PANTHEON

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CHAPTER I

The End of the Universe

Lonti wakes up with the fuzzy feeling of a sleeping limb in her forehead. Still drunk. Thank god. At this point she kept drinking as a survival mechanism against the hangover sure to follow. As her consciousness returns, her hands move across the firm woven surface she’s laid out upon. The rug, which means she must have passed out on the floor. She reaches for what she thought was a blanket covering her, but instead finds herself with a fistful of towel. After a silent prayer, Lonti opens her eyes.

“Mother Fucker.” she speaks into the bright light pouring from her bathroom. She must have fallen asleep on her way to the shower. Which means she definitely threw up on something last night. She closes her eyes to the room around her, not quite willing to move yet, when a small voice in the back of her head pipes up. When was the last time you had a drink?

Too long ago to risk it.

Lonti moves her arms under her shoulders and pushes herself up into a kneeling position. She gets a hand onto a dresser and pulls herself into standing position. Her towel falls off, giving Lonti a face full of her own naked body in the mirror. Well fed, face flush from the drink, dark hazel brown hair messily falling over umber colored shoulders, and long past giving a damn about appearances. She grabs a pair of sweat pants and a heavy top. It’s always so damn cold these days. Once her feat are secure in their slippers, Lonti forces her room’s door open and heads out.

She nearly steps into a puddle of puke outside her door. “Ah. There you are.” Lonti mutters to herself. She steps around the mess and continues on. No point in cleaning it up now, and besides, she doesn’t have any neighbors in her hallway anymore. Every stain and piece of trash thrown around in the messy hallway, every door lit by the few light bulbs still flickering with life, belonged to people long gone.

Lonti heads down a set of stairs and several hallways until she finally arrives in the kitchen. She flicks some light switches and shields her eyes until the can adjust. The kitchen is easily the last place in all of Bastion that anyone still cares to maintain. Not enough to take care of the used dishes in the sink, but enough to ensure the overhead lights still work and the refrigerator doesn’t break down. Ironically enough, nobody wants to die by starvation. Lonti walks over to the refrigerator door and turns the heavy handle to open it up. Inside are several sets of racks for different items. Lonti makes a beeline for the beverages racks. She turns a wheel, causing racks to rise out of view and other from below to rise up. Finally some full bottles come into her view. Lonti grabs one.

“Champagne.” She reads off the bottle. She pushes the cork out, causing a pop and bubbly drink to explode out the front of the bottle. Lonti flinches at first, but quickly takes advantage of the pouring liquor, drinking like from a water fountain. Finally the champagne calms down and Lonti walks out of the fridge with it.

She stands alone in the kitchen and catches the clock ticking away.

08:30:29

So it’s that time, she thinks to herself. Lonti walks into the next room, a dining room where one wall is a single window looking outside. She walks right up to it and stairs into the void.

Void really is the only word for what is left out there. The last star in all of the universe burned out a long time ago. All that’s left now is the maelstrom of black holes and the entropy eating away at the last patch of matter in all existence, and the ship containing the last seven living beings the cosmos will ever know.

Lonti takes another deep swig of the champagne and looks at it. A drink for celebration. She can’t say she hasn’t earned it. The human race made it to the finish line. She takes a look at the clock in the room.

08:27:48

Not much time left. But enough time to do one thing.

Lonti opens the refrigerator once more and starts pulling out all of the breakfast foods she can find. Today she will feast on everything this lifeboat has to offer, and dammit it is going to be good.

∞ ∞ ∞

Dem has been awake for about an hour already. He had seen the clocks the night before and knew today was the day. All of the adults got real quiet around him every time he asked what they were counting down to, but that couldn’t deter his excitement. Still, he didn’t mind staying in bed a bit longer. That way he could listen to Bastion some more.

As far as space ships go, Bastion is the best that ever was. How could it be anything less when it’s the only one left. Everyone always talks about how quiet the void is, but Dem found that if you really listen, Bastion is always making one noise or another. First there’s the constant ticking of the clock, number flap replacing number flap as they approach zero, whatever that means. Then there’s the rumbling of the air ducts, always blowing warm air towards them to keep them alive. Sometimes he could even feel the gentle pulsing of that machine with the hard to say name that creates gravity. However, Dem’s favorite sound has to be the hissing of the boiler. One time he made it to Bastion’s boiler room and got to see where heat came from. It was the best day ever.

