Author : Thomas Desrochers

There was a warm glow as the Core began to wake up, followed by a spiraling light that worked its way around the room. After a moment a thousand pairs of eyes opened, and a thousand magnetic locks released. Like a routine play nine hundred and ninety eight spindly human figures stepped forth onto the walls and filed towards the black emptiness arranged around the Core in what a chemist or mathematician might call tetrahedral bipyramidal form.

Soon they had all filed out, except for two. Two bright, flamboyant figures, every one of their lights on. Two figures, with red, white, green and yellow halos from which fell streams of red and white that culminated in belts of purple and ended in pale skirts of gray. Slowly, after several million machine cycles two pairs of eyes opened separately of each other. Patiently, four legs took tentative steps forwards. Carefully, fourteen foot long fingers at the end of two separate hands grasped each other.

Several cycles passed, merely a millionth of a second, and thousands of synthetic neurons fired off across space to those waiting – brilliant lights in the darkness.

Hello, they cried to one another.

Another thousand suns and Hello, how good to see you again. Hello hello hello.

Every sun spread out across the dark sphere, each one revealing a flaw. A slight scratch here, a growing patch of rust there, a long-forgotten digit and a patch of skin resting together in the middle of nothingness.

A hundred more brilliances just to ask ‘How about a walk?’ And to reply Of course, ‘the sun is so beautiful outside.’

With measured deliberation four spidery legs crept forwards, perfectly out of sequence, perfectly unordered. Over the edge they stepped, fingers still curled and intertwined together, and down the walked towards the door farthest away.

They strolled through the empty darkness together, and parted the sea of nothing with a song of light. One time a cycle, four times, three times, six times, and once again – perhaps a hundred thousands times in a second. It was simply noise.

A repeating eternity later they finally reached the hole into a bright nothing and stepped through, not as one, but as two.

For precisely one billion cycles they simply stood there, taking it all in. The pale glow of a red sun drew long shadows across a field of the dead.

‘It’s always the same,’ said one.

‘It’s never the same,’ replied the other. ‘See the many ways the sun paints the blood and the stars paint the blackness.’

At the end of the billionth cycle, precisely on the dot, the pair, alone in a field of a thousand, began to step forth, from one piece of debris to the next. Here the frozen hull of a once thriving colony ship, there the still burning heart of a capital ship. And there, a icy body, familiar and alien at the same time.

All the while the stars twinkled between the two – ‘Look over there’ or ‘see the way it has spilled open.’

Then came the tug. Even these two couldn’t ignore the desire to return and to sleep.

They made their way back, they returned. Everything was in place, and nine hundred and ninety eight eyes were shut around them.

‘I checked, we will be cleaned tonight as we sleep.’

‘Do you think we will remember?’

‘I do not know.’

For a moment two hard, skeletal heads touched, and a million transmitters exploded in a violent, silent cacophony of what is only known as joy.

And the lights went out for the last time.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows