Story by JareD

The Omniscient

Isaac tore through the tree line.

“37, 36, 35, …” Yari’s voice echoed through the woods behind him.

Shroud and search was Isaac’s absolute favorite game and every Sunday after the village unity Prayer he would come to the forest to play.

Today, however, was a little different. He had used up all his good hiding spots and now was on the hunt for some new ones. He would run faster and farther than he had before, hoping to make it beyond the outskirts before Yari could catch up. He ran past the old redwood, who’s massive trunk had once been ideal for hiding. Past the creek's bend and over the old stone wall. Last week he had spied an old set of ruins he had never seen before, just beyond where they were permitted to explore. He thought perhaps one of the stone idols would be perfect to hide under. His chest heaving, he ran as fast as he could bear through the forest and past the boundaries. Finally, he spotted the crumbling structures, the symbols on them stolen by time, but each one still sturdy enough to tower up through the old redwood trees. Venturing into their midst, he searched the strange constructs for some small space to hide in, racing from one massive stone to the next, gradually making his way to their center. There he found an unusual tree, Its low canopy casting an enormous shadow over the site, its gnarled roots wrapping and consuming many of the carved stone blocks. It was out of place in this forest, amongst the imposing height of the redwoods, its short trunk wide enough to fit 20 grown men around it. He had only one memory of a tree like this, from a storybook in his village, it was called a Banyan tree, and he was unaware they even grew in this country. As he examined the odd tree he noticed something peering out of its twisted roots. There was a glimmer of light that shone faintly from between them. Intrigued, there was a battle between his determination to win and his curiosity. His heart pounded as he slowed down, deciding whether to investigate, certain his friend would come tearing out of the trees at any moment. Finally stopping, he squinted towards the trunk where the light seemed to emanate from. Curiosity overtook him and he edged closer to the tree. There was something out of place. A small stone tunnel, large enough only to crawl through, had been nearly grown over by the vast root system. Its rectangular opening was inscribed with worn runes that he had never seen before. Crouching down he saw the light, emanating from deep inside the passage like a distant lantern.

Getting onto all fours, Isaac made his way through the narrow entrance. He could feel the cold radiating off the stone and a strange breeze coming from further in. He no longer cared about the game he had been playing, the only thing he could think about was what lay beyond the darkness. Eyes locked on that strange distant glow he crawled forward, trying to ignore the fear that chewed at the base of his skull. As he clambered into the darkness, he was unable to see that the runes on the doorway began to faintly illuminate, as if some ancient mechanism had been activated, a long-forgotten relic of the past.

He pushed further inside, moving with steady determination, the light behind him fading gradually as the walls around him all but disappeared. There was a sense now that began to fill him, not of wanting to know what this ancient passage contained, but of needing to know. Nothing seemed more important, nothing seemed more urgent. The boy moved for hours through the endless stone tunnel, knees scraped, fingers blistering from the journey and yet the light seemed no closer. He paused for a moment to catch his breath, that unfamiliar breeze brushing his damp cheeks. How far have I come? Isaac wondered. How long have I been crawling? Looking back down the way he had come it now occurred to him that he could no longer see any light from the entrance. He must be miles into this tunnel by now, he thought, as crippling anxiety overtook him. The walls of the cave seemed to slowly close in around the boy, pushing towards him, as if sensing his fear. His breath quickened and he began to hyperventilate, overcome by a fear that he would never leave this place. He felt something press into his shoulder and reflexively moved away from it, only to find his other shoulder make contact with something else. Bewildered, he moved frantically, knocking his head off the stone ceiling. Something was different, there seemed to be an almost imperceptible shift in the walls around him. What was going on? He touched his hands to each wall and took a moment to feel, trying to understand what was happening. He felt his blood run cold and an icy embrace consume his mind. It didn’t feel like the walls were moving in, they were moving in. The entire tunnel was beginning to compress at a rate that would crush him in minutes. His mind went blank for a moment and the root of all fear screamed from his very core: the fear of being consumed. I’m going to die, he thought, and the walls suddenly jolted inwards, immobilizing him. Tears streamed down his face as the boy, so new to this world, struggled to accept his fate. He didn’t want to die, he wanted to live, he wanted to see his friends again, his family. He wanted to see his parents and return to their loving embrace, he wanted them to come and save him. Thoughts of those he cared for most filled his head, beginning to drown out the fear that so wracked his being. He could barely breathe now, but his mind became a warm comfort. He had found a refuge. And suddenly it was okay, the monstrous injustice that was the physical world seemed okay in the wake of his loving memories. He relaxed entirely, accepting his fate. This was the end, there is always an end.

The walls exploded outwards releasing him from their grasp. The light at the end of the tunnel rushed toward him and the growing expanse was illuminated to reveal a boundless cavern. Collapsing to the floor, Isaac lay there, bewildered and gasping for air. His head was spinning, uncertain what had just happened. Gradually rising to his knees, he tried to take in his surroundings, still not believing the strange reality he found himself in. The space that had just squeezed the breath out of him now seemed to have no edges at all and appeared to extend endlessly in all directions.