He catches a scent in the air. Bacon. Suddenly all Dem could concentrate on was breakfast. His mom and dad didn’t usually like him going out without them, especially since there aren’t any other kids for him to play with, but Dem figured if he just let them know where he would be they wouldn’t get worried.

Dem sits up in his bed and climbs down the ladder past the lower bunk. He couldn’t imagine a time when there were so many people that both beds could be filled, nor could he explain why he liked sleeping on the higher bunk, all he knew was that nobody else in the entire universe had a bed like his. Dem moves over to his parent’s bed and pokes his father’s shoulder. His skin is cold to the touch and this time he doesn’t recoil deeper into his covers like he usually does. Dem nudges him a few more times.

“Dad? Can I go get breakfast?” He whispers. His father still doesn’t respond, so he speaks again a bit louder. “Dad!”

“Dem?” Dem’s mother says from the other side of their bed. “What’s going on?”

“Sorry Mom.” Dem whispers again. “Can I go get some breakfast? Dad isn’t waking up.”

Dem’s mother grabs her husband’s shoulder and shakes it a bit. She notices an odd empty orange cylinder with a white cap and clutches it. Dem doesn’t understand why, but she follows this up by holding a finger to his neck, her ear by his mouth, and looking down his chest. Dem’s mother sighs and looks at Dem with tears in her eyes. She chokes on her words when she says, “Sure thing. Go get some breakfast.”

“Thanks Mom! See you later.” Dem says before going to the door. He catches a glimpse of his mother putting her head in her hands to weep before leaving.

Dem walks the familiar path to the kitchen. Every day he turns right from the house, walks past the first turn and makes a left at the second. After two more turns he takes a deep breath to pass the smelly room before heading down a set of stairs and into the kitchen. Only this time as Dem took his deep breath, he noticed someone else at the smelly room’s door.

∞ ∞ ∞

Cirom had woken up a couple minutes ago only to realize he was officially out of time and excuses. He went over his notes and practiced a few time in the mirror. He simply has to tell Quivica that he is in love with her before the universe ends. Otherwise, in his opinion, literally all of human existence was pointless. He reaches out to knock on her door-

“Hi.”

Cirom stops. He looks down to see a little roly poly shaped kid in pajamas. Dem. Poor ten year old. The only kid in the cosmos and he just wants to run around and play. Still, Cirom loves everything Dem represents. Two people who love each other bringing another person into the world. Cirom waves at him.

“Hey Dem. Good morning.”

“What are you doing at smelly girl’s room?” Dem asks.

“You think Quivica is smelly?” Cirom responds, having a hard time deciding if he should be upset at Dem’s rudeness or laugh at his honesty. Quivia’s room does have a certain scent. It’s the candles that she found years ago in storage. They smell of flowers and trees and breezes, or at least that’s what they claim. All of those things are ideas he can’t really process.

“She’s weird. She runs around all the time and doesn’t eat any of Lonti’s food. Plus she’s all… curvy.” Dem says, making an hourglass motion with his hands.

Cirom cracks up at this, kneeling down to Dem’s level. “You might not think that way when you’re older.”

“Dad said I’m never going to get older.” Dem states, matter of factually.

Cirom gulps. “Where were you headed?” He asks, desperate not to have an honest conversation with a child about the end of the universe.

“Breakfast! I could smell bacon.” Dem says.

“How about I walk with you?” Cirom offers.

Dem shakes his head and points at Quivica’s door. “Didn’t you want to speak with her?”

Cirom looks from Dem to the door and back again. He loves the kid, but he also knows he would ruin the mood in an instant. “It can wait.” He says, and walks away with Dem while looking over his shoulder at the door. It can wait, but not very long.

∞ ∞ ∞

Tick, tick, tick. The clock keeps counting down and down and down.

