A/N -This is the prologue. I wrote down the beginning, have visions of the ending, and a clear blank in between. Expect this to be episodic, but I promise that the randomness that follows this prologue will all be part of a greater narrative. I hope you enjoy. If you wish to review, I ask for your thoughts on the following: (1) how you perceived the story as a whole, (2) anything confusing, (3) insights on (characters, narration, etc.), (4) your predictions. The wall-of-texts and the bit of script speech are intentional. I try to intend most of what I write.

Along a long time ago, their slumber ended with minds missing important memories. Only a lingering assurance brought out by intuition remained: nothing was the same, and nothing ever will. But the sun shined bright that morning and the warmth softened the heart of its baseless anxiety. Seta. Max. Viviera. Be of good cheer! You three are the destined here!

The trivialities emerged as they looked at each other. They were at an inn, upstairs room hall. Descend the stairway. Find a table. Mr. Nowan, sir Nowan more appropriately, greeted them. He was a bald man, lean and muscular. Found a table. Sit down. There were people and breakfast. A man approached them and joined their table. His cloak covered his entire body, but the cloth was tattered all around. A monocle in front his dark eyes, he laid his large and pointy hat on the table. His clothes were different, like everyone else. The trio adorned themselves with the new clothes Mr. Nowan, sir Nowan more appropriately, provided. The hoodie, the jeans, her blouse, his cap, and any other semblance of the fashion they now left behind was locked in the group inventory. It was apparel of the medieval millennium, of folklore and escapist daydreams, that governed this realm. That was only one feature. The monocled man was another, and so was the innkeeper, and the town itself. Nothing was familiar, and that fact can only be accepted with total immersion. Left with only a letter, they awake in a whole new world. The man spoke, "So you are seeking a cure?". The letter told them to look for a cure. No, thought Seta, the letter implied the existence of a cure. Seta(21) has an affinity for languages: words, phrases, images, and metaphors. A reader, he chose the simplest label. He could not remember his home, but he knew the way to the library. The name of the building was lost from his mind, but the books remained. The stories remained, and his knowledge brought him security. He doesn't belong here. He's not from here. Why is he here? He repeated those thoughts to himself as he played the observer. He can play the observer. It was simply a different kind of reading. He spoke, "Yes, a cure. However, the nature of the illness is a mystery to me. I suppose that we were sent here to find an otherworldly cure." The details of the arrival was unclear, but Seta remembered passing through a gate last night and seeing the inn in view. Inside, he met the innkeeper as well as the man in front of him. It was a night of clear kindness. A change of clothes, introductions, rooms for rest, and a timely hospitality. "We shall settle the matter in the morn," Nowan said.

Now the matter is being settled. Nowan busied himself attending to his clients all the while floating around to take in the discussion. It was done in a leisurely way, and Seta appreciated the soft, sunny atmosphere. "It seems I was correct in preparing my proposition," the man brought a satchel and emptied its contents on the table, "my name is Lihin. This is sir Nowan's inn, but this is my town. I found you wandering aimlessly on the outskirts and brought you in. You all spoke strangely and wore strange clothes. I cannot restrain my curiosity as well as my suspicion, so I guided you on an impulse that I cannot reject. My curiosity has been satisfied. I bring these items here in the hope that you will satisfy my suspicion." On the table were leaves, initially leaves. One was blackened and ashy, but retained its shape. Another was sliced and torn into many pieces, but retained its form. The last was made of glass, but retained its identity.

Max(19) stared at the items, but he held neither care nor comprehension. Initially, at least. Max is aware of the glow from the monitor, a phenomenon that grows with clarity every night. He knows that no matter how bright it is within, the darkness already surrounds him. That was why he played on and on, until the power blows out: games, games, games. Minutes later, he invented a reason to care and so reached out. The leaf that was shredded but still pieced together drifted towards the arm outstretched. It broke, and the pieces surrounded him. A wind flowed around and within him. In his mind he was falling, falling forward. He watched the world as images flowing, around and within. A voice spoke, you who is entrapped, exit inside. The air returned to stillness, and the pieces scattered, flying out. "Whoa," he spoke quietly. Lihin smiled at the results, "You two as well!". The two boys looked at the girl, her attention drawn by the glass leaf.

