Chapter Nineteen: Reflections of the Absolute
They say that the old cannot remember due to the sheer weight of memories that they have accumulated over the years. Perhaps the very elderly become hunched over because of all these strange images and half images, some dim and others bright, that fill their heads. I am ancient beyond reckoning, and, as thus, I am uncertain of the sequence of my memories. Is there an order to them? Does it really matter? I sit in this chamber, day after day, eon upon eon, staring at nothing. Though my eyes are open much of the time, I could not tell you what the chamber looked like even if I wanted to. That is how accustomed to it I have become. Yet somehow I remember what lay just beyond my dais. It was a primordial labyrinth of craggy rocks, beset with a perpetual downpour of red lightning that illumined the heavens with hellish light.
One day, I remember gathering the darkness unto myself, the pooled energy of countless ages. I split this darkness four ways. From it, my children were born. These were the first beings to call me 'Father', though at that time I did not understand why they did so.
Why are these memories returning to the recesses of my sluggish mind? I know by a strange internal clarity that they are fact and not fantasy. If that is the case, then where are my children now? To where have they strayed? And why have they left me, their father, looking endlessly into a realm of dreams that I cannot comprehend or discern from reality? Is my life so vast, so encompassing that I cannot determine what was real and what was not?
They say that when a man becomes a father, his entire identity is lost to the winds of time. All of his efforts, all of his thoughts center upon his brood. Such was my fate. Now I am an old man, ancient one might say. My children are grown, my nest is empty. The silence is thick where once I heard laughter, where once I shared small joys and triumphs. Even sorrows, which, though they matched my children in size, seemed to encompass the entire universe. Now, alone again, I remember what was. Or do I? I seem to remember our first meeting, being called All-father and Absolute. These are mere words, however. What significance could they possibly bear to me?
Yet now I begin to remember… I gather dim snatches from my mind, glimpses of faces in fading smoke, in the ripples on the water, in dull mirrors… I recall smashing the mountains, softening the face of the land as if it were clay. I stood mightier than the hills, taller than the clouds. I did not move from my throne, yet I accomplished all of these things. And when I chanced to clench my fists at the confusing transformation going on below me, I felt the stickiness of blood upon my hands.
The realm beneath me changed as time went on. Green things grew and living beings began to evolve, to thrive. My children looked on as the process of Creation went on… They were remnants, however, the memories of Chaos. They feared the changes that were taking place. I remember the hatred smoldering in their eyes…
These memories are growing stronger. I was Creator and Father. I was All-father and Absolute. Somehow I recall a day in which Chaos despaired of Creation and went into the midst of it to disrupt it. Creation was my final child. And it grieved me to see my children quarreling amongst one another. Yet I could no sooner stop what was happening than move from this place. Age and memory weighed heavy on me. Though I had worked miracles that earned me my names Absolute and All father, I had no idea how I had done it. All the effort was intuitive, one might say. Creation fought my four Dark Children in a terrible clash that echoed in my mind and shook the pillars of the universe. Though blind, I could sense the outcome of the battle! I knew of the deaths of my children! Creation, my youngest child, had quelled the four Dark Children, the sons and daughter of Chaos. Though the Dark Children had begun the battles with Creation, I grieved for them. I was their father, as well as that of Creation. How I remember the first time I buried them… I laid them low in a magnificent palace far beneath the earth. How strange that I buried the Dark Children in the heart of Creation. In their tombs, I placed glittering jewels and guardians to watch their sleep. I hoped that Creation and the Dark Children would finally reconcile. However, the Dark Children were restless, even after they had perished. Their bodies moldered and decayed. When their bones, the seat of their power, were laid bare, darkness flooded the halls of their sepulcher. Restless, Chaos sought to rise again, using my children. I, however, was Father. When my children returned to me, reeking of grave soil, I only rejoiced and embraced them.
Alack for the day! Once again Chaos pitted itself against Creation. My sweet children were bent on their purpose. Creation again quelled them. Perpetual loss had a numbing effect and again, I laid them low in the marble vault. Once more, however, Chaos returned their bodies to life, through subtle craft in the affairs of men, who are the children of Creation.
Yet why are the tides of memory now returning when they have so long receded? I have no answer to my question, only exasperation and wonder. The conflict has left me perpetually raw inside. Such is the gamble that Fathers make when they love all of their children. This pain is sharp…
Ah yes, I see. Chaos was defeated again, this time in my children's own tomb. Wretched Chaos… My poor, beloved Dark Children have fallen. I know that soon, darkness will stalk the halls of their resting place, seeking agents of Creation to restore their bodies… It has been this way for time immemorial…
The memories fade now, withering like roses, washing away like smeared colors… I seem to recall other names now…names that were once mine…names of other people. Yet this cannot be… I am father and no one else, or am I? Somehow in the fashion in which I humbled the mountains, I walked as a stooped old man…wandering across the world with birds that carried messages… Ah yes. The air is the new sea. And Tia… The name sings sweetly on my tongue. Was she one of my children?
The might of the universe is all around…just past the dais I have made my perch above the world claimed by Creation. Yet the world of my own memories commands my eyes. There are so many of them… How many are real?
Clarity again… The Dark Children have again drowned in their ambition to repossess the earth. My precious children… Your actions were shameful to me, even atrocious. But I am your Father. Until you rise again, as you have for time immemorial, I shall guard your tomb, the most ancient of caves, the most perfect of dungeons, a maze of treasures that cannot be stolen… Until that time, sleep on, my precious children…my Dark Ones…my Sinistrals.
I wanted this last chapter to stand out, which is why I deviated from my third person narration. I hope that this stream of consciousness style of writing brings out Arek the Absolute's eternal nature while keeping him a mysterious figure… This is the last chapter of the Ancient Cave, but I am entertaining thoughts of a sequel, which is why I kept the ending much looser than I would have otherwise.
Thank you everyone for reading my fic.
A thousand thanks to my reviewers. Your feedback (especially your encouragement) is invaluable to me.
Special thanks to Doc who has been with me from the very beginning. Gomen ne, C.R. Carter-san. I'm still thinking of you as Doc. (And I will probably continue to for a while…my ex-boyfriend was a Carter…'nuff said.)