'Who are you?' It is the voice of the defeated, the sloven, and the wretched. It is the voice of the the war weary and defeated. Now all that is left is a small trembling voice - this voice - of fear and terror; the very last spoken words in existence.
And then, after these final words comes the reply. A reply that transcended words, transcended meaning, for in it's iteration it was and became the very act itself.
I AM THE END OF THE WORLD
As the goat flees the lion she runs - she is celerity itself - pressed from behind as existence closes itself behind her. On all sides the world begins to flake away at the edges, collapsing in upon itself and folding back into raw geysers of primordial nothing that erupt forth from the dying corpse of existence. And somewhere in the background, from nowhere and everywhere there is howling, howling like no sound ever uttered or heard by man or beast before, howling the likes of which might herald the end of all things.
She runs. The tiny, faded voices of everyone and everything that ever was and ever lived urging her forward, their hands on her back, their voices in her ears, whispering: faster, faster go faster! What is Real falls away around her, tumbling up and down as gravity flies apart at the seams of what tether holds it Being. Through it all her feet carry her along that shaky precipice, narrowing by the second, running down the last, rapidly fading vestiges of that which Is.
Sight and sound fall away, dead and gone, surrounded now on all sides by inky blackness she falls at last. Unsure of when, or how, her end - The End - will come. To think it all come to this - all the pasts, all the presents, the sum totality of existence boiled down and concentrated now in this one moment, the barrier between worlds bridged only to share the same cataclysmic end.
If it were any longer possible to scream, she would - she can feel the exertion but that part of her is dead now - she can feel it... the end claiming her too, its final prize. She can feel it tugging at her; her voice, her sight, her memories being drawn taut like strings, tensing and finally just... letting go. Peeling away and gone into the ether. It doesn't hurt, but the world fades, things fade, and thoughts become fluid in her mind, no longer connected as they once were as the strings of her being unravel to join her comrades and memories in mutual extinction.
Under her fingers she can feel Reality coming apart, in her finger-tips - as though she still had such things. The whole of it begins to give way beneath her and she begins to sink. So this is what it is like to feel the universe ending against your fingertips; like shifting sand and threads. She sinks deeper into the decaying mass of the cosmos. What little faculties, what little energy she has left strain against the windless, airless vacuum just to keep her alive. And somehow, she also feels a slight sensation - like that gentle tugging on her soul for a moment began to ebb.
A little at first and then more - she sinks herself deeper through reality, pulling herself into it even as it dissolves away around her. A little at first - enough to feel another gentle lessening in her dissolution - and then more frantically digging her way down, deeper down, where she cannot say only that it is away. She buries herself pulling her way through, tearing string-like threads to tatters, and she can feel pieces of herself being torn away as she plunges now... no longer digging but swimming through ... unknown. There are no words, but she feels them... each torn member each torn thread claiming something of herself - their blood sacrifice to her escape, plunging now, down, down deeper into...
It takes her a moment to restore her old senses... the exertion pulls at her but slowly the scene comes into focus and yes, butterflies; butterflies as far as the eye can see, butterflies in their countless thousands, countless millions thick as smoke, blotting out even the midday summer's sun. Hills and the valleys spread from horizon to horizon, covered in blooming wildflowers cast in hues of red, and orange, and violet and a thousand shades in between. A whole world of hills and butterflies and flowers and bright blue sky enfolding a brilliant sun above.
This is somewhere, and some place - she cannot say where or when, or even if this place ever was; if it was a dream, or a memory. She can no longer say with any certainty. She stands.
How long? How long has it been since she stood on a world - a proper world - looking into the sky and at fields full of flowers and butterflies? How many eons since these things had been erased? Oh! How much had been lost before they had even dreamt of war, or an end. Who could dream of such things under and endless sky in summer when butterflies are in the air?
