Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 4

“That’s it? What the hell is it?”

“Shut your mouth Jax, or I’ll shut it for you.”

“Guys! Let’s keep it together for a little longer ok?”

“So much lost…music…poetry…we’ll never see it again…”

“Abe, focus! We don’t need your fucking…just…just FOCUS alright? Give me your opinion on what we’re looking at.”

The air in the control module is rank. The oxygen scrubbers are wearing out. Numerous lights across the Calamity are flashing intermittently or simply burnt out. The crew look empty. Haunted.

The journey took two months longer than anticipated.

Abraham leans closer to the screen, his eyesight is worsening, and squints. “Let’s see…radiation is Gamma, X-ray, Neutron, Alpha, Beta…” He turns on another screen and types in some commands. Reading the information displayed, Abe rubs his eyes, then says, “This is a directed Nuclear explosion.”

Jax is incredulous. “What? Some asshole is dropping nukes in space?”

“No! Well, yes, I suppose.”

“That’s insane! Who would do that and why?” Katherine turns to Abe, sizing him up. Perhaps he’s finally gone, she wondered.

Isolde speaks up. “Perhaps it’s a sign. There is nothing out here beyond Nemesis. For anything to catch our sensors, it would have to be pretty big. Maybe it’s meant for us. Like a Lighthouse.” Her hair is growing back in after shaving it a month ago.

Katherine grabs her own hair in her hands. She pulls them away, a clump of hair in each hand. She barely notices. Her attention is pulled to the screen in front of her, “We can see it!”

An enormous Wheel spins clockwise in the void. Dull grey, running lights flickering along the hull. Four spokes lead inward to connect to a Hub. From a large tube in the center of the Hub and another on the opposite side, a massive flash of energy blasts out into the void, temporarily blinding the crew.

“Christ. That’s a man-made ship! There are survivors on there! With supplies!” Katherine slides into her seat, relief shaking her to her core.

“Yeah! Yeah! YEAH!” Jax dances around as much as he can in zero gravity.

Isolde hugs herself, tears forming bubbles in the corner of her eyes.

Abraham sighs and rests his head against his screen.

“Let’s find a docking port and meet my fans,” quips Jax.

The approach is tense. “What kind of diseased mind puts the docking port right next to a nuclear cannon?” Mac’s knuckles are white as she carefully maneuvers her ship to a port at the base of the cannon. The cannon fires again as the ship is locked into place. The entire vessel is rocked. “All right, we’re docked and locked.” Katherine releases her grip on the controls.

Isolde stares at a monitor. “Sensors are detecting atmospheric pressure on the external door. Replenishing O2 supplies.” Impatience ripples through her body. Clean, fresh air wafts through the ship. Everyone takes a deep breath.

“Shotgun!” Jax leaps down the corridor to the docking port. “Wait you idiot!”, Mac yells. “We’ve got a dozen safety protocols to run through before we exit the ship.” She unstraps herself from her chair and moves after him. “Ah, fuck it.” Protocol has degenerated significantly over the last eight months.

Abraham shakes his head as if trying to wake himself from a dream. “This…this can’t be real.” He looks mournfully at Isolde as she begins to unbuckle herself. “After all this time, after everything we’ve done, suddenly we find a space station? That was built by man?”

Isolde, impatient to be gone, waves him off. “We NEED this Abe. Our supplies are gone. This the miracle we need right now.” She floats off down the corridor.

Abraham watches her go. He runs his hands along the console at his station. “A miracle,” he sighs. Then he unbuckles himself and slowly follows the rest of his crew.

The crew of the Calamity exits the ship for the first time in eons. “I was expecting fanfare, parade music. Something.” Jax peers down the corridor that leads away from the ship. It is empty. A light blinks from a panel at the far end. “Hmm, not enough rotational force to generate gravity. I should have noticed that earlier, stupid.” Isolde shakes her head in disappointment. She is tired, malnourished. They all are.

The panel is connected to a large door. Katherine taps the any key and the screen lights up. A message reads:

“Welcome to the Remembrance.”

“We have been waiting.”

The entire station rocks slightly as the cannon fires again.

Abraham gently runs his hand across the screen, his face reflected in the screen looks ghastly. The door opens. A long hallway extends in either direction gradually bending along the curve of its circular design.

“I just want this to end,” whispers Katherine. Exhaustion hangs off of her like a shroud. Her crew does not hear her. She taps the communication button on the panel; “Hello! This is Captain Katherine McNamara of the E.M.S.X. Calamity! We’ve been lost for so long…we need help!” There is no response. “Please, PLEASE, respond!” Katherine hangs her head, shivers. Something is breaking inside her.

Jax floats past her, into the hallway. Peering down one way, he shouts “Elevators!” Then he points the other way, “Over there too!” Abe moves in and disappears down a corridor. Isolde moves to Katherine and raises a hand to place on her shoulder, to offer support, strength, compassion. She stops, uncertain. It has been so long since they were together. She pulls her hand back. The crew waits in silence.

Abraham returns to them from the opposite hallway. His skin is pale and sallow, his uniform is covered with stains of uncertain origins. “There are elevators connected to every spoke, numbered but no identification as to where they go other than to the outer circle.”

