"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."
- H.P Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu
A respectable distance from what we call Earth lies a planet in the center of the universe. It is in our best interest to be wary of it. A gray and barren wasteland with craters awaits any adventurer that dares set foot there.
A once-booming alien civilization was reduced to nothing after a rather disturbing event. The secrets of these events lie underneath a long abandoned city and should never be unearthed or unleashed. We all believe that the whole world runs by choices and revolves around us. Perhaps it is not we that run the world; instead, the world is what runs itself.
“Are you receiving me, Alpha?” the garbled and static-filled voice said on the radio.
“No, Charlie. I can’t receive you, ” said the astronaut sarcastically in a safe space pod with a smirk. “Ok, receiving you loud and clear, Alpha. Try to lower the sarcasm. Prepare for launch.”
Alpha took a deep breath and closed his eyes, ready for 'just another mission.'
A button was pressed somewhere, and the space pod launched forward. The passenger’s head was pushed back deep into his seat, and all he could see out the window in front of him was gray. Behind him, the vast expanse of space yawned. It was empty save for one lone spaceship, the Voyager 4, becoming a speck in the distance. Eventually, after a few minutes, the pod reached the atmosphere-devoid planet. Alpha took manual control and started turning the pod around for landing. He completed the standard checks and informed Charlie he was going to land.
“Copy that, Alpha; we will have some radio silence while you land. Your wristband will keep updating the mission protocol after T+30. Best of luck. We will contact you again in half an hour, ” came the reply from the radio. Eventually, the pod landed its three legs on the gray surface, and a ladder descended down from the command center Alpha was in. Everything fell silent. The only thing audible was Alpha breathing in his helmet. He climbed down the ladder and jumped to the ground. After moving his limbs around a bit and walking to and from to get used to gravity, he started making his way around.
The soles of his feet vibrated heavily. He turned to his right to see himself face-to-face with a new crater. A meteor had crashed right next to him. Sure enough, there was a notification on his wristband. His mission was to scout the area and verify that the readings of complex carbon compounds detected by earlier unmanned probes were manifestations of life. Alpha sighed and looked around.
Over a small gray dune, there was a small black unnatural peak jutting out. After climbing over the dune with great difficulty, he realized it was a gigantic crater, and in the middle of it were ruins of a majestic past.
After slipping and sliding down the side of the dune, he eventually reached the gate of the ruin. It had only been 5 minutes since he landed, and it did not feel like the planet he had landed on. The large black marble gate looming in front of him stood like a giant guardian of the city behind. The walls around were broken down and had craters in between. A strange feeling beckoned him. As if in a trance, Alpha walked past the black gates and experienced an eerie foreboding that, from this point, there was no going back.
Well-trodden footpaths with broken-down buildings were the only remnants left of the city. It looked eerily human-made. Streetlamp-Esque structures dotted stony paths and there were houses lined around. Alpha was both scared and entranced by the beauty around him. He had walked a considerable distance when he saw a rather large, perfectly square opening in the ground. He seemed to be in a plaza of some sort. Various pathways led to various places all around him.
As he got closer to the hole, he felt like a voice was calling him in. Alpha’s knees were jelly, and his thoughts were racing. He was both morbidly curious and terrified. Without much ado, he put a foot in the hole and stepped on solid ground that he could not see. After taking a few hesitant steps inside, he realized he was descending a staircase. He was engulfed in darkness, and the faint light inside his helmet seemed to barely give him any idea of what was around. As his vision adjusted, he descended deeper and started to see the walls around him.
Ancient engravings of what seemed like upright wolves and a giant eye adorned the walls. Many panels had a sort of radiance emitting from the eye. The wolves were looking up at the eye as if in awe or shock. The stairs started to narrow.
In time, Alpha reached a giant door. He put a hand on the door and felt a low humming. His subconscious mind urged him to open it, and he made the mistake of pushing the door open and peeking inside.
The moment his eyes landed in the middle of the room…his mind snapped.
He lived through all possible iterations of the universe in a microsecond. All the possibilities of life itself were shoved into his head. He knew he had just seen the truth about the universe. This was it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Everything in the world was a lie fabricated by this being. He was floating in the middle of space, and a thousand eyes were peering at him from all sides. His feet came out of his mouth, his abdomen seemed to churn in his knees, and his tongue felt oddly weird sitting on his right palm.
He felt both crushing pain and euphoric pleasure. A horrible mess of mass was what he had seen earlier. Now, with forbidden knowledge in his mind, he could start to fathom what he was witnessing. It was the most beautiful thing one could imagine while being the ugliest. It was every color of the spectrum of colors, but also entirely black.
Alpha took this all in, and he could not handle it anymore. He ran towards the majesty in the middle only to feel his eyes bulge out and his helmet crack open.
“Alpha? Come in, Alpha.” Said a voice back on Voyager 4.
Alpha’s 2 teammates were back on the ship and were trying to contact him.
“There’s no reply, ” said one. “I’ll go down and check; you man the ship, ” said the other.
“His tracking device is still intact. Go to his last known position and give me an update,”, “Roger that.”
As one was leaving, he said, “What if I also don’t come back?”. His partner smiled. “Don’t worry. Then I’ll come down too.”