07:20:03

Bridge watches it go on in her hallway. With each tick she feels a fire burn brighter within her. Angry thoughts race through her head. How dare the universe end in her lifetime. Who decided there should be countdown clocks all over the Bastion. Who the hell built this ship, and why couldn’t they leave well enough alone and let humanity die before the end!

She grabs the flipping numbers in the clock and rips them out with a satisfying snap. The clock tries to continue, but the system is too damaged to continue. Bridge cannot deny a catharsis that comes from breaking something. She had spent too many years fixing what was broken around here. It’s about time she broke something down.

Bridge clips her strawberry blond hair back, rolls up her sleeves past her wiry muscular forearms, and tightens up the laces on her work boots. She opens up her closet door, casting cold fluorescent light onto the piles of unorganized tools she keeps. She moves aside some clothes so she can get to the handle of the sledge hammer she found long ago. Gripping the hammer in her left hand, she bends down for a pair of safety goggles off the floor.

Bridge puts on her safety goggles and walks over to her mirror. She tilts her head at her reflection. Tight eyes, not as wide as the others, harder edges than the ones who didn’t get involved in manual labor, but she always liked her smile. So she smiles at herself as she swings the sledge hammer into the mirror and shatters it. She smiles as she breaks her sink and toilet apart. She laughs as she cracks apart her bed frame until her mattress drops to the floor. Bridge is positively giddy as she destroys every solid object in her room. But once it’s over, that anger starts coming through again. Which means there must only be one option. Just keep breaking stuff for the rest of the day.

∞ ∞ ∞

Few things make Lonti prouder than a good spread of food, and she has absolutely outdone herself this time. She takes a final swig of a bottle of chardonnay and places it next to her finished champagne bottle. If it is her last day, it will be a good one. She sits next to Dem, always the first to come for breakfast and her biggest fan, while Cirom struggles to choose exactly what he wants. The skinny hook-nosed fool doesn’t know that’s not how it works. You eat everything. It’s not going to matter tomorrow.

Heavy footsteps come from Bridge’s side of Bastion, and she enters covered in debris dust. She looks around for something and grins maliciously at the used dishes taking up space in the sink. Cirom steps out of her way so she can pick up a plate, and throw it onto the floor. She picks up a second and smashes it. She grabs a third.

“Hey Bridge.” Lonti speaks up.”What’cha doing?”

Bridge flashes Lonti that ugly smile. “I’m breaking everything I can.” She tosses the plate and grabs the champagne bottle. She lines up to hit it in midair with her sledgehammer.

“You want to do that away from Dem?” Cirom asks pointedly. Bridge acquiesces and takes a couple steps away from them to continue her meandering rampage.

“Oh no.” Dem complains. He sticks his nose into his pajama collar. Cirom’s nostrils flair as well. If he remembers correctly, this scent is called “lily”. He turns to see Quivica enter the room. Objectively the most beautiful woman in the universe, she keeps her wavy hair groomed and her Black skin clean in a way unlike anyone else he had ever known.

“What is going on out here Lonti?” She asks. “What will you eat tomorrow?”

Lonti simply laughs, takes a swig of a new bottle of wine, and points to the clock. Bridge punctuates this moment by missing her swing and letting the champagne bottle hit the ground, unbroken.

06:59:56

Bridge swings her sledgehammer down onto the champagne bottle, shattering it and denting the floor.

“Oh.” Quivica simply states. Cirom can see thoughts racing through her mind in the movement of her caramel colored eyes.

“Thass right!” Lonti yells her words really starting to slur together. “So imm cookall defood!”

Bridge slams the sledge hammer into the floor a few more times, very excited to be breaking through the floor. “I’ve got my thing for the day!” She yells back enthusiastically.

“Wait.” Dem interjects. “We can do whatever we want today?” He says with a bright smile. None of them can bear to bring him down.

“Absolutely bud.” Cirom tells him.

“Then I want to go down to the mechanical levels!” Dem yells. “I want to see the boiler and the cogs and the graveetommy.”

“Gravitomatic.” Cirom corrects him before asking, “where are your parents? They shouldn’t let you go down there alone.”

