"A shadow of a man. A glimpse of a dream."
Darkness floods me like breath, expanding with each thought. For a time, it flowed out as often as in, giving me space to surface above the pressing sea and glimpse the cruel storm above, the distant hope of shore. But now there is only the sea, and nothing true remains…
I shut all three of my eyes; I curl in on myself, offering the world my exoskeleton as a shield. I—
No. I am Human. Soft and vulnerable, shell-less. And… Lightless. Waves crash over me: heavy, choking, inexorable. No choice but to drown, no point in swimming. Even the armored succumb to the depths; what chance have I?
I wash up on a shattered stone breakwater. I do not know my limbs. I want, I want, I WANT—what? This craving pit echoing deep within me, what does it seek? I would crawl inland if I owned myself, if only to make the hungering stop.
The world erupts beneath me; stone becomes quicksand in an instant. I struggle, fear before thought, and it swallows me all the faster. I reach for aid—my hand is held—
My fingers brush through open air, met instead by gripping claws. They tear at flesh and mind, wearing a grim intimacy, dripping in the sacrifice of thousands. I know these lie-sharpened talons. Would I could tear that understanding from the synaptic heart of me.
I am a hundred shards of myself, shimmering, broken in free fall, glimpsing my own infinite reflections. Some shine gold—some burn sickly green—and some fade as soon as they are witnessed. I cannot guess which one is real. Perhaps one is her. Perhaps I am her. My senses lie.
A familiar voice calls out, sonorous against the abyss, incomprehensible but sweet. I think I hear the fluttering of wings, but the hum of the Sundial gives no direction.
How long has it been?