In the symmetrical darkness, there was nothing — or so I believed. There were equal parts of existence and non-existence. Reality and unreality. I had gone into a temporary oblivion. No feeling. No change. No heat. No cold. It was still. A slice of nothing and everything. Separate from all things. I was alone. But I was not. My second mind was not there. I had no sense of time or even change in myself, only a still understanding of the void. Repeated into infinite looping time.

When my light returned I was again within that body, far into the countless halls and chambers of the stone labyrinth. I had not moved from the place I had fallen.

<Back?>

Yes.

<I could not act in flesh without you. Your light was dark and then dim.>

You were reckless.

<Yes.>

The body was alive. It had rested, no damage. More healing had happened.

Power swelled within me.

I got up. I was in control again.

<The crystals here. They had some energy. I linked with them and fed you.>

How long I would have been in that place if you had not.

<That place?>

Total absence of all things. Not even that. It was a sense of separation of anything. Including time. Or perhaps a place of joining, a nullification of equal and opposing parts. I was still in the same instant. With an understanding of being stuck in that tiny moment. Forever.

<I do not wish to be anywhere forever. I was filled with regret when your presence was gone. Joy overwhelmed me when your light grew.>

Regret and joy? He was telling the truth. Through him, I felt emotions I had previously lost. Are they gifts or burdens?

And how was he able to exist, even in an immaterial sense, without my presence?

<I am a part of you. I am you.>

And when did the second mind begin speaking at all?

<I was always speaking. You were not listening.>

Even before he joined with me I had a feeling of a voice guiding me, but it could not have been him.

That part of me returned to the thought of the hidden passage. The persistent influence of the second mind.

<Shall we go?>

Chunks of the false wall were all around the opening to the other side, where a toxic draft now emanated. Through the hidden passage that would lead to a far descent.

Curiosity pushed me forward.

I stepped through the opening and began downward. Further into the core of this world where an ancient race had dug and hidden something horrifying. The catacombs were well out of sight enough. But this place I now began toward may have been even unknown to the last generations of those who dwelled here, before they all left or died. The catacombs only have the hints of their life here. But there were no corpses. Only carvings, some broken sculptures.

The steps carried on in a slowly turning clockwise spiral. All of the stone was smoothly carved and polished. Oily stone. Inky black stone. As I went further below the walls of the way had unnatural growths of red stain of various branching fractal patterns clinging to the surface, eating into it.

<Can you see what is below?>

I looked, but only saw a bewildering haze. Occluding energy was thick. The material around all had soaked it in, transmuted it, and bled it.

Time passed as I continued. Still, the steps were endless. Steady warnings displayed on my suit’s visor. Radiation? Beryllium-10? Carbon-14? It was unclear to the suit. A true cosmic anomaly was near. It invigorated me, but could soon be a death sentence for this body. I went further until the energy was so dense that my ascended eye could no longer see. Or rather my eye was repulsed by the pressure of dense pulses of immaterial energy. Neither could the instruments of my kit get any useful readings. Only my eyes of flesh were there to guide me forward through the darkness, illuminated by the lights on my suit.

Then there was an end to the carved stairs.

It opened to the side of a cliff. Out and beyond was a vast open space illuminated with a blue-green light radiating from an ocean of liquid below. Above there was an atmosphere of a toxic miasma. Massive tendrils of light came up from the surface of the ocean and lashed with the pulse of the water’s waves.

Wait.

The world shifted, and I now stood in a forest like I had never seen before. Massive ferns of purple. Trees of deep blue as wide and tall as skyscrapers. There living creatures all xeno to the kinds of animals I knew of back home.

Again there was a shifting of space and time. Or had it been an illusion?

No, they were dreams. Real memories strung together and shared within a unifying hive of energy.

The end of the stairs had led to a place of old power. A well of minds. A temple of life and death. A denial of both beginning and end. Boundless. Larger than any inner area I had found on this world.

There was crystalline technology here, unlike anything above. But similar to what we used beneath the pyramid of Antarctic. Countless bodies stuck in frozen light. Their essence used for some ancient purpose. I touched one construct and felt whispers of a strange tongue within me. Frantic rasps and clickings, the same phrases repeatedly. There was a sense of desperation without knowing it would be forever endless. I touched another construct of frozen light and felt the same. A dreadful hive of eternal suffering.

Light blue light from the coffins contrasted with a red-orange light on the horizon. Everywhere I looked there were growths of the red fractals. They formed out like bunches of connecting snowflakes, and in their inevitable falling made the paths between the bodies covered in red, untouched snow. How long had it taken for it all to accumulate?

The bodies were like those I had seen carved on the walls above. Almost human in some ways, but with legs which bent in the wrong direction. Both young and old of the species all sharing one fate. The light prisons were stacked tall within this behemoth of a chamber. Obsidian cables connected between them and led deeper into this space. The heavy threads ran together and merged into larger strands at junctions. All swarming in a single consistent direction.

Emanations from the way forward gave me the sensation of a heart beat.

<The center. The origin.>

The Cosmic Eye Awakens!

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