Why Gaze at the Abyss when there is Nothing There?
rating: +8+x

"Watching~. Something, some~thing, something underworld. So~mething the abyss~"

It had been ages since Dr. Eli Fitzgerald had gotten himself lost in the dark nothingness that surrounded him. Even if he could remember, the only way to keep track of time was the hunger pangs in his stomach and the untold hours he spent sleeping. To pass the time between meals, Eli would either sing fragments of songs he knew or try to make out shapes in the nearby lake.

A sigh echoed through the abyss.

"I guess it isn't as satisfying when you don't know the words huh," Eli spoke into the dark. Although, to call it nothingness would be wrong. He couldn't see it, but Eli knew that beneath his feet was perfectly smooth stone. Stone that would in turn be part of a vast wall that ringed an infinitely deep lake.

A loud grumble broke the silence. Without a word Eli hopped up from his sitting position before slowly stretching his cramped muscles. Eli pulled out an old lighter. The beaten up orange zippo should have run out of fluid age ago. Perhaps, Eli thought to himself, I haven't been here as long as I thought. Suddenly, the darkness shrunk back from the area around Eli. Now he could begin what he called his "midday food jog".

After a few more stretches, Eli took off into the darkness, lighter held firmly in front of him. Without it, Eli would've died of hunger ages ago. That or when he eventually tried to look for food he would've slipped into the bottomless depths of the lake to his left. Or into the actual void to his right.

Soon the sound of Eli's slow footfalls on the smooth, grey stone increased into a steady rhythmic pace. Every 20 steps or so (an extremely rough count) a large merlon would emerge from the wall. This, coincidentally, would provide Eli a means of measuring distance. If I can't have time, Eli thought, then I shall have space!. He let out a chuckle at the immature thought.

After about 1000 merlons, Eli finally stopped to take a breath. He was never the fittest scientist on the site, but even still he was surprised that he never improved in endurance.

"Well, it should only be a bit longer till I can secure some grub," often Eli would confuse his internal and external dialogue.

After around 32 more merlons, Eli came across a large mass of unidentifiable flesh, with several bones sticking out in odd places. The food in the abyss, as Eli found out after a few days of living there, came from the infighting of whatever entities lived in the lake. After a good brawl, sometimes bits of flesh would be chucked up onto the wall. As Eli began to tie it up with some rope and haul it back to where he started, he began thinking about what epic battle took place in order for the chunk of meat to land on the wall.

"Well for starters, it must've been a battle involving the Netbone Lagoon Beast and the Big Fuck Off Snake," Eli thought aloud. "I reckon the Big Fuck Off Snake thrashed and bit, carving the flesh off the Beast! And then… hmm… the Lagoon Beast ran off 'cause it was scared. Then the Snake chowed down on its meal, before vomiting it back up," Eli mimed a vomiting action, "I mean who would want to eat this stuff other than me?" Eli continued to walk towards his starting point.

After what should've been hours, Eli finally arrived back at his home base: a ramshackle camp, with a burnt-out campfire in the center. Next to another merlon at the back of the camp was a tattered lab coat that acted as a covering for several layers of hide. Eli finally hauled the pile of meat onto another stretched out piece of leather and began carving away. Eli counted himself lucky he was given a standard exploration pack before he found himself in the abyss.

As he carved away at the pile, he resumed humming an incoherent melody of various songs he remembered. When he gave names to the various beasts that lay below the surface of the lake, the only accurate description of the beast came from what he found in their meat. For example, the Netbone Lagoon Beast was named after the bone structure found underneath the first few layers of skin. Eli hated getting meat from the Beast, as it was a pain to remove its flesh from the bones.

However, the bones were nice and pliable, in fact they were even capable of being woven into rope! Taking the various offcuts, Eli proceeded to perform his least favourite activity. Turning the fatty… substances into tallow.

"Uhhh, fuck me this is gross," Eli groaned as he carved the fat into small chunks before placing them into a makeshift hide bowl. Using his lighter, he began drying up the fat. Without any further ceremony, or even bothering to remove the byproducts, Eli dumped the tallow into the fireplace.

Then, using his lighter, he set the tallow ablaze. Strangely, despite coming from the lake, the meat was never soggy. In fact, thinking about it for the hundredth time, Eli realized anew that the water never seemed to move. The only reason Eli even knew there was a lake rather than a bottomless chasm was because of the things he'd occasionally see surface.

