The world is warm, and your eyes are closed. The rise and fall of your chest feels like ocean waves, washing through you, every particle of your being floating in the clean air. As you breathe out, the particles settle back down into comfortable niches, run smooth through thousands of waves of millions of breaths. Perhaps this is how beaches are formed, the breathing of sleeping oceans.
[[You open your eyes.->Intro 2]]
You lie in a small bed. Its pillows are comfortable, warm and soft, it's blankets lay like warm breath against your skin. The ache to [[stand->Intro 3]] fills you, nonetheless. This is an important day.
It is your birthday, after all.
Your feet touch the floor, and you for the first time, examine your surroundings. The ceiling is impossibly high, so high you can't tell the bricks apart, the little white lines of mortar just too thin, too far away. You can barely make out the stained glass skylight at the top, the colors dancing along the walls, calling you [[up->Intro 4]], towards their surface.
To make all of these colors, to make their impossible ballet, the light above must be incredibly bright.
As you begin to rise through the air, the image of the glass above you begins to become more clear. A circle stands in the middle, lavender in hue, brushed with shadows, telling of its handmade origins. Surrounding this center circle are others, of varying sizes, all held close to this central pane. The window seems to twist and change with each blink of an eye, the circles playing in different sizes, different colors, but always the center circle remains the same.
Now, it's close enough to [[touch->Cathedral 1]].
Your hand pushes through the glass, into this lavender bubble, into its hand-carved whorls you fall, your wrist is now inside, your arm soon to follow. The rest of you will [[push->Cathedral 2]] through as well, into whatever lies beyond. You aren't afraid, the feeling beyond feels familiar. It feels like going home.
The space around you can only be described as vast. The floor, or perhaps ground, it isn't clear if this space is natural or constructed, sits far below you, it's surface covered in [[ruins->Ruins 1]]. Far above you, you can see [[stars->Heavens 1]], flickering in the sky, so close to night, but with the faintest hints of the deep orange of the sun's powerful heat creeping over the edge of the [[ocean->Ocean 1]].
Or perhaps, after all is explored, it is time to follow the sun back [[home->End 1]].
You slowly descend towards the ruins at your feet. The buildings must have been primarily made of wood, or thatch, or some such material that fades.
Only the stonework remains.
As your feet touch ground, in front of what looks to be the remnants of a church of some sort, its roof gone, walls crumbling, but it's powerful pillars stand, tall, proud as the day they were built, perhaps waiting for their masters to return, perhaps hoping that the world will be kind and let them grow as trees.
The edges of the [[door frame->Ruins 2]] are laced with faded carvings, but their symbols are still clear enough. You trace your fingers over people, small, smaller than your thumbnail, standing at the feet of giant beings, creatures of unimaginable scale, striding through these people, seemingly unnoticing their worship.
You wonder if these beasts had ever stood where you stand.
You lift up into the cold night air, the ground slowly shrinking beneath you as you begin to pick up speed. Your plan is to get into the upper atmosphere, and see what you can. The moon should be beautiful from up there, and you've always wanted to see the planet from orbit.
You smile to yourself as it starts to get colder and colder, you feel it, but it doesn't bother you. It's your birthday after all, the cold suddenly feels like a gift, proof you're alive, and that the world cares enough to affect you. With this resolution in mind, you coninue [[upwards->Heavens 2]].
Your bare feet dig into the sand just as the last remnants of sun start to fade, the horizon painted with thin streaks of deep reds, purples, blues, painted onto the clouds so far away.
The ocean breeze laps against your skin, the salt feels good against your skin. Despite the evening's breeze, it's still pleasantly warm out, the air thick with the humidity that comes from the calm sea.
The waves curl into the shore in a rhythmic pattern, [[beckoning->Ocean 2]] you to sit with them, to hear their story.
The church is filled with more and more of these carvings, the beasts, standing watch amongst the wreckage of war, providing torrents of water from their mouths for dying crops, creating light for weary travellers.
The gods of these people walked among them. You wonder if they had gods that did more than just help, if these beings created.
You [[wonder->Ruins 3]] if they had a god of love.
Many ancient cultures made their gods vast, unknowable things. Their spirits transformed into beings larger than the universe, a god that was the night sky. You wonder if these creatures, beings of immensity that they are, are like this, metaphors for things beyond understanding. An explanation for miracles, a constant stream of hope for an entropic world.
Many of these cultures had gods for love.
As you run your hand over a carving of one of these gods stooping to help children cross a river, you wonder what this culture made of love. If they represented that passion with a beast, a creature, quadrupedal, mashes of features of the animals they must have seen around them. Would love have a lion's snarling jaw, with which to defend its jealousy? Hooves of a horse, symbolic of its ability to constantly press on, never tiring? Or perhaps it's smaller than these beasts, perhaps it sits comfortably in the hearts of the children within the image, too small for the rudimentary tools to carve into the stone around you.
Or perhaps it [[can't be represented at all.->Ruins 4]]
Perhaps love is different for everyone, and doesn't need a representative god, like these other ideas. Perhaps there has never been a reason to try to explain love, for love runs so deep, so close to the bone, that to extract it from yourself, to make it a being on its own, is to dilute its purity, to lose something of its inherent nature.
You wander back out of the church, back into the foundations of whatever's left of people who moved away from this place before we stopped trying to explain things with gods, and instead explained everything as chemical reaction, as part of the close-tied chaos of the known world.