Jax is combing his hair. Of all the crew, he is in the best shape. His uniform is spotless, with crisp creases and numerous product ads. He finds a reflective surface and studies his image. His last drone camera broke down a month ago and Abe wouldn’t fix it. He smiles wistfully, he looks good and it’s being wasted on his wreck of a crew. “One Lift is the same as another, right? Let’s just take one and see where it leads.”

Katherine looks at him. She hates him so much. “Fine. Let’s find the first one then. Number 1.” He shrugs, and the crew moves along the corridor until the elevator marked “1″ appears. “Where is the crew?”, wonders Isolde. “Some sort of stasis maybe? How did they survive, uh…I mean…”

“How did this station survive the end of the universe?”, replies Abe. Isolde frowns at him, but has no response.

The doors to the lift open as they approach. Sullenly they enter. Vertical safety bars line the walls and a large window on either side of the door. A panel on the inside of the elevator shows two options: 1 and 2. 1 is currently green. “Well, that’s easy enough,” Katherine says. She presses the button marked 2. The doors close and the lift moves.

Moving away from the hub, the windows occasionally reveal an external view of the enormous station. The trip is silent, each crew member is lost in thought. Katherine thinks she can almost hear a jingle playing quietly in the background. “It sounds so familiar.” she thinks, “Can Izzy hear it?” She looks over at her lost partner and sees her staring out the window. Starvation crimps Isolde’s frame but she is still gorgeous, will always BE gorgeous. A bittersweet smile crosses Katherine’s face. She looks away.

Jax is about to lose his temper when the lift finally slows down and stops. The doors slide open and reveal an enormous hallway lined with the occasional potted plant, garbage bin and water dispensers. This stuns the crew momentarily, but just as quickly, the spell is broken when as one, they all push out of the elevator straight towards the water dispenser. Each takes a long, desperate drink. Fresh water has been non-existent onboard the Calamity for quite some time.

“I see shops!” Jax is staring aghast at a long section of hallway. It is filled with stores: grocery stores, beauty supplies, a movie theater, restaurants, coffee shops, knick-knack stores and many others. All devoid of occupants. “I don’t understand any of this,” Isolde says as the others move into the grocery store. The grocery store contains many pre-packaged containers of food in sealed cold storage. The doors open easily and the crew gorges themselves on partially frozen food.

Mac smiles, her belly full. “We can stay here. Even if there aren’t any others here, we can stay.” Jax floats by, “I HOPE there are other people here. I need to get LAID.” Isolde places her empty container of food in the recycling bin, “We need to keep moving. We have to find a command module and find out where this station came from and if there are any other people here.”

Abraham slowly moves over to the recycling bin and places his container in. “There are no survivors here.” Mac glances his way, “What makes you think that old friend?” She emphasized the word ‘Friend’ sarcastically. Abe doesn’t notice. He is looking up and down the corridor. He says, “This, ALL OF THIS, is a rest. A reprieve. We murdered an entire universe. For our crimes, we deserve death and Death is coming for us. This is our Last Meal.”

Mac scoffs. “You’ve gone mad, you’ve been made this whole time. Now we’re finally in a place big enough to ignore you if you decide to kill yourself again.” Isolde gasps. Jax looks up, a slice of meat dangling from his mouth. “Captain! That was totally uncalled for!”, Isolde shouts. Her words startle Mac, she looks at Isolde for a time silently.

“You’re right lieutenant. That was uncalled for. Abraham, Please accept my apology.” Abe stares away, unhearing. She shakes her head. “Fine. Look crew: we have a lot of distance to cover as we search for survivors. We’ll do it faster if we split up. Drarm, you’re with me. Jackson, take Stanford and go left. We’ll go right and meet on the far side. I’ve noticed communication stations scattered about, we’ll use them to stay in touch.” She turns and heads out. Isolde looks at the two men and mouths the word “SORRY”, then she follows.

The station rocks under the force of another cannon blast.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 3

Thomas Jackson, dressed smartly in a high-ranking military uniform speaks to the viewer, his voice like rich velvet.

“The E.M.S.X. Calamity is perhaps, the greatest work of human ingenuity in our history. Never before has humanity united as it has for the creation of this incredible technology. Hundreds of our greatest minds worked together tirelessly for years, fusing science and technology into what will become the ship you see here,” He gestures beside him, a 3-D image of the Calamity appears and the ship changes shape, from one design to the next.

A Naval ship from the mid twentieth century.

A large Disc with a pair of cylinders extending away from it perpendicularly then switching to parallel.

An enormous sphere with a small convex area.

Designs slide by, grotesque and wonderous, sublime and insidious, one after the other into the hundreds. Finally, the image stops on a crudely designed ship drawn in orange crayon. Circular, with a module opposite the Gravitic Inversion pincers. From a window inside the module a stick-man waves hello. Hearts coloured in red float above the stick-man’s head.

Underneath, in blue crayon, is written:

Daddy at work. Hope he comes home soon. I miss him.

Somberly, with his voice carefully modulated to express maximum sorrow and empathy, Jax says, “Jane ‘Calamity’ Stanford submitted this design. Her father, Abraham Stanford, was an essential member of the orbital construction crew. His generous pay cheque was being spent to furiously fight the cancer trying to steal his daughter from him.”

“Sadly, the Cancer won.”

