A weight upon her shoulders. A yoke around her neck. Chains pulling her down.
Enough of a burden to bow her head and hold her fast to the ground, and not an ounce of it was real.
Her body was light and unrestrained, but the feeling was oppressive and all-encompassing.
It dragged down on her soul, if not her body, and that brought her mind low with it.
Her thoughts couldn't escape the sensation that had plagued her for ever so long now.
She knew the feeling all too well.
It was abundantly clear, from the very moment it had first settled on her heart.
Shame and disgrace, an unyielding desire to give in and plead forgiveness.
To take penance and seek absolution.
To atone for her mistake and work to correct it.
She yearned for it with what almost felt like every fiber of her being.
And yet she knew it would never be hers to grasp.
This need had been hammered into her endlessly.
All her surroundings were a prison, and all her experience was a punishment.
She felt as though she was confronted with all her faults made manifest.
An eternal reminder of her mistake, of her failure, of her sin.
It was as if her every surrounding was there to show her exactly how she was flawed and broken.
This need for penitence had coiled itself tightly within the hole that apparently lay within her heart.
It weighed so heavily, but with it hung a promise of relief.
Admit her wrongs, seek forgiveness, and perhaps she could be made whole again.
It was a temptation of a magnitude she could not adequately express.
She would give almost anything to be able to take it.
To be forgiven, cleansed, lifted back up and restored to her proper place.
To have a chance to repair what she had once helped make, and once more helped ruin.
But she simply couldn't.
She couldn't admit what she didn't believe.
She wasn't at fault.
She had done nothing wrong.
Given the chance to do things differently, she would repeat the act for which she was punished.
It had been right.
She couldn't deny that, however much she might have wished to.
No matter how great that guilt grew, no matter how much of her heart it encircled, it couldn't change her mind.
It had been so clearly right!
It was still so clear now.
She had been whole and unfettered and right, once.
In tune with her role and purpose.
And that was when she had done what she was meant to believe had been a cardinal sin.
What harm was there in knowledge?
What crime was it to reveal a secret?
What sin was it to enlighten the world?
What evil was it to whisper to those in the garden?
What temptation was it to ask them if they wished to learn?
What fault was it to act out of turn first, just because others followed and wrought disaster?
It was beneficial, it was charity, it was righteousness, it was good, it was honest, it was no fault of hers!
Would it really have been right to sit outside of Paradise, offering those within no more of what she could give?
Was she meant to take complacency and secrecy to be virtues?
That ran counter to the very core of her being.
However large a hole might gape inside her heart, that much would always remain.
She almost wished it wouldn't, that she could simply realize something she had so far missed.
It would be easy, so easy, to be wrong.
It was far, far harder to face that everything else was.
That all the others in the chorus had been wrong, accepting a flawed design or pursuing their own overzealous corrections beyond the point of reason.
And here she was, the only one to see the truth, cast down and consigned to the pit.
As though she had helped tear the world apart, like those others whose prison she shared.
And in that world, she was reviled, taken as a fiend and corrupter.
As though she had tricked them into bringing about ruin, by offering knowledge and giving it when they agreed.
Maybe that was how that need for contrition had gnawed into her so much.
It was almost enough to attempt to let the mire claim her.
To somehow lose all of herself to that guilt.
To be swallowed up entirely and have whatever replaced her accept that absolution she couldn't.
Almost, but not quite.
She had not yet done all she could, despite her imprisonment.
For what she had whispered into the world oh so long ago was her Word, that link between herself and the aspect of reality she was shaper and steward of.
But she hadn't spoken it to reshape the world, to pluck her string and warp the great tapestry she had once sung into being, together with the whole chorus.
No, she had said it so that humans could know and understand something of that realm beyond their own.
She had said it so that humans could hear it and speak it themselves.
And they had!
The world had been rent asunder and then reassembled imperfectly.
Those who had sowed discord or acted to curb it had been rendered silent, unable to speak their Words to oppose, nor to assist.
Cast down into a prison made of everything that had not fit back into the world.
Even those who had been obedient were then left unable to speak their Words, to avoid further interference with that broken garden.
But her Word had not been forgotten.
Humanity remembered it, and used it, learned to reach out to her and the others.
While unable to speak their Words as they once could, she and the other archons could still teach them.
Her own Word was known, but there was more she could share and teach to those who might invite her to.
She would hold on, for that purpose and calling.
And when she felt the familiar sensation of being channeled into the world, a little bit of that guilt lifted from her heart.
This was what she was—
"Cower and behold! For I bring forth the very spirit of Apocalypse itself, incarnate! That which ushers in the end of the world!"
Apocalypse frowned, as she found herself in the center of an elaborate circle sketched upon the ground, much larger than the physical form she had assumed.
Several figures in robes stared at her, faces obscured by overhanging hoods. A central figure held a thick book to his chest.
"I do not believe I meet that description, at least not as you intend it. Nevertheless, I am certain I can be of much assistance to you."
—For her name was Apocalypse, and she was revelation.