Tim sat in his living room in silence, listening to phone ring in his hand. Why did people feel compelled to stop him? Was the decision not his? Had he no right to want something that much? Did he somehow break a moral rule he was unaware of?
The phone stopped ringing.
It was his last day in his house. He would be leaving soon for orbit, for good, until the end. Oh, how he desired to see the white shining city again. He had seen it once before, in a dream. Thirty years and still his mind could not make it fit, it could not understand it, the beauty of it.
He remembered what he saw clearly. He was being lifted into the sky by an unknown force at unimaginable speeds. He saw myriad stars and nebulas fly past him, he saw galaxies as one would see vehicles in the road as he passed them. He felt time stretch itself and he saw space bend around him, and beyond him a white light glowed intensely. It was something he had never experienced, brighter than diving into the sun itself and yet not hurting his eyes. He could see buildings rise from within it. Huge buildings. Buildings the size of planets and roads the size of asteroid belts. The city itself seemed larger than the milky way. Unfathomable, a cool breeze wrapped around him and he felt what he had rarely felt in his life… peace. It was not like sleeping, it was not like getting a massage, it was not like sitting outside his farm during the late hours of the day listening to the mild sounds of the night and watching the dim light of the stars illuminate the sleeping animals. No, it was a peace that made all his problems fade away into darkness, it was happiness. He knew where it was and he had to reach it again. He had to… through time, through space, through the lives of all living things in the universe. To the end of times.
The phone on his hand rang again.
“Tim… why haven’t you answered my calls? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you…”
“What do you want John?”
“Tim, please. Just… listen to me okay?”
“Tim…”, John paused on the other end, unable to translate his anguish into word that Tim could understand, unable to express his sad frustration, “…you don’t have to go.”
“John, we’ve already talked about this… I know it’s difficult to understand, I know that. I do. It must sound crazy to you… to everyone.”
“Wait, just listen okay?”
“Look Tim. I can help you start something new, I can help you move to a new city… I’ll move with you even, if that’s what it takes. We can start like, just anew. Okay? You won’t know anyone! No one will know about your past or anything, it’ll be a new life! I have everything ready, just please come over… we can go right now, we’ll leave all this behind. We can go to china! I don’t know, anywhere! Mars? We’ll start new jobs, no one will know you… just… please… come over to…”
“John, please. Just stop. It’s not that okay? It’s not my life… I… We’ve talked about this. You know why I’m going, just say goodbye. Please. Say goodbye now, because I’m leaving in five minutes.”
There was silence on the other end and Tim waited for a response. His mind raced with the possibilities John had mentioned. He pictured himself arriving at the spaceport in Mars, walking off it, seeing the faces of strangers move by him. He pictured himself living by the shores of orion beach, watching the small sun set in the horizon. He pictured himself working as a fisherman… in peace. It was a good life, that one he would not have, he only wished someone else could live it, if only so that it would not go to waste. But he did not struggle with his decision, he could see the white city in his mind’s eye and happiness washed over him. No human emotion could stop him from pursuing his dream, no one could stop him from taking the journey to the end of the universe.
“You’re my only family left… Goodbye Tim, I will miss you.”
“I will miss you too John, maybe we will see each other again in this future… or the next…”
John ended the call and Tim smiled. He stood up from his chair, grabbed a small bag of things he would need and left his empty house.
On his way to the International Spaceport on the back of the blue cab Tim blanked his mind and avoided the feelings of regret any normal human would have. He focused on his breathing and he counted each one, and each felt like a small victory against human nature, against the human instincts that told him to stay, to enjoy his life while there was still a world left to enjoy them.
He had counted four hundred and fifty two breaths when he found himself standing outside a shuttle with a hatch open leading into the vault he had designed listening to a man speak about safety measures. Safety measures, those were useless now. Everything from here on out is an all or nothing bet.
“…in case you wake up from hyper sleep any time there will be spare infusions and this manual will be stored in the yellow box next to your bed. There will be food stored in the orange box that will last you three days. More than three days awake from hypersleep and you are done Tim. Everything I just told you will also be written in a manual, this because once you wake up your mind will take a few hours to even remember who it belongs to. And one last thing, we can’t control for the future, of course you know that, so the possibility still exists that someone will find your vault circling the sun in a million years, or a billion and take you out, and I don’t think they’ll speak english… so it’s gonna be tough explaining. It’s a risk and I want you to acknowledge it right now.”
“I’m aware of the risk.”
“Okay. Well, that’s it. Last chance to change your mind. I know it’s not my business to tell you but still, I advise you to reconsider. This is almost one hundred percent a death sentence.”
“Noted. I would like to proceed.”
“Alright Tim. Good luck.”
Tim walked through the open vault and looked around it. The hypersleep bed was in the center and the multiple boxes of various colors sat in a row on the floor next to it. Tim took one last look outside the vault, five people stood outside it. Three of them were Spaceport staff, the other two were transmitting his ordeal through two cameras.
“I’ll see you in a trillion years”, he said with a smile, and he proceeded to lock the door, hoping that no one would ever open it again. No one but him.
8000 years later
“Look in here honey, do you see that?”
“Yes! It looks like a box! Is it a satellite?”
“No honey, this one does not go around Earth, it goes around the Sun. You see a long time ago a man decided to find out what awaits the universe once it ends. And that’s him in there… circling the sun, sleeping, waiting to be awoken in a trillion years.”
“Is that more than a million years?”
“Yes. Much more! Time is odd for us humans… it seems like lifetimes ago that this man sailed into orbit, but in reality it’s only just the beginning of his long journey.”
They layed back down on the cool ground and watched the twinkling lights in the sky.
