Peter plunged into Dissona’s center. He was instantly enveloped by black, inky void.
After a hanging second, he realized void wasn’t the right word for it—void implied stillness, void implied peace. This was different. He was surrounded by a deep sense of palpable disquiet; a pervasive unease that wasn’t just everywhere, it was every thing.
[TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.] Dissona’s voice thundered through his mind. [IN ANOTHER NANOSECOND, MY ASCENDANCE WILL BE COMPLETE. THIS IS MY LAST GIFT TO YOU—I’VE SLOWED YOUR PERCEPTION SO YOU CAN FULLY APPRECIATE YOUR FAILURE TO STOP ME. YOUR TIME IS UP, FLESHLING.]
Peter’s astral heart dropped in his chest. Fuck. Earth…existence…it’s over. His head drooped, his eyes closed.
There’s nothing I can do.
[THAT’S RIGHT, PETER.] The Pain Lord amusement oozed from her psyche in a serpentine slither. [ALL THAT TIME, ALL THAT EFFORT…ALL FOR NAUGHT.] Her words were followed by sick laughter. [IF YOU’D SIGNED WITH ME, YOU COULD HAVE ENJOYED YOUR LAST FEW MONTHS ON THAT SHITTY MUDBALL YOU CALL A HOME.]
Was that true? Would it be better if he’d served as her minion? He could have just relaxed, or lost himself in a lazy wash of soul-killing pleasure.
He could have…he could have…
No. His eyes steeled over. A deep, timeless part of him came to the fore. No, that would have been infinitely worse, and you know it. You fucking know it.
Peter didn’t realize it (not at a conscious level, anyway), but he’d just passed an eons-old test. Even as he faced the bitter end, he still hewed to what he knew to be true. It didn’t matter whether the world was doomed, he couldn’t have given a finger-blasting fuck.
He was gonna stick to his goddamn guns.
[Fuck you.] he projected into the unending dark. [I’ve watched ‘Return of the Jedi’ a billion times. So believe me when I say that I’ll never join you. Not even now.]
And just to himself, he thought, Thank you, George Lucas.
[WELL.] she emoted gruffly. [KUDOS, PETER—COUNTLESS OTHERS HAVE SUCCUMBED TO MY POWER. I’M NOT SURE IF YOU’RE INCREDIBLY BRAVE OR JUST PLAIN FUCKING STUPID.]
[Same thing, as far as I’m concerned.] He would have shut his eyes, but it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference in this murky, lightless void. [Go ahead.] he projected. [Do your worst.]
Dissona’s mind-shredding laughter swirled and rose. [I ALWAYS DO.]
Peter reached out with his soon-to-be-eaten psyche. [Eun. Kora. I don’t know if you can still hear me, but I couldn’t stop her. I had the time of my life with you two, and I just wanted to let you know it before—]
Dazzling light poured through the dark.