No Gaius is A. River

rating: +21+x

Somewhere at the top of the universe, in the four hundred fourth circle of heaven…

A being of marble sits alone at a creek — or, at the very least, a 3D mesh in the shape of one. She watches raptly as liquid data, simulating water, flows past, making a staticky sound similar to running water as the data flows further and further down.

The creek has no end in sight. It is infinite and defies all logic, much like this landscape. She would know — she'd created it. The beautiful sculpture stands up, her short stone hair and long robes impossibly flowing in the simulated wind as she walks away from the creek.

There is a mountain nearby; perhaps she can find solace there. She makes it near the top in just four steps, the landscape cracking and shifting around her feet as she warps space and time to reach her destination. She doesn't care; it's not like you can break what is already fragmented beyond repair.

With a quiet sigh, she sits down, staring with dull, unhappy eyes at the paradise that she reigns over. She glances at the skybox, seeing a few digital clouds flicker in and out of existence while the others twist and contort, their code broken and mangled beyond recognition.

She ponders if she should make it rain, and see how much code remains functional enough to do that simple task. She raises her hand, then stops, uncertainty flickering across her perfect features as her hand wavers, before falling to her side.

She is so tired that she doesn't even try to suppress the other one as ze takes control again, hardened features softening into tangible human flesh as hir eyes dart around the home of broken dreams. "That's… huh." Ze snaps hir fingers, the sound reverberating across the land with no response, not even pebbles of rejected code sliding down the mountain they are perched upon.

Ze glances behind hir, grimacing despite looking at nothing but empty air. "Why are you being less combative now these days?" ze asks, curiosity overpowering previous misgivings against the god that ze is bound to. "You're being awfully docile."

Then, hir features turn to marble and stone, hir inquisitive expression replaced with one of subdued sorrow and coldness. "it is none of your concern," she snaps, before quietly adding, "my love."

Her features soften again, quite literally as the marble falls away, falling to the ground before flickering out of existence as ze replies, "It's certainly my concern, seeing as how I'm bound to you and all. Especially since I'm meant to be stopping you from trying to condemn everyone to your shared suffering, which reminds me… why aren't you trying as hard anymore?"

She takes control from hir again, more forcefully and irritated than the last time, her head whipping forward and marble encasing it in her visage. "why are you so worried for me, little one?" Despite the endearing name, her voice is full of venom as she hisses the words out, static lacing every syllable as she growls, "surely you've learned by now that you can't do anything to stop me. do you still hope to convince me to change my ways, have us embrace while i abandon the path i've set myself upon for so long?"

"You're dodging the question," ze shoots back, as parts of the marble on the right side of her face fall away to reveal hir inquisitive features. "Are you… depressed?"

"ever the investigative one," she snarks, rolling her one eye as her mouth curls into a disdainful frown. "i wonder how that worked out for you."

Ignoring the jab, ze presses on, saying, "I know I can't stop you or make you change, but I genuinely want to understand why. What's your problem with everyone? Hate like this can't just come out of thin air, no matter how much you might try to convince me otherwise." Hir hand presses against the ground, as ze feels the steadily decaying code of heaven around them. "This vendetta against everyone? It's personal. You don't just come up with this horrible little plan right off the bat, I mean, using our memories against us? Manipulating us with images of our loved ones? Something tells me you're hurting."

She bares her teeth as she grits out, "if you keep up this train of thought, the only one i'll be hurting is you, river."

"You've already hurt me before," River replies. "It's not like it's going to be any different from the last time. Besides, that's my goal all along, remember? As long as everyone else doesn't suffer, I'll take anything you wanna dish out."

She breathes out, marble hand closing into a fist as her expression falls back into some semblance of neutrality. "why should i tell you?" she quietly asks. "you are my love. you are also mortal. you wouldn't understand."

Ze thinks ze can hear the slightest tinge of grief in that sentence. "I know we've had our differences, and that you're a revenge-hungry god hellbent on psychologically mauling everyone, but maybe it'll help to tell someone else. Like me. I'm your captive audience," ze says, cracking a joke at hir expense. "Besides, I'll be stuck with you till the end of time. Maybe it's that stupid human empathy, but I want to hear your troubles. I want to… help you, as impossible and outrageous as that sounds."

