World-moulder – Part IV

An Espresso Tale

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

The story continues from where we left it in Part III

They had no notion of time.

There was only the line, the lava flow and the endless wait. Somewhere up ahead – they had been told – was the person responsible for validation: only they could look at the rune-covered rock and declare that it was worthy of note. Only they could send them to the next level, to the next endless line.

Teal peered at their stone, seeking the empty reassurance it carried with it.

“I am a good person. I am responsible. I listen to the opinion of others and negotiate the best solution…;”

The mantra trailed off, and they let their eyes wander over the dead plain, taking in the orderly ques of ashen-faced people. This was the only reality they had ever known. This was their existence until the end of time, or of their life –whichever came first.

The notion sent a shock of incomprehensible anguish through their body and they quickly stared at the rock again, losing themself to the certainty of its unequivocal message.

Suddenly, the line stopped and a dark quiet smothered the usual mutterings.

“Please remain calm. This is a surprise inspection.”

A shiver of fear ran through their body as their eyes darted left and right, trying to get a glimpse of the one being that could consign them to an eternity of torment.

“You are…new?”

The voice was cold, indignant and haughty. It had been shaped eons earlier from the coldest stars and had been set within a body of molten ice, forever flowing in a shapeless river of razor shards.

Teal paled and turned, not daring to raise their panicked gaze.

“I…I am a good person. I am responsible-” they began, hoping to evade the subject.

“I see,” hissed the inspector softly. “So it matters little…you have found your place. But I wonder…are you truly what you say you are?”

Teal’s conviction immediately faltered. They knew that they were the rock and yet…why did they only have to be the rock?

“To be safe,” came the frigid answer. “From me.”

The surface of the inspector shifted and the countless blade-like crystals that made up its body twisted to become a dark mockery of Teal themself.

“I am as you should be,” it snarled. “I am the perfection you strive for. Through the rock you carry, you can attain grace. Study it long enough and maybe you can reach a modicum of renown. Cast it aside and you consign yourself to oblivion. Cast it aside, and you are mine.”

The cold voice tore at Teal’s body and soul, sending them spiralling beyond sanity and into pain.

They tore their gaze away from the demonic apparition, trying to look anywhere but into those soulless mocking eyes.

Something flashed in the corner of their vision.

Slowly, they lifted their closed hand.

Around them, the world churned. People howled and lava and ice rose up, obeying the order of their masters to destroy the tiny speck of light before it was too late.

Then, Teal’s stone hit the ground, filling the universe with the sound of freedom.

“I am who I want to be. And if that isn’t to your liking, then I suggest you find a new universe to live in,” they said, as cosmic energy began to spark between their fingertips and through their hair, “because this one is about to change”.-

The story continues in Part V…

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