Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
John drifted in an immense void. There was no way to control his movement, and no place he could have gone. He wondered if anyone even knew he was alive.
Not long ago he had been a traveler. In another time he would have been called an astronaut, but in his time such things were more common and words like “astronaut” seemed unnecessary. He had been moving with his family to another part of the galaxy. They were being transported through space, moving thousands of light years to reach a new home on a distant planet.
One morning he had attended a briefing on safety drills, along with the rest of his family. These were held regularly on board the ship to ensure everyone was ready in case of disaster. The first drill was always to get a protective suit on.
An instructor had stood in front of his family, demonstrating how the pieces of the suit fit onto the body. “Alright,” he said “everyone just go through the motions, then check the person beside you.”
John began to put his own on, and moved more quickly than the rest. Seeing his son Jim, a boy of five, struggling with the suit he bent own to help.
“No no,” the instructor rebuked, “do your own first, then help others. You can’t help much if you can’t breathe.”
Nodding at the instructor, John moved away from his son and reached for his own mask. He snapped the last straps into place…
…And woke up in space.
He had no idea what had happened. The last thing he remembered was putting his suit on. He dimly recalled a loud noise on board, something like metal scraping, but he wasn’t sure if he had simply imagined it afterward. There was no way for him to find out.
He guessed there was an accident, or perhaps something struck the vessel. By some miracle, enough of his suit survived to keep him alive. However, he had no food, and he knew his oxygen would run out eventually.
Really, it was nothing more than an accident that he had survived. If he had been a second slower, he wouldn’t have been ready. By all reason, he should have been killed along with his family.
Part of him wished he had been killed. While the thought of an instant, sudden death was terrifying, it was better than the inevitable slow death in space. Here he could only wait for a painful, lonely end as the feeling of loss at his family’s sudden passing filled his heart. Death on the ship would have at least been painless.
He thought about simply ending it, smashing the mask on his suit with his hand and waiting for space to kill him. There was only a thin layer of glass that kept the vacuum of space out and his suffering alive. However, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Though he knew it would be better than the slow wait for death, the idea suicide seemed impossible for him to grasp. An impossible hope came back every time he thought about it, telling him something would happen to save him. This hope, whether a curse disguised as a blessing or a blessing disguised as a curse, kept him from death. At the same time, he knew his mask was made to withstand space, and he wasn’t sure if he had the strength to break it.
Instead he remained alive as he floated aimlessly through the emptiness of space. He still hoped to run into another ship, or perhaps even a planet or a star where people lived, but there were none in site. All he could see was a deep, eternal blackness.
It wasn’t too long before he noticed something had begun to change. The change was so subtle he wasn’t sure it was even occurring, and even then he had no way to comprehend it. He could not relate anything to it, or put it into words. The best he could say is that space itself had come alive. The darkness was moving.
He knew this was not right, that what he imagined was impossible. Nothing in front of him could truly be alive. But something had begun to take shape. A portion of the darkness had become darker than the rest, blacker then black. It wasn’t just that it was dark, it seemed to absorb the light around it. It made black seem light by comparison, and a void seem full. The blackness billowed out, moving and taking form.
And it was coming toward him.
This moving nothingness stretched further in each direction then John could see. In space you can see almost any distance. The human eye can see a star that is thousands of light years away, and a galaxy even further. However, this thing, or this lack of anything, appeared to cover all existence, leaving nothing visible and disappearing at the edges of the universe.
It was too large for him to see or even to determine if it had a shape. However, in his struggle to understand what he knew he never could, he began to see it as a massive, living being. Portions of the billowing darkness changed shape and color, forming gigantic eyes that glared at him. He saw arms reaching out of it, gigantic shapes that were coming to grasp him. It became a titanic, raving beast. In a way it seemed soothing to make it something tangible and understandable, even a giant beast, rather than think of what it truly was. It was nothing, but less than nothing, an all-consuming nothing that was coming inevitably toward him.
In his terror, he flailed his arms and legs. He struggled to get away from it, though he knew there was no way to move and get away from it.
He began to panic, and in his fright his limbs became frozen in place. He remained still as he watched the mammoth being of darkness descend upon him. He was helpless before the eternal darkness that moved like a deadly but starving animal on the hunt. And he was its prey.
Something else took his attention, and filled him with awe.
A light had appeared. It seemed to close to him, only a few feet away. He knew it wasn’t a star, as it was far too small and hadn’t been there before. It held the rough size and shape of a man, and he felt comforted staring at it. It was familiar in a way, and for that moment he forgot about the void. He struggled to move toward it, twisting his limbs as if he was swimming. It was a pointless attempt, but it felt soothing to think he had control over himself, and his actions could somehow move him toward the light and away from the dark beast.
He stared into the light. It began to change. Beams of light moved up and down its sides, leaving solid shapes behind them. The image took form as a tall, man like creature. “Man like creature” was how John would have chosen to describe it, but the only thing that distinguished it from a man was that it was in space without protection. From its appearance alone it was a brown haired, middle aged man, well dressed in a business suit and seemingly lounging in a non-existent chair.
John stared at it with his mouth agape. For a moment he forgot about the darkness and about being in space.
“Well?” the creature said.
“Wh…what?” John stuttered.
“I presume you want something. You may as well ask for it,” the creature replied, sounding bored. Though it seemed impossible for him to be speaking, the sound still filled John’s ears whenever it moved its mouth.
“What are you!?” John almost shouted.
“What am I? Don’t worry about what I am. It doesn’t really matter, does it? You have a problem, and I think you want a solution.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about that,” the creature said impatiently and indicated the encroaching void.
John looked back and forth between the infinite nothingness that was slowly coming toward him and the creature in a business suit directly in front of him.
“But… What… What is that thing?” John asked.
“That thing, is nothing. It is the infinite oblivion that existed forever before you and will exist forever after. You, and all like you, are only here for the briefest amount of time. Then that thing will claim you, and you will be forgotten in time and space. You not only be dead, you will no longer exist, and cease to have ever existed. What is not now may as well never have been, and to say you ever were in a meaningful way is almost an exaggeration. I know you don’t want that, and there is a way out, which I can give to you.
John listened, trying to understand what he had heard. The beast was still coming toward him, and seemed far closer than it had before. At this rate it would soon it would take him. The words of the businessman resounded in his ears, and horrified him. All his life, everything he did, everyone he knew, all gone forever as if it had never occurred. Simply nothing. It truly was a fate worse than death.
“You can save me from it?” he said, pointing at the seemingly unstoppable void.
“I can. It is my trade, in fact, and my job, though I do it mainly from boredom. This is why I appear as something you may understand as a businessman. But let me tell you, if you take too long, I frankly don’t care enough not to leave you to your fate.”
“No please don’t!” John cried. “Wha… what do I have to do?”
The creature smiled. “It’s simple. I want you to smash your mask. I want you to kill yourself.”
John gaped, unable to believe what he had heard. Had it really asked him to end his own life? “What!? Why would you want that?” he demanded.
“Think of it as a trust exercise. You prove you trust me enough to give your life for me, and I let you live forever.” The businessman chucked, “anyway, it will amuse me, and I am the one with the ability to save you. Do it, or you can sit here and rot while space consumes you.”
John pondered the options. The truth was, he didn’t trust this creature. He had no idea what it was, and it demanded that he do something that could end his life simply for its amusement while trusting the creature would save him. He thought back to all he had gone through before, the idea of suicide…. It was still beyond him. “I can’t,” John said, almost in tears.
The creature turned away to go, leaving John in the darkness.
“NO WAIT!” John shouted. The creature faced him again, staring apathetically towards him. Though what it was asking was horrifying, he couldn’t let it go while the Beast was still coming toward him. He needed for it to take time while he thought. “Wha.. What are you? Are you God?”
The strange businessman laughed out loud. “GOD?! HA! You think I am your god? You really do think there is a god waiting for you at the end of all this, do you? Just smiling and ready with open arms? Do you really think anything like a god, with power enough to create a universe, would care about your tiny existence? You prideful little creature, no god would ever want you, and there is none waiting.” He convulsed with laughter.
“What?! But… I thought that was what you were? Wasn’t that what you said?”
