The sun. A massive, burning ball with little explosions flashing across its surface. Though they only seem small from a distance. A gaseous killer, its flesh-peeling heat is indiscriminate.

On the same note, the sun brings warmth to the freezing, empty vastness of space. A warmth that facilitates life in certain circumstances. If a planet were to find the right distance, the right orbit, the right spin, it would know the benefits of this heat. And for a time, there existed one of these lucky planets. The earth, a ball of rock that found that perfect distance on its creation. It facilitated that life that is so fleeting on any other planet, its atmosphere keeping its residents safe for millions of years.

But alas, nothing lasts forever. The earth is gone, and its not the only one; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and every other thing excluding the sun no longer exists. The Milky Way is reduced to a lonely, eternal resting place. However, not all is lost. A silver lining is always tucked away behind the tragedy of life. You may just have to look a little harder than usual.

Where the earth once spun, a little sphere of darkness floats along, its edges like the sun, soft and formless. And if it weren for that bright parent of life, the little ball would be invisible against the darkness of space. Though this black ball, anchored to an orbiting path, is different; it is alive. Not alive as one would assume, with a beating heart and breathing lungs, but all the same, it thinks, therefore it is.

Away from the only two existing things, on the edge of the Milky Way, a hole has formed. The edges of the massive hole are fine, and cracks branch from them like shattered glass. Unlike the pitch-blackness of the Milky Way, the space visible through the hole is bright with violet, red, blue, and green tendrils of dust floating along. A kaleidoscope of bright and lively colors, it is beautiful compared to the desolate Milky Way.

The portal-like hole begins to pulse suddenly, enlarging, then shrinking. The enlargement overtakes the shrinking, and before long, the hole is large enough for the sun to fit through. Slowly, the very fabric of reality becomes a slippery slope as the space of the Milky Way is sucked in. The edge of that black sphere begins to stretch like rubber as its vacuumed towards the hole.

The sun is not spared either, and the gaseous flames whisp from the surface in an orange, burning funnel towards the hole. Reality continues to be leeched on, and before long, the ball of darkness and the sun are reduced to thick strings of darkness and burning light. They intermingle, twisting together as they are finally pulled through the hole.

As the strings leave their previous resting place, the hole begins to shrink again, still pulling the rest of the Milky Way into its galactic grips. Soon, the final specks of matter are pulled through, and as that happens, the hole shrinks further and further. Until finally, it snaps closed. The job is done.

On the other side of the portal, the strings appear as one. The bright flames of the sun are gone, and only the darkness is left. Connected to that hole is a massive blue-tinted translucent tunnel, like the trunk of a great tree that cuts through the nebula of colors that is this space. The string of darkness finds itself pulled through the tunnel by a strange force, passing by several planets and smaller stars connected to branching tunnels extending from the one the darkness travels through. Like fruit, the planets hang from these branching tunnels, the same translucent material wrapping around them and stretching back like the stem of an apple or tomato.

The main tunnel is incomprehensibly massive, so much so that the surrounding light barely reaches the middle. The branching tunnels are smaller with unpredictable curves and sharp turns, and there are hundreds of them, all sprouting from the main tunnel. Each has many planets connected to them, and, opposite of the now non-existant Milky Way, each planet has its own smaller star orbiting it. There are thousands of them, all enveloped by the same blue energy.

In the main tree trunk of a tunnel, that thick string of darkness is pulled harder, faster, towards something. Its speed topples that of light easily, zipping past branches and their fruit in a blur. There are travelers in this main tunnel, each with no more than two or three souls upon their ships, ones meant for water. They have no sails, no rudders, yet they float through space with a strong energy carrying them. The darkness bolts past the travelers, unseen due to its incredible speed.

As the darkness is pulled along, it becomes frustrated by the force pulling it. It was comfortable in the silence of the Milky Way, and now that comfort has been ripped from its grips. The string begins to flail about, slamming itself against the thin walls of the tunnel. In a childish temper tantrum, the darkness resists the pull, each slam harder than the last. It bounces back and forth, cracks forming in the blue walls with each one.

Finally, as the frustration reaches a peak, the string breaks free from the tunnel, a small hole forming around its exit. With that foreign pull no longer guiding its path, the string of darkness plummets forward with terrible momentum. A red and black planet blocks its path, lava, and rock covering its surface. Silent, the darkness slices through the wall surrounding the planet, creating another hole as it finally escapes from the watchful eyes of its captor.

Inside one of the many volcanos of Kalar, surrounded by rivers of lava, darkness fills every nook and cranny in a cave. On the ceiling, some thirty bright crystals are wedged into the black rock, their crimson light dampened by the darkness. A thick, black smoke, its movements are slow and flowing, but not random. The curling tendrils draw upon themselves in the middle of the cave, thickening into a shadowy figure as the last bit extracts from the crevices on the walls and ceiling.

