Just like the universe, it stared with something small.
The guards in the room tensed as the air in the room became stifling – as if someone had sucked all the oxygen out. Smoke rose seemingly from nowhere and the sound of fabric being ripped could be heard as the layers of the world were torn apart. The gaping hole hanging in midair seemed to be breaking all know laws of science and physics.
And out from the hole in reality stepped out Loki.
But like its inhabitants, the universe is a fragile thing and all it needs is a little push.
"What the-" the guard could barely finish his words before he fell to his knees, hands crawling at his neck - as if tying to get rid if an invisible hand choking him. The rest of the guards turned to Loki and pointed their guns at him, one of them taking a transceiver out.
Several things happened in the next few seconds; at such a high speed that the footage of the incident would have to be slowed down several times over to see a clear image of what had happened.
The transceiver melted into a puddle of plastic and metal goo, burning both the floor and the hands of the guard. The other ones not being held by the other guards ended with the same fate. All of the guards' guns each turned into a gigantic snake, spider, rat, wasp and shark - which could move and breathe like it was still in the water. All of which were apparently poisonous.
While the guards were preoccupied with the sudden appearance of poisonous creatures in their hands, Not-In-Cage Loki made a little wave with his hands and the wards surrounding the cell disintegrated into sparkly particles that disappeared before touching the ground. A hand on the glass caused the glass to heat up, turning back into its basic elements.
The caged Loki looked up at the one outside the cage and let an insane grin cross his face.
"Hello. It’s nice to see you."
"Hello. It’s nice to see you again."
It was as if the entire world didn't exist around the both of them. Like they blocked out the rest of the universe, with only the two of them left, staring each other in the eyes.
A little push and the universe goes toppling over, and a little crack opens up.
As S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers reviewed the footage that was conveniently placed on top of the CD player in the Avengers tower, Steve wondered if perhaps, Loki might have been going easy on them in every fight. The way he had made the glass disappear, had so easily disarmed the trained guards seemed to suggest so.
"Was there something that you forgot to tell us about Loki's abilities?" Steve asked Thor, whose eyes were furrowed in deep concentration.
"My brother's powers have grown greatly since he fell," Thor said, staring at the replay of the incident.
"Greatly!? That isn't 'greatly'! The material wasn't any glass - it was made from a stronger material than the Hulk-proof glass. I specially synthesized that material for Reindeer Games over there!" Tony shouted, hand pointing at the screen, "anti-magic barriers, enough neutralizing gas to knock out Capsicle, motion sensors, lasers and a hell lot more security measures."
Thor could only stare at the screen, wondering what had happened to Loki. What had happened to his brother.
A small little crack, widen by words.
Thor still remembers the time when Loki still called him brother. Still recalls the time when the both of them toured the realms, as the princes of Asgard and brothers in arms.
Odin still remembers the first time he laid eyes on Loki. Still remembers the first time Loki raised his little hands and called him Father.
Frigga still remembers the day Odin brought the littlest Jotun baby to her bedside. Still remembers day she took him in her arms and told him that he could call her 'Mother'.
Loki still remembers the time when they called Thor a 'brother'. Still remembers the time they called Odin a 'Father'. Still remembers the time they called Frigga a 'Mother'.
Still recalls the time they were living a lie.
The crack widened, twisted and turned and soon, a door was put in place.
He was one of the agents who drew the short straw – and pissed of Director Fury - which were the reasons why he had gotten stuck with Loki-sitting duty. He had been told that this time, it would easier than usual, since Stark had re-designed some magic barriers with the help of Dr. Stephen Strange. All he had needed to do was to stand there, look sharp, and wait for someone from the X-men to come and see what information they could get out from Loki.
The Loki they faced outside the cell seemed more dangerous, experience and a tad more insane. And the way the both of them looked at each other was beyond creepy, like each other was the only person in the world who mattered.
Like the rest of the world didn't exist.
He recalls that the few moments after he was bitten the shark with a strange sense of serenity. He had thought that he was going to die, a simple causality in the midst of Loki's escape.
And now, when the doctors try their hardest to remove the poison and sow up the bite mark, how he wishes that it was so.
Because now he lies on the surgical bed, feeling everything, hearing everything, but unable to move, unable to respond.