An image of Abraham appears, huddled over a screen, The screen shows a graveyard under blue sky. A crowd dressed in black looks attentively at the screen. Abraham slowly speaks, “My Calamity was an anomaly. The fire of life burned too hot in her young body. Ever inquisitive she was, she had a thirst for knowledge that surpassed even my own. As soon as she could hold a utensil, she was dismantling every toy she had, trying to understand the HOW of things. How does this work? How does that? What holds it all together?”

He smiles, “Once I walked into your room. You were crying, perhaps a nightmare. I stepped on one of your deconstructed toys and stumbled. I fell with a large crash, and woke everyone in the house up.’What a Calamity’, I said, and laughed. And your new name began.”

“You are gone now, my daughter. In the Old Ways, your body would be weighted with stones and sank beneath the seas near our ancestral home.” The crowd by the graveyard look uncertainly at each other. “The Old Ways are dead. There is only the Future now. Goodbye, my Love.”

“And thus,” concludes Jax, “is the origin of the E.M.S.X. Calamity told.” He crisply salutes.

“Please press ‘Continue’ if you would like to know more about this one of a kind vessel.”

The storage area has been successfully converted into a greenhouse and hydroponics garden. At the center floats Isolde Drarm. Her uniform is worn. Her hair is long, much longer than before. Coaxing new life into these old plants has been getting harder and harder. Between what they can grow, and what they can recover, the situation is stable but starting to decline.

Thinner than she was at the start of her voyage, Isolde kicks off gently and floats down a row of plants, checking each carefully for signs of disease. Muscle atrophy is a serious risk, as is skeletal deterioration. As Chief Medical Officer, her standing orders for extra sessions in the workout room were seldom heeded, even by her. Except for Jax. His narcissism demanded nothing less of himself than physical perfection. Which was fine by her. The less time he spent leering at her the better.

It’s safe here. The others rarely venture into this humid area. The sessions with Abe were difficult both on him and her. Trying to reconnect with him, trying to rekindle his interest in living weighed heavily on her. Her words to him seem increasingly hollow. Is she changing his mind about life, how important it is to continue living, and how vital he was to the crew of the Calamity, or was he changing her view, that life was finished. That there was nothing left, nothing to go home to, no home to go to. If only she could talk to Mac…

Abraham Stanford tried to commit suicide.

Five months into their estimated six month journey, Abe left his quarters during his rest period. He calmly drifted down the corridor to the E.V.A. room. Deftly, with a sure touch from having practically built this vessel with his own hands, he bypassed the sensor security protocols that prevented the exit from opening for an occupant without a registered spacesuit. He closed the interior door and looked, for the last time, at the ship he once so loved. Then, he activated the exterior door.

Nothing happened.

He tried again. Still nothing.

He punched the door. Again. And again. Until his fists were bloody pulps and he was pulling in ragged breaths. It wasn`t until he realized that his breath was not calming down, that it was getting harder to breathe, that he turned around.

Watching him from the viewport of the interior door was Captain McNamara and Lt. Drarm. Abraham launched himself at them. He ricocheted off the door and drifted slowly backwards. As his world slowly spun into darkness, he gasped, “There…is… nothing…left…” Isolde carefully reintroduced oxygen back into his chamber. Together, they gently moved his unconscious body back to his quarters.

The object they were travelling towards was officially named EMSXC-247×2. Jax called it “New Hope” out of a sense of irony. It was the only other object left in their observable universe. It emitted a steady pulse of radiation that was mostly drowned out by the background radiation coming from the singular, universe consuming blackhole that they created and orbited. Jax called it, “The Nemesis”. Mac wishes that Jax would just shut up sometimes.

The Calamity was not built for long distance travel. The Hadron Drive was her primary means of getting around. The Hadron drive would never be used again.

Small thrusters, used for fine maneuvering, gave the Calamity the push she needed to get under way. A six month journey was laughably optimistic. Onboard, resources were inventoried, then allocated. Some were sacrificed to create new resources. The cargo bay was slowly transformed into a botanical wonder. Work gave the crew purpose. Then Abraham snapped.

The twice daily excursion to inspect and maintain the hull fell squarely on Katherine’s shoulders after that. The toll it took on her was immense. The absolute nothingness of the void outside the ship terrified her beyond words. But, she continued to perform the inspections, there was no one else who could.

In her dreams, the Void has shape. It tortured her and tormented her. She ran, but could never elude it. It wrapped tendrils of icy death around her neck. Screaming herself awake in her tethered cot, she saw Isolde beside her, her eyes wide with concern.

“Mac! Are you ok?” Isolde reaches over and activates the lights.

“I’m fine Izzy…I’m fine. Just had a bad dream.” Katherine rubs her face with her hands. She has aged noticeably: wrinkles are appearing on her face, dark circles under her eyes, streaks of grey showing in her hair. Her hands betray fine tremors.

“Mac, the E.V.A.’s are killing you. You need to let Jax and I handle some. It will take some of the stress off of you.” She runs a cool hand through Katherine’s hair. Mac shoves her hand away.

“Jax wouldn’t survive two seconds out there. Besides, I can’t risk having him fuck up and possibly killing us all. And I can’t send you Izzy, you don’t know what it’s like out there. You’re too important to the crew. I can keep the ship together, but you keep us together.”

