For Merely Dreaming We Were Snow

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There was nothing Aiden Navarro hated more in the entirety of the endless worlds the multiverse offered than snow.

Hate might have been too strong of a word — especially recently — but even as a poet, he had trouble articulating the subconscious and uncontrollable abhorrence and fear he felt in regards to it. Something in its structure made him feel like he was back in his home, once again left at the mercy of snowfall taking away a layer of him and blending him into the ever-white universe every second it touched him. When he closed his eyes he was once again the prisoner of the singularity, washing away his personality second by second, until there was nothing left in the entire universe except snow. White as far as he could reach.

Aiden frantically opened his eyes, realizing someone was nudging his shoulder in an attempt to ask if everything was okay. He nodded, massaging his eyes, and continued his walk through the cobbled alleyways leading to the Dragoman Tavern as if nothing had ever happened. He shivered slightly, drawing his coat closer to his skin, and threw some of the snow off from his messy hair.

It was truly a shame the street-encompassing blizzards of Lamplight never ceased, Navarro thought.

Strolling through the foggy alleyways of the multiversal nexus, his tired eyes eventually caught sight of what was unmistakably the entry to the tavern, blasting the obscured streets with its warm and welcoming light. He didn't smile — he never did — but deep inside, he was relieved he no longer had to interact with the snow. Navarro took a deep breath, opened the doors into the building, and crossed its threshold.

"Aiden!" The friendly voice of Sergei Osmanoglu greeted him. "The usual?"

He didn't respond verbally, instead nodding in confirmation as he put his heavy coat on the rack near the entry. He came closer to the counter, sitting on one of the stools, and began staring at the wall behind the massive man before him, as he usually did.

Sergei shook his head, handing Aiden a glass of absinthe, sadness entering his eyes. "You shouldn't drink this stuff, you know," he said, turning back to put the bottle away on the shelf behind him. "It's what got Delacroix crazy, remember?"

Navarro did in fact remember. But he didn't really care, if he was honest. There was something endlessly melancholic in following the footsteps of the city's legendary founder, no matter how self-destructive it might really be.

The poet took out his notebook, opening it where he'd left it off during his last visit to the place. He was never the outgoing type, but something about observing the daily lives of other people made him immediately know what to write, and there was no better place to do so than the largest tavern in the Giotto district. He took a quick sip of the alcohol before him, feeling it enter his digestive system, and clicked his pen.

As the crackling of the fire near him mixed with the dancing and laughing of the other customers, blending into nothing more than a blur, he took a deep breath, and began writing.

I
stand
gazing into the starless night above me.

Never
content
neither with this world nor being free.

"—en? Aiden!"

He snapped out from his trance, realizing Sergei was looking directly at him, shaking his head. He puffed, and Aiden raised his eyebrow.

"I asked you if you're going to the Festival."

Navarro's confusion widened.

"You know, Chrizmata? The Parade of Candles?"

He shook his head, looking around the room. Only now did he realize the tavern was full like it had never been, with every single seat taken and every single table filled to the brim with decorations and seasonal foods, seen only once a year. The people were smiling and dancing, knowing the time of the year most Lamplight citizens awaited was near.

"Aiden, it's mid-winter. The festival is tomorrow."

Navarro looked down, staring at the ground, slightly embarrassed he hadn't picked up the clues, even as obvious as the blizzards getting stronger. Everything felt… so fast, recently, as if all days and nights turned into one blur of nothingness, forever stretching as his life went on.

He didn't know what had gotten into him. He had always been a man of few words, but recently, it felt like those few words had turned into no words at all. Darkness — no, Night — that's all he felt deep inside. When he wasn't unfortunate enough to feel the cold grasp of snow around him, whenever he closed his eyes, there was only static. Static in his dreams, static in his mind, static in his soul; it felt like the Void surrounding the town was inches from suffocating him.

