Author : Bob Newbell

“You’re gone, aren’t you, Pete?” I ask my beloved dog who now stares up at me without recognition. His breathing is fast and deep. There are flecks of blood around his mouth. I’ve been coughing up blood, too. So has every surviving member of the human race, I imagine. I caress Pete and tell him I love him.

I return to the rare and antiquated pen and paper. Computers no longer function reliably. It’s questionable whether my record will physically survive. And in the unlikely event it does, who will remain to read it? I resume writing nonetheless:

I wonder if Joseph Weishan is still alive. If he is, what could we do to him? Imprisonment? Torture? Execution? What punishment could balance the scales of justice in retribution for the ultimate crime? If there were still judges and juries and courts, what penalty would they impose for the first, last, and only case of cosmicide, the killing of the universe?

It was on January 18, 2271 that Joseph Weishan murdered his parents nearly two years before he was born. He’d used the equipment at the Temporal Studies Institute in Indianapolis to travel back and commit his crime, reappearing in the present a moment later before leaving the Institute and eluding the authorities.

Initially, the effects from this flagrant violation of causality were more curious than alarming. Joseph Weishan’s parents were found in their home very much alive and well. But fifteen miles away, the graves of the Weishans complete with headstones documenting the date of their demise were discovered in a local cemetery. The bodies were exhumed and subjected to forensic analysis including DNA testing. The cadavers were the younger deceased bodies of the very same man and woman who were still alive.

The Weishans themselves reported confusing memories, recalling the lethal attack by the man who their son came to resemble as he aged, but inexplicably also remembering their lives continuing uneventfully despite their having been “killed”.

In the weeks that followed, as the world’s scientists puzzled over the effects of the temporal paradox, astronomers and astrophysicists witnessed the stellar spectra change. Every observable star including the Sun showed an inexplicable and unprecedented shift in their absorption line characteristics. At the same time, a global pandemic developed. All living organisms on Earth from humans down to bacteria began to show cellular deterioration. Medical science had neither an explanation nor a cure.

Eventually, scientists recognized what was happening: The physical constants of the universe had subtly changed. The speed of light is now very slightly faster than it had been prior to Joseph Weishan’s parricide. The weak nuclear force has become infinitesimally stronger. Chemistry — including biochemistry — doesn’t work quite the way it did. Reality itself has been broken.

I suddenly find myself on the floor. My muscles ache and I have apparently urinated on myself. Tonic-clonic seizure. Late stage of the disease. The human central nervous system wasn’t designed for this revised universe. Pete lies next to me, dead.

A final thought occurs to me: Fermi’s paradox. Why are there no signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe? Where is everybody? Could it be that when a civilization becomes advanced enough for time travel, someone causes a temporal paradox and makes the universe hostile to that type of life? Are we perhaps just the latest species to paradox itself out of existence? Darkness and silence are the only answers I receive.

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