The Cycle

One task. Reach the shrine. But it isn't as easy as it sounds.
One shot- may possibly become a full story at a later date.

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4. Risks

 

    Lauren took his hand away from the mirror, in shock.

    “He could control us,” he whispered in shock. “He set this whole little corruption up. He said… he said that we weren’t permanent.”

    1 nodded grimly as Lauren turned to the rest of the lives.

    “If this building crumbles, we all sink into oblivion,” he said, still in shock.

    Everyone fell silent. He could feel the shock rippling around the lives. They had always thought of themselves as permanent. But now they learned that wasn’t as true as they had originally thought. They could die. They were destined to sink into oblivion- unless they broke the cycle. And none of the past lives had been able to do that.

    “Listen,” Lauren took a deep breath. “It’s important to know. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for us. I’m here as our life. If I can break the cycle, I think… I think it will free all of us. I have to at least try.”

    The rest of the lives murmured noncommittally. Finally, life 8 spoke.
    “What makes you so special, Newlife? We’ve all tried. We’ve all failed. What makes you think you’re going to be different this time?”

    “Look,” Lauren said, trying to keep his voice calm. 8 got on everyone’s nerves all the time. Her arrogance was her biggest weakness. Lauren had to repeatedly remind himself that they all had weaknesses- 8’s was just more prominent than the others. “All this time building up… maybe it’s for a reason. Maybe there’s something we need to change about what we’re doing. Each time we’ve gone the same way, right? We go a little different, but we take the same route through the tunnels, don’t we? What if there’s another route we should go through?”

    “I tried that,” 8 grumbled. “I died, in case you forgot.”

    “No, you still followed the chamber of bones,” 10 pointed out. “That’s the same route the rest of us took.”

    “Well the chamber of blood is too dangerous. It’s like, impossible.” Life 11 spoke up. She was excessively dramatic, and it made her memories unreliable. But 15 and 9 were nodding now too.

    “9 and I went that way,” 15 agreed. “There are too many monsters. It drains the strength from your body. Neither of us made it more than a little bit in.”

    “That leaves the chamber that none of us have tried,” Lauren insisted.

    “The chamber of souls,” 10 murmured.

    “Are you stupid?! All of us felt danger coming from that chamber!” 13 protested. “Souls are bad. What if we get trapped there?”

    “I have a theory.” Lauren took a deep breath. “The chamber of souls… it sounds different. Maybe it does something to people’s souls. But our soul is tied to this building. Maybe… maybe the chamber can’t hurt us. Maybe it repels us because we’re tied to one building, instead of having our souls run free. I just think… maybe our connection to this building will anchor us.”

    “And if you’re wrong?” 20 spoke quietly, her large, childish eyes boring into him with deep concern.

    Lauren took a deep breath, doing his best to look confident. “Then I die, and we’ll advise another life. But I have to try.”

    Life 21 took a deep breath. “Then we’ll all have to help you.” She looked around at the assembled lives, then back to Lauren. “Newlife, none of us know what lies in the third chamber. I have a feeling it will mess with your mind. You’ll need something to anchor you. We can’t show you where you’re going, but we can at least remind you where you came from. Each of us can give you a memory- something to hold on to.”

    Lauren nodded and then reached out, touching 21’s mirror. A brief surge of strength filled him, and he saw the shrine before him. Then he drew back, and the image vanished. He moved on, and touched the next mirror. Life 20 gave him a memory of the sun rising above the mountain. And so on. He touched each mirror, and each life gave him a memory. They were various images. Some were sounds, or sensations. Each were brief, and filled him with strength or joy. Finally, he reached 1’s mirror. Touching his fingertips to it, he felt her memory reaching out to him. She gave him the image of the temple of bones as it once had been- empty, waiting for the lives to fill it.

    Remember where you came from, her voice whispered in his head. We’re all with you.

    He stepped back, and looked around the room, breathing deeply. He was about to do something dangerous, but he felt strangely relaxed. Maybe it was because he was used to death. Or maybe it was because of all the memories. But most of all, he felt that if this risk payed off, the cycle would finally be broken, and their souls would be at peace. So he nodded to each of the lives.

    “Good luck, Newlife,” they chorused in turn.

    Lauren turned to face the door, and opened it. For a moment, light blinded him. Then he took a deep breath and stepped out, letting the door behind him swing shut, closing him off from the watching eyes of his past lives.

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