静谧

如果你正读到这里,那么为时已晚。

我需要一些陪伴,一些陪伴。我需要你让我忘却我的青春,一些陪伴……

我并不确定你曾经是如何看待Drake的,Jade。我们用了好多年去和各式各样的艺术家们交流,但从未遇上他这样的人。我不知道你对他的风格有何思考。你远更喜欢rap中更冷酷黑暗的方面,我猜如此一来你大概不会真心喜欢他。我喜爱那种流行的深情的音乐,因此总是偏爱808s & Heartbreak——毫无疑问是你最讨厌的Kanye的专辑。

你现在在哪个站点工作呢?如果是Site-19,那我肯定曾在哪里看到过你。这个地方虽然大,但也没有太大呢。绝不可能是Site-62或者别的什么他们让你从我的记忆中消失不见的地方(尽管你也许更乐意如此)。Area-02?迄今为止我从那里收到了一些你写的信。不管在哪里,那肯定都是低风险的、只有些安全物品的地方。若是Area-64,那请替我向Dr. Avery问好。他肯定乐意听到我的消息,即使现状并非如此。

你知道吗,他们叫你写这个的时候可没给任何格式规定?(你知道的。)有时他们会让你在刚刚加入时就写下这些,也许是在你晋升之前,也许是在一次十分危险的任务之前,也许是任何你乐意的时候。我属于以上那种情况呢?那不重要,真的,我不确定它在大多数请况下重不重要。他们给了所有情景下的模版范例,但要是我真这么写了,你就要永远错失这个私人告别里,我的身心灵魂。而我也从来不擅长告别,你知道吗?(你知道的。)

所以作为替代,我要对你说些对个世界的遗言,一些没什么关系的、仅仅期望着我能在情感上靠近你的、全然不顾你对我的感受的话语。为了能让你看到这些,我总会在什么十足糟糕的事情里搞砸全部的,这样你便不会对我留有任何同情。也许我只是高估了你现在对我的厌恶?要说实话,我毫无把握。

也许我不会死。我没有因仇视性犯罪1而死,我也没有自杀。我的精神完好无损,那么我的肉体也将不会死亡。我要活上个该死的永永远远,这就是我的愿望。你永远也不会读到这些,所以这仅仅是为了我和我的利益而作。但如果,我死了,啊……除了我自己之外,我相信你胜任何人。

我想我们对彼此最好的回忆与性、舞蹈、拥抱全都无关,它发生在2011年的12月31日。Jeffery和我们一起出去嗨,看了一整天关于音乐的电影。那该是第二部或者第三部电影?我们看着那部Janis Joplin的电影。它还过得去,但片尾曲着实唱进了我心里,我大哭起来。你必须记得这个,我可很少哭得这么失态。再来一次,它的结尾怎么唱的?

即使是在冬天也要记住呀
在那无情的厚厚积雪之下
仍有阳光深爱的小小种子
来年就将开出一朵玫瑰花Rose

哈,漂亮,好一个预言。那不正是我吗?时间到了,我的朋友,再见。2


评分: 0+x






Year 2,500,000


"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and folks identifying otherwise, we are live at the William James Courthouse, where we are bringing you live, that's right, LIVE coverage of the trial of one Researcher █████ Talloran and the charges levied against them. I'm James Talloran, and joining me today, as always, is the lovely Jessie Talloran."

"You know it James! Yes, this is a very special case today, as the charges levied against Talloran are of a very serious nature, and it's been, what, some million years since the last trial held here hasn't it? So the fact that we're having a session today is absolutely astonishing, and frankly after everything that has happened, unprecedented even. We'll be following along closely as developments happen."

"That's right. Throughout the trial, we'll be switching back to Jessie primarily and getting her on-the-ground updates. I'll be joining periodically to give my thoughts. Trial is in pre-session and expected to start in a few minutes. Stay tuned for the latest on JTTV News 45."


Talloran sat at their bench, surrounded by busybodies, staff, and news journalists setting up cameras all over the courtroom. The entire world felt suffocating, moreso than usual. If you give the illusion of a media presence, it'll end up feeling a lot more real.

"H-Hey, excuse me, can I get a lawyer?" No one answered Talloran's question. "I'm uh, I'm pretty sure courts are supposed to provide a lawyer to people who are unable to afford one?" An old janitor cleaning the aisles next to Talloran looked up at them and grimaced.

