Sometimes the darkness and I contemplate the end of a universe.
I think about Midnight Hollow. That was a universe that ended. I wonder where the people who were in it when it ended went.
I am sitting on a ridge above the blue pig’s eye and the ghost is screaming below and the pig is oinking but it’s all so far away and it’s not real.
Only the black is real.
I ask the darkness, “When this universe ends, what will happen?”
The darkness says words, but I can’t hear them above the screaming. I think I made out the word “safe”. Maybe that’s why we had to climb up the pig, to be safe when this universe ends.
I hope the people in Midnight Hollow were safe when their universe ended.
They probably weren’t, though.
Sometimes the darkness and I exist inside the death of a universe.
I am stretched thin and wide, and there is no meaning.
I ask the darkness, “How do we live here, in the black?”
The darkness says, “It is hard. But we must.”
I stare into the abyss. I don’t blink.
The abyss stares back at me.
I think maybe it blinked, but I’m not sure.
I breathe, even though it is hard when you are thin and wide in the dark, and then I breathe again.
Sometimes, in some ways, the darkness and I are sitting on the brow of a giant blue oinking pig god. In other ways, ways that feel more real, we are sitting inside the abyss.
Sometimes the darkness is a shadow and an alligator and bones and a not always there fog with multitudinous legs and ashes and a skin made of lye. It is also, in a way that feels more real, a part of the abyss.
I don’t feel real. I don’t feel real at all.
The darkness says, “You are real. Everything is real.”
I can’t breathe and it’s hard and I look out into the abyss and all I see is the black, so I try to remember Midnight Hollow and the trees and how they looked with the yellow afternoon sunlight slanting through them. I try, because I have no other choice, because I have to exist and everything is real and I have to breathe.
I feel the part of the darkness that is the abyss take my hand.
I say, “I wish it wasn’t real.”
The darkness doesn’t reply. We sit in the abyss, and it holds my hand, and I try so hard to remember the trees.
Sometimes I remember the trees in Midnight Hollow, and I tell the darkness about them.
I tell the darkness about how tall they were, and how many branches they had, and how the branches were so thick that sometimes, at certain times of day, no light got through them.
The darkness says that it knows what I am talking about, and I remember that it wore a shadowskin when we were there.
Sometimes though, when the sun was at just the right angle, light did get through. I liked to walk through it and to feel its warmth on my skin. I remember watching the light and the shadows of the branches on my arms as I walked.
When the light was there it was harder to see the glowing red eyes deep inside the tree trunks.
I ask the darkness, “What happened to the trees when Midnight Hollow ended?”
The darkness is silent for a long time. While I wait for it to answer, I fill out the image of Midnight Hollow in my mind. I see the weeds bending under my shoes and I smell the dead leaves and I feel the cold roughness of the gravestones under my hand.
There were a lot of gravestones.
I wonder if the darkness ever wore a stoneskin. I think it would make an excellent gargoyle.
The darkness makes an odd noise, like it’s clearing its throat. I look at it, and I want to see the shadowskin but all I see is the abyss.
It says, “Midnight Hollow did not end.”
It says, “The trees are still there.”
I look at the image of Midnight Hollow in my mind. It’s harder to see the red eyes when there’s light coming through the trees, but you can still see them.
In my mind, in my memory, one of them blinks.
Sometimes I am sitting in the abyss, listening to a pig oink and a ghost scream, and I am considering what it would mean to go home.
The darkness said once that home didn’t exist anymore but now it is saying that Midnight Hollow is still there. Maybe Midnight Hollow isn’t home. Maybe it isn’t the same.
The darkness says, “You are not the same.”
The pig oinks, oinkoinkoink oink oink oink oink oink oink, and then it stops.
Its universe ends.
We are still here though, me and the darkness. Holding hands in the abyss.
I miss the ghost.
Sometimes I wonder how the darkness can speak so clearly now, why it doesn’t gurgle or crackle.
It is still holding my hand. It squeezes my fingers. I look at it.
It raises its other hand, and it gestures out into the abyss. There is only a thin silvery hand-shaped outline separating the hand from what it is pointing at.
It says, “I am home.”
I ask, “Are Her and the ghost okay? Will we see them again?”
The darkness says, “Yes, they are okay. They are changed too. We may see them again. We may not.”
I say, “I hope we do.”
I hope I see Midnight Hollow again too, but I do not say this out loud.
I am glad for the darkness, that it is home. Even though its home is dark and empty and it’s hard to breathe inside it.
I am breathing, though. It’s hard and it hurts a bit, but I do it.
I think maybe I could not have breathed here before, and that is one way that I have changed.
I wonder what the other ways are?
Sometimes, while I wonder how I’ve changed, the abyss changes.
It buzzes and crackles like a fluorescent light. The black slinks away, scared of the buzzing, and a bright white takes its place.
I look at the darkness. It is still a dark person-shaped hole in the white.
I ask, “Is this real?”
The darkness is still holding my hand. It brings our hands up into the white. I look at my hand, with the abyss still pulsing beneath the skin, and the hand of the darkness, which is all abyss. The white around our hands is blinding. I close my eyes, but I still see the outline of our hands on the backs of my eyelids.
The darkness says, “You are real. I am real.”
There is an implied statement there that the white is not real, but the darkness does not say that.
I am pretty sure the buzzing is real. I wish it would stop.
I sit in the buzzing white with my eyes closed, and I think.
I think about Reality, and I think about the darkness holding my hand, and I think about the abyss.
I think about images and projections and shadows, and about gravestones, and about light posts that seemed to breathe. I think about unicorns and universes and falling apart and coming back together. I think about sitting against the sky.
The darkness squeezes my maybe somewhat still human fingers with its own abyssal fingers.
I open my eyes. I stare into the white. The buzzing stops.
I know now how I have changed.
Sometimes I am sitting in the stuff that universes are made of.
I know what to do now. The darkness gives my hand one last squeeze, and then it lets go.
I shake my fingers to loosen them up.
I am real and the darkness is real and all the living beings are real, but nothing else is. Midnight Hollow is still there, if I want it, but so is everywhere else.
I am real and I exist and I feel and I think, and I walk through images and shadows that I create.
I reach up into the white, and I shape it into a universe.