Isolde smiles, then shakes her head. “You are no good to the crew if you have a breakdown. Please, let Jax and I run some simulations at least to get us ready for an E.V.A.-”

“Enough!” Katherine turns her head. “Just get Abe well enough to resume his duties. You have your orders LIEUTENANT, I expect you to carry them out.” She turns out the lights then adjusts herself back in her tethered cot and closes her eyes. Isolde looks at her for a moment longer, then carefully extracts herself from the cot. She floats over to the locker where her clothes are stored and takes them. Quietly she puts them on and leaves the quarters, her eyes are red with unshed tears.

In Katherine’s dreams, the Void is waiting.

In his luxury quarters, every screen is alight with footage from his last concert. Thousands upon thousands of fans are screaming his name, “JAX! JAX! JAX!” Jax is in the middle of the room, naked, reliving the adoration of his fans. He is rock hard.

The concert ends, the screens darkens and the room lights up. His erection falls.

“Gawd fucking dammit! Two women left in the whole damn UNIVERSE and neither will touch me with a ten foot pole!” The one good remote camera glides up and down his body, recording his every movement. He looks over to a clear case attached to his desk that holds the remains of his other remote and sighs. ‘Accidentally’ walking in on Captain McNamara as she undressed for an E.V.A. trip seemed like a good idea at the time. She beat the holy hell out of him and as further insult, shoved his camera so far up his ass that he had to go to the medical lab to get it extracted.

“Space madness, that’s what it is,” he fumes. The others look and smell like shit, but not him. exercise, pursued with near mania, keeps him in top physical form. Anything for his fans. “Abraham went batshit crazy; our dear Captain isn’t far behind. Who’s left? ME!” He calls up an image of himself in a military uniform.

“Captain ‘Jax’ Jaxon, I like the sound of that!” His hands wander over his body as his erection returns, the camera recording every bit of it.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 2

One year ago,

Nothing was more conducive to Katherine McNamara’s sense of peace then to stand on the skeletal hull of the E.M.S.X Calamity and take in the immensity of space. Tethered to the International Space Station, the ship was being slowly assembled by the world’s best scientists and engineers. Katherine insisted on being part of the construction crew, helping to assemble her ship and get a feel for her.

Taking a brief break, Katherine looks out upon Infinity, and her heart swells with pride. “Soon,” she thinks, “We’ll leave our cradle and take our place among the stars.” All eyes of the world are fixated on the Calamity. The world’s most popular man, Thomas ‘Jax’ Jackson has used his fame and vast fortune to spearhead the production of this revolutionary ship and to keep all attention focused there. She has even heard backroom talk that he bought himself a role on the ship. “Like Hell”, she thinks.

Her radio squawks, “Uh Cap’n, your time outside is nearly up, better come back in,” She sighs, “Roger that, I’m coming in.” Slowly, she pulls herself along the handrails, past the other construction crew. Abraham Stanford pulls himself out of the superstructure of the ship. He’s covered with tools and wires crisscross his body. He spots her and waves.

Katherine waves back as she enters the airlock back into the space station. “Abraham is a madman”, she thinks as she door swings shut, “but no one knows the Hadron drive like him.” On her helmet’s Head’s Up Display, a note appears: A Dr. Drarm is coming up on the next shuttle. The next member of her crew. “Just enough time to shower and shave, then meet the new guy.”

Today,

Nothing frightens Katherine McNamara more than the prospect of spacewalking on the hull of the E.M.S.X. Calamity. Breaking out in a cold sweat, fighting back pants wetting fear, it always takes an act of willpower of for her to cycle the airlock and exit the ship. She silently curses herself for her intimate knowledge of the Calamity as the door slides open and she steps out into the abyss.

“This is wrong,” she thinks as she carefully attaches her safety line, then follows the handrails around the ship, “There is nothing out here. NOTHING. No Stars. No planets, No asteroids or nebulas. Where are we?”

The lights flashing out from her ship are almost immediately swallowed up by the void, providing next to no illumination. Fear is her constant companion. The utter blackness assaults her, making her feel infinitesimally small. Closing her eyes against the fear only makes it worse.

She slowly rounds a corner of the ship and finds Abraham Stanford anchored to the hull by a safety line. He has drifted out and away from the ship to the maximum length of his line, his arms and legs are splayed wide. The line is pulled taut.

“ABRAHAM!!!” Katherine screams over her radio.

No response.

Cursing, muttering every oath she knows, Katherine moves as fast as her fear allows her, hand over hand, along the rail. The distance seems infinite, the time it takes, endless. Her own laboured breath echoing loudly in her helmet, she finally reaches Abe. She knows she’s close to hyperventilating, which threatens her own safety, and she tries to control her breathing and get it back under control.

Feeling some semblance of normality return, the captain reaches out and grabs Abe’s safety line. “God damn you Abe, you’d better not be dead,” she says as she starts reeling him back toward the ship. She finally has him close enough to grab his arm. He screams.

“Ahh!” He turns around and faces Katherine. “You startled me Cap’n. I was just…appreciating this experience we’re having.” The reflective shield of his helmet is down. Katherine can only see her reflection, sweating and afraid.

“Dammit Abe, we’ve been calling you for a half hour! Your oxygen tank is almost empty, can’t you hear the alarm going off in your helmet?” He shrugs, then starts moving towards the airlock.

“Abraham is a madman,” Katherine thinks. A chill washes through her as she watches him effortlessly pull himself along. Then her eyes catch the void beyond and she hurriedly makes her way back.

