Nga-ro looked out his window. It was black outside, utterly black. But that was nothing new. Not in this city. Not to Nga-ro, not to him. Not to the last living resident here, the last set of eyes that still lived to stare out that ancient, crumbling window.
It was black, it was the end.
Nga-ro could feel it, deep in his bones and in his mind. Deep in the atrophied recesses of his heart. His heart, which had so long ago ceased to pulse with its inner light, just as his eyes had before that. There was no more light, neither from within nor without.
The suns had long ago ceased to shine. It was said that they were the eyes of Mata Nui, once. It was all true. But now even His eyes had faded into nothingness, and His heart had surely ceased to beat. That was so long ago, but Nga-ro still remembered.
Here at the end, he remembered.
A cold blast filled the window and rushed through the chamber. He felt it on his face, frigid and dry. No more life in that wind, just cold, lack of energy. Like a machine with no purpose. It rose and fell and was gone again, and the air was still.
Nga-ro stirred. Yes, the time had come. He lifted himself from the place where he sat in the darkness and moved to the window. His feet made a shuffling sound as they disturbed the layers of dust on the floor. How long had it been since he had sat down in this room? Did it matter? There was no time in this place anymore; only the slow accumulation of dust, and the grinding of cold wind upon cold stone.
Once, Nga-ro could have heard the sea crashing out beyond the edges of the city. But even that was soon gone. The sea had dried up—froze and then boiled and then was gone—and only dust remained.
But that had been when there was still light, when the suns still flickered fitfully or turned, slow and gradual, as if lit by some greater light that orbited beyond them. Nga-ro used to watch them, back when he'd kept hope alive. He had tried to understand why the suns had ceased to shine of their own accord, why the eyes of Mata Nui had grown listless and dim. No one could tell him, for by then he was alone, in all the city, in all this empty, abandoned world. Alone to face the slow approach of the dark.
And when the darkness was complete, the long wait had begun. Long and unchanging. So long…
But now there was a change. Now was the end, and that was a change.
He felt along the edges of the stone. They were worn and furrowed, and much more crumbled than he remembered. Yes, it must have been a very long time since he came to this chamber to sit in the stone chair that he had found. Millennia, perhaps. There was no way to know for sure.
Nga-ro sighed. He was very tired. He had not taken sustenance for so long, but he was hardy. He did not succumb to the darkness and the cold like so many others before they had left him here to wait, to remain, to be.
Of course, there had been a purpose for him then, something that he had to do—a duty of some kind. He no longer remembered what it was. Sitting in the darkness, it had slipped from his mind, and he had lost it. Lost his purpose in this world.
So why did he continue? Why live on in this dead world? Why not just cast himself from that window into the dark beyond, fall into that emptiness that used to be a city, a world, and finally be free?
Because…because there was always a chance that he would find his purpose again. He yearned for it desperately. In fact, now that he thought about it, that was the reason he had come to this room. He had needed time…time to think, time to remember. Time to be still and seek within his memory the one thing that he had lost.
The realization was startling, as if he had unlocked a door that had been standing shut in front of him, but that he had not seen until now. Of course, that was why he had come here. But it did not answer his question. And after all, it was the end now. Perhaps it didn't matter anymore, his duty. Perhaps…
He turned from the blank window, from the noise of the cold wind that rushed in, regular as clockwork, and strode back into the room. The dust scattered before him again—he felt it upon his feet, as if he were walking through snow. Ah, he remembered when it had used to snow, back when the sea had frozen, before the terrible red light had slanted in from the suns and baked the landscape, setting the city aflame and boiling the surface of the Silver Sea into steam and cloud and noxious vapor, and then nothing.
He reached the entrance to the room. He knew it was there, though he could not see it. Eons of sitting in that room had accustomed him to the sound and feel of it. The door was gone. Yes, it had been gone for some time. It had been made of wood, and now it was dust. He stepped out into the wide corridor. There was less dust here. The sound of his footfalls echoed off the arching ceiling far above.
