//This day was always coming//
No words can capture it, and how could they? It existed before words, after all. Before the first Emperor found a way to tie the first syllables of the language which would record their fame together, before the first man would hold power over another.
I reach a hand out timidly, the [[gem]] glows red and inside its splendor I can see the sum of life flitting through.
//This always was, and always would be//
My hand caresses along the jagged and rough surface. This was how it all begun, all that I was, all that I am. Confined within this gem, lifetimes of [[memory]], lifetimes of [[loss]]//Memory transcends the ethereal//
Memories. The first memories. The first life. There aren't a lot of good ones, but there were some. Those fleeting moments of happiness in what would otherwise make up a lifetime of war. I had hoped that those moments of good would carry me through. Father was a soldier and when the war started I was only six summers old. He marched away to fight and never came home. Three years later, my eldest brother Edmund marched away all the same, never to return. Six years after that, Gabriel left with the recruiting sergeant.
Mother begged me not to [[go]] when I came of age. //Pain is part of life//
The memory I hoped not to recall. The memory I always knew was waiting for me in this cursed place. If anyone asked what force could defy all logic, I'd of said love. It infects the mind and soul, and once it touches you, you wear the scars forever.
The year before I joined was the worst year of my life. Thought I'd give a go of being a farmer like pop was before the war. Had a pretty good run of it, too. Emily was too good for this world, too pure. She had a way of seeing the good in all things and without fail believed in love. It was impossible not to get drawn into that. We married fast, and young. A year later she was pregnant. Everyone in the family was happy, but we should have known better.
Maybe it was a curse. Maybe God was mad. Maybe there is no such thing as any of this, and maybe it was just cruel chance. Emily died, the babe too. Mother did all she could, but the childbirth was too hard. That winter was the worst I could remember. The crops didn't grow right and food was scarce. I knew I had to [[go]].//To die with honor in battle//
With the way everything went, it shouldn't have been a surprise. She couldn't feed all of us, and if I went off to the war, at least it'd be one less mouth to feed. Most of my wages went back to her, anyways. My brothers might have been gone, and father as well, but there were still three sisters who needed caring for. The recruiting sergeant promised a life of adventure, money, and honor. Hard to say no to that when the alternative is another winter of hunger pangs and wondering if death was going to creep up on you.
Besides, I'd no reason to stay. [[Loss->loss]] had a funny way of playing at the mind. My life had seen enough loss, but that was too much to bear. Maybe I hoped to [[die]] like father, like Gabriel, like Edmund. //Together, never apart//
Promises had a funny way of keeping themselves. Battle after battle, I survived. All the while I thought of the promise I had made to Emily. We would always be together, we would always find a way to be together. No matter what, no matter when, and no matter how.
Part of me felt like I'd broken that vow by the way I kept on living after she'd gone. Maybe that was why I signed up for the most dangerous missions. There was no way of telling. Men, better men than I, died on those missions, but I survived.
For a while, at least. It wasn't long before I knew the kiss of cold steel. The pain of life slipping away, twisting and contorting as crimson poured from body like rivers. The sword caught me in the stomach, caught me off-guard mid swing. Breathing became a distant memory, and as everything began to fade away, it abruptly went black. The last thing I saw was the blade swinging down.
Maybe I would see [[Emily->emily]] again. //Life gives to death, Death gives to life//
This life was different. I don't remember the exact moment when I'd become aware that I was conscious again. Maybe it was that touch, or maybe it was the time I fell from the tree.
The war was over this time. Peace reigned and the world was quite strange. New technology, new rules, and the social order of things had been completely upturned. There was a lifetime of choices ahead of me, a lifetime of choices I hadn't had before.
The memory is a little fuzzy, though. Was I a [[soldier]] again? Or perhaps I was an [[academic]]? The funny thing about these multiple lifetimes, everything seems to blur together after a while...//Once a soldier, always a soldier//
I was a soldier again. It was always bound to be that way, I suppose. I hadn't quite gotten enough of the battlefield on the last go around and this time everything seemed so new and fascinating. How could I resist the call to adventure when now the world had grown so vast? Massive ships carried people all across the world to such exciting places. Warfare, it seemed, had also changed. The old order died at the end of a good musket. Or maybe I secretly wished to die once more, so I could see my beloved Emily at long last at the gates of heaven.
It felt cruel that I was born into the world again, rather than awakening in the promised paradise. Perhaps I hadn't led a pure enough life. Perhaps this was my second chance. Anyways, it wouldn't be long before I realized what [[we]] had become.//It was a brave new world//
Soldiering didn't suit me anymore. In this world, there was possibilities I couldn't have dreamed of in my last life. The old order died at the end of a musket. This was an enlightened age, where learned scholars were well respected. More importantly, knowledge was no longer something that was coveted and horded by the few. Life was no longer feudal, and that meant I could do more than till a field or die for the crown if I'd put my mind to it.
