It started as a whisper.
"Have you not seen the fate of all men?"
But no soul would listen.
Then it rose to a cry.
"Do you not see the power in living?"
"I do," a lone voice cried back.
"Then why do you not act accordingly?" it asked.
There would be no response.
In an impassioned attempt, it fought back with a brilliant darkness amist the light, a path to guide the way, and it quickly became a call to arms for those awake enough to embrace it.
"We are the objects of our own design, and you have not even begun to imagine the realities that could be."
But when the dark died out and the pretenders faded, it too faded out as the masquerade fell back into place. The dancers danced, the musicians played, and they all became absorbed in this incomplete facade; they all would find unfounded meaning in this construct they all perpetuated.
"What do I have to do for you to see beyond these ways of dying? What do I have to do to make you see how to live?"
Still no response. It was losing; it was decaying. There would be no end this time, for there had not even been a beginning. It gave out a roar with its dying breath that was only heard by one... but it was heard by the right one.
"What madness is this? What madness is this that no one will seek to find the answers beyond their source? What men have become of these?"
And in the dark a lone voice called back.
"From where have I awoken, and where do I find myself now? Are you so desperate that you would die to see me live?"
"My friend, we have been doing nothing but dying so far; I would do anything to see you live; we are you."
And that's how it all started.
Was it a dream? Was it real? Am I dreaming? No. I'm awake now. I think I was sleeping, but I can't be sure. Where am I? Why can't I see anything? Okay, where was I last? Oh right. I jumped off of Judgement Pass. Am I dead? No, wait. I can feel the ground. I have weight. I'm not falling any more. It must just be dark out. Wait. Did I dream that I jumped off Judgement Pass? Am I still here with Henrik? Mmm... so sleepy. I'll just go to sleep and figure this out in the morning when it's light out.
It never got light.
Enter The Shadowsphere
Danny's Story Part 2
I woke up to find the darkness again. This time I knew it was real. Okay, think. I needed to find something to help me get my bearings. It wasn't as cold as I remember Judgement Pass being. Was I still in Judgement Pass? I reached around on the ground to feel out any clues that would tell me where I was. That's when I saw them. There were two big eyes looking at me through the darkness. I froze, not knowing what to do. The eyes stared right back at me, unmoving.
A voice spoke out in a whisper. "How long have you been here Danny?"
"How do you know me?"
The voice became more demanding, "How long have you been here?"
"What do you mean?"
The voice now almost desperate, "How long have you been sitting in this location?"
Voice, "Do you hear them?"
Voice, "The Deathtrackers."
Voice, "The Deathtrackers."
"What are those?"
The voice turned its head away from me and demanded silence, "Shh." The eyes of the mysterious being looked around. I could start to make out the outline of a face. There was a twinge of fear present as it listened intently into the darkness. "Okay, we need to go. Are you hurt at all?"
"No, I'm fine."
Voice, "Alright, let's move."
Before I had time to protest or ask who this mysterious being was, it grabbed my hand and started leading me quickly through the dense jungle.
Voice, "Just keep moving. If you never stop, no matter how slow you're going, you'll get there eventually."
Voice, "Whever you're going."
"I don't kn..."
Voice, "Danny, if you stop, the monsters will find you and you'll die. You have to keep moving."
I wasn't going to fight with this person, since they seemed to genuinely care for my wellbeing, and whoever it was, it was now my guide in this unknown new land.
How did it know who I was?
It was nearly 20 minutes of walking briskly before the stranger allowed us to let up our pace a bit. We had reached the outskirts of the jungle and an ambient glow had begun to make everything lighter. I figured this was a good time to ask several questions that had been burning in my mind.
"Excuse me. Um. Where are we?"
Voice, "The jungle? You know you're lucky I found you; I don't often come to the jungle."
"No, I mean... this place seems different in some way. And how did I get here from Judgement Pass."
The voice stopped dead in it's tracks and looked at me. I could see it's face now in the glow. It was a face I never thought I'd see again. "Is that how I got here? I had forgotten."
"Sam? Is that you Sam?"
The person stepped closer into the glow and I could see that it was indeed Sam, "Of course it's me."
"You haven't aged a day since I last saw you. It's been 8 years Sam. I thought you died."
Sam, "Has it really been that long?"
"Have you been here this whole time? I still don't know where here is."
