An original short story by Robert W. Rodriguez.
Completed June 22, 2014
Your species, the humans, predicted for thousands of years the eventual collapse of societal systems and life itself on the planet that is Earth, your homeworld. As the end drew near, the fact of her impending doom became undeniable to your populations. Her seas swelled. Her atmosphere became sparse and unbreathable. Her land became scorched and used up. Her people- your people- that she yielded up from her womb became agitated and panicked at the imbalance they brought upon your cradle, and so the leaders of your planet decided that it was time to leave.
In desperation, all the nations pooled together their resources which they had not spent on wars and luxury to create the greatest technological marvel of mankind’s history, the space shuttle Unity. They called it so because in order to build the vehicle, the leaders who so often commanded waves of men to grate over each other like tectonic plates united under one common purpose. Unity was unique from other spacecraft in that it did not travel the vast expanses of space by simple propulsion, but by transcending the third dimension to appear many lightyears away from its starting point. Your superiors explained it to you as such:
Imagine that you could only see in two dimensions- forward (and back) and side to side. If you approached a great canyon, it would appear unbreachable. Depth being a foreign concept to you, you would not even be able to fathom the concept of crossing it. Unity is the helicopter that will ferry you across. The vessel will travel to a higher dimension so that you may “jump” over the canyon of space in the third dimension.
You were chosen among a crew of seven highly trained astronauts to use this wondrous new invention to reach the nearest habitable planet to your solar system. Affectionately named “Source” by the scientific community who discovered it, they hoped it would be a second chance for humanity to sustain itself. The governments of your planet promised their people that once you arrived, they would transmit everyone’s genetic and memory data to you, so that the human race could be cloned on Source. The leaders themselves planned to build a second ship to travel there in their mortal bodies once they were sure that Source could support life.
"Earth to Unity," a man contacted you and your crew aboard your shuttle. He wore a white, short-sleeved collared shirt with a navy blue checkered tie, and he stood at the mission control building in what was once Atlanta, Georgia in the nation that was called The United States of America. You knew that the time was at hand, and you had been waiting for authorization to engage Unity’s travel technology. "Come in Unity."
"Atlanta, this is Captain Christopher Stephenson," you replied. You had a wife and a family. So did others in your crew. Some had lovers and some were taking care of sick ancestors. Some liked to fish and others had indirectly commited murder in their lifetimes. One of your crew, Captain Stephenson, had even questioned moments before boarding the space shuttle Unity if she may be pregnant. But your Earthly lives and mortal memories no longer mattered. You were united under the single purpose of redeeming mankind, and so you and your crew were one. "Awaiting your orders."
The leaders of Earth had set a predetermined distance that Unity must fly before engaging the technology, in case it failed catastrophically. Your crew had reached that distance, and your contact in the blue tie informed you. “You now have clearance to engage the Dimensional Travel Device. Washington wants to wish you Godspeed, Captain. Quite literally in fact.”
You smiled nervously. “Thanks Atlanta.” Some in your crew let out nervous giggles. You wanted to say something brave to mark this glorious achievement in human intellect, and to set the other astronauts at ease. You thought for a moment, and then said powerfully, “No thing may be withheld from the might of human willpower. I speak for my crew in saying that we now boldly explore the depths of our unknown Universe, as our ancestors have before us.” A brief pause. “There is hope for life on Earth.”
At the control center in Atlanta, officials cheered. Across the world, citizens listening to the broadcast transmission held hands and waited anxiously. Some prayed to their gods. Many waited outside capitol buildings and the control center too.
"Ten…" Began Mr. Bluetie. "Nine…" You began loosing the safety locks of the DTD. "Eight…" Mothers on Earth hugged their children. "Seven…" Sweat dripped from Mr. Bluetie’s brow. You looked back at your crew to see their determined faces. "Six…" Your species braced as your mother was about to give birth. "Five…" Crowds mourned her birth pangs. She was closing her eyes, about to burst. "Four…" You flipped the System Ready switch and prepared to turn the key. "Three…" The full gravity of the moment overcame you. Your could hear your heartbeat in your ears and feel it in your neck. "Two…" The pregnant female of your crew began to cry and so did two of the males. "One…" For the first time in millenia, every mouth on your planet was quieted. Your thumb and index finger gripped the key to unleash the DTD.
"Engage the Dimensional Travel Device." You obeyed, and turned the key. You held your breath, and for a moment all was silent. Confused, you began to count in your head from two, three, four, BOOM. The space shuttle Unity rattled hard, and the eyes of your crew shot around to catch each others uneasy glances. "Unity, come in Unity." Your last contact with Earth attempted to reach you, with a clear but stressed voice. Before you had a chance to respond: "Uuuniiiiiitttttttyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-" Mr. Bluetie’s voice fell quickly in pitch and distorted until it cut out. Your stomach churned, as if you’d swallowed a grenade. Every muscle in your body tensed.
