The Cursory Universe
"Prologue: The Gift to See"
Men have said that although there is but only one universe, this single entity has infinite depth. Beneath what you assume to be the final form of reality lies an unlimited amount of other worlds, each blind to another's existence and placement in the cosmology. Imagine a die with ten thousand sides, and imagine that each face on that die touches every reality on its fringes both simultaneously and ethereally. What occurs in one world has an invisible and imperceptible effect in every other dimension. If you can see that in your mind, then your veil of misinformation has lifted only slightly. Beware of exiting that ignorant cave, though; madness awaits all those who go beyond what they should never experience.
Strange. That is the only words to describe those other dimensions. Even if they mostly appear to be similar —the same fog-laden graveyards, the same starless nights, the same screams of agony calling endlessly into the night— these separate realities have their differences, and these differences create the strangeness. For example, sometimes everything in two worlds are identical except the colors blue and red are switched, turning rubies into sapphires and an azure sky into a harbinger of an Ancient's wrath. You will always find at least one similar object between every two worlds: a single growing rose, a single Hero of Time, a single alchemist, a single flesh-covered tome. These are the keys to lifting the veil, to realizing the truth through madness. But one question remains: how is it that one can find these similarities, to find not only the keys but also to realize that there are locks and doors and rooms? The answer to this puzzle lies in literal pieces.
Analogous to a universe composed of separate worlds as opposed to one of complete unity, the fragmented mind sees all. Let it be known that the acquiring of truth necessitates a broken psyche and a shattered will. Plainly said, true sight is not sanity; rather, it is madness. But can one be fractured at points in time and yet still self-repair afterwards while remembering whatever it was one saw while broken? Yes, one can. Sleep and dreams —the times when a body rests and the subconscious takes over— these moments create the cracks in the mind. The separate realities, like gas seeping into a porous atmosphere, enter the sleeping body. They, in turn, create the dreams and the nightmares we visit every night; they, in turn, act as momentary doors between planes. If one tries to change what happens in the visions, one's actions truly occur in the other world. Footprints appear in the world's own sand, flesh decomposes in the world's own graves, everything in the world's own reality is dependent and simultaneously independent of one's thoughts, actions, and actual veils.
Strange. Nothing else can be said about the travels of a broken mind. As fantastic and as terrible as these dreams may appear to be, they are nonetheless true and nevertheless real. If you die in what you imagine and perceive to be a dream, never again can you return to that world. Your avatar is forever gone, and so your mind and your spirit can never again travel there. Although you may remember the most minute details of the landscape and the names of every person you ever met there, never again can that reality be accessed. This is the reason why so many "sane" men deny the truth of the worlds in dreams; they don't want to believe in their own failure. Man is a selfish and egotistical beast; that is why he is the most beautiful of all creatures. Even in the face of things that can never be or, at least, should never be in that original reality, a person can either deny and survive or accept and shatter. His resilient fragility is man's oldest characteristic and the reason for his delicate beauty.
What is humanity's position in relation to the endless infinity of dreams, nightmares, and the other worlds contained within? This is a question I cannot answer. Mankind, as a whole, can never be anything more than a collection of motes without a central structure or pattern or purpose. Individuals, on the other hand, often rise out of the mass, standing tall and proud, the mire lying like death beneath them. Yes, humanity is nothing in comparison to the infinity of existence, and yes, individuals are the saviors and the fountainheads of that undeserving jumble. Without singular individuals acting on their own accord, taking the knoweldge gained from the senses or from what the Ancients have told them, man would forever wink out of the universe.
Strange. That is all that I can ever say, for that is all the other worlds will ever be.
Link awoke, brow sweaty and eyes wide with terror. He had had that dream again. Link was always a young boy in these visions: his present bones, brittle and old, yielded to the soft and supple ones of a child; his sparse, white hair changed to blond or brown locks of a teenager; his loose and wrinkled skin tightened and smoothed into a youth's face. Although there were times in those dreams in which he could once again revel and enjoy his new-found age, these moments were few. Most of the time, Link was forced to run and fight, explore and kill, and never to smile or relax. His newest dream was not one of the rare and pleasant kinds. This latest midnight escapade had Link fighting on a moon against a sentient and unfailingly malevolent mask. Just as the boy's heart neared failure and just as the mask dealt a final crushing blow, a loud knock echoed throughout the house, bringing the story back to where we began.