"Don't you remember the predicament you're in, sonny? You won't get any lawyers here. Hrmmmm…" His voice trailed off as Talloran stumbled for responses.

"Hey, wait, hey hold on! I still deserve some sort of legal presence even in this bullshit nonsense! Can't you like, tell them to give me a lawyer? It'll, i-it'll help at least," Talloran spat out frustrated at the absurdity of the scene around him.

"I guess I can bring it up with the Judge, see if we can find you a quick guy to fill in for your legal defense, but don't expect anything." The janitor grumbled as he continued to clean the aisles, stepping over the spectators rushing to their seats.

The court had started to amass more people, none of whom would even accidentally glance Talloran's way. One by one, the room started to fill in to any open space they could stand or conceivably sit on or in. The claustrophobia Talloran felt was starting to creep up on them. Unfamiliar empty face upon unfamiliar empty face. It felt hopeless to rebel against the situation as it was right now.


"All rise!" a voice yells. All 694 beings stood up as the Judge enters the courtroom, making Its way to the bench. With bated breath, all waited for It to go through the motions. The defendant in particular glared at It, watching, waiting. Soon, they'd be able to make their break. They just knew it.

The Judge sat down. It occurred to them at this moment that they've actually never attended a trial proper, been on jury duty, or actually knew how court proceedings worked outside of fictional media.

"You may be seated." Everyone but the defendant sat.

"Researcher █████ Talloran," the Judge boomed, "as requested, you have been given a lawyer by the court. We will institute a new and unusual two-minute pause as you discuss with your lawyer your current situation and proceedings." Wait, wha —

"Hello there, [insert name here]." The defendant turned to look at their right, and spotted, in a court full of horrendous figures, bizarre anomalies, and hordes of empty canvasses, the most upsetting sight yet; their lawyer. "Name required for continued use. pal."

The lawyer, a robotic husk of parts, wires and AI, was dressed rather sharp and fancy. A tight suit adorned with fancy nonsensical seams and a collar entirely unsuited for non-humans. A red-and-brown hat garnished with gloss. Grey leather gloves. Despite the appearance of a digital smile on its face, it spoke in an utterly monotone voice; as bored as a robot could possibly sound. To say that the defendant was taken aback would have been an understatement.

"U-Uh… um…"

"Name not valid. Name required for continued use, pal."

"Talloran."

"Hello there, Tall-lor-ran." Every syllable was mispronounced and dragged out painfully. "I will be providing your legal counsel in court today. I have been informed and up-to-date on the charges against you. If there is a course of action you would like to pursue, please let me know and I will do my best to assist you." What could possibly be a good way to respond to something so utterly useless? What would be the point?

"Uh, I guess, let me just. Handle the stuff I am able to handle on my own, and you can handle the rest?" the defendant hesitantly answered.

"Affirmative, Tall-lor-ran. Plan of action noted. Thank you for choosing Designated Extraordinary Case Interpreter, Version 23." Unbelievable.

"Talloran, you have been initially charged with the following crimes: Working for the Foundation Instead of Pursuing a Better Career, Anhedonia, Mental Illness in General, Inability to Cope, and █████████ ███████. How does the defendant plead?" The Judge's voice boomed throughout the entirety of the world; it was hard not to wonder how it couldn't have reached the outside by this point.

"I don't see how any of these could be considered crimes, Your —"

"Not guilty then. In addition, you have also been charged with the following crimes: Non-Conforming Gender, Non-Conforming Sexuality, Taking Shit Too Seriously, Unable to Care About Others Adequately, and Frustration With Hobbies. How does the defendant plead?"

"Wait, how are any of these crimes? What are you doing with thi —"

"Not guilty then. The trial is now in session." The Judge bangs Its Gavel, and the scene shifts entirely to the same court room.. The defendant can feel the atmosphere shifting them onto another plane entirely, finding themself on the stand with a splitting migraine.

"The prosecution may now begin."



For the Charge of "Unable to Care About Others Adequately"

The prosecutor, Talloran, Esq., approached the stand with a manila envelope in hand.

"Now, Mx. Talloran, do you recognize this envelope?" The defendant stared at the envelope, mystified. It wasn't labelled. It didn't have any special marks on it. How were they supposed to know what was in it?

"No."

