From Dust They Came
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The universe is old. Ancient, even. No one was ever quite sure how long a universe could live for, nor how long this one had been around to begin with, but everyone was able to agree that the universe itself felt old. There was no logic or reason to it, there was just something that everyone felt in their bones. A faint musk pervaded the stars, and a thin dust crept over each and every surface, everywhere, on every planet. The stars in the night sky began to wink out, one by one, and the infinite blackness of the night soon became barren.

The universe was dying. Everyone knew it was coming, but no one had expected it to come so soon. Many refused to believe it, hiding away in their homes, hoping they could simply ignore the end times. What would they do when fate came knocking on their doors? They didn’t have an answer. They chose not to think about it. Cowards, they were, for they hid in their bed, not willing to face their death, not willing to face the death of everything. They would let the Reaper find them, rather than embrace him with open arms.

Others were not so cowardly. They knew what cruel fate awaited them. They were at peace with their death, for they knew that everyone and everything else would soon thereafter join them. Some even attempted to hasten its arrival. They would cause chaos in the streets. They would commit sins against nature. But no one could quicken the gears of the great machine we call the universe. No, the only one whose hand was at its controls was the Divine Spirit, and they had long since passed. It was the reason the universe was dying in the first place. What good is a machine without someone to maintain it? No algorithm is perfect enough to last an eternity, not even one crafted by holy God himself.

And so, the death throes of the universe began.

At the edge of the universe itself, stood a castle. It was grand and magnificent, hewn from the finest basalt of the long-deceased world it rested upon. The stones that composed it were so old that many of them had long since crumbled to dust, but the foundation of this impossible castle was unbreakable. This fortress needed to last for the entire lifespan of the universe, for it housed something that was very integral to keeping things running smoothly.

No one simply dies without a last will and testament. No one goes gentle into that cold night without a backup plan, someone or something to carry out their last wishes and ensure their business in this mortal plane does not go unfinished. The Divine Spirit more so than anyone else in history, was prepared for the event of their death.

The last star in the sky winked out of existence, or its afterimage did, as the last photons it had ever emitted imperceptibly struck the surface of this fortress. As they did so, a terrible screech rang out from the innards of this ancient monolith of a castle, as massive copper gears hewn before the dawn of Time itself began to turn for the very first time in their long existence.

A mechanism was activated by the cessation of starlight in the universe, a mechanism that had been placed there before the universe was born. The final contingency of the Divine Spirit. Within a dark and stone-wrought chamber at the heart of the castle, a series of panels opened up in the roof and a sound of hissing began to course throughout the castle, almost reminiscent of the sound of sand flowing through an hourglass.

Through the open panels in the roof of this dark and desolate chamber, a deluge of golden dust flowed down and landed into an ancient iron basin, rusted beyond recognition. The basin was filled to the brim with golden dust, and then the gears in the castle stopped turning as the panels in the roof replaced themselves and the ancient pipe system that had only ever been activated once returned to its permanent state of inactivity.

A single droplet of a red and sticky fluid fell from the ceiling, landing in the middle of the basin. Almost instantaneously, the gold dust began to coalesce and shine, shimmering with a divine light. Then, it took on a humanoid form, which stretched its arms and clambered out of the basin. As the gold began to dissolve from their body, an angel was born, sprouting a new pair of black raven’s wings. They yawned, and stood up straight, opening their eyes for the first time in a very, very long time. As they did so, a black circle manifested behind their head, so dark that it seemed to absorb the light around it, and only a faint corona could be seen shining from behind the black. A halo most grim.

The newborn angel stepped over to a wardrobe next to the basin, and picked out an outfit from an ensemble of clothes that were older than history itself. Seemingly satisfied with their decision, the angel swiftly dressed themselves, and moved to leave the room. As they did so, they picked up a scythe twice as tall as themselves, wrought from the blackest steel, without so much as turning their gaze; almost as if they’d already known it would be there. They allowed the scythe to drag behind them, not for lack of strength, and made their way out to the courtyard of the timeworn castle.

As they walked, they looked up at the night sky, carefully observing the complete and utter lack of stars they found within it. They began to talk, to no one in particular, and their words were heard by no one, except for you and I.

"I suppose the time has come at last," they said with a sigh. "The toils of the mortal realms have gone on long enough, and every light in the universe has all but faded. It's time to begin the Divine Harvest."

There, in the middle of the courtyard, the angel happened upon a great crucible, forged from the same black steel as the scythe they now dragged at their side. They stared down into the depths of the crucible, finding it empty as it always had been. A few cobwebs had sprung up here and there, and they gingerly swept them aside and removed the small piles of dust coalescing at the bottom that had once been spiders.

Wordlessly, the angel lifted up their scythe, and extended their left arm over the crucible. With one fell swoop, they chopped it off at the elbow, and sucked in a breath. As the arm fell into the cauldron, it swiftly dissolved, transforming into a golden, glimmering liquid. It began to swirl around the bottom, seemingly of its own volition.

"The first part of the Divine Spirit," they whispered. "A small amount of my own divinity."

The figure moves in the darkness, scraping the scythe against the flagstones once more, and procures bandages. They wrapped one over their stump, and held it to their side, staunching the oozing of golden fluid.

The angel then left the courtyard, striding confidently up a nearby set of stairs and making their way up to the top of the castle. As they walked, they noticed a piece of paper sticking out of the pocket of their clothes, and briefly rested the scythe at their side as they used their one remaining arm to fish the note out of their garments.

It was an envelope. “From the Divine Spirit, for the Black Sun,” it read.

The angel scoffed, and dropped the letter at the ground, picking the scythe back up and continuing on their journey.

“No need to read that,” they said. “Believe me, I’ve been around the block a few times. I know what I need to do.”

They reached the apex of the castle, the top floor of the tallest tower, and stared out at the endless darkness of the night, briefly contemplating it.

“When the universe comes to an end,” they muttered to themselves, “someone has to be there to clean everything up. This duty falls upon me. Magrastiel, the Black Sun.”

“It is my job to reap all mortal souls in the universe, and bring them back to the crucible to give birth to the new Divine Spirit, so that the cycle of the universe’s life and death may continue,” they said, as they began to unfurl their large black wings and turned their gaze skywards.

“Of course, the mortals will be afraid,” they continued. “They’re always afraid. But they know it’s coming. I try not to let myself get too attached.”

With that final line, they took off, soaring into the night sky of a cold and desolate world, and leaving behind the eternal fortress built specifically for them at the beginning of time. They quickly exited the atmosphere, and tore off into the blackness, in search of the last worlds in existence.

«Hub | To Be Continued…

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