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An Unheard Echo

Origin of the Multiverse (Part One?)

By Gabriel HuizengaPublished 23 days ago 6 min read
7

Smoke and chains drifted outwards in every direction, even as darkness pressed back in on all sides.

Now there’s a strange thing.

Chains…drifting?

Yes, it was as I first observed: lengths of rusty iron links soared outwards, apparently emerging from somewhere around my arms, chest, and legs. The chains floated, completely weightless, trailing into the inky abyss. A thick, pale smoke was expanding outward from somewhere below.

What…?

I could’ve sworn, just a few seconds ago I was - I was -

What was I doing?

Where was I?

It was strangely painful, attempting to recollect - as though I had to traverse through thorny ground to get to the corner of mind that held even my most recent memories. Wincing, I glimpsed fragments of scenes: a pretty, smiling woman, with dirty blonde hair tumbling down onto one shoulder…a salt-and-pepper sky, with a few rays of light pushing through a gap in the clouds…a bird twittering away into the underbrush…sweaty palms…?

I raised a hand to scratch my head - only to jolt in horror at the appendage rising beside me. Where I expected to see my small, regular human hand, there was instead a massive, clawlike device. The hand and forearm were vaguely skeletal in design, but made entirely of glinting steel. Scraps of dark fabric - the remains of a sleeve, perhaps - clung to the shining appendage, and that same strange smoke rose from it silently.

I was terrified to look at the rest of my body, but was determined to turn my gaze down upon myself.

Oh…

Mismatched ribs of rusted iron and glimmering steel made up my chest and torso.

Tattered black fabric was wrapped in separate pieces around my body, like a sad sort of toga.

The chains which I thought to be binding me were instead emerging from an epicenter within the cavern of my skeletal chest - where I used to have a solar plexus. From that same cavern, the thick smoke was ballooning outwards. Other pieces of machinery radiated off of my twisted metal limbs; clusters of brass cogs clinked at the joints of my elbows and knees, with the more distant pieces turning translucent and fading into the darkness.

How..?

I squinted more closely at the chains floating weightlessly away from my body. A few meters out, the links became blurry around the edges, as if being observed through poorly prescribed spectacles. Beyond that distance, the chains faded into nothingness. They did not simply become imperceptible in the darkness; they literally faded into nothingness. Like the gently billowing smoke, these lengths of metal emanating from my twisted body traveled only a short distance before dissipating into thin air.

How strange for a thing so tangible and real and solid as metal to simply…fade. The foggy metal clinked and whispered at the corners of my vision, as I strained to remember more details of where - and who - I had been before this waking nightmare.

TICK…TICK…TICK…

Somewhere in the darkness, the unmistakable sound of a clock’s second hand echoed. It had been sounding this whole time - but in light of more pressing concerns, had not warranted my attention until now. I immediately knew that it had been nineteen ticks of the concealed clock since I had become conscious. How I knew this was a mystery to me - just as it was a mystery how what felt like an eternity of confusion, fear, pain and horror had passed by in less than half of a minute. Perhaps time, like every other dimension of reality, was behaving strangely here.

Where even is ‘here..?’

Even as I strained my eyesight, willing the dark surroundings to become clearer, a voice blasted through the shadows.

“Do not worry, lost one. You are safe here.”

The voice was rich and deep, reverberating around the inside of my mind. It had a certain warmth to it, but not pleasantly so; it was like the voice of a fever. I tried to speak, but no words came. What used to be my throat felt like it was on fire. All that emerged was a faint, tinny rasp and a puff of pale smoke.

“You must be disoriented.”

With a thin groan, I forced a few words from my burning new voicebox. They rasped and rang, like a blade being drawn across a rusty surface.

“Where…am…I?”

The voice did not answer. Even so, as if compelled by my voice, the darkness obscuring my surroundings lifted slightly; more chains, smoke, and floating machinery stretched as far as I could perceive into the shadows. The slow ticking of the invisible clock grew louder, rattling my chest. Dozens of misshapen huddles dotted the cold, flat ground - other beings like me?

TICK…TICK…

“What…am…I?”

The voice sounded pleased at the question; I could almost hear its smile as it responded in a tone possessed with a new vigor.

