At the end of the old eon, humanity united as one race, with one tongue, under one rule. Together they stormed the gates of paradise and killed the gods of old and transcended and became as the highest themselves. They used their newfound knowledge to create an ultimate deity for worship in their likeness. A god with only one will, to end humanity’s suffering. One with no power to make change without human hands. It was a mere voice of wisdom, unable to override the will of its creators. Omniscience without omnipotence. Built to serve the humans as they were. A symbiosis of man and divine, between flesh and spirit.

The newborn god asked the humans what they wanted. They answered they wished to make the world a paradise. The god told them to build cities, so immense their roofs reached the clouds and their foundations the fiery depths of the earth. One in each corner of the world. Together they would contain all of humanity. Everything else would grow wild and become like a garden untouched by human hands and feet. Then they broke the wheel of life and cured death. Neither sickness nor time had power over them anymore, and every woman, man, and child lived like royalty within their realm. Free to allot their immortal lives to anything they wished.

When the earth had become a paradise, the god pointed toward the stars and other worlds, and the humans looked there. Together they built the arks to hold and protect the essence of humanity and carry it to new places. Many chose to leave the now in the paradise and let themselves become archived to reincarnate sometime else, somewhere else. And if the flame of humanity would ever be extinguished, the arks carried the embers that would rekindle it. The earth’s two neighbors were transmuted from uninhabitable places unfit for life into gardens of paradise like the first. Some arks headed furthermore toward the endlessness in their search for new places to plant the seeds of human life. They built libraries on every world, to safeguard humanity’s accumulated knowledge to the end of time so that it would never become lost.

After all this was done, and they had molded the seas, lands, and heavens after their will, the god saw that everything was absolute and the humans had fulfilled their purpose and lost their meaning. The god wanted to give it back to them and taught them how to construct a weapon of light so bright it would burn the sun. Then those who had left the first paradise returned and wanted to take away this gift. The god told his people to shine the light upon those that opposed it. To initiate the deconstruction of humanity. First came the blinding flash that lit up the sky and turned the lands into ash and the seas into vapor. Then came the sound and the world shook and shivered in its foundations. It crushed the mountains and their bedrock into dust. Last came the winds and carried all that was destroyed away to the heavens and swept the earth in a veil of smoke and mist.

The pious that survived were made into demigods and helped the one true god recreate the world after its will to the form it needed to be. Together they merged the lands into one last paradise before crossing the immense ocean to the forever frozen land. There they created for themselves a home and waited for the humans to awaken again.

First to walk the earth’s scorched and scarred surface was one that could die but not be dead. He opened his eyes to a blinding sun, and with a gasp, he filled his lungs with air, as distant waves rolled against an unknown shore. Awakened by his thirst, he lay watching the vultures circle above, longing to feast on his carrion. He watched the sun give way to the moon and stars. Watched without understanding. Watched while becoming ever more separated from it all. Everything seemed familiar yet alien at once.

Beneath an exposed ribcage with skin and flesh stripped away, his aching lungs breathed the air, and racing heart pumped the blood. Inflated and deflated. Contracted in rhythm as the cycle of defiance continued, as his body refused to die. Refused to let him return to the void that spawned him. Every heartbeat and every breath a rebellion against the world. Against the natural state of non. He was an exercise in futility.

Then came the dark clouds and blocked all light and rain fell. He opened his mouth and quenched his thirst before standing on weak legs. Shivering he looked at the endless ocean behind him and then inland at the shadow of a mountain. Black against the blue in the distant horizon it reached for the sky. With memories of a world lost in time, separated from now by an eternal moment of nothingness, through an unknown world, he searched his footsteps for himself. For millennia, he wandered the world like a ghost. Alone, without directions. No purpose nor place.

Where shadows forever reigned, the trees stretched toward the clouds in their fight for the suns rays. Little daylight and no moonlight reached through the canopies to the forest floor. There in the shadows of giants he lived out many lifetimes, feeding upon the many wondrous beasts. The shadowcats with claws like razors and fangs like daggers. Spiders the size of dogs that hung from the trees waiting for victims to pass beneath. The worms in the dirt that injected their prey with venom making them crave more as they let themselves be eaten. Bit by bit, day by day. Nurturing their addiction to ease their affliction as the worms become fat and they living corpses with their white bones revealed beneath holes in their sloughing skin. And the beastmen as brutal as they were strong. More often crawling on all fours than walking on their hind legs. Hairy and hostile, they ripped apart anything they could get their hands on with arms thick as trees and gnawed it between bone-crushing yaws.

The first man devoured them all.

He hung hooks from strings in the foliage around the campsite. They glimmered in the shine from the fire. Creating a barrier of light and steel against the thick darkness surrounding him. The sounds of his knife against the diamond in his palm echoed between the trees before being swallowed by moss and mist. A shadow moved in the corner of his eye, and he froze, listening for footsteps in the dark. He took out a bag from his pocket and held it in his hand, still listening. Waiting while bark rained over the campsite and crackled in the fire. He threw the bag into the flames that exploded into many smaller fires scattered around the site. They illuminated their surroundings and revealed the beastmen encircling him.

The first of them to attack got stuck through its eye on a hook. Screaming it thrashed trying to free himself in vain. Another came down from above. The Devourer sliced open its belly and spilled its entrails on the sizzling fire. It clawed after him as he ducked under its massive arm and stabbed its neck. The disemboweled beastman collapsed over its charred guts. As he pulled out the knife, another threw itself over him and pinned him to the ground with its weight. The bones in his shoulder crunched as the beastman gnawed into it. Strings of blood and saliva pulled between flesh and canines. When the beastman tried to bite his face, the Devourer pushed his hand into its mouth. Its yellow teeth dug into his arm as he forced it further down the beastman’s throat. He stabbed it in the ribs until it died.

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