This was not darkness. Not the darkness of night or space or sleep. This was a darkness in which nothing could exist. Not dreams, nor breath. In her search for Pandemonium and the Shahtan, Jasmine may have wandered too far into the night. But the songs had led her here. To this… nothing. She could not hear or feel, or see and she could sense her mind slipping. She was slipping, into the sheer, utter night. Lost forever. She thought of the Winter man, what this place had made him and terrible fear swept over her. So she did all that she could, she thought of home. She thought of sitting on slum rooftops in Aghraba’s suburbs, where people were tired and gentle and alive; she was sitting next to him and they were under impossible stars, lights stretching out before them as far as they could see and they were sure, they were meant to be. They both held a cup of coffee, not refined, but that was why it was so good, because made in a rusty pot in a steamy neighbourhood as twilight hymned. The smell, the sight, him. The universe, light, existed for them. Everything was, so that they could be, they were sure. Light. Jasmin’s senses were returning to her, they had to be, because up ahead was light, coming from a rather bizarre building. The smell of coffee flooded out of and blended with the stink of the blaring lights which spelt out, strangely in… English?- ‘Carl’s’. What the hell was ‘Carl’s’? Confused, but mesmerized by the smell, light and alluring, audible melancholic brass music tumbling from the curious place, combined with the fact that it was the only visible location in this complete darkness, she entered.
Finding no one inside, she took a seat at what she assumed were high stools, where a cup of coffee waited for her. She looked from side to side.
“It’s not poison.” Said the music. She panicked for a moment; the music itself was speaking to her, as though it were a living entity, conscious and with a will. I didn’t speak in words but in tones and melodies and she understood.
“Who- what are you?”
“I’m an idea. Or a combination of ideas. You found yourself in the dark, so you reached through time and space to create this place. Don’t asked me why you didn’t just get a contemporary tea house. The world won’t see diners and neon signs until long after the founding of America. As for me, of all the ideas across- well across everything, I was the one you reached out to.” Said the music.
“What kind of idea are you?” Jasmine asked, sipping her coffee.
“An idea named Carl. Hundreds of years from present day as you know it, there will be man named Carl Sagan, with many ideas about the stars. I am a verse of those ideas, an answer to your vast hopes, ambition and love.” The music hummed.
“How do I get out of this darkness?”
“You already have, well, you’ve reached it’s heart. All you have to do, is go out the back exit of the diner and you will come face to face with a Midnight Algorithm.”
“I’m very tired, please don’t make me ask what that is.”
“Love is the force and substance that runs throughout the fabric of a waking cosmos. As you may know Akkadia is the result of an intensity of ‘love’, seeping into the material world. That’s what magic is. Geanies are born at the epicentres, the points where ‘love’ enters the world, the most intense points of magic. However, geanies are only formed a small portion of the time, if there is an object with enough history to anchor it into rhyme or reason. Otherwise, these epicentres become what Babylonians call Midnight Algorithms. These things, which are neither alive, nor not alive, give birth to many of the phantasms and night dwellers you have battled, including the European who cannot die. If you made it here without being transformed or disappearing, you really are something special, Princess Jasmine. A true testament to the human song. Amazing, human being.”
“Do you know how I can get to Pandemonium?”
“You are at the threshold of darkness, the devil city lies just beyond the Midnight Algorithm, built there on purpose, to make it inaccessible. You must slay the Algorithm. Then, you will find yourself in Pandemonium.” Carl says as the music begins to whisper away.
“What happens when I get there?” Jasmine asks, afraid and in love.
“What are your wildest dreams?”
Jasmine walks out across a field of strange flowers made of star glow or moon honey, bizarre and whispering ten million things into her heart. She sees and feels and hears a thousand horrors she does not understand. She sees worlds ruled by worms and places where skin leaves its host and sprints, screaming for death. But still she walks, up a hill where the flowers become an elevation of crystal, forming the shape of a reaching, reaching woman, frozen in beauty, surrounded by a flowing, fluttering eel made of colours she has never seen before.
“I love you Jasmine.” It says in Aladdin’s voice. So she cuts it down and all the universe and its darkness opens up before her and she tumbles through it- still full of love she reaches and catching light with her eyes, she sends lightning into the future, to force it to accept her. Because she was alive and she was in love, with the world, the universe and all its wonders. All the questions she had as a little girl would be answered. Had to be answered. The question of who she was and what she loved, what the world was and where she belonged, what her dreams were. She was Jasmine and the universe existed so that she could fall in love, with everything, so that far in the future, an idea could be and wonders could find their way into our world as magic. As beauty. As love. As infinite possibility.
“We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world. We give little thought to the machinery that generates the sunlight that makes life possible; to the gravity that glues us to an earth that would otherwise send us spinning off in to space, or to the atoms of which we are made and on whose stability we fundamentally depend. Few of us spend much time wondering why nature is the way it is; where the cosmos came from, or whether it was always here; if time will one day flow backward and effects precede causes; or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know. What is the smallest piece of matter. Why do we remember the past and not the future… And why there is a universe. ” Carl Sagan.
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