“Forever. Forever and a day. Nothing. Nothing. Cold. Empty. Nothingness. Void. Cold empty void stretches forever and a day.”
“He has been repeating that constantly since he’s been here. He’s eaten like an automaton and slept fitfully, but mostly just sites with the vacuous expression, staring off into space and mumbling that nonsense.”
“Thanks. Let me try. I’m a lot older than her remembers, but he should still know me.
“Stephan, listen. It’s Phil. You know, Phil. You’ve returned from your long voyage. You’re home. Please return with your body. Stephan, I know you hear me, please come home. Stephan, it’s your brother, Phil. Listen to me. Stephan, the voyages is over, come home.”
“Home? My long voyage? They used to think the Pacific stretched forever, was a great void. I remember seeing the Earth from the Moon for the first time after that long, lonely journey. It lasted forever. And there was the Pacific, the size of my fingernail, full of life and light, hope and warmth. It was there. Everything. Every town I had visited and every person I’d known on that little blue marble. It was there. The grand Himalayas reduced to a smudge of white. Man’s towering achievements erased with distance. The voyage across the Pacific was nothing, a trifle of life. The trip to the Moon, though….
“And then I went to Mars for a training trip. I remember looking back at that bright blue star. There was a little white star off to the side, the Moon. After the emptiness of the long expedition to Mars, that tiny footstep to the Moon seemed inconsequential. Everything I knew was reduced to a little blue speck, a point of light in the sky. And the Moon, it was huddled up against that speck, part of the dust mote. That little trip, the crawl across that tiny gap? It was nothing, a trip full of light and life. The expedition to Mars? Oh, I thought I knew.
“Forever. Forever and a day. Nothing. Nothingness. Cold. Empty. Nothing. Void. Cold empty void stretches forever and a day.”
“That is more than I was able to get out of him, but you lost him again.”
“Stephan, you are home now, home with your family. But where are the others? Why aren’t they home? You left on the Starship Resolute with 20 others. You’ve been gone 16 years. Where are the others? Where have you been, Stephan? Stephan, come out of the blackness into the light.”
“The Coal Dark Blackness. No, not black, for black means there is something, but there is nothing. Matter is just a figment of the Universe’s imagination, a mere nothingness in the vastness of Void. There is nothing but emptiness. Cold empty void that stretches forever, for forever and a day.
“The sun shrank, becoming little more than a bright star like billions of others when we hit a wall, a, a boundary, a change. Nothing was the same. We’d left home. After that there is nothing.”
“The heliosphere? Heliopause?”
“A cold, harsh wind blows, yes, but the wind is like a wind of nothing. Crossing the Pacific for the first time the landless ocean seemed sterile and empty, yet in reality it was full of life and light. The sky is emptier by far and the sky of the sky, that which is beyond the sky, is nothing, nothing forever. Cold emptiness that stretches forever and a day.
“I could look back and imagine the planets I had visited huddled around that tiny star, hands stretched out looking for warmth. Every second we crossed the Pacific almost 20,000 times, every second we were almost 20,000 Pacific Oceans farther away from the home hearth. Think that the Moon is less than 20 Pacific Oceans from the Earth, let’s say 15. Imagine the vast, seemingly infinite ocean is crossed 15 times as you do that days long journey to the Moon. That trip to the Moon is so long, is so painful, 15 times greater than the mighty Pacific. 15 times that distance that once seemed infinite.
“And Mars is more than 1000 Moon trips. Think of it, you can go to the Moon and return 500 times before you reach Mars. Depending on where Mars is, that can do 15,000, 20,000 or even 25,000 of those vast journeys where you are a but a speck on the infinite plane of the enormous Pacific.
“And we were covering that distance to Mars every second. Every second another Mars expedition went by, a thousand trips to the Moon and 20,000 voyages across the mighty Pacific. Every second we went those unimaginable distance, yet they were nothing, no distance at all in the forever nothingness. We made those old journeys millions of times in a day, over and over.
“Yet it was different. Those smaller trips are full of light and life. Beyond the hearth of the sun there is none. It is more than a desert, it is a void. It is empty. It stretches forever. Forever. Forever and a day. Nothing. Nothingness. Cold. Empty. Nothing. Void. Cold empty void stretches forever and a day.”
“We lost him again.”
“Stephan, listen to me. What happened to the others? Where is Captain Li and her husband, Dr. Li? Where is Dr. Gomez, what happened to him? And the others, where are they? What happened?”
“A tiny speck in the infinite nothingness came up. It was a star, much like our own, but it now seemed small, nothing. We entered the system and the ship automatically went into orbit around a dust mote, a planet not much bigger than the bit of nothing you cling to and call home, call Earth. It was useless. What were we doing there? Capt. Li set the controls for the heart of the star, but Dr. Li sedated her and engaged the Auto-return program. I didn’t care. It made no difference. We are nothing. The question of our existence is meaningless. Would a nothing a trillion times smaller than a quark making the vast trek through the void between atoms in your hand make any difference to you? And we are so much less to the Universe than a nothing a trillion times smaller than a quark is to you, oh so, so much less. When you realize this your head implodes into the nothingness. That space that you call interstellar, yet is just the start of real space, brings it home so a moron can understand.
“As the tiny star disappeared behind us and we aimed at a point in the nothing that looked just like any other random point, our insignificant star blending in with all of the others, we sat down and talked. Nobody wanted to go on, but nobody had the energy or inclination to do anything else. It just didn’t matter. We were going to do nothing and just fade away. But Dr. Li wanted to send a warning. I drew the short straw. The awful fate of survival fell to me, me the warning. The others were relieved to no longer have to worry about their being in an infinite Universe that didn’t care about their being.
“The infinite Universe. Cold empty void stretches forever and a day.”
“Stephan, what happened to the others? Where are they. Answer me Stephan, where are they?””
“They were consumed by the nothingness. The Void ate them.”
“The void ate them?”
“Well, the Void did have a little help from me, this piece of nothingness, this little bit of emptiness. This void that is me, drifting in the forever. Forever. Forever and a day. Nothing. Nothing. Cold. Empty. Nothingness. Void. Cold empty void stretches forever and a day.”