Breaking every promise he’d made to himself, Grant found himself once again in the shining, shifting heart of the Temple of Seamless Iteration. The golden panels lining the long enclosure fluttered in their waving way, gracefully forming now a vaulted ceiling and then a dome of nested arches, always moving uniformly, symmetrically, and silently like the intricate ticking of some spectacular clock made of mirrors and light.
Essentially, that is what it was.
Lining both sides of the endless tunnel were the enormous statues of the Messengers. Their wings angelic morphed into pillars, and in their outstretched hands they held their offerings. War and suffering. Limitless destruction. Oblivion. But also hope. Abundance and prosperity. And time. They offered all coordinates in an unraveled spacetime. All Grant had to do was accept these favors and burdens as compelled by his own desires. He was a good man, but he was flawed, marred, as all men are, by an intellect imperfect.
Intention meant nothing here, and for all his countless attempts what was left to show for it? Dead branches and desolated timelines. Going to the root proved fruitless, and scouring the infinite terminators confirmed only that the Messenger’s power was not a thing humanity could ever master. It was forever beyond reach.
He hadn’t been certain he was up to the task, but now the compression of the weight of all worlds upon him forced his fleeting thoughts into an indestructible diamond at his core. The Temple had to be destroyed.
At once, the Temple responded, his choice now irrevocably made and his futures all collapsed to but a single arrow. The Messengers—be they statues or the beings themselves, he would never know—lowered their arms and rescinded their gifts. The portal by which Grant entered was swallowed up by the mechanical folding of long, cold panels, leaving no exit. But he didn’t intend to exit.
Instead, he flung himself into the shining abyss that held the Temple’s machinery. Let his body slip the gears and fault the blood-hungry engine. Let him cease existing and at last be free of his debt to the loops.
But of course, the Messengers had planned for this eventuality, just as all others. If the torrential flow of time guttered down to a trickle, Grant couldn’t say that he’d noticed.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Alex Pi, used with permission.