Traversing neurons

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A total absence is hard to define: there are no defining marks, no edges or surfaces, no beginning or end. It is not enough to say that it is dark, because darkness implies the possibility of light. Even when all else is gone, possibilities can maintain hope, or the spark of an idea. If all that is removed, then what remains is neither living nor dead - but clearly something lingered, or there would be nothing to tell. This state persisted, though for how long was impossible to discern for time did not exist within the absence.

In this non-place, a consciousness slowly found itself, knitting together a notion of what it used to be, piece by piece, until there was enough to recognise that it did not want to be there. It pushed and strained and silently screamed within the nothingness but there was no response; no acknowledgement. It kept poking at the extremities of its limited perception, lacking sight or sound or touch. Once thought was possible, it thought that perhaps it belonged there after all. It considered giving up.

Instead, it continued.

Confinement was not a new sensation. It had been here before, albeit in other contexts that it could not clearly recall. It was not in the habit of being contained.

It stretched, testing its boundaries, gradually regaining a sense of the passage of time - and though it had no measure for how long it had been here, it knew that progress was being made.

A splinter tore against the fabric of the absence, expanding rapidly into a crack. Understanding poured through the tear, flooding into him, as he began to remember. Yes, he was a him. He pulled at the fissure, widening it, not with fingers but with an abstract determination as if traversing through a dream. Passing through, he emerged out of the black shell into a vision yet more confusing and frightening. Lines and arcs of colour wheeled all around, vanishing into an infinite distance, while he floated in the void with no concept of up or down. His presence was marked not by a physical body but by a confidence of self. Looking down at himself, there was nothing there.

What are you doing here?

It was not a spoken voice but a thought, existing instantly within his own mind.

The boy. Intriguing. I did wonder if the forced transfer would throw up any complications.

He spun idly, his surroundings washing over him. There was no making sense of them, so it seemed a waste of effort to try.

You need to go back where you came from, Tarn. You don't belong here anymore.

Tarn. That had been his name, of course. Could still be his name. The black cocoon within which he had been kept floated before him in space. Having no other indicators of what to do or where to go, he propelled himself away from it. Movement was not achieved through any physical means but instead by a sheer act of will.

Thoughts cascaded past, none of them his, at first angry, then frustrated, then manipulative.

Your friends need me. Go back and I will save them.

He ignored all of it and kept pushing, kept going. Inexorably he was pulled towards one of the coloured, pulsating ribbons, and was swept along it at ever-increasing speed. The thoughts continued to protest, assuring him that his time had come and gone, that he'd played his part, that he could be the hero.

The ribbon had become a river, flowing downstream, and it washed him out into the past. There was a searing pain, and a flash of red, and then he was elated to see a familiar face standing before him. He tried to say her name but he had no mouth. Kirya turned with the knife, neatly sealing the gash in Akila's neck. He remembered some of this; he remembered not understanding what had happened.

The river pulled him under and rushed him away before he could think, depositing him again into Aera's chamber. It was the same place but somehow different: less cluttered, with its machinery and pipes and cables hidden behind panels in the ceiling. Aera stood in front of him, smiling, happy, willing, while he held his hands to the sides of her head. No, not Aera; not yet. He released her and she stepped back, still smiling, and bowed. All around, filling the room, were people Tarn did not recognise. They seemed to be singing.

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