The story of Myst, and all related characters and concepts, are copyright Cyan Worlds, Inc. This third party work is an unauthorised work of fanfiction, and is in no way sanctioned by or affiliated with Cyan Worlds, Inc. The work is shared with other fans at no cost, and no profit is being made from it.

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Strange Times
Part 1

Stars. Everywhere, in every direction, stars. Brilliant, beautiful, terrible stars. The fissure he had fallen through had long since become just another little pinprick of light among the others, and he could no longer say which it was. He had turned around, twisted in his fall so many times, that he was not even sure of the direction. He was discovering that "down" had little meaning when there was no ground, no solid point of reference to point to. He was not even sure if he was still falling.

The initial panic had, thank mercy, faded fast. The terror gripping him now was the deeper, calmer fear that came from rational thinking in a hopeless situation. Death seemed certain, at first, but he had been falling for some time now, and was not dead yet. The air around him was not cold, no colder than it had been before he fell anyway, and with no ground to collide with, the fall itself seemed harmless. With no end in sight, however, it would not be long before thirst and hunger claimed him. Could this truly have been Atrus's intention? "The path home is now clear for all of us," he had said, and had also expressed a hope that they would meet again. He had seemed sincere. No, Atrus could not have meant for him to die here. Perhaps he had simply not known what awaited through the fissure.

Time passed. Time must have been passing. How long had it been since he first fell? Hours? Days? What hunger he felt would suggest the former, if it had truly been days, he would surely have been starving. The endless stars revolved around him, dancing, laughing at him as he fell. They did not seem to grow nearer, or more distant, simply hanging there in their mocking dance. No pattern emerged among them, no signs or constellations he could recognise. The shadow shapes that blotted out the stars here and there seemed also to be still against the sky, though as he was turning he was never sure if he was looking at the same ones twice.

Was this to be it, then? The end, his end, falling endlessly among unfamiliar stars. If so, it would indeed be something extraordinary! He had set out to explore the unknown, and had he not here found something no man could possibly have seen before? Yes, there could be worse ends than this, he thought, as he grew tired. His eyelids felt heavy, and his bones ached with fatigue from the labours of the last couple of weeks. The adventure was at an end, at last. He had done all he was asked to do, and had been given this glimpse of the unknowable as his reward. Yes, this was a good end. He closed his eyes, shut out the stars, and surrendered to sleep.

It was not to be. He awoke again. He had no way of knowing how long he had slept, but he did not feel rested. Something had changed. The stars seemed dimmer than they had before. The air was moving around him, a wind was forming, blowing from behind him, and he realised that this was what had woken him. Twisting his head, he could see what had changed, why the air was suddenly rushing past. There was ground! Looming, blocking out the stars, it was rapidly widening to fill his entire field of vision. Suddenly, there was a "down."

***

A fall from such a height should have killed him, but once again the end proved elusive. He hit the ground rolling, and the wind was knocked out of him. He ended up on his back on the sandy ground, gasping for air, unable to get up. As he regained his breath and calmed down a bit, he remained on his back, looking up at the stars, which he was quite certain were not the same stars he had just left behind. These were dimmer, more distant, and above all else, familiar! He recognised the Big Dipper, and there was Orion! Before he could fully understand what he was seeing, he recognised another shape in the sky. It was a rock, and it was falling very fast towards him. He threw himself on his side, and managed to avoid being bludgeoned to death. Getting up, he realised that he was indeed back home, at least in a sense. The familiar stars shone upon a familiar scene. There was the volcano, which had drawn his attention to begin with. His head was spinning, he could hardly believe what he was seeing. He was back where he started! Right where he had been when he first found the book, how long ago was it? Two months? Three? Time had blurred for him, these past weeks, a day in one world did not necessarily have as many hours in it as a day in another.

He was brought out of his reverie by a large tree, crashing to the ground in front of him. It was one of the red and white ones he had seen in Riven. Clearly, his fall had not been quite so lonely as he had thought. More rocks fell around him, as if in a giant hailstorm. He ducked and evaded the falling debris as best he could, dancing around in the cold desert night. This was not safe. Was all of Riven tumbling down around him? He needed shelter! If this was truly the same volcano, then the small ravine should be here as well. He could shelter in one of the chambers there, until the unnatural rain subsided. Dodging another falling tree, he skittered towards the volcano, in the direction he thought the ravine would be.

***

He had been wrong, and it took him some time to find the ravine, circling much of the volcano in the process, and discovering that the falling remnants were coming down over an even larger area than he had first expected. A rock had hit him on the shoulder, and his arm was screaming in pain. Thankfully, it had been a smaller rock, and he did not think the damage would be greater than a bad bruise. Arriving at the ravine at last, he discovered, to his relief, that his makeshift rope ladder was still in place. The climb down was hard with the hurting arm, and with the falling debris still raining down around him, but he managed to reach the bottom without too much screaming. Ducking into the little alcove where he had first sought shelter, he found everything just as he had left it. There was his knapsack, in the corner, and his hat, and on the rickety old cot, the book. It was open, face-down. It must have fallen like that when he first linked through. It seemed strange that all should be so unchanged, so normal. He had left the world, visited places beyond human ken! How could the world remain so untouched in his absence, and worse, on his return?

He lifted the book up, and in a mad moment of temptation, wanted to flip it open and link immediately back to Myst. It passed swiftly, however, and he put the book down by his knapsack, and, feeling the fatigue return, laid down on the creaking cot. The thumping sounds from the surface above him told him that the remains of Riven were still raining down upon the desert. Arranging his arm in as comfortable a position as he could manage, he fell asleep.