Before long, the entirety of the strange substance coalesces, eventually dissipating, or rather transforming into a thin, lanky figure. Pale skin glows in the red light shining above, and long, black locks fall to the middle of the mans back, knubs of his spine poking through his skin.

Cages eyes are closed, and a staunch silence surrounds him. Though without warning, those eyelids pry open, revealing pitch-black eyeballs that swallow the light. His brows furrow and he looks down to inspect his body, finding that the ground is quite a bit further from his eyes than he remembers. Bones poke through at his hips, and ribs are visible under his pale skin. A deep hunger sets into his stomach, a rumbling that screams and begs for sustenance.

Even with the pain in his stomach, a wide grin plasters to his lips, ”I… Im alive, ” Cage looks down at his hands, flexing his fingers, wondering whether this is all a dream or not. Is this what it feels like to be alive?

He inspects his arms, those crystals shedding dark red light on him as he opens and closes his hands. Cage feels weak, so weak in fact that even raising his arms like this takes a bit of effort, but still, ”…Anything is better than that damned place, ” he says, memories of a pitch-black space flowing through his mind.

In that dark place, Cage couldn move, speak, hear, smell, taste, or even look at his body, the body that was taken from him by that light. All he could do was think. Think about his previous life, the family taken from him, and whether he would ever live again. However, after who knows how many years trapped in that place, even that became difficult. His memory of that time is still hazy, and though he attempts to think about it, the sharp pains in his stomach halt that quick.

”…Thats behind me now. Im not going back there… ever, ” Cage whispers to himself, trying to become familiar with his own voice. Its deep and raspy, tired even, ”…I guess thats what happens when you
e starving, ” he turns with a tired step, and what enters his vision is the exit to the cave, a steep incline leading up and into complete darkness.

Cage looks up at those crystals surrounded by the grey rocks, furrowing his brows as he notices something inside of them. A swirling black substance, like dye in water, undiluted. He could probably jump and grab one, if his legs weren already wobbling. Cage sighs, returning his vision to the exit, ”…Whats more darkness? ” a nervous chuckle reverberates through the cave.

He steps up to the bottom of the slope, bare feet dragging across the smooth floor. Wide eyes stare up at the darkness, and Cage notices that he feels alert. Disturbingly so. A light draft swoops in from that veil of the unknown, carrying with it a suffocating heat and a stench of burning metal. Cages eyes begin to water slightly at the sudden heat, his throat becoming parched more than it already was. Even so, he takes a deep breath and begins to climb up the slope.

Much like the chamber he awoke in, the slope is smooth at the bottom. The crimson light reveals tiny stones that stick out sporadically, and he uses them to heave himself up slowly. Though it is not long before the light disappears, forcing Cage to feel around for each new hold. Only a few minutes in, the man is already struggling to breathe. The poor state of his body along with that suffocating heat reduces him to a sweating, slow-moving slob.

Darkness surrounds him for a time, and Cage finds himself pausing every once and a while to catch his breath, his limbs burning. His legs are still shaking like he is participating in some kind of ritualistic dance, and his toes and fingers threaten to slip from their holds every second. He should have fallen on his first step, Cage thinks, but something is pushing him forward. The memory of that dark place, or the last words he heard before awaking. Whichever one it is, it matters not to Cage.

Some time passes, the process of climbing and resting repeating until Cage finally sees light above him. He stares up at the tiny sliver of light, trying to catch his breath as he leans against the slope. Then, with a quick inhale, Cage pushes himself up on the rocks once again. A hand falls on the lip of the exit, and Cage pulls himself through the opening, his skinny body barely fitting through the mouth-like exit of the cave. He rolls down from the lip of the exit, landing on a flat piece of stone a few feet below.

Cage lies there for some time, the warm stone under his back. It takes longer to catch his breath than he thought it would, and he blames it on the suffocating atmosphere that has only increased now that he is outside the cave. He looks to the sky, a blanket of grey clouding his vision with light trying to peel through. It must be smoke, for Cage has never seen clouds so dark and depressing. Tiny flakes fall toward him, swinging in the air like leaves caught in the wind. He raises a hand to catch one of the flakes, opening his palm to reveal a smudge of white and grey, ”…Ash? ” Cage whispers with furrowed brows.

Cage lifts himself to his feet with some effort, looking out to scan his surroundings. Black stone extends out from under his feet, leading to a steep decline just before him. The field under that is covered by the same black stone, bumpy and uneven. A river of slow-moving lava slices the land in half, and on the beach of black stone running along each side, strange trees rise in sparse numbers. Their bark is black, just like everything else, and the branches twist sharply into a mushroom cap shape, leafless. Crimson veins stretch from the base and along the trunk, pulsing with molten lava.

In the distance, where the dark sky meets the black field, mountains rise from the ground. Some of these massive mountains open at the top, smoke billowing from them and rising to join the mass of black blanketing the sky. Cage was correct, it is smoke. Though the revelation brings no satisfaction to the mans tired mind.

”I don think Im on earth anymore, ” Cage whispers to himself.

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