It was supposed to be a simple job.
It was supposed to be…
It was supposed…
With a door in place, the universe thinks, 'where's the room? There must be a room, for there cannot be a door without a room. It would be like a tea party without tea.'
Unlike others, Loki was not born into light. When Loki first opened their eyes, they see not the face of their parents; they feel not their parents’ touch.
No, when Loki first open their eyes, they see eyes sparkling with mischief, they hear the sound of madness bubbling over, they feel the tendrils of the abyss crawling over them and tugging them deep, they smell the scent of burning flames and they taste the sweet, sweet juices of insanity.
They feel soft hands of their own skin holding them, the cooing of their voice in their ears, they smell their scent around them, they taste the sweetness of their own blood and when they open their eyes, they look themselves in their own eyes.
When Loki is born, they cry. Not because they need air, but because they are taken away from the safest place they will ever know.
And so the universe makes a room. It twists and turns and moulds and carves - the universe makes a room and it preens, for it thinks it righted the world.
Loki stood up and shook their hands, handcuffs disintegrating into powder. They stared at each other and smiled. The one that came from outside gave a little mocking bow towards the camera, and spun round on their heel and gave a little wave with their hand. A green wave followed their fingertips and a door materialized out of nowhere and the Loki that wasn't in the cage opened the door and stepped into it. The Loki that used to be caged gave a mocking salute towards the camera and took a step forward as their body slowly dissolved.
The Loki that was caged teleported to their 'lair', or more accurately, a penthouse apartment in Manhattan.
Loki walked towards their bedroom and placed their amour onto a mannequin and teleported a set of sleepwear onto their body. Then, they walked towards their dresser, and plucked a paper out of thin air, along with a pen, and wrote a note to remember to save their other self sometime unspecified time in the future before they plopped down on the bed to sleep.
Around the sleeping Loki, the blanket eased itself from under its owner to cover and tuck them in. The curtain drew itself close and the lights dimmed themselves.
The watering can shivered, grew two pairs of legs and walked towards the sink. Once the watering can was safely snug in the sink, the handle reached towards the tap and switched it on, filling itself up with water and walked back to the plants and proceeded to water them.
The items in the 'lair' shimmered with adoration and love for the one who made them, carved them, and cared for them. But for all they had, they whimpered in sadness for the one thing they did not.
The simple ability to say "Welcome Back."
And when the universe sucks in it's breath to announce to the world the righted condition of the room, the universe hears a voice.
After walking through the door and slamming it shut, Loki took their amour off and changed to a more comfortable loose hoodie and jeans. They gave a little wave at the other occupant of the room, who look up from the book they were reading and gave a little nod.
"So which time period?" Loki asked while making their way over to the Kitchen Island near the back of the room.
The Loki that was sitting on the chair closed their book and turned slightly towards their other self, "the start of the room."
"Oh." The Loki standing at the kitchen island said, tipping milk into a bowl and added some flour. The items in the bowl turned to batter as soon as Loki mixed it once. "Waffles?"
"Yes please," Loki said, moving back to the book they were reading.
Loki took the batter and poured it into the Waffle Iron, pressed it down and opened it up without pausing. The waffles - which were batter just before instantly became cooked. A little jerk of their head and a couple of plates flew over and dutifully settled in front of the waffles and a pair of forks and knives picked themselves and moved the waffles to the plate. Loki then brought the plates to the small table and then settled in front of theirselves.
"Seems like an interesting book you're reading."
"It is an interesting book indeed."
"Are you not going to tell me what it is?"
"No, no. Not yet.”
"Ah, we see"
"Yes. We see. We always see."
And laughter echoed around the room, for there is nothing more amusing than a truth that has been altered one too many times.
'Ah, don't do that now. Do you want your inhabitants to know of the mistake you made?'
"So does anybody know who the fellow in the cage was?" Tony furrowed intensely at the screen the recording - which was currently paused - was being played.
"There is no doubt that the one subdued was my brother," Thor muttered, looking down at his lap where Mjolnir was placed. "He used magic and abilities that only my brother knew and said stories no one other than he himself knew."
