into sleeping consciousness. The popping of far away explosions faded further
into the distance. Memories of wading through the salty, grainy, jungle waters
of Nok flooded his dreams. Blaes ran to liberate an encampment holding hundreds
of women and children hostage, and the next moment, a hot wave of agony lifted
his body and carried him several feet to crash into the muck of dark, swampy
mangroves. He painfully stood, dazed, and heard only ringing. He looked down to
see burning metal shrapnel lodged in his forearms and knees. Warm blood
trickled, and the torment intensified. One of Blaes’s bond-brothers triggered a
plasmon mine, and the detonation wave ravaged the entire platoon. Blaes had
been far enough away to escape the most devastating effects of instant
The moans of Blaes’s bond-brothers, linked by love of friendship through many battles, rose with their cries. Blaes blinked back hot tears, and stumbled through the rising crescendo of agony to aid the men who supported him more than the brother of his own flesh. A large metal rod pierced the abdomen of the first man Blaes found. The man croaked, “Prince Blaes? Blaes. Help me!” Blaes instantly knew only moments remained in the man’s lifetime.
“Do not speak,” Blaes said, falling to the ground to cradle the man’s head in his lap. “Save your strength.”
“The multiverse has a crazy sense of humor, that much I will say, Prince Blaes. I always knew if I picked up the sword, I must prepare myself to die by it, but what if someone picks the sword first? Should I have stayed on the family farm knowing others maimed and killed those who could not protect themselves? I still do not know the answer. Do you?”
“I ask myself the same question everyday.” The man struggled for more words, but gagged, and went still.
Blaes forced the memory away and fell deeper into dream. Another memory rose that Blaes knew he did not experience in his present existence, yet lived in another, as a time avatar of the continuous cycle conserving Quanta energy and mass. Blaes sat on a golden throne. He watched a beautiful woman adorned in a seven-tiered crown performing a chon dance. Blaes immediately knew this dance told the story of growing love between the two main characters, and the kidnapping of the hero’s companion by a demon king. The woman slowly turned, decorated in an elegant, expensive robe of white silk from the Udo moth. She held the fingers of her hand in a symbolic gesture for intellectual argument and the wheel of law, advancing toward the time avatar of Blaes.
Her earrings dangled in elegance with her dance. She glanced at him, and he felt a connection past age and time, as if he lived millennia in the forest alongside her, cried with her, hated her, loved her, and died for her. As her gaze fell, so too did those memories. She continued her dance, changing each hand gesture to the rhythm of the drum, gongs, and stringed instruments, but every time she glanced up at him, it was as if time stopped. Her lithe body joined the synchrony of the other women dancing alongside her, but Blaes knew this woman was different. She moved as if descended from a higher plane, even higher than he, to carry wisdom beyond words and deepest understanding. Everything to be known lie barely contained in the ever-closing distance between them. Each glance was challenging and soft, yet rigid. Her body moved to tell a timeless story, with only glimpses of themes communicated by her hand’s symbolic gestures. Blaes wanted to jump from his seat and pause everything. It was too fast. He missed much of everything she attempted to tell him, and then, the chon dance was over, and she hurried off stage.
If Blaes was manifestation of shadow, that woman was manifestation of light. In some lifetimes, they perfectly balanced one another, yet due to environment or childhood experiences in others, they only destroyed. Sometimes, they never met. Each appearance was different—harmonious or repulsive.
As time changed, so did Blaes and his partner shift masculine and feminine roles, or the non-binary spectrum between both poles. Every existence was equally valid, for each appearance was whole in its own, yet could be stronger brought together under the correct conditions. Who was this other, timeless, aspect of Blaes—his counterpart?
Blaes recalled time avatar lifetimes as a butterfly, homeless wanderer, prince, rebel, murderer, and many more. Sometimes anger and hatred drowned every sense in uncontrollable wrath, while other times, wisdom and gratitude lifted him to the highest realms of empathy and compassion. Each existence connected, as would those to come. The individualistic masked half of reality. Blaes knew everyone and everything, because he already lived and loved everyone and everything. Blaes woke from the lifetimes of recalled memories with silent tears in his eyes. He wiped away the saltwater, embarrassed that he allowed the strong flood of emotions to over-power him.
“Intense, remembering lifetime after lifetime, isn’t it?” Nia asked.
“What the…” Blaes exclaimed in surprise, not realizing Nia was awake.