In what was once Atlanta, Georgia, the man in the blue tie repeated, “Unity, come in Unity. Can you hear me Captain?” The crowds began to roar outside the mission control building. “Unity. Captain Stephenson…” No response. The man turned and met eyes with his superior, who nodded, took note of the time, then returned to his computer screen. “We have officially lost contact with the space shuttle Unity at 3:32 p.m. Eastern standard time.” Immediately a crash rang out from outside the mission control building. Screaming and wailing pierced the air wherever there were people to be heard. “The Dimensional Travel Device has failed. The seven brave astronauts of the crew of Space Shuttle Unity are presumed dead. May they rest in peace. God have mercy on us all.”
Your planet descended into chaos as Source faded into a fantasy. Rioters flooded government buildings and murdered indiscriminately. Seeing that the end of humanity was now imminent, the leaders whose nations had nuclear capabilities authorized a controlled extinction, and they did detonate their weapons, snuffing out all life on Earth. You and your crew were the last breath of humanity.
Your crew uttered a few oh-my-God’s and one of the men who cried let out a what-the-fuck. You checked the ships guages that appeared normal, then asked “Is everyone okay?”
"Yessir." "Yeah." "I’m okay." The other female astronaut who was not pregnant gasped and exclaimed, "Captain, look!" She pointed out a porthole on the starboard side, and the other astronauts gathered in amazement to see what surprised her. "There are no stars!"
You looked and indeed, space was infinitely black. You were dumbfounded. You peered through the bow windows and to your befuddlement, darkness enveloped Unity in every direction. You considered for a moment that maybe you were dead. Your crew appeared equally distressed. “What’s happening, Captain?” You had no idea.
BOOM, the craft began vibrating with increasing intensity. “Everyone, restraints!” You commanded. Five of the crew, including yourself, strapped in. One astronaut was flung into a wall, and he fell unconscious with a bleeding mouth and nose. Another rushed to help him, but Unity rattled with such force that he too was thrown, and his skull was crushed against the ceiling. You could feel only terror and confusion. As the conditions in the ship became less stable, your suit began to beep in warning and automatically enclosed your head in its built in helmet. The sound of tearing metal reached your ears, and you realized with certainty that you would not survive. Though your head could not turn in the tumult, you struggled in vain to see your crew one last time.
A large metallic rip sounded and then ceased, and you realized you were in space. You saw the metal remnants of Unity curl in a perfect spiral pattern, but you weren’t sure if it was real because there was no light to reflect off of it. You considered once again that you were dead, and that the image of the cone shaped ship was being projected from your mind. Your suit tore and was pulled into a smaller spiral, but you felt freed rather than exposed. Your body next, and you felt even more so.
"I’m dead." You thought. You were sure of it now. Unity with her crew, your suit and your body quickly faded into the blackness. They were a white dot one moment and nothing the next. Then darkness. Infinite darkness. You perceived that you were plunging into it with exponential acceleration, but you could sense nothing, as you possessed no body with which to sense. "But how am I still conscious?" You wondered. You would have plenty of time to think about it.
With no rotating planet to relate your motion to, time became irrelevant to you. You tried a few times to approximate how many Earth days must have passed by, but almost as soon as you began you realized it was pointless. For a time you pondered your mortal life too, but your current situation made that mental trail completely obsolete. Your past became like Unity and your space suit- hindrances as you plummeted into the void.
Soon it dawned on you, “If I am experiencing body-less travel on some plane of existence, what of my crew? Are they experiencing what I am?” You felt as though you’d been floating in free fall for a decade, but of course you couldn’t be sure. After the length of your life in the void eclipsed your life in the light, you were forced to realize the insignificance of the old memories that you thought made up Captain Christopher Stephenson. You decided that since your fellow astronauts were probably experiencing the exact same free fall, and this experience was more a part of you than your old life, that you and your crew were basically the same person. After enough time passed and you forgot your name entirely, and what you looked like, you began to think that you all were in fact the same being. For a time, you even referred to yourself as “Crew.”
You considered Unity and her fate. Her failure doomed the Earth, but she was made of resources derived from the Earth. Crew was made of the Earth as well. Unity failed because humanity failed, and her mission was the same as yours. “Am I the space shuttle unity?” You reasoned like this continually until you decided that you were Earth itself. You forgot about Crew, and what a human even looked like. Considering Earth’s origins, you lost your sense of identity with your homeworld as well. Eventually you forgot what light looked like, and tangible existence itself faded from your memory. You were a line of code with nothing to relate to; you were every piece of data in the Universe with no Universe in sight.
