Coming Home

by Brian L. Hurrel

The last sentient in the universe had no name that it could recall, but here, at the end of all things, had decided that Omega would do. Omega stood on a sandy beach and watched the sun settle into a gray horizon. It would not rise again. Already the golden orb was fading, shrinking, cooling. It was not a natural star, but one of Omega’s own making. As was the sand on the beach and the waters of the ocean and the very planet it stood upon. Even its body was a construct. An approximation, smooth and genderless, of the form its race had once inhabited before their minds had become free of matter.

Whether this had been deliberate or evolutionary Omega did not remember. All that had been a long time ago. A very long time. Long enough that entire life cycles of solar systems, and the occasional life brought forth, were but an eyeblink; the infinitely shorter rise and fall of intelligent beings uncountable, however far-flung among the stars, was not even measurable on such a scale. Not in any meaningful way.

Memory, even quantum memory, was finite. And so too, as it happened, was eternity.

There were no stars above. They were long, long gone. For eons unimaginable, for every star that dwindled and died, the cosmos had brought forth a new one. A seemingly endless cycle of renewal that might have gone on forever if forever had not been an illusion. There was only so much free hydrogen to go around and with the last remnants was born the last star.

Blissfully unaware, the universe went on about its business for many billions of years. Planets were born, life took hold on some, spread to other stars in a few. Empires rose and fell. Intelligences and manipulative extremities wrought great works of art or great acts of destruction or sometimes both. Others built great edifices of stone and steel and captured energy. Henges and pyramids, skyscrapers and space elevators, ringworlds and rosettas, dyson spheres and jump gates. Things that outlived their creator’s lifespan a thousandfold and became objects of mystery and wonder to those who came after.

Then one by one the stars winked out. As with candles and mere mortals, those burning brightest were the first to go, until only the dim and slow burning red dwarfs remained. Still the planetborn and planetbound thrived and multiplied and marveled and created. For a time. A very long time.

But the red suns dwindled and died too, and those with the means and will to survive took refuge among the last sources of heat in the universe. The failed stars that were too big to become planets, too small to become stars, too dim to be seen in any sky when skies still existed.

In time though, entropy claimed all and the darkness was complete. Those few who survived—chose to survive—had by then no need of physical form nor physical tools. They could bend energy and matter to their will with a thought. Indeed, had often done so long before the final darkness. Omega had created, nurtured, and guided life on scores of worlds, and been called a god by some. Until they too were gone, their monuments to Omega’s eternal glory returning to dust soon after.

Omega and others delved deep into the black holes which had captured every last stray atom, drawing out what matter and energy remained. Occasionally Omega would pass another fellow traveller, and sometimes they would stop and exchange information—not out of necessity but from a deep-seated vestigial urge to commune with others. The chance meetings occurred less and less frequently, and after a time they no longer occurred at all.

Then Omega was alone and out of time.

Time itself was out of time.

Omega felt an urge leave something behind, some monument, some mark, something so simple as “We were here!” scratched into a rock. But there would be no rock. There would be no here. Only mere oblivion so complete that a stray thought would fill the void to bursting.

Instead, for the first time in many ages, Omega did something impulsive. And with the last remaining matter and energy in the universe, created.

A small yellow sun, for it seemed just right. And a small world. And waters upon that world. And finally gave itself form in the likeness of a person.

And now Omega stood on the beach and a wave rushed in and swept cold over its feet and the unaccustomed physical sensation both chilled and thrilled. Gazed out across the great expanse. Not a god nor a titan nor being of thought and energy, but a mere mortal staring out in awe across the living infinite. Vastness, Omega thought,is relative. Would have smiled if it had remembered how.

Omega walked into the cold waters, ankle deep, knee deep, hip deep, then raised both arms and sprang forward and plunged headfirst between the crest and trough of an onrushing wave. Surfaced beyond the swell and began to swim towards the fading sun.

Omega was still swimming when the tenuous energies holding together the tiny yellow star gave way, particles dispersing, drifting, a spray of sparks fading into the night.

Still swimming beneath the rising dark when the planet began to shift and blur and spread into slow billowing fog as component atoms drifted apart.

Still swimming as the humanoid form faded and frayed and merged with the ephemeral waves.

And then Omega was gone along with the sun and the world and the sea.

In the end a final atom remained, a single electron whirling round and round the nucleus. And with each circuit spinning slower, ever slower.

A glowing circle.

A streaking satellite.

The second hand of an ancient clock.

And finally stopped and was no more.

Comments
  1. Anna Cunningham says:

    Really liked this piece, especially the passage about walking from the beach into the waves and plunging in. Very evocative sensory time and space experience, beautiful and sad.

    Like

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