Just as he thought about the things that surfaced, Eli saw in the distance a great, slithering shape emerge from the depths. It was larger than anything he had ever seen, but it still seemed tiny compared to the rest of the lake. Along its back were hundreds of thousands of glass-like spines that even at a distance scintillated in his campfire's light.

"Hi Big Fuck Off Snake!" Eli shouted at the distant shape. He then grumbled to himself, "How many times am I gonna need to say hi before you respond?" As soon as he said that, what looked like the head of the snake emerged from the lake, before letting loose a roar that seemed to shake the very air itself.

"…Okay, never bothering you again…" Eli muttered before he continued to carve up the remainders of the good cuts of the flesh.

After finishing his butchery work, he threw the remaining bad cuts of meat into the void and separated the edible bits into two piles. One to eat now, and one to eat in the "morning" after a long sleep. With that done, Eli began to cook up both piles of flesh with a salivating mouth.

As Eli began ripping into the tender meat, he began to wonder how something could be so savory and sweet at the same time. Then, once he had finished the first pile of meat, simply shrugged with the thought, I guess the excuse 'it's eldritch meat' sums it up. If only there was a proper explanation.

Unfortunately the tallow of the Netbone Lagoon Beast didn't burn for long, unlike that of the Lamplighter Fish of Irem. Eli didn't know if the Fish had any relation to Irem, he just thought it was a cool name. But as the fire faded and the dark began to set in, Eli decided to go to sleep.

He threw himself on the lab-coat-covered hide bed. It wasn't the most comfortable bed Eli had ever slept in and it gave him back pains in the morning. At least it was better than sleeping on the hard, stone floor. As Eli drifted to sleep, he began to think about his time in the Foundation, and whether it was a good idea to…

Eli woke up with a start. Most 'nights' would result in Eli waking up drenched in sweat from nightmares. Eli always thought this was odd, as the temperature was always just at the threshold of being comfortable and freezing. Eli had, ages ago, dubbed the temperature "mildly freezing". He just chalked it up to the human body being weird.

After stretching out the kinks in his back from the night prior, Eli began tearing into the pre-cooked food before being hit with the foulest stench he had had the displeasure of smelling.

"Shit I forgot to empty the fireplace!" Eli yelled while pinching his nostrils. He began picking up the lumps of burnt flesh and throwing them into the lake below. "Ewwww, fuck me why did I forget to clean the fireplace. Rule five of maintaining sanity, clean the fucking fireplace before going to sleep. uhhhhh…" Grumbling complete, Eli shook off the pieces of thoroughly burnt fat from his hands.

After finishing his "morning" routine, Eli sat down at the edge of the wall facing the lake with his legs dangling, and began singing to pass the time.

"… Forgot the words to that one as well." After a few hours of singing and contemplating why he needed to eat but not drink, Eli got up and once more began his midday food jog. Once again brandishing his trusty lighter, this time with a bit of flourish, he began running.

This time it only took around 1400 merlons to find a chunk of meat, though this one was significantly smaller.

"And just last night I was complaining about how bad the Lagoon Beast's meat is for a fire," Eli turned to the center of the lake, "Thanks lake gods, or whatever the hell is in there."

This time rather than being a miscellaneous lump of meat, the flesh of the Lamplighter Fish was distinctly covered in a fine, charcoal-like dust and smelled heavily of steam. Luckily, it was also much lighter and easier to drag than the other entities' chunks. Finally, to top off what was already a lucky find, the Lamplighter Fish's meat didn't need cooking and was the most delicious of all. Which wasn't saying much.

Rather than imagining the battle that could've taken place, Eli instead tried to match each entities' flavor to that of a normal food. The thought process of identifying even one flavor took hours.

"…Okay so in conclusion the Netbone Beast definitely tastes the most like musk sticks coated in 3 jars of marmite. Then the Big Fuck Off Snake tastes like pure vegetable oil with strawberry chunks," Eli retched at the thought, "The Lamplighter Fish therefore tastes like if crocodile jerky and the sarcastic use of 'caramelized' had a baby, and finally the Thing I Don't Describe tastes like…" Eli genuinely vomited at the thought of what the Thing I Don't Describe tasted like.

After a few more hours of walking Eli finally made it back to camp. This time he carved up the chunk of flesh with anticipation, carelessly throwing the offcuts into the fireplace. After roughly dividing the pile, he lit the fireplace and began scarfing the barely-sliced meat chunks with gusto.

