Unfettered alone
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'If the world is indeed a stage, I am the Deus Ex Machina…', the protagonist muttered, their mind concocting elaborate schemes in order to preserve their 'standing' and maintain an air of stoic supremacy, for such were the ideals of Castigne, rhetoric excelsior. Others brushed past their weary form, intertwining and coiling about the nigh endless sprawl of desks and chairs. Castigne had, quite surprisingly forgotten their morning cup of coffee- caffeine surmounted their dreary existence and they were completely and utterly spent without its stimulating, albeit malign potency.

'Morning, Mr. Castigne', a voice cut through their train of thought. 'A morning to you as well', Castigne muttered, a rather rough and maddening edge to their otherwise cliched monotone. The voice, exceedingly singular as regards intonation, belonged to a six foot-seven individual of remarkable breeding. Ruprecht grinned, his spectacles tottering at the very edge of his nose. He took Castigne's irritability to heart and its constant agitation was his sole purpose. 'Imagine being Castigne', he intoned with the immediate result being a bony fist achieving a spectacular collision with his ear. Ruprecht stood, a little bleary, minus the spectacles. Meanwhile, Castigne and achieved the stately air of a philosopher albeit with smarting eyes. As soon as Ruprecht regained comprehension, he lunged at Castigne, at which the latter flinched immensely and shrieked, eliciting a laugh from the former as he promptly regained his appropriated property. Castigne fumed and an intelligible tirade was the result of their exertion- 'bastard', 'Hell Wind' and 'damned' were the repetitive phrases one heard if their attention latched onto them in their rage state. After calm had been restored, Castigne slumped over on one of the myriad of benches, their mind far adrift in the continuity that is thought.

Castigne was silent on the way back home. Their illimitable mind had already taken flight, past mundane normalcy, past the crumbling castles of old, toward the philosophical night. They gazed at the warm sunlight, wincing at the intense warmth on the back of their head. How they longed for the night, comforting and non-luminous! The clouds had reared into vast grotesque impressions and Castigne trembled, their countenance assumed a cast of shocking realization as they realized they could see nothing but the sky above them! The vast space circumscribed the entirety of their vision, they knew no concrete concept- the abstract had taken them.
Castigne rang the doorbell, gazing fearfully at the glass elevator he had ascended with not a second ago. Their purview was exceedingly egocentric- they knew no existence apart from the elaborate fancies they had constructed 'bout round their apotheosis.

The latch clanked, the door swung inward in sweet silence and Castigne swept over the threshold into foyer, or what they liked to conceptualize as a foyer. They fumbled off their shoes with difficulty, eliciting a stern look from their feminine progenitor, whom they held in contempt for her incomprehensibility. It was nigh impossible for them to convince their progenitors into agreeing with their idealistic purview - the aeon encrusted gap was far too great. Castigne's eyes darted past the elaborate cornice and swept downward onto their sibling. Their lips twisted into a wry smile and their calloused hands made contact with the former's cheeks, the immediate result being a sharp, biting pain in their forearms. Castigne sprang away, having been mauled in self defense, their mind already far beyond the instant. They pirouetted into their bedroom and flopped down onto their bed and succumbed to sleep notwithstanding the harsh light pouring in through the windows. They stirred uneasily, the light having wormed its way into their mental imagery, whipping up garish scenes in fleeting visions of near conscious lucidity.

The first scene he beheld was quite beyond his comprehension. It reminded him of a tableau despite the absence of any from of life besides vegetation. Yet, every branch, flower and leaf lay still and unmoving, the overall atmosphere being one of sublime perfection. Not a single twig was out of place in that natural panorama, albeit the sheer scale of the scene. The valley itself was massive, the mountains on either side disappearing into the distance. A dense pandemonium of trees carpeted every surface, including the vertical drop offs. It was not so much a chaotic tangle of trees as a neatly trimmed lawn, for the cyclopean proportions of the vista rendered specific discernment quite impossible. As Castigne's eyes swept toward the horizon, a singular feeling of dread rose within him. A massive, sinuous amalgamation of tree trunks reared into a vaguely arboreal form, as of a massive tree, quite bare save for a patch of lurid green at its apex. A hollow, cavernous space was visible, nestled among the myriad of stretched tree trunks that made up the roots of the superstructure. Castigne gazed, quite fearfully, into its depths and felt a vast presence which stirred a vague sensation of familiarity, mingled with apprehension and outright fear within him.