“Yolas decided he’d like to stay in bed today.” A voice speaks from the hallway. Forse, Dem’s mother with pained red and swollen eyes, drags herself into the room. She looks like she cannot hold herself steady, and readily accepts Lonti’s offering of wine.

“What do you mean, stay in bed?” Cirom asks.

“You know what I mean.” Forse snaps at him. She passes the wine back to Lonti and walks over to Dem. “Dem. I am going to spend the rest of the day with you. And we can do whatever you want.”

“Really?!”

“Really.” She manages to give him a smile. He whoops and jumps off his seat before running out of the room. She mutters one final statement, as if speaking to her husband, before following her son out. “You had to take the coward’s way out you asshole.”

Bridge soon leaves as well, only in a different direction. “Lonti, I’m busting up your hallway.” She says as she leaves the room with only Lonti, Cirom, and Quivica. Lonti gets up again and walks over to the fridge. Time to start lunch.

Cirom and Quivica. Alone together. He gulps. Just say it.

“Hey Cirom.” Quivica speaks up before he can.

“Um. Yeah?”

“Do you have any plans for the day?” She asks, refusing to look him in the eyes.

“Well… there was one thing I wan–“

“Do you want to have sex?” She blurts out, taking Cirom completely by surprise. He notices Lonti poke her head out from the fridge, eyes wide, and motions for her to go back inside as Quivica speaks up again. “It’s just. There isn’t a lot of time left for anything… And I would really like to… well… fuck.”

Cirom gently touches her chin. She flinches. He tries again, and this time she goes with it. He turns her head so they can stare into each others eyes. “Absolutely.” He says.

∞ ∞ ∞

Unlike her son, Forse was not a fan of the Bastion’s inner workings. When they get down to mechanical, it is simply too loud to concentrate and all the machinery is so dangerous. However, when you are a parent you learn that it is rarely about your own feelings. So, when Dem asks to see the boiler, she takes him to see the boiler.

“See Mom!” He yells, not mature enough to think without letting his thoughts spill from his mouth.” This device swings and creates a spark! That spark turns into a fire when it reaches the gas! The fire boils water inside this big metal thingy! Don’t touch it or you’ll burn yourself like I did that one time. That boiling water is used to give us all hot showers and baths!”

Dem looks back at his mother. She forces herself to smile, but he’s starting to see through these things. “You don’t care.” He says, sullenly. “Dad always cares.”

“Your father isn’t here.” Forse snaps. Her sudden aggression shocks Dem, not used to untempered emotion from a parent. He looks down, blinking often to keep tears from his eyes. Forse immediately regrets her outburst and attempts to calm him down. “Hey. Hey. I’m sorry Dem.” She says, first looking at him. He has his father’s round face, her sharp nose, and the brown skin they both passed along. He is beautiful, and she embraces him. On instinct, he enters her embrace and allows her to hold him tight. Hot tears begin running down Forse’s own cheeks as she mutters to herself, “I am so so sorry.

∞ ∞ ∞

We’re really getting into the dregs now, Bridge thinks to herself as she enters yet another corridor without working lights. She clicks on her flashlight and looks down the hallway. She spies only two things of note in this hallway. A large set of doors at the far end, and the clock.

04:10:46

Always the damn clock. She could explore the Bastion for months and not find a single place where there isn’t a clock mercilessly counting down. Bridge hefts her sledgehammer once more. Her muscles slick with sweat, groaning at the repeated motion, she swings once more and smashes in this particular clock.

Except this swing isn’t like the others, this one comes with an odd pop in Bridge’s back. Excruciating pain emanates from the small of her back. She drops her sledgehammer and grasps for a source of her pain, but it isn’t on her back. It’s in it. Bridge explores her swear word vocabulary. Once she calms down, she decides to find a place to sit and walks toward the double doors.

There’s a word above the doors. Chapel. It’s not a word Bridge is familiar with.

She steps through the doors and into the largest single room she has ever seen on the Bastion. A row of pews stands on either side of a pathway up to a slightly elevated stage at the end. Tapestries hang from the ceiling in calming golds and whites. A podium stands off center on the stage. Bridge moves halfway through the room and sits in a pew. She sits in silence for a few moments before realizing, there’s no clock in this room. She leans back in the pew and lets this peace wash over her.

