Nearer, My Death, to Thee
rating: +14+x

The room is dark and smells of the churning earth, of plants and worms, of bones and bugs. Your skin crawls with unspoken promises that bubble up towards your mouth. A graveyard mist escapes your lips, guiding you to who just reaped it from you. Across sits a cloaked figure, the mist wrapping around its skeletal hand -
no.

No.


That's not right.




The room is hot, too hot in fact. Your skin burns as a figure made of crimson flames sits across from you. It beckons you forward, the weight of your sins heavy on your chest - no.

Fuck.

That isn't it either.


You are who I think you are, right?


The room is still, silent, and passive. Water drips in the distance, echoing throughout the space. A tiny swan sits in your hands - it seems to like you. Across the room is the silhouette of a large canid like creature. It turns its head away, and looks at me, for being stupid.



Damn.


Fuck this mess.


I know who you are now. I'm sure of it. Please, listen to me.



We haven't met before. Not truly, not yet in this timeline, at least. Only once, in future passing, but you haven't been to the city yet. So I'll explain this to you from my perspective, that way you don't have to come up with anything.


In the room sits two figures, one across from the other. You can tell the one on the right, whatever it may be to you, is an ancient being, while the one on the left incredibly young and uncertain.

You're biased to the left one's point of view. Whatever you're seeing now is its perspective of the world. The room adapts to show this.

It's a small sitting room, in what might be considered a personal library. Bookshelves full of various oddities - old texts, small succulents, figurines of various creatures - a pale horse catches your eye - cover the walls, while behind the ancient entity is a variety of doors.

The armchairs are a soft blue, but are worn from years of use. Left is picking at the peeling fabric with a clawed finger. What does Left look like? You gaze closer to find that it sees itself as a charred humanoid corpse, with golden cracks running across its body. It turns its attention to Right when it clears its throat, revealing it to be a male human dressed in formal attire, a small blue rose on his lapel. The ancient being is more human than the young one, apparently.

"Been awhile since you've stopped by, Lochan." The ancient one's voice fills the space, vibrating in your ears and pulling you from your thoughts. "Please do stop fiddling with the upholstery."

Left, or rather, Lochan, nods slowly, taking its hands and resting them in its lap. It looks relieved to be there, but also quite unsure of itself. Moments after being denied the upholstery, it reached out to grab a book off the shelf, not choosing to read it but instead fiddle with it in its hands. A stern look caused the book to immediately be returned to the shelf.

"What has it been, a year? That's a long time for you." Right crosses one leg over the other, watching Lochan with an ambivalent expression. His head tilts slightly as Lochan meekly responds with a small nod. "Not much progress has been made."

Lochan shrinks back. While its face is mostly featureless, you don't need to see it to know it's feeling massively guilty. The skin covering its mouth stretches, as if to open and to speak, but no noise comes out. It seems to know better than to talk back.

"Your tree- your reality. The first one I asked you directly to care for, is rotting."

Lochan adverts its gaze, looking past you and into the distance behind you.

"Cylus, your home, is in ruin."

Its eyes close as it winces in reference to the name of its home.

"You're waiting for it to die, aren't you? To be forgotten?"

They both knew that Right's question was not a question, but a statement. It was the truth, after all. He had no reason to lie. He waited for Lochan to respond, to admit to its fault. Lochan's gaze drifted back to Right, and it gestured vaguely with its hands.

"I am," it admitted while rubbing the back of its neck. "But that doesn't mean you have to collect it - I - I can still handle it."

"Being forgotten is a form of death. We've been over this. You know this." Right sighed quietly under his breath. "Cylus is past the point of being sick - it is dying, with no hope of recovery. The city has already fallen once, and you are letting it fall again rather than bringing it to a point of recovery. That was the one task I asked of you. Just one. Why are you letting it fall?"

"I'm tired," Lochan said, quietly. "I am the only one left who can remember and all I can remember is suffering and hate. I do not understand why I must keep something alive that has only ever known such pain. It brings me pain too, to die, over and over again here, for something that I cannot save - or rather, something I do not know how to save."

Right mused over this for a few moments. You couldn't tell with this question how much he already knew versus how much he just wanted to hear Lochan admit to the problems it had. Lochan's voice continued.

"The others don't help me. No one told me how to do anything. You expect me to learn by doing but it's just… not working." Lochan reached for the upholstery again, but stopped itself this time, choosing to rub its hands together instead. "It's been nine years and my memory is only getting worse. I- I want Cylus to last. The people there have lives with value. But I have done nothing of use for them. I figured not interfering - forgetting - for a year would save the city. I was wrong."

