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My final goodbye. I couldn't say how I knew. Pain wasn't new to me. Nor was weariness. I'd been walking the Walk for so long I can hardly remember anything before I began it. But today was different, my old body was wearing thin. Pains that I usually dismissed or ignored, caused me to wince and stifle groans. And for the first time in many months I woke tired; weary to the bone and feeling that this was more than just a bad night's sleep.
Looked up to the early morning sky, the moon rode low in the west, a gibbous egg shape belted in green and ragged along one edge where the the treeline broke the otherwise smooth shape. The stars shone in a blanket of deep blue that faded as I turned eastward. The horizon was already taking on the golden light of pre-dawn. I wondered for the ten thousandth time how it was that decades of walking the Path had seemingly brought me no closer to the end, or even a return to the beginning.
For the first time I found myself thinking that the Wandering Walk might be a futile lie; a path to nowhere walked by those hoping to find meaning in what none were willing to admit was a meaningless journey to nowhere. Was that a pain in my heart or in my soul that stirred in my breast? I don't know which.
I took my time to pack my meager belongings. My pack was light, but with time even a light pack becomes a heavy load. When at last I was ready I shrugged into my pack and found it heavy; the straps cut into my shoulders and the load seemed to drag me down. I grunted, settling the pack until I felt it sat as comfortably as it could.
At last I could delay no longer. The first unimpeded rays of dawn light were already lancing across the landscape and casting long golden limned shadows. I set out at last, a twinge of pain etching every movement with acid. After an hour I reached for the cypher I had carried for so many years and pressed it to my skull just behind my ear. I felt the pain slide away. "Farewell my home," I said.
I never felt it when my body collapsed to the ground. I never felt my body's passing. I never again set foot along the Wandering Walk. The datasphere has been my home ever since, and I feel neither pain nor want. I have learned the truth of many things, but the saddest truth of them all is this: I was almost at the end.