∞ ∞ ∞

Quivica just wanted to feel something.

All her life has been soft. Plush rug floor, warm bathes, comfortable sheets. She craved hard edges. A real world. She pushed back against the soft world of Bastion by denying its pleasures. While Lonti, Cirom, Yolas, Forse, and Dem had become fat on the food that Bastion provided, Quivica found the green house and grew her own vegetables. She found scented candles to create the smells of a harsher nature she had never known. She worked her body to become something more capable.

But today is the end of the universe. There is little point to fighting back now. Quivica just wants to feel something, and so she allows Cirom inside of her. She knew he liked her. He isn’t exactly subtle. Of course, he is also the only eligible man in the universe.

He thrusts rhythmically, looking straight down into her eyes. Quivica quickly becomes uncomfortable like that and turns her head away from him. He bends down and kisses her neck. She just stares right at her clock.

02:15:20

“Hey.” He says to her, touching her chin again and moving her to look him in the eye. He opens his mouth, and she knows what he’s about to say. She’s not having it. She kisses him, forcing any passion she can muster.

“Bend me over.” She commands him. “Take me from behind.”

Cirom nods vigorously, forgetting the admission he was about to make. As he begins, Quivica revels in the feeling. If only she cared as much for the partner.

∞ ∞ ∞

Lonti throws up, right into the oven.

“Shit!” She yells, before retching and allowing even more out of her system.”Shit! Shit! Shit!” She falls back on her ass and allows some spit to dribble onto her clothes. Her stomach is officially closed for business.

She stays there for a few minutes. Eventually her stomach calms down and she stands herself back up. She hasn’t been paying attention to the clock for a while, but she notices something different about it through her peripheries and gives it a cursory glance.

00:41:10

The first two panels were done, joining the many zeroes preceding them that once contained so much time. It’s really happening now. In forty minutes, what’s left of the universe will be ripped apart by multiple singularities. Only the void will exist after that.

“You look like shit.” Bridge says, entering the room with a limp and a hand up against her back.

“So do you.” Lonti says. What happened to you?

“I hurt my back.” Bridge says, short with Lonti as she tears into a slab of meat teeth first.

They stay like this for a while. Comfortable with each others silence. Lonti thinks for a moment that she hopes the others do not return. That she would be fine going out like this.

“We’re back from our adventure!” Dem yells, running in with Forse following him in at a walk. Damn it, Lonti thinks.

“What’s that smell?” Forse asks.

“Baking vomit.” Lonti coolly responds. She can feel herself coming back down, but luckily she won’t have to live with the consequences.

“Ew!” Dem laughs. Forse takes his hand and walks him to the dining room, shooting Lonti a disapproving look. “Oh! Mom! The timer is almost up! We should get dad!” He yells in excitement.

Forse looks at her son. Should he let him die at peace with a lie, or distraught over the truth?

“He’ll be down.” She tells Dem, choosing the kinder evil. “He wouldn’t want to miss this.”

Lonti sniffs the air. The uncanny smell of sweat rushes into the room before Cirom and Quivica enter the room, barely dressed and glistening. Quivica is silent as she sits next to Bridge and digs in to some food.

Cirom looks at Lonti with a big goofy grin on his face. “This is just the best!” He tells her.

“You know the universe is ending in two minutes, right?” Lonti says, pointing at the clock.

00:01:00

“Sorry. One minute.” She corrects herself.

Cirom immediately sobers. He watches Quivica get up and run over to the dining room. Lonti and Bridge soon follow. None of them would have thought so that morning, but they all want to watch.

He moves over to Quivica in a daze and turns her to look at him. Now or never. Literally.

“Quivica? I love you.”

Quivica looks up at him. End of the universe. What the hell. Kiss the boy.

00:00:00

creation

CHAPTER II

A Creation Myth

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Shit. I can’t see a thing.”

“Gah!”

“I’m not the only one!”

“You’re not supposed to swear.”

“Shut the fuck up Dem.”

“Bridge!”

“Wait, are we all alive? Does anybody have a light?”

“Oh! I do!”

