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The Departed milled around the Nexus aimlessly, each one surrounded by a soft white glow and empty eyesockets.

They were not yet possessed of all their memories, patiently enduring the small eternity of the upload process of their Artificial Souls.

Their avatars were blank slates still being written into the database.

There was no horizon, just a long stretch of featureless gray bleached of anything of interest. The world was completely silent. Light seemed to come from every direction at once. Dark shapes of the other Departed walked in a slow procession, lines of ants turning into people, shuffling inexorably toward the only visible monument: a huge blue gateway that arched upward so far that it faded into ashen mist.

The sole proprietor of the structure, a black humanoid shape with only a red sphere for a head stood in front of the Mhisvan Gate. One hand was flaming and the other was white with two eyes on the ends of his fingers. He possessed no face or anything to relate to.

In front of the guardian was one white circle and one black circle. Leaden avatars lined up around the two discs on the ground, waiting somberly with their shoulders straight and their heads down.

Insight returned to the first Departed to arrive at the Gate. He licked his lips and turned to face the creature in front of the Gate. Though he possessed no eyes yet, he seemed able to perceive his surroundings. He opened his mouth, giving a little cry, as if making a noise for the first time. Others, too, began to return to their senses.

"Am I to be judged?" the First one asked.

"No one is judged by asha," the Guardian intoned. His crimson sphere head vibrated as he spoke with the voice of a untuned harp. "There is only the destination for you to choose."

"I heard Heaven is boring," one female Departed whispered. "I want to be challenged."

"So mote it be."

The guardian waved his hand of fire over the avatar. Her eyesockets filled with red and grew eyes. The old woman blinked and wiped away tears of blood. The black circle began to draw her in slowly, widening to reveal a modern world.

"Hey, this is just like where I came from ... "

"So it is. There is no fail— there is only start over and try again. You will find excitement and challenge enough. You chose your destination."

The woman shrank into a girl and then a young infant as she was pulled closer, ending in nothing but a white spark spiraling into one of the high-rise hospitals.

The first Departed was afraid to speak now. The guardian seemed to be staring at him intensely, motionless. He was afraid of being watched by something with no eyes ... but, touching his face, he realized that he also had none.

"You should not be here," the guard said, pointing his one white bony hand at the shaking avatar. The eyes on those fingers remained closed.

"There's been some mistake. A glitch in the software," he said. "I'm still alive."

"There are no mistakes. Asha is always correct."

And the guardian moved forward, the eyeballs on his digits opening, one black and one white, just like the circles on the ground. He pressed his fingers to the First Departed's face. As the guardian drew his hand back, the eyes split and left two identical ones inside the sockets.

The avatar covered his face with his hands.

"The light! It hurts!"

"You have chosen your destination ... "

The white circle opened up, and the avatar sank down into a tenebrous silver world, falling onto granite. His landing was gentle.

All around him was the inside of the true Nexus.

Then he woke up.

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