There were no more drawings. No more nightly visits. No more picking at my brain’s memories. Nill had decided to avoid me and I got two nights of uninterrupted sleep. Most likely it was cooling down its spinning white globe after I’d mentioned the Priest. I did find the same meal at the door each morning and midday, however. If you can call dry, blue-green algae cake a meal.
On the third night I couldn’t sleep. I struggled with thoughts of Aria and Kailo. Wondering where they might be. Had they given up, frustrated, unable to find me and left the Fade? Or were they hopelessly searching for me in the kelp forest?
Instead of sleeping, I sat beside the clear rill, which ran through the cave, and gazed into the water. Watching as it turned into a muddy brown creek. I saw a young boy dipping his net into the water, searching for the elusive rainbow fish. Watched the cave disappear only to be replaced with a straggly green marsh, tucked inside a forested vale. In the distance feral horses grazed and I could hear the voices of children. A hoydenish girl had managed to climb onto a massive old tree, which grew in the shallow watery marsh, and got herself entangled in its branches. A rush of fear ran through me as I sensed her entrapment, but she didn’t seem to mind, she just laughed as she turned to me and pointed to the sky. I looked up, squinting as a bright blue moon pierced the thinly overcast grey sky and slowly fell, till Nill appeared standing over me.
“Your memories are vivid. They resemble dreams with hints of veracity,” Nill said, almost annoyed with the revelation. “There are no such places, what I see in you can’t possibly exist.” Then considered. “How is it we are sharing similar images. You brought this moon into the image. Maybe my memories share such illusions with yours. Maybe you truly don’t belong here.”
I had no idea what to say to Nill. I knew there was commonality in the visions, but I couldn’t make sense of the purpose or the reason I was seeing these images.
“Who are you?” Nill said.
“I don’t know,” I replied, frustrated with the same answer. Nill stood there, staring at me with its floating head sphere. “I have flashes of memories; they’re familiar at times. Places I know from my past. Other times they’re only visions that are unfamiliar, but that’s all.”
“The Priest has Null’s reflection you know. You visited the Priest, you said you spoke. Did you see Null?”
Nill remained silent, contemplating. At least it wasn’t blasting me with its white laser beam.
“Maybe you speak the truth, maybe you don’t. But know this, the Priest helps only when the Priest gains. He will expect compensation for the information he gave you when you return.”
“He made no such demand, but… I remember him saying, ‘I will help. But you will help. And we will all get information.’ So, I’m not certain.”
“Maybe so, but Null made a deal with the Priest. Freedom to reflect came with a price. There is a room behind from where the Priest stands. A ceiled door. In the room you will find Null’s reflection.”
“I don’t understand, what’s Null doing in the room?”
“It’s a safe room, the Atlas cannot find what it cannot see.”
“It sounds like Null’s a prisoner,” I said.
“No, Null’s not a prisoner. They have an arrangement. Null is a seller of trinkets.”
“Null is a seller of objects, merchandise, working for the Priest. Null has committed to this and in exchange Null meets Travellers and traders. Discovering stories, collecting information from all who visit. Kept hidden, safe and the Atlas less aware. The Priest and Null share in this information.”
“The door was closed; I only met the Priest.” I tried to recollect what had been said when I had met the Priest. “He did promise, ‘Free me and my friend, and I will free you.’ Could that be Null?”
“Interesting,” Nill mused, “however, Null is not his friend. He has only one companion, and if that companion is missing from the Space Anomaly it can only mean one thing. No, correction, that’s an uncertain assumption, I can only guess.”
I waited for Nill to continue.
“Well, what is it?” I insisted.
“Not important now, but the images in your head of the moon plummeting and the giant tree with the girl are.” Nill’s white glob head was throbbing faster. I could almost feel its frustration. “Who is she?” I asked once again hoping Nill might hold the answer.
I waited for an answer as I was too afraid to admit who she might be. My heart was beating fast at the possibility. Although it was only an assumption. And a crazy one at that.
“It’s your dream, or your memory,” Nill said. “Only you can answer that.”
“I’m not certain.”
“But you know her, right?”
“I think I do.”
“Explain yourself,” Nill said.
“She must know, of course, but she doesn’t know where I am. How could she know.” I considered what the image of her might imply. “You have to let me go to her,” I said.
“You’re not going anywhere. I asked you if you were alone and you lied.” Nill’s voice grew menacing. “Who is she?” Again, the question.
It suddenly all made sense, these were no random hallucinations. There was intention, design and even a possible objective.
“She’s your only way out of here and if you don’t trust me on this, you’ll be stuck down here in this tomb of dead memories at the bottom of the sea drawing memoirs on these walls forever,” I replied looking as sternly as I could at Nill’s white bowl head pulsating.
I held my breath preparing to duck from another bolt, but nothing happened.
Nill’s silence allowed me to continue, “She will know what to do. She’ll be able to help you. These dreams, I think she knows I’m alive and she’s been trying to find me. I have to return to the island.”
“It’s not safe, the island is dangerous.”
“No, the centre of the island is safe. There’s a base and there is access to the sea from the crater. The death knolls can’t reach the centre of the island where the crater lake is, it’s protected. And during the day the whole island is safe. It’s no longer in perpetual darkness.”
“I can’t leave this place.”
“What do you mean you can’t leave this place. We’ll just get into those bubble things and the tentacle face creatures will pull us to the surface,” I explained.
“You don’t understand, I create the bubbles. And I can only do that from in here. I’m trapped. We’re both trapped.”
“Then we have to find a way to get you out of here.”
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder.