Those Who Stray from the Void

Image of Nathan Ousey

Nathan Ousey

202 readings

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Jury Selection

My entire village moves on wheels. Large wooden circles carry our cabins across the grassy plains day after day. We never stay in one place for too long, lest the Void catches up to us. I’m told that it grows closer with each passing second.

I am one of the last born in my generation. My elders debate whether having children anymore is ethical—would any person in his or her right mind bring a child into this world? A while ago, it was the ideal setting: there was plenty of resources, few human settlements, and beautiful vegetation like an ocean of green washed over the land. Parents would name their children after the flower they liked most. But now, any child would, like I have, spend their entire life on the run, never truly understanding what it’s like to feel at peace. No blossoming flower could help our people now.

Lavender put down the quill pen and her paper. She sighed and leaned back in her oakwood chair, not caring when it cracked slightly from her shift in weight. She found it difficult to be concerned with the smaller things when the primary focus of her village was survival. Sometimes she wished she took a tip from her friend, Hya—short for Hyacinth—who never seemed to care about a thing.

For the longest time, she struggled to grasp what the Void actually was. She only had her elders’ concerned faces to be afraid of. She once had the opportunity to ask the village chief, one of the few to have actually seen it up close, what it looked like. “Hmmph. It started as a small dot,” he said. “No bigger than an acorn. It just kind of hung there in the air. But even then, we could tell it was growing, threatening to consume everything it touched. It’s basically a sphere, but if you look closer, it actually has no color at all. Containing absolutely nothing. That’s right, we’ve been running away from nothing.” He let out an uneasy laugh at the time, one Lavender could feel the pain behind.

Of course, the Void wasn’t a tiny dot anymore. She only saw it a few times in her life, but from a great distance. Her village was usually at least a day or two’s travel away from it. It had grown to resemble almost a gigantic wall of darkness, with just the slightest curvature at the top. It was horribly imposing, like the universe decided it was time to go back to square one and start creation from scratch again.

Lavender finally got up and started her chores. Helping her mother do chores for the men of another settlement was equally degrading and exhausting, and the hours felt like years. She was finally able to breathe easier once the sun started to disappear from the sky, which happened much earlier since the Void would obstruct it from view before it reached the horizon. Lavender wanted to get as much sleep as possible since her village would be on the move again bright in the morning.

She slept soundly in her cotton bed for three hours before she was woken up. A boy was sitting beside her and repeatedly poked her with a stick. It was Hya, his messy hair all over the place.

“Wake up, Lav. Do you want to go on a little adventure?”

She mumbled something incoherent, then asked, “Go where?”

“To see the Void.”

Was there even a point in arguing with him? She yawned and followed him out of the village, grabbing her paper and quill before she left. Perhaps she could document this. True, this was probably the best time to see it; since they were going to travel in the next day, it was closer than usual. She and Hya walked for about two hours before they reached it.

Up close, it indeed looked like a black wall. But just like Chief Thorn said, it seemed to contain true nothingness: the absence of time, space, and reality itself. Lavender was wholly captivated by it, and Hya seemed the same way.

“Y’know, Lav, doesn’t it sound kind of nice? Nothingness. It’s reassuring, like there are no worries or struggles. At our village, I’m expected to learn how to keep everything going so that I can lead everyone when I’m older. It’s a lot of pressure. And I know you have a lot of work to deal with, too.”

Lavender wasn’t sure how to respond. It was strange to stand so close to the Void, since it shaped the entire lifestyle of her people these days. So much fear towards a growing orb that would eventually erase everything they loved. Even now, Lavender made sure to keep a safe distance, worried that it might start growing at a faster rate. The only person who didn’t seem scared of the Void was Hya.

“It’s almost impossible to imagine,” he continued. “What nothing must be like. But here it is, right in front of us. Before we were born, we were nothing. If only we could remember what that was like...”

As bizarre as he sounded, Lavender found herself nodding. These kinds of thoughts were probably common for every person that lived in this age, where all they could do was keep escaping the collapse of existence. She always tried not to think too deeply about what the Void was, since she figured it wouldn’t be practical in helping her people. Apparently, Hya had done a lot of thinking.

Hya took a step forward. “I don’t want to run anymore. It’s a waste of time to keep thinking about nothingness when I will eventually be nothing. I’m glad you came with me, even if you didn’t have much to say. Don’t try to stop me.”

At this last sentence, Lavender quickly turned to him. “What are you—”

Hya hopped off the ledge they were standing on, then kept moving towards the barrier between reality and nothing. Lavender called out, screamed louder than she ever had before, but stayed where she was. Hya gave her one last look—a gaze that was so blank it told her everything—and walked into the Void, his body disappearing into the darkness.

Lavender breathed heavily. She clutched the dirt beneath her, hoping she would just shrink into the ground and become a plant. She didn’t want to walk back alone and explain what happened to her friend, and why she didn’t stop him. She hated to admit it, but she understood what Hya felt and why he wanted to be erased.

No, she thought. She lifted herself off the ground, standing upright at the small cliff. These thoughts are a weakness. She would destroy herself if she kept circulating thoughts in her head, just as Hya did. She needed to listen to her pure instincts to survive, to persevere against the forces of nature.

She slid down the cliff, not caring as the dirt flew up into her clothes. She walked towards the Void until she was merely a few meters away. Staring intensely into the vast nothingness like it was her old enemy, she swore she would not succumb to defeat.

Lavender took a page from her notes and wrote a single sentence in it with more conviction than ever before in her life. I will evade you to my last breath, even if you chase me to the end of the world. She threw it into the Void, then made her retreat.



Image of The other side


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