On through the hallway, past the empty doors that gaped on either side, unseen in the dark. He could feel their emptiness like jaws yearning to be filled, like mouths open together in one silent, unending cry. He could not help them. He went on.
Down the stairways, twisting and turning. Every step rang out in his memory as they had been when the light still filtered through the slit-windows of the towers, and he could see them all, every facet and carved face. What need had he of eyes, when memory sufficed so well?
He fell once, and that thought suddenly seemed foolish. The stairway had crumbled. Now it was nothing but a broken fragment of stone and a short, swift drop to the floor below. The pain of the fall sharpened his mind, pulling him back to the reality of the moment. He was not greatly damaged—not that he could tell, at least. But things had changed here, yes, even here where time did not seem to move. Decay and entropy were still hard at work.
The thought struck at some hidden nerve or emotion within him as he picked himself up off the floor, and for a moment he felt his throat choked, and tears sprang to his eyes, eyes that had been dry and dark for so long. What was this feeling? Despair? Was it the end at last?
No, it was neither. He stood still a moment, breathing deep and trying to calm himself. It was not despair that made his heart beat fast and his hands clench and quiver. It was remorse. Sadness and remorse. He had not forgotten these. No matter how much time had passed, he still felt them. Sadness and grief, but not for himself. No…why did he mourn so, tears coursing down his hard face to moisten the dust of ages. Why?
It was grief for this world. His world. Yes, all this time he had been remembering it—this place that had been his life for so long. He mourned for the destruction and decay. Perhaps he had felt such grief at the beginning, but not for a long time since. It was as if all that memory were buried deep within him, shaded by time and forgetfulness.
No more. The time had come to end this. The end of grief. At long last.
He set his jaw, and his hands ceased to quake. His breathing was smooth. He went on. Down past the toppled columns and broken walls. Past the unseen pedestals topped by statues and figures, their features long since worn away. Even the writing carved into the stone was lost. Except to him. He knew them all—their names and their histories, all. They would not be truly lost while he lived.
While he lived. And how long would that be?
The outer air was biting cold as he left the silent halls of the Coliseum behind. Across the Great Bridge he went, bowing slightly to the harsh wind. There was a sterile taste to the air. Coppery, almost. Alien.
Lifeless. Yes, for how could life survive here?
Again he knew this was a foolish question. He was still alive, wasn’t he? After all this time, and a little while longer at least.
He moved on. The sky rose above him, and he was blind to it but for the feel of the space and the sound of the distance that expanded on all sides. It was harder to get his bearings now, harder to sense the things around him. He had not walked these streets for many, many years. Had not had the time to sit and listen to the way the wind moved across every facet of every moldering brick and jutting facade.
The streets were cracked and uneven, and he stumbled once or twice, but he did not fall again. The earthquakes had struck hardest here at the center of the city. Few buildings remained standing. Most were piles of rubble. He was almost glad he couldn’t see them. Too painful.
On, on, on. Where was he going? Where indeed? He passed over another bridge—still standing, almost a miracle. And yet, even as he stepped onto the pavement of the far side, he heard it crack and groan. It had carried its last burden, and he almost wept as he listened to it collapse into the dry canal which it had spanned for so many ages. So many long years holding itself up. A weary bridge, waiting out eternity for him to come and stand upon it and end its agony. It was a faithful bridge. It had served its purpose, and now it was ended.
Rest now. He turned away. Yes, rest. Soon, he too would rest.
Years passed, or what felt like years, and still he walked on. Slow, but steady, he trudged through the lightless, empty streets. A building collapsed once as he approached it, and the dust choked his eyes and mouth as he struggled through the rubble and debris. It delayed him, but only slightly. In a place where time did not seem to move, what were a few hours or days? Indeed, he thought to himself, what did time mean to him anymore? Perhaps it meant only the mindless logging of the rate of decay. A long catalogue of the unwinding of the world.