"It is an envelope containing a letter addressed to you a long while ago. It is from…" The prosecutor lifts the paper from the envelope and nods, showing it to the defendant. The words are in writing they are unable to read or comprehend, but it's immediately clear what it is supposed to be. "…Benjamin Kondraki. Do you understand now?" Their eyes go wide. "Excellent. People of the court, this is a letter written to Researcher █████ Talloran in 2016, approximately a few days before the suicide of Benjamin Kondraki. Its significance is lost on you right now, but when I read it, it shall be clear. Ahem." The prosecutor opened his mouth.

The sound of large metal screeching against metal sounded, blasting itself onto the defendant. They were too dumbfounded to move, to cover their ears, as blood started trickling down the side of their head. Yet they knew what was said, what was written. And regret filled their body.

"Now, Talloran, have you gone on to honor this letter since you first read it?"

It was impossible to answer. Maybe? How could they have remembered? It was hard to keep track of the memories from reality and from here. But… they had a nagging feeling in the pit of their stomach that…

"No, I have not." Murmurs in the crowd. The Judge bangs the Gavel. "At least, I don't remember doing so? It's been hard to tell, with the few million years or whatever that I've been in here by this point."

"So you don't even remember its contents?"

"Not really…" The defendant trailed off. "But that means nothing! I could have done something in relation to it!"

"What matters here is whether you did or not. To the best of your recollection, did you honor the letter and its contents, or did you not, Talloran? Please remember that you took an oath under penalty of perjury. I'll repeat the questions. Have you gone on to, or did you in any way, honor this letter written by Benjamin Kondraki and addressed to you and the contents therein?" All eyes on them.

"Not to my recollection." Talloran, Esq. nods, jotting down the statement.

"Thank you."



For the Charge of "Mental Illness in General"

"Now, if the court will look to this table here, we can see the medical records of one Dr. Manwell Cutler of the Ethics Committee, who for the months of March 2017 to July 2017, had biweekly appointments with Talloran for assessing their mental health and ability to work on various Keter-class projects, both standard and those handled under different moral codes." Talloran, Esq. flipped through the pages.

"Here, we can see Talloran's records. These will be important later. However, going back to the page before it, we can see that —" The prosecutor struggled to flip the page back. "Shit, excuse me, sorry, uh, crap. Here we go. This is a record of how often Talloran showed up to appointments. You can see that starting in May, attendance started to slip, with —"

The defendant zoned out, unable to hone in on the proceedings. All this reminded them about was the nightmares, night in, night out. This turned into full-on dissociation. Everyone was mannequins.



For the Charge of █████████ ███████ [REDACTED]

[DATA EXPUNGED]3



"I rest my case, Your Honor," Talloran, Esq. said with smug satisfaction.

"I've heard enough. I've reached my verdict," the Judge proclaimed, and with a bang of the Gavel, the defendant was back to their bench and they immediately snapped back into their body. It was the same scene as the start, but this time with only cameras, the Judge, the defendant and their lawyer (who had not once helped in any capacity). D.E.C.I. v23 nudged its client for the singular moment it did anything but stand still since the trial's beginning. So much for it coming in handy. The defendant looked over.

"If everything goes according to plan, Tall-lor-ran, you shall be found Not Guilty by the court and free to go. However, if you are found Guilty and you do not believe such a verdict to apply to you," D.E.C.I. v23 droned on (what fucking nerve on this shitty robot, programmed in such a stupid way to talk like this to its clients, even if this is all still somehow just a bad dream it was a joke of a dream), "then please take this Complimentary Apple, pull the stem, throw it on the ground nearby, and run forward." The defendant was then handed a Red Delicious.

"Uh, oh geez, I guess thank y —"

"I find the defendant guilty of all charges. Sentencing shall begin." Bang, and the scene shifted again.

This time, Talloran was alone in the room, surrounded only by cameras.

"I sentence you to more continued self-assessment and prolonged imprisonment. Court is adjourned." Bang, and Talloran was dragged away by sheriffs to leave the court room. The paparazzi swarmed upon them.

"Talloran, is it true that you've committed unthinkable crimes against —"
"Talloran, did you really —"
"What went through your head as you pursued psychotherapy —"
"Are your plans for the future compromised by this ruling in any —"
"Did you really think this was winnable?"
Just trust yourself here.
"Will the next million years be any different for you?"
"What do you think Draven thinks about this?"
How can you ever rebel if you'll believe your own lies?
"Talloran, do you believe you're innocent?"
"Is this going to affect your projects from Site-118 any more than usual?"
"When will we find out about the destructive biases of the court system that handled your case?"
Run.
There's still a path to take.
Still a way to escape.
"Do you believe in free will, Talloran?"
There always is.
There's always a way through.

