A considerable time later, Kevin was breathing heavily, climbing this spiral staircase for what seemed like an eternity. The white walls surrounding him were his only companion, no windows to look out of, and no indication of how high he was, or how much further there was to go. He continued trudging up, stopping occasionally to rest, but never for too long. Just when it seemed that all meaning of time and distance had been lost, he came upon a white door. It was smooth and plastic-like, similar to the doors in the Reality Refinery, although square, and with a single square white light in the center. It had no obvious means of opening, handles, knobs, or panels, so he instead raised a hand to knock. Before it impacted, the door slid open, revealing a tall woman, about Kevin's height. She was wearing a hyperbolic three-cornered hat, and long, flowing orange-white robes.
"Hello Kevin from New York City," she said, "and welcome to the Meta-Reality Temple."
"Uh, hi?" Kevin said, taken aback by not having to introduce himself. "Thanks, it... well... took a while to get here." He took another deep breath from the climb.
"It did indeed," the woman said, "I understand you are looking for a way home?"
"Yes! I am!" Kevin said, "can you send me back?"
"Not from here," she said, "but I can provide you with guidance."
"Thanks!" Kevin said.
"Follow me," she said, turning around and motioning to Kevin.
The two of them walked into a grand hall, white columns reaching into infinity above from the marble floor below.
"Nice place," Kevin said.
"Oh, you should see the rest of it," the woman said.
They walked further along, until the columns faded, and they walked along a white plain of snow. Drifts of snowflakes flew past in the wind, obscuring the direction ahead.
They came upon a wooden bridge, appearing to be on the peak of a mountain, leading into the unseen fog of snow.
"This way to the information you seek," the woman said, walking along the icy bridge.
"This is slippery!" Kevin said, "I don't want to fall down, is there a better way to go?"
"Oh no," the woman said, "and there is no such thing as down, so you are completely fine."
Kevin looked back and noticed that the bridge had rotated 180 degrees, so that the mountain was now facing upwards into an unseen sky, only the whiteness of snow below. He nervously got back to walking along the bridge, trying not to look down.
They approached the end of the bridge, as a great double-door stood in front of them. It was easily three stories tall, and made of solid stone, snow and ice etched into it from countless years.
The woman crossed her hands and hit the door, as it swung open to reveal a pond, with a starry sky above, nothing but an infinite dark-blue plane stretching out around it.
"Here is the Pool of Reflections," the woman said, "it is the place where you can see your true nature, your origin, and your future."
"Okay, sounds like it's worth a shot," Kevin said.
"Of course, if you may step inside," the woman said.
Kevin nodded his head, and stepped inside, the great doors closing behind him.
Suddenly, he felt a change, almost as if he was his old self again, before all this nonsense of traipsing across the multiverse began. Before he met that weird Fred guy and fell off a cliff. Before he had to think inside a box and was chased by aliens into a poem. Before he met those who forged universes and took trains across infinite seas. Before he died, and died again, and escaped from an afterlife where he had never meant to be. Before he saw where fiction became real, and traded goodwill for a ride away. Before a reality creator tried to convince him to stay in this strange place, and before he climbed across countless realities (and stairs) to finally get some answers.
He felt his pocket, his wallet was in there, he knew his MTA card and probably a twenty or two was waiting. He felt his shoes, the ones which had walked over countless sidewalks and gum-filled subway platforms. He knew he'd be getting hungry soon, and would probably want a cup of coffee or two to go with it. He felt his adventure was almost over.
"To find the answers you seek, you must reach into the Pool, and look into the water," the woman said, motioning for Kevin to do the same.
"Okay, let's see where I'm from..." Kevin said, reaching his hand into the water, and grabbing a small amount in his palm. He studied it carefully, ready for the secrets of the multiverse to unfold. And saw...
"Um... I don't think this is working," Kevin said, seeing nothing but ordinary-looking water.
"It is working perfectly,
" the woman said.
"Shouldn't I see some visions, or well, anything?"
"Not if the answer you seek," the woman said, "is
"What?" Kevin said, not entirely sure what she had said, if she had said anything at all.
"Hmm... let me explain," she said, "you see nothing in the water, as you are nothing
. You are an Ex Nihilo creation of the multiverse. Created from nothingness with all your memories and experiences intact. You are a child of nothing, and as such have no past, present, or future."
"What?" Kevin said, "that can't be possible, I know who I am!"
"Then who are you?" the woman said.
"I'm Kevin, uh, Kevin..." he said, pulling out his wallet. He found his driver's license, which said:
New York City
Defining Traits: None
"But... but.. this must be a trick!" Kevin said, now feeling panicked, quite possibly the most since starting his journey. "I can't not have a home, I can't not be... real."
"You are what you are, and the sooner you realize that," the woman said, "the more found you will be."
"But... it's... not... possible..." Kevin said, dropping the wallet on the dark-blue plane they stood upon, "I'm...
Get Carried out of the Temple