“I wonder how many of those lights are travellers… moving through the galaxy to find something they didn’t find at home…”
1 billion years later
What is that? Pre-analysis indicates a box with organic material inside. Is elimination required? Wait for thorough analysis... ... ... ... Results: Human ancestor. Alive in a state of extended sleep. DNA is ancient. It is of no use to us. It is of no danger to us. Proceed to next sector for scanning. Confirm.
100 billion years later
“Are preparations for the Induced Star Initiative ready?”
“Yes sir. But we have a problem… The life scanner indicates there is a lifeform in the old solar system. But it’s too small… it can’t be a planet with life. Should we proceed?”
“No. Send a scout out to investigate. We don’t want to crunch the whole system together only to find out we destroyed one the last lifeforms in the universe.”
“Yes sir. Sending scout…”
The two men looked out the window of their ship, waiting for the results to be negative, waiting so they could start creating a new star. Entropy would not beat them, if they conquered the galaxy they could conquer the so called laws of physics. They were all a myth after all, nothing was law.
“Sir, the scout indicates a small container circling the deceased star. There seems to be a lifeform inside. How do we proceed? Should we bring it in for examination?”
“No. Abort mission. We’re moving to the next deceased star. Leave that thing where it is. We’ll be back…”
1 trillion years later
His heart boomed in a slow manner. It had forgotten how to be alive. His eyes sagged and his vision was blurry. He tried to move his feet, or his hands, or his fingers, but the chemical and electrical signals from his brain were unable to reach their destination, so he waited. He had waited more lifetimes than ever existed, why not wait a little more?
Tim stood in the center of the shiny metal room floating somewhere in the proximity of the location where Earth had thrived in another time. He knew, of course, that space-time expansion made those coordinates inaccurate, irrelevant almost as the traditional passage of time had deformed space enough to make it a different place, an alien place.
His head throbbed with each beat of his heart. His eyes were beginning to fail, or was it the cryo-fluid wearing off? He felt tired. More so than he had ever been. Who wouldn’t be at the ripe old age of over one hundred billion years? A cold current of wind passed around him and his body screamed at him to sit down, to relax, maybe take a nap, maybe fall into unconsciousness and die. But he was stronger than that. He hadn’t reached this time just to nod off and take a comfortable never ending nap.
He took one cautious step forward, like a drowsy chameleon, making sure that his foot was placed in the right direction and with the correct amount of force. His foot came down on the cold metal floor and the room creaked with his sudden movement. Sudden for the room at least, which had felt no action within it for a trillion years. Tim’s pain fused with that of the room and his mind raced through the countless opportunities he had had the chance to turn back, to live a normal life, to stay behind and enjoy the little things. The little things. He didn’t care for them. He had to see what was out there, he needed to see if he had awoken in a new universe, if stars shined again, if planets again spun around their own axis, if entropy had somehow been reversed, he needed to know if he was right, if the shining city waited for him out there.
He took another step towards the peephole in the metal door a few meters in front of him and he wondered if he had made the right decisions. He remembered his days below the sun, the beautiful days on Earth when he could nap in his garden, when his dog Mat would sleep beside him, when the blue color of the sky could be taken for granted.
He placed his weak hands on the door and looked outside through small window on it. The first thought in his mind was that it had somehow been blocked. Obscured by the passage of time. He tried cleaning it with his sleeve and his breath, but before he was done reality hit him with in the face. The window was not obscured… he was looking at the dead remnants of the universe, black, empty, dead space. No stars were left alive, no planets moved in any orbits, nothing. Entropy had been fulfilled, it had all been a dream… His shining city was a delusion of his own mind, and he had just wasted a trillion years of sleeping, waiting for something that didn’t exist. He felt numbness begin to crawl over his body, and his thoughts began to fade away. He thought of his brother… of his last words… a single tear rolled down his cheek, cooling his skin on the way down. Entropy again working, ensuring he too would become one with the darkness.
There was nothing left to live for, no one out there to save him or comfort him, so he didn’t resist.
“Goodbye…”, he said, and opened the door to the ever expanding darkness outside, and as he did it engulfed him and the vault. He felt his body go cold and saw the lights in his bed go out.
“I’m sorry”, that was the last thought to ever exist, and with that entropy increased to the maximum. His frozen body floated in an undescript location in the space that used to thrive with life, with a blue world, with a yellow star, with the longest lasting people of the galaxy.
11 thoughts on “Journey to the End of the Universe”
Really nice story, I liked it a lot. I am more of a lurker than a poster but this story made me reply. Actually I was searching for short stories regarding the death of universe and came across this. Great writing, hoping to see more works from you.
Very good story. Only point of critique is that he and his container would of course not have been unaffected by entropy until after those trillion years. I know it’s for the sake of the story but that’s the only thing that slightly bothered me.
Read it on Reddit, haha. I think that was when I first actively made the decision to comment-stalk you regularly. And now I discover this…nice. I know where my weekend’s going. 😀
“I’ll see you in a trillion years”, he said, and proceeded to lock the door, hoping that no one would open it again. http://t.co/qaCcpwGdHz
I have been waiting for this story ever since you announced it. Can i just say that i honestly love your stories, Gwen was the first to get me hooked and i am slowly but surely reading all of your stories. You are a truly talented writer and I can’t begin to express how excited I am for more stories!
Thank you Bradley! It’s good to know that there are people waiting for more stories. I’m glad you like them.
Awesome story! Found it on Reddit. IT feels weird reading about Tim when your name is Tim.
RT @140_SciFi: Coming Soon: Journey to the End of the Universe. http://t.co/MkdkkG1C7W
Coming Soon: Journey to the End of the Universe. http://t.co/MkdkkG1C7W