Author: Mina Rozario
I am lying on a sandy beach nestled somewhere in the arm of a spiral galaxy. Myriad stars loom above, mocking.
/Always moping/, I hear Rania’s voice echo. /As if it’s that bad being the last human in existence—look at all the space you now have./
Even in life, my sister’s words had been biting, though there was always a softness beneath the sting. When I had paid for a CompanionChip implant decades (or centuries; I’ve never been very good at tracking the passage of time) ago, I’d wanted it to be just like her, even though she had long been dead. Rania—rather, the CompanionChip—and I don’t always agree, but these past few years, we’ve both been sure something else exists near one of those stars. Human scientists had been certain that nothing on Earth could have been the cause of my extreme longevity.
/Reach out/, says Rania enthusiastically. /You still have that old frequency emitter kit. It would be fun to find a benevolent alien. Or a freakish cosmic monster./
Typical Rania. She encourages me to do things, to pick up hobbies, as if I didn’t have tomorrow to start them, or the week or the century after that. At any rate, in a few billion years, the sun will rapidly engorge and cook the Earth to a crisp, leaving no trace of my accomplishments behind, though there is a chance I will survive even that.
/Really? You plan on twiddling your thumbs for the next few billion years? When was the last time you wanted to try something new?/
I have no idea. I have the vague sense that I’ve done everything from brush calligraphy to virtual reality design, but it’s all lost in the fog of my memories. The only thing that comes mind is a recollection of Rania’s bewildered sigh when I pointed at a glossy photo in a book as a child, declaring, “I’m going to go there one day.”
The image depicted nebulas fanning swathes of color, the darkness of space overtaken with speckles of light like fireflies.
“There?” My sister’s mouth had quirked. “It says right here that this is a thousand years away if you travel at the speed of light.”
I had set my chin stubbornly. “I can wait.”
/How silly you were/, says Rania dryly.
I roll my eyes.
/Mankind did get close to interstellar travel—centuries ago—but the knowledge is lost. You’ll never get the chance to go now./
She pauses slyly. I wait.
/Not unless you find someone else out there. Whoever made you near immortal./
I sigh. “Very clever. All of this to get me to do what you wanted me to do in the first place?”
/Don’t be ridiculous. It would be good for you to meet someone./
“I have you.”
Rania’s voice was tight. /Even implant chips don’t last forever./
I give a half-smile despite the lump in my throat, then clamber to my feet. I do indulge my sister from time to time. Trudging back to the crumbling, moss-covered building I call home, I find the frequency-emitter collecting dust in a corner. I’m not sure when I last picked it up, but the device gently hums to life when I turn it on.
I begin tapping out a broadcast. If someone, somewhere, exists even a hundred light years away from me, the reply will twice that long to arrive. But I don’t mind so much. Counting down the days until the sun burns out, I have nothing but time.
I sit back, and we begin the wait, Rania and I.