The Man at the Threshold
rating: +41+x

TO: O5-1
FROM: O5-12
RE: the end
URGENCY: HIGH

I hope this gets through. If you're like me, seeing things on the BBC and the New York Times before getting briefed on them by staff is doing a number on you.

It's over. The only thing left is to tell you what I know.

Two is dead. We only know that because she told us herself. Nice of her to leave a note, I guess. I've established contact with Three, Seven and Thirteen. The rest, who knows. There aren't any protocols for something like this.

The best we can tell is that they put on a performance.

THE MAN AT THE THRESHOLD

Act One - Thirty-Five Years

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

0943 hours local time - disturbance in the vicinity of Giza Plateau, Egypt. Egyptian military mobilized in response to apparent mass gathering in front of the Great Sphinx, based on initial intelligence of a Muslim Brotherhood action. Embedded media present. Massive information leak of anomalous phenomena.

0947 hours local time - spontaneous, powerful sandstorm encircling an approximately 100 km radius of the Great Sphinx. A battalion of the Egyptian Army is present to witness the performance. Four humanoids, appearing to be Semitic in appearance and clothed simply in white cloth and sandals, appear spontaneously at the scene as well. Several rounds discharged by soldiers present suggest that the humanoids are non-corporeal. The as-yet unidentified beings take no notice of any actions occurring around them.

PROTEUS
I hope that I'm not being improper when I say that I'm scared.

MELLITA
We're all scared, Proteus. This is the day that our cohort has been preparing for our entire lives.

PROTEUS
Three of us will be chosen. Have we made enough of our time here? Will it comfort us if we are cast outside?

AGUS
Just look at the things we've done together. We've mapped an unknown star system. Wrote a song that made us the heroes of the Summer Convocation. Scaled the Shadow Pass of the Mountain of Ice. I tell you, Proteus, if they cast me out today, I can say that no matter what comes after, it was all worth it.

PROTEUS
I hope to be as brave as you when I enter the chamber.

MONASHIR
All accept what they are given in the Threshold.

MELLITA
How could it be otherwise?

AGUS
How could it be otherwise?

1017 hours local time - sandstorm intensifies briefly, obscuring all vision in the local area, before immediately subsiding. When visibility is reestablished, no anomalous humanoids are present. However, the Great Sphinx has been removed, replaced with a blue-light holographic projection, in the appearance of the Sphinx and of approximately the same size, with no discernible source. Numerous photographic and videographic records are taken and circulated. Existential threat to consensus reality in progress.

ACT ONE

SCENE TWO

1143 hours local time - darkness falls midday in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. No evidence of a solar eclipse, cloud cover or any other possible cause of such conditions is apparent. Nine moons appear to be visible in the night sky. Riots begin almost immediately, and messages proclaiming the end times begin to be broadcast over PA systems attached to several local mosques. Images corresponding to the four humanoids appearing at the Great Sphinx are projected via an unknown source onto the side of the Mogamma building, visible to all within the square. Activity stops as sound begins to accompany the images.

THE MAN
This set of four, born on this day thirty-five years past, are you ready to enter?

MELLITA, AGUS, MONASHIR
We are.

PROTEUS
We are.

THE MAN
Do you see, as it has been intended, how even those cast into exile may have a taste of our beautiful world, and how those that remain have shared the shadow of death with those that must take their leave now?

MELLITA, AGUS, MONASHIR
We do.

PROTEUS
We do.

THE MAN
Look then, out at this world. On this day, this is the Threshold. This is the place where human society is made. It is here that the salvation of the few, so great in its perfection, so sacred in its magnificent beauty, is earned by the fate of the many. It is they who will make the ultimate sacrifice, and they who deserve our love and our honor most of all. Do you choose to pass the Threshold, of your own volition?

MELLITA, AGUS, MONASHIR
We do.

PROTEUS
We do.

THE MAN
Mellita Snowfall of the Shadow Peaks, step forward.

MELLITA
I stand ready.

THE MAN
You shall dwell on the Planet of Eyes.

MELLITA
I…I accept my duty.

THE MAN
Agus Skysail, Third Denizen of the Watch Cliffs, you shall be taken to the Planet of Skin.

AGUS
I accept my duty.
(AGUS appears to stumble slightly, close to fainting)

THE MAN
Monashir Violetlight, the Lady of the Tower.

MONASHIR
I stand ready.

THE MAN
You shall remain. Remember always the great love of your departed sisters and brothers, now and forevermore.

MONASHIR
I shall.
(MONASHIR begins to weep)

THE MAN
Proteus Hammersmith the Wayfinder.

PROTEUS
I stand ready.
(PROTEUS trembles)

THE MAN
You are to come to the Planet of Hands.

1232 hours local time - upon concluding with the above dialogue, daylight returns to Tahrir Square. Of the estimated 10,000 people gathered in the square, several thousand spontaneously lose vision, and several hundred appear to be instantaneously flayed alive through unknown means. All other persons present in the square no longer have hands after the conclusion of the anomalous display, instead having completely healed stumps. Regional news networks, in particular Al-Jazeera, begin to run coverage despite attempts at coordinated interference with dissemination of information.

All nations have put their militaries on high alert, and a few look to have already taken the opportunity to settle a few scores in the confusion. That's the only thing that makes sense now, really. What do they think they're mobilizing against? A way to look like they're doing something, anyway.

The churches, mosques, synagogues, etc. are overflowing. The Abrahamic folks are convinced that judgment is at hand. Everyone else just sort of figures that we're all fucked. The first reports of murder-suicides are coming in. Not as many as we might have expected, though. People have options. 001 made sure to let them know that.

Act Two - The Traveler Prepares

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

1521 hours local time - reports emerge from Beijing of the embalmed corpse of Mao Zedong ambulating under its own power from its mausoleum and into Tiananmen Square. Visual confirmation emerges on Xinhua news service outlets several minutes later. An anomalous humanoid projection, similar to that seen in the part of "Proteus" in the Cairo disturbance, appears in the middle of the square alongside the corpse of Mao, which appears to have assumed the role of The Man.

THE MAN
There's no sense in lingering. We all have our appointed places.

PROTEUS
But there's simply no sense in it! Our world is immense, our use of its resources efficient and wise. Surely none of us must live in exile.

THE MAN
Problems of the far future become the problems of tomorrow for a race that has no end to its days.

PROTEUS
There must be a way to manage it. If all women and men live for as long as they care to, we must have no need for births. What purpose the creation of life if it is to suffer?

THE MAN
I have had this duty for a very long time, my friend. These are not new questions. And my answers are not new. Our kind ascended when we understood the true nature of ourselves. We must always be able to create new life. Our minds, subtly interconnected through the air and through the dreamscape, turn dark and destructive when the act of creation is taken from us.

PROTEUS
What of suffering? What of the cruelty that lives on our nine moons?

THE MAN
Suffering? Yes, there is suffering. It must be so. And we must know of it, taste of it, build our houses upon its foundations. As life preys on life, so does human enterprise need vast inputs of suffering. It binds us together. The knowledge that there are others that cannot have what we have built affects us deeply. It is a cornerstone in our souls. That is something we discovered a very long time ago. It is vital. And it was this discovery that paved the way to Heaven's gate.

THE MAN
But cruelty? No. We do not do these things because we wish to cause pain. We do it for those that remain in the wondrous society that we have built. We have given beauty and truth without end to those that are chosen. If even one person may taste of the infinite good, is that not worth any amount of finite suffering?

PROTEUS
But why must it be I who pays the price?

THE MAN
My friend. Come with me. I shall escort you.

1559 hours local time - upon conclusion of the anomalous occurrence, crowds in Tiananmen Square become highly agitated, tearing apart the corpse of Mao Zedong and resisting an assembled cordon of riot police. Leaders of major world governments have begun issuing statements urging for calm among their populations as scientists struggle to explain the occurrences in Cairo and Beijing. Thousands are reported to have died in civil unrest in population centers throughout the world.

ACT TWO

SCENE TWO

1610 hours local time - the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, China, spontaneously disappears. The immense volume of water being held back by the dam previously does not move. Within minutes, helicopters operated by local emergency authorities are on the scene. Humanoid projections appear on the vast surface of the wall of water.

PROTEUS
What is this place?

THE MAN
Do you see our planet in the sky, that wondrous blue sphere? You are on the Planet of Hands, my companion.

PROTEUS
I don't understand. It looks like it has been on fire. Buildings, rubble.

THE MAN
There was a time when we merely exiled those whose duty was to come here. They built their own societies, in a fashion. They were driven by what they could not have, their slender hope twisted into a sort of vengeance upon their children at the center of this great constellation. They built great structures, vast ships, terrible weapons. The uprisings happened many, many millennia ago. The last conflict our humanity will ever have to face. Now, it's a simple matter to ensure that this never happens again. No perverse hope to tempt anyone into foolish destruction.

PROTEUS
By taking away our hands.

THE MAN
By taking away your hands. The mindset of a planet of those without hands is the proper one, for all of us.

PROTEUS
Where is everyone?

THE MAN
Come.

1632 hours local time - the waters of the Yangtze River are released, causing massive flooding, widespread destruction of homes and property, and thousands of deaths along the area of the river's banks. The destruction further inflames instability in the People's Republic of China, and the country's ruling Communist Party is overthrown in a popular uprising within a matter of hours after this event.

It's all come apart, One. Everything that we've worked for. Crushed in a matter of hours. And the only thing holding them all together, keeping things from being even worse than they are right now, is one idea.

Going home. Wherever home happens to be.

Act Three - To the People of Earth

ACT THREE

SCENE ONE

2301 hours local time - all notable buildings within the Capitol Mall region of Washington D.C. change coloration, from white to red. The Washington Monument emits a bright column of red light, stretching up into the sky and visible from hundreds of miles away. Ten meter-tall holographic projections of several humanoids, similar to those previously depicted, appear directly over the monument's reflecting pool.