Unity had succeeded. You had transcended the third dimension, but instead of traveling to Source, you became Source. You became the origin of existence: the code for every event that had ever occurred. You reached a plane of singularity with all reality. By turning the key of the Dimensional Travel Device, you brought about the death of your own Universe.
You became Unity.
Realizing that you were all the Universe, you knew that you were the concepts of dimensionality as well. You decided to breach the first dimension that you’d been stuck in for God knows how many millennia, and willed with your knowledge of the code: “Let there be light.” A flash of brilliant white light emitted from you, which you would not have been able to perceive with Captain Stephenson’s puny mortal body. Knowing only darkess for so long, you felt the purest sense of joy that could be experienced in reality. Finally you could see, and if you still had a body you would be crying tears of joy and thanking God eternally for being released from the void.
Many other qualities of nature burst forth from your being once you’d separated yourself from darkness: matter and anti-matter, dark matter as well as the brilliant light. You gathered up the qualities that would allow you to contain as much of the precious light as possible, and spread the rest out into the darkness of the void.
The surface of your creation had been saturated with light, so you set about to store it. You created chemical structures that could absorb light, and allowed them to become self-propagating so that they could take in even more. You built a planet like a lens, where every event was a focusing motion to collect the brilliance of the white light you were so fond of. Each lens collected and self-replicated until its structure collapsed and was redistributed to fuel other lenses. As hundreds of thousands of millenia went by, your system became more efficient. Equilibrium smoothed out the course of this function as it eliminated resistance to the flow of light, so there were only mild storms here compared to other planets, mild temperatures governed by balanced rotations in its solar system, and so on. A being came about from the plants and animals that you knew could bring total balance to your light gathering masterpiece. You knew that the species would come to be called “man.”
The man, as well as the plants, animals, and conditions that supported his evolution, contained a perfect section of your original code. Some were more complex than others, but all were at balance with the singularity- proportional pieces of the whole of the Universe. They followed this code without question, for it was all they knew. From the surface of the sphere they gathered the light with perception, which was their tether to the code, like sensor arrays following the light.
Man had a proportionally heavier brain than all the animals, and a slightly more complex cerebral cortex. His ability for adaption was remarkable because he desired not only to consume food and propagate himself, but also to understand the Code of Origin so that he could better grasp the world around him. You decided that you should intercede with this interesting man, and help him better follow your purpose for him.
So you set him in a condition that would be perfect for his job, and asked him to start categorizing the other species, knowing that only by understanding this beautiful creation could he bring it to complete equilibrium. You even brought up another similar being to help him, so that he could still propagate like the other animals and so that his children could also join his cause. He named her “Eve.” You thought this was adorable.
Eve was still an animal. Although she too had a desire to make her perception more efficient and to better understand, she still desired to consume the fruit of the Earth. She could not help that the most desirable fruit of all was that of the most complex tree of evolution- Adam, her husband. She desired to consume the code as food, although she knew it was meant for the propagation of her race.
You watched not, because you sought only after the true path. But Eve was deceived. Adam and Eve were lenses at perfect balance with the nature of the universe, and themselves as part of it. Eve wanted to know the code in its entirety, even to know it as food.
"Adam!" She called. He had no reason to suspect treachery. "Come here, please." He stood before her. She got down on her knees and began to extract his seed. He did not resist because the motion was pleasing to his body, so how could it be wrong? Once she’d obtained the perfect code in her hands, she did eat. Adam, realizing her motives became enticed as well. She gave the seed to him and he ate too. The seed landed on their internal balanced lenses, and their sight became ever so slightly skewed. At once, they perceived a false separation from each other, from nature, and from Unity. They could no longer follow the Code of Origin exactly as your function dictated.
You, Captain Stephenson, met them in the garden you had placed them and were devastated to learn of the mistake. “No!” You cried. “Do you realize what you’ve done?!” You saw that they had attempted to cover their nakedness, and so you immediately knew that they had perceived a division on their lens. A seed obstructed their view.
So from that day forward, Earth was no longer Adam and Eve’s loving mother, but a resource to be raped. Their understanding of equilibrium vanished, and so they could not follow the Code of Origin and the perfect absorption of light. Pain became a punishment rather than a natural consequential necessity. Your purpose for them became secondary. You departed from them and watched their disease spread about your creation.
You waited for an opportune time to show them the path that would lead them to Unity.