There is a soft wind and it carries with it a whisper. She is being called. Summoned. To the Beginning of the World.
She makes her way. She makes haste, for Time waits for no one. Not even her. Not anymore. She makes her way and she is barefooted. The soles of her feet tender, an angry red from her eternal trudging. There is a time she liked being barefooted, back when the land was kind to her. Now, the earth beneath her rejects her every step, as if it abhors her very existence. It was not such before, but it is such now.
Her skin is a deathly gray, with patches of Night taking hold of the length of her arms. They are once few, but now they are many. She knows she will become Darkness soon.
She dons a dress made of Chaos, with maelstroms and hurricanes woven into it. Frayed at the seams, almost undone. She places her hands over her distended womb. Protectively, over the unborn child who, she is certain, will be her very last.
Her name is lost. Only fragments of her identity remain. But names do not matter now, for not many are left to utter them.
She walks over seas and under hills. It doesn't matter which way she turns, her destination is one that cannot be avoided. And avoid it she did not.
And here is the Beginning, where the sky is bluest and the grass is greenest and every thing that might be good is in the superlative. The earth beneath her feet seems kinder. No, tolerant. She could still feel their malice. Or is it they who could feel hers?
"Pardon the earth, my sister," says a voice that sounds like so many things, but at that moment it is a bridling breeze. "Their reaction is understandable."
The voice belongs to a woman. Tall and graceful and proud. She stands on a cliff, the rest of the World swirling below her. Her skin is metallic. Gold and bronze and copper. Silver vines coil around her slender frame, lambent and serpentine. Where her legs should be is a cluster of roots, and on the top of her head springs a covey of golden leafless branches. Her hands rest on her womb, for she, too, is with child.
"Mother Tree," accosts the woman dressed in Chaos. "I have come."
Mother Tree, with all her grandeur, twists her body, and the roots that held her in place morph into a pair of legs. She takes a step and extends an arm, beckoning the newly arrived.
The nameless woman steps forward and takes Mother Tree's hand. Together, they walk to the edge of the cliff, poised as if both are about to dive.
Mother Tree slowly throws back her head of branches. Her face glinting golden, she speaks, "I'm afraid it is time, sister." She utters this in the voice of the depths of the sea, stolid and steady.
"Yes," concurs the other woman - the one without a name. She gently withdraws her hand from that of Mother Tree's. She peers below, into the World where she sends her Children. The World below looked like her: Chaotic and on the brink of Darkness.
She tries to remember. She tries to remind herself that her Children were good - are good. She feels the pain now, coursing through her veins. Slowly. Deliberately. She staggers and Mother Tree catches her.
"Let us lie down, sister," says Mother Tree. Her voice a brewing storm.
The other woman obeys, sensing the earth's distate. She knows Mother Tree wants her to feel the hostility. Mother Tree can silence a tidal wave with a blink of an eye and yet the earth resumes roiling.
"My Children will endure," the nameless woman says quietly. Her gaunt face turning livid.
Mother Tree smiles, but she is not amused. "You are arrogant," she says simply, in the hiss of a thousand snakes.
"You also carry the last of your Children," croaks the woman, desperation palpable in her tone. She is now in labor and the patches of Night on her skin expands with every heaving breath.
"I am Nature, sister." Mother Tree's voice rumbles like thunder. "I will remain even when you return to the Void. Let us be done with this."
The woman does not reply, for she knows this to be true. Mother Tree does not lie.
Mother Tree is much older than the woman before her. Mother Tree had watched countless sisters fade. She is used to the loss. She did not lament the loss of her better sisters, how could she lament the loss of her very worst? She takes her nameless sister's hands and stares at her with genuine concern. The branches on her head cast dreadful shadows on the latter's contorted face. She is relieved that the Age of Men is at a close.
"Your Children are as arrogant as you are," Mother Tree remarks with the sound of grinding tectonics. "They are infinitely self-centered, believing others will cease to exist without them. They are naught but nuisance. I am Nature. My Children will adapt when all will die. You know this, and if only you have told yours the Truth then you might have lasted until the End. Alas, you will be no more."
The nameless woman takes in gulps of air. "We will endure," she breathed, in a firm voice even she is surprised to hear. "My Children will make things right."
And with that, the woman with the deathly gray skin finally gives birth. It is quick but it is not easy, for she had given birth to the last Man who will walk the World.
"You see, sister?" Mother Tree scoffs with the cawing of crows, brandishing her vine-curtained arm to the progeny. "You have given birth to a Disappearing Man."
The Mother of Men pulled herself up. She gazes at her last Child. He is full-grown but incomplete. There is no flesh, only hollowness. His veins and arteries are silver strands, flimsy and almost sheer. He is the crudest, the most blundering of all his kind - the superlative of all things bad. He looks up with a faceless mask at his nameless mother then, without a word, turns around and dives into the World below.
The Mother of Men feels a tear burn across her cheek. She limps to the edge of the cliff and sees her reflection. The World below is her. It is dark and its fabric is quickly being torn apart, much like she is now. She takes a breath and it burns her lungs.
Mother Tree studies her sister. The Mother of Men remains. Her spine is crooked and her skin is Darkness, but she is here. Barely. But here. Mother Tree smiles. "Well done, sister. Your kind is unprecedentedly despicable you will be allowed to witness their demise."
The nameless woman does not move. She only feels a cold hand on her brittle shoulder. Mother Tree steps to her side.
"It has begun," Mother Tree harks with the song of nightingales. "Behold the Fall of Men."