Viviera(20) cannot remember how she was, and that bothered her today. Her eyes were locked on the leaf. Only words remained. She thought them to be words, but she also imagined that she thought of thoughts. They were thoughts she thought, or hope she thought, were her own. The eyes stay locked. I'm a public relations girl at a humble hotel. She cannot understand why her hair all the way down to her waistline, or why it was blonde. Boring brown eyes like always. No, they're absolutely boring. Okay, they're not that bad. Blue at least, to match the blond. Blue like an ocean view, both sky and sea. There were other people around her. Other, other people. An elderly woman scolded a child seated next to her, food was scattered all over the table. Nowan attended to them immediately, leaving behind a man at another table who shrugged and attended to his pipe. The woman across him glared, she worried for his health. A fireplace contained ashes from last night. A child squatted down to observe it, only to bothered by another child wanting to play. The two ran about. A third child, appearing to be the eldest, chased after them. There were only bare essentials in the inn. A front door. A floor. A roof. Chairs and tables were mounted to the wall: smooth, orderly, and discreet. Round tables gathered at the center. Opposite of the door was a bar counter. Behind the counter was a small cooking and washing area along with a complex cabinet filled with an assortment of spices, liquids, foodstuffs, and tableware. Beside the counter was the stairway that lead into a hall filled with rooms for overnight guests. And voices fill the air like, like back then, whenever that was. I heard myself: we are now descending down The Slope, capital t and capital s. Wonderfully gradual, isn't it? It gives people, walkers, drivers, bikers, runners, and whatever kind of mobile human you can think of, time to observe. And there lots of things to see. Notice the buildings, see how each one is slightly different in style the further we go? Each different building show a particular expression of architecture. I have a greater point to make, but first look at the people who are neither moving up or down, like us. Look at their clothes and the way they move. Listen to the way they talk. There is a pattern. They are representative of their residence. Despite the many years, they stay static. Five, ten, twenty years... still the same. Of course they talk with their neighbors, but the interaction does not change them so much that they radically reconstruct their identity. Amazing isn't it? I always have fun talking to them, observing them. Ah, but we have to go onwards. Uptown ended at the top of the hill. We are going through The Slope. I call them The Slope People. We will be Downtown at end of the slope, which is also the end of The Slope. Surprisingly, Uptown and Downtown are very similar places... She did not understand some of the words she heard. Last night her hair was black, but the eyes were still brown. A boring brown. Should be amber. Golden. Yellow. Like a cat or an owl. Why am I so unsatisfied? What is missing? What am I looking for? Question after question besieged her mind, her eyes still locked on the glass leaf. The sun was hot. It's hot. Why is no one else bothered? She felt sweat form, her fingers had a trembling stillness, and she stared on. She thought of cold things and then of cool things, but she stayed helpless against the heat. She heard her words again. I made that sign. It says 'Please do not take long walks on the beach. If you must, do not stare at the ocean horizon. Someone will miss you'. You can look now, but it becomes dangerous when you are very close to the water. It is too late the moment you give in to your gaze. You stare, forever. Your feet nestles on the sand, the air feels nicer than it ever will be, and the tide becomes your music box. At your final moment, you feel simple and clean. And then it takes you. The papers will judge it to be "unexpected". People either stay clear or purposely go. I made this sign for those who don't know, both meanings. That aside let's go along the sidewalk. Oh, on sunsets the view is very pretty. But it gets cold when night approaches. Speaking of nights, the sidewalk becomes filled with masses of teenagers that either awkward or shameless. I advise to stay clear, as it becomes a huge hormonal mess. I don't party with them, I hate crowds. Oh, but you folks are lovely! Anyways, moving on... At that moment, she truly had a hold of , she held back her tears. A voice, a different voice, you who is hiding, go seek. The thoughts ceased, and the glass leaf shattered. The girl looked at the boys. Max then looked at Seta, who looked back at Max. Seta then looked at the man before looking down at the last leaf.

He reached for the blackened leaf. Suddenly the leaf bursts into flames, a strange ethereal fire that glowed with an array of unnatural colors. His right arm was enshrouded, but he felt no pain. The temperature shifts. He felt a midday summer: the soft mechanical hum of fan blades, the sweat slowly pouring out, and many moments staring at the ceiling, a boy held helpless by a seasonal laziness. And then a chill: crunching snow steps, fog breaths, and gray mornings that the boy found charming. Finally: a world formed by his heart now aflutter, a light through the clouds like a silver lining, and flowers, flowers all around. The flame dissipates, becoming specks of sparks. A voice was heard in his mind, you who is bounded, be freed by the flame. "Convincing magic," Seta can only say. It was not this display of wonder that convinced him. An older, more ancient magic beckoned him. He wondered if it meant a flame of passion or a flame of purpose. Whatever that flame was, a clear answer formed in Seta's mind. He told Lihin, "I know one certainty, I am alive in a new world. Whatever truly portends, I will act and bring about my will. Let this be my beginning and foundation. Be my guide, give me my start." Viviera followed suit, "I'll find it, surely." Max gave in, "Sure, sounds fun. I'll play." Lihin was pleased with the response.