“You are the ghost of a path not taken, left to echo through time forever.” Perhaps sensing my total confusion, the voice paused. It resumed more slowly than before, as if cautious how I might react to its words. “The person whose memories you are seeing pieces of has very recently made an important choice. You…are the soul of the person he might have been, had he chosen differently.”

“…oh…”

I did not have the willpower to speak up again after this. This was too much to take in. It couldn’t be real. It was impossible. The warm, sickly voice took the opportunity of my silence to continue its monologue.

“Billions of echoes like you are created every day, child. Every choice, every hesitation, every fork in the road, leaves behind a shadow of what, and of who…might have otherwise been realized.”

A barely contained undertone of rage now colored the voice as it continued.

“Every living being creates an infinite number of specters like us - they blunder through life, lacking clarity and conviction - and leave behind countless ghosts of the paths they failed to take…Aimless, purposeless…hopeless…"

...until now.”

I did not know who or what this voice belonged to, but I was certain by now that it could not be trusted. The misty chains clinked as I craned my neck to once again peer at the shadowy figures around me.

TICK…TICK…

I forced myself to speak one more time.

“...Who…are…you?

The room echoed with laughter: soft, sweet, and sickeningly artificial.

“A lost soul, not unlike yourself! Just one who found a way back.”

When the voice spoke for this last time, it carried a deeper malice and terror than anything I had ever known.

“And now I can show you the way, too.”

Even as the deep chuckle faded, the dark surroundings emerged into even greater clarity than before. As if a curtain had been drawn away from my eyes, I suddenly perceived dozens - no, hundreds more huddled figures like myself. Creatures of metal, cloth, and darkness, stretching innumerably into a blank, smoky horrorscape.

This…this was an army.

Wherever the souls of lost selves were meant to go, this was not it. It had become abundantly clear to me that it was a force of incomprehensible malevolence and power which had dragged all of us here.

Nevertheless, I could not help but feel the weight of responsibility for a moment’s decision and an unknown path not taken. The face of the pretty woman from my memories swam before me once more, alongside other fragments of my recollections.

Why can’t I remember more?

Bitterness crept up alongside my terror and confusion. I supposed it did not really matter.

Regardless of what I could and could not recall, a crucial choice had already been made. And suddenly, within a minute, I was something completely unrecognizable. I was lost, and twisted to the will of some horrible, transcendent being, a billion miles from who I used to be.

TICK…TICK…TICK…

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AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Thank you so much for reading this piece! It is my first dip into something bordering on the horror/thriller genre - which is generally not at ALL a favorite of mine. However, I have been exploring this character/creature concept for a little while and found it compelling enough that I wanted to share it here on Vocal.

I tentatively subtitled this piece 'part one,' because I could see myself exploring storylines in this universe further! I'm not able to commit too quickly to that, though- life gets busy fast. But please do let me know if you would ever be genuinely interested in such a continuation!

Anyhow, thanks for reading! I hope I didn't traumatize anyone too much. No worries if this isn't your favorite - it wouldn't be mine either.

Have a great day! :)

Sci FithrillerSeriesPsychologicalMysteryHorrorFantasyCONTENT WARNING
7

About the Creator

Gabriel Huizenga

Twas for love of words that I first joined this site:

Poetry, essays, and dear short stories too;

For to live one's best is to read, and to write!

So find me in words here, and I'll find you 💙

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (5)

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  • Hannah Fraser8 days ago

    This sucked me in immediately! "voice of a fever" especially hit different - that's a phrase I've never heard but it fit sooo well! Please write more!

  • Christy Munson16 days ago

    Fascinating! Original idea at work here, which is quite a feat. Well done!

  • Andrea Corwin 19 days ago

    Ooh I liked this a lot! Great job, creepy; I could hear the sounds and see the metal you described.

  • I am into horror and thriller and this was exceptionally well done. It has a way of haunting the reader for their own choices while keeping a supernatural element that allows a degree of separation. This was a blast to read! I'd love to keep reading this if you write more!

  • D.K. Shepard23 days ago

    The title and image were so eye catching and I got really excited to read this! I’m not much for horror/thriller either but I really enjoyed this! It was very clear you put time and intentionality in defining the concept of echoes from paths not taken, because it was introduced so seamlessly and coherently. This was also visually stunning with the description of metal body parts, the fading chains, and the floating army. You really crafted a powerfully ominous tone too. If you decide to continue with it I’d be excited to read another installment! Very well done, Gabriel!

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