He'd thought he would be immune to its effects when he first came to Lamplight. Every newcomer did. They were consumed by the art they'd create, hoping to be the one who finally understood what the Nonexistence meant; praying that their masterpiece would make millions weep. They were all wrong. And Aiden finally realized he was one of them.

The bartender grunted in disapproval, crossing his arms as a sign of disappointment at to Aiden's lack of response. He's been trying to get him to talk for… however long he hadn't spoken a word for. Aiden didn't know how much had passed since he'd begun to think of the Night more often than not.

He shook his head, trying to get the static out of his mind, and looked back at the paper in an attempt to finish his poem before the Festival's literature presentation tomorrow. He knew he probably wouldn't be able to, but he had to try. He convinced himself that being a good poet meant having something to present during Chrizmata.

I
stand
gazing into the starless night above me.

Never
content
neither with this world nor being free.

Snow
all around
as cold as my heart, poisoning Lamplight's calm aether.

You
me
forever apart, never meant to be together.

He sighed. It was… utterly and thoroughly bland.

Aiden had never been a good poet, not really; he just put the words that appeared in his head on paper, hoping for them to at least be readable. But this was even below his normal level. It was… boring, frankly. That was the worst thing an author of any kind could hear; any other criticism was workable around, but 'boring' was a means of destroying the entirety of someone's work in a single word.

He sighed again, taking another sip of the alcohol, and closed his eyes, ready for the static to greet him in place of his thoughts. It naturally delivered, filling his thoughtspace with nothing more than a void, consuming every emotion and spark.

He opened his eyes, not wanting to greet the Night for too long, only to realize that the tavern was empty. The previously bright-burning lamps were nothing more than half-lit by now, and nobody danced nor sung anymore. All that was left was Sergei, who was cleaning things up behind the bar, Aiden, who was looking around himself, confused and panicked at time's pace, and a woman wearing a labcoat, sitting at the second end of the hall, sipping tea from a gigantic mug on the table next to her.

He realized two things: one, that the static took over, replacing his thoughts with emptiness for so long he eventually woke up hours later, and two, he knew that woman.

He stood up from his stool, putting his notes and pen back into the bag hanging from his shoulder, and came closer to the other. She looked up from the mug directly into his eyes, and smiled slightly.

"Aiden. Long time no see."

That was a lie, of course; he and she were the only ones that almost always sat in Dragoman's until its closing, and they knew each other by sight relatively well. They never really talked to each other, but she knew he was a poet and he knew she was ex-Foundation, and she was the closest to a friend he had. The emblem of three arrows pointing towards a deformed circle still sat on her labcoat as a reminder of who she had been before she ran off to Lamplight. Maya Weathers, that was her name, he thought.

He nodded and sat along with her near the table, staring at the ground.

"So, uhm, what you've been up to lately?" she started, chuckling nervously in an attempt to break the silence. "Any plans for the Festival? I saw you were writing something, and—"

He wasn't listening, instead looking at a window behind her. Its glass opened up to reveal the starless sky of the edge of reality Lamplight was, slowly but surely filling in every part of the city it could. He could feel like the void was reaching out for him, asking him to join the end of the world in nonexistence, saying he'd feel full again.

He tried to distract himself by looking at Maya, who was still talking with a gentle tone in her voice, but he couldn't. In another lifetime where he wasn't always empty of emotions he probably could, though; each time he looked at her big, brown eyes and the curly hair that surrounded them he could feel a spark of happiness and hope enter his soul, but recently, that feeling always got thrown over by the emptiness left by the Night tempting him.

'"—so, haha, what I'm trying to say is would you maybe want to go with me to Chrizmata tomorrow?"

He didn't respond, instead taking a big breath, and standing up.

"Maybe later," Aiden tried to say, only for the sentence to come out half-baked as always.

