Lights from ancient stars, forever reaching beyond the darkness with their fluid transformations... They are like titans, immortal in the memory of time's passage... Hope expands like an open mind, shallow in it's reflection on the fear of an aperture's closing... Radiant starlight scatters above an obsidian sky, caught as glimpses through a fragmented window. Alone within the shadows of a ruined world, I watch the stars through the eye of a shredded crater. A hole left behind by the past, with the hope for the future to fill it's absence. Another imprint of destruction in the wake of weapons, a purpose lost inside the silence. Now in my waking, I can hear them slumber in the wasteland. From here, I see a visible complex of levels, each section an extension of the desire for freedom. An oddity of ambition that resembles an impossible staircase - obscuring my vision with twisting segments, coiling toward directions I may not be able to determine. A permanent dusk paints the sky in beautiful contrasts of night and day. The stale air of the crater burrows deeper into me, piercing my nostrils with the taste of charred metal. The decay of civilization leaves an open door, leading to paths beyond the limits of realization. A sound with a mechanical benevolence, clearing the noise inside my mind. Boiling my thoughts until I feel them burst through the filters of my consciousness. Time divides a continuous flow of experiences into endless strands, the pulse of their stories washes over me. A light shining too brightly, ushering a lasting darkness to follow with it's passing. Perpetual deja vu clouds my perception, forming a storm of loneliness on the horizon. I slowly blink my eyes inside the span of a controlled breath. As the curtains of my eyelids close, a stream of void energy invades my mind with an endless glare. The beaming darkness collapses in a shifting spectrum of blackness, falling into the sublime abyss of purity, a dragon devouring it's own tail - singular infinity. Falling infinitely into unfathomable depths, the void paralyzes my senses. I still feel the faint threads connecting me to my physical forms. An infinite separation occurring within the blink of an eye. Am I the face or the mask of the reality inside the well of destruction? Outside the realm of light, reality is contained between the spacetime of non-existence. Signals are consumed from the attempts to open my eyes. I can feel the weight of my eyelids pushing against the force of my will. I observe the transcendence of my impulses within the thresholds of my mind. My struggle to free my eyes from darkness, the purpose behind it is the same as my effort to shield my eyes from brightness. The need to escape resonates within. The mind takes over, illustrating a chaos of horrors erupting in layers from the depths of my subconscious. My reflections begin to scaffold, slowly reforming into my external reality. Panic rises to the edge of my throat as the chaotic assemblage of time resumes with increasing complexity. I start to feel the fluid flowing through my distant body. My sensations start to emerge from their paralysis. My signals from the void slowly converge, clustering in my brain. I hear myself screaming to open my eyes. The built up pressure erupts in an explosion of brightness, scattering the darkness. The light slowly shapes the shadows into their previous forms. Objects resume into places embedded in my memory. As the chaos settles, a solitary shadow is left behind at the center of my vision. The shadow hovers, blotting out the light like a distant mirage of black water. The shifting shapes rippling like heat, absorbing the light reflecting from my eyes. As my eyes fully open, the final floodgate of light is released, consuming all traces of the shadow from my sight. Eyes swirling like plasma, gathering into an infinite kaleidoscopic vortex. A hypnotic phantasm inside the dreams of machines, flowing with the fractals of a defragmenting universe. The memory in my eyes is only shadow. Looking through a window at the bottom of a spiral. My hopes of seeing a vast sky embedded in memory. I feel the satisfaction of my curiosity being absorbed by a disturbing sense of relaxation. A passage threatening disruption. A familiar sensation worming a crooked path inside my brain - Deja vu. I can feel an overwhelming anxiety shutting me down, one piece at a time, my reaction to the stars vanishing from the darkening sky. I whiplash from the fear as my instincts take over. I'm caught in the rush of the moment, in tune with an unfathomable chain of protohumans. They offer me their memories. I see the killing machines of nature's wrath hunting me from the shadows. Through them I see myself disappear into the safety of my cave, shadows growing distant with each passing. Seeking purpose through progress. An endless climb of winding stairs until you find yourself descending, only to ascend once again. Transformations resonating like the sound of footsteps, bound to the path they create. I notice the demon following