The dawn approaches and a strange quietude heralds its arrival.

A wizened old man, panting and drenched in sweat that makes his alchemist robe cling to his frame like sagging skin, arrives one minute late outside the celebrated Muktar’s Portal and begins a one-sided conversation with the ancient oak door. As his whispered words slowly fade into nothingness, the only entrance to the great hall of Seludong Castle yawns open.

Two small steps later and he finds himself inside, making him instantly aware of a singular thing — the mighty hall is chillingly silent. An eerie stillness hangs in its lofty stone-vaulted ceiling like a thick blanket. The tapestried wall seems to sigh in relief because for once, the massive stone foundation is given a reprieve from echoing the incessant cacophony of sounds.

Gone now are the mighty roars and whiny laughter of warriors and fools, the booming commands and whimpering obeisances of kings and slaves, and the monotonic sermons and condescending chatter of priests and advisers. Gone too are the pitter-patter of all kinds of feet — the steady marching of soldiers, the dragging steps of prisoners, the sure strides of nobles, and the dainty footfalls of princesses.

He gazes past the two massive bronze pillars supporting the stone roof and looks upon the pedestal elevation on the marbled floor. Then his eyes, two tiny slits of blackness on a small, pudgy face, instantly narrow down on an enormous gaping void — once the repository of the transporter machine he himself had helped build when the sages of the kingdom foretold the imminent doom of the world. And if the great Oracle of Magayon is to be believed, the impending doom will be personified by a host of heavenly bodies that will descend upon them in great numbers, sending everything to oblivion.

And that time is now, the grand sages proclaim.

We are prepared.

He smiles; a fleeting one.

For a moment he begins to marvel at the grandness of it all; marveling even more at the oppressive silence and emptiness in such a noble hall. But it only takes a single breath, a single blink of his eyes, before the gripping realization finally sinks in. The transporter machine is gone, along with all the people who knew what was coming.

They have all left, and the asteroids are arriving.

FIN

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