Right stood, causing Lochan to jump out of its seat as well. The moment it did so, you are blinded with a flash of bright light. As you blink your vision clear, you find yourself in a small forest clearing. Before you are a set of trees, all in a row. On the far left is a red maple tree. It is small, and quite ugly, but it is a healthy adult tree that seems to have stopped growing. On the far right is a redwood sapling, young, healthy, but well pruned this time. However, in the middle and slightly behind the other two trees, is a massive dying willow tree. Hell, you can barely even consider it a tree at this point. The entire front half of the tree has rotted off, and some sort of fungus is growing up the remaining parts. You can smell the decay from where you're standing, and you find your eyes beginning to water as you cover your mouth and nose with a hand. You never knew trees could smell so bad.

"The uh. The other trees are doing fine." You see Lochan and Right standing besides the trees. Right gives Lochan a look.

"One has stopped growing and hasn't needed attention in the past few years, and the other is still young and hasn't reached its most fussy stage yet." Right gestured to the fungus lined tree. "You really think the Cylus reality is going to be able to fight off all of that? That forgetting it will allow it to heal?"

"I- It's an old tree, that had previous caretakers before me, whoever they were. I figured, I don't know, it'd be strong enough to fight off the infection on its own?"

Right only sighed in response. He walked up to the willow tree and gestured for Lochan to follow. You watch as Right hands it a pair of garden shears. You watch as they both look up at one of the remaining branches.

"Remove Cylus from the tree." Right pointed up at the branches. "Just the city. Remove it from reality."

"What- Why?" Lochan almost drops the shears as it stumbles back in confusion. "That'll- that'll make it be forgotten from its source of origin - it'll die - you're - you're intending to collect it so soon?"

"It's what you want, isn't it?" Right doesn't allow Lochan a chance to respond. "Remove the city."

A pang of empathy fills your chest as you watch Lochan hesitate, staring at Right, then at the tree, and back at Right again. It had said it had wanted the city to succeed, and was only tired because it didn't know what to do. You didn't get the sense it actually wanted the city to be forgotten. But even so, eventually Lochan gives in, as it did not want to displease the ancient entity, and reaches up with the pair of shears.

A small branch, while covered with fungus, is probably the healthiest looking piece of the tree you've seen so far, falls to the ground with a small snip. Before it touches the ground; however, Right catches it, and holds it up to Lochan. You look at it too - between its leaves you catch flashes of a city in ruin. Tall buildings with shattered windows, a dark smokey haze filling the sky, creatures looming in the distance - this city, Cylus, had been through a lot. You couldn't understand why Lochan had been ignoring it, as it was obvious the city was in distress. It had the power to do something, to save something as sick as that, and it had chosen to forget instead? Because it thought that was the solution? How?

Your gaze turns to Right as he begins to walk over to the redwood sapling, not saying a word as he does so. Something within you stirs as he kneels down next to the sapling and takes one of the twigs in hand. Between the twigs leaves you catch glances of familiar buildings, ones you've seen before, things you could remember. Why was that?

"That's a new reality I've been raising." Lochan knelt down next to the tree. You could tell it didn't like where this was going. You were beginning to agree with that notion as well.

"The one you chose to remember. To care for. While you forgot Cylus, yes?" Right broke off the twig. It dissolved into nothing. He handed the Cylus branch to Lochan.

"Yes." Lochan took the branch in hand.

"You said the forgotten city still has value, that the inhabitant's lives still mean something to you. Its source-" Right pointed to the willow "-will die. It is inevitable. But you can keep the memory alive by grafting it to your… newfound creation."

"The branch is still infected, it will kill a tree as young as this!" Lochan stared at the branch and the fungal patterns that weaved up its side. "I can't-"

"Clearly you know how to remember this tree." Right said calmly, but his gaze was stern. "Cylus was your responsibility. It still is. If you can't remember that, then perhaps grafting it to something you do care about will get that into your head." Right gestured to the maple off to the side. "It stopped growing, it won't take a graft. It must be the sapling."

You can't watch as Lochan stares at Right, unable to disobey the entity, so it proceeds to place the branch onto the stump where the twig once was. As much as you try to ignore it, you hear a hiss as the two pieces connect. Something about this isn't right to you. You know this is wrong. Your vision begins to fade as Lochan's voice echoes in the distance.

Why did this bother you so?


I had to do it.


You're out there somewhere, learning how to be a porter right now. But the sickness that spread to your world - the war as you call it, it was no war. It was the memory of Cylus, who fell once because of a war, and second because it was forgotten. Even so, it wants to be remembered, and because of this, the war in your world will only spread.


You will eventually have to flee, crossing the bridge and entering the grafted section - to enter the ruins of Cylus, looking for answers of your mother, but finding me instead. I am preparing this memory for when the time comes, to share with you, so you can understand why I did what I did, as I will be injured when you find me. It is not the answer you are looking for, but do know I care for you - I care for your world.



You will be angry with me. You will not believe me. You will want revenge on me for taking your mother, your way of living, your everything from you.



You will forgive me. You are kind, compassionate, you will understand why I did what I did. Won't you?



You will remember what I did.




































I promise not to forget you too.
Please, believe me.


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