Lihin: Then I will provide. A fortunate man am I, involved again in moving mysteries! This is a millennium mystery. The Elixir. Cures everything. That everything has implications that you will observe during your journey. It is a coveted treasure guarded with secrets embedded in the composition of history. It hides in cultures, it hides in stories, it hides in the legal linguistics of empires all across the land. It is quite an adventure, and many adventurers seek it. I too have sought after it. In my journey I won many things. Many friends, many more enemies. Won love. I jest, it was a mere passionate phase. Many battles, much adventure. Seen worlds within this world, worlds I will never see again. Importantly? Nothing, nothing at all. And I am unsatisfied.

Nowan: Rest now, you have enough.

Lihin: Nothing is enough! I won so much of nothing that I have become a philosopher of it! Truly, I know nothing. No, it is not that I know nothing. No, there is nothing that I know more than nothing. I may not know everything, but I know that what I know of nothing is surely no nothing. Perhaps I shall live so long that I will know enough of nothing that nothing will ever be new. Ah, time. Time has taken me before my time. Before my eyes give away, I assure you, there will be nothing I do not know of nothing. Until then, I shall give whatever I have left. After many errors I have uncovered the most fruitful first step. In the east lies a city that only arises when the sun falls. You shall be in many places, but stay on the path. Rarely is the road straightforward. When you are in the city, find the girl who lives in a lonely world. Her knowledge shall show you your next destination. Come outside.

They went out the door, and saw no town. There was a circular gate and the inn was at the center. Caravans, cars, tents, bicycles, crude houses, broken boats, crashed aircraft... they were all scattered about, serving as a poor haven for the occupants that silently shambled about. Desolation pervaded. A heavy fog lied above, and it descends.

Lihin: Soon it shall fall. Before that happens you must leave or stay within this inn. Let me find my horse and you shall have your ride.

He walked away, his cloak billowing in the wind.

Nowan: Everyone out there has a story. So does everyone inside. The same for you three as well. Some walk in here, like you, and fall asleep on the ground. Others arrive in strange machines and sleep inside them. Many of them arrive during the fog. The lucky ones, like you, will find this inn. Relatively lucky. The fog is deadly, but it does not kill directly. It does not suffocate. It obscures the mind's eye and erodes the soul. You see, people will find this town when they have nothing left. Think on that, everyone else in here will. If the fog takes you, you will grope and reach and beg and hope. Then, you will conjure illusions. You will trick yourself, for when the fog lifts there will be nothing there. When the fog lifts, you will see the gate exit as well as this inn. Some run for the exit, and they will leave this place. Some run to this inn, and they will stay for awhile. Some break, and they stay forever. I simply do what I can.

He returned, reins on his hand, with his horse. The animal resembled Nowan in form: strong, an age in between extremes, and a reservation that is grown. Attached to the horse was a wooden cart large enough for a party and their inventory. Seta noticed that his belongings, all of their belongings, were already on the cart. Before he could speak Lihin asked aloud, 'So, who shall be the rider?". Eagerness on his face, Max moved towards the animal. He was careful with his approach, but he sensed that the animal maintained an inner calm. A hand on the mane. One smooth stroke. No animal anxiety. Lihin made an encouraging gesture. Max shrugged. He got on the horse, just like in the movies. Just like in the movies, he thought happily. The horse, sensing the rider's ease, suddenly jerked upwards. Rapid heartbeats. "Damn you horse," Max said, "name?". Lihin only smiled. "Of course," Seta said, "horse. Yeah, horse. How do you like that?". The horse snorted, for the horse does not care. "Horse it is," Max said with matching enthusiasm.

They were moving, the horse was clopping, and the wheels turned. Max on the horse, the other two in the cart. They all held on to everything they have gained, in fear of losing them like they have lost everything before. Seta read and reread the letter, still incredulous at its simplicity: gabriel's sick. go find the cure. love, lance. Through this letter was a connection, potentially strong but currently weak and withered, to the life before. The names on the letter were familiar, important. A hotel: the manager and the assistant, who is not really an assistant. That part was important. And Viviera, and Viviera...

Shouldn't you be used to weird things by now? There's that, and there's this. It's all the same to me. I really wish I can say the same, but nothing is the same... as usual. It's a whole new world, we can play pretend and start over.

The girl smiled at him, "Hello. My name is Viviera Sue. Nineteen years. The public relations girl of a humble hotel," her legs together, she wrapped her arms around them, and rested her head on her knees, "I'll let the rest be discovered." She returned to silence, her hair long and sun kissed golden, embracing a skin frosty pale. The memories of their first meeting washed upon his mind like a message-in-a-bottle upon the shore. He was worried, and curious, but ultimately unassuming. Now, what can he discover now? Certainly, he wanted to try, "Hey. I'm Seta Andem. One and twenty, heart ungiven. College kid and hotel part timer. And my brother, Max is..."

Max: A shut-in.

They were moving, the horse was clopping, and the wheels turned. All was silent, and the fog descends. The horse picked up pace. Faster. Faster. Out and away from nothing, they dived into dead woods.