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Four Directions and a Finite Sky

Odd little original fic, inspired by absolutely nothing more than the gorgeous weather today; for all that it's winter I managed to briefly be convinced it was a summer's day, the sun casting everything in that ripe, glorious light that cleans away all the complexity from the world and makes everything real again, pure and absolute and binary-real. Light is Good, Trees are Green, and somewhere out there there's your perfect Foe who's destined to fall to your sword; but until that darkest hour you're free to explore, in a world where the hard, solid sunlight glinting off sharp corners makes the world look almost... pixellated.


Four Directions and a Finite Sky
Original fiction by Corin Arkadios


Directions meant something, back then.

In this world we speak of lefts and rights, but these lefts and rights are a fudging. You never travel quite along the same plane twice, a millimetre out or maybe a mile, and even then your "left" and "right" have only a meaning to you; swivel around, and your right is your left and your left is your right, and sometimes your right is your south, and your right is never anybody else's right but your own. And even if directions were to become absolute, overnight as it were, in a twinkling, in a rain of superordinary sense upon these chaos lands, the state of Chaos itself remains; the world whirls and switches around you, billions upon billions of air molecules drifting, alone ensuring without the change of the seasons and the orbit of the earth and the thousand thousand other shifts that occur every single second in every single square of space that you can never stand, not exactly, in any space that you had previously occupied. You blink your eyes, and when they open again, the world around has Changed.

I was not used to Change, not on this scale. Even now as I think on it, my mind swims with the innumerable possibilities of a chaos system; but for one misstep here, for one slight shift there, a billion invisible orbs would have bounced and diverged along different paths, and in their wake ten billion more, and so on and so on throughout the world, and this is so for every movement, every day, made by every single creature on this globe. Surely, the only way the mind can sustain such knowledge is to ignore it; and thus I do as I am sure my fellows must, and, for most of my time, simply forget. It makes it bearable to place one foot in front of the other without trying to trace the unfinite repercussions of each singular action of the day.

You might not believe it, but I tell you a story anyway. In my world, where I am from, everything is Ordered.

Cannot imagine it? An ordered world? "A place for everything, and everything in its place", your great thinkers might say, but again, your places are all relatives, all vagueries. Your A is not A, it's Ax0.999987892 divided by one-half of x, where x is the randomly-generated variable of this planet's deity's choice. You have no absolutes.

When we say A, we mean A - and I say it in the present tense, though I cannot know of the state of my world, for I also cannot bear to imagine it lost. There is Thing 1, which occupies Place A, and will always and forever occupy Place A and no other place unless something should happen to move it (or it should be one of those things which can move on its own accord), at which point it will occupy the next logical place beside it, and quite possibly something else will occupy Place A, and only place A. There is no occupying only part of Place A, and perhaps 0.07% of Place B, or even fifty percent of Place A and fifty of Place B. The Places, like the Things, are indivisible. A is A, in all meaningful sense of those words.

Compared to yours, the world around was static -- oh, blissfully so, for one could awake one morning and see the exact same sky one had seen the day prior, never changing, always familiar, comforting and Real. And this is the key, for how can one be sure what is really Real when it is never the same from one moment to the next? No, we looked upon our sky, our neverchanging Sky, and knew that always it would be like this, and that this was the mark of Reality. It was the same with our Hills and our Trees, our Sun -- which was bright when it was Day, painting the sky with a heartening shade of Blue, and gone when it was Night, replaced by the Moon which coloured the Sky to a Bluish-Black -- and our Stars, which glittered occasionally, in predictable, rhythmic patterns. So soothing to watch, were the Stars, the way they sparkled in a sequence perfect as Song, and with the Ones we Loved we would sit outside, sometimes, and watch their calming twinkle. Such things brought us peace, to look upon the Stars, and the face of our Love, and know that we were inseparable, unchangeable, we and the Stars and the Sky.

