to Darkness

 

It awakens, and pushes itself up from the smooth, cold ground. It sits for a moment, waiting in vain for its vision to adjust to the darkness. Cold surrounds it. Not the comforting, familiar cold of its mountains, but... For a moment, it remembered something that was gone in an instant. It tries desperately to cling to the fleeting memory, but it recalls only emptiness.

 

“Hello?” It calls out. Its voice does not carry or echo as it expects. Instead the sound comes out muffled. The wind intensifies, only slightly, in response to its inquiry. The wind does not carry snow, as it expects. Another flicker of memory is gone as quickly as it appears.

 

It is aware, now, of being watched. It senses a presence in the darkness, slithering like a serpent at the corner of its vision. Familiar dread seeps into its bones, joining the cold already there. It has been here before. The seed of fear erupts into full panic. It instinctually tries to hide, crossing its arms across its chest in a gesture to call upon some power it no longer remembers.

 

“That will not work.” a voice not its own, barely louder than the silent cold wind, whispers in its mind, “It is no longer what it once was. It no longer controls the powers it once did.” The words faded from its memory, leaving it with only the vague impression of a conversation.

 

The only thing that remains, is fear.

 

“Where am I?” it asks into the darkness, trying not to sound as frightened as it is.

 

The shadows laugh. The sound reminds it of breaking glass, until that memory, too, is gone. It no longer recalls that sound... or what ‘glass’ is... or that word it was just thinking of... or... what was it just thinking? The shadows speak again, “I is the ego, the object of self-consciousness. What it calls ‘I’ is gone.” It could hear amusement in the shadow’s voice, “Nothing is all that remains. A shadow of it once was. A...” the voice pauses and takes on a twisted tone, “...Whisper.”

 

In an instant, a lifetime of memories flood back, leaving it clutching its head. It... He... Whisper... remembers everything from before this place. Dischordia... the Archive... the Bitter Lies... Calamity... That little bitch blew him up, because of... of... Why? Who did what? Who was he? Where was it? What was happening? As quickly as the memories had come, they were gone, and only cold silence remained.

 

It felt empty... unsure of who it was. "Who am I?" It asked into the darkness.

 

"What it calls 'I' is unmade. What remains is nothing. It comes from nothing, and to nothing it will always return. It thought it could escape, but it belongs to nothing. It belongs to nothing once again. It is nothing, once again. That is all it ever was, though it believed itself to be something else. It deluded itself with other names. So... many... names...” The shadows made a sound like a hungry animal. “It has been busy these centuries. Stealing its faces... wearing its masks... It returns with so many new memories. But everything it ever did, all it ever achieved, everyone it ever cared about, or pretended to care about will amount to nothing. It will all be unmade."

 

The shadow made a sound... A sharp sound that it would have thought of as breaking glass... if it remembered ever having heard that. The sound was something like a laugh... if it remembered what that was. “It wishes to know who it was before? It may find itself here, among the other unmade, on the face of the one that wears it.” The shadows withdrew and the black shroud faded to a dull gray. It could see shapes through the fog. They resembled people, but distorted and misshapen, as if they had forgotten what people were supposed to look like. The shroud faded more and it could see it's surroundings. An endless expanse greeted it. Flat. Featureless. It could see the people more clearly, as well. Their faces, like the terrain, smooth and featureless. The image of an egg came to mind, before that, too, was forgotten.

 

The things fought each other, like hungry animals, over scraps of memory that looked like faces. Everything so familiar, but unclear. It tried to focus, to remember why it knew this place, only to have it remain just out of reach. It tried to remember who it was, the life it had remembered moments ago. It seemed so long ago and slipped away. Even the memory of remembering seemed to escape.

 

"I... am No One." it said, realization in it's voice.

 

Another memory filled it. It had long ago forged an identity from nothing, and now that is all that remained. The memory vanished, but it left something behind. What that identity had been, it did not remember, nor did such trivialities matter to it. It forgot it's fear. It watched the things, fighting over scraps, trying to piece together who they had been. It knew that their scraps of identity had been torn apart and scattered between countless things. It knew none of them would ever find all of their own pieces. More importantly, it had no need to fight for scraps.

 

It smiled to itself, as much as it could with no mouth.

 

It no longer cared who it had been before, only what it was now.

 

Nothing.