With this thought in mind, you rise back [[up->Cathedral 2]].
You look around at this place, this ancient place, old, forgotten, and lost, and it makes you a little sad to leave it. You aren't sure if you're ever going to come back. But, perhaps that's alright.
You look over the world, once more, at the ruins, the carvings within them and their beasts, ancient, wise, unknowable. You gaze at the swimming of the motes of light in the ocean, and down at the few of them, still clinging to your clothes, or your arms. And up, one last time, at the stars, it's still hard to think of them as the bulbs they are, and that twisting, turning ball you left up there, the knot starting to come undone, some of the stars returning to their positions, swinging in wide arcs, perhaps waving [[goodbye->End 2]].
You sit down at the edge of the sea, just close enough so the trailing fingers of the tide brush against your toes. You know the tide is rising, but something calms you, the sea will not swallow you whole, it will cradle you, if you [[let->Ocean 3]] it.
For now, though, you'll let the tide lap against your toes, knowing that it will always be here, marching in and out. Something about its inexorability is calming, that no matter what happens, the sea will remain, pulsing in, flowing out. It will always be here, to lap at your toes, to let you rest on its sand. This force, blind and eternal, will always be here for you, no matter what.
The longer you rest, the higher the tide comes, rushing around your knees, thighs, up behind your back, until eventually you are born upwards, floating upon its surface.
As you float, the water washes back, taking you with it, taking you out towards the horizon. You open your eyes as you travel, gazing up at the sky, at the stars, the way they seem to move, twinkle, dance, and it's hard to remember that you're the one moving, so perfectly does the water carry you, that it feels like you aren't moving at all.
Your eyes drift closed again, as you move [[further and further->Ocean 4]] out towards whatever it is the waves want to show you.
When you open your eyes again, you find yourself on a small island, just large enough for you to lay on top of. You shake the daydreams from your head with a yawn, and sit up.
The ocean around you is covered in little points of light.
Whatever they are, algae, it would seem, they are certainly beautiful, every color is out there, speckled together, slowly breathing up and down in the tide.
The world feels so full of life in this moment, the exubarence lifts up through your chest, and out in a burst of laughter, uncontainable. Something about these little floating stars is just joyful. Perhaps this is what happiness is, little pinpricks of light, in the middle of the calm nighttime seas.
A few of the glowing dots have washed ashore, and as you reach down to pick them up, they stick to your skin, making you glow. As you look over your body, a few are stuck here and there, and you wouldn't have it any other way.
You thank the sea for the birthday present, and you [[move on->Cathedral 2]].
As you rise up, you begin to notice something. The stars are getting larger, much faster than they should be. Before much time has passed, you seem to be coming level to the lowest of them, a star not terribly far away. As you move towards it, it slowly becomes obvious what it is.
A lightbulb, strung on a wire going off into infinity, up higher and higher, to what must be the power outlets at the top of the sky.
[[You aren't exactly sure how this makes you feel.->Heavens 3]]
It's a little funny, finding out that the stars, those eternal pillars of light in the sky are hanging off of little wires, but it doesn't seem to change the mystery they hold in your mind. Their beauty is still there, not the raw, primal, natural beauty they had before, but knowing how delicate they are means something. That even the most ancient things will still fall away some day. Nothing is forever, and perhaps that's a good thing. Everything will fade, all the bad, and perhaps all the good, will flow away like fresh water, out, into the sea, caught up into it's infinity of vastness, and forgotten.
These stars are replaceable, and something about that makes you smile. It feels like being handed a card, announcing that there is sometimes fault in them, that the stars dim over time, and some cosmic janitor, has to come and replace them. These stars that made the constellations that have fascinated us since we first looked up in the night sky, and asked why they were there, and why we were here, have just as much purpose as everything else.
An idea springs upon you, and you [[take->Heavens 4]] the wire in your hand.
Carrying around the wire with you seems to slow you down somewhat, as does each additional wire you catch, and bring with you. the bundle of stars below you is growing in number, and with the wires you're dragging around, more seem to be caught and added to the pack with each pass.
After a while, you're not exactly keeping track of the time, you come to a stop. When you look down, the bundle is larger than you expected, you must have thirty or fourty lights down there.
The bulk of them is rather heavy, but after a couple of attempts, you manage to tie a knot in the cords.
As you head [[downwards->Cathedral 2]] you look back up at what you've done, and you smile. A ball of light hangs swaying in the sky, about a quarter the size of the moon. You've left your mark on the world, and it's beautiful.
It feels a little silly to wave goodbye to a place, but it feels like it cared about you, while you were here. Maybe someday, you'll come back, but it seems doubtful. Getting here was almost by chance, though when you think about it, perhaps it was more purposeful than you think.
As you begin to wave, the world around you fades, and you find yourself back [[home->End 3]].
You glance up at the clock, you've been gone a while, it would seem. You walk up the stairs, the carpet feels strange on your feet. Perhaps the whole world is different than how you left it, perhaps it'll never be the same as it was before today? Are you different, or is the world? Something inside you feels different. It feels warm, like you've slipped out of your skin, and you have to get used to a body, so different, yet exactly the same.
As you lay in your bed, you can't help but think about what you saw as you look at the planets hanging by your feet. Perhaps the whole universe is held up on strings, just like these, just like the ones you saw in the other place. Something about that is comforting. It feels like a new understanding.
[[You sleep better than you have in months.->For G]]
I love you.