Perhaps, I ponder, you remember our world, in some hazy collective memory. Perhaps, even, it is the world from which more than I alone originate. That would explain the presence, in your language, of words like inseparable, unchangeable, which mean only poor shadows of what they claim to say.

If my world was so perfect, you ask, then why did I leave? Truth be told, I was called here; by what Force I know not longer, though at the time I was sure I knew, for the One was only ever summoned by One Force, that being the Force of Good.

I was called to the Forest, that snow-blanketed Forest that was, you would say on your changing world, besieged by a permanent Winter. It was only permanent insomuch as everything was permanent, because things -- not the big things, not the meaningful things, and not a billion little small things either -- never changed. I searched for some screens or so for the Wolf, because he might have been in one of five places, and before long I happened across him, the Wolf, my Wolf. There was only one Wolf, a truth as evident as the fact that there was only one Me; this world was one of Ones, and me the One of Ones, and even though I know now from my travels that I was only one of Many, as I had seen it I had been the only One of ages. I climbed astride the back of the Wolf, me with my bright skin and my round eyes and the toes that let me walk Up as well as Left and Right, and he with the coat whose black surface almost looked multilayered, an impossibility that fringed at my mind. He started at once, for he had no reason to wait, and I readied myself for the Adventure I had always known would take place.

The Wolf travelled onward through the Dark Lands, further into them than I have ever been, or that any of my countrymen has ever dared to go. I felt anticipation, and a little fear, for this was the home of the Evil ones, intent on negating the whole of our existence. Where we put Things in Places, they made the Things not exist, and left the Places lonely, barren and longing for their natural use. A Place without a Thing, you see, is very little at all; it cannot be seen, nor felt, nor heard. With all that it is, every Place longs for a Thing, and if not that then the next best thing, to be a Place which defines other Places by its emptiness. But a world full of empty Places? I shudder, for that is not a World; it is an abomination, foremost even above the shifting chaos times that I did not yet know lay ahead. We pressed onwards, knowing the urgency of our Quest, as the Sun disappeared and cast all around into a uniform Twilight. In the Dark Lands, I learnt, Night did not fall; the world instead hovered on the brink of Night and Day.

It was an uneasy limbo that foreshadowed everything that was to come.

The Wolf ran on and on, and I, with my eyes bright and all of my skills foremost in my mind, fell to the Singularity. In the Singularity, which is a natural state, and is required for unfaltering combat, thoughts of a trivial nature do not occur. There is only Action, and Thought to drive Action, the purest usage of thought; it is a refinement, a distillation of the contents of the mind down to those essential. It was pleasant to me, inasmuch as my mind could experience such then, and I did not fear. One under the Singularity never feared.

But my trance was soon snapped as our steps neared the Edge, the fated Edge, the Edge of Everything. "Wolf, what do you do?!", I cried, for the Edge was all that Ended; it kept Finity and Unfinity apart. Struck down we could be, by swords and by spells, but always we returned to our rightful Place, to begin our Quests again. It was an inconvenience, but it was never the End. The Edge was the End, and the Wolf's paws pounded onwards, a steady ta-tump, ta-tump against the sharp angles of the ground. "You'll kill us both!", I heard me say, before Reality began to fade; in that way that Reality does when one sleeps, an even plunge into blackness, yet this was not the security of sleep, but something wild and untamed.

Until I arrived here, I had not yet known the meaning of those words.

When the world returned, it was not the World I'd known, and I glanced around, aghast. I plunged my hand into the fur of the Wolf, and for the first time the word plunge had a new meaning, different from move not just in speed, but in intensity. I felt warmth there, and softness, and both of these things were comparable, in that they were relative to other things. My world contained shades of meaning, complexities incomprehensible; and there I fainted dead away, felled by the trauma of it all.

