The knowledge that we would get stronger was nice, but the knowledge that Jun would be with me every step of the way was what I really cherished. I leaned back and listened as The End rambled on about cores to Jun and Mortician’s rapt attention, its explanations using so many words when just a few would do the trick. But I was starting to learn that The End enjoyed the theatrics behind everything it did. Or it was just elated to have new people to talk to.

A metallic hand tapped on my shoulder, and I turned to see Archivist standing behind me, “Envoy. If you can spare the time, would you mind coming with me? There is something I need to show you that I physically cannot show any of the others.”

I glanced over at The End, who simply waved me on without breaking its conversational stride. Mortician looked shyly at Archivist, then away once more as they focused on The End. Only Jun seemed conflicted about letting me go, but she eventually nodded and squeezed my hand.

“We’ll be right here when you’re done seeing whatever… uh… your friend wants to show you.” She said with as much support as she could muster.

“Thank you, Juniper. Or would you prefer to be called ‘Jun’, as Envoy calls you?” Archivist asked.

Jun didn’t answer right away, but when she did, it came with the weight of a decision being made. “You can call me Jun. I think I like it more.”

Archivist bowed slightly as I got out of my chair. “Then I shall call you Jun. I am Archivist, the overseer of the Ossuary’s Archives, and know that I do not wish to keep you from what I am going to show Envoy. It is… it was his home. Only humans, and beings of The End, have permission to witness it.”

Suddenly, everything was a little too cold. Something about Archivist’s tone, combined with their hesitation at calling it ‘my home’, brought on a reluctance I hadn’t felt in a long time.

“Is it… completely gone?” I quietly asked as Archivist led me out of the room and into complete darkness.

Archivist didn’t answer. That was a terrible sign, but… I’d accepted that Earth was gone. Twice, in fact. So why was I so reluctant about actually confirming that fact? I warred with my own emotions for the short time it took to arrive in a room that seemed just as dark as everywhere else. But halfway through, the darkness turned to… nothing. Simple nonexistence.

“What am I looking at?” I quietly asked, trying to take a step forward. Something stopped me, and I confirmed it wasn’t Archivist with a glance to my left. “That’s nothing. How can it be nothing?”

“It is nothing because I have not made it anything as of yet.” Archivist replied solemnly. “This is where we steal glances at the parts of the greater existence that are at risk for impermanence. Once you become a greater part of the Ossuary, you will be able to see it for what it really is, instead of the darkness you witness near everything as. Though for now, I must ask you to witness something gravely unpleasant.”

The nothing part of the room around me bled into sporadic dots of colour, zooming through and past a vast majority of them until I recognized a single shape among the colours. The milky way, in all of its stellar majesty. With one giant, glaring hole in the part where our solar system was supposed to be. Everything was dark there. And as I watched, the hole grew. Not just because we were still traveling towards where Earth had once been, but because the zone of utter dark was expanding. Eating at the stars around it.

“I have received permission from The End to tell you the whole truth of what befell your home.” Archivist said quietly as they watched with me. “How the destruction of your universe began is the same tale as all existence; The Beginning created with reckless abandon, sowing the seeds of existence wherever it pleased and without care for how it would grow. Those existences grew. Some for billions of years, some for trillions, and even still few universes were older so. Your universe is not one of the oldest. Nor is it one of the youngest.”

“It was one of the unluckiest.”

The milky way sped by, closing in on what little remained of the solar system. And the new residents that had taken over. Things in the shadows of a broken existence, writhing masses of completely indescribable makeup that loomed in space with completely inexplicable size. Cracks in reality swaddled Mercury like an infant, pulling it away from a dead sun that shone the colour of everything yet gave off absolutely no light. A single pillar rose from the shattered surface of Earth that was ten times as tall as the planet’s diameter, around which coiled a body so gnarled and twisted that just looking at it made my muscles knot up in sympathetic pain.

And Mars… existence around it bled in long strands, seeping down to touch the planet with a kind gentleness as it pulled pieces off to reveal a core that shrieked in fresh existential pain like a newborn. Venus was simply gone. Plucked from reality, leaving a buzzing hole where it should have been. And from that hole, I felt eyes lock with mine. Countless eyes. All chipping away at everything I could ever be, breaking me down to the unbelievably small piece of existence that I was. I couldn’t bear to look further than that.

