The Big Question
Humanity, throughout its trillions of trillions of years, has remained frustratingly consistent in its mindless questioning.
The phrase "Curiosity killed the cat" deterred few, even after those who came before them were, indeed, killed. And after surviving a nuclear winter on their home planet, Earth; the complete obliteration of their system at the hands of a red giant; multiple run-ins with supermassive black holes; and, of course, war brought on by none other than themselves, humanity is still asking the same, monotonous question—and perhaps their absolute, admittedly admirable stubbornness to have an answer is why they still linger.
It is not "What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?" no—and besides, we already have an answer for that one. Nor is it "When will I die?" or "When will we end?" No, the Big Question—and it is that important, that we must capitalize the B and Q—is something much bigger, much sadder, and much further from humanity's reach than they dare to imagine.
Are we alone?
Outliving the Stars
In the trillions of trillions of years it's taken for humanity to find ourselves at this point—outliving the stars—we've never gotten an answer.
Now, it seems we never will.
I lay curled in the fetal position on a planet not unlike Earth, though I am, of course, only comparing it to photos I've seen on Terra. There are lush grasses riddled with tough straw that will cut your skin should you step on it, bleached grey-green in the shadows cast by the forest of behemoth trees surrounding me. I am not watching the sky, the sun, though I know everyone else is. I, instead, watch these shadows, for when the last star disappears, so will they.
Maybe. Maybe not. There is a faction, a group breaking off from the rest, who believe they can live on, after the stars, by harnessing the energy of a black hole using something they've nicknamed Dyson's mirrors—similar to a Dyson sphere in that it encases the body completely. It is both refreshing and frustrating that there are those who still cling, however foolishly, to hope. And it is both reliving and disappointing that I am not one of them. Today, along with 99.9% of humanity, I will die with the stars.
It has been too, too long.
And we all feel so alone.
"Wilde!" No. I bury my face in my knees, mixing the scent of stale detergent with that of the strange multicoloured flowers blooming before me. I've read somewhere that, when you die, your sense of sight is the first to go, and that your sense of smell and hearing are the last. The unusual aroma of Terra's old laundromat combined with the last planet's plantlife will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I wonder what the galaxy will sound like as it dies, I muse, when another call scatters my thoughts.
"Wilde!" Han stumbles into the clearing, exclaiming, "Wilde, there you are!"
As usual, Han is six feet of boundless, jubilant energy. Cara Wells, the musicien aboard Terra, used to say he reminded her of a tuning fork, in that he was always visually vibrating with anticipation. "New day, new possibilities!" he'd chant, downing his third coffee of the morning. His voice, Cara gushed, as well—the sweetest note in the galaxy, that is. They're together, Cara and Han, but she is up on the platform with the rest of humanity, and he's here. I wonder what that means.
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Lost Civilisations - A ScienceFiction AnthologyShort Story
The vast majority of us agree the Universe is 14 billion years old, give or take a few million here or there. That's time enough for stars to live long and healthy lives doing whatever it is that stars do for fun, and following that logic it's more...