He caught himself at that thought.
No, Nga-ro, do not go down that path. Another memory had leapt to the forefront of his mind. A memory from a time before he had lost his duty, although he still could not recall what his purpose had been. Even so, he did recall the line of thought that had led him to forget: true despair, the temptation to give up, to cease trying. It was like a small voice in the back of his mind. They had a name for it, once, he thought. Back when the world still lived. What was it?
He chuckled, once. A dry sound. It surprised him, for he had not uttered a sound in ages. It was the memory that amused him, for he had suddenly recalled the name that they had given that small voice—a terrible name indeed, though it held no power now.
It was called Nothing, or, at least, it had given itself that name. Perhaps it had had another name. Something more original. That was so long ago, Nga-ro could not think back that far, and he did not try now, for another memory stirred in him, and he almost laughed again.
It was a story he had once known. A great, magnificent story. And it seemed to him that he had once been a part of that story. Somehow, he had played a role in it. But the reason that he almost laughed was because of how the story began. How it had always been told. In the Time Before Time… They had intoned.
Well, if that was before time, then this must surely be the Time After Time. Ironic, that he had lived to see both.
Step, step, step. He didn’t even notice the walking anymore. It was simply a part of his existence now. Trudging onward toward some unknown goal. The wind did not bother him. He was always cold now. It had also become his existence to be cold, to be alone.
Where was he going again? He was forgetting. Was it to find his purpose? No, no, no. That was all wrong. It was because the end had come. That was why he had left the chamber. He remembered now, but that had been a long time ago. How long? He shook his head. As always, it was useless to ask.
His destination must be where the end would come. Surely it must. Yes, yes, he remembered something about it. It was as if he were drawn toward it unknowingly. As if someone had written its pattern upon his mind, and no matter how long he lived, no matter how far he went, it was always there, pushing at him. Prodding him, as if it say, Make it right.
He would make it right. His destination was a building of some kind. The image in his mind’s eye was murky, but familiar. It was in this direction. What was it called? North? North-east? Regardless, he was almost there.
He was in a long, winding alleyway. Bone-dry. He could sense the walls of it sloping upward. Sloping…No, this was no street. There were no buildings on either side anymore. It was a canal—one of thousands that used to course with water. Now empty, desiccated, useless, except to him.
The ground was relatively level, and that was a relief after the uneven surface of the streets. It slanted downward ever so slightly toward the edge of the city. That was where he was going.
No sooner had he thought it than he was there. The canal ended, and now before him stretched an expanse so great that he could not imagine it. A vast, sprawling, lightless plain. The wind howled across the entrance of the canal, a low-pitched, wailing noise. It carried dust in small streams and billows, brushing against his face. Dust and more dust.
He stepped out onto the plain, leaving the small channel behind.
This was the Sea—what they had once called the Silver Sea. He remembered how the light had shone and flashed across its surface, such a sight. But that was all gone now. Nothing remained but the wind moaning over endless dunes, mixing with the noise of billowing sand. A mockery of the sound of waves. Onward he trudged through the swirling desert that used to be a sea, now just a sea of noise. A chaos.
He coughed dust. It filled his eyes, even though they were clamped shut, as useless now as they ever had been. It settled in the chinks of his body, making him itch. His feet sank into it, and every step became a wearying effort, but he went on, always drawn toward that destination, somewhere out on the sea.
He remembered it more clearly now. It was a great building. A place of significance. A hallowed place. What was it they had called it? A Temple?
He stumbled down the far side of a dune, hands outstretched, waving blindly. On and on, and time stood still as he swam through the dead waves. One living thing moving in an ocean of death.
At last—at long last! His hand struck solid stone.
He grasped it hard, fingers clawing for a grip, desperate. Finally they found purchase. He pulled, despite his weariness and the suffocating dust, he pulled.
