Object 170

The Holder of the Centuries

In any city, in any country, go to any public pool. At the front gate, tell the cashier that you wish to see "The Holder of the Centuries". If they speak, no matter what they say, flee immediately, and never return to that place. If they ignore you, repeat the statement. The cashier will close their eyes for several minutes, and then stand up and lead you toward the pool. You will notice that the pool and its surroundings are suddenly devoid of people, and that the pool's waters have completely stilled. The cashier will stop at the edge of the pool, and silently indicate for you to enter.

Completely submerge yourself in the water, so that no part of your body comes close to the pool's surface. Close your eyes, and keep them closed for however long it takes to mentally ready yourself. Open your eyes. If you are not ready, you will find yourself still in the pool, unable to move, and rapidly running out of air. If, however, you are prepared to face the Holder, you will open your eyes to see a dark and endless stretch below you. You will gently float to the surface and take stock of your surroundings. On the horizon, you will see an island. As you start swimming toward the island, you will notice the waters are no longer still, but moving against you with increasing strength. You must swim with all your strength against the tide, for as soon as you give way to them, you will be swept away, cursed to drift endlessly through this barren, infinite ocean.

If you reach the island, you will have an almost unbearable urge to stop and rest. You must press on, however, until you reach the massive lake at the center. Every muscle in your body will scream, and you will feel your mind begin to collapse, but you will not be safe until you arrive at the lake. When you arrive, bend toward the lake and drink in some of the crystal waters. As soon as the liquid touches your throat, you will hear its strange voice, calling from somewhere below the surface. The words will be strange and incoherent, blurred by the leagues of water beneath which it rests.

You must look firmly before you and ask, "How did it come to this?" Its voice will suddenly become clear, its words booming out from the surface. It will describe the countless centuries through which it lived, describing how every continent, in turn, was consumed by the sea, how this group of rocks is the only land left on the entire planet. It will describe how it wept, constantly, for all those centuries, eventually creating this lake with its tears, and it will tell you what every tear was for, in horrid detail. It has wept for every atrocity that has been committed, every death, every lie, all contained in the endless weeping. Then it will tell you that your death will be the final tear it must cry.

You must dive into the lake, swimming downward until there is no more light, until your lungs empty of air. It will try to convince you to go back, to live forever on the surface. If you ignore it, it will try to repel you, sending jets of water upward. If you persist, you will see a glowing, shapeless form in the pitch darkness. If you are fast enough, you will reach it just as your consciousness fades, you must touch it and free it from its life.

You will wake up once more in the public pool, feeling cold and exhausted. Congratulations. The Holder has given you all the centuries through which it lived, centuries through which you must now live too. You will still be alive when the continents start to sink. You will still be alive when all other life forms have perished in the boiling and freezing waters. And all the time you will be weeping, weeping for your mistakes and the mistakes of all humanity.

This immortality is Object 170 of 2538. You are doomed to wait until a foolish Seeker comes to claim it from you, beginning the cycle anew.