I sit at the end of the world and try to paint a bridge from everything to nothing, and I can’t do it. The stars are falling into my hands, mingling with my tears. They stain my fingers, a fantastic palette of wishes and dreams. I dabble with them, drawing their hopes and memories on my cheeks, my breasts, nonsense patterns. Trying to make sense of what is happening.
I am out of skin. I fling the clinging stars at the dark sky, but the ink slithers like a living thing, refusing to become a picture. Droplets hang in the air, turn to fine mist. Fine mist streams into nothing. I need to hold together my world, but I can’t. It is falling away from me, drifting into nothing, devoured as quickly as it is born.
I sit at the end of the world, at the place where time ends, and infinity begins. I sit with my brushes and my ink, my stardust and my tears. I sit at the end of the world and watch the lightning play with discarded memories. I sit and paint nonsense memoirs on broken stone until even that is pulled out of my hands.
I stand on the last stone and stare into the void. Around me, the destruction is singing, a lonely and discordant keen. I sing with it, the words pattering into the dark, casting a line into the pool to see what bites, but nothing does. All that comes back is silence.
The stone path I was following is disintegrating, gravel, dust, gone. In front of me, the world falls away, behind me is…nothing. Everything is gone, and now the ends are vanishing, too. I wonder if there is an end to the ending, if I too will crumble into dust and nothingness, or if I will linger here when everything is gone, floating through empty space.
I sit at the end of the world and remember, but I am forgetting what I should be remembering. Infinity is reaching into my head, stealing my thoughts, eating them, licking its fingers clean of my grief and love. I wonder, maybe, if the emptiness is lonely, or if, from the other side, I am reforming, reaching back to try and piece myself together. The memories unspool before my eyes, and I reach out, as if I can hold them to me. Instead, my flesh joins them, pulling loose from brittle bones.
It does not matter. Grief is beautiful, floating in gossamer streams from my eyes and lips. Harsh love falls through my hands like sand through an hourglass. Hope dissipates, mist on a hot morning. Joy, aged and silver with wisdom, wraps me in its embrace and lays me out under its shroud. My brush falls from senseless fingers, lassitude pours through me as though a lover’s gentle hand has brought me here. My gaze dims, filled with mist and dust.
I am here, and all things come to an end, an end that is beautiful and gentle. Here is peace, where hurt does not leave tracks in the white dust, and the mist is undisturbed by suspicious eyes.
But even the end is ending. I am propelled forward. Fury and joy surge through limp limbs, bearing me to the surface, drowning me in knowledge
The darkness rebuilds me, sleek and mysterious. Eyes and ears and lips, hands forming from the ashes of stars. I dip my fingers in starlight, and begin to paint, silver shadows in the night. One line at a time, one dot, one smear. Slowly it begins to hold. I am painting faster than it can be eaten away.
Words fill my empty mouth. I am singing. I don’t know the song, I don’t know the language. Maybe I am singing a lost song, maybe a new song. My voice slips from my lips and dances through the sky.
My paintings take new form, rising with their own lives, a strange new world building around me, evolving and beautiful, strange as the dreams in my dead heart.
It is beyond me now, my little paintings pulsing with their own wild life.
I sit at the beginning of the world, and look at a new thing. A new world. My pictures and my songs are growing. Light shimmers in the steps I took, sweeps in a stately memory-dance. Voices call in the darkness, bodies build around them. My memoirs are their memories, my songs are their voices, my paintings are their lives. I watch my dreams grow, filling this new world with laughter and joy and hope.
I sit at the beginning of the world, at the place where time begins, where infinity takes shape. I sit with my brushes and my ink. I sit and paint a new world.
I am nothing, but around me…
…around me is everything.
Jaym Gates is the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has edited the anthologies Rigor Amortis, Broken Time Blues, with Erika Holt, and War Stories, with Andrew Liptak. Her work can also be found in Aether Age, Triumph Over Tragedy, Kaiju Rising, and By Faerie Light. You can find her on Twitter as @JaymGates.