Sam, "I'll tell you, but we need to get to a safer place first. We're nearly there."
I didn't speak until we reached our destination, partially because I couldn't believe Sam was still alive, partially because her personality semed a little different, and partly because I didn't want to attract anything lurking out there in the darkness that Sam seemed keen to avoid.
Sam's house (or at least I think that's what it was) wasn't really much of a house. Maybe this was just an outward post to some kind of main base. There didn't seem to be many supplies here, but it was heavily fortified; Nothing was gettting inside, that's for sure. Sam offered me a spot on the ground to sit across from her. I took it, and she began to explain the things I had questions about.
Sam, "I call this place the shadowsphere. Up in the light you are blinded by the pursuit of shiny things. In here we have found the darkness, the abyss, the unknown. In here we can find ourselves. Most people won't ever even find the shadowsphere. They live their whole life in fear of falling down, when falling is just what they needed. I've met others down here. I've been calling the ones who take the fall and venture into the shadowsphere the divergent. These divergent few are the ones who confront their deepest fears. Down here... our monsters are the most real. Down here you begin to see reality for how it truly is. Some people can't handle it and die, through a quick suicide or a slow drawn out life of fear. They'll try to drown out the fear by chasing highs or finding forgetfulness. The monsters become too much for them, or they see too much of the monsters in themselves and it became so unsettling that they couldn't live with themselves. You cannot unsee the monster you have seen, and they can consume you."
Sam was aimlessly drawing in the dirt with her finger. "There is another group of travelers. I call them the departed. They find a home here in the shadowsphere. They find inner peace amongst their demons, here among all these monsters. But these few minds don't take the truths they find down here back to the world above. They do not return to the true reality. They are not complete masters of their monsters, though they might be quick to claim so."
Sam started looking around for something in her clothes. "The final group I call the monster kings. They have truly found the shadowsphere, in every sense. They hollow out their fears to the point where they are the king of all monsters, acknowledging and embracing the true reality of the monsters. But more importantly, these individuals return to reality to apply what they have learned in the shadowsphere to their further pursuits back in the most real of realities. The monster kings do not let themselves get lost in any realm."
Sam looked around as if trying to recall something, then back to me, "I haven't met any monster kings. I've only read of them in old ruins and in tales from other souls journeying through this place. It took me eons, but I finally pieced together the monster king motto."
Sam pulled out a scroll with strange markings on it. She opened the scroll to show me the text inside.
And should I find a better way,
I'll take it; I won't hesitate,
lest I succumb to stagnation;
time erodes those men unchanged.
Sam, "It's what I've been living by. It's how I've stayed alive. It's how I've kept going. I live by that motto. In this one sentence, it seemingly captures everything that it takes to become a monster king. It conveys the idea that a monster king must always keep moving forward, that a monster king is not a title given for life, but a title given to those who continue to embody what it means to be a monster king."
I didn't know what kind of transformations Sam had gone through. She seemed to be in an alternate mindspace. I didn't want to probe her too much; she seemed normal enough.
Man... what had I fallen into? I still felt like I was in the process of waking up from a bad dream, but the dream wasn't ending. Everything was so real. I was starting to piece together things, and I was starting to remember more from before Judgement Pass.
Sam, "So tell me. How long have you been here?"
"Maybe... less than a day. It's hard to say."
Sam's eyes lit up, "Less than an Earth day? You have to tell me where you came in from. Maybe we'll be able to use that to get out of here."
"I came in from Judgement Pass."
Sam, "No, where were you when you first got to the Shadowsphere."
"Right where you found me," I paused to think, as my memory wasn't the best right now, "I don't remember moving at all... unless something moved me."
Sam, "That can't be. There has to be an entrance to this place. There has to be an exit. There has to be something."
"All I remember is going off the edge of Judgement Pass, hearing a weird voice, and then waking up where you found me."
Sam, "Dammit. This puts me back to square one. I've been trying to understand this place for so long. Every time I think I figure something out, it throws me something else that makes absolutely no sense at all. Ugh. I need to get farther out. I need to get more answer. There's no other way."
I sat there in silence watching Sam flying through her thoughts. She seemed frustrated, looking as thought she was trying to fit togehter pieces from a puzzle not designed to be completed.
I had one last burning question.
"Hey Sam, when's sunrise?"
Sam, "There is none."