As the captain re-enters her ship and cycles the airlock she can already hear the argument turning into a shouting match. “Cut me some slack Doc! I couldn’t hear you on the comm! I told you there was too much radiation out there and that it would interfere with communication.”

Doctor Isolde Drarm sharply retorts, “And I told you that you needed to keep your Extravehicular Activities short! Your leg is still healing and you need to rest! Your well being is my primary concern here. Please Abe, don’t push yourself.”

Abe sighs and runs a hand through his damp hair, “I understand doc, I really do, but the ship is my primary concern. There is SO much radiation out there that even a micro-fracture in the hull will cook us to ash in seconds. I have to go out there regularly to check every square meter of the hull.”

“So why were you just floating out there?” Katherine gently tosses her helmet towards Abe. It floats end over end across the distance. Abraham easily catches it with his right hand and places it on the rack behind him. Katherine frowns as his back is turned.

“Look,” he responds, “it’s strenuous work. I needed a break. Floating out there is like…I dunno, a sensory deprivation tank. It calms me.” He finishes putting his exosuit away and follows Isolde to the med room. Mac sighs and starts to peel her suit off.

A low whistle catches her ear. Jax is casually leaning against the exit, eyeing her appreciatively in her state of undress. Gripping her locker so hard it vibrates in her hands, she mutters, “WHAT. DO. YOU. WANT. JAX? Please let it be a foot in your ass.”

“Uh, sorry Cap’n,” Jax replies and looks away in a false display of modesty. “The Folks at Home are wondering how much longer we are going to be out here until we turn on the Hadron Drive and go home. It’s been two weeks now of us just floating here. It’s getting dull.” Buzzing around him are two small drones, his camera crew. Semiautonomous, wirelessly linked to the main computer and transmitting his every action. Keeping her eyes locked on the drones, Mac replies, “Isolde says she is almost ready to debrief us, didn’t you get the memo? Meets us later in the Science wing.”

Furious, Mac swings her jumpsuit over herself and buttons herself up. Attacking him would only make her look terrible to the viewers. Giving Jackson extra leeway was hammered into her by her superiors. That leeway will only last so long. Jax floats away and Mac smiles grimly as she waits for her opportunity.

“Christ, I’m bored,” Jax says as he does zero gravity yoga in the science lab while his drones video every stretch. The lab is empty but active, several screens are flashing information at high speeds: radiation analyses, long-range sensor sweeps, structural analyses of the Calamity, several hundred Hadron drive simulations and psychological profiles of all the crew. Jax notices none of these, the perfection of his yoga forms and his own narcissism renders him blind to anything but himself.

As the others enter the lab, they here a triumphant “Hah!” Jax has perfected the Kala Bhairavasana. “Fuck Yeah! You dicks know how hard this is to do in SPACE? I am a GOD, bitches!” The rest of the crew just stare at him.

Isolde floats past him and towards the main bank of monitors. “Now that you’ve filled the lab up with testosterone, shall we begin?” Nimbly tapping the keyboard, several monitors light up, showing several possibilities. “Let’s go over the facts: Two weeks ago, we activated the Hadron Drive at noon Greenwich standard time. Almost immediately, the drive malfunctioned. Abraham went down to shut the drive down at the core. The resultant internal shockwave rendered the entire crew unconscious. We awoke 8 hours later, in an unknown region of space. There are no discernible cosmic phenomena, no stars or planets or anything we can detect with our instruments, there are however deadly levels of radiation permeating the area. All of you have come to me with your theories about what happend to us. Let’s hear them now and then the Captain,” She nods politely towards Katherine, “will give us our orders about what to do next.”

The crew look at each other uncertainly for a moment, then Jax clears his throat and speaks. “It’s obvious what happened here folks,” he picks up a pen and speaks into it as if it were a microphone. His drones buzz up around his face for dramatic purposes, “the Hadron drive opened up a rip in the fabric of space and time and we travelled through it. We are in ANOTHER DIMENSION. We just gotta turn that baby back on and tear ourselves outta here and back home. Mike drop.” Jax drops the pen, it just floats there in front of him.

Stunned silence.

Abraham speaks up, “uhm yeah. I’ve been studying the drive and my theory is that when we turned it on, it went into overdrive.” Abe floats over to a console and types in a command. The screen lights up, showing the projected flight plan of the Calamity, leaving the moon and heading to the edge of the solar system. “This is what was supposed to happen, but look here,” the projected flight plan shoots out farther, past the edge of the solar system, past the Milky Way, past the nearest galaxy, then past all known space. “I think we have travelled farther than the expanding universe. We are so far out now that light from the oldest sun, from even the Big Bang itself, hasn’t reached here.”

Awestruck silence.

Katherine floats forward, sliding up next to Isolde. “I appreciate the ideas. You’ve all put in a lot of thought into our predicament. Isolde and I have gone over the accident, we’ve gone over the Hadron drive, even the one back home. Something has gone wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.” Her hands ball up into fists and her head drops, casting her eyes to the table in front of her. Isolde, her eyes full of compassion, gently places her hand on Mac’s shoulder.

