There was nothing. It wasn't black. It wasn't white. It wasn't even blank. There was literally nothing.

Eons passed in instantaneous points of time. There was no flow of time. One moment of eternity was simply, suddenly another moment of eternity.

Then there was something. An attraction. A movement so subtle, that if there had not been absolute nothingness, it would have been impossible to perceive. The movement neither accelerated nor decelerated. The movement didn't move in any direction. It just was.

There was something more. A whisper of an echo. A glimpse of awareness. Recollections just at the edge of perception. There was no straining to catch this glimpse. There was no thought or action. It was just there; passive.

Suddenly, a jarring crash of discordance shook all of existence. A tsunami of cataclysmic proportions shook the whisper of an echo into a ripple. Another whisper of an echo in an infinite nothingness had gently come into contact with the first. New recollections appeared at the edge of perception. This time they threatened to spill into focus, yet they still remained outside.

More crashes of dissonance turned the ripples into mighty waves, surging violently back and forth. The new motes of infinite nothingness, in turn, formed their own titanic waves. The waves swirled around each other from all directions and none simultaneously until they began to overlap. A vortex of twisted whirlpools formed as the motes overlapped with each other and became one.

A spark of true awareness came into being. A sense of self was formed. The recollections at the edge of awareness came into focus. At first there were simple concepts: I am me and I am not other. The concepts slowly got more complex until the first emotion was realized.

The Self was content. A feeling of rightness permeated the Self. Everything was as it should be. The vortex that had formed, while out of the ordinary, was nothing to be concerned with. In fact it was that very vortex that had allowed the Self to realize itself.

Concepts and emotions slowly morphed into fuzzy images. Muted colors and shapes formed. The shapes consisted of a multitude of simple and complex patterns. Some shapes started to move around in strange, unpredictable ways. Over time these movements became more natural looking: Of course that shape would move that way, it's only natural. This vague, unrealized thought did not surprise the Self and it continued to exist in contentment.

Slowly, after ages of blissfully observing these blurry shapes, new concepts emerged and beget even more concepts: People, family. A sudden realization caused the vortex to fluctuate as the blurry shapes became recognizable as people. The Self realized that he was experiencing memories of his family. A perspective of looking down at its own body, sitting atop another's...

"What are those called?" The first articulated thought surprised the Self, almost causing it to become distracted. "Oh right! Shoulders! I'm sitting on that other person's shoulders! That person is... is.... dad. That's my father!"

A new emotion encompassed the Self as joy suffused its being. The perspective continued as it remembered riding (another new concept!) on its father's shoulders. Different scenes played out of it interacting with its father. Some brought great joy and bliss, while others introduced yet more new emotions. It felt regret and anxiety at some of the scenes.

"I wish that that had never happened. I wish that I had behaved in a different way." More and more scenes played out for the Self to observe, solidifying its awareness. Scenes of its mother. Scenes of its brother. Scenes of... his life. Everything remained blurry, like he was watching the memories through smoke. The people were faceless like mannequins.

With the further development of the Self into Himself, more and more memories flooded his awareness. But there was something... not quite right, anymore. Something was off. There was another father. And then another father. More families. Many more people who were more indistinct than his first remembrance of his family.

"I only have 2 parents and a brother. Why do I remember all of these other people and families?" He was confused. He started looking around himself and realization dawned on him. "These are the memories of the others who collided with me and formed the vortex! But none of them have become aware like me. I have absorbed them."

He wasn't too concerned with the memories of the others, and with a flex of willpower, he regulated these thoughts to the periphery of his existence. He could still see them clearly, or as clear as any blurry image can be, but they were no longer taking up his focus.

New memories came and went. He found himself surrounded by many other people in a long room, everyone wearing green. Four other men, wearing the same green, but with wide brimmed hats, covers, were running around, screaming and shouting at the other men. There were many scenes with these men, one after another. Sometimes they were doing physical exercises, sometimes they were just standing there getting screamed at, sometimes they were walking together in another shape, marching in formation. There were a lot of these scenes. Bootcamp has a profound effect on anyone.

More scenes, similar but with different men all wearing the same green, zoomed past his focus like a kaleidoscope. Until suddenly he was looking down at another man in green, bright lights were flickering in the distance, and lines of light flew over head at impossibly quick speeds, some of which flew past very close. There were loud noises coming from the distance and snapping sounds all around, like something punching through paper at a high velocity. There was a new color on this man. The new man was being cradled in his arms, and there was red everywhere. Every moment more and more red appeared, unending. Another new concept: Blood. Death. He was filled with sorrow as the other man stopped moving. More scenes: Explosions, gunfire, blood, body parts strewn about. Combat. War.

He watched his memories of men performing acts of heroism and sacrifice. Complex, and paradoxical emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Joy at being alive. Guilt at being alive. Sorrow and terror. He was just one of many, and slowly the memories showed him transitioning from being a follower to being a leader. More memories of lining up with other men in green getting screamed at by a group of four others, though they didn't wear the campaign covers in this new memory. When these memories finally ended, he was no longer standing as one of many in the group, but was instead standing in front of the group, commanding.

Something tugged at his awareness, and there was discord again. He glanced about himself, but he couldn't put his finger on what caused the sensation. He turned back to his memories, anticipation filling him. He had a sense that something profound was going to happen, like he already knew what it was going to be, before he knew what it was. And then she was there.

A young woman, in crystal clear focus. No blurry images obstructing his view. No blank faces attached to human shapes. A sweet, innocent smile. Sparkling, mischievous eyes. He didn't even have to experience the memories with her. Everything came to him in a flash. The courtship filled with romance and love, the wedding ceremony with his brothers in arms and family in attendance. He looked down and into the gaze of his two children, one boy and one girl. The ups and downs of marriage and raising a family. The car acci...NO! We'll leave it here. He spent an eternity staring into her gaze, the family of four together forever in his memories.

"Wait... Something is there. I just experienced it. What was it?" He stopped all other thoughts, trying to recall something that was eluding him. It came to him, "Death. I'm dead. I'm reliving my life after death." One was supposed to be sad upon such a revelation, but there was no sadness in him. He looked at his wife and children expectantly, nothing but a smile on his face.

That feeling of discord rang through his being once again. Something was terribly wrong. He looked around once again. There were his memories, and the memories of that other self, but nothing else. What could be the cause of the disturbance?

Abject fear consumed him as he recognized what the problem was. One other set of memories. Just moments ago, there was over a dozen. He watched in horror as what appeared to be a curtain of mist encroached on his center. Everything it touched melted away into nothingness again. While the vast expanse once occupied by the others still existed, it was only him and his own memories now. The mist continued its inexorable tide towards the center of his being. Previous memories that he had just experienced disappearing and slipping away to be forgotten forever.

He looked at his wife and children with panic and unwillingness. This was his family! His memory! He was not going to lose them again! With an unknown power, he martialed his will and ripped his memory of his family from the swirling vortex. It was a jagged tear, and many of the memories of his time as a War Fighter remained tethered and went with him. He pulled his being into himself and encapsulated the memories he refused to lose within.

The curtain of mist finally reached the center of his being, and he felt it trying to tug at the last refuge of his mind, but he refused to compromise one single step, throwing every last bit of willpower he could muster into the task. Everything went dark again as he felt as if he was being sucked and pushed simultaneously into a tornado, and almost all of his being was wiped clean.


Almost all.


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