And finally he was free of it. The dust almost seemed to swell and ebb away down the slope, like the tide. And what had the tide left here upon this final shore?
He crawled for a ways until the ground became level, then he struggled up, shook himself and spat the dust from his mouth, wiped it from his eyes. He had arrived. Yes, he had come to his destination. He had come to the end.
Before him it rose, tall and imposing. He could feel it, almost like…like a presence. There was a throbbing in the back of his mind, something growing and swelling amongst his thoughts. Something important. He did not know what it was; only that he must continue on.
Forward across the flat space of stone, between the mighty pillars that stood at the entrance to the towering building. He paused for a moment, remembering the splendor that it once had. To his right there used to be gardens; to his left, the marbled steps down to the bridge that spanned the Silver Sea. The bridge had since fallen, swallowed in the decay of ages. The trees and plants were no more. Now there was only hard stone and rough, broken edges.
And yet he must go on.
On through the archway, the entrance to the Temple, for that was what it was: the Great Temple, the Temple of the Great Spirit.
The throbbing in his mind increased as he strode forward, and he shook his head. Something was troubling him, something trying to break the surface of his thoughts, to be seen and known. It was urgent, a yearning…
The wind ceased as he entered the grand hall. The air was still within and utterly silent. Only his breathing and the sound of his armored feet on the stone disturbed the hallowed quiet of the temple. It was here, all here. Here was where the end would come.
He stopped suddenly and stretched out his hands. His head pounded, harder and harder. He felt stone against his fingers, a rounded pedestal carved with many notches and grooves. They were still sharp, untouched by decay or entropy. There was no dust here.
The pedestal was taller than he, and his searching hands could only feel so far along its domed surface. But he could not focus like this, couldn’t concentrate to form a picture of the thing in his mind. The throbbing in his brain was too much. He couldn’t bear it, couldn’t stand it anymore!
And then…then his fingers felt something—a symbol, carved deep into the stone. He knew that symbol, three circles...and two sweeping lines. He knew it, yes. He recognized it. It was the pattern…the key!
A flood of memory broke loose from the recesses of his thoughts, and he stumbled backward, away from the pedestal, clutching his head. It was almost too much to bear, that sudden torrent of thought and feeling. Emotions long buried rushed back to him, and he recalled what he had for so long lost…the duty.
Nga-ro remembered the time before…a time when he had had a different place, a different name. He remembered the voices of his companions, his people. All around him, working and laboring, creating. Filling the world with their voices and their life as he looked on.
But then it had started to fade, and he had felt weary…so weary…A dark figure arose on the horizon of the world. Black and immense, his laughter echoed in the skies. He lifted a hand upward, and sleep took hold of Nga-ro. Endless sleep. But Nga-ro had no relief, for the duty tortured him in his slumber. Make it right. Make it right.
He glimpsed the dark one—the one who called himself Nothing—saw how he took hold of the world, sought to twist it to his own ends. No, no, no. He had to make it right…but he was slipping away, slipping away into the darkness beyond all darkness, the darkness of death. And suddenly his spirit had been alone in the cold, and harsh stars shed their alien light upon him. He had lost his destination—his guiding star, the point toward which he had always directed his steps. Nga-ro…no, surely that had not been his name then…he had lost himself.
No! It must not be so! He had turned back toward the world of the living, clawed his way back from the darkness. But he could not return to his former place. He was cast out, alone and unseen, as the world—his world—fell into chaos. Even the dark one could not stop it. He had not known what the consequences would be. But then Nga-ro looked within himself, and a plan formed in his thoughts:
Back, back, back to the City. The city still filled with life, with light. The dark one had fled, cowering, trying to escape. Even he had been fearful, who had called himself Master of Fear, even he feared to become nothing in the end.
But Nga-ro had a plan. He had walked upon the solid ground and looked upon the solid sights of the City, and around him the people had gathered and had seen him as he was—like them. Small, perhaps, but very alive. And he had told them his plan, as darkness fell over the world:
All must sleep.