me, I lead it through a maze. With every turn I glimpse a shadow getting closer. A blinding fear of being mauled by creatures in the darkness is pushing me forward. Another mask for the fears left lurking in the layers of my mind. The light grows dimmer the deeper I get. As I reach the next turn, choking from each breath, my pace increases with my heart rate. Sounds fading away as I plunge deeper. My final footstep is free of sound, I enter a space of unnatural darkness. I'm surrounded by unfamiliar objects, wherever I reach out for stability I feel their cold sharpness slicing my hands and arms. With no sight, my mind creates stalagmites, crevices, and other pitfalls, pulling death itself from the pages of history, threatening to impale me at even the slightest misstep. To impede my will to move forward. Right now this is my only option. The feeling of terror intensifies when every rational voice inside of me urges me to turn around. I feel the presence of a massive threat engulfing my senses. An impulse to survive taking me over. I jump head first into the obstacles before me. Crawling through danger just to escape what's behind me. I grip a wet, squirming carpet of impossible creatures, wrapping around my hands and legs. I feel them wrapping around each finger, pushing their way into my nails. Still I press forward through the darkness. Sharp rocks punishing my slow crawl. I feel the searing pain of one laceration after another. My blood flows into the grime as tiny creatures lap at open wounds, nesting in my flesh, under my skin. A trail of red stretching into a black nothing, A swarm of monsters at a feast. The darkness ahead forms into a deeper black with each pulse of my heart, a dim light breaking through the darkness. I rise higher, fluid in motion, darkness receding with each heavy step. My first step sends an echo through the jagged hallway of a ruined building. I can see my door at the end of the hallway, it's radiating familiarity is guiding me home. I sense an unnerving feeling of being followed, flashing in the back of my mind. The apparition of fear fades with the sound of the shutting door, resonating through the maze behind it. The sweat is burning my eyes, I lean against the heavy door behind me, feelings of exhaustion and relief passing through me. Memories of blood, memories of pain, the barrier of the door is holding them back. Everything balanced on the edge of my lingering fear. I feel my body resist from exhaustion. I need more time to regain my composure. Wiping the sweat and tears from my face, I take deep breaths. When the static in my limbs fades into my core, I can lift myself up. Moving away from the door, I make my way down a ruined stairway, it's winding steps dropping me into a dark stillness. The stairway seems to go on forever, a spiral into the abyss. Each step getting longer than the last, until... I feel myself floating into infinity. Focus dissipates into nothingness, a perpetual emergence into a dark cavern... vast and empty, impossible to tell up from down. I'm pulled toward a cluster of lights, slowly expanding toward me. It starts to feel a lot like falling until gravity frees me from the hypnotic vision. The final step on the stairs alludes me as I stumble into a passage at the bottom. A chasm hushed by a blanket of rubble, a chalky, carbon smell distilling safety and tranquility within me. One breath... the whole of infinity... an unbounded center within boundless surroundings... releasing everything... In one breath, everything becomes a distant memory, a numbness that follows the healing of a deep wound. I can only feel the surface of the many layers hiding the fear within me. A single door to a maze in the darkness, unable to close fully, leaving behind a scar to serve as a sentinel to the threshold of nightmares. My frame is small enough to fit through the passages formed by cracks in the structure. Not many discover the passages left open to them, their homes usually become their graves. As the cities crumbled, a natural network formed under the rubble. The foundations of the city transformed into a complex maze of catacombs and tunnels. Finding safety in corners, survivors nested like a colony of rats. I squeeze myself through spaces of dust and concrete rubble. Cutting through the layers, I emerge into a metro tunnel buried by a city disemboweled. The perfect barriers to keep a small community secure from the unknowns in the world outside. The ones keeping watch have grown complacent, the still air of the tunnels soothes their anxiety. It's a simple task to sneak past their patrols and breach their settlement. I am completely still when I see shadows move. I disappear into the darkness as they pass me by. Sentries blinded by their routine, they dismiss me as just another piece of rubble on the tunnel floor. I crawl beneath the skeletons of trains, slowly heading in the direction of temporary safety. Approaching the perimeter of the metro station, the silence of the tunnels gradually recedes, replaced with the