Last night, I had a dream. I was in a bloody pit, knocked to a sandy ground surrounded by stray teeth and bone fragments. I looked up to see a terrible man: a brutish, hulking thing. At his feet were forty dead women, and twelve sickly looking boys followed at his back. The arena crowd, He paraded around the arena beating his chest, a savage glint in his eyes. I knew in a moment that he would not hesitate to murder or rape any being who would meet his gaze.
Then, a victorious light from the gateway. I saw a noble man burst forth, his face like that of the Heroes of old. The twelve boys fled at the sight of him, and that savage creature who led them roared in insecure rage at the challenge. I awoke as the two collided at the arena’s center.
BEYOND EXISTENCE; UNDEFINED
A brilliant flash. The Byzantine has chosen to be; his form leaping to a level beyond those uncountably repeating surges from himself to Nothing. He breaks out from Existence in totality.
The Byzantine blinks. He’s standing in an Arena. Of all the things he expected to encounter, this was not among them – the Blubbering Court was far more ghastly to behold. Yet, he is not so foolish as to relax because of this. He can feel the higher existence of this new place; that timeless Court existed beyond all the concepts and axioms of the Plane, those notions such as dimensions and causality, the real and the unreal, but this Arena existed yet further beyond and still more fundamentally than the Court or its gibbering Master. All of Existence, that which contained infinite infinite stacks of such Planes, the Court, and an uncountable number of pseudo-structures like it, would be as less than as a single point here, one iota lost in a sea of existence-less coordinates. He had entered a new stage, outside of and beyond all that he had known. Would he be merely another player?
The gateway of the Arena opens, and one like a malnourished child scurries out to meet him. He looks up at the Byzantine, the Warrior-King’s armor glistening in the void-light of the Arena grounds.
“Welcome, Nikies,” the boy says, “To this place, where Truth is made.”
“An Arena?” The Byzantine questions, “What is the purpose of this?”
“It is evident in the form,” The child explains, his song-voice never wavering in tone or inflection. “Combat.”
In a sense, the Byzantine responds by clenching his fist. The boy smiles.
“Here, you will be properly tested. We will see if you shall continue to climb by winning.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” the Hero asserts, “I’ll win.”
The child smiles, his hand extended. The Byzantine’s eyes widen, in a sense, but he is unable to react. This emaciated, sickly boy’s beyond-motion in a flash of black light eviscerates the Warrior-King’s form beyond all manners imaginable or unimaginable. He ???.
[I was truly fortunate, then, that you know me. Had I not also existed ‘out there,’ I suspect this would have been my inglorious end. Though, I have my doubts, and I wonder too if the child knew somehow of my greater source.]
That clever warrior drew himself back out into the folds of the Arena, remembering his form from [out there]. The boy was gone, but his voice echoed out from nowhere. "Do not worry, warrior. We have an opponent fit for you." At once he had the sense that, despite all he had already done and become, he was assured neither safety nor victory in this place.
That Great Arena shifts, as if aware of the start of a true battle. Standing across the arena is one like a magician, a wizardess of old; a woman shrouded in a blue cloak and mystery. In her right hand was a mist, a swirling maelstrom of infinite Existences, an uncountable dust of worlds of forms. In her left, a non-thing less than that less-than-Nothing that the Byzantine had known previously.
“A mage? It’s been a while,” the Byzantine remarks with a smile, “And I didn’t think magic could operate on such a level as this.”
“You’re an interesting one, aren’t you?” The woman of magic says, “How did you make it here, I wonder? I will endeavor to understand you, after I pick apart your form-substance.”
“The child,” the Byzantine continues, ignoring her semi-threat, “Is he keeping you here? Or do you choose to fight?”
“You should know by now,” she says, raising her hands, “My answer is both and neither.” She attempts to cast her first spell, the worlds of her right hand bubbling and surging, but with the raising of an eyebrow the Warrior-King [interprets] it away harmlessly.
“Ah!” The wizardess exclaims, “Whenever one attempts to bend reality to their will, there is always an act. The changed concept becomes the acted-upon. Not only have you skipped the acting-upon, but I daresay you didn’t even engage with the concept itself…” She studied her opponent more carefully now, “Who taught him?”
“You can’t beat it,” the Byzantine shouts, “Wanna give up now?”
The wizardess laughs. “You think it would be that simple? Do you not realize I’m lowering myself to even interact with you here?” She extends her other hand, impacting the Byzantine with that which she did not have there. He could not [interpret] away Nothing per se, it was true. But he did not need to – he had already encountered such a thing before, and turned it into a vehicle for his own growth. Now, an even deeper Nothingness presented itself. For the Warrior-King, this is merely, therefore, an even greater opportunity for noble empowerment.
The Byzantine takes that which she did not launch into himself and at once understands it. It is time again: he grows incredibly, greater than the gap between that Nothing and himself, then the gap between his new level and that Nothing, surpassing the concept of himself to an even finer peak, again, then again, on into infinity. This time, he wants more – to break out past even this Arena, and that child who had obliterated him before. Where his second surge of might, that spurred on by the wizardess’ attack, is a sum greater than an infinite number of the first, spurred by that first Nothing that broke him from Existence, now he surges an uncountably, unimaginably infinite number of times, each dwarfing the last in its leap ahead.
