Claire sat at her favorite spot to languish in the only coffee shop on campus. This is not to say that her favorite spot was any one particular seat in the cafe. Rather, Claire made a point to know where the one liquid sunbeam warmed a particular spot during the any point of the day and always claimed it as her own. One of her friends sat across from her, ostensibly for a study session. Slowly stirring her vanilla soy chai latte—one sugar, she was noticeably absent from her own party of two.
"What's wrong, Claire," asked Geoff, carefully, "You seem so out of it today."
After a more than pregnant silence, Claire glanced up and looked at him.
"I said you're acting like you aren't even here."
"Well, where the hell are you, then?"
"...I had a dream last night," said Claire a little more mysteriously than Geoff was comfortable with.
"You always have weird dreams," offered Geoff, hopefully. Claire had a flair for weird dreams, but worst of all they almost always involved people she knew. Usually, they were neutral— vague as to the outcome or meaning of the dream— but they were almost always creepy, and sometimes downright haunting. Her body language and distance was not helping to put him at ease.
"This one is different. This one felt very different,"
"Was I in it?" Geoff gulped nervously.
"I think so...but you were different. There were a lot of people I knew but everyone was somehow intrinsically different than normal. But, I can't really put my finger on exactly why. That's not even the weird part. The weird part is that it felt real."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean none of my dreams, strictly speaking, ever have come true or anything, but it feels like for some reason I wasn't dreaming so much as I was taken somewhere and being ... shown. I wasn't really even in control of my body, everything sort of just happened to me like I was a soul shoved into someone else's shell."
"It was scary enough that when I woke up at three, I couldn't fall back to sleep so I got up and I wrote it all down. Don't read it here in front of me, but if you want you can borrow it and give it back to me later—But only if you promise not to say I'm insane or messed up or anything. I already know there must be something completely weird going on in my head to have these dreams, but I feel like if I don't share them I'll go crazy for real."
"OK, Gotcha," said Goeff, slowly reaching out to grab the pages Claire had ripped out of a journal. Morbid curiosity most certainly killed the cat.
"Anyway, thanks for snapping me out of it. I really need to get on with studying these Kanji flash cards for the quiz tomorrow."
"Cool. I need to get started translating these articles which Aoyama-sensei handed out in class today. She always picks the driest possible stories for us. I'm convinced that she wants to torture us with the inanity of a slow news day in Kyoto."
"At least you have good material to get you to sleep," chuckled Claire. I wish I had a chance to sleep so well tonight, she thought to herself, dimly.
"Oh, speaking of which, I wouldn't read that at night. Or while you're alone your apartment."
The darkness is crushing me. I can't see anything. I try to scream but there is not enough air. The ground feels soft but I can't seem to look down. I am being led by the hand but even though whoever is leading me is right in front of me I cannot see him. I cannot see my own hand.
My companion beckons me to look to the skies above me, and I comply. I didn't will my body to look, it just looked. I didn't hear anyone speak. Far, far above the darkness is crying out. I can't hear it, but, God, the screaming. It's as though the darkness was ripped from another universe against its will. It is horrible. There are no stars left in the sky, only infinite darkness. There are, however, thirty or forty objects floating, nearly fixed in their position, some thousands of feet above me. They are shaped like inverted glass tear drops. My guess is they are a hundred feet high and almost as wide at the bulge on top. Water has collected at the bottom, and above the water, towards the top, there is soil. Growing on top of the soil on the perimeter of the objects I can see the green of plants, but everything else is obscured from view.
I am bid to hurry. We are running. The ground is softer here, like we are running on sand. The darkness presses on me with heat. It is so hot. I didn't realize before. I still can't see my companion but I can see his blue tinged dark silhouette against the horizon, which, although seems pitch black on its own, is a slight brown against the darkness of the ground and the evil darkness of the sky directly overhead.
I don't want to run anymore, but I feel I so urgent. My chest burns and my eyes are watering. I can't will myself to slow down. Something is in front of us, but I cannot see it very well.
A light! I can see a speck of dirty light in front of us now! My companion is begging me to run faster. I must run faster toward the light. My companion has let go of me. But he implores I must keep running. I have a moment to look at his face, but I can't see well enough to make out who it is. As I continue running I do not hear but instead I sense a terrible sound like thunder. I steal a glance behind me automatically. With a shriek that pierces through my soul, a tendril of blackness is descending from the sky over my friend. He is silent, and then he is gone as the dark finger ascends back to the sky.
I have almost reached the light. It is so close; I can see it is partially obscured by a copse of trees. All of the trees are dead except for one. I am almost there, now.
It is a massive cherry tree, almost fifty feet tall. The light is from a lamp post next to it. But the lamp post is pulsing. Almost solid looking spheres of glowing blue-green light are emanating from the tip, expanding, and pushing away the consuming darkness above before they fade again. The cherry tree is dropping petals like a heavy snow shower. The rest of the dead trees were once also large cherry trees and form a circle around the last living specimen. They look like they've been tarred or burned.
The petals are raining down faster, now. They are blood red like a rose. One of them brushes against my face as it falls to the ground.
My face feels warm against the coldness of the petal. I touch my face where it was. Wet.
Looking beneath the tree, I can see bodies lying there, motionless. Most of them are completely covered in a winding-cloth of the red cherry blossoms, but I can see someone who is only partially covered. Approaching slowly, I can see who it is now. Geoffrey. Tree roots are growing into his skin. The tree pulses with his blood and the blood of everyone beneath it. I lean in closer to his dessicated face. I feel my chest tighten with grief.
He is speaking to me with thoughts through the time and space between us. He says, The darkness consumes everything. When one hundred quintillion blossoms have fallen, the world will end. There will be no more light and no more darkness. There will only be nothing. There will be us in the nothing. And then the nothing will itself be nothing because God wills it. Then, it will be nothing because we will sing the universe back into existence again.
I am filled with fear and with courage, and I lie down beside him. I take his cold hand in mine and the thin hair-like roots begin to grow out of the ground around me. Suddenly, I am aware of everyone connected to the tree. They are my loved ones; my friends and family. They are the good people I have encountered in my life. I know who each and every one of them are and the measure of their sacrifice to my life, even if I only encountered them for a moment. The glass vessels in the sky are the tears running down my face as I succumb to the elements and exhale for the final time on this earth.
The tree's bark darkens and black flames devour the base of its trunk as it drops its final blossoms, the lamp post light begins to dim and I am nothing. The malevolent darkness above has broken through.
There is nothing now except my name and the names of everyone I have loved.
And an explosion of time and song and color which awakens me.