And when all the stars are dead,
Who will stay by their deathbed?
When all the screaming ceased and the noises no longer existed, the lands had already grown barren and their colour so white, it was merciless. Whenever he stands, or sits - and he's never completely sure which of the two he is doing - he's aware of how dry the ground beneath his feet is. It should hurt, but with the ceasing of the noise, pain had also disappeared.
Where to? Eden always asks, but there's no answer that could pass beyond Byron's lips. Eden likes to make his own answers; the sky is black and it has swallowed all of existence, is by far his favourite. Byron kisses his lips, then, because the words tug at the chasm deep inside his chest and he doesn't like the way they work their way between his ribs. The sky is very black.
Byron thinks they've been sitting for a very long time now. He's been sitting for centuries, millennia, but he's stood for as much time too, he's sure. Time hasn't escaped from the hungry abyss; he's been lost and maybe if they can find him, they can restart this universe.
Eden sleeps. The stars have fallen and life has vanished, but Eden needs to sleep. There's no path to follow if Eden can't see it, and he can still dream. Byron has never known what dreaming is like, but we need dreams to find the universe. When Eden wakes, he always smiles, and Byron believes he can find a beautiful world and all the fallen stars in that smile.
Byron's leg spasms and he grimaces. He stretches both of his legs out; he may no longer be human and the universe has run out of time, but he can't sit one way for too long. He would love to be a statue, sometimes he even feels like one, but then Eden wouldn't be able to use his shoulder as a pillow. You can't be a statue, Eden had said once, I wouldn't be able to feel your skin if you were.
His leg spasms again, and this time a dull ache settles in his knee. There's something tugging at him. The pain that left space has returned and Byron needs to wake Eden now, before his time, because they need to go, quickly.
"Eden," He says, his voice is raspy. It's loud and at the same time soft. Of all the things, sound seems to be the last thing to be going but it will, soon. It'll probably leave in this Turn. "Eden, wake up."
Eden stirs but he does not wake. The ache in Byron's knee persists, even as he massages it, and it even grows. Pains and noises always come back when it's time for Turns. They need to go.
"Eden, come on." Byron says. He can't carry him. Byron had tried once and broken his arm, because all of Eden's thin, fragile bones are deceptively heavy and Byron is but a brittle remain of the past Empire. Byron carefully raises the shoulder Eden's head rests upon and this time Eden does wake, blinking his eyes blearily before he gifts Byron with a smile. It's always beautiful, reminding Byron of the dead stars, of a dawn he hasn't seen in ages. But there's no time for smiles, even as he smiles back.
"We need to go." He says calmly. Eden is instantly alert and stands up on his own. He's uncoordinated, but so is Byron when Eden helps him up. Eden kisses Byron's hand, and Byron gently tugs him into a run. It's only when they've been running for a very long time that the ground shakes and there is an ugly sound, like planets colliding.
"Don't look behind you." Byron tells Eden.
What if we run out of land? Eden had asked once. We won't, Byron answers and continues to answer every time Eden doubts, we will find time and restart the universe. They need to keep running until Byron no longer feels the tugging in his knees, like he'll fall and be swept away.
Maybe they run for an hour or perhaps it's for a millennium. This time, when they stop, they keep standing. Byron's feet won't be sore for years to come, so Eden hugs him, placing his head gently on Byron's shoulder. Sing for me, he says softly. When Byron tries, there's nothing and when he panics for a desperate moment, he remembers that all goes at some point, and this Turn, it had to be sound.
He won't be able to sing for Eden and that feels worse than the tugging in his knees.
I can't I can't I can't, he thinks. Eden looks at him with pained eyes but he can't cry. I can still hear you, Eden says, but it's not the same. Byron grits his teeth, but it would always have come to this. Everything goes at some point; the universe is still dying and it won't be done dying very soon. So, he thinks the song instead, tries to convey the sound; sleep, Eden, sleep, my fallen son, slumber in peace…
There isn't any light either, but Byron supposes there doesn't need to be. Eden is light. His skin is as white as the ground beneath them. Byron has seen many galaxies, nebulas, supernovas and stars but none can quite compare to this precious creature he's holding in his arms. He remembers the humans and their beautiful, luxurious spaceships, making their way through space and leaving their mark. He's never answered when Eden had asked about humans and then Eden had stopped asking. Byron sings human songs for him as an apology.
He sings them for millennia before the tugging starts again. He's been standing all this time and his knees hurt, his feet are sore and his arms are numb. His back hurts too, and why does it; he's no longer what he used to be. His life has stretched for so long, has made him thin like air. And yet…
But then the pain travels up his spine, makes him arch into Eden's embrace, and he knows there's trouble. He hasn't been paying attention to the tugging in his knees. It's travelled from his legs to his arms and now from his spine to his head. He can't bear it and he knows what comes next if he doesn't move, but Eden doesn't wake this time.
Please, he begs. He curses the Turn that had taken sound, because Eden's mind is lost in the deep, searching for their salvation. Please, Eden, return to me.
Eden won't wake if Byron moves. Eden will break him, but so will the spasms, the pain returning to space, and the echoing screams still flying around. Because the stars had screamed as they had fallen and the many creatures flying from star to star, planet to planet, all of them cried too and Byron will remember every single one of them as they die again around him. The universe is but a ghost, and the memory of it takes out of him what would've been a scream, if not for the last Turn, if not for this empty, lifeless, soundless void.
And Eden wakes in time to fall with him, bewildered and always beautiful. There's no smile this time and a smile would've made it better, would have given Byron the strength to pretend. Eden's face was never meant for an expression like panic or fear, but Byron's bones are breaking, and this Turn will take him too. We need to run, Byron.
There's no land anymore, the thought comes unbidden into his mind, and he can't stop it now. Eden had slept with his back to the chasm, but Byron is always awake and he sees. Behind Eden there is a void and the white earth breaks in little pieces. It's been breaking ever since they'd stopped running. There's no land anymore. Behind Byron, the land with their footprints shakes; it too will break.
And for all that Eden kisses him, Byron is dying. There'd been many human fairy tales with kisses made of magic but the humans and their magic are gone. What I am then, Byron wonders. Eden doesn't know. A relic, a remnant, the universe tells them between her dying breaths. And it is time for you to sleep now. Don't, Eden says. But everything goes at some point and this Turn, Byron dies and the ghost of the universe goes with him.
The sky is black and it has swallowed all of existence.
When Eden screams, the light goes out of him and sound returns.
Begin anew, they tell him.