Chapter 12

This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory…

The words seep experience into your open mind…


I linger on the corpse of my once-Guardian. I've hidden his shame for so long. I believed it was my obligation, to be the warmth when his fire died… but now, I see that obligation was a leash to keep me tied to life. It is a cold, coiled, choking reality, and I will hang gasping from it no more.

See the truth, the whispers had offered. I saw it in every moment suffered aboard this vessel. A microcosm of violence extrapolated to the world beyond, with only one escape. Soon Katabasis would know it too.

Scorn onlookers surround us.

I raise Katabasis.

"Gilly…" Katabasis kneels before me, his rifle beside him. "What is this?"

"A way out. I won't carry you anymore."

"You're… abandoning me?" Katabasis looks to the Scorn, his rifle, his Ghost—no. No longer. Not his, not the Traveler's, not anyone's.

"I sacrificed everything to keep you moving forward. Guided you to every power you needed to survive." I share the truth he wants to forget. "And for what? It never ends anything. There's always more."

The Scorn encroach across disjointed walkways. Katabasis sinks. "You said you wouldn't…"

"You, the Traveler. You've kept me trapped in this death knell. Now it's time to set us free."

"What does that mean?" His words like stone weights.

"Sever our Light, or they'll rip you apart for a thousand lives." I gesture to the Scorn.

"You wouldn't."

"Your deaths are heavy, Katabasis, but I'll bring you back as many times as it takes for you to learn." He does not understand. "You think I don't feel pain? You think I don't suffer while you're hiding in your limbo?"

Katabasis lurches forward. "I did everything YOU asked me to."

"YOU LEFT!" I shout. "You left me here. You left me in the City. Made me turn away from the Traveler. We're like the Scorn in those tanks, drowning in panic… confusion… forever. You did that."

"The City was burning, and I wanted to live. Everything was… so we could live."

He still didn't see it. This place is no different than Sol. A barrel of blood. There's no reason to go back. "Now the Light is burning."

"We can survive this." Katabasis holds out his palm for me. "Please?"

"I don't want survival, Katabasis." I drift away from him. "I want salvation."

"…It got to you," Katabasis sobs weakly, his epiphany complete.

"You can end this, for both of us. It's your turn to sacrifice," I offer.

"Everything you say is a lie!" Katabasis grasps for his rifle.


Shot to nothingness.

Ghost to dead memory.

FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Water under the bridge, flooded with bodies waiting to stand again in the next wave. Be careful.