There are things nestled within the crevices and among the bones of the cosmos that are so old and so alien that, if a mortal mind glimpsed them for the smallest imaginable fraction of a moment, it would burst into a billion shards of gibbering insanity. Graemoreax, The Inferno that Burned at the Heart of Mount Nothing, Devourer of the Eversong, remembered when these beings came into existence. Its brethren. It was ancient even then. And it remember when they, themselves, were shattered. Splintered into the crumbs of creation and stirred back into the pot to make the mortals and the heavens and the stars. It was there, and it remembered.
For its part, Graemoreax did not know that it the day it chose to consume the four universes was also the eleventh birthday of a little girl named Ari. It was before all of this, and so much more. Before the time of little girls, and before the function of birth itself entered the vocabulary of creation. On the day the number eleven became manifest in the universe, Graemoreax was locked in endless battle with the First Unmade Scion of Kettherax, the Living Scar Beneath All Things. The eternal conflict, which had gone on forever and would have gone on forevermore, ended that very day with Graemoreax’s uncountable teeth at its opponent’s throats. The battle, it turned out once these things could be reckoned, was only eleven minutes long.
Graemoreax knew nothing of little girls, and birthday parties, and the disappointment of leaving glittering Summerfax for boring old Blarn. Its ignorance came not from apathy, or from a lack of attention. No, the impossibly ancient thing paid far too much attention to the four spindly, interwoven fabrics that together made up the whole of both fathomed and unfathomable existence. The play of all things ran along beneath the gaze of the infinite featureless holes that passed for its eyes, and it saw everything. And it hurt.
The archkthonios could not feel pain. Not as the creatures of flesh and nerves and tsetse fly-brief existences felt it. A single sharp spike that flares and then fades. Graemoreax’s expansive form did something much worse than feel pain. It remembered. It remembered the way only a being of inert fathomless power from before time and death and mind could remember. Every discrete moment of its existence was etched into its form. Like a scar. Like a tattoo, stenciled into its vision, clear and bright and endlessly hot in its perception, each instant forever like the first.
It remembered the first cry of joy ever uttered, as Cosmos above made boundless, innocent love to Matter beneath, and birthed the first molecules that would become the stars. It remembered the First Rebellion, when the Mewling Spawnlings of the Endless Primordia, itself and its pack-mates, had risen up against their non-existent mother and torn her to shreds, thus ushering in the age of creation where time could commence and the universes themselves could begin. It remembered when the Devouring Allmind willingly sundered its own existence, moved by the strivings of the lesser beings to become more than what they were, and thus granted the gift of sentience to reality.
It remembered because it could not forget. It was not made to forget. Forgetting was for beings that formed after time began. Beings birthed in the four universes, once entropy became the way of things and brought with it the greatest curse that could ever have been conceived: change.
Graemoreax remembered the moment everything changed. The first moment things could change. It filled the archbeast with a wonder so intense the brightness of a billion supernovae could not blind it out. And a fear so profound that had it been able to manifest it would have blacked out every sun that ever was or ever could be.
Graemoreax was not made for change. Everything it had ever done had been timeless. Simultaneous. Eternal. Fated to be and non-existent, an effortless paradox in an age where everything and nothing was a paradox. They had never begun and would never end. Until that moment. It was not made for change. But it was here, now. Now and forever. And Graemoreax, the last of the archkthonios, could not resist it. Nothing could.
All of its fellow spawn were gone, now. Not destroyed, of course. Nothing is ever destroyed. Not anymore. The few vestiges of the primordial destructive force that once composed the universe were housed within Graemoreax’s own intestinal walls, and long gone were the days when it would turn upon its own kind. But they were still gone. Changed so completely that they were no longer themselves. Only it remained. The strongest of them, though none could have predicted that it would be so. It had not the all-encompassing fury of Geburaknith, of the Claws that Cleanse the Impurity From the Fire. Nor had it the dynamic resiliency of Chlithering, the Allsnake, whose venomed fangs had pierced creation and opened up the wound of change, whose festering continued to this day. Of all of them, only Graemoreax endured. It did not understand why. It had tried to understand. For so long it had tried. But it could not. It was before understanding.
The Bearer of the Uncounted Toothless Maws that Snapped at the Black Dawn had embraced change. Perhaps that was some part of why it remained undsundered. It threw itself into the fury and chaos of existence with all that it was. It spent an eon and a half in a dance with the Mistress of Time, their toes stepping lightly on every universe that could have been but never was. For a billion years it swam through the sundered corpse of the Devouring Allmind and dreamed the dreams of the living stars as they flared into bright and glorious life and then dimmed into sleeping cinders. When the Unconquered Spark rose up to declare itself Emperor of The Myriad Skies and all that was beneath them, Graemoreax lead the legions of chthonios and their worshippers against the false god, who used the last of his dying breath to chain the archbeast within Mount Nothing, there to burn for what would have been eternity, if eternity had been left to an entropic and ever-changing universe.
It took the beast from before time and death a very, very long time to realize it was searching for something. It took longer still for it to recognize just what it was it was searching for. And yet another incomprehensibly long age passed before Graemoreax, Devourer of the Eversong, realized that it would never, ever, no matter how long it existed, find what it sought.
So, like an aging executive who has finally realized that all of the sports cars and corporate achievement awards in the world are not enough to appease the ravenous singularity in his chest, Graemoreax gave up. It flew up and wove itself a nest of stars, closed every one of the infinite featureless holes that passed for its eyes, and slipped into dreamless, meaningless slumber.
Or at least, that was the plan. Barely a million brief years passed before the archkthonios could was forced to face the futility. It could not sleep. It could never sleep. It was too violent. Too intense. Too passionate. It was a thing of snapping jaws and brightly searing fires. It was never made to change, or to care. But once these things were upon it, it could not resist them. The burning search would never stop scorching its impossibly enormous mind. Not while it lived. And it would continue to live. Forever. For the entire lifespan of the four universes. There was only one solution. All of it, everything that had ever existed or would ever exist, would have to go.
Would it have swayed the archkthonios if it had known of Ari, and that this was supposed to be her magical day? Would it have chosen a different slice of time to rise up from its nest of stellar bodies and begin the last meal that anything in the vastness of creation would ever take if it was aware that there was a young, unhappy girl down there, and that its actions could only make a difficult day even worse?
It is the same kind of question as asking yourself if you would stop wearing a raincoat if you found out that all rain really desires out of life is to kiss your exposed skin. Maybe you would, and maybe you wouldn’t, but why would you have ever bothered to stop and ask such question?
Graemoreax did not ask these questions, for none of them mattered. Nothing mattered, and any that existed who believed it did were fooling themselves. It did not understand the concept of mercy, not in a sophisticated way, but if it had it would have felt that what it did was in the service of mercy. The archkhtonios had infinite mouths, with infinite tongues, and it had tasted everything reality had to offer.
Or so it believed. Until the day of Ari’s eleventh birthday. Until the day it rose up to devour the four universes. Until the day that it noticed something that it, with its limitless mind, could never have imagined. Or rather, something noticed it. For on that day, for the first time, the true first time, something happened that Graemoreax could never have predicted.