I don’t know if you’ve ever seen true nothing, but it’s a trip. This room isn’t just dark and black, there is nothing in here. Nothing, but me and this door, which is strange I can see, since there’s no light source.
It’s a depressing feeling. Th emptiness creeps inside of you and pierces your heart. I look around, taking a few steps when a thought hits me. If there’s nothing in this room, what am I standing on?
I freeze in place at that moment. Looking down, my heart starts beating faster. What is stopping me from falling into the abyss?
“You’re a bit of a ‘fraidy cat, aren’t ya?”
I scream out in terror for the second time in ten minutes.
“GAHDONTEATME!” I throw my hands over my head to protect myself. No monster from the nothing is going to catch me!
“Wow. Make that a lot of a ‘fraidy cat. Relax.” I feel two small hands gently push my arms off my head. “I don’t eat humans. You wiggle too much and I’ve heard the calories are killer.”
As my arms are pushed out of my face, I see in front of me a young girl.
If I had to guess, she couldn’t be more than nine or ten. Her skin was pale, but not in an unhealthy way. I would almost say it had a soft glow, except that wouldn’t be quite right. Her hair was dark, nearly blending into the nothing that surrounded us. She wore a simple gown that shimmered in a silver, non-existent light.
Her smile calmed me, replacing the anxiety the room had instilled.
“Uh, hi?” I say.
“Hi? Are you wondering if you should be greeting me?” she teases.
I give a slightly nervous chuckle.
“I suppose so.”
“You suppose? Are you sure of anything?”
“Considering my life recently, I really don’t think I am.”
“Thanks…” This little girl was making me painfully aware of the breaks in my sanity. “So, who are you? Are you another soul trying to escape Death?”
She laughs again, everything appearing to be a joke to her.
“Aren’t we all?” she says, cryptically. She turns and sits down, legs hanging over what I can only assume is a ledge. I carefully step next to her and sit down, hanging my own legs down.
“I guess we are.”
“There you go again. ‘Guess.’ You should stop worrying and enjoy the view.”
“Oh yeah. All this nothing is so-”
It happened both fast and slow. Like raising a dimmer switch, but the light was always on in the first place. The twinkling lights, swirling dust, explosions of light and balls of fire whizzing by, all suspended in a field of literal nothingness.
I open my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I knew what I was looking at. I knew what surrounded me. I just couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t comprehend.
“I’d hoped you’d learn by now to not assume. Nothing is as it appears.” She lies back, putting her hands behind her head.
“This can’t be,” I manage to get out.
I’m in the middle of space. There was nothing when I entered, and now everything was laid out before me. Me, a door, and this little girl.
From behind me, I hear her say,
“Welcome to the Black. My name is Luna.”
“Luna? As in the moon?”
She sits up and gives me a side-eyed glance.
“That depends. Do you believe I’m the moon?”
My brow furrows. What does she mean by that?
“Don’t bother answering if you don’t know,” she quickly responds. “From what I’ve seen, you can’t make up your mind about anything.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” I turn back to the spectacle of the universe around me. “So we’re in space?”
“Weren’t you always?”
“And we just happen to be standing on nothing and breathing that same nothing?”
“Of course not, that would be silly!” She giggles as she stands up.
“Why would you think we’re standing, or rather, sitting? Are you breathing? Do you remember taking a breath since you died?”
It hits me like a two-by-four. I’m not breathing. How did I not notice before? In retrospect, it makes sense. I’m dead. I’m a spirit. I have no body. The afterlife wouldn’t care if I had access to oxygen.
“Where am I?” I ask.
“I thought we went over this. You’re in outer space.”
“No, no. I get that. I think.” Don’t dwell on it. “I mean, this sort of space area thing. Like the door I came through. The room I was in. Death. You. How is all this possible?”
“Where am I?” I emphasize.
It’s her turn for her brow to furrow. She looks around like she’s trying to decide something.
“You’re dead. So this is the afterlife. Wouldn’t you say that makes sense?”
“It would, if it felt more final. But there’s nothing here that suggests an end. If anything, I’ve only been reminded of the life I had.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” her voice raises with passion. “Would you expect the afterlife to show you something new? Would you say sitting in the midst of your obsidian ocean isn’t fascinating enough for you?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I start before she cut me off.
“How does this remind you of your life anyway? How often did you look toward the sky with a thought other than ‘Looks like rain?’ Have you ever looked beyond your own life to the wonders of your universe?”
Her fists were clenched. She turned this back around on me quickly. I knew she was hiding something in her answer, but I have no idea what this little girl is capable of. For all I know, she’s an omnipotent being who could crush me with her pinky. Or she’s just a little girl messing with my head. Either way, I know she’s more dangerous than the way I’m treating her.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s more like I’m being shown what I didn’t appreciate. Relaxation. My daughter. This entire room right here is one of the biggest things I know I never cared about in life. So why show me this, if I’m supposed to give it all up?”
“I showed you nothing. You’re the one who turned the key.” She was a bit more relaxed. I now don’t have to worry about being turned into mush. Or dealing with an angry little girl. I know all too well how the second one turns out.
“I turned the key. But then my only other option was being stuck in a room with Death, which I can assure you, is not a pleasant situation.”
“I agree. He’s far too full of himself. Going on about this and that and the order of the universe. Also, he smells a little like kiwis and I hate kiwis.”
“…Yes. All of that. Exactly.”
“But then, you could have gone somewhere else.”
The girl turns around and sticks her arms out, walking like shes balancing on some unseen beam. More games.
“You’re assuming that key is the only one that unlocks the door. In actuality, there are infinite.”
“So… the different keys open this door up to other places?”
“Bingo!” She reaches the end of her imaginary balance beam and turns around. “Of course, you just have the one.”
“But why would Death just have the one? And why would it lead here?”
“You’re really not bright, are you? Oh well, you’ll figure it out eventually. Well, lucky for you, I have another key.”
“Really? I don’t suppose you’ll just give it to me, now will you?”
“I haven’t quite decided. While giving you such a valuable object for free isn’t very smart, you don’t particularly have anything of use to me.”
Crap. Bargaining. Never my strong suit.
“I could lend you a favor? Or I have Death’s key ring. I’m sure there’s something of some kind of value on here.”
She smiles and turns to look into the cosmos.
“No. I have a better idea. We’re going to play a game.”
That isn’t what I expected…
“What kind of game? What are the rules?”
She answers without turning to face me
“It’s very simple. You have to find Earth.”