Schism always tried to be the most knowledgeable man in the world. He traveled, talked to strangers, and went diving into previously unexplored caverns just to mark all of these places and experiences inside his mind and journal. "After all, what could possibly hinder the pursuit of knowledge in a world without death?" he would have remarked, laughing, on any other day.
Looking at the thundercloud forming in the shadow of Mount Aramis, Schism knew exactly what could bring an end to his lust for knowledge. From the warm, if hostile, street gutter of Coburntown, the old man could see, through the crack of light that separated the dark valleys and icy tundra from the sunny cities, jungles, and arid deserts, the black air currents roiling in the sky.
Schism witnessed red lightning jut from the murderous dark mass, as tall as the mountain itself, through the sky. Instantly, he remembered the day the sun stopped moving across the sky, when weather systems vanished. In his mind, he watched as the towers were swept into the sea all over again. He recalled the quaking screams of women swallowed by the earth as it caved underneath their feet. As if it had just happened, he envisioned the entire horizon illuminated in scarlet as it roared towards him, stopping only to drop as ashes into an endless ocean. Then, the heartbreaking serenity of silence as the few remaining human voices realized that it had all stopped; they had survived.
These few people never knew why the world had ended, or why it had finished ending, or why they had been selected to live in a world with an immobile sun and no death. Schism had always tried to help them answer these questions, but people, particularly those of Coburntown, did not like to discuss what they could not control. They ridiculed his articulate speech, unkempt white hair, and emphatic facial expressions. They kicked him in the teeth, stole his clothes, and urinated on his prone body. He had felt frail before they beat him--after, however, he found his own strength.
He pulled a discarded jacket and trousers out of the waste heap behind a house in Coburntown and donned a new name: Schism. He could be the rift between the mundane and the divine, the crack between reacting with feeble anger to the injustice dealt to him and seeking solutions in a world filled with uncertainty. He had lived for forty-five years in search of the answers that could unite these lost humans. Humans who had been abandoned by a fickle god.
In all of that time, he had never seen a raincloud. Weather didn't exist in the new world, beyond what certain regions experienced all the time. The valley west of Coburntown never experienced anything but the chill of sitting in the shade of Mount Aramis. Schism felt the hairs on his arms stand up in remembrance of the day the world ended. His old body began to uncontrollably shake in his ragged clothing.
Hovering over the valley, the inky cloud reverberated with malevolent ruby flashes. Dimly visible within the rapidly swirling vapors, a pearlescent object began to protrude from the bottom of the largest cluster. A loud boom echoed across the sky, louder than any thunder crack.
In spite of his fear, Schism charged headlong at the cloud. He jumped over paupers sleeping in the city streets and slipped past people who were simply gawking at the crackling blot in the western sky. He bolted past the city gates without a care about the guards. It's connected, he thought, as he started up the cliffs overlooking the valley. This is how the world ended. As fast as his old body could carry him, he scrambled over granite protrusions while narrowly dodging pine trees. Everything I need to know is right here, in this moment. He cleared the ridge in mere minutes to look down into the valley.
He witnessed it then: the eye. A massive eye, nearly as big as the valley itself, emotionlessly gazing down on the valley while streams of air rippled up and swirled around it. It looked down upon the valley and spewed fire. It shined with a careless grace upon the carnage--a house exploded, sending timbers flying hundreds of feet through the air while the ground below blackened to ash. The eye dilated, and six pulsating, pallid, elongated appendages leapt from the cloud towards the ground, scraping at the dirt or something the old man could not quite see from the top of the ridge.
In a short moment, the tentacles were held close to the eye itself. One after another, the eye breathed fire in a brilliant ray over each of the ends of these tentacles. Schism thought he could hear screams over the crushing roar of fire that swept over the charred earth. Suddenly, just as the sixth tentacle was about to receive that beam of flame, a blinding light flashed through the sky.
The cloud, the eye, and the tentacles were all gone. Schism tried to take out his journal and write down what he had seen, but his arm was jerking uncontrollably and made all of his letters impossible to read. Although he was trembling furiously, Schism slowly walked down to the valley floor. Was that god? he asked himself, stepping over downed trees into the sprawling field of ashes.
There, he met the survivor.