I remember feeling very calm.
I always thought that if I ever came face-to-face with the embodiment of annihilation (who doesn’t ponder these things?), I’d cower and plead and beg and all the other things you might do when presented with the prospect of your imminent demise.
But I didn’t do any of that. I merely sat and faced it, whatever it was, and waited. I could have moved; I could have run away, but it would have been pointless. This wasn’t a forest alloroc or an angry chimaera that I might have a chance of escaping. This was the all-consuming, boundless evil described in every single cataclysm mythology across the System. As I stared out at it, I realised I’d transcended fear — this was was worse than any war or any beast, worse even than The Chaos. What would be the point in being afraid of something like that?
I don’t know why or how, but I was filled with this confidence, this certainty, that whatever happened next, I’d survive it. I don’t know how, but it felt like this thing knew it too, as if it was staring back at me, understanding me, maybe even feeling afraid of me? It’s hard to describe what was really happening in that moment, that lifetime, but I didn’t feel like me, and at the same time I’ve never felt more myself than I did in that moment.
And then it was over. There was no grand flash of light, no raging storm or burning skies. It just stopped. Like melting glass, the moment passed. That spiritual, ineffable, eternal moment, passed. Wherever the thing, the entity (the friend?) was now, it wasn’t here, and it had taken with it all the pain and the suffering I’d been holding on to all this time. Part of me worried that it was this pain and suffering that had brought it here in the first place, as though the volume of my anguish had be so loud it had echoed out across dimensions to bring the entity here, but the rest of me found it hard to feel concerned whilst feeling so weightless. As selfish as that might sound, it’s the truth. And as I sat and I processed what this meant, I realised something profound…
I was free.
Free of the negative voices that had haunted me for as long as I’d been alive. They were uttered in another time, another life. They didn’t matter any more. In fact, they’d never mattered, not really, because they were always only ideas, ideas held by people who only knew me as a fleeting periphery that they passed by on their own uncertain roads. Their ideas were no more powerful or valid than any of the countless other ideas I’d either chosen to ignore or simply hadn’t understood. These voices that I’d internalised as absolute truths were just phantoms that faded in the light of this newfound understanding.
As I sat and I delved into even deeper introspection, I realised that everything was still there. Like books on a shelf, all the memories were still there, but they’d been placed in their proper places. My memories were still as I’d left them. What had really changed was me.
Resting against a nearby tree (all this revelation had suddenly made me feel very tired), I explored this powerful new insight. No one is qualified to judge me any more harshly or fairly than I judge myself, and in the end the only way these external judgements can even carry any weight in the first place is if I choose to let them. I was free to make up my own mind about the things I valued and whether I felt I was upholding those values. Without the fear of failure, I realised that even the negative had an element of beauty to it; that with light comes dark, and to truly understand my craft I had to embrace it in its rawest form, with honesty — which meant accepting the flaws, whatever they may be.
The appreciation that value comes from within opened up a flood gate of ideas. No matter what else, the consequences of what had happened here and what I might have to face, there was no denying I’d done what I set out to do. I’d found my clarity.
I sat by that tree and the melodies just came pouring out of me. It was as if they were writing themselves; not in notation or as score or indeed in any kind of discernible structure; they expressed themselves as ideas, as feeling, as journeys, weaving across the page so vividly I felt as if I could reach out and touch them. They twisted out in front of me in a million beautiful patterns, and it was like they were singing in familiar voices, the voices I’d been so desperate to hear all those nights in the Lodge struggling to capture the initial spark that had got me there in the first place.
There’s no describing the feeling of warmth that flooded my body at the moment, as finally, finally, I felt that I was whole again.
Now my only problem was, how was I going to find my way back home?
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