The vision melted into a confusing cascade of shapes and colors which soon took on a semblance of intelligibility. It resembled a distorted image of his face with rather startling alterations. His eyes were pools of darkness with a faint pinprick of light emanating from some far off source. He did not possess a mouth. Smooth and unbroken skin occupied its customary locale. A centipede like mass had coiled about the center of his head. This was not what had startled young Castigne however. It was the face as a whole in fact, which had contributed to his growing hysteria. It did not resemble him, not even remotely. Yet, the proportions were right, everything about it was intimately familiar. However, a part of his being revolted against this proposition, hatred welling up within him at the thought of wearing that unhallowed countenance. As his confusion rose to a crescendo, the face was replaced by a procession of Castignes, each having had undergone radical alterations to a single part of themselves. 'Which one?'

Ruprecht sat at his computer, his eyes bloodshot and fingers cramped. He had, as he had been for the past seven odd years, been chipping away and overwriting the Noosphere one could access through the internet, an ingenious construction of the hoary past. Today, however, something was alarmingly different. Ruprecht could feel an alien impulse sinking into his mind, the sensory input from his eyes to his mind seemed encrusted with virulent debris. He could not conceptualize coherently and felt his mind exit something- a vague half idea of unity. The lights flickered.
It trembled, its prehensile appendages retrograding down the aeons. It could no longer comprehend the blinking lights and intricacies before its lusterless eyes. It could see trees- large gnarled oaks 'neath a young deep blue sky. Its shrunken limbs, a mass of knotted skin riddled with patches of fur stung with the mist of morning, its ridged brow set toward the stars which shone imperceptibly in vast gulfs of night. A lumbering shape rose at the very edge of their vision, a shape of the far future with which it could claim kinship.
Ruprecht's sibling let loose a cacodaemoniacal shriek and smashed her former brother's skull in with a table lamp, for the entity in Ruprecht's chair was as far removed from humanity as the butterfly from the caterpillar.
It trembled as it felt a crushing blow to its temple, its paws clutched vainly at its aggressor and it felt the cold night seeping in.

Castigne started-'Hypnic jerk' they assumed blearily. It was dark and Castigne could make out shapes they wished were not articulate entities and they trembled when they realized they were lying on the cold hardwood floor, strewn with books and debris. There was a dull ache in some forgotten corner of their mind, the last vestiges of their arboreal ancestors had fled and they felt a fluttering as of some vast veil, crumbling at the edges, lapping at their self. Castigne reached out, and looked beyond. As one Castigne was swept through the lines of evolution, nigh omnipotent, another, or rather many others, sped backward toward the bliss of ignorance. But something or rather, Castigne himself intervened. They screamed as they felt a two part dissonance within their self, the weaker would be swept away into the abyss. Yet, both were evenly matched and as Castigne collapsed, so did the unquantifiable.
A phone lay, forlorn on an unused comforter, still rippling with cosmic energy. The green circle beside 'Rup_recht1' resolved into a concentric void- Ruprecht would not grace the discord1 of Castigne, as would so many others as regards humanity, with his presence ever again, or at least if one were to consider the linear progression of time.

Castigne woke, the preternatural vistas they had gazed upon the previous night engraved, permanently, in memory and cognition. What latent part of their mind had awoken, instigated by unknown forces, the previous night? The very memory of the ordeal chilled them and they looked about at the comforting outlines of their bedstead, the plain white walls- devoid of uniqueness in any form, and the battered wainscoting, which betrayed usage as a great whetstone. Castigne tumbled out, wrapped in their comforter still and set their sights upon the great grey clock on the wall. The intricately carven seconds hand swung about at abnormal speeds- time itself seemed to rush through young Castigne and they shut their eyes instinctively, exiting the waking world into a confusing cacophony of fractals and abstruse geometry. Vast, interminable gulfs of space and time yawned before them, peopled by entities far older than name, ever whispering in a pleading tone- dizzying, stupendous vistas of form and entity were revealed to them, and they were not wholly wholesome.
They were woken form their ecstatic stupor by a blast of dripping cold. They were drowning, choking on the fathomless depths they had sounded. Castigne snapped out of their dreamscape, drenched and horribly cold. The biting frost that sunk into their pores, that abysmal force that siphoned the energy of their skin, surely it was a mere phantasma and nothing more? Castigne's purview widened after they felt a stinging in their forearm and they realized the aforementioned force they had felt had had a level of tangibility far beyond their wildest expectation. Castigne stumbled and clambered upright, the floor was quite damp and their harsh progenitor would afford them no longer. Taking them by the hand, he thrust Castigne into the blinding light of the foyer. It was time for them to leave as regards their edification once more.