So long ago. They were all different people back then, different Beings even; how odd to stand upon earth again, after so long spent walking among stars and the expanse between worlds and now - as it seemed - back through the barrier of time itself. Somehow still alive - she had lived. It was the heroes - the brave - who had fallen first; their voices like the exaltant angels of heaven, of force like thunder, swept away as so much dust upon the wind. The shards of their shattered bodies and minds were now strewn across a hundred thousand years of time and a hundred million worlds; extinguished - as it were - forevermore. And now it was she that was standing on the hills of summer in some other world in some other time.
A thousand years and there would not be enough tears to express the sorrow and contemplate the lives and worlds extinguished. he wind begins to die, and the sky darkens as though the sun passed behind a cloud. She looks up, her head cocked against the wind like a dear sensing danger.
All around the butterflies are falling, like rain, dead. Their bodies, blackened, begin to cover the ground and she brushes away with the frantic motion of panic as they fall upon her in droves. How strange that after so long her physical form would still retain the same simple motions, the same instinctive fears. She dismisses is, fading back into Greater Reality though the experience weakens her more than it used to - more perhaps than it should have.
It has followed her, she knows, through whatever link now existed between where she was and where she now found herself. All worlds in this time too were now doomed then - and by her hand no less. She considers her options. From here it will claim all Reality up to where it was before. Not slacked with the present that was it now sought to claim the past that is; even experiences already lived are not proof against this oblivion it seemed.
She can try fighting - dissociate this world and collapse it's star; perhaps if no one is looking she might extinguish this whole galaxy and hurl the resultant energy into the darkness. They had tried that all before of course but here - now - there was so much more energy available... she could feel it coursing through the dimensional eddies and currents in which she was now wading through.
She can wait, and perhaps again slip through the barrier of time - further perhaps - back into the ancient past, maybe back near the very beginning itself. Maybe she might find some clue there as to the End that dogged her. Or she could simply condemn all time itself to the void. In either way, time is running short and soon to disappear altogether.
ALL THINGS END - RUN FOREVER, RUN AND YOU WILL COME TO ME - THE END OF TIME.
Like a presence written into everything she hears the message, the bugle call that precedes the running of the hounds. And she is to run again - she knows this game. She sees its end. Or is it.
Another possibility unfolds in her mind. Whatever it was didn't seem to work... or perhaps it was subtle so subtle she missed it the first time. She could split the time causality - and perhaps step beyond the reach even of the End of All Things. Yes, she told herself, it made a mistake following her through time. Hope it seemed, had not yet been swallowed up.
She stands on the veranda overlooking the autumn leaves laying on the ground, in reds and oranges and yellows. A mug of steaming coffee rests in her hands and she wears a mauve sweater, underneath a white turtleneck and some old pair of jeans. Her hangs in the cool morning air, drifting like idle mist. She can feel the cold, a hard edged presence pressed against her skin and tempered by the wool and the steaming cup in her hands. A moment before she had been looking out at the yard, planning her morning. Now she was staring at - and staring back at - herself.
Traces of grey had crept into her hair. Lines had appeared upon her face, and what had once - still was - been a youthful countenance now looked faded. Yet if this was an older version of herself it was the eyes that had changed the most - it was looking into frantic, half-mad eyes. She took a step back towards the door.
"I've come a long way to speak with you." Her voice too is older, and calm though she looks mad.
"Who are you? What are you doing..."
"I need your help. It can't touch you - you alone are safe - if it does walls of time can never be breached. It made a mistake coming here, after me. You're the only one that's safe. So you alone are free to act... it can't touch you - you have time. "
There is a pause. The dawn rises slowly above the distant horizon. "You're... me?"
"We don't have much..." In mid-sentence she can feel it stirring, nearby. Following her now.
She can feel it, almost on top of her. Waiting and almost - it seemed - goading her? It wasn't unmaking the world, it wasn't swallowing up dimensions... it was waiting. She ignores it and continues on her other self standing, looking stunned, frightened and perhaps even pityingly upon the older woman that stood in front of her. "Please listen. What I have to say means everything..."