“I never imagined it would be more intense with you so close to me,” Nia calmly stated. “I had my suspicions you were the one, but I never allowed myself to believe the Prince of all the Nimi could be my interdependent Quanta energy half. I always imagined it would be a swine farmer from Nok, or a falcon hunter from Sun.”
“Stop there, take three paces back, and begin again, because you and I are not on the same page,” Blaes goaded.
Nia took a long, deep breath. “Chi Yero kept a lot of things from you. Perhaps it was for the best. There is a time and place for everything, and he obviously felt while he was alive, that it was not the right time for you to know these things.”
“He was the best teacher I have ever known,” Blaes said, distorting his voice in an attempt to hide its sadness.
“Well, it is my turn to fill in the blanks, Prince Blaes. You are ready, and I am not one to coddle my students, as amazing a teacher as Chi Yero was. Understand?” Blaes nodded. Nia paused and continued, “The multiverse is grandiose. I marvel at the pure statistical improbability that we should meet, but here we are, meeting time and time again. The multiverse is infinitely expanding into cold, empty, darkness, yet here we sit, and I cannot fathom why, if there is any reason,” Nia began, pensively staring up at the ceiling of the room.
“Ever experience that moment when you know it is the beginning of the end, but refuse to acknowledge it at the time?” Blaes asked. “I loved three times. I do not want the fourth to be a failure. Only a fool would go back a fourth time to possibly end broken and alone, just like the start. I do not know if any of us ever win.”
“Before you say anything else, just let me tell the story! There are many legends, but only I, and perhaps eventually you, if you tried hard enough, will know the truth,” Nia articulated with exasperation.
Blaes raised his eyebrows in insult and intrigue. “By all means then,” he said. He made a gesture that sealed his mouth closed.
Nia smiled maniacally in the light of dawn. “This goes beyond legend, to facts. The truth transcends epics, odes, and ballads.”
“I am all ears, body, and mind,” Blaes said coolly.
“Feel free to interrupt the story anytime, with pertinent questions of course. The legends only conserve parts of truth, but then again, every truth has its own vantage point, and at this juncture, we will not get much rest before full suns rise. Billions of years ago, the multiverse contained five universes instead of the three there are today. However, no sentient life existed in the universes of the Time Masters, Nimi, Callaeci, and Machines. Only one universe managed to evolve self-sentient life, and it was known as the universe of the Humans,” Nia narrated.
“What are humans?” Blaes asked.
“Humans were much like us, except with a greatly diminished ability to connect with Quanta energy. The Human civilization was very technological, like the Callaeci of present, but this technology isolated the social species into growing individuality, leading to rampant mental ailments, poor health, and a greater sense of emptiness. A genius and nuclear physicist by the name of Adom was working on an anti-boson particle accelerator. Bosons are particles of force, attraction and repulsion, which help hold together the multiverse, but not as fundamental as Quanta. The anti-boson particle project had every noble intention to create vacuums, which could expand past the speed of light, and enable time travel. Most humans never discovered Quanta energy, so this was the closest they came,” Nia paused to gather her breath.
“That science sounds magnificent and terrifying at the same time,” Blaes interjected.
Nia smiled coyly. “I am sure they felt the same. Being on the edge of any frontier is thrilling, with so much control and unlimited power, but back to Adom. The evening before the science team was to test the anti-boson particle accelerator, Adom’s fiancée, Ife, left him for his best friend. I know,” Nia laughed, “It is quite trite, but anyone who has been there knows just how common and hurtful these circumstances actually are. Well, Adom did not handle his heartbreak well. It is hard to remain rational when one perceives the world as crumbling all around. Unfortunately, Adom took this quite literally. He used his access card to enter the facility late at night, and turned on the anti-boson particle accelerator one-thousand fold its intended power,” Nia recounted.
“That is insane!” Blaes interjected.
“Definitely, but some people do not like to bear misery alone. Adom knew that such a large quantity of anti-boson particles released at once would cause a chain reaction through the entire universe, and destroy all associations between matter that make life possible,” Nia stated.
Blaes shook his head. “And this is the true version of the legend?”
“Sometimes the truth is more shocking than lies, but yes, a cascade of universal disintegration is quite dramatic. When Adom lost touch with his sanity, it was only fitting that he do so in as grandiose a manner as possible. You either go completely, or not at all,” Nia smirked. “Adom succeeded, and the entire human universe began to irreversibly disunite,” Nia said heavily.
“There is always a but,” Blaes laughed.
