ACT I - THE VOID
We begin in death. Maybe you are used to calling it space. It's not the silence after a story's last chapter, but the void that limns life, the emptiness that frames and encases substance - the cold on the other side of the skin of the world. Amid this absence, a presence surges. She is the universe. At the crest of her voice, uncountable stars bore holes in the dark. Their light enriches the nothingness between them.
For eons, she stands alone in her tower, looking out onto all that is. And then, one day, she becomes aware of her aloneness. She grows restless. She wanders into the garden at the tower’s base.
A second voice calls to the first. A newborn scorches the frame. They are the universe's complement, light pocked through with darkness, cooling stone swinging around the suns. They bring the vision by which the universe might learn to know herself. Imagine an eye, and the swath of the universe reflected in that eye, and the universe seeing her reflection inside the glassy organ that sees.
"What is this mind?"
We'll call them Venus. They've found a crack in the firmament. They pry it open with claws of light and crawl through.
Beneath them, the ocean yawns ahead, nipping at an unmarked shore. Behind them, the universe, draped in shadow, follows. For a moment, Venus and the universe hang in tandem, considering each other. The universe is overcome with a premonition: Venus devoured in the fiery jaws of some wild beast.
Venus smiles. They wander into the waves. Just before they disappear beneath the surface, they beckon the universe to follow.
The universe sees Venus in duplicate, two shimmering figures undulating in the surf. One figure tumbles into nothingness. The other darts deeper into the sea.
ACT II - THE DEEP
Beneath the emerald sea, Venus and the universe find a long-drowned city. The universe stands beneath a deteriorating archway. She has cast off her mantle of shadow, and radiates flame. Bubbles spray from her hair.
"Why do you come in pieces?"
The universe reaches for the fragmented Venus, a child's figure made from flakes of glass. Venus reaches back. When they clasp hands, the fire darts through Venus, too. They melt themself solid. The heat from their palms stirs the mounting foam.
While at first Venus saw themself as separate from the sea, an interloper in its depths, now they assume its flow. Steam jets open wherever they step. They populate the dead city. People of fire rise from their fingertips. The crumbling, kelp-strewn streets now bustle. Delighted with their creation, Venus chases the universe through the city, into the reefs, the light from their flamed heads alighting the coral. Their feet dance across shipwrecks studded with barnacles, the shark-bitten ribs of sailors. They move with all that's living and all that's dead.
Venus is a child, and children like to vanish. In their delight, they wander past where the light of the sun can penetrate. Eyes of beings they cannot name watch them from the furrows of the earth. Tendrils grasp at their ankles. Creatures that have never known light gnash their teeth at this sudden interruption of flame.
But Venus is quick, and darts from them. To them, it is a game. They regard the monsters of the deep with a child's trust. They rest inside the mouth of a cave, where they amuse themself by shooting fiery plumes from their fingertips. The cave rumbles. The stalagmite at Venus's back is not an outcropping of rock, but a tooth. Just as the behemoth's mouth is about to close around them, the universe finds Venus and whisks them to the surface.
ACT III - THE FIRMAMENT
The universe carries Venus to the sky. Again, she changes shape - no longer a torrent of fire, she is a warrior who wears a jeweled sword the color of dusk. Venus, too, has grown. Like the palace where they land, they are made from vapor, the edges of their form fraying into the surrounding cloud.
The days and nights whirl the palace around the globe. Venus and the universe watch the surface of the planet below as it changes. Continents lock into place. The people of fire become people of flesh and scatter across the earth. Venus and the universe share the love of gods, whose bonds are not constrained by time as mortals know it. Their love is both ancient and perennially incipient. It ages in the same moment it is born.
From their vantage, Venus and the universe watch love bloom across the earth. And they watch it die in fire and fracture, watch the tumult of what unfolds in its lack. There is so much pain beneath them, and in their observant circle, they fold the pain into their love, and scatter it back transformed.
It cannot last. In time, the earth grows cold and the sun grows close. This is the time of perfect death from perfect love. Venus splits into their three aspects: Venus Caelestis, the glassy-eyed child, the morning star; Venus Physica, the sea-born creator who plays in the deep; and Venus Verticordia, the changer of hearts and transformer of love. As they shatter, they whisper to the universe a spell that will restore her to her beginning. At the end of her love, she will be young once more.
"Will you find me again?"
"It is my life's design to find you."
In the blankness of death, the deep incorruptible void, the cycle begins anew.
Story by Sasha Geffen