The Beginnings of Things
The Professor, tall, bespectacled and slightly stooped from long years laboring over the various instruments of Science stepped into the classroom. Pausing at the entrance which closed seamlessly behind him, he absently readjusted his white laboratory robes and looked around at the Listeners sitting, wandering in silent awe or chatting in hushed groups here and there.
Hundreds of rows of alternating dark brown and green seats stood divided by strips of stairs cut into a glassy, black and curving floor that rose up in a half sphere and continued along the ceiling to end bisected by a flat wall far above and behind the Professor. A single raised podium crafted to resemble the Life Tree nobly faced the seats from the wall. Green resonance crystals milled in smooth, flat discs of varying sizes studded the wall and huge domed ceiling in intricate patterns. Aimed expertly at the podium, they carried even the quietest Professor’s voice evenly to every seat in the classroom. Glowopals embedded amongst the crystals created the abstract sense of being within a verdant forest filtering warm sunlight through circular leaves. The classroom, and many others like and unlike it in the University, was a marvel of Science.
The Professor frowned and stroked his long, silky white beard, his pride and joy, especially since under his tight-fitting white skullcap he was as bald as an egg. Too few, he mused angrily to himself. The classroom should seat a thousand, he knew, yet the Listeners here numbered less than fifty. In years past the Professor’s reckoning these seats and even the steps would be filled with all manner of people from lands near and far, come to Listen to the renowned Professors of Science. Six hundred years of the Elven Wrath and the following Warlord Conflicts that barely ended a few generations ago changed everything. Now, some things were better. And some things were never the same.
“Ahem,” the Professor cleared his throat noisily, thrusted his musings into their designated half-forgotten corner, and proceeded briskly to the podium. “Shall we begin?” At the strong and certain sound of his voice the green of the resonance crystals brightened in an undulating pattern across the wall and ceiling, and it was if an unfelt breeze rippled through the leaves and scattered the sunlight. Under the shimmering canopy the Listeners grew still and those that were standing made way to their preferred seats, then all heads bowed deferentially to the Professor in unison. At least Respect is still due us, he thought.
The top of the podium was shaped into a smooth, shallow bowl of brightly polished copper with raised rims on either side, cradled by the unique branches and leaves of the Life Tree. The Professor dipped his laboratory-scarred hands into the plain water that filled the bowl and began to rub its copper rims with his wet fingers and palms. At once a mournful humming filled the classroom that changed in pitch and tone with every expert stroke of the Professor’s hands. The water shivered and rippled to the song of the bowl and the resonance crystals shifted from green to blue to black, and it was as if the Listeners sat among the stars. With a knowing caress the stars dimmed and the Professor began to Teach.
This is the story told to the Professors by the Mother Crystal through Arts long lost, and preserved by these same Arts within the seven unbreakable Quartzsteel Obelisks that stand around the base of the Life Tree. It tells how the Beginnings of Things came to be.
Suddenly the Professor twitched his hands and a discordant note filled the air before the bowl resumed its song. The dim stars vanished, and the Listeners were blanketed in a complete and oppressive darkness.
Before the Beginnings of Things there was nothing. No light, no matter, no energy – just an all-encompassing nothing that nevertheless had a substance. It was the kind of nothing that had a weight, which was eternally light and infinitely heavy. It had a presence, a sentience that saw nothing, heard nothing, and felt nothing. It was a nothing that was everything that existed, a nothing that a being could touch and feel if such a being existed, which none did. It is the nothing we still sometimes feel when we’re trapped in a completely dark room. This nothing did not have a name. It did not care for a name. It had no need for a name. We call it the Alldark.
For countless aeons, the sentient Alldark was all that there was.
Even the Mother Crystal knows not why, but for some reason the Alldark reached out searching for something different, something new, or something other than the nothing that was all the Alldark was and would ever be. Finding naught but more nothing in an infinite sea of itself, the Alldark, again for reasons unknown, turned its reach inward rather than outward. It started by examining its own endless substance, which was yet more nothing, and then its consciousness, in the core of which was discovered a Spark.
Another twitch that this time produced a short, tweeting tune, and a single, tiny glowopal brightened into glaring brilliance above the Professor’s head, temporarily blinding the enthralled Listeners.
This Spark was the very essence of the Alldark’s sentience. It was as infinitely vast as we would comprehend it, and yet to the Alldark’s nothing, it was infinitely small. In order to further examine and thoroughly understand this tiny Spark, the Alldark began to surround, compress and ultimately pour itself into it.
The Professor rubbed his palms on the bowl’s rims in a clockwise manner; left hand sliding up, right hand stroking down. As the song spiraled in melody, gray clouds appeared on the ceiling and wall. The clouds rippled and spiraled towards the brilliant glowopal which grew ever brighter, and it was as if the Listeners sat at the threshold of Creation itself.
The more the Alldark poured in, the bigger and brighter grew the Spark. Excited as it never was before, the Alldark continued to feed itself into the spark, channelling everything into the animated nucleus. The Spark spun faster and faster as it grew, solidifying into substantial mass that burned brightly from the friction of the spinning. It was not long before the Spark had become as eternally vast and yet infinitely smaller than the nothing it was measured by. Thus was born the First Star.
The right hand gripped its rim firmly while the left continued its slow, skilled rubbing. One half of the classroom glowed with the fierceness of the First Star, and the other half remained shrouded in the malignant shadow of the Alldark, and the Professor was illuminated by the twilight between the two. The Listeners glanced at each other in wonder at this unexpected mastery of light and shadow. The Professor smirked and continued on.
When the Alldark looked admiringly upon its creation, it became aware of another presence, of another sentience. This presence knew everything the Alldark would never know, and because it grew out of friction that coalesced into light and solid matter, it cared for a name and therefore called itself the Allglow. It was full of light, and of matter, and of energy – of everything that the Alldark never was and still never would be.
For the briefest of instants, for an eternity of eternities, the two presences contemplated each other, and each one decided that they did not like the other. The Alldark was too empty, and the Allglow was too full. The Alldark was too used to being alone, and the Allglow was too new to understand.
The left hand rubbed its rim faster and faster, while the right gripped its rim harder and harder. The Listeners attempted to shield their eyes from the ever brightening side of the room, and shied away from the increasingly oppressive dark side.
So, in the manner of beings who do not get along, they pushed at each other. The Allglow pushed outward with everything it was, attempting to consume, expand and be everything. The Alldark pushed inward with everything it wasn’t, attempting to swallow, constrict and be nothing. It was this pushing of equal, unimaginably vast, infinitely powerful and opposing forces that shattered the fabric of both sentiences into numberless pieces that sped away or collided into each other. Thus the chaos of Life throughout the Universe as we know it was born from that moment within this Eternity.
The Professor, sweating in concentration, immediately grabbed the left rim in an iron grip and started rubbing the right rim as quickly as he rubbed the left. Light and dark collided in a spectacularly violent and multicolored display of spiraling galaxies, speeding comets and supernova explosions to the amazed gasps of the Listeners. Releasing his grip on the left rim, the Professor slowly began to rub it once more, in tandem with the other, and it was as if the Universe revolved around the Listeners enraptured with the song of the bowl.
The shattered remnants of the Allglow became everything that is solid in the universe, from the massive stars shedding their particles of light to the energetic impulses that guide men towards light and Honor. The shattered remnants of the Alldark became everything contrary, from the star-eating black holes swimming the Voids to the sinister forces that drive men into darkness and Disgrace.
This is the Beginnings of Things.
With that, the Professor removed his hands from the bowl and the Universe slowly swept up and away as the classroom descended through blue skies to underneath the illusionary forest’s gentle canopy once more. In the distance a lone bell tolled the afternoon hour. The Listeners remained seated, though, silently awaiting the Professor’s next words.
“The Spark lies within each of us, and all around us. It is in everything we can touch and feel, and everything we cannot,” the Professor said, the canopy rippling with every word. He scowled. “It is of both light and shadow, and as a result we are all mostly shades of gray. Happiness. Anger. Courage. Fear. They come from the same source yet are subject to the Science of Choice, the one Art that we are born with whether we master it or not. Dismissed.”
Bowing their heads once again with Respect, the Listeners rose and filed out of the classroom under the Professor’s watchful eyes.