Five 5-Minute SF/F Flash Fictionz
Written on stream, 6/15/19 (because why not)
it’s been a while. you, me, and the cosmos. i missed it, i think. who can say? i’m not sure of where anything is right now, least of all my own head.
heh. little joke.
the thing about the Nothing, the Void, is that it takes everything. kind of counterintuitive, given the name. but like so many things, so many consuming forces, it takes, and it takes, and it takes, and leaves us with nothing but heaps of rock and balls of gas, a few million lightyears apart.
you told me not to come, of course. and you were probably right, i shouldn’t have, but there was nothing else left there. lots of people say to go with the devil you know, but honestly, i’m tired of dealing with the damn devil. the devil has an agenda. the Nothing doesn’t.
that’s what i like about it, i think, even as i look over our supplies, even as the computer warns of how much (or rather, little) time we have left, even as i feel you recede into yourself, wondering whether this really was the right decision, whether we should have stayed, and i go to you, and miraculously, it’s enough. turns out that you, me, and the cosmos is all that’s really needed, even at the end, even down to the wire, as the universe expands and expands, taking everything away from us but the ship and each other.
“That’s not how it works.”
“I don’t care. It has to.”
“Well it’s not. It won’t.”
And yet you tried anyway, of course. I keep playing it back in my head, keep wondering where it went wrong and what I could have done to change that course. But it was never going to happen, we were always going to pitch and yaw our way towards that, as soon as I showed you magic.
Not that I like the term. Magic. Spellbooks and pointy hats and broomsticks, it’s all so trite at this point, so far from what I learned to do, what I taught you. The thing that nothing gets right, about magic, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, has nothing to do with blood, or ability. You simply have to sit, and listen. And once you’ve learned to hear it, to wait for it to arrive, you can do anything you want with it.
I shouldn’t have taught you. You were always so patient, but as soon as magic entered the room, with it came a hunger, blossoming in your chest, a low and distant hum that lit you up and set you spinning like a top towards a perilous fall. I probably should have been worried by that hunger, but it excited me. I liked seeing you excited, liked that I had something that I could show you, that you so desperately wanted. I thought it was me, too, that you wanted, but that hunger was reserved for magic alone.
Not that I knew that. Not until you burned it all down.
we made no progress until we realized that spaceships were never going to work, not really. every ship in space is just a gigantic balloon, ready to burst, ready to take everything with it. doesn’t matter how thick you make the hull, somebody is going to want a fucking window in it to “ooh, look at the pretty stars” out of. and then that breaks, or hell, maybe just a stray piece of rock flies careening into the side.
doesn’t matter what. it’s always stupid. we lost a lot of people.
but when the engineers got fed up and decided it wasn’t worth the effort, the biomechanics started investigating. with the genome sequenced and typified, we started to poke and prod our own code, to see what we could do.
these, too, were terrible times, but unlike the sinking tubs of metal, it worked. we made humans with perforated rebreathers, spliced in plant genetics, made ourselves a chitinous suit to keep it all isolated, then reinforced that, then reinforced it again. it’s amazing what you can do with enough time, enough generations, iterations, cash to burn, a planet on the verge of extinction and a healthy dose of desperation.
more so than any time before, we put humans in space. we turned our bodies into vessels, and we explored the stars. not that we were human by then. we had gained, had lost, too much, and would again.
“Why must we live beneath the waves?”
My brother froze. It was a question that, I think, he knew he would eventually have to answer, but like so many conversations such as these, had no idea how to actually begin. So I’d done it for him. I had to know.
“Don’t you like it down here?” he asked, the tips of his webbed fingers flashing gold with bioluminescence in the dark, a wickedly sharp grin slashing across his face. He hoped that I would be distracted, but I was resolute.
“I just want more,” I signed back.
“We have the whole ocean! We can go anywhere we want!” his hands cried.
“Except back up,” I quietly motioned back.
His hands went still, and the darkness of the water moved back in around us, like a chokehold, like the tide itself. I hated it, I hated it so much, and I just wanted to return to that small and fading memory in the back of my mind, a memory of color, of light, light everywhere, and something in my ears beyond the muffled rustling of the currents that surrounded us.
“We can’t,” my brother signed. “You know why.”
we did not know, could not have anticipated what would happen when the trees were gone, when the last of them fell and it was suddenly all for naught, the rest of us now clambering, scrambling, scraping, erasing each other for a chance to be the last against the wall. we were all going there, we knew that for certain, would eventually be dashed upon the rocks of time and each other’s viciousness, but for the moment, we would survive.
it is all we have ever known how to do. everything else we have attempted has been cursed and rotted, unending and broken. we have destroyed, have always been destroying, ever since we moved past our will to live. the more secure our existence, the more we took from others still just desperate to do the same as us. not that they ever would. we had gotten there first, had beaten them to the punch, and drank from their skulls.
some might say that it did not have to end this way, but as i look at the curvature of our small hiccup in time, i see no other outcome, no fanciful ending in which the world comes together to live as one because WE are the one, we are all that there is, want to be all that is left. once we no longer had to struggle to survive, we wished to be the last remaining. and now we are.
the last of us will be the last, of anything, for anyone to find, any newcomers to this rock. they will see what we have left and laugh at our hubris, our reach and grasp mismatched, clutched around our own necks, dragging ourselves into oblivion, forever and ever and ever.