For the first time in my life, I touched grass. Real grass. It wasn’t clear how I ended up here, but somehow, I bathed in both divine sunlight and the euphoria of relief. I ripped the grass off its roots and threw it in the air like confetti. Such precious fragile life. A kind that suffers not.

I hollered to the sky, jumping up and down, “We made it!” Yet, a crippling loneliness emerged. I looked around. I was the only one.

But then, a hand rested itself upon my shoulder. I turned to see.

“Guhya?” Riyon said.

We hugged and I asked, “How did we get here?”

“To be honest, it’s fuzzy for me too.” Not only had he left his hardly existing life behind, but even his mind was missing and fragmented.

And now, so was mine. “Well… what now??” I asked.

“I think I know the way,” he said with an unusual confidence. “Something tells me there’s a place by the beach.”

“How do you know?”

His hand met his chin, and he looked down, lost in thought, seeking answers. “I don’t,” he said as mysterious as could be. Then, he looked to me, “But I have faith.”

“Wait, didn’t you die??” I asked.

“The last thing I remember was plugging into the Psychonet. Then… all of a sudden Hedo was gone.”

I flinched, “Oh my god… I can’t see your genetic code anymore… It’s possible this isn’t the same world as before. It’s possible I’m not the same me.”

Casually, he insisted, “Let’s head to the beach. My mind is yearning for it.”

I accepted his quest. “Yeah, sure. Lead the way.”

As we walked, we tried to recall our last moments.

I said, “From my perspective, you basically died in Hedo. I spent another year or so living it out. I mean, it was seriously insane too.”

“Peculiar. So, our stories don’t match?” he asked.

I continued, “Only loosely. After you left, your choice echoed into the systems of the Psychonet, letting everyone know that it’s possible to survive the horrible thing.”

“My choice?”

“You chose power,” I said.

He scratched his head, “Power… Oh! Right. It’s a bit disturbing that I hardly remember all that now.”

“In my timeline, I arrived here just after falling to my death, and at the literal end of the world of all things!” A hint of sadness crept into my heart as the memories revitalized. I remembered: Pandora was gone.

“Guhya? Are you alright??”

Shaking, I wiped away the tear, “Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You’re saying the world ended?? What do you mean?”

“Oh, right! This place we are standing, it came to be known as the Outside.”

“The… Outside?”

“That life from before, it was inside-” A shock was felt through my head.


“Sorry, it was in-” Again, the shock occurred. “Agh! I don’t think I can say it for some reason. It feels like it’s on the tip of my tongue.”

“What’s that about?”

Defeated, I said, “I’m not sure. To be honest, I can’t even remember what I was trying to say.”

From that moment on, my memories seemed to drift. As if my life had been a faded dream. The more my brain tuned into the Outside, the further my past life washed away, downstream. Unless I really thought about it, I’d lose track of everything that came before, even all that was precious. Somehow, this felt okay.

We walked for what seemed like hours. Luckily, it was one of the most beautiful days. The sky was spotted with majestic clouds. The blue of the heavens seemed deeper than usual. The wind gently brushed our hair. The fields and hills were endless with grass and wildflowers, occasioned by magnificent fruit trees. Like Arezo’s dream but made real.

-1 month later-

This new world had a level of peace I hadn’t known. Time didn’t seem to exist. At least not my counting of it. Though, there was a pervasive sense that something was missing, long-lost, like a nostalgic fantasy of a realm relinquished to the void. Something important. It always left me sad. These hills and cliffs we lived by; they brought a supreme homesickness. The sparkling sea called out to me, but nothing drew me in like the strange pink flower that sat at the bottom of the cliffs. Was this simply the calm before the storm?

I found my way to the table that everyone else sat at.

Riyon was telling our story to Taro and Nell, “Then, I ended up in this world. . . I think God gave us a second chance. It seemed like Hedo was suddenly gone. All that was left were some hills and poppies. After about 30 minutes of roaming around in this hilly area, I found Guhya, just laying there. After he woke, we headed towards Iniko, to meet up with you two. Iniko wasn’t like before. It was more ordinary. It started to seem like the whole world had reset at this point. Guhya and I discussed this.”

I chimed in, “Yeah. It was pretty freaky. From my perspective, I just passed out, then woke up and everything was different. It was really disorienting too. I seem to have lost my ability to see into genetic code. I’m not even sure if I’m really an Aeon anymore, but I’ve never known what it feels like to be human. Maybe I just concussed during whatever the fuck that was that made me pass out. Then we found both of you and even you two were confused!”