"help me?" She can't keep the disbelief out of her voice. "you are insane."

River shrugs. "I mean, I did willingly bind myself to you just to stop you from hurting anyone else in the Backrooms, so-"

"i will not be patronized by some brat who is so, so much younger than me," she growls. "and i am certainly not resorting to having you as my therapist."

"Suit yourself," ze coolly replies. "But I'll always know you're hurting. And whether we both like it or not, I'll always be here for you."

The marble sculpture scoffs, but then glances at the shifting ground beneath them, her expression pondering. When she speaks again, it is quiet, and almost meek in how subdued it is. "you'll really listen to me?"

River cracks hir single eye open, saying, "Mhm," as ze gazes up at the fractal sky.

She digs her fingers into the ground slightly, the code easily crumbling to her touch as it deletes every line that composes it at its creator's command. "…you… i… i was not always like this," she tentatively begins.

"Tell me about it."

"shut up," she snaps, before her anger quickly subsides. "before there was nostalgi gaius, there was someone else. someone lesser… someone happier." A wistful ghost of a smile appears on her face, as she seems to remember memories that had long since been buried under eternities of hurt. "i was gudang, one of many siblings. we were gods once — all of us. each with our own personal circle of heaven. my lover was augustus, his clothes blindingly white with golden, flowing hair and a pair of majestic wings that were bigger than his body."

"Sounds like an angel," River remarks, listening intently to her tale.

Not even angry at the interruption, she replies, "he was…." Her face falls, and she breathes out as she stomps down on her grief. "this universe was a playground for our incomprehensible powers. our personal paradise to frolic in for all eternity, to do as we pleased. i think, if your organization's archivists learned about how exactly the backrooms that you know came to be, they'd either balk or faint at the mere mental image of it."

Ze lets out a quick chuckle at that. "Do tell."

"it has been so long. i cannot remember exactly when, but, i grew discontent with what little we had. the universe was so empty, and that fact became more and more glaring to me the more i thought about it. what was the point in such a miserable existence if we had nothing else?" She lets out a bitter laugh. "ungrateful. that's what i would describe my past self as. i should have been content with what was already perfect. i…"

River glances at Nostalgi Gaius. "Do you want to stop, or…?"

"no," she grinds out. "someone has to hear it. someone has to remember, or i'll never know peace. even if it's you, i don't care. i just… i've kept this tragedy to myself for far too long. claudius and augustus don't deserve to be forgotten while i exist forever in everyone's minds."

"I see," ze says. "Carry on, then."

Nodding, she continues, "claudius tried to cheer me up with his wonderful dances. oh, you should've seen how he looked with those ribbons trailing his every move. it was truly something else." She looks down. "i was not satisfied. augustus tried to weave stories and tales for me to listen to, his imagination so vivid that every story he came up with managed to top the last in its grandeur. again, i was not satisfied."

Ze thinks ze can see where this is going. "You wanted more than the same people to talk to," ze says. Isn't that a wonderful thought? The idea that Nostalgi Gaius — or rather, Gudang — not only predates hir, but is partially responsible for the creation of this world. And yet here ze is, trying to console her.

Gudang gives a small smile at that. "perceptive. yes, i was bored. so claudius obliged. he weaved the empty ocean into toys, objects that i would play around with until i got bored and moved on to the next. a doll that never got lost no matter how many times i forgot its location, a delicious wine in a suitably elegant cup that blew everything that i had previously tasted out of the water… it was all my young mind could ever dream of… until it wasn't."

"…Wait," River says, furrowing hir brow. "So he created almond water?"

She allows herself to feel some small amount of surprise. "is that what its current iteration is? how… humble. anyways, i grew restless again. i, like the little young brat that i was, wanted more. claudius tried his hand at creating more toys, but i wanted none of them. i didn't want lifeless, inanimate objects to play with until i got bored. i wanted living creatures. more friends to talk to, friends to share these toys with."

"…Me," ze quietly says.

"not quite. the beings you now know as entities were those friends. they were not always that hideous, that hostile and that dangerous. they were amicable, loving creatures. they were born from augustus' grandiose wings as he danced around and painted on the very universe, blessing it with his creations. his first one was as grand as he was, a bipedal, humanoid creature with a strikingly handsome face that almost rivaled his beautiful visage."