“But,” Nia drew out in mockery, “Long before, three female anchorites renounced human society to found a temple on a remote island far away, which unknown to anyone but these women, was a grand foci of multiverse Quanta energy. Some called these women crazy cultists, and others concluded that as long as they did not harm anyone, their practices were of no concern. These three women considered themselves something between mystic, philosopher, ascetic, and hermit. Their names were Rhana, Ziya, and Bana. They erected a ring of standing ametrine stones to help them connect with an all encompassing, electromagnetic energy they named Quanta.”
“They discovered Quanta?” Blaes seemed amazed.
“Of course they did,” Nia said, with a hint of mockery and teasing. “Wise people often hide behind the mask of insanity.”
“True, but then there are those who are legitimately insane,” Blaes quickly retorted.
Nia continued. “Once you get to know anyone well enough, you realize each of us has our moments of crazy. Some just experience them on a more continual basis, but back to the three women. Quanta energy protected Rhana, Ziya, and Bana, but they helpless watched their civilization crumble around them. Although they renounced the materialism and greed surrounding them, they never hoped to see all they loved fall into non-existence. No other human except them communed with Quanta long enough to withstand the cascade of anti-boson particles. Ziya also realized that if they did nothing, the cascade would not only destroy the human universe, but the entire multiverse. To save the multiverse, they would have to destroy their own Human universe.”
Blaes shook his head. “That is genocide if other humans remained besides them!”
Nia tilted her head in confusion. “You ruled for a time. Each of us is a criminal in one form or another, and we should judge from that point of view. Of course, we should strive not to harm others, but they knew they must save other beings in the greater multiverse that could evolve to self-consciousness. Of the three, Bana had the strongest connection to Quanta energy. She absorbed the remaining Quanta energy of the entire Human universe, transforming her body to a white hole of pure space and time, and sent the other two women to the parallel universe that would later become known as the universe of the Time Masters.”
“So Ziya and Rhana became the first Time Masters!” Blaes exclaimed.
Nia shook her head negatively. “No. You are not listening. Stop trying to read between the lines and just listen to the story, dear prince.”
“Carry on. I can be impatient and excitable,” Blaes shrugged.
“No kidding,” Nia took a deep breath to continue. “Ziya and Rhana were very much human, only humans with a rare connection to Quanta energy. Bana transported the two to a habitable planet, which was not coincidentally, another foci of Quanta energy. As time passed the two women missed Bana more than existence itself. They debated the ethics and morality of attempting to directly convert Quanta energy into not only mass, but a human-like being. Their human imagination was understandably limited, and they saw their species as the best starting point for something better. They agreed to replicate a biochemical species they knew worked, versus pure fantasy that might be the multiverse’s worst nightmare. They only had once chance, because such consummation of pure Quanta energy into matter would deplete much of the white hole left behind by Bana.”
“Why did they use Quanta energy, and not convert another energy into mass?” Blaes asked.
Nia continued without a beat of hesitation, as if expecting that exact question. “They hoped a being further linked with unifying Quanta energy would be less destructive than their own human species. The two managed to exhaust most of the Quanta energy of the white hole to create two infants, a boy and a girl, with a more developed prefrontal cortex and dream box region in their brains, to see Quanta energy as easily as we see color. They named the babies Amare and Amara. The two were genetically distinct yet perfectly complementary. Amare was as shadow, and Amara like light. They decided that the two should not be raised together to avoid the concept they were brother and sister, instead of each woman’s hope for a race of harmonious and sentient beings.”
“They really could not think of a better starting point than their own species? I can think of hundreds of fascinating species to create out of thin air,” Blaes relayed with confidence.
Nia languished, “You can think of many, but their impact on the multiverse would be what exactly? Would your species selfishly consume until nothing remained simply because it felt like it and wanted to, or would it leave the multiverse better off than it found? I believe that is why they made their particular choice. Ziya raised Amare in the mountains of one continent, and Rhana raised Amara on the Sea Islands more than one hundred thousand steps away. Ziya promised to bring Amare to Amara once the two reached the age of maturity.”
Blaes interrupted more loudly, “If Amare and Amara were perfect energy counterpoints, wouldn’t they find each other at the appropriate time?”