I felt like I had remembered more when I first woke up. As if the life from before was draining and shriveling its form. Eventually, it would be no more. Still, something anxiously scratched in the back of my mind. It wanted out of its cage. Something wasn’t right. For the entire meal, I couldn’t focus. The others seemed blissful enough.

To clear my head, I walked along the cliffside coast. The stars shined brightly, and my heart denied feeling. This place was stuck in peaceful mode. I liked it but I didn’t. I couldn’t figure it out. I remembered the faint taste of stress from the other life. I remembered that it was near unending, anguishing. The days here were spent casually mostly. I was often left lying in the sand. Which was nice for sure, but not enough. The gaping hole in my heart remained.

I admit, this was what I always imagined being human would be like. Simple. Good. But also lacking. I longed for the endless mystery of that other life, on the Inside. There, nothing was ever solved. Only a stream of puzzles that drove me mad. I remembered that restless sprint for meaning and order. Yet only to be met with the chaos of the bleak darkness of the boundless unknown. That existed here, but somehow it was too perfect. There was no need to wonder. Not for our safety nor our pleasure. Already having was never enough.

Then, for the first time in so long, something surprising happened. A puppy grabbed the bottom of my pant leg and began to tug at it viciously, while growling and barking.

“H-hey hey! Don’t do that! Leave my clothes alone!”

At first, it was upsetting, but I grew to savor it. A source of feeling. The erratic unpredictability of the puppy was brilliant.

I laughed.

It ran off.

I wasn’t about to let this slip away. “Hey! Wait up! What’s your name?!”

I ran and I ran.

Then, I tripped and I fell. It hurt but it was a nice change of pace. Opening my eyes, one of those pink flowers posed itself before me, glowing with a strange aura. Its scent pulled out faint memories, dancing and playing on the tip of my tongue, never revealing their most nude forms, always covered in modesty. I wanted more.

I picked the flower and the teasing memories intensified. I was entranced. In the slightest coherency, I saw crystal landscapes, mystifying monsters, castles in the sky, utopian cities, and forests that leaked blood. The flower: it called to me. It begged me to relish in its flesh. My ears rang and the sounds of the world were pulled further back, reverberating and flanging.

The puppy began barking relentlessly, breaking my trance. I had almost forgotten I was on the ground.

I looked over and a woman held the puppy in her arms, standing beside the most glorious cherry tree in full bloom. The flowers glowed in the backlight of the moonshine. But most beautiful of all was the woman. It was… her. The woman I had dreamed of each night since arriving. With hair of black and lavender. Pandora! She was here!

Quickly, I rushed up onto my feet. It had been so long that I was nervous to see her. I’m sure she felt the same. Awkwardly, I thought to myself for a moment to devise a battle plan.

She didn’t hesitate, “Sorry! Sometimes she’s a real rascal!”

My voice trembled with excitement, “N-no! I loved it!”

Guilt was apparent in her tone, “I almost have her trained but… obviously, she’s still biting on people’s clothes.”

I laughed. “It’s Opal, right?”

“Yeah! Opal!”

The puppy happily howled.

I got lost in her smile. It brought me such warmth. So much about her I had nearly forgotten. How could I though? We spent our whole lives saving each other from ourselves.

I couldn’t delay it any longer, “This is incredible! How’ve you been??”

“Oh. Great! Ever since waking up in this place, I feel a real sense of order. It’s all sort of strange though. None of it even makes sense. But that’s okay, I guess. This place is wonderful. I shouldn’t question it. Plus, I’ve got Opal here with me!!”

“It might sound crazy, but I feel like Opal was trying to lead me here to you.” I nervously laughed.

She laughed too, “Do you believe in fate?”

“Yeah. After all we’ve been through? Of course. Maybe not in some gushy romantic way, but yeah. Something like fate is pulling us along.”

The puppy freed itself and went after my pant leg again.

“Hey! Cut it out now!” I laughed and grabbed Opal and pinned her to the ground, tickling her, rubbing her belly and her back all over.

Pandora grabbed Opal and rescued me from her cute shenanigans. “I’m so sorry! I swear, I’m training her!”

A bursting breeze blew through, and we braced ourselves. Petals of the cherry blossom twirled through the air. Eventually, the wind died down and the petals gently floated around, averting the ground.

Both of us looked out to the many glints of the sea, marveling at the sight that had been created. Moonlight bending and splitting across the waving ocean as the pink petals flew about in slow motion.

After the awe wore off, she turned to me and smiled, holding out her hand to shake.

With her words, time had stopped: “Oh! I’m Pandora! Nice to meet you!”

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