PROTEUS
We have traveled many miles.

THE MAN
The Planet of Hands is vast. But look. We have another.

HANDLESS WOMAN
More people? I must be close to the blessed end.

PROTEUS
Who are you?

HANDLESS WOMAN
I no longer have a name. We have no need for such things here.

PROTEUS
Do you remember your home?

HANDLESS WOMAN
This is my home.

PROTEUS
I mean the place you came from, to here.

HANDLESS WOMAN
I remember a time when I wasn't starving. But that was a long time ago. It's difficult to recall.

PROTEUS
Your ribs are showing. Would you like me to find some food for you?

HANDLESS WOMAN
There's nothing to find. This is a place of ash and salt. But the hunger is a blessing. My mind feels clear, my being so light and clean. God speaks to me here. He tells me to lift my stumps to the blue light in the sky, and so I do. And I pray, and I am filled with the knowledge that I am here for a purpose, I am suffused with happiness.

PROTEUS
This place makes you happy?

HANDLESS WOMAN
The last gift of the body before it evaporates is the divine revelation. I live in truth. I live without fear, without doubt. I dwell in the spirit that had made this place. This is a place of ecstasy.
(HANDLESS WOMAN collapses)

THE MAN
And now her time here is at an end. No torments of false hope, no food nor water to sustain her suffering longer than it must. It is but a little sacrifice, when faced with the salvation that it brings.

PROTEUS
How long was she here?

THE MAN
A fortnight.

PROTEUS
She did not seem to be suffering.

THE MAN
The joy of martyrdom obliterates all suffering. It is a secret known only to those of the outer planets, a gift to those who make this sacrifice. No. She is truly transcended.

PROTEUS
I am ready.

2333 hours local time - crowds estimated at approximately 50,000 people have gathered around the Washington Monument to witness the anomalous occurrence. Law enforcement authorities are not present at the scene, having been summoned to contain unrest elsewhere in the Capitol region.

ACT THREE

SCENE TWO

2340 hours local time - a large doorway in the center of the Washington Monument opens. Nothing is visible inside but a faint green light. The holographic projections continue.

THE MAN
Present your hands, Father of Humanity.
(THE MAN holds a ceremonial blade aloft in one hand, a torch in the other)

PROTEUS
I stand ready.
(PROTEUS holds his hands before THE MAN)

THE MAN
Do you accept the gift of sacrifice, for those brethren that shall remain in the light for all of time?
(THE MAN saws at PROTEUS' left wrist)

PROTEUS
I do.
(PROTEUS bleeds profusely)

THE MAN
Do you offer your suffering for the good of the whole, your exile for the benefit of the collective psyche of Humanity?
(THE MAN wrenches PROTEUS' left wrist, snapping bone and tendon, then slicing the remaining ligaments keeping the hand in place)

PROTEUS
I do.
(PROTEUS spurts blood from left wrist)

THE MAN
Do you renounce the unstable reality of the universe outside of this system? Commit yourself to the preservation of sanity within this system of planets?
(THE MAN burns PROTEUS' left stump with the torch, cauterizing the wound)

PROTEUS
I do.
(PROTEUS screams)

THE MAN
With the left hand, you accept your duty. With the right, our duty to you.
(THE MAN cleanly slices off the right hand of PROTEUS in one fluid motion)

PROTEUS
I thank you.
(PROTEUS bleeds profusely)

THE MAN
We, the living, shall keep a society of perfect harmony, perfect justice, perfect beauty. We, the living, shall keep our human natures pure, living in the highest purpose that is possible for our forms. We, the living, shall transform your suffering into the most divine purpose imaginable.
(THE MAN burns PROTEUS' right stump with the torch, cauterizing the wound)

PROTEUS
I am honored beyond measure.
(PROTEUS screams)

THE MAN
In this holy pact, we shall know love without measure or end. Go forth, Father. Complete your journey.

PROTEUS
I accept my duty.

2359 hours local time - the humanoid projection portraying Proteus enters the doorway within the Washington Monument. Other projections vanish upon its entry. The doorway begins to slowly close. Several spectators from the closest ranks of the crowd rush into the doorway, followed by increasing numbers of onlookers, until an estimated three thousand bystanders enter the monument before the gateway closes. No person entering the monument has been contacted or seen since this event.

Thirteen asked me if what we worked to preserve was ever natural. What a stupid question. What does it matter if the world we enabled was unnatural? It was better than what waits for us.

The thing in Washington gave people lots of ideas. People have managed to summon a couple more of these gateways in a few places. They're fleeing into them. It's hard to blame them. We've lost any meaningful ability to control anything. The jig is up. The world knows that science is an illusion and certainty is a cruel joke. Why not take the chance? Better a refugee than a corpse. Or worse.

Me? No. I will not. I won't end my life as one of the cattle.

It was a pleasure to serve, One.

-Twelve

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