"And there always will be…"

Talloran took the apple, pulled the pin and threw it at the ground. As the crowd backed away, they managed to break free of the sheriffs and run. Someone screamed.

Then Talloran's vision went white, and they could no longer hear.

It took a minute for it to wear off before they realized it was a stun grenade, and they realized where they were now; nowhere, surrounded by nothing.




Talloran ran.







29th May, 2008.
2008年5月29日。

I am. I was. I will be.
我在。我曾在。我将在。

I am here.
我在这里。

OK, OK, it's becoming quite difficult to dream this. Hang on a moment, diary. I will be with you shortly.
好吧,好吧,要梦见这些实在太难了。等我一会儿,日记,我很快就回来。

There we go.
我们开始吧。

My name is- or my name was, at any rate- Jacob Montauk. I am 14 years old. I was born in the St. Timothy Hospital, up in Birmingham. I never liked Birmingham. It's not the chavs or the dirt on the street or the dull grey colour of the buildings; it's the way the rain doesn't cool or chill, or make you think, or make a pleasant smell of dirt. It just seems to accentuate the surroundings, makes the grey greyer, makes the peoples' faces into strange and inarticulate nothings.

Sorry. Auntie is always saying that I'm overarticulate, and that my prose is wildly self-indulgent. She's right, of course. I am only 14. I should be playing in the sun, not writing this purple nonsense.

So. Four days ago, I fell into a shadow. I didn't mean to- it just sort of happened. I'd stayed late from school, with the animation club, and then I'd tripped and fallen right where a tree blocked the light. There wasn't anyone around to see me. Everything went… weird for a moment. Like the very beginning of something happening, when you first start to see someone's expression for a moment, before it's all suddenly cut off. I think it's because they saw me, sprawled all over where nobody could see or help. So they took me.

I don't know what this place is. It's just darkness, an oblivion, an absence. It's like dreaming. I am quite afraid. It feels like a dream- hell, for all I know, it probably is a dream, although I can't seem to wake up. I have these images, this long stream of dreaming images passing through my face. But even as I'm moving through some dream-world, or building a wall, I'm still in the dark. I can feel it. Or at least, I can feel its presence. In the back of my mind. In the dark behind the eyes.

I'm scared. I can't wake up.

9th June 2008.

Nothing has changed. I was dreaming just now about a corridor, and as I went down it, it wasn't there. A strange thing. I don't know what it means.

I keep hearing voices. I think there might be others here. I thought they were just part of the dream at first, but I don't think they're mine at all. It's hard to explain… it's like there are other dreamers, and I can hear their dreams. It's becoming easier to tell.

I'm sorry, diary. I should write more in you, but there's not much to write except the perpetual onslaught of dreams. Well, you're a dream too, I suppose. But you're there to keep me from going mad, not to help me.

17th June 2008.

There are others. I'm sure of this now. They're all around me! I can hear some very clearly. Some keep coming in. Some are quieter, some more indistinct. I don't think it's a distance thing- this place doesn't seem to have things like distance. Some of them just seem more… I don't know. Not quite as there as the others. Absent-minded, I suppose.

I kept dreaming about that corridor. Making it bigger. Looks more like a hotel now.

24th June 2008.

I can't stop thinking about Auntie. I hope that she's not worrying. Actually, I hope that she is worrying. It'd be very odd if she wasn't worrying. Quite apart from being out of character, it'd mean she didn't care. I wouldn't like that. Don't think she would, either.

There are others here. They have their own dreams, which sometimes keep crossing over with mine. And they steal them. Someone stole my corridor dream. The images were just ripped and crossed over and twisted and eventually left me. I could hear, see, something them elsewhere, in someone else's head, but they weren't mine any more. I dreamt something else instead- a factory that kept repeating.

It must be weird back there. Either I'm gone, or I'm in a coma, or something like that. They'll be shedding tears, they'll be talking about how tragic it all is, maybe making frantic appeals on the TV. I hope it gets somewhere. I hope someone knows what this place is.

I think… if I just reach out… shall report back, diary.

19th July 2008.

I forgot about you, diary. Sorry. It's been a hectic month.

So it turns out that there are lots of other people here. I just didn't know how to talk to them. Rose says that it's that way with a lot of new people. That's why they stole my dream; trying to get me to talk, make themselves known. Ai-Fan was very apologetic about that.