Mac clears her throat. “The Hadron Drive worked perfectly. A singularity was opened in front of the Calamity as it was supposed to. The Hadron Drive maintained it, as it was supposed to. The Gravitic Inversion Field generated in the prongs of the ship worked as it was supposed to, keeping the singularity ahead of us. The error that occurred, the fault that happened was with the ship.” She pushes a button and all the screens switch to the external image of the ship.

The Hadron Drive runs through the ship, is a critical component of the ship, was designed to be perfectly level. And it was, initially. Stress fractures in the superstructure appear as the ship is towed out to orbit the moon. They go undetected. When the Hadron Drive is activated, the singularity is created, then spirals out of control.

The moon is pulverized, then absorbed by the singularity in seconds. In an hour, Tidal forces are stripping the atmosphere from the Earth, spiralling towards the growing black hole. On board the Calamity, mere seconds have passed, the first alarms haven’t started yet. The Calamity powers the black hole, accelerating its growth, it’s Gravitic Inversion field keeping the ship away from the black hole. The ship appears to be moving backwards at unbelievable speeds.

The Earth dies, consumed by the black hole created by it’s finest minds. The solar system follows it some years later. On board the ship, the first sparks begin to fire from an exploding console. By the time Abraham Stanford reaches the Hadron Drive in the engineering room, The Milky way is largely consumed. The super massive black holes at the center of the galaxy are absorbed and augment the power of the Calamity’s black hole. The monumental black hole is now self-sustaining, growing more powerful and pulling all matter towards it. Galaxies are consumed, then, ultimately ALL GALAXIES. The crew of the last ship, the Calamity, are unconscious. The screen turns dark.

The silence extends for some time. Disbelief. Fear. Confusion. Each crewmember silently absorbs the information. Jax breaks the silence, “Jesus Christ. JESUS CHRIST.” The drones buzz around him, searching for the most flattering shot. “Are…are you sure?” Isolde is hugging herself. Katherine responds, “We’ve been running the simulations for the better part of a week. We don’t have a better solution.”

Abe begins to laugh. A snort, then a chuckle. It builds into hysterical laughter. Jax nervously moves away. “That’s why there’s nothing out there? BECAUSE WE KILLED IT ALL?” Isolde, tears forming in bubbles around her eyes, moves to him and tries to calm him down. “WE KILLED THE UNIVERSE!”

Captain McNamara closes her eyes against Abe’s outburst. Choking back sobs against the enormity of their actions, she stammers, “We need to remain calm, we have to keep going, we can’t give up-”

“HEY!” Jax is jabbing his finger at a screen. “There is SOMETHING OUT THERE!”

End pt.2

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt.1

Onboard the E.M.S.X. Calamity, all is chaos.

Alarms, Klaxons, flashing lights.

“Re-routing power from Auxilliary!”

Smoke, sparks, hissing, rumbling.

“Fire suppression systems coming on-line now!”

“OH SHIT! OH SHIT! OH SHIT!”

“Mac! You’re on fire!”

“Not now! Trying to deactivate the drive!”

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

“Somebody shut Jax the fuck up!”

The heavy sound of a fist striking flesh.

“I can’t shut the drive down! We need to kill it at the source!”

“Aye, captain!”

A figure unbuckles itself from its safety harness in the flashing lights and begins floating. A skillful kick sends the figure floating down a dim passageway.

“Pressure loss in multiple sectors! We’re bleeding air!”

“We can’t do anything until Abe gets the drive down!” The captain turns her head away from the control console for a brief second. “ABE! Tell me you’ve got it!”, she screams.

Tense moments go by. An unconscious man lists in his safety harness.

A groan shakes the entire vessel, metal grating against metal. The sound vibrates through each crew member, through their bones, through their minds. It seems to go on for an eternity, each crew member crumbling under the onslaught.

Then it ends. The vessel is swallowed in darkness.

Captain Katherine McNamara snorts and jerks violently in her harness, the action rousing her from her slumber. She had been dreaming a dark dream. Looking at her console, that indicates the health of her ship, the Calamity, she see that a few of the coloured indicators were red, a large number were yellow, and a happy few were green. Her left arm ached from burns sustained when a panel shorted out and ignited part of her uniform.

Satisfied that certain death was not an immediate concern, Mac turns and examines the rest of her crew. On her left, asleep, is Lieutenant Isolde Drarm. Astrobiologist and Chief Medical Officer of the Calamity. Isolde yawns, then opens her eyes. She regards Mac with a sleepy smile, “So, are we dead yet?”

Grateful that Isolde’s irreverent sense of humour is still intact, Mac smiles back. She slides her hand slowly down the right side of Isolde’s face. Isolde snuggles her palm for a moment, then notices the burn on her Captain’s arm. “We need to get you down to Medical soon, before infection sets in.”

“Later”, Mac sighs, “You need to head down to engineering and check on Abe. I’ll check on Jax” She turns her and examines the other unconscious crewman. Isolde salutes, then unbuckles herself and launches herself down the corridor.

The unconscious man seated at the communication hub is dressed head to toe in product labeled garments. The Great Thomas ‘Jax’ Jackson, pop star and idol of millions, slumbers in his harness, a slight bruise forming on his left cheek. Katherine can barely conceal her disgust that such a glory obsessed person is on her ship. She impatiently checks his vital signs, slightly disappointed that he is still alive, gives him a solid pinch to wake him.