And I will keep watch, until the darkness is over, and the light is found again.
Until I make all things right…
Nga-ro stirred from his place, prone upon the floor of the Great Temple. He was back, he remembered. He was tired, but he was not tempted to sleep. No, he had slept long enough for all of them. Now he was awakened, and very much alive.
With a start he opened his eyes. They had been closed…how long? He tried to focus them, but something was not right. Why should he focus eyes that were useless in the all-consuming darkness? Why indeed…
Because there was a light shining above him. A single point of white. His eyes strained, eyes that had been unused for so many millennia. It was almost too painful to look. But he did not close his eyes. Suddenly it resolve, and all became clear. It was a light, far, far above him. Immeasurably far away. A single star in all that blackness of night. How could he see it?
The roof of the Great Temple was broken. He could see the outline where the stones had fallen in, just enough for him to glimpse the sky.
He knew that star.
Nga-ro arose, head tilted back, eyes still fixed upon that singular speck. He stepped toward the pedestal—the Suva. Yes, he knew where it was. Felt it with his hands. There was the Symbol again, the constant reminder of his duty. He placed his hand upon the middle of the three circles, flattened his palm. Words came to him, words that he had spoken in the time when time still ran true and straight. Words that he had spoken to his people when he had found his way back from the darkness of sleep and death.
Who am I? he had asked, shading his eyes as he had stumbled from the entrance to the Great Temple, dazed, confused. Limited. He had not lived within a body so small before.
And what had they answered? What had they said to him when they turned their faces upon him, faces filled with fear as the light of their universe faded? What had they said when they saw the light of his eyes and knew him?
The Symbol seemed to throb at his touch now. Something was happening. Yes, this was the end. The end at last!
A noise was swelling in his ears and in his mind, but it was not the wind. The wind was gone. This was a living sound, the sound of many voices. Voices that he knew, mounting and swelling from out of the depths.
The star seemed to blaze brightly above him as he set his eyes upon it, there where the twin suns used to be, where the eyes of the Great Spirit used to shine in ages past. He set his gaze upon it, staring into the Great Spirit’s unseen eyes as if they were his very own.
And still the noise mounted, growing, filling every corner and every room, every hidden street and every hall and chamber of that City that was empty, and yet no longer empty. A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, more. All crying out, calling out to him in answer to his question.
Who am I?
A hundred thousand rising voices crying out!
YOU ARE THE GREAT SPIRIT
NGA-RO, FIRST BROTHER
YOU HAVE SLEPT FOR TOO LONG
BUT NOW THE END HAS COME
THE END OF OUR SLEEP
NOW TAKE UP THE NAME YOU ONCE BORE
NOW AWAKEN US
AND AWAKEN OUR WORLD
WE, THE MATORAN
OUR WORLD SHALL RISE AGAIN.
Nga-ro…the First Brother…No, that was no longer his name…he remembered now an older name, older by far. And it was Mata Nui.
Mata Nui smiled in the darkness, and a new light flickered from his eyes and from his heart as he looked upward into the dark sky, his gaze fixed upon that ancient star.
He had found it again. Nga-ro the Matoran was no more, for now he remembered Himself.
Now he would make all things right.
Red morning broke across the city. Red and new and eager and ready, and a hundred thousand eyes answered it with their light as they started up from the shadows, a hundred thousand hearts glowing with new life, voices mingling in the great noise that rose above the spires and towers, awakening from the long slumber. Sleep, sleep, sleep no more…
And far beyond all of them, in the vast blackness of space, the body of the Great Spirit stirred once more among the stars. Immense eyes lit up and shone blazing into the void, and then it turned itself and hurtled Onward.
Onward toward that small point of light.
Onward toward its destination and the end of its journey.
For the end had come.
And it was a beginning.
Edited by Tolkien, May 23 2014 - 03:00 PM.