The number is still increasing. I don't understand.
I'm lying, of course. I understand why the number went up. Poor little fictional devil turned man.
The Pantheon is written and produced by Joshua White.
Nothing around me but ruins, echoes from the past that will be echoes in the future. If only it could be said that none of this was expected, so that the tragedy of all could break my heart. But the miasma of it all has seeped in there long ago. The time in between was one of dewy splendor, but such a splendor could never be eternal, though our forms may be.
So it remains to only me to wait for the time.
I would be lying if I said this didn’t leave a horrific gnawing at the back of my mind. All of this, from the sheer inevitability of it all, the torment of time, to the fact that our brethren returned once again only to torment us… but there’s nothing more I can do to heal that gnawing. There is nothing for me to give it but the simple pleasures of life, and that grand pleasure that lies so deep in the pits of time that it would take more than the powers of the Makers to drag it to me by anything other than sheer force of will.
Another sort of torture. But this one not so intense, not so brutish as that which wracked my carapace.
The one remaining sibling will probably not do anything. I cannot see action in his eyes; his desires, though they composed his whole being, were fragile, constructed of fibers even thinner than his skin. A tragedy that was ultimately not his fault. What else was them to find on a place where they wouldn’t be reminded of their past? Without the ongoing thread of wisdom, it was simply by the hands of god, the unbending laws of the universe that they changed into something so small and rabid. We saw it before, when they had not yet perfected the technologies of the Makers. But such knowledge builds upon itself in a cascading avalanche, growing in such sheer size that it would not surprise if in only a couple of years they would find the secrets they desired here on their own. But that avalanche, like any, picks up all the filth on the mountainside, all the sharp bits of sand and flecks of sterile dirt.
And this is what you find. Again and again.
Impatient. Burning up inside and unable to acknowledge the fire that binds them. Hands built with the industriousness intended us by the Makers, but just as much stupidity as when we were still newborns.
Again and again.
They will be back. Even in the best of times the element of fire in their hearts would not be pacified. A little bit of energy shaved off into the purpose that this world was meant to prevent, or so I had been deluded into thinking.
After all, what really was this place?
I had not been around to see the Makers, but I knew their chronicles, their walls constructed by our ancestors’ hands. I had pondered them along with my kin for centuries, and yet, even now, as the last remaining steward, I still had to admit that everything I was told, every truth I had forged for myself… they could all be falsehoods, things that, in the totality of my existence, dragged me and every other thinking being further into torment.
They had said the rings were there to summon something. Sometimes they said somethings. But they never clarified what those somethings could be. What was the ceremony? What engines had to be running? How much energy had to be consumed? And if all could be put into place, should it? Something to be answered in retrospect. That was what we told ourselves, so divorced from potentially repeating our Makers’ efforts that we allowed ourselves to be mesmerized by the unknown potential of this place.
Even though my body barely resembled the first form, or even the form of the sky-borne offshoots, I was still not so different, after all. A desire made real in whatever way it could be over the course of a billion years was not so different, really, from a desire that would be made real in a day. So what if the arcane functions of my engineered body allowed me to see those years, to steward whatever was to come? I was still as small, as impressionable as the little two-legs weeping to himself in the laboratory weapons. I could tell myself a thousand different times that I was better than him by virtue of my patience, or my faith, or the fact that when I was given over the lives of the two-legs, I merely slaughtered them instead of subjecting them to the suffering they imposed on me. I imagined that I was being graceful for not using the sharper parts of my claws to slowly peel away their skin as they called for help from the skies that was too selfish to actually aid them. I thought that made me good.
It made me… it made me nothing. Nothing more, nothing less.
I wandered out into the sand wastes and pierced a half dozen sand squid on my talons, leaving them in a spot where the shell shocked man would find them. Though he thought he craved death, he would understand not to fear it with time, and, with that understanding, never seek it again. The meal of tough fleshed sand squid was one step in the process.
And so a week later I saw him fishing with a chunk of shrapnel, the tears havig gouged a groove into the underside of his eyes. Not wet anymore. They would be stained again, with time, as the obscene, devouring wants he obsessed over intruded into his mind again. It was a gradual process. Always gradual.
In much the same way I would learn to excise my own hubris in a gradual fashion, banishing my bizarre, inbred certification of this place’s purpose with effort combined with the passing of time.
What were the rings? Bits of stone? Nothing? The key to the universe? Maybe all. Maybe none. What was I to say? What was I?
The surviving two-legs made himself into quite the survivor. He had his own little hut constructed out of rugs and beams that he had managed to scrounge out of the facility. He’d given up hope of rescue long ago. But, some time with the roaring silence of his mind had made him less inclined to check the beacon, see if he could rearrange the wires. He couldn’t. I couldn’t. Such knowledge required hundreds of years of training, infrastructure beyond either of our reaches.
And so I was left to ponder the Makers. Legends said they built us out of indignity, an attempt to escape from their plight of sloth by loading their labors onto something else. And the legends made this to seem solely evil. But then they also showed pictures of the Makers, small, lumbering things akin in form to myself and my deceased kin. A fomr which did not give itself well to anything but biding the time. And, in our cases, wreaking destruction. What work then could they do?
The lone survivor had, in his time upon the scorching earth, found a source of water. He was able to purify it for a time, but then his pump system broke. He drank from another source for a couple of weeks until he found out how to repair it. In the meantime, a tapeworm had squirmed its way into his gut. I cracked open one of the facility’s remaining medical bins for him. He was astounded that he had never noticed it before.
And so I was left to ponder the thing they meant to summon. Our progenitor, the legends said, but not the progenitor of earth. The source of true thought, of the independence in our minds which told us sometimes that we could fight our hungers. Something beyond description, as though the very words put down to give form to it were invalidated the second they were uttered by the beast changing into that which we said it was not. A demon of change, perhaps. Or stasis? Were chaos and order truly opposites? Were they really different at all? Or was there nothing but the hard scientific concept of entropy? The steady decay of all into naught?
The man was dying. No medicine in the facility could save him. In a brave bid he decided to prepare an expedition to find me, to beg me to share with him my secret of supposed immortality. He found me resting in the sands, but turned around and said nothing. He limped back to his home with tears in his eyes, out of shame, maybe. Fear, maybe. Peace, maybe. I came to him to beg, on my part, what he had meant to ask.
I found his corpse, cradling a little chair that he’d made in his hut.
It was my fault, then. I had waited a day or three. Time was always so hard to place. The suns shifted, the skies whipped about, and the obelisk trundled from one side of the sea of sands to another. It had been a good, long time since I had seen it move.
Poor little experimenter. Although perhaps he was less poor at the end than he was at the beginning, finally having something in his life that he treasured but which didn’t consume him.
There will be others. There will always be others. Our descendants will walk across the stars until there are mo more stars to walk, and even then they might try. More would come, and they would make the same mistakes. Always. And here I would be, by the walls. Waiting.