“Ah! Not the face!”, he rocks in his seat, jolted awake. He immediately reaches for his cell phone and uses the mirrored surface of it to check his face and adjust his hair. “Dumb science bitch sucker punched me,” he mumbles, fingers gingerly touching the slight bruise on his face.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” The words drip with menace as Captain McNamara turns slowly and stares Jax down. Jax immediately looks away and fusses with the camera controls at his station. “Uh, nothing. A little concealer will make it disappear. No one earthside will notice. Say, why are the screens down? My audience needs an update.”

“Abe had to power the drive down,” Mac replies, irritated, “we’re running on backup for the moment. Don’t worry, you beloved fans haven’t been out of contact for long.” She starts cataloging the alerts on her control panel, diligently ignoring him. Jax tousles his hair this way and that, trying to make it look the exact right amount of disheveled as was popular back home.

Abraham Stanford, engineer and technical officer is curled up and floating listlessly in Engineering, snoring loudly. Isolde looks fondly at him, she makes a mental note to check on his sleep apnea soon. As she moves to examine him, he jolts awake.

His eyes roll back in his head, his body goes rigid and he begins shaking violently. “Mmmgh! Mmmgh Grgh! Vvrh!” Spasms rock his body. Isolde rushes to him, and watches helplessly as his right shoulder dislocates with a pop. “Abe! Abe!” Isolde flips open her portable med pack and starts filling a needle with relaxants. Abraham’s right knee cracks under the force of a strong spasm, a bulge appears in the knee and a red stain follows, spreading quickly.

Isolde grabs Abe and slams him against a wall, holding him as steady as possible, and injects him with her syringe. Abe, spittle flowing out of his clenched mouth, slowly starts to calm down. His mouth falls slack and opens, allowing several bloody, shattered teeth to float free. Isolde watches them for a split second, then activates the communication panel nearby. “Medical emergency! Abe is down! I need help!” She pulls out a knife and cuts off the right leg of Abraham’s uniform, examining the damage as she waits for backup.

Katherine and Jax float into the room. The captain nimbly floats over to Isolde and Abe. A floating tooth bounces into Jax. He recoils in disgust, then flicks it away. Isolde gives a brief update then adds, “We need to get Abe to Medical. I’ve got him stable enough for transport.” Mac nods, then says “Ok, Jax, help Isolde with Abe. I’ve got to stay and get the power back up.”

A “Ewww” escapes Jax as he clumsily helps maneuver Abraham down the circular corridor. The captain turns and faces the power core. Isolde had carefully strapped Abraham down on the exam table when the emergency lights flick off and the regular lights switch on. “Christ, about time,” Jax exhales in relief and pulls out his cell phone. He turns on the camera and starts recording. “What up Earthlings? The Calamity has been calamitied!

He turns the camera around, covering Abraham unconscious on the table and Isolde, expertly tending to his wounds. She notices his camera and scream, “Get the FUCK out of here, you idiot!” She snatches the camera out of his hands and flings it out of the room. It floats down the corridor, spinning end over end.

Jax chases after the phone and catches it. He turns it over and sees a handprint in blood across the screen. Isolde’s hand, Abe’s blood. He turns back to Medical, “Bitch. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!”

“My people!” He turns and floats to the second floor access hatch. Living quarters. Thanks to significant sponsorship, Jax’s quarters are the largest of the group. Screens line every wall, each black with the words NO SIGNAL flashing on each. “Dammit,” he sighs. “Record! and transmit as soon as we reconnect!” The screens light up, each showing an image of Jax as he floats around the room. Faint music plays in the background. His latest hit song.

“Well folks, this is Jax! Live, kind of, from the E.M.S.X. Calamity.”

He starts undressing, his well toned body glistening in the warm lights of his room. Flexing as he takes his clothes off, the cameras watching his every move.

“The Hadron drive worked, I think? I mean, I don’t know the specifics, but it was supposed to create a stable micro-black hole in front of the ship while the two stabilizing “pins” kept the black hole mobile but active.

As he spoke, smart devices in the computer system picked up on his speech and supplied helpful visual images;

The large crescent-shaped design of the E.M.S.X Calamity,

The Hadron collider built into the superstructure of the ship,

An animation of two molecules spinning along the collider and slamming into each other at the mid-point of the distance between the two crescent ‘tips’,

A miniature black hole forms there and begins to suck in the Calamity,

The crescent tips glow with a visible energy, pushing the black hole ahead of the ship, while the gravity of the black hole pulls the ship towards the black hole.

An endless loop.

The speed generated is immense.

“A Carrot leading a Donkey, that’s how they described it,” Jax concludes, as he slips into another branded uniform. “Time dilation slows us down while the rest of the universe keeps going on. A few hours for us is a few YEARS for everyone back home. My fans will be going through a mid-life crisis and falling in love with my music all over again!” He smiles.

Jax pulls himself down into a seat in front of a mirror and straps himself in. several makeup kits are secured to the table in front of him. He begins to touch up his face.

“Anyway, our shakedown tour was to take us from our starting point of the Moon, out to Pluto, currently on the far side of our Solar System. While we’re there, I personally am going to go out and drop a flag on that mofo #demiplanetnomore”

Jax begins to thanks his many sponsors, it was through their generosity and his fame combined that the Calamity was funded. Various ads appear on the numerous screens lining his room. Jax’s smiling face is reflected back at him a hundred times stretching into infinity.