“No, you idiotic, insignificant excuse for a creature. There is no god for you. You think a god that cared about you would let you exist in same universe as that?” He pointed at the beast. “What a strange species. You fear the darkness so much that you create a thousand lies to avoid thinking about it. All your religions, all your ideals, your pathetic attempts at science, your arts, your delusions of glory in war and violence, all a feeble attempt to protect yourself from its truth. In the end you just hasten your own way to the darkness thinking you can avoid it. You are a species so foolish that you think you deserve respite from the eternal darkness and so vain that you’d send a thousand of your into it rather than simply go yourself. In the end, it is all for nothing, all lies, all fake, and you end up in the same place as the ones you killed. Not that other species are any better. ”
The businessman laughed again, and pointed at the beast. “You want a god? THAT is your god. Nothingness is your god. Nothingness is infinite. Nothingness lasts for ever, and extends everywhere, like your beliefs of a god. You came into it, a cosmic accident the cosmos forgot. From nothing you came and into nothing you will return. I am not your god. I am simply a businessman. I can offer you respite from that thing, and allow you to keep existing. That is all you need to know.”
John stared at him for a moment. The Beast was closer now, so close it was almost touching. He tried to remain calm despite the panic inside him. “So… you will save me from it? How do I know it isn’t a trick?”
“I will, and I guess you don’t,” the Businessman said, looking away from John and into space. “I am almost out of time. I don’t care at all if you trust me or not. Do you want me to do it, or not?”
John stared back and forth from the beast to the businessman. The horror of the void was too much to handle. Slowly, he nodded his head. “Yes,” he said,” I do want you too.”
The creature grinned. “Good. Then smash that mask. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you have the strength.”
John paused for a moment. He still had no idea if the creature was being honest but he knew he had no option. He swung his hand at the glass, and saw it crack slightly. He tried again. The cracks grew, and he began to feel sick with fear. He knew that soon there would be nothing left keeping him from a thousand horrible deaths in space. The terror began to make him shake.
He sung again. The glass shattered, sending shards driving into his eyes and skin. He screamed in pain, and the sound was silenced by the void. The air was sucked from his suit, and he felt his lungs collapse, making him suffocate. All heat left him, getting replaced by the absolute cold of space. The pain was excruciating, and if he could think he would have wished for death. He knew he would be dead in seconds if nothing happened. He stared at the creature, hoping it would save him.
It began to chuckle, then to laugh out loud. It was a cruel, horrible laugh, like someone who has succeeded in a terrible crime. It sent chills down John’s spine. “The funny thing about you humans,” he said “is that you all seem to think your life is a good thing.”
John stared at it in shock. It began to transform, changing from something recognizable into something horrible. Dozens of tentacle-like limbs spurted out from his chest, twisting and turning with multiple joints and ending bizarrely human hands. His eyes grew and multiplied, appearing all over his body and matching the limbs in number while the rest of his face disappeared completely. What resulted was a writhing mass of sharp jagged angles, formless and constantly changing shape as the limbs moved and the eyes peaked out at seemingly random intervals.
The beast touched John, but nothing happened. It retreated back into space, and slowly disappeared forever.
Death never came. But nothing else changed either. The pain was still there. Every second seemed like a year, and he struggled in immense suffering that should have killed him. It would have killed him, if he could die.
John knew had had made some horrible mistake, but did not know what it meant. He tried to take back his words, but found he couldn’t move.
“Now changing your mind now!” the creature laughed. His voice came from all directions at once, filling John’s ears and his mind. “You wanted to see an eternity, and you will.”
John’s mind was blank with terror. The horror at the thought of eternal existence in the void of space, with never any respite or hope, filled him. He wished now that the beast would come back, that the void would claim him, that he could finally die.
But nothing came. The creature watched him struggle, laughing as it did.
“I must thank you, this really has been amusing,” it said. Another light had come, and began to rotate around it. “I hope you enjoy your eternal existence,” it said, and left the same way it had come in.
John continued to float through the eternal void. He didn’t fully understand what had happened, and doubted he ever would. Perhaps he had encountered some kind of demon, or the devil if there was one. Perhaps it was just some kind of prank played by a more powerful species. He had no way of knowing, and guessed it didn’t really matter.
The pain continued, and never changed. He wished he could die, as death would be better than even a moment of it. But he knew he never would. He simply remained. He remained as anyone who ever knew his name passed away. He remained as the last remnants of humanity vanished. He remained as all the living things in the universe died out, never to return. He remained as the stars shrank and turned cold, and all the energy in existence was used up forever. He remained until the only thing left in the universe was his silent, eternal scream.
Credit To – EricAMBM