He was breathless. After the climb up the Endless Stair, his lungs burned as much as his calves. Sweat poured out of his every pore.
“Haste,” he wheezed, as he splintered the cell’s wooden door. “I, Barius, son of Benvadil, sole champion of the White and Gold Courts, stewards in the time of Fabricus the Just’s Occultation, beseech you for your aid! Gothalgrax has the Dominion Crystal and is preparing to turn the Everplane-”
Barius’ words caught. He had come beyond the edges of the world to find the wizard capable of stopping Gothalgrax. In front of him, the wizard lay belly down on a feather bed, feet raised over his back. But it was the wizard’s beard…
“By the beard of Althagor the Wise!”
“Fine beard,” the wizard said. “Grown in imitation of mine. Is it not truly smargful?”
“Indeed, boy, thank you,” the wizard smiled as he popped to his feet. All the while, the beard shimmied. It must have reached down to the waist, though Barius could only guess, as once the beard reached shoulder-length it bifurcated and was pulled over the man’s baby smooth scalp, where a pink bow rejoined the halves.
“Are you…” Barius began, though the question lodged in his throat under the man’s twinkling gaze. “Pray, speak quick, are you the sorcerer who lives beyond the world’s edge, the guardian of creation, the only one with the power to negate the Dominion Crystal?”
“Aye,” said the man, his beard toupee bouncing under his nodding. “Speaking my true name would take an eon of your time, but, in the common tongue, I am known as Benevor Re’Iq Algathor of Nebula. Though I much prefer Brian.”
“Bray-in?” Barius gawped.
“No, good boy, Brian.”
Barius shook his head, his bull-neck twitching.
“Pray, Benevor, we must make haste! It is still a day’s march to the edge of the Everplane and any moment now Gothalgrax will complete the Communion. We must — ”
“Listen to my poetry. Yes, splendid idea, my boy, just splendid.
“…where is my journal?”
“Poetry? Creation is on a knife’s edge and you are looking for your journal!”
“The situation calls for it, my boy,” Brian smiled. “You can help. You know how journals appear? Obtuse things lacking any meaning aside from what you give them.
“Rather like heroes in that way,” Brian said. He had begun haphazardly digging through his wardrobe, sending clothing flying. A heap of magenta, burgundy, and emerald robes swallowed up the space between him and Barius.
“Quite like how this color looks to be honest,” Brian said holding up a cloak of butterflies that never made it into creation. “Maybe I ought to — ”
“By the Twin Frosted Eyes of the Night Daughter, the world is ending!” The cell’s walls gave a violent tremor. Barius fell to his knees, his chest heaving in silent sobs. He had caught a glimpse of the sky. Skin as ashen as the Narghir sandscale plate he wore, Barius waved his hand at the window.
“We are too late. Already Gothalgrax is beginning to suck all color from the Everplane.”
Brian tutted and walked to the window. Across the darkness of a sky untouched by creation, upon which the Night Daughter’s eyes and the Day Brother’s visage graced only from the horizon, a band of white nothingness grew and grew.
In three breaths, the uncreation had devoured the sky. In a fourth, it appeared in the mortar around the cell’s stones. In a fifth, only Barius and Brian remained in an eternity of hungry whiteness.
“I have failed,” Barius said, his hands dissolving and his words uncreating before escaping his lips.
“If only I could have found my book of poetry,” Brian sighed as he wrapped the butterfly cloak around himself. “Would have been much more seamless.”
The cloak, an iridescent shimmer, fluttered over Brian’s shoulders against the void’s stillness. In a gust of nonexistent wind, the cloak engulfed the wizard as a cowl swallowed his head.
“So this is how it ends,” Barius said looking between his uncreating forearms and the cloak’s tightening embrace.
The cloak fell still, an oblong containing all of creation’s colors. Uncreation reached Barius’ shoulders.
The cloak gave a gentle rock. Then a second. In a blast of primordial light, it fell away as a translucent film into the nothingness below. In its place floated a man-sized butterfly. Its wings, beating against the nothingness, threw refracted prisms of spreading light.
Brian began to sing. It wasn’t pleasant, but as is often the case, birth itself never is.
Barius missed the first acts of creation as the sounds of Brian’s song were uncreated. But after an eternity and a second, Barius heard the rhythm in the old tongue. The tongue of creation, uncreation, and the knitting of the Everplane.
In the pure void, no time passed. An eternity passed. Brian sang and spoke of the death of stars, the birth of nebulas, the laughter of children, and the cries of unexistence.
Barius opened his eyes.
From the cell’s window, Barius saw stretch the unbroken blackness of a sky beyond the world’s edge. Brian stood over him, shaven and with thick locks that flowed past his shoulders and ended in a pink bow.
“Bray-an?” Barius asked. He was lying on the floor. He tried to lift his head and collapsed.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t do that!” Brian laughed. “Creation hangover. I had to sing back existence — and I’m not the best singer. It’ll take a few days to readjust to the new tones, my boy. Would’ve been much easier if I had found my book of poetry. But oh well, just means everyone will need a day or two — a week max, I’m sure — to readjust.”
“But .. your beard?” Barius asked. “You’re a butterfly?”
“And aren’t you just a treasure, too!” Brian laughed. “But really, if I’m going to have to re-sing and rhyme creation, the least I can do is give myself a full head of hair.”
Jeremy Bender is a writer and editor by day and an author by night. He has previously had stories published in The Write Launch and Support Indie Authors. He is currently querying his speculative fiction novel Twin Rivers.