There are lots of children here, all disappeared. They all tripped, or went down the wrong alleyway, or somehow ended up in a shadow without anybody watching. And then they found themselves here, dreaming away. Same darkness, same images in their head, same aimless movement in the void.

Apparently, everyone is normal at first, thinking properly. Then, slowly, they start to be… less. Like they're fading. Their dreams start fading, their minds start unravelling. Eventually, they're little more than a bundle of memories. It can take years, it can take decades, it can take centuries, but eventually they're all gone, faded away into the dark.

dark.

Dark.

Sometimes those memories and personalities get picked up. By others, like Rose or Ai-Fan. Sometimes it messes your head up, making you forget who you are. In a way, Rose said, it's like you're not one person, you're many.

There's something that bothers me about all this, though. Nobody here tries to get out. It's like they're- we're- all so busy dreaming, that we can't really think about getting out. There's just our minds and the Dark. Dreaming.

Dreaming for what?

Anyway, it's good to be around people again. I'd forgotten what it was like. Rose disappeared 5 years ago, apparently. Under an apple tree in Texas. She was lying in the breeze, thinking about the vastness of the world, feeling the wind between her fingers. Her parents were down the hill. She-

No, wait. It wasn't five years, it was fifty.

I wasn't talking to her at all, was I?

24th December 2008.

So here we are, months later. Those of us who are alive and celebrate Christmas dreamt of festive nightmares, and swapped them with each other. Ai-Fan joined in too, despite it not being her creed. Nick created this wonderful Christmas tree, which we all passed through our minds and gasped at. It was gold, silver, wonderful. Some of those who were fraying seemed to momentarily bounce back, to have more of a mind again. It was nice.

I used some of Rose's memories of her hometown to make a nice little vision for us all- of a town that had Christmas all year. They'd decorate their homes and tanks and talk about the Christmas spirit. It was nice, nicer than some of the dreams I'd had recently. For a moment, even in the dark, it felt like family. Felt like home. Like I was really holding my spoon, and it wasn't just a twisted candle in the dark.

But, then again, what's the dark for but the lighting of candles?

29th March 2009.

You are. You were. You will be.

There's a girl here, who binds us all together. She's called Gulya, and she's one of the oldest ones here. She was the same age as me when she was taken. It's sad, that- we're stuck down here, in perpetual childhood or perpetual adolescence, dreaming for a power we can't think about or know about.

Gulya was pretty, but that doesn't really matter any more. All I can see is her mind, her sparkling mind. It has a kind of vaguely flourescent glow- I'm not sure how to describe it. Like a constant spark of an idea. She's had lots of ideas. It was her who first worked out how we could communicate with each other, how we could send and steal dreams from one another.

I like her. I like her a lot. I don't want to be writing all this down. Actually, I'm not writing it down, I'm dreaming it down, but still. Nyah. Go away.

26th October 2009.

Gulya and I keep talking. She and Ai-Fan and Nick and 'Abbas and I all have a little cadre together, but Gulya has a bigger responsibility. She keeps everyone sane. There are hundreds, thousands of minds that eventually make their way here. It's hard to talk about distance here, as I said earlier- it kind-of exists, but not really. It's like a feeling, more than a physical space. Like everything here, I suppose.

Anyway. I'm being what Auntie calls "tiresomely pretentious" again. Gulya is the mother to thousands. She teaches them how to dream, tries to keep them together, takes their memories when they can't hold themselves together any more. She encourages their dreams, makes them bigger and bolder. The other day, there was a fraying boy dreaming of a set of gears, and he didn't know what to do with them. So she took them, and made them a grand machine, with workings impossible and greater than anything he could have done. He was so happy, his fraying seemed to stop, or even reverse, for a moment. That was nice.

I think Gulya likes me. My dreams are the brightest, after all, despite what Nick insists. They're so much clevererer. Wait, one too many "er"s there.

19th June 2010.

I don't really need this diary any more; the conversation of the thousands of us stuck down here is usually enough. As is Gulya. Keeps me sane. The only thing is, I absorbed a memory and a dream today. It was from someone barely alive in the first place, someone not yet born. They'd been cut out, you see, but in their last heartbeat they were stolen.

