Those we will one day be...
When I wake up, I notice fray sitting on the floor of the clinic, their eyes scanning a tablet. I call out to them, "Fray?" "Amber? Good morning." They set the tablet down and stand. "Are you alright?" I take stock of my surroundings and notice the pain in my face. I let out a groan In response. Fray nods and smiles. "I figured. Then again, I suppose glass is better than a tungsten round." "Agreed." I stop as the memories come back to me, a sudden wave of images that I still cant believe despite living it. "Am I like you now?" "I think so," they reply. Their mouth closes too soon, as if to keep the last few thoughts from seeping out. Their demeanor is off, rigid and without grace. They're uncomfortable. "What is it?" I ask. "I have a question, if you'll indulge me." "Of course." I say, sitting up from the cot." "What is a god? Your language and mine can't seem to agree." The question catches me off guard. I shake my head and scoff. "I- why? What kind of question is that?" "Folkvangr is gone, destroyed by the other factions of my species." "Gone? Why? They just destroyed it?" I ask. "That's the problem." Fray lets out a sigh. Their hands clasp together as they speak. "I've managed to access networks my people use here. What I've found is concerning." "What did you find?" Fray laughs and shakes their head. "The loop isn't a state of being. Somnihein is an event, and it all centers around you, me, your mother… our species even-" they pause and shake their head again, "No, all species. Life itself is a product of the loop." They stare at my face and read the obvious confusion. "Right." Their face softens, a minor display of weakness breaking through the facade. They look as if they're about to cry. "Where do I even begin?"
The loop is independent of existance. It exists no matter what you are, no matter where you are. Our gods are even bound to it, but it isn't until now that I finally understand what that means. The lebhshi are our gods, those we will one day be. Gibraltar, nergal, and all those like them are counted among the pantheon. They are beings beyond our fragile perception of reality. Their agenda? Unknown. Their capabilities? Unknown. They fight among themselves, equally affected by the schism that separates our species. The loop is unavoidable, but they get closer to breaking it with every cycle. The cycle being that of time, from beginning to end. It all ends here at The Rainbow Orchard.
I don't understand…
The lebhni came and sought to escape death, unaware of their actions. They entered the great attractor, spread out across the universe. When the end of time came again, they were something else, the lebha and lebhshi came into being. We scattered ourselves across time and every world we touched, every species we met would be irreversibly changed. We created a timeline all our own, and in doing so erased all that was meant to be. Species we met a cycle before simply vanished without reason. Entire civilizations collapsed eons ahead of schedule. Why?
It was a long held belief that my people were clones created only to outlive their creators. This is not true. The lebhni, the Lebha, the lebhshi, are all the same, and their origin is much more complex. When we emerged at the dawn of time, we expected life. We found nothing. In response we seeded life that was meant to be using the genetic matrices we gathered over time. We never realized we were the ones who created life in the first place. In turn, the life we created would be encountered by our younger selves. Their genetics would be collected, stored, only to be used to produce the very species that created them in the first place. The Lebha are not just a species, they're the last species, the accumulation of all life and the progenitor of life as well.
The loop was not created, it was discovered. Our first sin was learning a truth that we never should have learned. We broke into heaven and discovered it was no different from what we left behind. The loop exists whether we know of it or not. This was always the way it would be. It is an unchanging fact. We are all bound by the loop. This caused the Schism and is why my species lingers in fragments scattered across time. There is no end, nor a beginning. The two are one in the same. That's where we come in. We have parts to play but... I dont know if that's what I want.
Fray stares into space, their mouth open but silent. I clear my throat. "Go on?" "I have a confession." They refuse to look me in the eye as they speak, "I am Gibraltar, but that fact comes with implications. If true, I used the loop to my advantage. I helped your mother save you, brought you to my past self and then I waited." "For what?" "For my past self to get to know you," they reply. "Why is that so important?" I ask. They shake their head. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm rather fond of you." "I dont follow." I stop, unsure of how to handle what must be coming. Gibraltar said it loved me. I can put two and two together. I hate having this conversation and I'm thankful its only ever happened a handful of times. "Fray, no." I pause and gesture to the suit of meat that is my body. "I'm not meant to be loved. If that's what you're hoping for, this is it. I'm attached, sure, but the way we are is the best I could offer. I don't even want that kind of relationship. I can barely stand being touched." I study their face as I speak, and to my surprise, they smile. "Likewise on all counts, but that's not really what I meant." "Oh." My cheeks burn as I avert my gaze. "I misread that one." "Not entirely," they pause to give a nervous laugh. "I'm attached as well. That's the problem. I've seen how I die. You'll die long before I do." They take a sudden, shaky breath. "The thought makes me feel…" they pause and scan the room as if the answer lingered somewhere in the shadows. They let out a lung full of air. "On a long enough timeline, it's inevitable." Fray picks up the tablet and shrugs. "If we leave, we set the entire timeline in motion." I open my mouth to speak then close it when I realize now isn't the best time bring up my suicidal tendencies. They genuinely look upset about it. "You want to stay?" "I do, but I know in the end we won't." They sit at the end of the cot, and lower their head. "Even if we could, you have a role to play, a home to go back to." "Do you not?" I ask. They shake their head. "Knowing what I know now, I'm not sure I could ever go back." "Then let's stay. I mean it's not like were hurting for time, right?" They look up at me as if offended. "I'm serious." "We have to go back eventually," they reply. "says who? Even if we do, you'll be fine. I come from a whole species of misfits." I smile and lean forward to catch their gaze. "I'm sure we could find a place for you when we reach Safeharbor." I expect a smile in return, but I'm unable to confirm. The ship springs to life, the engines pulsing and nearly throwing me from the cot. Fray reaches out and catches me with their arm, their head tilted. "What's happening?" I ask. "I don't know," fray replies. They scan the tablet, stopping moments later. "The ship's navigating itself. We're heading for the attractor." They jump from the cot and dart out of the infirmary. I follow behind, and just before reaching the bridge a voice chimes over the ship's PA system. "Preparing for warp jump." I jump into the pilot's chair, ignoring the massive hole in the headrest. "How do I stop it?" They don't answer at first, instead dating from one side of the bridge to the other. They operate a new panel with every change in position, each failing to execute the command. "I don't think we can. What's causing this?" The lights flicker off, and back on moments later. The engines are firing at maximum but it doesn't appear like we're moving. I activate a live feed to see what's outside and it's clear we're in the attractor itself. I see stars blip into existence from outside. I see waves of light, massive bursts of energy pass over us. In moments, the ship veers right, exiting the attractor and leaving us in deep space. The ship plots its course, no matter what we do to prevent it. It's only when I see its destination that I fully understand what happened. It's taking us to a system, one labeled Sepia 1. The ship is taking us home.