"If that was Loki, then who was the one that suddenly appeared?" Steve said, still troubled by the way the Maybe-Loki used magic to free the other Maybe-Loki.
"Replay the part where they talk to each other."
Natasha grabbed the remote from Tony's hand and rewound the video until she got the part she wanted to watch. "As impossible as it may be, I think we have our answer." Then she cocked her head to the side and added, "But let us all wait for Dr. Strange first."
And the universe thinks, 'No, I do not,' and shuts it's mouth, for the universe is not supposed to make mistakes.
Stepping out from the room after bidding their otherselves an 'until next time', Loki blinked and then tilted their head to the side. There was a nagging feeling in the back of their head that they forgot something important when saving their pastselves from the mockery of the cage.
They then blinked in surprise when they replayed the incident in their head. Loki wondered if they should go back in time to mend the little problem they remembered before shrugging - those mortals were fine in the future, so there was nothing they needed to do.
Not yet, at least.
And so the universe adjusts, it moves and shifts and tweaks and packs and shoves the room out of time.
"It's possible," Dr. Strange said, eyes furrowed in intense concentration.
"Anyone mine filling us in?" Tony grumbled and mouthed the word 'magic' and rolled his eyes.
Dr. Strange turned towards the rest of the room "time travel." Ignoring the rest of the rooms shocked expressions, he continued, "there are several ways for Loki to be able to accomplish this - cloning, creating doppelgangers, illusions and time travel, to name a few.
"From Loki's actions, words and behaviours, in my opinion, time travel seemed to be the best-" Dr. Strange continued before being spectacularly cut off by Tony.
"Time travel?! Time travel?! Like hell that's possible! Maybe if it was possible, how the hell the universe didn't collapse with two Loki's in the same place!"
"Aye, I do not think it would be possible – for if my brother could change the past, he would have."
Sighing at the sudden outburst, Dr. Strange answered, "A time crash doesn't occur because the universe creates a stable time loop. It's the same reason why Loki, or I for one, doesn't go back in time to change the past - because it already happened."
"Wait, if Loki can't come back to change the past, then why on earth is he here?" Clint said, casting a look at Natasha who was deep in concentration.
Signing again, Dr. Strange casted his eyes towards the ceiling and replied, "Because it already happened, because Loki remembers being saved by his future self. So in the future, he comes and save his past self."
"So... Loki can't change the past, but he can go back to the past and save himself?"
"I think I get it," the people in the room turned to look at Natasha, "no one can change the past, because whatever a person did in the past is already accounted into the future."
Dr. Strange turned to Natasha and gave a nod, "correct."
"Then why didn't you just say so!"
'You don't remember the door, you don't remember the room, there is no mistake, the door never existed, there is nothing there, there is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with me.'
Tony sighed and collapsed on his couch after everyone had left and gestured for Jarvis to replay the video again.
He continued to watch the video and asked Jarvis to pause the video when a door appeared in the middle of the room. Finding it strange that he didn't have any memories of seeing where the door led to, Tony motioned for Jarvis to zoom the video in, ignoring the strange sense of Déjà Vu. As the video zoomed in, Tony could see the interior of the door. The image that greeted his eyes was nothing like he had expected.
It was one of absolute Nothingness.
(This is where the screaming starts.)
And they don't remember. Because their memories are the universe's memories and everything is true because they believe it.
The universe is everywhere and rooted to a single place. The universe sees everything and nothing. The universe is always present and never there. The universe makes its inhabitants and its inhabitants make the universe.
The universe is the oldest and youngest paradox to ever exist.
And so the universe will so everything it can to protect its existence, to hide its secrets, it protects its inhabitants – so when the universe hears screaming from one of its fragile inhabitant, it looks. It looks and sees.
It tears and rips and destroys and vanishes. Then it covers and pulls and fix and mends. And the universe cries, for the only thing the universe can't protect its inhabitants from is Nothing.
But even the universe cannot anticipate everything, cannot predict the child - for everybody is a child in comparison to the universe - walking into a place where nothing exists.
When Thor goes to sleep that night, he thinks of his brother - never his enemy - and dreams.
"Brother! Where had you disappeared to?"
"Brother, do say."
"If you must know Thor..."