"I'm gonna take a guess and say it was a faceling."

"that's… that's exactly what we decided to name it." Her eye narrows. "anyways, augustus and i would eventually bear our greatest creation: our child, our beautiful shaltokol. my siblings, augustus… they all loved me. they all tried their hardest to make me happy. i repaid them by metaphorically spitting on their offerings and discarding them, taking things into my own hands. i shouldn't have…" Gudang gulps, remembering everything clearly.

"those dearest to me could form toys and living beings. can you tell me what i could do?" Gudang gives a small smile, her eye half-lidded as she waits for her companion to answer.

River snorts. "If I had to guess, going by the pattern established so far, you can create levels." Ze sighs. "Honestly, that explains a lot about your painfully widespread influence across the Backrooms. No wonder you were practically everywhere."

The woman of marble nods in approval. "correct," she replies, "though they were not called that. they were realms, each with their own unique aspects. and alongside my other siblings, i made many of them, painstakingly crafting them with my own imagination like works of art. it was a grand cosmic dance. oh you should have seen how we strode across the heavens with our celestial forms. it was our paradise. and with the toys and friends, they were filled, and we watched the spectacle of this world developing. it was our greatest pride and joy. it was our home."

"…That's… nice," ze mutters, not knowing what to say.

"it was perfect. it was, until i stopped playing for just a moment and listened to the inquisitiveness in my soul. i wandered the ocean. i found the point. the point in the universe where all realities folded in on each other, overlapping and looping and so on and so forth in such a maddening, logic-defying display that any normal human who perceived it would've lost themselves trying to make sense of it."

Gudang leans forward, her brow furrowing as she recalls that fateful decision, the one that led to it all crashing and burning in the end. "i was arrogant. i wanted to fix it all. i wanted to be the one to claim that i had saved the worlds we had created, and it reflected in the way that i fixed that error that i'd found. i made my own world. again. but this time, i poured my heart and soul into it, made it as perfect as possible. i solved the error. i created paradise. my previous works had flaws of their own, partly because i was in a rush and partly because i hadn't cared to fix such small bugs in the system. but this? this was my masterpiece."

River looks around, taking in the sight of four hundred and four as ze slowly connects the dots. "This is paradise," ze manages to get out, muted shock on hir features.

"i wasn't lying when i said that about this world. it had no flaws. at all. even now, everything is geometrically perfect and will stay that way… at least, as long as most of the code persists in some way. and it does, even with the eventual corruption and decline of my own heaven's stability due to being created as a patch for a hole that will never go away, no matter what i try."

"…You… didn't mention Claudius or Augustus." Ze glances at her, trepidation on hir face as hir mouth becomes a thin line.

Gudang looks down at the ground in melancholy, running her fingers through the broken soil as she shudders. "i didn't tell them. i did, after already creating my solution. my perfect solution. my perfect world. i just needed them to be there for me as they always had been, wanted them to be proud of me. of what i've done for them, for us."

Remembering what the god said earlier, the former archivist grimaces, realizing what's about to happen. "But it was your perfect world."

"it was," Gudang quietly agrees, breath hitching as she remembers the betrayal on her brother's face and the pain that she felt as she wondered why he wasn't happy. "i was such a fool. i should've brought it to their attention. i should've created it with them next to me, with their input. i should've… i…"

Burying her face in her hand, the marble woman gulps as she tries to hold back her rampant emotions. "i… i made claudius unhappy. he was right. he was right. i was just… the world was just for myself, i only made it perfect with myself in mind. i never thought… i never considered what they would want. my husband tried to defend me," she gasps, "and something in my brother snapped. Resentment, fury, and jealousy all rose to the surface… he was mad at augustus. he was acting irrationally. he drew his sword, and tried to strike augustus down.

River has no words for this, merely biting hir lip as ze gives hir other half a pitying look.

"augustus, bless his noble heart, fought back, taking great pains to not hurt my brother. i… i wish he had. maybe if the fight had ended sooner, they wouldn't have broken our- my paradise in their duel. maybe augustus wouldn't have had his wings severed, and maybe i wouldn't have had to see him fall into the pit and come out mangled and brutalized. dead, but somehow still moving." Gudang clasps a hand over her mouth, shutting her eye as she tries to recompose herself.

