It was a sudden gust of air that finally woke him from his deep sleep. Nothing cures a broken heart like pizza stirred from his prone position, gradually opening his eyes only to be greeted with the sight of a twisting purple vortex below him. He gasped, hastily backing away from the edge of the platform he rested on. Pizza tried to stand in spite of the aches running along his body, finding the task surprisingly easier than expected. After peering hesitantly at the ominous swirl below, he risked a small little hop and ended up briefly drifting through the air before landing back onto the floating stone platform. No doubt about it, gravity wasn’t quite working the way he remembered it.

Pizza tried to take in his surroundings while he organized his thoughts. The last thing he remembered, he was in middle of a large party of some sort, having a conversation with some girl named Mountain Dew and something calling itself a Bag of Crushed Child. Some floodlights switched on without warning and illuminated him before the entire crowd, shortly before he was wracked with stabbing pains in his chest. Then he woke up here, on a levitating slab of rock amidst a vast ethereal landscape. Through the cerulean-tinted mist, Pizza could make out other floating platforms similar to his own, some occupied by the silhouettes of other nodes just like him. “What the hell happened,” he mused to himself. “Where am I?”

“Why, you’re marked for destruction, of course.” A node drifted down from one of the platforms above, landing a few feet away from the dumbstruck Pizza. He extended a fading, semi-transparent hand to greet the newcomer. “My name’s Poetry I’ve written while alone and feeling emo, but you can just call me Poet,” he said. “We’re fortunate, it seems. At least we get to have some company before the end.” Poet pointed towards one of the more isolated platforms, where the solitary sound of tear-choked sobbing could be heard.

“Pizza’s the name,” Pizza responded. “And what do you mean by ‘the end’?”

“Well, we’re on Node Row. People didn’t like how we turned out, so now we’re here. It’s only a matter of time before we get sucked into that vortex down there.” Poet nudged a loose rock over the edge with his foot, watching it disappear into the abyss below. “At least, that’s what my friend New Order told me. He said something similar happened to a node called Blue Monday.”

Butterflies started to form in Pizza’s stomach, a sense of foreboding that he was unfamiliar with in his brief, brief life. “And… what happens after that? After we go through the vortex, I mean.”

“I think it’s what some people refer to as ‘death’,” said Poet. “I’ve never experienced it myself, so I wouldn’t know. But I guess we’ll find out soon enough, hmm?”

One of the neighboring stone slabs started to crumble, pieces of rock breaking apart before being sucked into oblivion. Its only occupant, How I lost my virginity, lost her footing and tumbled in along with the rest of the boulders.

Panic crept into Pizza’s voice as he watched the spectacle below. “But I’m not ready to go! I want to go back to that party, where all the other people are!”

Poet tried his best to calm his companion, speaking in a softer, soothing tone. “There there. I don’t think it’ll be too bad. You’ve taken plenty of new steps throughout your life, right? Well, just think of this as the next one. No one gets to choose when their time will end, after all. And if something else exists beyond that vortex, who knows? Maybe it’s another adventure, waiting for us. So let’s just sit back, relax, and enjoy tranquility for a bit.”

Poet and Pizza sat by the edge of the platform, letting their feet dangle off the side. He had a point, Pizza thought. A dim light filtered through the airy indigo haze, warming the tips of his toes while the two of them sat in silence. The gentle roar of wind passed his ears, reminding him of something from his previous life, before he was marked. He could barely remember the word, and now that he was trying he found he could barely remember anything at all. “Ocean,” it might have been.

EZ SAY HO! said an echoing, disembodied voice.

Pizza looked up, trying to locate the source of the outburst. “Don’t mind him. He does that. I think he’s taunting us,” said Poet.

The ground beneath the two companions started to shake. Bits of rock crumbled away from the main body, dropping down into the dark void below. Pizza stood up, with some difficulty due to his shaky seating. He sighed.

“Don’t look so glum,” said Poet as ground beneath them gave in. “What’s the worst that could—“

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