With that, the voice went silent for the last time. I took a shuddering breath. This was it. I had crossed out of reality and into conceptual space for this. I had given up part of my ability to feel for it. And now it was time to make a choice, hopefully the correct one.
I considered the nature of what was before me. Phase Spaces. In math, the term was used to mean something like a plot of all possible outcomes. And based on what it had said... They could be used.
It represented power. Temptation. The one thing a seeker can never give in to. So, I closed my eyes, shook my head, began to turn around and...
And I stopped dead. There was more to this. The final Phase Space represented power, yes, but also, the vast responsibility that power brings. The one thing a Seeker can never run away from. Our bond, Our responsibility to the world.
To turn around was to reject that responsibility. To continue forward, to fall to temptation.
I smiled. The riddle was simple, but devious. It had two answers, both illusory, and one impossible choice. I couldn't not continue. I had been told that the entire time. To stop was death.
But maybe, just this once... Stopping was the only correct answer.
I sat down, crossed my legs, and waited.
I didn't have to wait long.
The sky, which had been a combination of piecing blue and absolute dark, changed to ethereal twilight. The void shimmered and disappeared, as did the canyon behind me. The ground became carpeted in grass, and from it sprouted a sea of gray roses. Before me was not a path, but a Way.
The Way of the Rose.
I stood, and took a step. Two ghostlike copies of myself divided from me and simultaneously turned in opposite directions, one to where the canyon had been, the other, towards where the void had been. They were connected to me by lines of thin light, and there were more than two of those. There were hundreds, and I was suddenly sure that they all stretched back to the most important parts of my journey. Where I could have chosen wrongly, but hadn't. These were possibilities, and by seeing them, I was finally sure that I had made it. Finally, I had made my way into the Memories of Akasha.
Finally, I had entered the only true Phase Space there ever was.
I walked slowly, reverently, down the Way of the Rose, further into the Heart of The World. Further into the Soul of The Universe. And, by that token, further into Myself, I suppose.
As I walked, the lines connecting to the other versions of me multiplied... or divided. It was hard to tell. All I knew was, the closer I came to the center of the Remnant, the more there were.
Finally, I came across a hill. As I approached it, I felt, rather than heard, and extremely deep subsonic pulse. As I began to climb, I felt it again. When I reached the top...
I might have felt it once more. But I didn't notice that part of it. This time, I saw it.
What I had climbed wasn't a hill. It was the wall of a crater. Inside of it, instead of the pale gray roses from outside, there was a dark rainbow. Sanguine, ultramarine and emerald roses slowly waved in front of me. At the center were a trinity of roses.
One was Absolute White.
Another was Transfinite Black.
The Last was Ultima Grey.
And around the walls of the crater were hundreds of others, people who were me, but weren't. I finally understood the purpose of the Emerald Knife. I pulled it from it's hiding spot, while my others did the same.
Only theirs weren't Emerald. But a rainbow of colors.
What happened next was an atrocity.
But in the end, I emerged, holding a knife that was neither emerald nor any other color. Not white, nor black nor gray. What I held was painful to look at, because it was not any color, but every color.
I knew what came next. I walked to the Center of the Remnant in the Soul of the Universe. As I cam closer, the world grew around me, until I was no longer walking through a field of roses, but wading through a sea of them, and finally, as I came to the very Center, creeping through a forest of them.
Finally, I came to a vast wasteland, three immense lines of green in the far distance, fading into the sky, pumping a heartbeat the shook the world, and almost tore it to pieces.
I walked on.
Even after all this time, I'm not quite sure how long I walked, exactly, only that once I had finally reached it, I had aged many, many years. If I had been in reality, I would have died of starvation long ago. Thankfully, it's not like that here.
It's only because of that that I made it this far.
In front of me was a door. To my left, a whispered conversation. On my right, a grinning monster sitting on a throne, talking to someone I couldn't see.
I walked past all of it, and finally, into the Center itself. Under a glass panel, gears within gears within gears churned, spinning out Reality in the Heart of Inexistence. And in the middle was a small dais, with two chairs. One was occupied by a young man in clothes that I assumed were supposed to be fashionable. He was reading a book titled On the Nature of Things. I took another step forward, and he looked up.
"Hello, hello! You're the one! The one who wrote this book, right?"
"If I have, I haven't wrote it yet."
"Then it's a pity. I really wanted to ask you how you came about some of those insights. You revealed things that even I had no idea were a secret!"
"Wouldn't be here if I wasn't good at that," I said.
"True enough. Care for some tea?"
"Absolutely." I walked up to the dais, and took the other chair. A cup materialized out of the air, And I grabbed it, and took a sip. Perfection.
"So, what did you come here looking for?"
I took another sip of the tea before answering.
"Hope. Not the emotion. The last thing left in the Box."
"Hope... A worthy goal, I suppose. But why should I grant it to you?"
"This," I said, and held out what had been the Emerald Knife.
"Let me see that!" the man hissed. I spun it expertly and presented it to him hilt first. He examined it from end to end before letting out a breath.
"I didn't Make this. How did you...?"
"This is the point from which all worlds originate. All lines merge from here The only hard thing was figuring out how to pick up all the knives while only walking forward."
"Ah. Brilliant. You collected them all in different worlds and came here. But how did you communicate? The barriers are extremely thorough."
I shrugged. "I never set out to communicate in the first place. After I obtained the Emerald Knife and deciphered it's inscription, I decided to come here and trust my others."
"How did you know that they would come?"
"I didn't, but I did. Probability."
"I see," he said, handing back the Knife. Very well, then. You pass. I'll make your Hope real."
And as he said it, a simple wooden box appeared. Or rather, a simple-looking wooden box appeared. It was actually an Object of such terrible power that the first who found it had taken the same journey as I had, just to have it sealed away in fiction and myth.
And now I was undoing her work.
Hardly trusting my hands, I reached over to the box, and pushed down on the lid.
Then, I undid the latch. When I felt no struggle, I opened the box. All that was left in it was a black jewel. Hope wasn't in... I had come this far and... But it shouldn't have... Why...
I couldn't help it when I began to cry.
"T-there never was an-any hope to b-begin with, was there?" I choked out.
"Oh no, there was...."
"Then why? Why this? WHY?"
The man looked down at the ground for a long time before he finally replied.
"Hope was in the Box... But you opened it, and now it's power has been broken."
What he said was true. The box had looked clean and new before. Now, it was splintering, rotting, covered in millennia of grime.
"Luckily for you...," the man continued, oblivious to me, "I caught it. It just wouldn't be professional to allow your prize to escape, now would it? Here."
He tossed something squirming and white at me. I caught it, and faster than I could follow, I stabbed it with the Knife.
What happened next?
Something that I am bound to never speak of. It is something that can never be told. But let us just say that...
The Knife of Hope is object 1010 of 2358. I spun it from imagination and unreality equally. But even It seeks the Others.
Credited to Cen2