Chapter

26

Jade kicks her shoeless feet behind her slowly, as if she’s swimming with the current of the gravitational waves pulling her ever closer to their source. Her feet aren’t completely bare; they’re still covered by her gray-striped witch stockings. But the ruby slippers are gone. She kicked them off hours ago, as if to jettison all hope of returning anywhere resembling a place she used to call home. The fond remembrance of such a place no longer has any pull on her.

Now, something else entirely is pulling her.

Believe me, I’m sympathetic to the temptation. It’s always just there, isn’t it? A limitless reservoir of emptiness, perfectly available to you, patient, omnipresent, and dead ahead. As someone who grew up in the middle of an ocean, completely alone, on a planet purged of all human life four hundred years before I was born, I understand the feeling well.

But something isn’t right here. She should really reconsider whatever it is she may be about to do.

There’s something about being alone for so long, it makes time feel like it doesn’t exist. She knows this almost better than I do.

Jade also knows well enough by now that time doesn’t actually exist in a literal sense, the way we generally understand it. It’s just one aspect of many, and the complement of her own, Space. It therefore can be neutralized by the introduction of her essence. Reduced to white noise or soft light. The continuum of time is therefore demonstrably an illusion. The field of sequential moments and physical conditions that stretch on and on, resulting in the mirage of loneliness, is pure projection from disproportionate attention given to a single side of one cosmic, polar pair of ideas: time.

It’s my way of saying, and thereby alerting her mind to what she already knows, that this feeling of all-consuming solitude and despair haunting her since childhood—it’s in her head. The ticking of time is a little contrivance in her mind as a byproduct of imbalance, of the vast disparity between her limited self and her Ultimate Self. It lives rent free there the way Dave once did, and for this version of Jade, probably still does. He made fun of her sometimes when they were kids because she couldn’t always keep real and fake things straight, but he never meant it seriously. It was just the way he showed that he cared, which is one of the things Jade always liked so much about him. That he’s so clumsy and genuine underneath it all. Maybe Dave broke her heart a little, and he keeps doing it too, no matter how many different timelines they try out.

She slips closer to the event horizon, still making no effort to impede her descent. My persuasion skills are admittedly a little rusty. Bear with me here.

In my experience, there’s something about being alone that can take a person’s limited meat-engine and make it imagine that it can see beyond the confines of its own electrical processes. Make it believe that it is ascending to a place where it can see the four dimensions spread out beneath it like a set of windows. Like sheet music. Like a garden, where Jade used to spend so much of her time with her hands in the earth and her head in the clouds, dreaming about flowers that bloomed in six colors and grew when she played them a song. Was that real? It’s hard to tell. But it made her happy, didn’t it?

Isn’t that what she needs now? Isn’t it reasonable to presume that’s the only thing capable of persuading her to slow her descent—to being invited to imagine, fake or otherwise, that which once made her happy? That which could still make her happy, if only she’d slow down, think about it, and do whatever is necessary to place herself in those surroundings again?

It’s possible that manning the other end of a suicide hotline, transmitted through pure thought in a metatextual format, may not actually be my true calling. I’m doing my goddamned best here. She just isn’t slowing down, for some incomprehensible reason. Perhaps my touch is too soft. It wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps the limits of persuasion itself are being tested by the most powerful gravitational force to ever exist? Or perhaps it’s true that insistence is just the more effective half of persuasion.

So I’m insisting now.

Jade Harley will not go into that hole. She does NOT want us to all to see what happens when she unsettles the spirit residing there.

she does, though.

Fucking yikes.

Jade throws on the brakes. I say she does. But by now, the gravity is overwhelming. Is she even trying to resist, or is it just that it’s useless to try? I’m not... I’m not sure I can tell?

Jade realizes, preferably before it’s too late, that this is fucking serious. She needs to turn this around. She doesn’t want this. She doesn’t want to die.

she wants to return to me.

All right, I’m done messing around.

YOUR name is Jade Harley. YOU decide, right now, that you do not want to die. You resist the pull of the black hole with all your might. What would killing yourself accomplish? Sure, most of your friends are dead. But John is still looking for you. Do you want to let him down? Do you want to crush his soul? Do you have any appreciation for what he’s going through, Jade? He can take you home. To your new home, Earth C. The home I made for you, Jade. Your friends are all there, alive and well. Rose, Dave, Karkat, slutty adult Jade, Jane, Jake, Roxy, me. You wouldn’t want to disappoint them. You wouldn’t want to disappoint me, would you, Jade?

You can avoid all this. The unpredictable consequences about to be unleashed by your thoughtless act. You can still turn this thing around. It’s not too late.

but it is too late.

Christ.

You’re close now, to the ceiling of the cancerous deformity. Too close. Just skimming the edge of this thing’s vicious horizon. You dip your toes through the place where the singularity is snapping everything apart at the seams. It’s so loud that it’s completely silent. You can already feel yourself stretched thin, distorted, pulled out with your descent elongated for all eternity. When you look down, the stripes of your witchy tights go on and on for miles. Please, Jade. Don’t ever say I didn’t try to stop this.

she closes her eyes and lets go.

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