Roughly 30 ft from him slay a perfect crystalline lake, so still that its surface had become a flawless mirror. Isaac stood up unsteadily, part of him waiting for this space to swallow him up again. Trepidatious, he made his way to the lake. He looked at its surface, nervous to see any damage to his body that he had yet to feel. As he approached the lake, however, he began to see patterns move in the water. Curious, he inched closer, leaning tentatively over the shimmering reflection, full of intrigue and uncertainty. His eyes narrowed as he struggled to understand what he was seeing, for in its reflection he saw an entire world. Reflexively, Isaac looked up at the roof of the cave, only to see darkness, and then back at the water again, where the unfamiliar world remained. Where the blackness of the cavern had been it reflected a brilliant cosmos. Trillions of stars and galaxies lit the pond, and three moons moved slowly across the sky. It was a scene that he had never encountered before, not in his wildest dreams could he have fathomed such a place. The constellations that had been present since his infancy were nowhere to be found and the moons reflected a stark blue light, as if from the radiant glow of a blue dwarf star. This was not his world… It was also not the source of the light he saw from the ruins.

Sitting cross-legged at the center of the lake on a perfectly circular platform was a being. Cloaked in a midnight blue yukata, it wore a vaguely humanoid mask, its attire nearly concealing the black ether that composed its form. It was an appearance that, in these settings, should have inspired fear, but it had a presence that put him at ease. He knew of these entities but had never seen one, human history was rife with encounters of what we call Omnimorphs, and even today they lived well beyond the boundaries of human society, acting out what seem to be ordinary lives, but there was nothing ordinary about them. Its intangible black form emitted an other-worldly white glow creating a bizarre visual paradox, where the mind jumped from the light to the shadow, struggling to process both in the same space. The two images seemed to merge, resembling the closed door of a well-lit room.

It spoke to him, although it made no sound, beckoning to him, concepts beyond what a child’s mind was capable of creating flowed through him, and without hesitation, he stepped into the lake. The glassy surface compressed slightly and a single ripple echoed across the water, but somehow the surface held him. He moved with confident trepidation as the rational and emotional part of his brain competed for dominance. Emotionally he was at ease now, rationally his mind spun at the impossible twisting of natural laws occurring beneath him. His eyes had remained fixed on the lake until he looked up to meet the Omnimorph’s steady gaze. The concepts flooding his consciousness began to generate questions from his small mind, questions that were immediately answered by the next idea that moved through him as if an instantaneous dialogue were occurring between him and the Omnimorph. The being had something for him, something important that was to remain a secret to others. It was an item that he must carry at all times.

He was at the edge of the platform now, almost close enough to touch its brilliant dark form. Stepping onto the smooth metallic surface, the entity's luminant eyes compelled him to extend his hand. Without a second thought, he listened, slowly willing his left hand forward. The Omnimorph mirrored him, gradually extending its right hand synchronously. Finally, the hands met, both frozen on contact. For a moment the steady breeze that had filled the space disappeared and everything stood still. His mind stopped and a deafening silence blanketed the two, the cave, maybe everything. The stillness, however, lasted but a moment. Without warning the Omnimorph’s hand dematerialized into a cloud of smoke and engulfed his forearm. Energy surged through him in waves and his vision exploded with fractalous colors he had never seen before. The world around him disappeared and his entire body filled with a sense of unity that sung like a forgotten memory. He could feel his enshrouded forearm as the heat in it began to build. The tissue began to take on a sense of liquidity, beginning to move and shift, yet somehow there was no pain. A deep knowing settled in from the void around him, though he was uncertain of what it meant, he knew he was the first of The Omniscients. And suddenly, it was over, as soon as this knowledge had found rest in his mind the experience ended as quickly as it began.

He grasped at the fleeting sense of unity for a moment, but let go, realizing it was not something to be held. Blinking several times, he tried to still the now spinning world, not entirely convinced he hadn’t just awoken from some bizarre dream. He breathed deeply, now alone on the platform, staring up at the black canvas of the cavern. Looking around he began to once again settle into the strange setting. The space seemed darker now, the Omnimorph was nowhere to be found, the only light now coming from the cosmic reflection of the lake. He touched his hand to his chest, and took a moment to breathe, feeling aware of the toll the experience had taken on his body, which was aching for sleep. He got to his feet and was beginning to step out onto the still lake when his adrenal axis exploded to life. Remembering now the sense of his arm becoming liquid, his senses on fire, his focus began what felt like an eternal descent towards his arm, still radiating subtly with heat, uncertain as to what he would see. As he settled upon it, what he found was not horrifying but curious. Wrapped around his arm from elbow to index finger was a single spiral of jet-black runes. He lifted his arm, rotating it to examine the strange new aesthetic. The runes seemed as flexible as his own skin, but with a distinct boundary. They appeared to have a nearly invisible multidimensionality to them, like a visual echo and smoked with the same black ether as the omnimorph.

His hand, he noticed, was involuntarily clenched into a fist, holding something tightly. As he slowly released his grasp, the item that it revealed was perhaps the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on. It was a small prism, with an infinite number of layers descending in perfect geometry towards its center. Each layer an impossible display of colors. This was the secret he had to keep, the gift he could show no other, the Fate Resonance Stone. And although Isaac understood it was important, he could not yet know why nor could he foresee the pivotal role he was to play in humanity's journey through existence.