Nia gently deflected the question, “The more interesting question is, if Amare and Amara began as perfect energy counterpoints, would they remain so? Everything changes. They could grow together, apart, into indifference or hatred, and back again. Such is the arcane essence of energy and time, but back to the story. Amare matured into a sensitive and brooding man with strong, yet soft features, onyx skin and whirling, black hair. Ziya worried about his meeting Amara, because Amare was fiercely private, independent, and as hermetic as a monk. He did not seem interested in the physical realm, and spent most days in solitary mountain seclusion. After much guilt, Ziya managed to convince Amare to travel to the Seas Islands and meet Amara. Ziya found Amara matured into an intelligent, yet cynical, beauty with long, dark hair, delicate features, and bronzed island skin. However, Amare only showed indifference to Amara, and asked Ziya how soon they could return home. Rhana and Ziya accepted their failure, and Ziya returned with Amare to the mountains. ”
Blaes articulated in wonder, “This is similar to the story of the origins of the Nimi and Callaeci!”
Nia smiled and continued, “Now you are making sense. Years passed, and although connected to Quanta energy, no living being is truly immortal. Ziya began to feel the fatigue of years past, and knew this iteration of her life drew close to its end. She begged Amare not to spend the remainder of his life alone, and to connect with Amara as her life partner. Amare told Ziya that he did not have the time, because he was close to learning how to use Quanta to move physically and mentally through space and time.”
Blaes suddenly exclaimed, “Like a Time Master.”
Nia nodded in affirmation, “Exactly as a Time Master. On her death bead, Ziya made Amare promise to travel to the Sea Islands, and marry Amara. Culturally, a child must grant the dying wish of a parent whenever possible, and as Ziya raised Amare, Amare could not refuse.”
“That seems very unreasonable if Amare did not want to be with Amara,” Blaes said with contempt.
Nia laughed, “A lot of cultural practices appear unusual to outsides. I am certain things we do would look foolish to un-familiars. There is also the saying, ‘Mom knows best,’ which assumes of course, that one has a mother looking out for one’s best interests instead of a mother who sees the child as a disposable commodity to be used and discarded.”
Blaes conceded, “True. Having a stepmother, I know this for a fact. She would like to see me dead.”
Nia continued with her narration, “As far as extremes, that is still a far-flung outlier prince. Amare took his time traveling to the Sea Islands to appreciate natural wonders along the way. It took several years, but when he reached the Sea Islands, he found Rhana gravely ill. Rhana married Amare and Amara and died shortly thereafter.”
Blaes quietly pondered aloud, “Is it possible to die of heartbreak? If the people I was closest to in the entire multiverse passed away, a part of myself might crave to join them into the next journey.”
Nia paused at length, “Most would feel the same way, myself included, but back to Amare and Amara. Amare was husband in name only. He refused to break his self-made vow of celibacy, and he frequently left Amara alone to travel back to the mountains and meditate. Amara lamented the loss of his company, but Amare continually repeated that he was close to learning how to use Quanta to transport all aggregates of self into different points of space and time.”
Blaes said assuredly, “Amare was becoming a Time Master, and no matter how much he might have cared for Amara, I think Amare knew if he became too attached, he would never completely dedicate himself to his life mission of mastering Quanta.” In the light of full sunrises, Blaes saw Nia’s face change into sudden horror and recognition. “What? Am I wrong?”
Nia looked disturbed, but continued her account, “There are many possibilities. The rest of the story is accurate to the legend of Nimi and Callaeci origins. Amare did learn to master time and space, and became a Time Master. He physically came to Amara as two different time avatars of himself. Why? Perhaps he knew genetic diversity would benefit the new culture of Time Masters. Afterward, he returned from the mountains as Amare, and taught Amara and his children how to used Quanta energy to manipulate space and time, and they became the next Time Masters. However, over thousands of years, even the Time Masters began to devolve, and naturally lost their deeper connection with Quanta energy. Such a connection is highly physically taxing.”
“And they evolved into the Nimi and the Callaeci,” Blaes said heavily.
Nia nodded in consent and continued, “The Time Masters who left their planet to explore the universe unknowingly created The Machine. Time Masters who developed technology gave rise to the Callaeci, and those who fostered a deeper synergy with Quanta became Nimi, just as the legends tell. Time Masters left behind on the original planet collapsed their universe when the Machine returned in an attempt to destroy the Machine and save their cousins, but the Machine protected itself, and travelled to the Machine universe. That leaves us here and now.”
Blaes added, “The Machine evolved from the space ship built by the Time Masters who wanted colonize their universe, that eventually became sentient.”
Nia smiled, “Yes, and evolved to hate all organic life.”
Blaes proclaimed, “But the Machine saved itself by trapping itself in the Machine universe.”
Nia asserted, “A mostly closed universe. It has the most limited connection to the universe of the Callaeci, and almost none to the universe of the Nimi.”