sound of human commotion. Behind a thin layer of darkness, I can hear the echoes of their feelings, their true selves shattered into fragments with their voices and their motions. On the edge of this chaos, I pass through the noise in solitude to find my way home. I don't make my excursions known to the others, I keep my secrets, as they all do. Sneaking past the checkpoint, I enter safely through a hidden passage. A large storage chamber, filled with stacks of supplies, collected from the wasteland above. This is where I make my nest, among the ruins of the past. I crawl under dusty blankets with closed eyes, ready for sleep. My heartbeat and breathing slow down from the anxious rush of reaching a relative safety. Distant sounds fade into a singular humming as I spin into the vortex of my dreams. The space of dreams... a madness divine in calculation. An escape of all limits within the realm of endless possibilities. Forever reaching into the unknown. The singularity ripples with a cascade of perfect circles, a borderless expansion on a black mirror surface. The steady dripping of water resounds inside a cavern, as restless darkness wakes from dormancy. The shadow floats on still, black waters, casting reflections with no end and no beginning. With a fluid motion, distant lights are vanishing into surrounding darkness. The rhythm of the metronome forms a clearer image with each ripple. Painting a vision of razor sharp rocks, stalagmites extending like a pattern of sharp teeth inside the jagged jaws of a colossal beast. Looking closer at the figure watching the water. Featureless and shrouded in darkness, absent of all light. The shadow mixes in a twisted harmony with the surrounding visions, reflecting an endless struggle to retain a human form. The void of the cavern, the shadow of the figure, all part of one whole. The shadow's gleaming eyes focus their attention on the reflections casted on the surface. It waves a monstrous finger in a continuous circular motion, above the surface of the void, seeking pleasure in disruption. The ripples on the surface reflect clusters of galaxies extending beyond, swallowed by the darkness of the cave. Hypnotic eyes peeling through the layers, melding in a kaleidoscopic frenzy. The shadow's long, crooked finger pierces the water like droplets of water, sending ripples across an ocean of stars. I feel it touch my forehead, the sensation of a sharp pain expands inside my brain, flowing through the rest of my body. I can feel myself sinking, slowly becoming enveloped by the darkness. The shadow expands, eclipsing the light of falling stars. As I fall deeper, the stars shrink into a vast emptiness. Free of my will, I watch my hand reaching out for help as a crushing pressure builds around my skull. I feel the eyes of the shadow glaring into me from the abyss. My screams ring hollow in the void. A look into the well of history is akin to a glimpse into insanity. Seeking hope in repeating tired mistakes. Looking in or looking out of a window of the home of a selfish hypocrite, staring into a mirror. Reality crashes hard through the silence. My shirt feels cold and heavy from night sweats. But it's the smell that makes me shiver the most. I recover my senses. Shadows sway in the breeze of the dim, flickering lights of a large storage chamber. I listen to my heart, trying to synchronize my pulse with the ambience of my surroundings. I rise from my refuge, exhaling tension into the air. Before me is a graveyard of scrap and metal, scavenged from the surface - dim and quiet. I try to enjoy the silence for a moment, but it doesn't last. A busy noise from a glowing light steals away my attention. I climb down from my nest, hidden on top of the stacks. Letting curiosity shift closer to destiny, I move toward the light. Forward, quietly through the spaces of the stacks, the noises echo louder from the shadows in the chamber leading me to their source. Watching from behind a hoard of stockpiles, a light from an oil lamp breaks against a familiar silhouette. For a moment I glimpse the shadow from my dream, tinkering with the objects in the universe. The illusion fades as I draw closer to the light until I see a person sitting down, tinkering with worn down objects on the floor - collected from the surface no doubt. Sensing a faint presence lurking in the surrounding darkness, I choose to satisfy my curiosity by observing each unfolding moment. The hunter directs all of his focus on the objects laid out in front of him. Next to him is a huge dusty bag, misshapen by unknown things that he collected from the surface. The hunter's hands were busy cleaning the artifacts, as if to ready them for display. But no one comes here with questions anymore, only to take what they need. All interest in these displays of the past have faded along with their lost purpose. Now, these objects resonate a feeling of mystery that can only feed the curious. But a need that is far more primitive dwells inside their minds - the need to survive. Except when refusal to let hope die eventually inspires innovation. His familiar face reveals a hint of excitement, a shine in the eyes that only sacred treasure could invoke. He reaches into his bag and pulls out a chromatic orb. It fits snugly around the palm of his hand. I feel it's strange beauty in every cell of my body, erupting throughout the layered systems of my mind and body. It calls out to me as if it's some kind of sign. Shivers run along my spine while the orb hovers effortlessly above the hunter's palm. It is a magic I've never seen before but it feels strangely familiar. It pulls at the threads of buried memories within me. Of all the dead artifacts gathered in this room, nothing can compare to the power of the orb. I feel enthralled to witness the glory of a technology that I can't even explain. I feel an urge persuading me to get a closer look as if I'm being pulled in by the orb's gravity defying presence. In the excitement, my hand catches on something cold. The sudden sound of metal bouncing off concrete interrupts the orb's trance. The hunter's amused face looks back at me as I cower in darkness, drawing my eyes away in shame. "Don't scare me like that." I feel a sudden impulse to disappear, a reflex inspired by the fear of the moment. The feeling within me is subdued however, something about the hunter's face calms me. He speaks with laughter in his voice. "What's with that face?" He is smiling when we lock eyes once again. Fragments of locked memories burst and flood through me before I could blink my eyes. Orion In my memories, I called him Orion. I recognize him as someone I can trust. I realize that he's been looking out for my well being for a while. Although I wasn't really aware of this at the time. An exchange of silence follows this initial moment of recognition. "Come here, you gotta see this thing! I found it out in the wastes today!" I feel a welcoming aura enveloping around him. He's excited to show the orb to me, like an older brother showing off a new toy to his sibling. When I draw closer I can see the orb's complexity come alive. The sphere is like perfection itself. The reflections in the orb are eerily detailed, as if reality itself is just a mirror next to the strange floating device. A machine that responds to the warmth of a human hand. Another shiver bolts down my spine. I slowly lift my hand, turning it toward my eyes. Staring at the twisting lines on my palm, I imagine my warmth giving life back to the dead objects that are neatly stacked away in this chamber. We're both drawn towards it's fantastic glow. As if our primal instinct to seek the warmth of a fire has been rekindled. "Pretty intense right? Here... you try it." The duality of fear and curiosity tangles my mind. My hand hesitates while my instinct compels me to try and touch the orb. He gently guides the orb forward. It glides effortlessly through the air until his hand is above my own. "You ready?" I give him a slight nod to signal the release and he draws his hand away quickly. The orb vibrates as it calibrates to the presence of my hands underneath. Gravity is abruptly restored and the magic is silenced. The orb falls into my palms. I see my blank expression staring back at me. "Hmm... thats strange. Didn't have to wait that long when I found it." The sphere lies flat on my hands, motionless and silent. I feel a strange heat welling up from the center of my palms. Our puzzled faces are reflected back at us. We stare at the sphere in concentration, wondering if we'll get to see it's magic one more time. "Maybe it's out of fuel?" We look at each other just about ready to burst into laughter when suddenly the sphere begins to levitate once more. We're enthralled by it's mystical allure like some kind of hypnosis. It floats high above my hand, settling into it's previous gravity defying state. We sit on the floor, watching the sphere rotate on it's axis. We take turns passing the object through the air, watching the reflections of our mesmerized faces staring back at us. I don't want to let this moment of peace go, I stubbornly begin to resist the flow of time. Nothing lasts forever. The game ceases just as abruptly as it started. I hold on to the orb in silence as it spins around in front of me. Orion stares at me with parental concern and the mood settles back to a neutral state. Eventually Orion breaks the silence by rising from the floor and brushing off his pants. He wraps a stained cloth around the floating sphere, silencing it's magic. Securing a tight knot around the orb and making it look plain and ordinary. He places it on a shelf with some of the other trinkets he brought from the surface. The cleverly disguised orb blends flawlessly with the rest of the dead objects in the chamber, hiding in plain sight. The orb is now an unspoken secret that we both share in the silence of the dim chamber. We collect our thoughts and briefly exchange nods to signal that it's time to head out. "You feeling hungry?" His voice echoing around us, we walk together into the darkness of the tunnel.