Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
This pasta is yet another entry in The Holders series, a loose grouping of stories by countless different authors based on a specific premise.
If this series is new to you, you may wish to visit this website dedicated specifically to archiving Holders stories; although we have a tag for the series and have posted several new entries over the year, the Holders wiki is much more complete.
To reach the Holder of the End of the Story, go to the place that you feel the strongest connection to. What that place is will depend on you. It might be the house you live in. It might be your childhood home. For some, it means going to that magical little creek-side place where you and your friends used to play, or to the coffee shop that you stopped in every morning before work.
When you reach the place, find the part of it that means the most to you. It might be your old room, or that spot on the side of the creek where you would always build your fort, or the table where you wrote your first novel. Step to within a few feet of that spot, facing it, and then stop. At this point, you should consider very carefully whether you really want to continue. You don’t need to stand there considering it for a particular amount of time. A millisecond will suffice. Or if you really want to, you can skip this step entirely. There won’t be any consequences. You won’t be dragged off by some unspeakable horror, or tormented by eternal madness, or torn apart by ravenous bees, or some such silliness. That’s not how this one works. Depending on how your previous trials have affected you, you’ll probably end up wishing that it was.
It’s up to you, but I would strongly, strongly recommend that you take your time to consider whether or not to go on. At this point, you can still walk away without any consequences.
Think about it – if you’ve recovered other Objects already, and you probably have, then your experiences may have… well, it’s only a certain sort of person who can maintain any real sense of connection to the world after all the horrors that you’ve undoubtedly gone through. By now you might feel completely numb to everything, or be so haunted by visions of unspeakable things that your heart just doesn’t have room for anything but pain and terror. Your mind might be so frayed that you can barely remember the past, much less which places were the ones you loved. Or your connection to reality might be so tenuous that you can’t for the life of you tell which of your memories are real, and which ones are just the mad whispers of your own (probably-demented) unconscious mind. Maybe all of the above.
Do not, I repeat, do not continue to Seek this Object if you no longer have the capacity to love the place in front of you. Walk away. There are plenty of other Objects out there. Who knows, maybe one of Them will restore the parts of you that you’ve lost. That’s not generally the way They work, but hey, you never know.
If you honestly think that you’re still capable of loving this ‘precious place,’ then say aloud “I Seek to secure the story’s end” and then step forward. This might mean crossing the threshold into your old room. It might mean stepping into that one special spot on the side of the creek. Maybe your ‘precious place’ is something that you can’t step into, like a wall that used to have a whiteboard that you and your sister would draw on, or something like that. Even so, step forward anyway.
In the very likely event that your experiences have already damaged your soul beyond repair, destroying or dementing every emotional connection to the world that you ever had, then this is where your journey ends. I warned you, didn’t I? I won’t say what happens to you at this point. Don’t worry though, you won’t be torn apart, or go mad, or suffer terrible agonies for eternity, or anything like that. You won’t even die – not for a long, long time. That’s not how this one works. You’ll wish it was.
Still curious? If you absolutely can’t stand not knowing what happens to the ones that fail, then by all means go to your ‘precious place’ and try it for yourself. You’ll probably find your answer. Just don’t blame me when you wish you hadn’t.
If by some unlikely miracle you’re actually still intact enough to feel a real connection to this place, then in an instant the environment around you will change. You’ll find yourself in a nice, moderately sized room. There may be furniture scattered around, there may be paintings on the walls. It’s different for everyone. The room will always be laid out in a way that reminds you of some of your happiest memories. There might be a couch that reminds you of the one at your best friend’s house where you always used to have movie nights. Or a painting of someone you love, at the age when they meant the most to you. The only constant is that at the center of the room, you’ll always find two comfortable chairs that are facing each other. The chair closest to you will remind you of the place that feels most like home. I will be sitting in the other chair.
Don’t worry; there aren’t any special rules here. You won’t be attacked if you look away from me, or go mad if you look into my eyes. That’s not how this one works. Go ahead and sit in the empty chair. Once you’re comfortable, I’ll welcome you to my sanctum, and tell you what you’ve probably already guessed – that I am the Holder of the End of the Story. Congratulations – very, very few Seekers have ever reached me.
I’ll then offer you a choice. There’s no trick to it. You won’t be punished for choosing one way or the other. Well, you won’t be punished beyond the natural consequences of your choice, anyway. That’s not how this one works. The choice I’ll offer you is this: if you want, I’ll give you the Object you’ve come for. No strings attached, no tricks. It won’t suddenly burrow into your eye and gobble up your brain, or make you hear the endless screams of the damned in your head, or kill a puppy, or some such nonsense. That’s not how this one works.
Or you can make the other choice: You can go home. That’s right, home. I don’t mean leave this place and go off Seeking the next Object. I mean really, truly, go home. Back to before all of this started. I can make that happen. That, and not the Object I Hold, is the real reward you’ve proven yourself worthy of by reaching me. That’s how this one works. Or of course, you can choose to go on.
Take as much time as you need. I recommend thinking long and hard on this one. It’s not a choice to make lightly. When you’re ready, go ahead and tell me your decision.
If you take me up on my offer, then all of the Objects you’ve acquired will return to where you found them. Any damage that’s happened to your body, mind, soul, and all that – will be healed. Everyone and everything that you’ve sacrificed to reach this point will be restored as if your quest never happened at all. Anyone you’ve hurt or killed or damaged in other ways will be completely restored. All the knowledge that you’ve gained and the secrets that you’ve learned will be erased from your memory, as well as any notes or recordings you’ve made in any form. It will still be possible for you act as a Seeker again, but you’ll have to discover everything all over again, and you’ll believe that it’s your first time doing it. The Holders will also lose all memory of you. Well, except for me – I’ll remember. Who knows, maybe this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation.
If you choose to go on, then for the briefest instant you’ll think that you see a look of deep, deep sadness pass over my face. You’ll wonder if I haven’t stood exactly where you’re standing now, and made the exact same choice. It’ll be so brief, in fact, that you won’t be sure if it was really there at all. Without warning, you’ll find yourself back in the ‘precious place’ where you started. It will now be a charred ruin. Anyone who was in it when you crossed into my sanctum will be dead – their bodies as burned as the walls. If your memories of this place include sharing it with anyone, then you should pray, for their sake, that they died before this moment.
Reach down and scoop up a handful of ashes. Don’t worry, you won’t have trouble finding some – they’ll be all around you. As you hold them in your hand, you’ll be filled with the knowledge that no matter what happens in the future, no matter what you do, you will never again have an opportunity to give up your quest – not for long. Touching this Object has changed you. You now have an irresistible compulsion to seek the Objects. The longer you go without fulfilling that compulsion, the more you’ll feel compelled to – until you can’t resist it anymore.
The pile of ashes in your hand is Object # 1467. There’s only one way left for the story to end.
Credit: Josias Gibbs