A scientist contemplates the meaning of life.
|Wet sand gently crunched between naked toes, flexing to the rhythm of the waves. The miasma of dank air clung to her skin, her suit, her jacket, layering them in a mist of salt and spray. The tide was coming in and each caress of the ocean was trailing further and further up her calf. The white noise roar of the sea was almost enough to make her forget; almost enough to make her find the thought impossible.
But with closed eyes, she focused not on the sunset, but on memories, timetables, opportunities, mistakes, the truth.
She chewed her bottom lip and leaned forward, inhaling deeply the tangy air, tasting it, savoring it.
Taking a step forward, Barb caught herself and opened her eyes.
She looked out at the darkening sky, the sun low, double-imaged in the water, orange twins coming together one last time.
"Yelp!" she spun around and squinted against the dying light. A man and his dog silhouetted against a blackened sky. Concentrating she could hear his laughter and the yips of excitement from his companion.
She sighed heavily.
"I have to see this through. I can't end it like this. I owe it to... to myself." she thought as she began the trek to the beach house.
Once there, she grabbed a glass of wine and sat outside.
The abyss of sky yawned hungrily, seemed eager to snuff out our tiny sphere.
The patterns of the stars were turning toward oblivion. The calculations, occult mathematics shrouded by ages, did not lie.
These last nights, worrying as gravity wells and cosmic rays clicked into place, were all she had left.
It was a cruel burden, this knowledge. Better to be ignorant and momentarily shocked as the world is consumed by fire.
In acceptance, she could think of nothing better to do than to simply watch the end come.
How would it look? How would it feel? Would there be a blinding flash? Earthquakes? A rain of ash and brimstone?
She did not know. She only knew what she had translated and what she had calculated.
When the Mayan calendar ended, the only people concerned where those who didn't know any better. This was different.
This came from further in the past and yet was for more accurate. It predicted eclipses and even planetary movements of objects only recently discovered. It foretold supernovae and solar storms with chilling accuracy.
And it said tonight, this night, would be the end of the Earth. It was said without fanfare in the document as if there were opportunities for escape that have been lost to the ages.
While her peers were busy trying to verify her translations, it was clear that not one of them accepted the prediction as valid. All the other successes in the manuscript meant nothing to modern men who were so sure of themselves and their superiority to some ancient culture.
She thought of the great expanse of emptiness that surrounded the planet, the solar system, the galaxy; she thought of the unimaginable void of space, so full of nothing. Pure blackness, absence of any heat, dead.
It would not mourn the passing of Earth and its 9 billion intelligent inhabitants and trillions of other life forms. The cosmos is profoundly indifferent. Eager to spin on, and on for countless years, thinking no thoughts of its own, simply existing.
She found some comfort in knowing that all the stupidity and all the petty hatreds and violent tendencies of the race of man would be obliterated. Our mark on the history of everything would be wiped clean. We will have left no lasting imprint on the Universe. Our tiny, inconsequential planet, a mere grain of sand in the ocean of all of existence might as well have never been.
She was tired. Tired of trying to do the right thing in the face of hypocrisy and ignorance. Tired of standing up for her beliefs and being told to "get over it" or "stop complaining because some people have it worse" or "maybe if she said it nicer" or "who cares". Tired of watching people she admired and loved being ostracized for being themselves.
Tired of the whole system.
The ground rumbled pulling her back to the here and now.
Jumping up, she scanned the sky and horizon for any sign of what was happening.
She stared at the horizon, toward the ocean, it was glowing faintly and not with the familiar hues of dusk.
"Is this it?" she wondered aloud while walking back toward the beach.
She had some trouble keeping her balance as the earth was still shifting underneath.
The brightness was growing and above the normal sounds of the cyclic waves was a steady, almost subliminal hiss.
The sand was slick with sea weed and she realized that the tide had gone out much further and much faster than it should have.
The blinding white of the horizon was impossible to ignore; it stretched to the sky and its sibilant sounds were nearly deafening.
"It's boiling," she thought. "The seas are boiling away."
She vaguely recalled Revelation from Sunday school as a kid and wondered if this is what God was talking about.
"I guess I'm a sinner," she laughed as she reckoned the chosen were raptured away.
Heat, like an oven door suddenly thrust open, washed over her instantly evaporating the moisture on her skin and singeing her hair.
Stunned, she watched the wall of steam approach, stretching 10,000 miles into the sky, an unfathomable thing.
She lost consciousness seconds before she combusted and seconds more before she was utterly annihilated.
The blast circled the entire globe in less than 20 minutes, sterilizing the surface. No living thing, plant or animal, was spared.
Some few microscopic life forms, deep within the crust, continued on, ignorant, but life as we know it was done.
No one mourned our passage.