Author : Ian Eller

Immortality. He had wished it, wanted it, even demanded it. When it had been offered, it seemed too good to be true. But he took it and despite all his fears, despite all the cliches and platitudes that warned him he had flown too high, it was real. There had been no trick, no twisting of words, no fine print. The bargain struck would be upheld, truly and precisely.

At first, he was content to watch. With their little lives, humankind scurried about under the perpetual belief that they did not have enough time. They were right. Their lives blossomed and withered like cherry trees, leaving nothing behind but seeds. Then more trees. More blossoming. More withering. Wise with centuries yet still bearing the faults of mortals, he stepped down from his observatory and into the thick of them. He wore many masks and bore many titles — president, king, commander, warlord, architect, destroyer. At first briefly and hiding his true nature, but soon enough he dispensed with this masquerade. He ruled them openly then, a god-emperor as ruthless as he was immortal. They tried to end his reign and his everlasting life, with guns and blades, poisons and diseases, fire and lightning. They tore matter itself asunder. Yet, when all else lay in smoking ruin around him, he endured. Eventually, however, even the mastery of all mortal life could not hold his immortal attention and he quietly slipped away, disappearing among them as quickly and seamlessly as he had risen to rule them.

No longer held beneath his iron heel, mankind blossomed again, spreading farther than ever before. They spread out into the heavens, and he followed. He watched them remake planets, tame suns and bend the very fabric of space and time to their will. In their hands, matter and energy became interchangeable expressions and the vast distances between galaxies were rendered meaningless. Their machines as vast as solar systems were wonders to behold even for his immortal eyes.

They too sought immortality, then, and for the first time in ages beyond counting, he was among peers. No longer was he forced to walk either above or beneath them, but truly with them. Almost incomprehensibly, he lived and loved again. But after a billion years, the weight of eons proved too heavy for them. Long removed from the struggle for survival, they withered one final time, leaving no seeds behind. From the bow of a star he watched the last of them spiral beyond the event horizon of eternity. They were gone and he was again alone.

He ventured home then, a billion year trek through the ruins of humanity’s incalculable achievement. He watched sadly as stars, free of man’s engines, slid quietly back into their celestial places and as great clouds of interstellar gas eroded and ultimately erased whole artificial worlds. Space and time themselves, no longer stretched by man’s whims, rebounded and the cosmic dance resumed as if it had never been so rudely interrupted.

By the time he arrived, he was the only trace in all the universe that man had ever existed at all. The sun was red and huge in the sky, and the world was hot and dry. All things on earth had died, consumed by the ever growing star. All things but he. Even as the very rocks of the earth turned to slag and flowed beneath him like water, he endured. He was immortal. There had been no trick, no twisting of words, no fine print. The bargain struck had been upheld, truly and precisely.

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