He didn't look back, not wanting to see her get hurt by his words. In just a few moves, he was back at the door again, ready to come back to the place he called his home. He opened the doors, embracing the snowy night, his mind still thinking of her warm smile, and through held back tears, he muttered a single phrase.

"I'm sorry."


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He didn't sleep well that night. But, if he was honest, he never did.

He awoke to cold sweat pouring from his body, dampening his bedsheets. He didn't remember what he'd dreamt of, but he knew it wasn't a nightmare. There was a certain quality to nightmares, Aiden thought; even if they weren't pleasant experiences, they almost always left a lasting effect, a sort of half-faded mark in the memory of the person who was unfortunate enough to experience them. And, more often than not, they were a good inspiration, especially for someone who wrote often on pessimistic topics, such as Aiden.

What he'd felt that night had none of that.

Navarro couldn't focus on the dream for more than microseconds; it always felt like it slipped out of his memory the moment he thought he had it. But, even then, he was sure he knew one thing about it: it was dark. Dark as Night, filling his very being the moment he tried to think more about it, like a megalomaniacal god tormenting its mortals with empty visions of blackness.

It terrified him.

He stood up from the bed as quick as he could, in a panicked attempt to leave all of that behind. To fight it back, he thought of the first time him and Maya had met up. Dragoman's was full to the brim that night, and, perhaps by accident, perhaps by fate, they landed near each other. And then they talked for hours. But… he didn't think it mattered anymore. Nothing did.

In just a matter of seconds, he found himself in his bathroom, staring at the wall mirror. His face and hands were wet, but he didn't notice this; instead, his entire focus was drawn to his reflection in the pane of glass in front of him; or, rather, the lack of one. Where Aiden should have been able to see his messy hair and green eyes was now replaced with a dark void, endlessly looping on itself into infinity, trying to take him in. He let out a scream, backed off, and blinked.

It disappeared.

He panted, nervously scanning the room for any changes. Anything, anything at all; but no matter how hard he looked, there was nothing. The room was identical as to how it had been for as long as it had existed.

He blinked again, grabbing his head in his hands and groaning. He didn't feel good. He desperately needed a break.

In a few slow steps across his small apartment, he put the kettle on in the little recess he had to call his kitchen. Aiden hated coffee like nothing else — except snow — but tea was suitable. Tea was one of the few things that still made him want to drive forward; a cup as warm as Weathers' face to ward off the white cold always falling from Lamplight's non-skies was all he needed to carry on. It almost felt like his home before the singularity, where everything was good and he didn't need to worry about anything.

With a deep sigh accompanying the creak of wood, he sat down on the kitchen chair, grabbing the pen and notebook he'd left there last night. Aiden took a deep breath, massaged his eyes, and began writing, in a last-effort attempt to be able to present anything on tomorrow's ceremony.

I
stand
gazing into the starless night above me.

Never
content
neither with this world nor being free.

Snow
all around
as cold as my heart, poisoning Lamplight's calm aether.

You
me
forever apart, never meant to be together.

Night
everywhere I feel
encompassing each part of my soul.

Darkness
never sleeping
always taking parts of myself, until it forms a whole.

As the whistling of the water boiling snapped him out of his trance, he suddenly realized something that terrified him to his core, even more than the Night or the Darkness within him did: the Festival was today.

He stood up, shocked, only to notice the candles burning bright in the central square outside his window. He could feel the muffled songs and voices of the happy people, exchanging stories and art during the only day they could at least pretend to be joyful on.

He didn't even notice the kettle anymore, instead starting to walk in circles around the room, panicked. He couldn't go, he still hadn't finished the poem, he wasn't ready, he— but Maya would be there IT DIDN'T MATTER, he wasn't prepared, he couldn't… he… he…

Before he could react, he subconsciously felt himself take a step, then another. In a matter of what felt like seconds, he gathered his supplies, tossed his coat on, and meandered towards his apartment door. Thoughts of being puppeteered floated through his head. He tried to fight back, with any positive thought, but not even thinking of all the times they had met at the Tavern could help. He questioned who was making him do this, or why. He didn't want to go, but he knew he didn't have a choice, even if he tried to resist it. And so, he did the only thing he could.

