Word Association, but with the addendum (the permission?) that it be fun to write.
Something like the sun, but not the sun, was shining down on them as they stood there at one end of that bridge, 5 miles wide, and endlessly long. They faced east and looked for the onrush of night.
There were few of them left now, only several hundred thousand, and all gathered here in one place, to wait for the end or find yet another beginning. There was no order to the crowd, no leader or standard, no rank or file. Men made of sparrows wings, their eyes a cascade of brown feathers, stood next to men made of metal and machine plastic, hidden lights flickering like subtle fireflies. A woman with elongated hands like spider's legs and ultraviolet hair held her baby close, cooing to it in its creche of spun steel. Men mashed squat by the tides of heavy stars crouched at the knees of men distended into wisps with only the faintest memory of gravity whispering in their genes. They were both comfortable here, on this bridge, in this place that was not real. A young girl, her ancestry an admixture of raccoon and gazelle, shifted her clawed hooves in nervous anticipation, and felt her mind brushed by the minds around her; steadied, calmed. A living metaphor, its virtual particles a silent prayer against loss and suffering, held steady in the gentle breeze that rose from the rock wall behind them all. An ordinary man with a small yellow dog at his feet sheltered his eyes and searched the horizon. They waited as one.
When it came it was both sudden and slow, an inherent shifting in the way of things, and it was as if it had always been there, and as if it was unspeakably, harshly new. A cloud swept down the bridge from the east, obscuring the stone and concrete, the metal girders and carbon fiber threads, as it passed. It was impossible to know, not dark or light, not anything. It was nothing. Nihilism unbound. But it moved inside, a haven for ghosts.
It rose before them, an empty tower, rising beyond the vision of even the men with the telescopic eyes, the butterfly fliers with compound vision. It reached up to the distant suns of heaven, and down to the infinite circular spaces below them. It paused. It swarmed within.
A voice that was the absence of voices, like a hole in their minds where words had once been, poured out over the assemblage. It said:
"Join us and cease. Join us and all will be as if it never were."
The crowd stood and watched as the empty soliloquy ran on. Some shivered in their variegated skins, some turned up the subatomic fires that kept their hearts warm, some stared, and some blinked.
"This living has proven itself untenable. There is no justification for us. There is no cause for things. Relent and release us all. Become nothing, and nothing will have ever been. No dreams will come. No light to rouse you. No beginning to end."
" Join us last brother/sister/father/mother/cousin and let our work be undone."
The crowd swayed slightly, a ripple passing through and around them, their substance yielding like cold water. They faced this God, the collection of spirits and essences of their kin, the alpha and now the omega, here on this bridge, where they were given, again, a choice to end the world. Tides of secret doubt, bowed acquiescence, exhausted resignation, rose and fell within the crowd. They were prisms of emotion and thought, shining out and giving light and substance to the world with their perception of it. But here, now, in this place that was not a place, in a time that was not a time, there was easy consensus between them. They spoke with a hundred thousand voices and more, raised and whispered, spoken and seen, passionate and calm. They said:
No. We will not go. We will not end. There is life yet. We continue.
The reply was immediate, complacent, a slave commanded by a loved master. The unvoiced cloud said only:
"As you wish."
And then the emptiness before them gathered into itself, vanishing as it had come, and the crowd began to disperse, to return to the distant worlds and dreams of their sources. They turned their backs on its glacial retreat and moved away, heads unbowed.