As he was halfway through the pile, he noticed something just outside the fire's range. It was almost like a shadow of a humanoid standing tall. Eli quickly dismissed it before he saw movement from the corner of his eye.

"After all this time its only now I'm going mad," he chuckled, "I must have the mental fortitude of the gods themselves."

But before he could resume eating he heard a rasping voice coming from where he last saw the shadow.

"Hello traveler, may I sit at the fireplace?"

"Why do you need permission?" After all of the stories he had read, and the dossiers in the Foundation Database, Eli was immediately suspicious.

"Well, surely it would be rude to just seat myself by another's fire. Besides, the place you have set up is outside my jurisdiction. I am afraid I must be invited."

"Sure. Wait, are you a figment of my imagination?"

"It wouldn't matter if I was would it? But no. I am very much real." As it spoke the shadow moved closer towards the fire. It was then that Eli had second thoughts about inviting the entity to sit with him. The shadow revealed itself to be a 3-meter tall… thing. It was thin and gangly, yet the way its muscles moved conveyed great strength. Curling around its leg seemingly at random was a thick tail that ended in a small, crayfish-like tail fin.

The thing was covered in large dark blue scales with light blue scales interspersed throughout. The colors combined in a way that made the entity's skin look like a shimmering dark ocean. Its head was dominated by a single large, circular maw filled with hooked teeth. Seemingly at random the inside of the mouth would pulsate in a way that hurt to look at. The eyes of the thing were attached to hammerhead shark-like growths on the side of its head. While the eyes were milky and vacant, they also conveyed the sense that they perceived more than anything Eli could imagine.

Eli gulped, "Would you like me to get you something to sit on? The stone is quite uncomfortable."

"No, but I thank you for the offer," The entity sat down next to Eli, hunching its back so that its head was at eye-level with Eli.

"Your loss, however I must ask, to what do I owe the… pleasure of your visit?" Eli hoped the look of fear on his face was well concealed. As the thing began speaking his efforts were rendered mute as sweat began pouring from his forehead. Instead of being offended, the entity let out a booming laugh that seemed to come straight from the belly.

"Sorry, it appears that you are not yet accustomed to my kind. No matter, I simply cannot believe I forgot to introduce myself. I am that which is simply known as the Purple Piper, or to some as the Leviathan." The Leviathan turned to gaze towards the center of the lake, "As to why I am visiting you, I thought you might enjoy the company. These days The Deep is becoming awfully cold."

"The… Deep?"

The Leviathan turned back to face Eli, "Yes, The Deep. That is what this place is called. A prison to some, an asylum to others. Well, the waters are anyway. This wall," the Leviathan tapped its foot on the ground, "Is merely assurance."

"What about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You said it's a prison or an asylum for other people, what's it to you?"

The Leviathan turned back towards the lake, "Sad. That's what it is. Oh, I'm sorry to be such a downer. Say, could I have some of that meat?"

Eli snapped out of his reverie. The way the Leviathan spoke had reminded him of his darkest days, the lowest points in his life.

"Uh sure, how much do you want?"

"Just a few slices thanks."

Eli passed over 4 slices of his precious meat, and the Leviathan gulped it down in singular bites. The two dined in silence, in a place that would never know sound if it wasn't for their presence. Eli turned to face the lake, this time to once again see the Big Fuck Off Snake breach the waters. He pointed it out to the Leviathan.

"Say, what is that thing over there called. I just named it the Big Fuck Off Snake…" Eli stammered at the end of the sentence when he realized how dumb the name sounded in the presence of another.

The Leviathan merely laughed again, "What a colorful name. No, that there is He Whose Blood is Glass. His crime, if you could call it that, was theophagy."

"I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty bad thing to do."

"It's all a matter of perspective. Where he came from, the burden of godhood is heavy indeed. An eternity of suffering to put it dramatically. To those beings even higher on the cosmic chain, the death of a god is inexcusable no matter what. Tragic that now He Whose Blood is Glass will rot forever."

Eli braced himself for his next question, "So what did you do? I mean if you're here that means you're probably a prisoner yeah? I would tell you my crime in exchange but I didn't do anything. I just got lost."

The Leviathan was silent for a few seconds. God now I've done it. First person to talk to me and I've gone and fucked it up, Eli scolded himself internally.

