Author : Hugh Downs

Royce Millison requested cremation. He had got the idea in 1908, early in his long life. He was neat and efficient and said he didn’t want his remains ‘to take up space’.

In 1991 he restated his desire, being a person who tends to repeat himself and believing he was near the end of the line. But then the Wackman Breakthrough increased his life span by thirty percent, and he lived to be one hundred and twenty-two. At a still vigorous one-hundred and twenty-one, he stated yet again his desire to be cremated. He had had a dream that he would be cremated three times, that his ashes would be scattered the second time and regathered the third. When he spoke about this, friends thought he had become senile. But he hadn’t; his dream was a prophecy.

One year later, the front wheel of his motorcycle dug into soft sand and he did an endo [this is a wheelie with your back wheel off the ground] from which he never recovered. He was cremated at 1115 [I wrote this in bold] degrees Fahrenheit. His ashes were deposited in an appropriate urn.

Five billion years later the sun had swollen to a radius of one astronomical unit, swallowing Mercury, Venus and Earth, and vaporising Mars. Along with everything else in the world, Millison’s ashes were recremated at 4,800 degrees Kelvin. This time they were scattered through the solar interior, gradually rising in temperature to one hundred million degrees Kelvin.

Sixty-two billion years after this, a universe, as neat and efficient as Royce Millison was, regathered his ashes in the Great Implosion and compacted them to negligible size. Then, at a temperature above one trillion degrees, it cremated them a third time.

He was not prepared for what happened afterward (if afterward is the right word for a time as distorted as that in the transition from one universe to another). Conditions inside the cosmic egg, in bending some fundamental physical laws out of shape, did the same crazy thing to entropy that allows a black hole to eject a television set. And here he was again (if here is the correct word for a place occupied by a new universe).

Although his memory of a previous life was hazy and at times haunting, Royce Millison was not surprised to find himself back in business, and not much changed – except for having a neurotic aversion to motorcycles.

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