Link awoke, brow sweaty and eyes wide with terror. He grasped for his glasses on the bedside table, quickly placing the scratched and smudged lenses onto his face. He slid on his dirt-caked slippers and hobbled to the front door, the sound of knuckles on wood reverberating loudly in the small underground hovel. Link slowly opened the door and peered into the dank outside.
It seems that in the past hundred years or so, the world has lost its way. The sun has been shrinking in the sky, no longer warming the air of what used to be Hyrule. The only heat comes from artificially-made fire and natural hot springs. Once burning deserts have become dark seas with waves composed of blackened, hard, and windswept sand. Frozen as if time itself no longer had the energy or will to move, frozen as if the gods themselves have forsaken the land they created, the aboveground and outside world has no living being residing for an extended period of time in the open air. Few travelers, of which only the most hot-blooded and hard-headed people become, dare to cover themselves in furs and spring water-filled bladders and move from forgotten place to forgotten place. Link used to be one of these men, but his days of adventure has long become nights of memories and dreams and nightmares.
Link's eyes quickly darted from side to side, searching for the man or beast that knocked on the hovel's door, but he saw nothing. Just as he was about to shut the cold wind out of his home, Link looked down onto his doorstep. Lying there was a square package wrapped in simple brown paper. Whoever had left it had run away into the unforgiving but blameless wilderness. Link bent down, his back popping and aching, and picked up the box, shutting the door and hurrying near the fire to rest and warm his chilled-through bones.
He ran his calloused hands along the length of the package, feeling the rough texture of the wrapping. There wasn't a return address written; of course, a return address is rather meaningless in this age where the postmen can no longer reliably run from house to house, let alone empty town to empty town. The only markings on the package were in a single line, a sentence in old and near-forgotten Hylian script, written in still wet ink. Link slowly deciphered and translated the line, his eyes growing wide as he realized what it said.
"To Link, the Hero of Time's Truth"
He had heard the legends; he knew the tales by rote. They, after all, were the reasons why Link had traveled ceaselessly when he was younger. Link knew of the gods, the creation of the world, the Triforce, the Sacred Realm, the seven sages, the darkness of the Lord Ganon, the Ocarina of Time, the Master Sword, the Wind Waker, the light of Princess Zelda, the Twilight Realm, the time of the Great Sea, and even the mythic Hero. It is easy to understand how he knew all of this; Link could trace backwards through his ancestry from his parents to the first Hero, to a time before the Master Sword was forged, to the birth of the original Ganondorf. To have grown as a child with these stories as not only entertainment but also as ancestral legacy created a definite and near-palpable impression on Link, but precisely because he has internalized these tales, they became his own past, his own glories, his own terrors.
His body shuddered silently, the memory of a forgotten time wanting to be recalled.
Using a small knife, Link cut a slit into the brown paper and then took off the wrapping. A crimson box laid on the table, the weak fire richly illuminating the glossy container. With his hands resting atop the package, Link closed his eyes. He moved the fingers to the edge of the cover, grasping the edges tightly, ripping off the top and keeping his eyes shut. Although he dared to open the box, he did not want to see inside it; as a traveler, Link had made many friends... and just as many enemies. Grudges —no matter how minor and petty and seemingly inconsequential— can be held forever and can easily evolve into a maddening and irrational hatred, consuming the soul and purpose and mind of the affected individual like a nighttime sky hanging heavily above an empty plain. This present, he believed, could have been given with either intention, and he wished to look at it as indirectly as he could at first.
Look opened his right eye, letting only a small sliver of light into his pupil. He slowly looked down. Inside the box was a leather-bound book, although the leather in question did not appear to be cow hide. Gold thread was sewn into the spine, decorating it in the same Hylian script as the markings on the package. He took the book out of the box, turning the tome over to look at its back. A buckle on a dark-leather belt bound the covers together, as if to keep the book from opening autonomously and having the pages rustle restlessly. No other markings or threads were on the light tan outside; the only words or symbols were on the spine. Taking his life and sanity as eternal and unbreakable, Link opened the buckle and then the book, reading the first page as one is meant to read.