"I wouldn't say I'm a prisoner, no. More like a warden methinks. But if I were to name a crime, and I have committed many, I would say that serving the Crimson King was what got me here."

That stunned Eli, "A warden you say… Could you get me out of here?"

"I'm so sorry, but no. Earlier I said that this camp is beyond my jurisdiction, which was no idle remark. I am the warden of The Deep, as meaningless as that title is, and you are tied to this camp rather than The Deep. I have no power over you."

Eli sighed. For the rest of the night the two chatted of many things. Eli learned of the names of all the beasts of The Deep, whereas who could say what the Purple Piper learned, if anything. Before long Eli began to feel the pull of fatigue.

"I am really sorry, but I think I gotta sleep soon. But I have just a few more questions."

"Well, I suppose the time for me to leave is approaching too. Ask away. It is the least I can do for your hospitality."

Eli thought for a second.

"So how come I never need to drink? Also what's so special about The Deep anyway. How does a fucking lake keep these bastards locked up?"

"The two questions you have asked are intertwined, so I shall answer them both at the same time. The Deep, as you can imagine, is not normal water. Indeed it is water that has not moved an inch since its existence began, nor has light touched its surface. This will remain so until everything crumbles. The same state of existence also applies to fluids that are near The Deep. Simply put, you are not thirsty because the water inside you has not moved."

"Huh, that still doesn't expla…"

"You did not allow me to finish. This lack of movement is maddening to those within. Imagine being stuck in an endless pool of nothingness. No light to see, no sensation of touch or movement. Besides, The Deep is truly massive. Not even I know how far The Deep goes. He Whose Blood is Glass and the other surface-dwellers are only the smallest of the things that live here."

If the simple act of imagining the hell that would be living in The Deep wasn't enough, those final words struck Eli harder than anything. Only… the smallest… what the hell have I been living next to? Eli thought to himself, even more aware of the encroaching dark.

The Leviathan slowly rose and cracked its stiff back, which unleashed a boom that echoed throughout The Deep. Before the Leviathan could leave, Eli blurted out one final question.

"Has anyone ever escaped?!" He shouted.

The Leviathan paused mid-stride and turned his head to face Eli.

"Only one. Its crime was the act of existing." With that, the Leviathan left the dimming campfire's light. Eli stamped it out and threw the ashes into the lake.

Alone once more, Eli murmured to himself, "Who knew that company could be so enjoyable?" He threw himself onto his rough hide bed, readying himself for another day. Readying himself to continue the cycle of living. But something was still lingering in the corner of his mind. What is it… Eli thought to himself, oh.

Silently Eli got up from his bed and walked over to the nearby merlon.

"FUCK!" Eli screamed while grasping at his matted hair. "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" he yelled, smashing his foot into the merlon. Eli felt his toes break as they crashed straight into the black stone. "Fuck that HURT!" Eli clutched his broken foot while hopping back to his bed.

Suddenly, Eli began laughing. To anyone looking at the brief display, it looked like Eli had finally caved in to madness after spending so long alone.

"Of course, only one had escaped. Not just that," Eli began laughing again, "The warden can't do shit! Oh boy I really fucked this one up didn't I? I'M FUCKING TRAPPED!" He turned his gaze over to the center of the lake. Standing up, Eli grimaced as he slowly moved towards the edge of the wall.

"I suppose I was content to wait this out. Who knows, maybe something would've saved me. Wishful thinking. Maybe I never wanted to escape in the first place, it was kinda nice here." Eli finally reached the edge of the wall, his mangled toes hanged above the lake. But in the end, I need to get free. I can't abandon my duty as… oh who am I kidding? I just want to spite the bastards that put me here. Eli's lips quirked upwards at the thought.

"If they wanted me locked up so badly for doing shit all," Eli cracked a sly grin despite the pain he was in, "Then the best way to piss them off is to escape. Maybe the guys over at the labs will break in here just as I jump. That would be funny."

Taking a deep breath, not knowing what would await him in the depths, Eli jumped. Straightening himself to avoid breaking anything more, he shot towards the lake. Without a sound, without even a splash, Eli began sinking into the depths. Losing his light, and losing his noise, The Deep returned to the inky prison it began as. To the prison it will always be.

As Eli sunk further and further down, he had one final thought. He wasn't wrong. It is getting colder.

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