"Aye! I do wish to know of your whereabouts this fine morn. I for one, had scoured the library, your room and the entire castle, but I found not one hint of your presence."
"That's because I wasn't in the castle."
"You were not? Then where have you gone?"
"Nowhere, Thor. I told you already."
"That is not an answer!"
"... You really like to give me trouble, don't you?"
"I was in the most perfect place I know of. A place so perfect that even the universe doesn't want it."
Thus the child remembers the room, and on that fateful day, the child walks into it.
"Friends! I remember a conversation I once had with my brother." Thor said during breakfast the next day. "It was one we had before our relationship soured."
"Do tell us," Dr. Strange, who was still at the tower, replied.
And Thor tells his tale to the rest of the people in the room. He talks and gestures and when he has finished his tale, he awaits with bated breath the reactions of his companions.
"What are the off chances of him lying?"
"Do not speak of my brother that way, Man of Iron." Thor said, eyebrows creasing into a frown.
"Are you certain that Loki said he was Nowhere?" The occupants of the dining room turned to look at Dr. Strange, who had a very worried look on his face.
"Then it explains a lot of things, but brings up a whole slew of questions instead." Dr. Strange continued, and took out a mirror from his pocket. "Tell me, Thor, do you remember seeing the image in the mirror?"
Peering at the image in the mirror, Thor exclaimed, "I do! This is the place below the Bifrost!"
"Is this the area Loki fell into?"
Turning back to the rest of the Avengers, Dr. Strange explained, "This is the spaces between the Realms, a dark, desolate and horrible place consisting of monstrosities beyond human understanding. The laws of physics and realities don't exist there. One of the tamest creatures I've seen is a creature with seven different dragon heads, the body made up of different animals fused together, with the arms and legs of an over-sized spider and five tails belonging to several dinosaurs. The only rule there is, is kill or be killed. It is a place beyond the understanding of any being. Most people who attempt to travel through these Paths without appropriate protection usually end up dead or insane. Even I take precaution to travel through these areas. And even then, I don't do so on a regular basis. Even with the most powerful protection, it will drive one insane sooner than later.
"If Loki fell through here and survived, it would explain why the Loki currently attacking Earth is a little insane," taking a breath and ignoring the mumbles of 'a little? He tried to kill us with walking and talking pineapples wearing banana dresses armed with spears made out of durians and peaches.' Dr. Strange continued, "Although, that begs the question of how he survived. Without proper protection, he would probably get killed several times over by the beings that lived there."
Keeping the mirror, Dr. Strange said, "that was my theory at first, but after hearing Thor's story, I have another idea, but this might even less sense." He then asked, "about the place I just told you, do any of you think that there would any place scarier than it?"
"From a place that sounds like the birthplace of Cthulhu, I highly doubt so," Tony said.
"It probably doesn't exist," Bruce added.
"Nowhere. Nowhere is scarier than that place." Natasha said, earning a small smile from Dr. Strange.
Dr. Strange nodded and said, "All of you are technically correct. Nowhere is scarier than that place." Giving a small sympathetic smile towards Thor, he elaborated, "I'm afraid your brother wasn't lying when he said he was Nowhere."
Dr. Strange took a deep breath in and seemed to steel himself before continuing. "There exists a place outside the universe, called the Void. And like its name, the Void is void. Void of anything - light, sound, noise, air, touch, dark and everything else. Nothing exists in the Void. Not even time.
"The Void is a place that I will never enter, the last person I knew saw it and started crying and babbling until he killed himself. There is Nothing in the Void, and it is such a horrible place that the universe itself didn't want it."
"Then why did Loki say it was the most perfect place he knew of?"
“'Nothing is Perfect'."
And the child sees! The child sees the past, the present, the future, everything, nothing, what could have been, what would have been, what should have been. The child sees their birth, sees their death, sees their past and sees their future.
"Hey, Heimdall..." Heimdall's eyes moved to where Loki was peeking over the Bifrost, "is there anything you cannot see?"
"Brother! What are you implying? Heimdall's sight prevails all!" Thor shouted from where he was. Internally, Heimdall sighed and wondered why he had been saddled with the job of taking care of the two royal bra-princes. He takes a look at Loki again and wonders how he should answer, for it would be difficult to tell a lie to its own Smith.