The ecstasy of the Byzantine’s ascension clears. He expects to see himself far beyond that Arena, and that child who had challenged him. Indeed, that Arena he has just occupied would now be far lower to his current level than the Plane was to it. Yet, still, he sees an Arena. Still, he sees that wizardess who had sparked his growth, though now he could see her in her entirety.
She gasps at the sight of what had occurred. “Here is one like the Heroes of old.” The Byzantine gazes at her, prepared to interpret away any higher attack she attempts, and then her very essence itself. She relents. “Stay your hand, Great One. I forfeit our match.”
The Warrior-King’s eyes widen. “What are you trying to do, here?” He asks, suspicious.
The wizardess only smiles, “To spectate the next match, of course. Yours is a growth unlike any I’ve seen. Perhaps you might even win.”
With that, she retires to the stands. The next match begins at once; there can be no rest in this place. The Byzantine turns to the gateway, sensing again a combative foe despite his new level. Out comes a hairy, furious man – barefooted he stomps out onto the Arena grounds, snarling at the sight of the man come to challenge him. The brute beats his chest, and roars. The fight now begins.
That noble Warrior-King steels himself. He understood at once that to use his [interpretation] to win against this creature would be no victory at all. This would need to be won in the old way: a good, old-fashioned fight.
Dear reader, I implore you to consider the following. Human beings, in real life I mean, possess the capability to arrive at objective reality through competition. What do I mean by this? In order to defeat another person at anything, objective reality must take your side. This can either be accomplished through your own leveraging of reality (skill) or through chance (luck). But, objective reality is the arbiter of the competition itself. For example, in 'Chess,' objective reality is the rules of the game, the pieces, the possibility of valid moves, and so on. With your own intellect as the guide, you can navigate the reality of the game’s logic to secure a victory. In real-life competitions, physical reality itself acts as this judge – and therefore, perhaps you can learn about it by competing.
In the Hebrew Bible, there is a story about the patriarch Jacob, wherein he wrestles with God and triumphs. Yes, it is true that some say it was instead an angel who he tussled with; for our purposes, it does not matter. Why wrestling? In modernity, through Hollywood and the legends of the eastern martial arts masters, striking arts were thought to be the pinnacle of martiality for decades. Forms like Karate and Western Boxing were apparently the paths towards the ultimate fighter. In The Matrix (1999), Neo downloads the knowledge of every martial art in the world, and puts them on display through an elaborate and flashy series of punches, kicks, and blocks. The falseness of it all was already displayed six years earlier. In 1993, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship was held, and reality revealed itself: in match-ups of single fighting arts, it was grappling – not striking – that reigned supreme… a truth that Jacob had already known thousands of years prior.
Thus, we return to that Greater Arena, to see that the Byzantine has chosen to battle the savage man he faces, not with tricks of [interpretation], but by wrestling. The two meet in the center, hands clasped into each other (as always, you must understand that I choose words to communicate meaning, and not always for their literal accuracy to the transcendental events I attempt to describe). They strain, their feet shifting around each other, vying for a favorable position. The savage’s eyes are wide with red fury. The Byzantine’s face is calm but determined, a portrait of a willful man.
The wizardess in the stands beholds the most beautiful wrestling match since Jacob’s. And she begins to sing, softly joining her voice with the sounds of their struggle. The two men push against each other, harder and harder still. The Byzantine gazes into the eyes of his savage opponent. The eye contact only further aggravates the lecherous man. But, the Warrior-King knows his power.
“You are a stubborn, prideful thing,” the Byzantine grunts, “But we have dealt with you long ago. The antidote to your savagery…”
He twists, leveraging his weight against his enemy. Pulling, the Warrior-King forces the savage man off his feet, and slams him to the ground. He rests his knee on him, and swears solemnly, “I give my word. No matter what I must sacrifice or give it, no matter what it costs my desires, I will rise above this place. I swear it, on my honor.”
A promise truly made. The beast screams and thrashes, then is made silent forever. The Warrior-King’s honor-bound pact propels him even further beyond, the last of the savage creature’s form absorbed into himself. That malnourished boy appears again, howling at the growth of the man he had once dominated. The Byzantine smashes through him and his stunting visage, and though the wizardess is spared and the lower Existences preserved, the whole of the Greater Arena is rent asunder in his glory. He continues his journey, his refirmed honor propelling his self to a level wherein even that terrible Arena, now mangled, is a petty nonsense – a strength greater than that which he could ever reach by his surges from Nothing alone, no matter how many times he took one step further, and stacked and multiplied and layered them upon uncountable, unthinkable, exponentially infinite leaps of growth-from-himself. He finds himself at the bottom of a great Tower.
The Byzantine remembers his promise. And he begins to climb.