I wrenched my eyes away from the projection when it felt like my throat had closed up. “What the fuck are those things?” I managed to croak out.

“They are that which arrives after everything has been expended.” Archivist whispered, waving a hand through the air to cut off the projection. “The product of The Beginning’s reckless creation, of universes growing too large for their existential payload to continue. When creation continues, but there is nothing left with which to build, they arrive. Even now, all existences tick away to their inevitable breaking points. The Beginning had to be stopped. Yet when it was, we found out that everything it had put in motion continued. Dooming us all with creation unbound.”

Archivist turned to me, their head buzzing with discordant sounds I somehow knew spoke of resurfacing trauma. “I will show you the surface of Earth in a moment. It will not be gory, as all humans have either ceased or are on the all-world, but it will be horrifying. It is your responsibility to remember the planet not as it was in its best moments, but as it is, as it will continue to be, and how it eventually ceases completely. That is what it means to be a denizen of the Ossuary. It is what I had to witness with my own people’s planet. And all of us at the Ossuary will stand with you for every traumatic moment.”

I didn’t feel comfortable any more. Images of those things were burned into my eyes, pictures I’d never be able to forget for as long as I lived. “What if I can’t take it?” I quietly asked, closing my eyes and taking in a deep breath. “Earth is gone. Done for. I accepted that twice already, so why do I care about it now? Why should I care about this?”

“Because you care about the people its destruction left behind. About the people who could not escape it.” Archivist said softly. “The planet itself is merely a stand-in for all who ever called it home, and truly witnessing its destruction will prove once and for all that there is nowhere to go back to. The past is gone. The future is unwritten. The present is full of suffering and unknowns, and is forgotten all too soon when it passes by. To remember is to gouge wounds into your mind that will never heal, for to heal is to forget.”

The image blinked back into existence, showing images that were all too familiar yet so vastly alien that I couldn’t fully comprehend them. Colourful shards of shattered glass rolled along what was left of the surface in a tide of destruction, large swaths of black overtaking the rainbow as things swam underneath, occasionally rising to take massive toothy bites out of the glass sea that simply didn’t fill back in. Pillars of black sand rose into the sky, much smaller than the one massive pillar that reached out into space, serpents of bone and magma circling them like living concentric rings. Cracks in the sky continued to bleed torrents of glass baubles, crashing against each other in a cacophony that threatened to steal away my hearing forevermore.

I’d heard of this before. I watched as the Earth skimmed by, countless strange phenomena playing out as these beings decimated the planet I’d once called home. There were no buildings. No greenery. Not even an ocean. Without a single trace of humanity, of life whatsoever, the planet didn’t feel like Earth. It was a desecrated corpse of a celestial body that had once been ours.

“When I came to the all-world the first time around, I heard people whispering about this.” I said as I took a step forward, reaching towards the projection of Earth as my sense of reality fizzled away. “Pillars of black sand. Things eating the land and seas. A massive spine covering a mountain range that bled sickly marrow over the valleys below. And… here it all is.”

I turned to Archivist, who was looking at me with what I could only describe as the sympathy of someone who’d gone through exactly what I was going through. “How is that possible?”

They slowly stepped up to stand beside me, their head flickering as they passed through the threshold of fizzling reality. With a metallic hand they reached out and plucked a glass bauble from the sea below, covering a distance that had to be thousands of miles without moving from next to me.

“When the simulation began, it had to be based off of something. What that something is I do not know, but it existed at one point. Some people witnessed the destruction of the base for the simulation in their brief moments of transition.” Archivist explained. “Home worlds all tend to fall in similar ways. Pillars of black sand. Cracks in the sky that rain glass. And creatures from below that live, die, and reproduce in heartbeats. Your world was the most recent to fall, but it will not be the last.”

Archivist gently grabbed my hand and placed the glass bauble on my palm, curling my fingers around it before I could get a good look at it. “You will have to come back here to monitor your universe’s collapse. I will always be here to accompany you.”

I nodded dumbly as Archivist let go of my hand. My fingers uncurled to reveal a small glass sphere with a mottled blue and green pattern, slowly shifting inside as wisps of white hovered above. I stared at the tiny Earth with a heavy heart, the knowledge that I was the only human who knew the true fate of our planet weighing heavily on me.

The burden of remembrance was suffocating.

A note from CyberCinder

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