Author : John Eric Vona

You didn’t see them with planets anymore. After the first billion years of Andromeda crashing into our galaxy, all the planets had been torn away from their stars, lost in the flurry of criss-crossing suns as the two galaxies collided and spun back away from each other, a pair of dancers twirling through the eons and the lightyears. Our sun survived, an atom in the arms and fingers connecting the galaxies, closer to what remained of Andromeda than the dying core of the Milky Way.

We didn’t know where Earth was.

It mattered very little. But then, what did it matter that we were out there at all? We were no longer part of the universe, just watching it. That was Bonnie talking. It took her a couple billion years, but she had gotten into my head.

I knew why we were out there. I was the one who’d taken the expedition from idea to reality, convinced the Neo-Naturalists to bend on their firm stance that the galactic collision was meant to be humanity’s end, played off the sentiment of Perservivalists like Bonnie, the extreme minority of enlightened people who believed we should try to survive the collision. They gave me the ship to take an expedition into the afterlife, to write the prologue to humanity’s existence. Like most, I believed that the human journey had stretched to its end. The ship wasn’t meant to be an ark. We were on the last mission to expand human knowledge.

One of our astronomers had spotted the planet the “week” before. We changed course, a millennia passing relativistically overnight, hoping not to miss a spectacle as fragile as the last planet in two galaxies.

As we arrived, the door to the observatory opened behind me.

“You’ve got to see this,” came Bonnie’s ecstatic voice.

“I am,” I said. “A gas giant twice Jupiter’s size and redder than Mars.”

“After all we’ve seen,” Bonnie said, “we still compare everything in the universe to the objects from our tiny little oasis. But it’s not the planet I’m talking about. It has moons.”

“You’re kidding,” I said, pivoting to look at her. The light from the red sun filled the room, and her brown hair glowed amber.

“They’re habitable,” she said, handing me a computer sheet.

“For what?”

“For us!”

“The galaxies are destroying each other.”

“You’ve lived too long at relativistic speed,” Bonnie said. “On those moons, the galaxies wouldn’t even move in our grandchildren’s lifetime.”

Our grandchildren? We didn’t allow anyone aboard to even have children. I tried to ignore her and examine the data on the solar system, but she grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me around.

“Do you feel the sunlight on your face?”

I rolled my eyes out of habit, dismissing her flare for the dramatic, but as the sun and its partner grew steadily before us, I saw a different kind of dance. Even with Andromeda and The Milky Way spinning all around us in their last, anguished throws, two sweethearts, a sun and a planet, slowly stepped in the loving embrace of gravity, the moons but winks of light between them like unborn children.

Humanity didn’t have to end, but we chose to let it.

“I’m not the only one onboard who feels this way,” Bonnie said, but in that moment, with her hands on my shoulders and the space around us suddenly full and warm, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was. Watching the delicate little worlds dance in the sunlight, something long asleep stirred within me.

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