He took a deep breath, put his hand on the handle, and complied with what the Night ordered him to do.


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When he woke up again, he was outside, sitting on a bench in the central square.

He blinked twice, and flexed his hand slightly, trying to remember how he'd gotten there. His head hurt, but he knew he had been in his apartment before the Night took over, making him go… somewhere.

He knew where it wanted him to go. It wanted him to be free. He opened his eyes again, observing how full the Square was. Citizens of Lamplight gathered, joyously celebrating their festival. They were talking, laughing, dancing, buying, selling, showing, reading, and listening to art, and, among all of it, Aiden stood. He stood alone, with his notebook and pen in his hands, staring at the masses like a distant observer.

Never in his life had he been surrounded by so many people. Yet, ironically, he had never felt more alone. He'd have burst out sobbing if he could.

Navarro stared into the meaningless voids that surrounded him from both outside and within, pouring into his soul like wine to a chalice. He blinked twice. Trying to hold the urge to scream within him, he grabbed his paper again, in one final attempt to put his thoughts in a state others could understand.

I
stand
gazing into the starless night above me.

Never
content
neither with this world nor being free.

Snow
all around
as cold as my heart, poisoning Lamplight's calm aether.

You
me
forever apart, never meant to be together.

Night
everywhere I feel
encompassing each part of my soul.

Darkness
never sleeping
always taking parts of myself, until it forms a whole.

I
don't

None of this makes sense. Nothing makes sense. Nothing ever made sense. I'm so sick of everything. Of everyone. Every single thing in my life, that's what I'm sick of. I need

I need help, I

I just don't understand anything anymore, I just. I'm so

He threw his pen onto the cold ground, screaming in frustration. Grabbing his head with his hands, Aiden disposed of his notes too, not caring where they landed. If he'd been a little more observant, a little less focused, a little less empty, he would've noticed that at least half a dozen people were staring at him, stopping halfway through their firework-accompanied celebrations to stare at his bizarre farce. He might have even noticed that the observers were worried and terrified at the same time, their faces clearly showing they wanted to help him, but with no idea as to how. But he didn't notice either.

He let out a silent sob into the starless skies above him as he leapt away from the noise, away from the square, away from the people. He couldn't do this anymore. He couldn't do anything anymore. He couldn't hold it in anymore. He had nobody. Not even her, he thought. He couldn't live like this anymore.

Tears started ran down his cheeks as his entire body screamed for help. He didn't know what to do. He had never known what to do. And he would never know what to—

And that's when he heard it.

A silent whisper, entering his mind like a snake enters its lair, grabbing every single ounce of his being left unaffected by the Night's previous invasions. That voice screamed into the deepest bowels of his soul, assuring him it would all be fine. It told him he just needed to follow it, just needed to come along for a walk he wouldn't regret, just needed to give it control for one final time.

He didn't want to listen to it. But he had no other choice.

Step by step he complied, taking one little motion after another, until he left the ceremony and every single person in it behind. If he'd been a little less empty, he surely would've noticed something was wrong. If he'd been a little less devoid of emotions, he maybe even would've opposed the voice.

And, perhaps, if this time he'd been a little more observant too, he might've even noticed the big brown eyes and curly hair of Maya Weathers, coming towards him in a panicked attempt to stop what was inevitable.

But, just like last time, he wasn't.


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He didn't know how or when he got to Lamplight's edge. But he didn't need to, because it didn't matter. It never did. Nothing ever mattered, not anymore. He did what the Night said. It was over. He didn't need to struggle anymore.

He looked up to the sky above the border between nonexistence and reality, gazing at the black night occasionally broken up by glowing points in the distance. He knew the skies above the last settlement of man had no stars, but somehow, he didn't question it. Maybe if he hadn't been broken, he would; but now, he accepted it as reality. It's always been that way, and it will always be that way.