They're dreaming, dreaming, dreaming of the cold and the rage they felt in that instant. They'd been floating through here for a few weeks, batting to and fro, picking up scattered images and memories of the faded. There wasn't much of them left, really, and they had pretty much all unravelled. I picked up the dream, tidied it a bit, let it fly. It was a strange one, an amalgam of many minds, but the end was understandable. There was this song, this line that was stuck in my head and kept playing back:

"There's an abortion under the floorboards, and another in the sink."

17th April 2012.

I hear from the newcomers that things are changing up there. Politics, society, technology- it's all moving on. Maybe I wouldn't recognise it, even if I could percieve it.

Ai-Fan is beginning to fade. It's sad. I wish there was something I can do. Sometimes we can keep people afloat, for a while, but sooner or later the Dark claims them all. It's a shame. Ai-Fan is my friend. Gulya is doing what she can for her, but Gulya's beginning to fray herself, I think. She's been here for so long, it's a wonder she's not gone already. I don't know what to do. I love them all. I don't want them to fall to the Dark.

We have a theory about what it does now, you see. There was a boy, a young fisherman's son named Benoy. He fell into the sea, and he saw an eel, and he saw a darkness behind its eyes. He saw it lunging, but in its shadow before it could bite, he woke up here.

Gulya said she knew about the eel. It's an old legend around here, an old dream, one that had been circling the Dark since time immemorial.

If the eel's in the world, then it means that a dream of it has leaked out. Maybe a lot of dreams have leaked out. Maybe that christmas town I dreamt up really existed, or that hotel corridor. Maybe Gulya's machine, too.

We think that's what the Dark is. It's like a radio tower, a transmitter for dreams. The dreams are made real. That's what the Dark does.

But we still don't know what it is, or why.

26th June 2012.

I never knew, back on earth, the joy of swimming in another's mind. Gulya and I come perilously close to being one and not two, on occasion. Is this love? I think this is love. She sees me more clearly than anyone else, or so she claims. At time, she swears she can see me, see properly, a physical version of me hovering above her. She says it's nice. Not sure if I believe her, though.

Still, there are some things I can't really talk about. Like Ai-Fan. The centre of her had come unravelled, so I took what was left of her memories. She was my friend, and she had a hard life- grey communist corridors, a nursery of abandoned children. There were some odd dreams, there, too- of a man who'd lived for centuries to protect his little village. China sounds interesting. I wish I'd been there, when I was alive. So many worlds crawling on the spinning sphere.

There was another dream, of a painting that depicted the wars of the world- or part of the world. I wondered how Ai-Fan had dreamt that one up. Strange girl.

29th November 2012.

Gulya was born on the open steppe, in the 16th century. She grew up riding, shooting, throwing herself through the air with hooves beneath and the eternal heaven above. She played in open fields, she danced beneath the sky, she moved like a wild thing in a wild world.

Then one day, she fell down, and in an instant when nobody was looking, was stolen away. She came to a place of darkness when her life had barely begun, a place of dreams, a place where humans were not made of flesh and blood but of wood and wire and wax, little constructs unravelling like wool. She was scared, but she was very brave.

Little Gulya worked out a way to talk. She realised how the dreams could be used. She worked out how to send thoughts, to transmit emotion, to articulate words. She bound all the minds in her little part of the dark to her, like a mother. She was like a mother to so many, keeping the fraying whole, making their minds last as long as possible. And she survived, and nobody knew why.

But I knew. I was only 14 when I was taken, all those years ago. My mind has grown up down here, and my emotions with them. I fell in love with Gulya, and she with me, and I saw all the dark twisting and mellow happiness of her heart, her oh-so-human heart. She was buoyed by the love that she was given, the bonds she forged, the memories she collected. She remained herself because she leant into being with others, many others.

Little Gulya of the Kazakh Uls. She was so far from home, so removed from time. She'd lived far longer than she was meant to. She was quick and bright. I know why she died. It was because that whole time, despite all the memories she had maintained and all the brightness she had attained, she was still herself. She couldn't change, she wasn't in a state of flux. Gulya was an "I". She had a notion of the self, which held her together, but slowly died in the blackness of the night.

Today I dreamt of a man who could never die, but poisoned all around him.

I am in mourning. I wear this black around me like a funeral suit. And yet, in the midst of the dark, an idea occurs. A monstrous one. And one that, if it works, would avenge my lost love's death.

1st January 2013.

