He plunged for decades, millennia, eons, before slamming to a halt. A deep, powerful humming began, vibrating so violently he could feel it ripple across his bones. Before him appeared a colossal mouth within a ring of fire. It hung there in the dark until his skin blistered, a blazing inferno towering over his insignificance. The mouth opened and thousands of arms shot out, grabbing Ralphie and pulling him back to the slavering maw. He struggled as hard as he could but he was weak, broken by his experience; a mouse caught in a bear trap. His body was pulled in all directions, stretching his joints and muscles beyond their limits, but he never loosened his grip on the gem. He was slit open, poured out, splintered into a trillion conscious fragments, ground to a pulp between white-hot teeth, crushed into a singularity, smeared across infinity. Ralphie was obliterated. Ralphie was whole again. Ralphie screamed and screamed and screamed.
Ralphie surged through a kaleidoscope of black and green, a heat in his belly so intense he thought he would explode. A deafening roar drowned out all thought, and he knew only disorientation and pain. He howled through the nothingness, his body tugged and spun by unknown forces, careening over invisible angles and points, shredding him, destroying him but never letting him fade completely. Through it all, he held the gem to his chest more tightly than he’d ever held anything before.