The watcher had just passed middle age when it felt it for the first time, a little breath of cold as it passed by just out of reach. It was the first cold the watcher had felt in the millions of years since its coalescence.
Time moved along, balls of mud and gas spinning in their orbits, the cold touch a long-forgotten memory. The small life-things still clung to one of the balls of mud, taking hesitant steps toward their brothers. The watcher continued its silent vigil.
Then, again, the cold breath blew into its heart. Stronger this time, and the watcher could feel its claws as it passed. A black icy bird, with a sharp beak and razor-sharp talons. Moving through the darkness like quicksilver.
The watcher could only sit, as it had for eons. And that was when it knew the cold would spell the end. It saw everything--how far the tiny life-things could go. How slowly they moved. They could never escape the watcher's eye, and that would be their doom.
The black bird-thing came more often, then, each blast of cold air dampening the watcher's own brightness. And one day, it did not turn away as it flew by. It dove into the heart of the watcher.
A screech of... thankfulness?
The cold claws, scratching through the watcher's body. A pain in the watcher's heart.
The fire is dying...
The little life-things, moving quickly now. Do they see the black thing? Do they know the watcher's end is near?
An icy claw reaches the heart. The claw tears it out and feeds it to the beak.
Inconceivable pain. The watcher makes one final effort, surging toward the black thing in its heart.
Light flares. The small life-things move faster, but there is nothing they can do.
In an instant, there are no more balls of mud and gas, and no more life-things to cling to them. There is no more black bird-thing.
There is only the watcher, everywhere screaming in pain.
And then, after a time, there is only silence--and the echo of the watcher's death throes, spreading outward, to its brothers.
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 3 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Jason Snell.