by Grace Huang
Art by Alice Cai
Issue: Paracosm (Winter 2017)
The World builds itself again.
Buildings raise themselves, create themselves. The plants and trees sprout into existence. The World builds the seas and rivers, the ponds and lakes, the forests and everything the World has ever been (at least before the Disasters).
Then the people come.
Men, women, children, elders, teenagers, they all appear, one by one. Families are born. Widows are made. Orphans sob themselves into existence. The World does not spare anyone. There are happy people, sad people, and angry people. But people are alive, and here. It’s all perfect.
And then the mist and fog comes (not the normal mist and fog either, it’s the black one. It’s only happened one other time).
“What is that?” a young woman asks softly. Another female teenager looks over her shoulder.
“The Mist,” she whispers (and she’s too surprised to say anything else).
“It’s nothing.” Vera stops, then glances at the other girl. “Stay in the house, Trinity. Keep everyone in the house.”
And they learn why, because the next day, dead bodies litter the streets when Trinity glances out her window that next morning, and the ground is as dark as the blackness of the fog.
A shriek echoes through the house, and the door bursts open.
“What’s going on, Sis?” A boy asks urgently, and he’s followed by another girl.
“Look outside, Tristan.”
And when he does, his face turns a sickly yellow (and he wishes he hadn’t asked at all).
Every day passes, and every day Elizabeth (that’s right, there’s Trinity and Elizabeth, and that’s Elizabeth) says the fog hasn’t stopped, the killing and everything bad hasn’t paused, and no one knows what the fog does until one day they all start remembering, and they realize what has been the cause of all the murder and killing, because Elizabeth storms into Tristan’s room one day and says, with a stony voice, “You killed my brother.”
“I what?” Tristan asks incredulously, but she’s already gone, and he’s left screaming, “I didn’t! What do you mean!? I don’t even remember that! I promise, I didn’t!”
(What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth spends many a day eyeing the knife in their kitchen, but she ultimately decides against it when she’s in his bedroom while he’s snoring away, holding it against her chest, ready for it to meet its target)
So, in their peaceful world, they watch the people all fall, one at a time, corrupted by the memories that would never connect.
“Why are these things happening?” Tristan asks in terror, staring at the corpses piled on the floor, the blood that streams from the wounds that should have dried up long ago that instead goes to feed the World.
Vera closes her eyes, and doesn’t say anything (because they can’t know).
Somehow, they all wake up one day with their minds filled with memories—their real memories, because when they look outside, the blackness of the world has disappeared, the bodies have evaporated, and the screams have been silenced.
“She continues to evolve,” Vera murmurs, her words meant for no one.
“Are you talking to yourself again, Vera?” a voice questions.
“It’s not like it matters,” Vera replies, turning over her shoulder. It’s Elizabeth (who looks much worse than she used to). “How are your memories?”
Elizabeth rubs her temple. “Better than I thought they were.”
Vera hums, staring at the World (that’s slowly disappearing). “It’s going away.”
To that, Vera gives no answer, and leaves Elizabeth standing by the empty windowsill alone.
Of course, now that their real memories are back and their false memories are gone, all of their lives have been torn apart. Elizabeth has two baby sisters, not an older brother murdered by Tristan (she’s thrilled about it). Tristan and Trinity aren’t even related. They were lovers (and to tell the truth, Trinity’s absolutely disgusted with herself for forgetting, and Tristan really doesn’t know what to say).
So when he’s in front of her room, he makes the dumbest decision of his life and knocks.
She answers the door with the slightest peek of her head, and her eyes widen.
“I’m sorry,” he responds, and the rest just feels like instinct. “I didn’t even remember, and I told you I would, and I—”
“Stop,” she murmurs softly. “It’s okay. Really.”
Trinity closes the door, and leaves Tristan staring at the door where his sister (not even his sister anymore) stood.
“She is barely sentient,” Vera says aloud one day, when the blackness of the world has long since been gone and they can barely remember the corpses that had once been scattered across the streets and around their house (when they’re the only humans alive).
They’re crowded around the dinner table, but no one asks her what she means. They’ve grown much to used to her cryptic comments, her nonsensical words. Nothing that she says ever seems to make sense.
Except it suddenly does, when Vera accidentally trips and an earthquake starts.
(Correlation is not causation she wants to say) As they peek out from under the table at her they’re doubtful of her (she can tell), especially when she cuts her finger on accident and they hear hours later that a small country thousands of miles away has almost split into two due to a piece of land barely hanging onto the mainland.
And they all wonder how they didn’t notice before. Vera had never harmed herself, had never made any mistakes until very recently. And if Vera truly is who they think she is, what does that mean for the world? For them?
“The world repeats itself,” Vera responds quietly. “She will continue to rebuild Herself and tear Herself back down. I will continue to do this alongside her.”
“So all this suffering, everything was naught?” Trinity snarls.
Vera doesn’t say anything. She just turns around and opens the windows.
“Her time is now,” Vera says. “And I must go with Her.”
And then she’s falling to her death (and she can feel all the wind around, the wind she controls that she could use to stop herself from falling, but she doesn’t and just closes her eyes).
There’s a sickening splat, and then the world begins to crumble.
“Tristan!” Trinity cries, and he grabs her, then turns and grabs Elizabeth.
“She deserved it,” Elizabeth whispers. The floor rumbles threateningly. “For making us suffer like that. For making so many people suffer in circles and circles repetitively”
And in the midst of a crumbling world, he turns to look at them, a conviction in his eyes.
“We’ll stop this. I swear we will.”