By Alexander Greco
I look out my window to the beautiful city my people have made, stare at the marvels of our age, and yet this feeling won’t leave me alone. In the streets below, I see my people moving like a tide of drifting ghosts. My lips mouth the words, “Brothers, sisters.”
I look out at our star and whisper, “My people.”
Walking away from this view, I move from room to room, trying to escape the sight of the city, hoping that will ease the unrest in my body, but there is no escape. I find my bed, but sleep will not come. In the mirror across from my bed, my large, dark eyes stare back at me. I look across the thin landscape of my hairless, bone-white body, and briefly amuse myself, thinking of how grotesque I must look to my ancient ancestors
I’m average height for a woman, a little over seven feet tall, and I’m one of the few females who still have wide hips. Ages ago, they would have said I was perfect for child-bearing, but people don’t talk like that anymore. I’ve joined the many who’ve given up on having children. Being born seems like too cruel of a fate to enjoy the idea of motherhood.
In the mirror, above my reflection, is another window. I sit up in bed and turn to look out this window. My dark eyes move from building to building, tracing the forms of spiraling, stalwart architecture that stand like titans against the horizon, and I cannot rid my head of these thoughts. I look for the subtleties of my people’s long, distant history in the curves of our towers, and I cannot forget this will be the end of our history.
Somehow, we’ve managed to live this long. We’re certainly not the people we started off as—the slow progress of evolution has made sure of that -but, since the farthest point of our prehistoric times, when we hunted the Ge’Herut of the northern plains, and through the hundreds of thousands of years since, we have survived. We have survived, but now, we face the death of our star.
Our species, shifted and evolved as it has over time, has seen may rises and falls. We’ve seen nuclear winters, solar flares, meteors, and countless wars. Some have been for food or water. Others were for oil and land, then, once we entered our succession of technological revolutions, they were for control of information and communication rights. Some wars were just for power and hurt egos.
Nothing ever finished us off, however. We managed to come back, even when we’d completely fallen. We learned to live in the ruins of our old cities, reverse engineer relics of a dead age, and recollect our histories, our sciences and our philosophies. The lights would go out, and we’d find new energy sources. Food would be scarce, and we’d genetically engineer animals with more fat, people with better metabolisms.
We survived for so long, but it doesn’t matter anymore.
Our star had begun dimming a few thousand years ago. At first, our ancestors thought it might only be a temporary occurrence, or some error in calculations. This dimming had begun nearly thirty-thousand years earlier than they assumed it would have, but the calculations were verified over and over again across the world. Was there some factor that had been forgotten? Some supposed “constant” that had shifted with the growing universe?
We scrambled to create spacecrafts that might save our species, but nothing we made could carry enough of us away to do save the majority of our species. Some ships were designed as homes for a select few- a thousand, at the very most -who could reproduce and teach their children generation after generation until they found a new home. Other ships were built to carry frozen embryos of thousands of species, including our own, and trigger terraforming events on a suitable planet before gestating these embryos. No one knew if anything would actually work, however.
Terraforming, deep space travel, weather control, these were things we had only recently been developing, and we had far from mastered these technologies. As a collective species, as a united planet, we repeatedly launched the best we had into the sky and out of our solar system. We still monitor their progress through the cosmos, thousands of years later. We’re still watching, hoping.
Eventually, our star dimmed enough to begin drastically effecting the natural cycles of the planet. First, the water cycle was thrown entirely off kilter, and our weather began to shift dramatically. We could artificially stabilize these, to an extent, but it wasn’t enough. We couldn’t artificially create light from our star.
Plants began to die out. The hardiest grasses, shrubs and lichens survived, but, once fragments of the planet’s ecosystems began dying out, the rest of the life in that ecosystem would quickly collapse. Trees quickly disappeared, followed by large mammals.
The more adaptive species began to evolve with the changes, us among them. We had already grown taller, thinner, and quite a bit smarter, but we had also evolved to digest nutrients far more efficiently. We no longer grew hair- we metabolized all the nutrients that our hair would have grown from -and our core body temperatures dropped, we no longer needed as many calories for our bodies to function properly.
Once the dimming began, our bodies were ready to starve, freeze and still flourish. Our digestive systems could already break down most substances, even a number of formerly toxic ones, and rearrange them to synthesize whatever our bodies needed. Centuries into the dimming, we had adapted enough that we could eat a bowlful of mud and be fed for a day or so.