I woke again to a smiling face; a pretty face, for sure, though upon seeing it my first words bade her bring a mirror, for her face was far more than a Face should ever be, and I wished to see the changes in my own. I was at once both shocked and eased, for while my Face possessed definition barely beyond my understanding, if I held the mirror close I could perceive the Place at which each feature stood, and this was balm to my confusion. For one horrifying moment I had thought myself lost, a victim of the Abyss, that cruel no-dimension of chaos and change that swallows those of us who -- through the Corruption that occasionally taints our world, and which all must fear -- throws us from our Place and into that Unknown. I have occasionally glimpsed the Abyss from outside, when it has passed close by my Place, a nearby Thing its unfortunate target; it is None of Us yet it is All of Us, a duality uncontemplatable, and within its depths one glimpses fragments of one's inner soul, unattached to one another, free-floating and surreal. But no, I cease to think on it; for this new world, though more complex than I could hope, was understandable, and thus an Ordered place.

I rose from my bed at once, eyes scanning the room for my Wolf; they stung somewhat from the influx of colour and shade, but even through my spotted vision I saw no Wolf, and I enquired of the Face's bearer his location. She told me, Outside, and thus I made to take my leave, giving her my thanks, for my Quest was still at hand. But then she looked upon me sadly, and as the One I saw her need; this world was certainly in peril, and she had thought me a Hero, sent by Good to save her world from trouble. I replied, were not my own Quest and hers but one and the same; for Good had brought me here, an incomparable passage through Lands unknown, and surely if a Quest lay here, then it could only be the one to which I had been called? She brightened at my words, and, gifting me with tokens of her favour that I might survive the Quest, she bade me on my way.

Thus began my journey through this complex Land, a world which at first unnerved me, for nothing was predictable; yet over time I learnt to see the Patterns, detailed though they were, and armed with this new knowledge I surely would prevail. It was an Adventure of epic scope, far beyond all my imaginings; and when it was done, to the Maiden's Place I would return, a Hero's welcome certain in my thoughts.

Yet it was not to be. For so inopportune, the Corruption even to this world had spread, and picked its cruel moment well. At the final hour the world around me twitched and froze, my foes and I alike caught motionless in mid-attack, our single screen awash with dizzying stripes; we could not budge, but only sense in horror as the Force which buoyed us all, Good and Evil alike -- the Force of Life -- was stripped from us, clean and empty like a rug pulled from beneath that revealed a yawning chasm. I felt my Essence fade, sure then that I had Ended, my life forfeit.

But tenacious I, I had survived, and upon my rousing came to stare at that before me which had ended my very life, or at least I had thought it so. A Power Switch, no less, far grander in scope than those of my world, for this Switch bore the power to destroy whole worlds; yet it had been pushed without a casual thought, and I believed the people of this world harsh Monsters, incapable of empathy for the denizens of the worlds with which they toyed.

Later I was to learn that many here do not know of the worlds that the Switch gives life, their actions ignorant of the lives and hearts that bustle beyond those simple screens. Simple, I say, but once it was my Existence; once I too knew only Simplicity, four directions and a finite sky, and I was happier for it. Yet if I must live in this world of complexity and Chaos, then so I must; I am a One, if no longer the One, and in no things can I falter.

I face this world, its ever-changing skies, and for those moments when those skies reflect the shimmering Blue of my own dear Sky, I smile. It is never really the same sky twice; but equally, even in this Changing World, we can always look to constants. They may be more difficult to find than in worlds structured by Places, but in the lottery of numbers, in the swirl of molecules dispersed by the flap of a butterfly's wings, they are there.


If I didn't know better, I'd say I'd become a changing beast; even the barest glimpse of the moon sends my heart into gladdened frenzy these days, with my inability to shake the feeling that it's a populous Other World. Every time I see it, I feel like I'm standing on the crust of an alien planet, wowed by the unfamiliar skyscape; looking back, perhaps, at where my Home might be, seeming so cold and unreal from this distant vantage point. After a while, I lower my gaze, and move on; there's another world before me now, one I can immediately explore, yet I can't help casting one final glance back at the moon, "knowing" we'll be united again someday.

...wow, and that wasn't even part of the story. XP

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