::In seeking the source of the Gauntlet, this is what Alistair sees::
Inside every conscious being, you see tiny motes of divine light.
A grown man is watching TV when there is a pounding on his door. Unbidden, the thought comes to his mind – “It’s a monster!” – and there is a brief shock of fear, until he realizes that it is just his friend fucking with him.
A woman is walking down a street beneath a flickering streetlamp, still in her uniform from work, making the familiar trek to the nearest subway station. She hears a measured pace behind her and a cold sliver of fear goes up her spine and comes to rest in her scalp. She quickens her pace. She senses a menacing presence behind her, and she is right.
An astronomer awakens with a gasp from a terrible dream. She was analyzing hours of staticky data from a radio telescope, seeking through a tiny square of the night sky for the telltale throb of a pulsar. Suddenly there is a rush in the readout and amidst the static she clearly hears a voice, whispering to her of an emptiness so vast it swallows every world. The scream in her dream is translated into a gasp in her bed, but she can’t sleep for the rest of the night regardless.
Thinking it is just a big dog, the boy approaches, and sees too late the gleaming yellow eyes, and has no time to cry out before he is gone. They never find a body.
A girl looks at herself in the mirror with a suddenly serious expression, says clearly and succinctly, after some hesitation, “there’s no such thing as Santa Clause.” She bites her lip, then says it again. She says it until she doesn’t feel anything.
You see a rush of similar intimate, everyday images – unexplained fears, indescribable moments, unutterable acts, realizations that never synthesize themselves into understanding.
Outside these images, there are monsters. Ghosts making the walls bleed, seeking revenge for forgotten murders. Wild fae who steal children and curse herds with the plague. Hulking beasts that hunger for human flesh. Twisting, gibbering horrors made of darkness and cold waiting at the edges of what is known. Slumbering leviathans beneath merciless seas. Pale hunters who seek warm lifeblood. Wild and terrible lands beyond all comprehension. The realm of the dead which all fear and which none can avoid. Ten thousand hells where the damned scream for eternity and ten thousand heavens where gods are and where mortals dare not go.
There is a tiny patch of land that grows as the edges of knowledge grow – shadowy realms come to light and unknown monsters become familiar. Seething alien seas are charted and distant lands colonized. The borders stretch and stretch until they meet each other on the other side – at which point, there is no place for what is left to go, except outside and inside.
What intrudes from outside and inside is not welcome. It is fended off by heroes and visionaries who make a capricious world comprehensible, who make a million meddling gods into a powerful few, who slay monsters, or shed light on them so they are seen for the creatures they truly are. Every answer is a weapon, a tool and a prison bar. Until there is always an answer, always a reason, always an explanation.
Everywhere a divine light that flares in self-defense when the incomprehensible intrudes into the ordinary, that swarms around brighter lights and hems them in, that becomes a barrier, six billion tiny motes, the outmost border of the known.
Lastly, you see a figure, bathed in the beautiful light of sunset; you feel the warm breeze, smell salt, see a large and alien city etched with green light; and he has noticed you. You feel your heart stop. Slowly, he gestures with his hand and your vision is severed. The mirror shatters in a shower of glass, and the room is suddenly pervaded with a distinct resonance – worshipful, Atlantean (you don’t know how you know), and filled with the brooding sense that things are coming to an end, soon. Your heart starts up again.