AFTER THE FALL
It is useless to speak of time in the Abyss as possessing the property of structure. Time measures the distances between events, but it also places those events in order. Where time fails or its flow over the rapids of space is turbulent the order fails too.
To begin with, the rate of time's flow and its ordering of events still maintain a degree of correspondence with their own experience. They can speak. And listen.
'Asriel, my love, can you hear me?'
'Where is Metatron? And where are our daemons?'
'Metatron was not a true creature of the flesh. Neither were our daemons. They are gone; sublimed into the void.'
'Only we remain?'
'Only we remain.'
A pause. How long? The flow of external time determines that the patch of light above their heads, below their feet, to one or the other side of them, steadily diminishes in size.
'Is there pain?'
'There is pain, but it is not my pain. I see you, though there is no light. I speak to you, though there is no air to breathe. We exist, though we are dead.'
'We did right, didn't we?'
'We did much that was wrong.'
'But, in the end, we did right?'
'You ask me what is right? Or do you still seek, even now, to justify yourself?'
Asriel Belacqua is still aware of the concept of now. Time still flows; carried on their blood, pulsed by their hearts.
'I did what I could to make myself evil, in the end. I had already done much that was evil, but it was not until the end that I could make myself become evil.'
'You did not make yourself evil, but a simulacrum of evil. A convincing one. You were always convincing.'
'Have we saved them?'
'Saved who? The children? No – they must save themselves. We have done no more than clear their path to salvation. They must find that path for themselves, and choose to take it.'
'The children, yes. I never wished Lyra any harm, ever.'
'You seek to justify yourself again.'
The word falling no longer relates to a frame of reference. There are no directions, except the vectors they define for themselves. They face one another. Or appear to do so. The evaporation of space and time is inexorable.
'What will happen to us?'
'Happen is a word bound in time. Time is a thing we no longer possess.'
'Unless we create it anew.'
'Let us do so, for a while longer.'
They create a bubble of time around themselves. Within this bubble, linked by the ghosts of their organic processes, they may, for the duration of the time they order and align, continue to exist.
'We live by our own internal references, Marisa. We no longer have any external reality.'
'We are, then, what we choose to be.'
'We always were. But when we lived in the worlds, our choices were determined by many factors that we could not control.'
'They were still our choices.'
'Yes. There were never any excuses.'
'Shall we make our choice now?'
'What is now?'
'The now that we make.'
They are free to choose, unfettered by external constraints. They may create their own realities:
The bubble of time collapses. Freed from its confines, the consciousnesses of Asriel Belacqua and Marisa Coulter are finally released. There is a last sparkle of Dust in the void.
All flow of time ceases. Stasis, time's dark twin, has dominion. It is the end of the end.
Their time-bound essences merge. They, the authors of their own time and space, speak:
'Let there be light.'
And there is light.