Against the Undertow of Deep Time

“I’ve cheated death!” As the negentropic field faded, Darien surveyed the lava tube. His eyes widened. How long?

“Nadine?!”

It was far too late. A magma flow had crashed through the wall untold ages ago, crushing her negentropy field. Even her bones had long since turned to dust. Thousands of years? Millions? The Pu-224 power core — half-life 80 million years — felt cool against his hand.

Climbing out of the lava tube, Darien saw waves crashing upon a barren shoreline. No advanced civilization here. No cure. No utopia. No happily ever after. Blackness pressed against his eyeballs. He gasped. There was no oxygen!

“I’ve cheated only myself.” He collapsed to the eroded shore. Salty waves washed away his tears. “You win.”

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-45, whose theme was Moby Dick. This story includes a man vs. nature conflict, and an overall theme of the power of nature. Image is Naufragos/Shipwrecked. CC2.0 photo by Luis Marina.

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Homo Ultima

One final stroll through the garden. Solomon knew his would be the last footsteps to tread these grounds. And the beauty of this forest merited a last farewell. Once, a billion years ago, there were others. Humankind spread like a weed. Relentless and unstoppable, they subdued the Earth. But time waits not for man.

Solomon followed the time-worn stone footpath along the creek to the clearing. He knew every sparrow, every blade of grass in this hundred acre nature preserve. Since time immemorial, since the Sun was yellow and the days were short, he had tended the plants and cared for the animals.

High overhead, the immense red Sun hovered motionless, as it had for at least forty million years. The blue force barrier held in the atmosphere from the vacuum outside, shielded this Eden from the scorching Sun, and gave the appearance of a cloudless day.

All the others passed beyond the barrier, into the vacuum beyond. Accident and grief claimed a victim every few millennia. Mostly, though, it was the ceaseless boredom of the passing eons that led them to trade the dullness of immortality for the serenity of the grave. Now there were none but he. Homo ultima. The final human.

From bright blue, the barrier faded to dim indigo. No violent gale came: only a controlled release of atmosphere across the long-barren surface of the aged Earth. Birdsong faded away. The leaves of the mighty oak trees began to curl. The grass withered; flowers bowed to the inevitable.

Solomon resolved that his death would not be like the others’. His would not be an act of despair or grief, but love. Not love for any individual, but love for the universe itself. As the barrier faded to black, the grotesque red Sun was joined by countless diamonds in the sky: stars unseen for ages.

“We have been apart too long.”

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-38, where the inspiration was J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings. This story includes a humble gardener and a beautiful forest. Photo prompt: Mt. Teide: the conic-point that meets the skies. CC2.0 pic by Julie Ann Johnson.

Come to Grief

“I love you.”

“You’re only saying that because I almost killed you.” Zara pulled her hand away from the glass panel, and the crimson circle that would terminate his life support.

Paralyzed below the neck, the man in the biomedical bed tilted his head toward Zara. “Please… daughter. By law and custom, as my sole relative, only you may end my suffering.” His raspy voice raked against Zara’s heartstrings.

Zara stared at the husk of a man. Holographic indicators overlaid his medical data. Age: 437. Pulse, blood pressure, brain activity. Diagnosis: Immortality Treatment Rejection Syndrome. Prognosis: progressive paralysis, agonizing pain, death within the year. In his bloodshot eyes, she saw something virtually unknown to modern civilization: real pain. How could she let him suffer in this cold hospital room? She was his daughter: he was her responsibility.

Zara felt the impulse firing through her neurons: the electrochemical command telling her finger to press the button.

“No!” She turned away from him.

“My daughter… Medical science gave me four centuries of life, but has reached its limit. Close the circle. End my suffering.”

“Growing up, I dreamed of a father,” Zara confessed. “Someone to love me unconditionally. But you weren’t there.” She turned to him again. “I made my own way in life — and quite well! Now you send for me, not to make amends, but merely to press a button?”

“Then you hate me. Push the button. Give me what I deserve.”

“I don’t hate you,” Zara said pityingly. “I don’t even know you. You’re a stranger to me.” With one hand, she stroked his brittle hair. With the other, she pressed the button.

“I love you,” he mouthed silently, and then he was gone.

Zara slumped to the marble floor and cried. “I love you, too.”

Written for the Cracked Flash Fiction Competition, Year 1 week 8, where the prompt was the first two lines of dialogue. The judges had some very kind words for this story.