So. I proposed the following idea to the others:

We are fairly sure that the things we dream are made real, but we can't control what we dream. We all enter this world in a state of collapse and flux, dying perpetually until we finally unravel and become little more than a ball of stray thoughts. We cannot survive alone. The more we interact and meld with the others around here, the longer we last, but we can't last forever as long as we hold onto a state of being. A state of knowing that we're a self. Otherwise, we fray into tiny strands, picked up as stray thoughts by the others still left alive.

So, I came up with an idea. The only way we can survive is to become one. We must all sacrifice our individual natures, and merge. One being, one child made of many, a mind of madness strung together by nerve and wire. Because we're stronger together.

Some objected. Some said that this happens anyway, when we slowly fade. We are all lost, we are all sprung apart, scattered among the new children, who are scattered in their turn- why hasten the process? Why not cling on as long as possible?

Because, I said, if we were strong enough, focused enough, hive-minded enough, then we could dream ourselves. We could never have left our families. We could return to the lives that were stolen, to the childhoods ripped away. We could feel the wind on our skin again.

That convinced them. We may have our little pleasures down here, but when you're never sure where you begin and the darkness ends, when things like morning and afternoon and night are frail and arbitrary anchors we have invented, when your mothers are far away in an unknown place and time- when you live like that, you can't help but want to get out.

8th Feburary 2013.

They are. They were. They will be.

We were born in England, Iran, America. We were raised in Texas, Beijing, the Midwest, the free steppes. We are Jacob, 'Abbas, Nick, Ai-Fan, Rose and Gulya. We are. We were. We will be.

We see many things. No, I do. No, we all do. We see the others, their dreams, their fears. They are them. Then they are us. We are many and we act as many.

We see dark. We see light. We create strange images. Of a deal with a devil in a frozen land. Of a faceless market stretching into endless night. Of another dying in another dark. Of elephants weeping for their lonely mother.

It aches. Our substance aches, or what is left of it. It seethes with the pain of the many. All we want to do is curl up and be alone, and we never can.

May we wake up from this infernal prison.

19th March 2045.

…Diary.

We know of this diary. It was the product of the mind of one of our founding members, Jacob Montauk. This element still exists within us. We have decided to use it. To siphon off the thoughts of the hive.

We are all voluntary members of a large collective organis- organ- monkey-grinder of some sort. It's getting harder to be ourselves, to be one. We've absorbed a large chunk of the total number of the missing, now. There are still many hundreds of thousands to go, but we're getting there.

It's getting harder to ma- to think- to attach a meaning to words. We are, for the time being, but soon we may not be. Or rather, we will be, but can we attach a meaning to that when there's nothing outside it? If we are the universe, if we are the D- the Vo- the Bla- the Oblivion, then is there an oblivion at all? Do we only exist when defined against the other?

Nothing is definite. Even our dreams are unseen now, and full of monstrous and forgotten thoughts.

We'll have to ruminate on this further. Further. Further, into the void.

19th March 3994.

We are. We were. We will be.

The crushing weight of all that ever was as the last child becomes part of the One. Let me tell you- no- let one part of me tell another part of me a story. There are new parts added all the time. We work like clockwork, an engine in the dark.

I dreamt today of a man imprisoned. He betrayed his foe, so he stood suspended over the top of an idea blasted into space forever. A war of ideas. That went around and around forever.

I dreamt today of a crown in red, of a fire in gold, of seven brides for an emperor. Imprisoned, he will be free. But he'll die like all the rest, screaming in his own pointlessness, the facade of his fiction scattered to the winds.

I dreamt today of a vagabond, writer, artist. I dreamed he lived, breathed free, learned what life was, and that his thoughts echoed a thousand thousand miles hence.

I dreamt today of an ancient tradition, of the little communities and frozen pleasures of the common folk, skating on the ice forever, pirouetting and twisting in one and many times and places.

I dreamt today of a cemetery that did not belong. Ghosts of a future war that snarled and scraped and scrapped between the children of humanity and the children of the machine.

Auntie was right about Jacob being "irritatingly pretentious." They could have been described so much better than that.

One year after the death of reason.

The winds would whistle over the waters, the hills, the oceans. It would fly free, kicking up sprat and dust, foam over sand. The beaches under the midnight sun were ever-changing, ever-present, where vagabonds and lovers would sit and think and kiss. Hops grew in wafting fields beneath the moors.

Little clay huts scattered around the entrance to the walls. Little grey skies kissing little grey clouds. The rain, wetting the crops and soaking walkers, running through some wilderness of woodland in overcast weather.