A single beam of light bursts forth from a flashlight in Bridge’s hand. A beacon amid sprawling and endless nothing. She points it up and around, temporarily blinding Lonti, Quivica, Cirom, Dem, and Forse as she scans them. They are alone, yet somehow alive, in the void.

Dem looks up at all of the adults. He’s perceptive enough to notice they’re all scared. He looks down at his feet. He isn’t standing on anything, he’s just suspended in midair.

“Was this what was supposed to happen at zero?” He asks. The others look his way, and then turn their eyes toward Forse in judgement. Bridge points her flashlight directly at Forse’s face, causing her to squint and look away.

“Mom?”

“Stop shining that light at me!” Forse yells at Bridge. Bridge turns the light away, but Forse still refuses to make eye contact with her son. “No. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.” She admits.

“What was supposed to happen?” Dem asks. “Nobody ever told me.”

“Because we wanted to protect you. Keep you… innocent.” Forse attempts to explain.

“What does that mean!?” Dem yells.

“It was the end of the universe!” Forse yells back. “Okay!? We were all going to die. Everything was going to die and nothing would ever live again forever and ever!”

“… Why was the universe dying?” Dem asks quietly, trying to wrap his head around it all. How could something like the universe just stop?

Forse looks around to the others for help. Anybody who knew the answer to this question was long dead, and they never cared themselves to find out. For as long as they could remember, the countdown was already taking place.

“You know the Bastion?” Bridge jumps in. She points the flashlight at her own face and nearly blinds herself. “Ah! Wow!”

“Of course.”

Bridge points her flashlight away and continues while rubbing her eyes. “It’s like when a machine in the Bastion breaks, but we don’t have a replacement part for it. It just kind of broke down, and nothing could fix it.”

“And once the universe died, then nothing else could live.” Quivica states, just to make things clear.

“Except for, apparently, us.” Cirom says. He’s thinking out loud more than anything. Somehow, they are all still here. Except here is nowhere. “Everyone who was alive at the end is still… here.”

“No we aren’t.” Dem points out. “Dad isn’t here.”

“Seriously Forse?” Lonti accuses. “Does he know anything?”

“Shut up Lonti!” Forse responds. “You could never understand!”

“Clearly.”

“Mom. What is she talking about?” Dem asks softly, scared he already knows the answer.

“Yolas is dead.” She says, not consolingly but instead with all of her anger. “Last night he took enough pills to stop his heart.” She starts to speak over Dem’s mounting cries. “He didn’t want to live to see the end of everything.”

“No!”

“Yes Dem!”

“No you’re lying again!”

“This is the truth! Your father is dead. The universe is dead.” Forse states, putting the final nail in the metaphorical coffin.

Dem has to close his eyes, it hurts to much to keep them open with the tears streaming out. He closes his fists and tightens up. He feels too vulnerable with them open. He yells as loud as he can, keeping any more words from his mother or anyone else at bay. They were meant to die, but they are here, but here is nowhere so what was the point.

As Dem’s anger grows, the void comes alive. Dem wishes to send the others away, and a wave of chaotic force bursts from him to do just that. It cuts them. Rips their clothes. Breaks Bridge’s flashlight. Everything plunges into darkness once more.

A strange sensation builds in Dem’s core. Like he’s a pot, about to boil over. He doesn’t fight it. Instead he screams into the void, a beacon of golden light shining from his chest and out of his mouth and eyes. The maelstrom’s arcs and flurries glow as gold too, hitting Lonti and Bridge, hurting his mother, heading towards Quivica.

Cirom follows the shockwave with his eyes. It’s going to hit Quivica. It’s going to hurt her, and he will stand for no more of that. He must get to her in time.

Putting all of his focus into arriving in front of Quivica in time, Cirom’s body arcs and throws itself toward her. There’s no other way to put it. He’s flying.

His body inelegantly jolts to a stop before her. Their eyes meet. She wonders, will this boy sacrifice himself for her? He decides, no power in existence will tear them apart.

