iv. the seed of the cosmos

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Was I floating for hours? Or seconds? My body was still despite its unlikely suspension, and my brain had yet to repair the connection to my present situation. An eerie cry sounded from somewhere in the void around me; some small part of my mind recognized it as the one I had followed into the forest. My heart stuttered, reaching out for the crier, even though the only thing around me was a chilling black nothingness.

... She is here. The time has come. ...

I froze, my eyes widening. Words had been spoken, yet the voice was nothing like any sound I had ever heard someone make. It reminded me vaguely of the screaming of a dial up modem, hurriedly blended with a shrieking winter wind and gurgling laughter.

My body wailed for me to flee, every muscle contracting in fear, and my eyes swam with tears I could not shed. A dry, shuddering sob escaped my lips, and I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could. If only I could tap my heels together, then maybe I could end this nightmare and wake up safe, at home in my warm bed.

... You are more at home here than anywhere, soul child. ...

The voice grated at my mind like the dull end of a blade, slicing through my ears and straight through my brain. I cried out again.

... She holds the Seed of the Cosmos and is still consumed by bodily fear. She will need to overcome this for our plans to be carried out. ...

I quieted my sobs, terrified confusion scrambling any thoughts I tried to focus on. The voice echoed through the stillness around me, somehow everywhere and nowhere at once. I felt it vibrating through my bones and rattling my teeth, and even though my eyes were closed, I could almost see it.

... Soul child, be at ease. ...

... It is not customary for a bodily mind to relax in this state. Time may be needed. ...

... There is no time. She holds the Seed in her hand, the time has come and passed. ...

The nightmarish voices continued on. I suddenly became vaguely aware of an icy smoothness in my palm, and an image of a crater sheltering a stone like the universe with all of its stars flashed across my thoughts.

... Yes, soul child. The Seed. ...

... She learns quick. The Seed chose wisely this time. ...

What was this seed they kept talking about? Was it the stone we had found? Trying to ignore the voices, I focused on the image of the stone I had in my mind. I thought of the shimmering air surrounding it and the way its power had pressed me flat against the Earth. I smelled the dampness of the forest and the way the charred crater had tickled my nose with the scent of wet carbon.

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