Light and Darkness met, as was their wont, at dawn.

Light was effusive, ebullient, cheerful. It brought out the beauty in things, warmed others with its presence. But it was also guileless, intrusive, penetrating. It could not understand those that were not like it, and its radiance knew not tact nor diplomacy.

Darkness was grim, restrained, dour. It masked imperfections, brought all to equality, knew subtlety and grace. But it was also cold, aloof, decietful. It could not understand those that were outgoing, and its cloak of shadows hid both the shy and the evil.

They were lovers as much as they were opposites. Their first child, Sunrise, took after her mother. She warmed and nourished even as she was gentle and tactful with the shadows she rolled back. Their second child, Sunset, took after his father. He cloaked the weak and fearful even as he allowed those with sunnier dispositions time to wind themselves down into sleep.

Theirs was an affair of opposites who could never quite get along. Light and Darkness would always quarrel when they met, but in the presence of their precious children they could, briefly, find in themselves the love and mutual respect that they had always carried.

In time, they bore a third child, Eclipse. It was Eclipse who inherited the transience of shadow from Darkness but the bursting speed from Light. It was Eclipse that had Darkness’s retiring nature but Light’s showmanship. It was Eclipse alone that could bring the parents together at midday or midnight. It was Eclipse alone that renewed their quarrels and exacerbated them.

It was Eclipse alone that could bring about the end of their world.

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The shades–perhaps they should be capitalized Shades, given their ubiquity–relayed a dizzying amount of data to his eyes. Compass directions, friend codes of passersby, a GPS line leading to the last destination he’d forgotten to clear. Billboards and paper with a special reactive coating appeared animated through the shades, piping their accompanying musical jingles into his earphones. There were blips on the compass that corresponded to sponsors–fast food places, mostly–and the occasional augmented reality pop-up that was projected in the shades as if it were a living person (albeit one that could disobey the laws of gravity and space).

It was too much, right now. He hated the shades at the best of times, but they were necessary tools of modern life and they corrected his astigmatism for free–a real pair of ground-glass lenses, ad and augmented reality free, would have cost thousands of credits that he simply didn’t have. He pulled his shades off, wincing at how blurry and bright the world was without them. But he wasn’t trying to find fast food or the nearest organic food store.

He was trying to find the girl who had floated into the city from the hilltop park.

Acting like a piece of augmented reality, and yet being visible without the shades…it was intriguing, maddening, enticing. But he’d lost sight of her in the warren of shops and eateries that surrounded the green space. No one else had noticed, no one else was looking so desperately skyward. If they’d seen her, she’d been dismissed as just another ad.

Misty rain began to fall, blurring his vision still further as he wandered among the steel and glow of a city alight with information and yet desperately empty. People walked by singly, eyes focused to infinity behind their shades or looking down at a more sophisticated digital device. It was liberating, he thought, to look up for once outside of the bubble presented by the park. But he feared that he’d lost–or worse, hallucinated from the very start–the girl in white.

But there was a flash of pure prismatic colorlessness in an alley he passed, and there she was. Serene against the sky, pinched between two buildings, twenty feet off the ground. The neon light of the city and its hurrying people below cast itself on the girl’s dress, while a stiff breeze kept the fabric billowing behind her.

She seemed to notice him as he shyly approached, but also seemed to be looking through him, as if distracted by shades that she was not wearing.

“H…how are you doing that?” he whispered.

Her voice was soft, melodious, sad. “I don’t know.”

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It seemed the more bright and neon and wireless the world got, the greater the distance was between ordinary people.

There was a park bench that offered a good view of downtown, from the skyscrapers to the bright channels of red and amber flowing about them like titanic jugulars. He’d sometimes come there on warm summer nights to linger and look, a speck among specks, with everything that had an off switch silent and cold.

He liked the park because it was safe, regularly patrolled by the expensive kind of Department of Public Safety drones, the ones that had a real person behind them instead of a computer program. There weren’t many augmented reality pop-ups either–the programs that appeared to walk in the real world but existed only in his shades. If he hadn’t needed them for GPS and vision correction, he’d have done away with them altogether–being accosted by the insubstantial and the unreal was a stiff price to pay in order to cut down the monthly fee.

At this distance from the city, though, there was nothing but silence, light, and motion. It was profoundly lonely, profoundly disconnecting, but profoundly beautiful. The speck among specks preferred that kind of solitude to being alone in a crowd downtown. Ordinarily he was alone in doing so, with only a few dog-walking drones and DPS UAVs for company.

This time, though, someone else wandered into view below him on the gentle incline of the park slope a few hundred yards away. Without the shades she’d have been a blob of colors in motion, but with them she was clear as a bell: tall and slim, hair so light as to be practically pearlescent in the moonlight, wearing what might have been a slip or a formal dress. Even though a pair of heels was clasped in one of her hands, she was still walking on tiptoes.

It was a comforting sight, a little bit of humanity peeking through the mess of concrete, steel, and lightwaves. He noted with some pleasure that the girl seemed to be looking out on the city much as he was. She was still a million miles away–the city papers were full of people being maced and arrested for saying “hello” in the wrong way–but the mere sight, the mere thought, was a comfort.

Then, as he watched, the girl slipped free of the pull of gravity and began to float heavenward, dress billowing and arms spread. He pulled off the shades in amazement, but the blur of ascending light remained–she wasn’t augmented reality, at least not of any type he’d ever encountered before.

That shouldn’t be possible
he thought, shaken. Even in this age of UAVs and drones, things needed wings or fans or something to fly. He felt a sense of eerie beauty and maddening confusion wash over him, perhaps the strongest feeling he’d felt in many long, lonely, and dour months.

An even stronger feeling came next: he had to follow her.

Inspired by this song and image.

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I know what it is like to be alone, without identity, without family, without memory. I am Sigma Albion, and I don’t know what, or who, I truely am. My life before the age of ten is a gaping void, with only a dim, dreamlike recollection of burning flames and the name ‘Sigma’ known to me.

I awoke near the a great city, dirty, naked, and alone–resorting to petty thievery to survive. Caught by the guardswhile stealing a bread loaf, I was taken to the town orphanage. There I met Helma Albion, the nurse who is my first recollection of kindness in this bleak world. She cared for me so tenderly that I often imagined her as my mother, or as my mother must have been. I remained at the orphanage for five years, until the elderly Helma died.

I struck out on my own, under cover of darkness, determined to carve a place for myself in the world, and taking the old woman’s family name as my own as a reminder that compassion does exist. I was unprepared for the rigors of travel, however, and nearly met my end at the hands of bandits. A guard patrol came to my aid, and I remained in the area for three years. I trained vigorously under the captain of the guard there, determined to be able to protect myself from the dangers that the open road holds.

I set off the night before I was to be officially initiated into the local guard. A rumor had come to the barracks, telling of a similar case of lost identity. However, the person had vanished by the time I reached the city, and I once more found myself dominated by others–not through steel this time, but through a honeyed tongue. I became a bounty hunter, chasing down those my ‘master’ convinced me were standing in my way. My final mission was to track a pair of thieves who had robbed a nobleman. It wasn’t easy, but I finally cornered Nyla Corvus and Jinx Galien after a month of pursuit. Nyla’s uncle, Miller, intervened. He stood, unarmed between my cowering marks and I. “Would you truly reward one injustice with another?” he asked.