Blaes shrugged, “Lucky for the Nimi.”
Nia shook her head negatively, “Not so much for the Callaeci though. That is why they built the portal to Nimi. The original experiments were all fatal. What would be worth such a sacrifice besides pure desperation?”
Blaes took a moment, and his eyes fluttered with deep consideration. “How did you sleep, if you managed to at all? I kept having bizarre dreams. Some have been with me since I can remember, but for the first time, they were more detailed. I was a King sitting on a golden throne watching the most beautiful woman dance the chon story of her living in a forest with the love of her life before being kidnapped by a demon king. I felt like I have known her forever although we never met. I dreamt I was a baker, a washerwoman, a traveler, and someone stole my socks, and when I awoke, all I could think of was that I had to go back and find my socks. How bizarre is all that? You would think I would be dreaming about the revolution around us, and how I must go past both negative and positive to rule my people, but I am dreaming about socks!” Blaes laughed. “I have connected with Quanta physically before. Am I seeing the future and past, and could I use Quanta to cheat in a way, to know what to do next?” Nia stared vacantly at Blaes for a long time. “What? You are acting so weird right now.”
Nia sighed heavily. “You are dense. Let’s start with abusing Quanta to aid your rule. It would not help. Some moments are fixed in time, and others can only be changed slightly. It is wisdom to know the difference, and madness to try and control everything. Yero trained you well, but I still do not think you have the maturity to know when to use Quanta responsibly. I am not saying you will never achieve this, I am only saying that as of now, you are not ready, and I look forward to the day you are.” Nia continued, “Now, as far as your dreams, it is a bit of both. Some are pure fantasy, and some are based in real experiences of time avatars of your former and ever changing selves. Your strengthening bond with Quanta energy is making it easier to see the connection, as well as your proximity to me.”
“Why you though?” Blaes asked.
“I have the same dreams, except from the opposite point of view, because I am the avatar of Amara, and you…” Nia trailed off and looked away.
“And that would mean I am the avatar of Amare?” Blaes questioned.
“It appears that way. Yes, we are interdependent in Quanta energy, but that is not unique. This happens daily amongst many beings throughout the multiverse. What is extraordinary, however, is the fact that we are the time avatars of the very beginning, brought together for some unknown purpose.” Nia said flatly.
“How long have you known? Does that mean we are destined to be together?” Blaes demanded in excitement and fear.
“Oh Blaes,” Nia chided, “Please tell me you do not believe in that soul mate garbage? We, everything, is constantly changing. Our energies are complementary like the base of a mirror. However, our life experiences are like dust that distorts the reflections of that energy. We are, in a way, always connected, but life and time means we have hated, loved, and not cared one way or another, for the other, and all that is fine. All that just is. It is neither good or bad, or right or wrong.”
“What if I want us to be together because I feel a connection with you, in this moment?” Blaes asked plainly.
“I would say yes and no.” Nia smiled.
“That is such a non-answer,” Blaes laughed. “I guess we’ll see.”
“We’ll see,” Nia teased.
Blaes looked deep into Nia’s eyes. “I really do not know, why or, if…I do not trust anyone, but it breaks my heart that I cannot trust you.”
“Who says you cannot trust me, or that I should trust you?” Nia rhetorically asked.
“You do not hear me. I want to trust you, more than anything I ever desired. I wish I never met the women that broke that ability,” Blaes grieved.
“Such a serious prince,” Nia mocked. “You would not be you having never met those people, and might not feel as you do now about anything. Do not take everything so personally. Most of the time, choices have little to do with you, but are all about the other person’s wants. Their rejection is not judgment, only their need for a different path. As the man you were, you might never have met me. One thing you cannot recuperate with certainty is time. Even using Quanta, so much is closed in eternity. Our lives are a pyramid built on past choices of our ancestors, former selves and our self.”
“From the first moment I saw you, I felt the connection. I do not care if it is repulsive, destructive or complementary, I just want to feel it for everything it is, and I want us to be friends, because I want to trust again, more than anything, if you would be willing to walk that journey with me?” Blaes smirked.
Nia winked, “Now that is something I am willing and happy to try, prince.”
Blaes jolted and quickly stood. “Does that mean we are the last two Time Masters?” Blaes smiled maniacally.
Nia nodded with disinterest, “It means we could be, but it would be mentally and physically taxing like nothing you could imagine. I have trained to realize that deepest potential since I found my way to the Yinists, so do not get your hopes up, delusional prince.”