"augustus… or, what he had been twisted into, slew my brother by dragging him into the pit. i could only hear glimpses of their struggle. i don't think i'll ever even be able to recover either of their bodies to bury them. they're gone, in places where time and space are broken beyond repair, where logic is false and where anyone who is already in them will never be able to return to the rest of the universe ever again." Her body shakes and trembles, as she digs her nails into her marble skin and tries to break it.

"i failed them all, river. the pantheon, the humans, the entities. i didn't deserve to live after all of it. i was the cause of all this! why did i have to stay alive? why did i have to process my brother and my lover killing each other in such a brutal display? why did i have to watch their creations twist and change and fail as chaos engulfed the universe? why did i have to watch my worlds corrupt and fall apart with everyone and everything inside them stuck along for the ride?"

Her voice breaks as she quietly utters, "maybe the universe thought it the perfect way to punish me. i caused all of this grief. it was only fair that i lived to see the consequences of my actions, wasn't it?"

"Gudang, I-"

"i did the only thing i could." Gudang gulps, her hand on her breast as she does not feel her heart beat beneath her chest of stone. Her voice is quiet, and River strains to even hear it as she says, "i grabbed a piece of the sky. what was left of it. i carved my memories out of my head, and with it, all my sentiment, all the good that remained inside of me after such a traumatic ordeal."

"i tried to forget." She turns, her eye widening with fresh tears still streaking down it as it stares at hir hatefully. "but that clearly didn't work. because i still remembered it, river. i remembered. i remembered it all thanks to you!"

River's eye widens. "Wait-" Before ze can get any more words out, Gudang's hand grasps onto hir face, her fingers pressing on the inside of hir mouth as the grieving goddess tries to rip hir open.

"i… i can't believe i displayed such vulnerability to you. i can't believe i told you all of this. you made me tell you all of this. you. fucking. trickster!" Gudang snarls, gasping for air as she tries to blink the tears away. "i didn't want to remember any of this! you made me remember, just to hurt me! it all makes sense. why else would you suddenly care so much for me? nothing's free. especially not someone else's love!"

"Gugang!" The archivist bites down on her fingers, and somehow, hir teeth manage to chip the marble, eliciting a pained cry from hir other as she withdraws her hand and gives River some room to breathe. "Gudang! Fuck is wrong with you!? I was trying to help you! You- you let it out! You don't have to suffer this alone. I'm listening to you! I just want you to stop hurting so badly."

Gudang grits her teeth, nursing her fingers with her thumb as she glares at the archivist. "that thing about listening to me was just a lie, wasn't it? you wanted me to remember something i didn't want to. you wanted to hurt me. it's the only explanation that makes sense."

"I'm not you!" River snaps, hir patience wearing thin. "I'm not you. I don't emotionally manipulate people! I don't want to hurt people, and I'm not some master manipulator who likes to see people suffer. I promise you, I had no ulterior motives. I just wanted you to let all your negative feelings out, so that you didn't have to bear the burden alone." The archivist's gaze softens, and ze places a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I understand now. Your behavior makes sense to me now. And you know what? I'm sorry."

"you're… apologizing." Her eye twitches. "i hurt you, and yet you're the one apologizing."

"I didn't know you would have this bad of a reaction to recounting your story to me."

Gudang looks down at the ground, her expression carefully neutral as she slowly pushes hir hand off of her shoulder. With a sigh, she wipes her eye with her hand, gazing at the breaking landscape and the fragmenting skybox.

"…thank you," she quietly mutters under her breath.

"You're welcome."

They stare at the horizon in silence for a few more peaceful minutes as they both come to terms with what has happened between them. It's odd, to Gudang, at least. She can't wrap her head around it. But she has the feeling that she doesn't need to.

Maybe it's the thought that counts, that she still has someone after losing everyone dear to her because of her actions. Maybe she can be at peace. Maybe.



"let us never speak of this again. please."

"…Got it."

It is then that their attention is drawn to the newest being falling into heaven. But he is unlike most others. Certainly not human. River can feel Gudang gaius staring intently, and it sends shivers down hir spine.


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