Author : Owen Vince
We suited up to see it, the last star. We donned thick helmets and heavy gear and passed from the airlocks into emptiness. Some would not come, could not face the terrible sadness, or else shunned the last light – a light that has only ever traveled dead, to us, and now it too was failing.
When it became sure that this would be the last star to cough out its light, Enni7A009, the remnants of humanity, living for so long now in ancient, mammoth vessels in our artificial phosphorescence, turned our course to the star. Out of hope, out of grudging respect ; attending the funeral of the last of a generation. Or maybe out of some died in the wool stubbornness, a refusal to accept the heat death of the universe, the refusal to accept that we were the last damned dregs of life.
At first we saw it in charts and deep images of space ; a magnified pinprick of light that traveled from the now dead, now silent star. But that was not enough. We watched ancient videos of the too-hot sun, of riders in white costumes sweating beneath its glare. But that, too, was not enough. I have never lived beyond the confines of this, our ship – what use is it to stalk the scarred, dark atmospheres of dead worlds, to glare into the shrugged sculpts of dead, collapsed stars who have given up their last? So we live in light, an artificial light ; we walk and bathe and bask in virtual realities. Our ships do not evidence a shred of their own reality; no iron grilles or bars or struts, but ancient forest glades and streams and delicate wooden pagodas.
But the sun isn’t real. Like so many of us, I keep a scrapbook – a journal, I suppose – of images of the sun, of reminders and remainders. Postcards of beach huts and woolen swimming clothes; a bright, green land with a great sun hung above it, wearing shades, wearing a smile. Clippings from a catalog of sun glasses and thin, summer shirts.
But soon, these too will be memories ; they will be signs with no signal, without reference. The next generation will ask what the “sun” means, and where it can be found in the endless night ; we will point to the source of its last flicker. And that will be all.
So we stood on the hard shoulder of our vessel, grouped or alone, our heads and faces turned to that distant volume of space. And the light, it wobbled. And it died.
And everything then was darkness, just as it had been once before.