As one of those stars blinked, he felt like they were the eyes of all the others who had given in into the Night, gazing into his soul as he was about to join them. They were silent, because no words were necessary; he knew they wanted him to join them. He knew the Night wanted that, too. And, because of that, he knew he had to want that as well.

For a second, he considered backing off. He couldn't do this to her. He… it wasn't… I…

He took a deep breath, putting that thought to the back of his head as best he could and grasping at the cold air tainted by the snow's presence. He didn't even notice it, instead gazing into the endless void before him, its cold such a contrast to the warmth of the rest of the city. He took comfort in it, if he was honest; it almost felt… like him, in a sense. It was devoid of absence, devoid of events, devoid of a personality. Its similarity felt comforting to him.

It was said that every year, at least fourteen lost souls became one with the Night. Aiden was about to fulfill that status quo.

And, so, he took the first step forward, embracing the long-lost part of himself the Night offered, taking the first breath of relief in years. For one moment in eternity, he was… he wasn't happy, he realized. He'd been driven here out by a promise that would never be true, used as the desperate individual he was. He cried out, unnoticed, continuing his walk into the end of the world, starting to sob. He'd been lied to, but at the same time he… he felt comforted he— he didn't understand that feeling. He didn't know if these were tears of happiness, tears of fear, or tears of sadness. Or if they were all at the same time.

And, just as he was about to make that Void fully himself, bringing his soul and the darkness as one, he suddenly stopped, mid-step. A singular blur, reminiscent of a cry, interrupted his thoughts. And then it grew louder, and louder, and louder, until it became unignorable.

"Aiden!" the voice explained, panting with exhaustion. "Aiden fucking Navarro, come back here, you, you little—!"

In a moment, he turned back, panicked that someone had seen him. He turned away from the Night's comforting touch, back again into the horribly warm reality of that which was, taking one first step forward.

"You absolutely cannot do this to me," it cried out again, this time through tears. Aiden felt them, deep within him, and cried out again, not sure why. "Aiden! Aiden!"

Almost subconsciously, he took more and more steps forward, embracing that voice as if it was his mother's. He wanted it, he needed it, he hoped for it. If he didn't know the Night was no longer in control, he would've said he was again controlled; but he knew he wasn't. Something deep within his frozen soul felt a spark of heat melt its cold insides with each syllable the voice spoke, eventually turning him into someone full again.

And, after a few moments, that voice gained a face. It was of Maya Weathers, and it sighed with relief.

"Aiden!" it shouted, coming closer. "W-Why?"

He didn't answer, instead running towards the woman as fast as he could, embracing her in a hug. He He broke down, realizing what he'd really done. Somehow, he found the words in his head, forming a coherent sentence and putting it through his frozen mouth.

"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry, Maya," he wiped his tears. "I should've never done that, I'm so sorry, I should have listened, I should have understood, I… I…."

She shushed him, returning the hug.

"It's okay. Everything is fine. Don't worry. It's all good now. You're good."

He didn't care about anything anymore that wasn't her. He grabbed her hand, closing his eyes. And, for the first time in ages, there was no darkness there; instead, he could see her smile, her hair, her eyes, her very being nested within him.

She asked him to follow her, and he complied, knowing that was all he needed. Aiden didn't think he needed to put his words to paper anymore, because, for the first time in eternity, he was content. No longer did he need to search for fullness, understanding, or himself in poetry, because he felt like that missing part was right beside him.

For one more day, he had a reason to go on. For one more day, her light illuminated him, giving him a reason to carry on. He didn't know if it was permanent, or it was a fix at all, but, if he was honest, he didn't care. That was all he needed, at least for now. But, if he were to write his feelings down once again, he'd only need one sentence to truly express himself:

I love you.



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