Jack Dragon and the City at the End of the World

March 19, 2008

I stood on the lonely hill-top, and watched the city die.

Perhaps die is the wrong term for it – the city was vanishing before my eyes, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t a matter of death or destruction. Just a slow tidal wave of nothingness washing across Refuge, the City at the End of the World. I saw people fleeing from the gates, but I knew they wouldn’t be fast enough – the void was implacable and unstoppable, and in a few short weeks, there won’t be anywhere left to run.

Maybe I should start at the beginning. The name is Jack Dragon – a private investigator who specializes in hunting for the answers no one else is able or willing to find. My latest job was to look into the disappearance of demonkind – the race of chaotic, primal evil, beings that lived solely to bring misery and destruction to the worlds of men. No one really missed them when they up and vanished – but simply ignoring the event was a recipe for disaster, so I get hired to find out what happened, and why.

I spent some time studying the usual subjects. Their counterparts among the other evil races, who no doubt would be glad for a bigger piece of the pie. Their enemies, the angels and forces of the heavens, who had long sought to rid the planes of such foul beasts. I checked out the lairs of gods, both those still living and those long dead. I hunted through the depths of limbo, where things of raw destructive power prowl the land, and creatures of madness and instinct pursue schemes that seem nonsensical to mortal minds.

And everywhere I looked… I saw no guilty culprits. No one had set this in motion. No one had arranged this catastrophe. Everyone was responding to the event, taking advantage of the chance to make a bid for power and greater control of the cosmos… but only a handful were bothering to try and find out who was behind this all.

Finally, the answer came – no one was. Just as no one is responsible when a tidal wave washes over a city, or a tornado leaves a trial of broken houses and broken lives in the wake of its passage. And sure, I hear you saying – aren’t the gods often responsible for such things? I suppose they are, from time to time… but there are still more than a fair share of natural disasters with no intent or will behind them. They come to pass because it is their nature to do so. The world is not a perfect place, and disasters happen, sometimes small, and sometimes big.

It seems the universe at large is no more perfectly built. Here, at the edge of the world, I found my guilty culprit, for all the good it will do me. Here, I can see it in motion – a great wave of absence that pulls apart the strands of reality in its passage. It started with the infinite and the endless, and now it falls in upon itself, wiping out us ordinary and finite mortals. Refuge had stood here for countless ages, staring out into the unblinking void of space. It stands one moment… and is gone the next, and the wave is heading towards me.

Grass and greenery vanish at its passage, and the sky itself folds away into an impenetrable blackness. My eyes can see through shadow and darkness, but they are useless here – there is nothing within that wave. Not the slightest glimmer of light, not shape or form or even the memory of such things. A solid wall of black, a wave preparing to crash down upon me, a hundred feet away and getting closer.

Fifty feet now, and then thirty. Twenty. Ten. Five.

I’m gone before it hits, stepping back through the portal on the lonely hilltop, fleeing back across the planes to the other side of the universe. Somewhere far, far away from that cold, hard wall. It is not an easy passage – the path through the planes ripples with disturbances, as though it can tell that its very framework is starting to come undone. But it holds, long enough for me to get away… for now.

Not to safety, though. Not with the wave still on the way… I fancied I could hear it rumbling in the distance, no matter than it was silent, no matter that it was still a hundred worlds away.

I had the answer to my question. I had finished the puzzle that was my latest job. A fortune in gems awaited me, my promised payment for successful completion of the mystery.

I didn’t fancy it would do any good. A madman or a villian, I could stop. Any creature could meet its match, in the end, from the smallest goblin to the greatest Power out there.

But something like that wave that I had seen? Some cosmic catastrophe, a natural disaster of universe-spanning proportions?

You couldn’t stop that with a gun, nor with a spell. No sword or shield could hold it back, nor the strongest wall, nor the most cunning intellect. And the meager skills of a simple street detective?

Not even worth a laugh.

But the job wasn’t yet done – I had to tell my employer what I had learned. Maybe he had an answer to it. Maybe someone else would. It wasn’t my problem any more. All I had to worry about was getting the news back to the one who had paid me to do so.

Only once I had done so would I let myself feel the dread creep over me, the fear of this certain oblivion. I could go crawl into the bottom of a bottle, or find some other way to hide from the doom that was washing towards me. But only once the job was done.

Anything else would be entirely unprofessional.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: