“These beings, two sides of the same coin, they wade through millions of universes the way my people wade through the galaxies in this one, the way that you wade through the air. Worse than that they don’t just wade; they destroy and convert and maim to boost their power. They are incessant beings I struggle to understand, and I have seen first-hand the result of their actions.” The man was now speaking faster and faster, not holding himself back from shuddering and sweating and his eyes flickering across the landscape.

“Please, try to calm yourself.” Sara added, bringing his attention back to the ruined building they were housed in, and the cityscape ahead of them. “You won’t do yourself any good adding to the stress.”

The man let out a worried chuckle. “Yes, I guess not…” It took him a few moments to compose himself again.

“These forces are unbeatable by kinds such as mine, and even some good many levels above mine. However, we found a way to escape them temporarily. I’m not sure for how long we can evade them, but it gives us more time.” He stopped abruptly, looking up at Sara. She didn’t quite believe he was real, but she was indulging in his story.

“Then what’s the problem?” she asked.

“Our temporary evasion requires the destruction of this universe.”

He spoke in a deep voice, and as he did Sara felt the world tremble with her, as if the Earth, too, was reacting to its imminent demise.

“This is why I am sorry, Sara Heathers.” He looked at her with tears beginning to form in his eyes, just as they were beginning to form in hers. She was starting to believe he was real.

“You’re trying to ask forgiveness from me… on behalf of the whole universe?”

He stood silent, again pondering his words as remorse filled his features. “Not quite. I’m asking forgiveness from you on behalf of humanity. I’m also currently talking to a million other sapient races about the same things, some more primitive than yours, most of them far more advanced.”

He stopped again, understanding that the scale of these concepts and what must be going through her mind would take a while to progress.

“Why don’t you take us with you?” she nearly whimpered, not having the strength to cry out.

“The place we are building is not a place that other beings can survive in. It’s unique to us. Partly why it’s good at evading those above us.”

“So, you’re going to condemn millions of planets… trillions of people or more… just so you can live with a little less fear? You said you can go to other universes, why not pick one of those other ones?”

He breathed softly before answering. “This universe was picked because it had the smallest ratio of casualties to energy output. Those trillions of lives being taken will be a far less evil than the septillions of others.”

“And how many is your kind?” she asked, the tears beginning to lessen down her face where they made their mark on her dark yet sickly skin.

“We are billions.”

“The same as humanity alone.” She stated. The false man looked down at the ground beneath his feet, ashamed.

“This universe is set to die anyway, soon enough. Those higher beings will dance through the multiverse destroying all that is dear to everyone, months is the current projection. A couple years is being overly optimistic.” He said all of this without daring to look at Sara.

“And what about transferring us all to these other universes?” she asked.

“We don’t have the kind of technology to allow us to do that for you.”

“But you are effectively gods, omnipotent!” she cried out.

“We are not gods. And while our power may seem omnipotent to you, we are very limited.” Gerain said solemnly.

They waited a few moments again, both looking out at the ruined horizon. For him, it was taking in as much as he could to try and give memory to that which was going to be lost. For her, the view simply paralleled the universe she lived in. They breathed slowly. The tears stopped. Sara’s mind had reverted to apathy towards the situation. Everything as fact, not an emotional process.

“There’s no way I can get you to stop what you’re doing is there?” she posed the question, knowing the answer already.

“I only came here to ask for forgiveness. Not to change what will happen.”

“Why?” she asked. “Why come here for forgiveness? You aren’t even a human, yet you take our form, you try to inscribe yourself to my culture, to liken yourself to us-”

“My true form is beyond your senses, you-”

“-This deceit is disgusting.” Her bust of anger interrupted him just like he interrupted her. But she halted the rage as she felt the cold cross around her neck.

She breathed heavily but slowly.

“For what it’s worth, I do forgive you.” She turned away from him.

The man raised his head, looking at her with the slightest of smiles. “Really?”

“Yes…” she tried to find the right words. “If this universe is going to die anyway, and you cannot find a way to save us, you can at least save yourselves… If you’re even real that is… if any of it is…”

“I thank you so much, truly I do-” The man was smiling, almost chuckling again with joy and laughter before being interrupted once more.

“But many others that you are making me represent would not forgive you.” She sighed as she looked out over the other buildings. “I think you chose me especially because I would forgive you. Those are precious possible years, and you aren’t even absolutely certain it will happen. You are motivated by fear and selfishness, which I think is wrong.”

“Even you said you would save your own city.” He stated.

“I didn’t say it was the right thing to do.” She claimed as she twisted her cross around her fingers.

“Then why do you forgive me?” He asked, confused and curious.

“I forgive you because I would do the same thing. I understand. And you should not have to live with the immense amount of guilt this act would give you if you weren’t forgiven.” She said decisively.

The man stood there twiddling his thumbs in front of his soft belly, not quite sure how to respond.

“I thank you for your conversation, Sara Heathers. I hope you find peace.”

“With all respect and regards, I really hope you are just another one of my hallucinations, Gerain. I really hope you don’t actually exist.” She closed her eyes as a pain shot up her side and made her wince.

And with that the man disappeared. The old Sara Heathers opened one eye, then the other. She was lying down uncomfortably on her wire frame bed, in the dim, candlelit room, aching from pains across her chest and muscles, coughing. She looked around the room again, towards the doorway. It was the same as before, with a crate across from her labelled ‘tobacco’.

Besides her makeshift bed stood a glass of water, unmoved and untouched among the mess. She groaned and rolled over, ready to sleep.




Smaller Than Sugar | Hallucination