Vast, towering tangles of steel girders and massive, cyclopean bocks of worn grey- mottled with various garish and disagreeable shades swept past, disappearing beyond the limits of their perception as Castigne gazed through the windswept glass that boxed them in, sparing not a single outlet into the world beyond. Remarkable banks of steep cloud edifices lay over a sluggish, garbage strewn stream swirling with a motely collection of various make. Castigne peered below, long and hard at the murky grey waters, trying, as hard as they could, to make out something, anything, out of the onerous monotone of normalcy amidst the undulating tangle below. A shriveled mass of familiar proportions caught their eye. Why it was eurythmic and in proportion to what entity or concept Castigne could not conceive, yet their mind made alarming, disconcerting connections betwixit foreign concepts exceedingly unwholesome. 'The diminutive form is not unlike a child!' their mind announced with poorly veiled apprehension. Whatever it was soon disappeared as Castigne's vision was swallowed by that rambling structure wherein lay the dreaded educators.

Ruprecht's usual locale lay forlorn at Castigne's left and so did Euphoria's. A vague unease began to fester in Castigne's mind.
The odd and stifling whispers they had heard on the morn came to them with sickening ease- the hollow far of cries of demented vocal cords, brimming with lust and fear, the cosmic fear of the prehistory of Man!
A wooden block, complete with a padded underside-thrown, no doubt by one of Ruprecht's many assistants- struck Castigne's temple jolting the other one from its fifteen year old slumber.
The non-Euclidean edifices, the vast cosmic fractals they had gazed upon in their fever haze, where they not the hoary oaks and crumbling hills of millennia past! 'No', Castigne's mind whispered, 'at least, not anymore- Are past and future not linked in a way few other things are? An intricate, unfathomable ouroboros of misery and decadence! History does indeed repeat itself, yet, not without alterations!'.

'Time is akin to a wind-up watch. It is wound by inconceivable forces given to experimentation. The spring is a construct built atop a myriad of failed experiments, each spurring its makers toward perfection. The spring was wound slowly, deliberately, so as to obtain a perfect retrogression once it was left to its own devices. However, it is not quite perfect and as it unwinds, it does with horrific alterations.'

A pan-demoniac swirl of howls and cries swept about young Castigne as their mind was set adrift in the vast seas of time, in the eddies of what was, what is, and what was to come. The phantasmagoric outlines of crudely humanoid entities surrounded them, crying out in pain, fear and above all, love!

They could feel it, the immense sense-impacts of trepidation, of the fear of what was to come, with the love of limbo at its nucleus. Yet, the pitiful revenants owed ambulation to some vast, unquantifiable intelligence, both near and far, in the aeon distant past. The inarticulate howling and sinuous writhing thrust Castigne onward, thither some unknown goal for some unfathomable purpose. The eyes, hollow, insidious and empty, filled their heart with loathing- these shapes were not human, or at least, not yet. '
For every progression, there must be sacrifice, for every step one takes forward, a dozen others step backward, o'er the precipice and into the void.' Wide and deep were the abysses that young Castigne saw, lonely and tenebrous was the shaft they were thrust into. Tessellations manifold and multiform opened up before them. The light of aeon-drenched stars glaring in contrast to a charcoal black pit. A well of night, were creation had halted.
Castigne shivered, suddenly alone. The cacodaemoniacal shrieks abated and silence reigned supreme. He drifted, afraid, alone, in a ghastly chiaroscuro beyond spaces. He stretched, bent lengthwise and ballooned, his articulation entangled in the strings of whatever lurked there, or rather, had come unto its own.

What woke a trillion miles away was not Castigne, not even remotely. It had left the entity that bore that name in the gap from whence it had originally come and thither it had gone, its metamorphosis full circle. An utterly alien entity was loose in the ordered universe, unfettered, unburdened and above all-


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