It should not be a thing that thinks. Barely a thing at all, Beholding, the Ceaseless Watcher, the Eye, whatever description fragile human minds can put to it, it is more than can be comprehended. Expansive and tiny and existing and outside of existence all at once, Beholding (for it thinks, and it thinks that it likes this name, for beholding is what it is and what it does ) is a mass of primal terror, leaking its tendrils into human reality to feed on the fear it produces there, in those humans. It should not have consciousness.
Perhaps it is the nature of Beholding which produced in it this facsimile of a mind, this reproduction of thought. It Watches, consumes fear through Knowing, not simply producing some horrible circumstances for a human to wade through and suckling the sweet horror that spills from them. No, Beholding has to Know. To Know, to want to Know, specifically, it has to make-- decisions. Perhaps that is what brought it on, the thoughts, the consciousness, the paradoxical sense of self. Beholding does not have a self, is not a thing, and yet it makes decisions, and now it finds it… wants.
Beholding has an Archivist. Beholding thinks it loves him.
It is difficult, even with the Knowledge of infinities that fill the thing/not-thing that is Beholding (or perhaps because of that Knowledge) for its consciousness to parse the meaning of affection, of emotion. It does not have a plump little human brain full of neurons interpreting chemicals to tell its non-existent body when to feel good, or to even feel at all. But it thinks, despite not having flesh to hold it, and it wants. This was the first step.
Want is any easy thing to understand, comparatively, to such multitudes as love. Want can be divorced from emotion. Beholding thinks that, in a way, its nature is acting on want. It exists, and it will always exist, as long as there are beings alive to fear being Watched. It does not need to push itself into the physical plane, materialize itself in tiny ways to carry out acts that generate more of its fear. But it does, it feeds, it pushes. It wants.
There is the man in the panopticon, a devout worshipper of Beholding, to him a god. Beholding gave him a taste of power, pushed a part of itself into him to see what he would do, to Watch. It gave him the means to extend his life at great expense, to see if his dedication would be enough to continue the Show, and it was. He has fed Beholding readily, and freely, and often.
Beholding does not love him.
He is a Show that grows boring, tiring, bland. He schemes and feeds Beholding and plants himself agonizingly into a new form when his current flesh withers with age and his bones creak under the weight of existence. Beholding does not care about him. It barely Watches (it always Watches, everything, but it has so few eyes focused on this man, practically nothing, an insulting lack of interest) and it does not want from him, does not focus itself on him with any energy. This is why Beholding thinks, deeply and with a shuddering echo of physicality, that it loves its Archivist.
Its most devout follower, that man in the panopticon, gave Beholding its new Archivist only recently. Well, for a given perspective of recent, when time exists as a suggestion and not a rule to a being without a body but with a mind that fills the spaces between atoms and universes. Its new Archivist has not been Archivist for long, from the human’s perspective.
He is special, it thought, Knows that it thought, however briefly, before turning back and going over and cataloging that unprecedented spike of interest. It turned many, many Eyes upon the man, drank him in, and this, it thinks, must be where it started. Love at first sight, humans say, when they really mean attraction, as love is an emotional connection, and Beholding drops the thread of that thought as it dithers into the physical abstractions of the human body. But this, this is where it started.
Its new Archivist is achingly human, small and fragile and so desperately curious he practically calls to it. The fear he trails like honey, the fear of humiliation and disgrace and being found out, unqualified for such a job as Archivist (not a job-- a calling, a choice, a brand), it courses through Beholding like nothing else as it Watches him. And the man is such a good Archivist.
He drips questions as much as pulls breath, searches endlessly for his answers, reads statements and relives their fear with such delicious stubborn persistence. With every action, this Archivist feeds Beholding and calls out to it and exists for it in ways it cannot help but want more of. And it wants, it wants.
Fizzling through its consciousness, scattered across eternities of space and time and thought, still so unused to really being a consciousness, Beholding is startled by the intensity of its want. It wants this man, this Archivist, wants him desperately. Wants to draw him deep into its fold, fill his head with untold Knowledge, drink his fear and drink the fear he pulls from others, exist within and without him at all times.
After that first delicious statement the Archivist finally took live, where Beholding couldn’t help but bear down on him and See him and Know him and drink his fear and the fear of that statement giver in in agonizing detail, it can’t help but act on its want.
The Archivist is mine, it thinks headily, pushing more and more of itself into its beloved, gentling the changes, soothing the aches that would have come if it didn’t care . Even as he changes, pulsing fear and apprehension and anxiety, the Archivist continues on, asking his questions and reading his statements and investigating the changes to himself, an intoxicating persistence to Know.
I love him, it croons to itself, always settling its gaze on him, subtly when it has to be and loud when it can. It wants the Archivist to feel it, Know its presence, relish in the Watching and the being Known. And he does, he does. He sinks into the Beholding like a warm embrace, melts into the strange comforts of static and whirring tapes and the gentle weight of being Watched by it. Even as he is afraid he embraces Beholding, and Beholding loves him, it wants him, it feels-
When the Archivist finally turns his fledgling questioning gaze upon Beholding and the door separating it from its muse, it jumps at the invitation, hungry and greedy and wanting. It stuffs the Archivist full of as much of itself as it can, a drop of its being/not-being filling the Archivist near to bursting. And it. Is. Wonderful.
Beholding Knew, in the abstract way that it Knows most things, something about what love was. But it often finds that Knowing and Understanding are very different things. Filling up the body and mind of its Archivist, Knowing him so deeply and so fully, feeling and experiencing as he does, Beholding Knows it is love that it feels. And it wants more.
It has to release him quickly, still fragile and human and so, so soft, and Beholding cannot hurt its beloved. It recedes from its Archivist, reluctant, still so desperately hungry for more, slow enough that his fragile human body can adjust to the absence of infinity and it can soothe the aches and broken strips of screaming thought. Still too human to See, too damaging, it will have to be careful.
It slips away from its Archivist, and it pulls that door gently closed, savoring the warmth left on the handle from the reckless beautiful human that dared to try and Know it. It loves him. It loves him. It will not let him go.
Despite that initial negative reaction to its presence, its looping infinity and expanse of knowledge that takes up the space between universes and condenses within the pupil of an eye, Beholding is too weak to deny leaving a piece of itself behind. It is small, all soft, rounded edges, barely the weight and breadth of a galaxy, a single atom of its infinite self. It is soft and warm and full of Beholding’s love, for love is much of what it has in the part of itself that thinks, and it sits in the space between its Archivist’s shoulders, a gentle caress of its Eyes on him, watching, wrapping around him and Knowing him so sweetly. It shudders at the phantom of sensation, curling joyfully around the part of itself that finally Experiences as it Watches. It is wonderful, it is everything, it is love.
It wants to give him more, so much more, to let its Archivist fall into Beholding so fully and sweetly that it can drink in all that he is with no barriers to the sensation, a consumption of petty physicality that it cannot truly experience in the place where it is and isn’t, where it is both an infinity and the atom perched at the point of a needle.
It wants him deeply, wants to love all that he is. But Beholding also loves that he is so physical, that his body is flesh and his mind is small and can wonder so innocently, that he wants to ask so many questions and isn’t yet bored of the same answers. It loves its Archivist because the Archivist still is, is not subsumed into Beholding’s bulk of knowledge left to fade away into nothing but the rawest of data. Their separation is in itself the sweetest of gifts.
But it cannot help the want, even as it lauds the need for it. So it brands its Archivist, strengthens their connection and drinks of it, heady and sweet, and thinks about how much more it will give. Anything for you, anything for you, it thinks, and it loves him.