That’s all we really can do, there’s so little else for us to eat. There’s some lichens left. A handful of scavenging animals are still alive, and they find their own ways to manage. There’s still plenty of insects, and some birds who prey on the insects. In the ocean, there used to be fish, crabs, sharks and whales, but their food chain fell apart several centuries ago with the dying of the phytoplankton.
Perhaps the sea creatures of the ocean’s depths, those already suited to the harshly cold and lightless abysses, will survive. Maybe they will inherit the Earth, along with any surviving ants, spiders and cockroaches. Surely, anything else will die.
We still have our cities, our beautiful and godly cities. They tower into the sky, shining brilliantly, even in the dim starlight. We walk solemnly through our twilight streets. We walk silently through our cities as tall and pale parades of dark-eyed people. There is no small talk among us anymore, no passing comments. So little need be said anymore. Everyone already knows what’s on everyone else’s mind.
We barely feel the bitter cold anymore, as if it’s become a part of us. Our warmest days are comparable to the autumns of boreal regions when our climate was still stable. The cold is everywhere, the cold is present at all times, and the cold has become a part of everything. There is no escape from this cold, there is no escape from this dying light, there is only an acceptance of it. There is only letting the cold winds wash over us, and staring up to the sky, waiting.
The arts are still with us. In fact, they have become one of the only things we invest any time or resources in anymore, especially with so few resources required for anything else. Here, at the end of our days, our kind has finally found an appreciation for the soul, and the things that erupt forth from it. New symphonies of various musical mediums are made every other week, hours are spent reciting prose in city squares, and art galleries fill warehouses of space.
Just as the ancient explorers discovered the lost civilizations of prehistoric times, we discovered the far reaches of emotion and thought. We live with a present-minded reverence inside the long, melancholy notes of orchestral arrangements. Within a single phrase, we rapturously disappear into the most tragic of sorrows and herald the most ecstatic of joys. In paintings, we stare down long, endless hallways of thought, like staring at a dream through a telescope, and we sculpt the shapes and forms of our thoughts with clay, glass and cold steel.
Yes, if there were to be any evolutionary step for the last of us, it would be an enlightened capacity for emotion, and an intuitive understanding of the soul. However rapturous this may be at its peaks, we all fall into deep crevasses of despair.
What mattered anymore? Why care? Why care even about our own souls? What was the point of existence? What was the end to any of our means, except for a slow, cold death. It was in such a despair that I found you. It was in the pits of loathing and contempt for our universe that I reached out to you.
It was in the pits of a desperate agony that my soul screamed with all it’s might. “Hear me, someone! Please! Is there not more than this? Is there not someone, something, some higher entity that can hear me? Some ritual to be performed? Some prayer to be said that could save us from this final dying of the light?”
I was curled pitifully in the dim gray of my barren bedroom, wailing and screaming whatever god might be listening, when my soul reached its hand out to grasp at you. These wails, screeches and screams I produced were not uncommon to hear in the cities that still stood. They were not thought to be odd, neurotic, or some symptom of insanity. They were understood with more clarity than any word that could be spoken.
I lay on the floor, my body heaped up feebly against the wall. A dozen or so of my people had walked into my room- there were no locked doors anymore. They came not to comfort me, only to share this commonplace pain. Together, we huddled in the cold- not escaping it, only sharing it. Together, we screamed. Together, we shared each other’s grief, our fear, and our rage.
There, in the gloom, our souls rage out into the cosmos, yelling, “Please, please, there must be more! Please, someone hear us!” Together we were bright and brilliant, manifesting as one chord that struck into the dark. There, in the vast cosmos of thought and emotion, we found you.
Perhaps you are from another planet, or an earlier time. Perhaps you live in a dimension incalculable by our mortal-made instruments and mathematics. Perhaps you live in a universe parallel to ours. Wherever we found you, whenever it was, and whatever you, we reached out with our naked, despairing souls and met in your thoughts.
We stepped across a bridge where time and space were irrelevant, speaking to you as you slept and daydreamed. In the chaotic music of your thoughts, we taught you our histories, our sciences and our philosophies. In the cities of your imagination, we found the medium by which to recreate our grandest of architectures, our most revered symphonies, and our most magnificent works of art. We showed you the vastness of our culture, leaving behind an ocean of life where our last decades form only the surface.
Through you, through your imagination and the thoughts drifting to the surface of your conscious, we hope to survive. We hope to be remembered. Here, with you perhaps we have found something “more”. Perhaps we will live on.