"Nothing. The only thing that my eyes can't see is Nothing. My eyes cannot see Nowhere." It may be a weirdly phrased statement, but Loki can't call it a lie.
"Don't you mean your eyes can see everywhere?" Loki states, eyes still focused on the area under the Bifrost.
Heimdall keeps quiet, for Loki cannot call an action a lie.
So the child reaches their hands out and takes themselves into their own hands.
“Amora, what’s the most perfect place you know?”
“The Void. It’s the most terrific place that I know of.”
"Is it really?"
Yes! Perfect! The same way mages are enchanting!
"So it is a terrifying place then. "
"What makes you think so? Would I lie over this?"
"Yes. You would. The void begets terror. The same way mages weave enchantment."
“Then you can’t call it a lie, can you, Liesmith?"
The child blinks and remembers the sight of mischief, the sound of madness, the touch of the abyss, the smell of fire, the taste of insanity and laughs and laughs and laughs.
In room outside of time exists many lists placed in a little box. Each of the lists is stacked upon one another in a little wooden box with the pattern of many creatures that both exist and don't exist in the universe. The little wooden box has four wooden balls as legs at each of the four corners and a little wooden lid.
Some of the lists are neat and folded, while others are crumpled and messy. Some are torn and ripped, while others are prim and perfect.
In total, there are 5,654 lists in the little box.
The list ranges from the mundane to the extraordinary to the ridiculously absurd. Several examples of the lists found in the box will be listed below, along with the first few of each list.
Number 1 - The List of Lists
1. The List of Lists
57. Things that make us laugh
77. The names of who we love
78. The names of who we like
395. Things that taste nicer on the Hidden Paths
786. Places we like
1007. Things we love about the Void.
1008. Things we hate about the Void.
1583. Things that are shiny.
2077. Who we are.
3158. Things they keep telling us.
3967. What we may call our pets
4358. What we saw in the Void.
4999. How to keep someone quiet.
5278. Things that unnerve us
5654. People we trust
Number 57 - Things that make us laugh
1. The Room
2. Things we See
3. When the chameleons in the garden refers to Dragons as 'Those with wings, who are bigger than me'.
Number 77 - The names of the people we love
Number 78 - The names of people we like
Number 395 - Things that taste nicer on the Hidden Paths
1. The fruit that grows on the tree near the entrance of the paths.
2. Food that appear in a spark of yellow when created.
3. Midgard's smoothies.
Number 786 - Places we like
1. The Room
2. The Void
3. The Abyss
4. The Paths
Asgard? Jotunheim? Midgard? Nowhere!
Number 1007 - Things we like about the Void
1. It is Empty
2. There is Nothing
3. Heimdall can't see us
Number 1008 - Things we don't like about the Void
1. It is Empty
2. There is Nothing
3. Heimdall can’t see us!
Number 1583 - Things that are shiny
1. The spectre
2. The Casket of Winters
3. Iron Man's heart
4. Asgard's Royal Palace
5. Sif's old golden hair
7. Our helmet
8. Victor's mask under the sun
Number 2077 - Who we are
Number 3158 - Things they keep telling us
1. Don't lie.
3. You're mad
Number 3967 - What we might call our pets
Number 4358 - What we saw in the Void
Number 4999 - How to keep someone quiet
1. Sow their lips together
2. Muzzle them
3. Kill them
4. Behead them
5. Silence them (us?)
Number 5278 - Things that unnerve us
Number 5654 - People we trust
It was the only list which was virtually unreadable. Ink was splattered over the page, hiding words that were written, even if there were words in the first place.
And hasn't stopped laughing yet.
"Oh my, look how cute we are!" Loki says, grinning at the baby version of them.
"Let us tell a story, shall we? Yes, yes - we should."
"What story should we say?"
"Any is fine! As long as it’s a nice story, suitable for us!"
"Suitable for us? How about a story about us?"
"About us? That's a good story!"
"We love that story!"
"All of us do. All of us."
"Ah, let's start the story, shall we?"
"Once upon a time, in a place not so far away, there was something small."
"Yes, yes just like the universe, it stared with something small."
"But just like its poor inhabitants, the universe is a fragile thing, and all anybody needs to do is give is a little push!"