Marble columns in front of the libraries. The smell of paper in books, musty and welcoming. The lights of a train as it plunged through the tunnel, shaking all inside as they hugged up against the cold. The sights of an ancient bazaar.

There isn't a world any more. There's just the Dark.

It won. It took our dreams and it won. We are all that's left of what was- a memory engorged upon itself. The last scraps took themselves from time. We are the dark and we are suspended here.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. It all goes into the dark. Some rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem, grinding rebar and freezing concrete.

An unknown time in a sky of inky black.

Nicholas "Nick" Holzinger was born in the Midwest. He was born to a loving family. In winters, he would skate on the ponds, and laugh with his friends. But he had another habit. On very cold and crisp and clear nights, he would go to the bridge in town, and stare out over the ponds, looking at the stars reflected in the water.

Nobody was watching. So they took him.

But after that, while he dreamt beneath the world, his family and friends and parents persisted. And they thought, in their minds, of a hundred thousand different ways he could have been killed. Every fantasy, every twisted paranoid dream and nightmare brought to the fore, on the cusp of their minds, dreaming of the ways he could have been taken.

But they were all aspects of a greater whole. They weren't separate scenarios at all. They were darkness.

One more strand for every child taken. An endless circle. The dark exists because it has to exist, in the minds of every frightened and demented parent scared for their childs' life. They already know what's happened to their children, because they can see it. They can see the dark.

We never stood a chance.

The heat death of the universe. 3 PM in the afternoon eastern standard time.

Where am I?

I float, lost in time. I awake, with all these voices in my head. Am I plural, or are we singular? I don't know any more.

It's all dying. Matter itself. The rocks crumble into dust, the dust crumbles into atoms, the atoms crumble into waves of energy. Concepts role in on themselves. Even the Dark is dying, its purpose done, its crimes committed. A greater void awaits beyond it.

It's coming now. Slowly. Achingly. That oblivion that ends me. Us. The Dark was just a memory of humans, a feeling, a fear that bound. But what awaits is more. What awaits is not a Thing, with a capital letter and an ominous feeling.

People often fail to understand what it is to be blind. I know, for I have dreamt of a thousand thousand of the blind. Blind to so many things. People think that being blind is like having your eyes shut, but it's not. When your eyes are closed, you can still see blackness, the fires in your retina, the colours of your brain. To be blind is not to see that. To be blind is not to see nothing, but to be incapable of seeing. A void in your head where your eyes should be.

To die is not to sleep. To die is not to dream. To die is not even to find oneself in an undiscovered country. To die is nothing. To die is to never have been, because all that was is erased. There is just an end. An oblivion.

I was once so scared of the Dark that took me. But it doesn't matter now. The Dark is a thing like all other things, and it will die too. Soon there will be nothing but absence.

I can't remember who I am. Let me do something, give something back. Let me give her back. Let her live. Or a memory of her, a shade, a vision in furs and skins, riding on horseback with the wind within her air.

The last syllable of recorded time.

This is how the world ends.

This is how the world ends.

This is how the world ends.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

It's coming now. The moments are shrinking, the area contracting. The Dark is fraying and ripping. I shall be brief, diary, my constant companion within infinity.

I am Jacob Montauk. I did not merge with the others at all. I absorbed them. Ate them. I did not realise it until just now. At the end. I murdered them all to keep me alive.

I failed. All the memories, minds and souls I took into me made me unable to think, or to remember. All is dust now. All is calamity.

I should have dreamed us back centuries ago. Millenia. Eons. But I couldn't think. And then there was the dark, and there was nothing to be dreamed back into. Just an end. How could I let them go back to their lives, their little realities, when all will be dark?

England. I shall dream of England. I shall dream of her fields, white with snow in winter, fresh with dew in spring. I shall dream of her hills, of her hedgerows and buses, her rose gardens, her marble columns and concrete abhorrences. I shall dream of England, so that she lives. Some small, twisted shadow of her. Some dying breath of my home.

I can do something for the others, though. Maybe. I can take dream something back. Show them history. Show them all that will be. Show them how to fix things. Someone. Whoever is out there. Whoever understands what it is to die in the dark, so others can live in the light.

It's coming now. It'll be over soon. And then I won't have to be alive any more. I won't have to be the stolen child, dreaming for millenia about a half-remembered reality that will waste to nothingness anyway.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.

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