Cirom turns to the oncoming golden light, and a fire lights in his soul. He yells, forcing that fire to grow, and swings a fist into the oncoming storm. All of his strength travels down his bone and into his bare knuckles, slamming into Dem’s own golden energy. A flash of white light from Cirom’s fist shatters the golden shockwave before Quivica and him. Cirom can stop him.

“No more!” Cirom cries out, his own chest glowing white, his eyes and mouth becoming emitters of brilliant white light. He knows what he’s doing now, and throws his whole body at Dem. The child clearly isn’t in control. He’s still screaming, each wave of force bursting forth when he exhales to scream once more. But Dem is taking a deep breath, and when he yells next, the shockwave will be deadly. Unless he can stop it.

Cirom thinks on the power he’s found. It emerged so he could protect the woman he loves. Now he needs it to save himself and her, as well as Forse, Lonti, and Bridge. He needs more power and dammit, he will have it. If all of this is coming from an engine within him, Cirom just pulled the cord on it. He becomes a meteor of white light, reaching his apex above the crying youth who could end them all.

Right hand raised into the air, Cirom dredges every last ounce of his power to the surface. The women all cover their eyes from the blinding light. Brighter than any they had known on the Bastion. Cirom clenches his hand into a fist. Dem yells out once more. Here comes the storm. Cirom brings his fist down like a hammer. Golden and white energies make contact. Two unstoppable forces collide, and they create a big bang.

The golden and white lights crack and shatter, sending flecks of both out into the void. As they travel into the distance, they start spinning, becoming small swirls of light, growing as they go in an attempt to mimic what Cirom and Dem have created in the center.

Dem has fallen below, knocked unconscious from the conflict, but Cirom floats above, light gone, sweating and breathing heavily. Between them, a swirling mass of golden and white lights spins. A dark center with pure energy moving around it. Something new. Growing with each passing moment.

“Dem!” Forse yells, flying under the light to retrieve her son before it over takes him. Lonti, Bridge, and Quivica all regroup with Cirom as well.

“What did you do?” Quivica asks Cirom. He shrugs, no idea how he did any of it. He only knows the why.

“You were in danger.” He simply says.

“So…” Bridge states, watching Forse return to them with Dem in her arms. “We can all fly now. And apparently make light… whirly… things.”

“You don’t know what that is?” Forse asks, looking down at the light, her feet now dipping into it as it grows. “They’re all over the children’s books I read to Dem.”

“What is it?” Cirom asks.

“It’s a Galaxy.” She says. “Comprised of suns and planets and everything else.”

Lonti looks around at the other flecks thrown into the distance, growing and becoming galaxies in their own rights. “They’re all galaxies.” She points out.

“In all the old stories, the universe was filled with galaxies. Constantly growing and expanding.” Forse continues.

“Which means…” Quivica concludes, “Cirom. You’ve just created a universe.”

“How is any of that possible?” Bridge cuts in, more in wonder as she watches an orb of light among many move around them. The galaxy is still growing.

“I think I get it.” Cirom says. “What if the universe wasn’t dying? What if it was just restarting? What if, because we made it to the end, our prize is that we get to shape the next universe? As gods!”

“Gods!” Lonti scoffs. “Like with the primitives!?”

“Like with our people.” Bridge says to Lonti. “I found a chapel in the Bastion. People believed in a higher power even up until our time.”

Lonti cocks an eyebrow at Bridge. “If I’m a God, then I can simply wave my hand a make a bottle of wine.” She makes the motion mockingly, and yet a full bottle of wine appears in her hand in a pop of violet light. She lowers her eyebrow and looks from the bottle to Bridge. “Okay I believe you.”

Lonti takes a swig of her wine. Quivica draws a circle in midair, creating a small sphere of land with her red energy and sending it off in the universe. She starts pointing around and making more, laughing as she does. Forse rests a hand on Dem, and a soft wave of silver light pours from her hand over him, waking him up. Bridge tries to get in on the fun, reaching out for a star, and waves her hand at it. A jolt of black light leaps from her fingers to it, and it splits into two. Bridge looks at her hand, disappointed.

Their universe continues to grow around them, stars and planets becoming giant while the six gods remain human sized. Lonti takes another swig of her wine and asks the only question left in existence.

“So what now?”

 

 

 

 

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