"A little push and the universe goes toppling over and like egg, it makes a small whine, and a little crack opens up."
"A small little pretty and oh-so-delicious crack, widen a little by little by words!"
"It widened, twisted and turned and soon, a shiny new door was put in place!"
"But, you all see, with a door in place, the poor delusional universe thinks, 'where's the room? There must be a room, for there cannot be a door without a room. It would be like a tea party without tea.'"
"And the universe makes a room! It twists and turns and moulds and carves - the universe makes a room and it preens for when the universe wants a beak, it has a beak, for the poor, delusional universe thinks it has righted the world. But when is the world never right?"
“After the long tedious time, which is not so long because time belongs to the universe, the universe sucks in its breath - for who is to say that it cannot breath? And plans to announce to the world the righted condition of the room, the universe hears a voice. A sweet sounding voice filled with insanity. Just. Like. Us!”
“'Ah, don't do that now. Do you want your inhabitants to know of the mistake you made?' the voice says"
“And the universe, the poor stupid universe, thinks, 'No, I do not,' and shuts its mouth, for the universe is not supposed to make mistakes."
"So it adjusts, the universe moves and shifts and tweaks and packs and shoves the room out of time. Like what we want to do with them, isn't that right?"
"We're always right! The universe is always right too... Is it?”
“'You don't remember the door, you don't remember the room, there is no mistake, the door never existed, there is nothing there, there is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing wrong with me.' The universe says, oh, but there is always something wrong, no one can satisfy the entire universe.”
"And they don't remember how stupid they are. The insignificant people of the universe don't remember - because their memories are the universe's memories and everything is true because they believe it."
"But even the universe cannot anticipate everything, cannot predict the child - for everybody is a child in comparison to the universe - falling into a place where nothing exists. Thus the child remembers the room, and one day, the child walks into it!"
"And the child (we) sees! The child (we) sees the past, the present, the future, everything, nothing, what could have been, what would have been, what should have been. The child (we) sees their (our) birth, sees their (our) death, sees their (our) past and sees their (our) future."
"So the child (we) reaches their (our) hands out and take themselves (ourselves) into their (our) own hands."
"The child (we) blinks and remembers the sight of mischief, the sound of madness, the touch of the abyss, the smell of fire, the taste of insanity and laughs and laughs and laughs."
"And we haven’t stopped laughing yet."
"Our laughter rises, carves and weaves words into the walls. Simple words with great meaning.”
"Loki may not trust Loki, but Loki will always Love Loki."
"So remember this, young us, for one day (today?), we will say this to ourselves over and over and over.”
"So smile for us?"
The laughter of the child rises and carves and weaves words into the walls. Simple words with great meaning.
"You see Victor, from the day of our birth, all of us had a single thought in our head. Even before we registered that we were alive."
"Me, of course. The Liesmith. The Silvertongue. The Trickster. The Sly-one. The Mischief-Maker. The Sky-Walker. The Realm-Traveller. The Witch. The Sorcerer. The Traitor. The Fallen prince. Father of Lies. Mother of Monsters. Father of the Fenris Wolf. Father of the Midgard Serpent. Sire of the Queen of the Dead. Mother to the King of Horses. Killer of Baldur. Slayer of Heimdall. Husband of Sigyn. Husband of Angrboda. Brother of Thor. Brother of Odin. Son of Odin. Son of Frigga. Child of Laufey. Child of Nal. Child of Faburiti. Loki the Mad God."
"You have many names."
"Do we not? It is who we are after all."
"Is it? You do not answer to most them, do you?"
"No. We do not."
"Then why have so many?"
"A magician never reveals their secrets, Victor. But anyways, let us get back on track. Its simple thought, a basic thing."
"And you would trust me enough to tell?"
"Not trust, Victor. Never trust."
"Don't you even trust yourself?"
"Never! Loki would never trust Loki."
"Do you? Do you see? Well, it doesn't matter. But do let us continue, Victor."
"Do go on."
"It's a very simple thing. A string of letters. It's-"
'Loki may not trust Loki, but Loki will always Love Loki.'
"We could be lying, Victor."
"Yes. Yes you could. All of you could."