Prologue: The Void

Dying? Not the end of everything. We think it is. But what happens on earth is only the beginning.

– Mitch Albom


The Afterlife.

A soul walked a path in silence.

If sound still existed, his footsteps would have tapped mutedly on the obsidian-black pathway he trod. The manifestation of his Johnny gown would have silently rustled as it trailed along with his ethereal form. 

If touch still existed, he would have felt the remnants of other lost souls rubbing against him—the numbing obscurity tainted by their ghastly remains. And if he was still alive.

He would have felt the unease that permeated this plane. But no, he was not. 

No life existed in the void.

And so, he walked his path in silence.

He knew not how far he travelled in the darkness. Or how long. It could have been a moment, or it could have been an eternity. It was funny how little the difference mattered here. How insignificant it all was. 

The man paused. He had reached a crossroad.

There, a miniature sun of warm flickering light lay suspended in his path. 

He approached it. 

It was strange, being able to see it without truly seeing it. Able to feel its consoling warmth, an assuring certainty that it was there, without truly feeling it. 

He was aware of every pulse, every flare in its form. All at once, but never in one moment.

Curious, he moved closer.

The warmth was familiar in a way that he could not recall. 

Hazy but familiar.

Walking until he was a few paces away, he finally noticed something rather unusual. 

Beneath the sun was a void. 

An emptiness not much different from the one he had timelessly walked. Yet still, it held some fundamental differences he intuitively knew existed but could put into words.

From the void, smoggy figures motioned to crawl out, only to return soon after.

Afraid.

A smokey tether restrained them like an umbilical cord. Black tendrils extended from their heads like hair, seeking, searching blindly for something to latch on.

Curiously, the wanderer extended a finger towards one of the smallest tendrils but immediately retracted the appendage.

‘Fascinating,’ he murmured in thought to himself.

He stared into the endless darkness that lies within. Glancing from the slightly faded finger to the stygian beings, he had a flash of inspiration.

Long I stood wondering, doubting.

Peering, deep from within Hadean,

Searching, seeking, hurting.

Dreaming dreams no mortal dared dream before.

“A poet, are we now?” a voice commented from within the miniature sun. The words were conveyed in a way no language or physical barrier could impede. 

“Passable. But I am sure you could do better.”

“Well, that was rude,” The wanderer replied, mildly startled. He rose to his feet upon hearing the voice in his head, swivelling to the source of the criticism.

“Ah, pardon me, good sir,” the speaker said politely from within the seemingly harmless floating ball of fire. The voice was inflected, heavy with static and odd modulations as if speaking through an old broken radio. 

“I was just surprised. It is not every day one meets a fellow aesthete that appreciates such delicate metaphysical intricacies. But one cannot blame the general populace for their woeful ignorance as voidlings do possess a rather morbid preference for transmatter, the very thing that forms the core of souls and other information based lifeforms. Asides from that, they could be as you say. Quite, fascinating!”

The wanderer raised a questioning brow. 

“Who are you? And what do you want with me?” he asked blandly, his eyes roaming the surface of the sun, searching but coming short.

“Ah, forgive me, forgive me,” the voice said, “The name is Hue Dywn, but you can refer to me as the Contractor. What is yours, my good sir?”

The wandering soul paused for a moment before replying.

“James. James Earl.”

“It is nice to meet you, James Earl,” the voice said with a hint of static. “Since you arrived on this path within the specified timeframe it appears you fulfil all the required criteria for extraction.”

“What extraction?” James asked, but the voice ignored him and continued speaking.

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“I am here to offer you a deal. A bargain one might say.”

“A bargain?” James asked with a frown.

“Yes, a bargain Mr Earl,” the voice said. “Would you like to participate in a privately-funded experimental program? I can assure you that this program is relatively safe, a hundred per cent eco-friendly and adheres to all established sustainability guidelines.”

“Can I get more information on the specifics of this ‘program’?”

“Sadly, you cannot, Mr James. Company policy would not allow the disclosure of such information.”

“And what do you or whatever organisation you are representing gain from this?”

“Mostly raw data for research purposes, as well as a few other things, but those are classified, hence, I can not disclose them to you.”

“Ok,” James said in a doubtful tone, “but can I at least know the name of this so-called ‘company’”

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“Sorry, sir James but that information is also classified as sensitive, hence, company policy doesn’t permit its disclosure.”

Silence.

“I could enlighten you further on our sustainability goals for the next two hundred lifetimes if you are interested,” the voice offered. 

“This is one very shady deal,” James commented, crossing his arms with a frown.

“So, do we have an agreement?” The voice asked, clearly unperturbed by James suspicion.

There was a pause. A beat of hesitation. Then…

“Fine,” James said with an uncaring shrug letting his arms fall back to his sides. 

‘Since I am already dead, what is the worst that could go wrong,’ he thought.

“Very well,” the voice said in an upbeat tone. 

“Nice doing business with you, Mr James. And good luck, you are going to need it down there.” 

“Wait, what is that supposed to mean?” James asked, taking a step back.

He got no reply

“Hey, answer me!”

Silence.

Suddenly, the miniature sun flared out. Golden tendrils stabbing towards the soul’s ethereal form.

Without pause or faltering, they latched onto the soul pulling him in. Growing, engulfing him, absorbing him into the light.

James struggled briefly before succumbing as his soul melted away.

The miniature sun fully absorbed him into itself before suddenly imploding, compressing into a white-hot sphere many times smaller than before as it fell into the shrinking void below it.

Moments later, stillness returned to that desolate path.

The void, the voidlings, the voice, the wandering soul and the glowing orb suspended in his path…

Had all ceased to exist.


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- my thoughts:
Author's Note: A portion of this chapter was adapted from Dissonance’s - Lost in Translation- Chapter one. Credits to the author. Also, If you are wondering what voidlings look like, just think of the gazer BTs in death stranding(with tentacle hair)
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