Where wild minds come to rest
The young woman woke up, her eyes opening up to a scenery quite different from the one she was in mere seconds before.
"Are you all right?" asked another female voice. She looked up. The two had never seen each other before, but it was obvious that this one had been there for much longer. "Not a nice trip, was it?"
The newcomer sat down, still trying to understand what was happening. "Who... Who are you? Where are we?"
"My name is Ima. I don't really know what this place is, but Seeker calls it the "Domain". Who knows what that means."
A deep, hollow voice suddenly echoed. "Another has touched the entry point. This one is different. Protocol demands introduction."
A mass of black smoke appeared before them. It began to compress and spin in a vortex, becoming ever denser and more detailed, until it revealed the form of a man who bore an unsettling resemblance to him.
"Welcome, Witness." he addressed her in a mechanical voice. "I am Module 06, codename Seeker. I am tasked with the verification of all the information that passes through here, as well as ensuring the reliability of all records. I assume you have questions?"
"What is this place? How did I end up here?" she asked, even more confused than before. "What's going on?"
"Hey, calm down." said Ima, putting her hand on her shoulder. "If something big is going to happen, we have to stay focused."
"Your disorientation is understandable, Witness. Unlike the Revealer here, you were not warned nor prepared. We are within the Domain, the high-level aspect of Main's mind, where all things are given name and form when they need it. Your presence here is necessary to restore this system to a working state."
"Main's mind? Working state? What are you talking about?"
"Seeker, I've been stuck here for months and you've never even shown yourself until now. I think you owe me some answers." said Ima.
"My vagueness was necessary, Revealer. Knowing the purpose of your presence here would only have been a burden. But now that a Witness is here, the time has come."
"The time for what?" asked the Witness.
"It won't be long before the rogue notices your arrival. We must move. Both of you, follow me. I will explain along the way."
They had been walking for a while, but there was no way to tell how far they had gone. The landscape looked the same in all directions. It was dark and desolated. The ground was covered in ash, and embers moved in the air all around them, driven by a wind they could not feel. A distant, faint sun offered no warmth. It was as if a volcano blast had destroyed everything there, or a devastating battle had taken place long ago. It was unnaturally cold. Ima had managed to somewhat steel herself against it, but the Witness had not. She could feel it.
Seeker's lengthy explanations had left both of them confused, but visibly troubled, and no one had said anything in a while, leaving a maddening silence interrupted only by their footsteps.
Ima broke that silence. "I never even imagined anything like this. I just don't understand why he never told me about it."
"Main underestimated the rising threat of the rogue. At the time, it was believed to be a functional module, an enhancement. When I attempted to investigate, I kept being denied access. The infestation was already underway. You would not have understood at the time, and when Main realized what danger you had been exposed to, it was too late. Exile was the only way to protect you from the rogue's schemes."
"I don't know if you can understand this, but..."
"You suspect that committing to such sacrifice may have taken a negligible toll on him. Look around you, Revealer, and have those doubts silenced. The Domain was once a monument to the wonders built in your name."
"So where do I fit in all of this?" asked the Witness, still unable to figure out her role in Main's story. "I barely knew him at all."
"In time, the rogue-"
Seeker was interrupted by a dark, booming, disembodied roar.
"It has found us. Stay behind me and do not be fooled." ordered Seeker as he manifested more black smoke and shaped it into a blade.
A menacing void suddenly appeared in front of them. Ima and the Witness could feel a bone-chilling darkness threatening them, far worse than the coldness of the Domain.
That void retreated and dissipated, revealing what seemed to be him.
"Would you look at that!" said the apparition, in his voice, looking directly at the Witness and smiling. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting for you to show up."
The look in those eyes combined with that smile made her feel as if an invisible hand was slowly gripping her throat.