A vast, empty, yet complete and all-engulfing darkness – welcoming, comforting in its absoluteness, embracing him so that he too was a part of it, safe among the black reaches of the void. Without corners or edges, without time or sense, the darkness was all; he was the darkness too, and only in the least serene moments of this infinite paradise did something – a...thought? – creep into the darkness to disturb it, a dread wave of fear in this inky plane, an incomprehensible shudder that could not even be possible in the wholeness of the formless dark, that there was something more than this darkness, that he did not belong to it, and that his time with it might end, that he had to leave, and soon; that he was a he, or at least some distinct, bodied thing with a name that could have no place in the darkness once he remembered who he was, remembered where he was going, and what he was supposed to do...
After eons like this, it so happened that the darkness began to retreat. Where once it had no beginning or end, its seemingly eternal expanses folded impossibly into a measureless distance, a shrinking, inky singularity against a now blinding white backdrop that grew ever hazy as the real came into focus.
It came upon him suddenly: he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move; banished violently from the once limitless, impermeable womb of the darkness, he would now die. He always had known that beyond the darkness there could not be anything, for the darkness was everything, and it itself was nothing. He could see echoes of it, still, coming in and out of focus, but now bright lights of all hues flickered and spat at him, as if mocking his naive trust in the wholeness of the void that was once his everything, and now his nothing. And in between the spectral dance of the darkness and the lights there was another world, much like the darkness but solid, hard, corporeal and cruel. It called to him, and his body - for that was what he had been, had suspected he was, the whole of his time as a stranger amongst the darkness, hurtled upwards - exploded with a crash through the fragile second womb which had sought to keep what the darkness had lost.
He sucked the air in desperately, choking and sputtering, wheezing as he collapsed on the grated iron floor, breathing raggedly, all thoughts of there ever having been a darkness buried under the new trauma of escaping the glass prison which now lay sprinkled chaotically about him, flecked with the blood from a thousand cuts of his naked body. His body continued to shake even as his breathing began to calm, and his vision, once haunted by the dancing lights, focused slowly but dreamily on his new world. Those lights continued to flicker around him, and he knew, without knowing why, what each one meant: there, the now-glowing, now-fading yellow, was the internal alarm system; the rapidly blinking red, accompanied by a high whine which he could only now begin to hear, was the control panel for his hibernation pod, designed to alert others of an awakening in time to prepare a med-servitor for the helpless and weak traveler awakening from pod sleep; there, the sickly, solid green, was the habitation panel, where he could modify the ship....the ship! ...he was aboard a space vessel! All his thus far inexplicable knowledge failed him here: he knew what kind of vessel he was traveling in based on the antiquated controls he registered around him (it was a Magister Mk. II, he knew, a hideously undersized, spherical ship used to scout deep space for signs of warprifts and other hazards), but he did not know why, and without reviewing the ship’s nav records he could not even be sure where he was, which for the moment seemed more important.
He groggily came to his feet and swayed once, twice, before falling forward, only at the last moment catching himself on the blinking, rusted wall. The Magister was designed with space and resource efficiency in mind, for the task it was set towards was typically a hazardous one with little opportunities for returning home, and, indeed, it required a human pilot to analyze and discern threats which a simple servitor could not be quite trusted to do: a thankless job for the poor of poorer worlds that, in all its banality, could nonetheless never be trusted to a mere servitor to fulfill. Always two humans, the Magister hosted – no less, and no more. One man slept, while one man looked for signs of any kind of disturbance and recorded it in the ship’s logs, which would be transmitted automatically to the home station or one of its satellites every hour if the crew failed to immediately submit sensitive information...or died before they could do so. Every half-cycle the watcher would sleep, and the sleeper would watch, and so the cycle would continue until broken.
He groaned, and, using the wall for support, limped two steps towards the navigation controls – all of the Magister’s controls were located on the undecorated walls, another gesture of efficiency by its designers. He spit a slow drool of blood and saliva on the floor, and brushed shattered glass from his sides with his free arm, ignoring the shallow cuts which marred his body. He could see that he was, as suspected in the darkness, indeed a man, his nakedness serving as proof enough. He could also see that, if he was not quite 40 cycles, he at least seemed to look it, judging by the tautness of his skin, the spots on his bloodied hands, the muscles of his body tightened and worn by wear, but with no clear physical imperfections that might have been signs of past physical traumas...he knew that at some time he had been trained to read a man using all of these signs and more, but he did not know where he learned it, or why one would need to know these things.
He spat again, swept his forearm across his thighs to remove more glass, and then wiped his mouth. Quickly entering the command code into the nav-pad as though it were the most normal of routines, he scanned the charts to draw some sense of where he was; considering the conditions with which he awoke from his pod, he surmised that he had been aboard the Magister for either a very short, or disturbingly long time, and his next step would be to check the ship's logs. While the system booted up, he entered the command to open the viewport; perhaps the stars would give him some hint as to where he was. Hissing with effort, the rusted metal blast doors on the wall behind him, a distance of nary more than his height in the Magister's cramped master observatory, heaved open horizontally with a screech of metal on metal, as if begrudgingly surrendering its secrets.
The doors ground slowly to a halt, and he blinked hard in disbelief. Beyond the plexiglass it gazed at him, come to take the little metal thing that had strayed into its embrace, its jealously guarded nothingness...the darkness, it seemed, had returned to claim him.
"Where am I..."