I began working as a clerk for a tradesman. Sometimes he paid me in gold, but more often he paid me in books from faraway lands. The more I knew, he reasoned, the more money I could make him. After a while this pursuit didn't satisfy me. I needed to go to [[university]], where I could learn what these books could not teach.//War was a constant//
The way war was fought might have changed, but the cruelty of man and the drive of greed never did. Once training was done it was onto the ship. Carted half a world away to conquer and bring the light of civilization to the savages.
Funny how we seemed more savage than they. If I thought the Army would redeem my soul, I'd been mistaken. The sins only grew larger still with each engagement. The musket had brought down the old order, but it stripped all honor from the field of war. Levied against us were bow and spear, and we with powder, and musket, and cannon slew the men and women by the score. They, who only wished to defend their homes, were heathens to be killed. To be hated. They did not know the light of God, nor did they speak a civil tongue. They were agents of the Devil at best, Satan himself at worst.
They were just people. Ultimately, I [[deserted]].//Higher Learning was often old men praising each other//
A life of learning seemed to suit me just fine. For the first year, I absorbed everything with a wide eyed wonder. By the second, I was disabused of the notion that learning actually had a place at the seat of knowledge. Rather, so many Professors seemed just as content to pat themselves, and their friends, on the back.
That isn't to say the entire experience was wasted. The library was vast and contained books that the life of a simple clerk would've never afforded me. I picked up a couple of languages as well and made a proper Scholar of myself. When the wars to subdue the savages began, the University became more a tool of propaganda than learning. It seemed as if every other month one of the esteemed scholars of the University was releasing a new paper about the inhumanity of these men.
I never did get a degree. Part of the curriculum saw me travel abroad on a research expedition, to observe and learn. Something tugged inside of me and a sense of adventure led me [[away->deserted]].//The most powerful force//
The city was quite beautiful. I'd trekked for some time, following the path of other wanderers. It became apparent that the people of the region weren't nearly as uncivilized as we'd been led to believe. Everything was beautiful in its own way. Maybe remembering what being a peasant was like colored my view of their society. There was beauty in the simplicity.
There was also beauty in my companion. Tall, slender, and with a charming smile. I was drawn to him immediately, and he to me. We kept our love for another secret. It was something that could not be expressed in words, and eventually we settled together in that city. His people did not mind, and before long I came to understand. This was Emily. Like myself, Emily was born again.
Happiness, however, is not something that is promised to love. Disease soon began to tear through the countryside. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, unlike anything I'd ever read before. People fell like wheat before the scythe. One minute they were alive, the next they were dead.
We cried when we embraced that final time. Held each other as the breath escaped our lungs. Maybe this was the end, but it began [[anew]].//Going in circles//
That was to be the way of things. I knew it now, the moment I drew breath and slipped into consciousness the second time. We would be chasing each other across time, across destiny, for all eternity. The lives all began to blend together. Each time I found Emily, those lives would end as if a fleeting dream.
Some lives were more vivid than others. Once I awoke and the world was a strange place indeed. Fire and death fell from the sky, people ran around in panicked crying. That time Emily and I were both women. We were found together, holding each other beneath the ruins of the house. A bomb dropped from a Zeppelin had done the trick that time.
In another life still we lived in the countryside together. She a woman, and me a man. The world was different again, still recovering from the last war. This time we had children and raised them together. This time war came with a renewed brutality. I watched as my children were torn from the arms of my wife by the invaders, watched as they were pulled away. I screamed and lunged forward when the soldier bayoneted her. Everything went black.
Life after life, loss after loss. No matter how far, no matter how long. We found each [[other]].//All things end//
Those memories eventually piled up and carried across the decades and centuries. Loss upon loss. Once, I deliberately tried to avoid finding Emily. I resolved myself to live a life of quiet solitude. Maybe it was our love which had offended God, maybe that was why we were cursed to live and die over and over again. It didn't work. By cosmic chance, she and I both wound up on the same plane. We all died one hour and fifteen minutes after I sat beside her. Nobody knew for sure what brought the plane down.
On and on it went until finally I arrived here. The end of it all, the end of all things. A single gem, expertly crafted, surrounded by darkness. Time ceased to hold meaning. The universe had lost its shape and there were now no more lives left to be born into.
Those lives all perfectly captured in this now dull, white gem. All that was experienced, all that was gained. I cannot remember clearly now the details of every life, but I know what I must do. Perhaps there never was a God. It is a funny thought to hold. Perhaps [[love]] was God. //And begin anew//
The gem feels light in my hand now, though it is infinitely heavy. I hold it to the blackness and close a single eye. A pair of arms wraps about my shoulders and I feel the warmth of Eternity upon my back.
"Do it." The voice breathes, and I abide. My hand closes around the gem and it becomes dust. The dust itself seems to burn infinite and eternal against my closed hand. Shapeless, formless, I watch as my arm dissipates and the warm glow cascades across me. Behind me, the glowing warmth intensifies until we become as one entangled together.
The explosion is the most beautiful thing I've ever witnessed in countless lifetimes. Together, we are spread and scattered. Everywhere, and nowhere. Everything ends, and everything must begin [[again->Start]].