At the medical suite, Captain McNamara glides in. Isolde turns, taking off bloody gloves, “Captain, Abraham is now stable. He’s sleeping for now, I’ve done what I could for his leg, he’s going to need a replacement for his right tibia. I’ll need your authorization.” Mac nods in acquiescence. “I’ve also pulled his damaged teeth and am 3-d printing a new set for him.”

“Captain,” she says, “I’ve never seen a reaction like that in Abe before. I initially thought Epilepsy, but that would have been caught in training and he would have been washed out of the program. CT scans show nothing unusual. MRI is scheduled next.” She tosses her gloves in a biohazard container.

“Is it the Hadron drive?” Her eyes lock with Katherine, steady, calmly. Katherine floats over to Abe, strapped to a bed, and studies him. “Izzy, I don’t know.” She takes Abe’s hand in hers, “the earthbound Hadron collider has been functional for years. It’s been studied back and forth. There should be no surprises left. But, he was pointblank at the source when he shut it down. Something could have hit him through the shielding.” She lets go of his hand. “Or maybe he was adept at hiding his condition. Either way, we’re stuck out here with him. We need to watch him.”

Isolde floats over to her and they embrace. They kiss briefly, tenderly. Mac pulls away, “Do what you need to do to get Abe up. Then I need you on the bridge, we still don’t know how far we made it. We could still be floating around the moon.” She smiles and pulls herself out of the room toward the bridge.

Some time passes. Mac, Isolde and Jax are in their seats in the bridge room fiddling with their control panels, each lost in thought. Mac turns and says, “Everyone, here is the situation: The Calamity was in orbit around the moon. We activated the Hadron drive and it malfunctioned immediately. We managed to disable it but it blew out all power except backup. We are now blind, no radio or sensors of any kind. We have the means to repair or replace them but it will take time. But we are alive, and that is a great thing. We have the supplies to last three times our mission length. We can stretch that out to six times with our combined knowledge sets. We will make it home, I promise you that.”

Isolde smiles and nods. Jax flips a few more switches at his console. Cameras light up, showing him in his seat and the occasional shot of the others at their seats. He looks up and says “Hah! Got it!”

“Mac! Uh, I mean Captain, I know the only reason I’m here is due to the financial backing I brought, but I am a trained communication officer. I made sure that I had it covered.” he pushes himself back from the console. “I’ve been working for a while now on the external cameras. Hardware, software, it all checks out as fine, fully operational. So here you go:” He hits a button and on all their screens the image is that of complete and utter blackness extending away from various points of the ship.

“The cameras are working fine, I promise you.”

“So tell me, WHERE ARE ALL THE STARS?”

End part 1.

Grim/Dark

It was always cold when it rained.

Atmospheric pressure changes, the mountains to the west interfering with warm western winds, the reasons were multitude. The Man never bothered to learn any of them. Today, he just hitched up the collar of his jacket against the rain and hustled across the street, past the fast food joint and into the alley behind it.

Where the drug dealer was waiting.

The dealer set up shop behind the restaurant six weeks ago. The Man observed it from his desk in the office. The dealer was wearing a white windbreaker, baggy white jeans that hung down near to his knees and mirrored sunglasses. He wore this regularly, the
Man noted with some curiosity. A type of business wear perhaps? The Man thought he looked like an idiot.

But the dealer was fierce. Being half a head shorter than most of his clientele made fierceness a necessity, the Man supposed. The Man once watched the dealer take down two large thugs who thought they could shake him down for his goods. The Man was impressed
as he ate his lunch at his desk.

Two weeks ago, the Man was passed over for a promotion. Again. His fury and rage shook the office. The manager calmly stood against it, even warning the Man against further public outbursts. Fuming, the Man returned to his cubicle.

“Who the Fuck does he think he is?”, the Man muttered to himself as he sat himself at his desk. “I DESERVE it, I EARNED it”. He bends a cheap, low quality company branded pen in two.

The Man’s suit is old and showing numerous signs of wear. He hasn’t purchased a new suit in five years. It was the suit his wife bought for him. Before the accident. Before she was taken from him.

To the rest of the workers in the office, he looks old, worn out. The Man doesn’t notice. He hardly notices anything outside of his increasingly small world. He stares intently at the dealer across the street.

After work that day, the Man crossed the street and talked to the dealer for the first time. The dealer was surprised. “Hey friend,” he says, sizing up his new customer, “I’ve seen you around. At the office over there.”

“You look tired. Do you need something to pick you up?”

The Man buys a small bag of weed. He takes it home and immediately dumps it into the toilet and flushes it. He does this a few more times over the next few days, getting into the good graces of the dealer. He pushes himself to be more jovial, all the while
setting himself up for the Big Purchase. Getting customers to like him was always his talent.

It is raining on the day of the Big Purchase, rain cold as ice. As the Man swung his jacket over his shoulders, he hears a sound that freezes him. A rip has appeared under his left arm of his jacket. He mutely fingers the gap where the fabric once connected,
memories of his wife flood over him. She made sure he was looked after with her life insurance, but their house is expensive and his funds are nearly exhausted. He cannot lose the house.

He will not.

The dealer is happy to see him. “Hey buddy!” He gestures with his left hand, “You uh, you got a hole in your jacket there.” The rain hardly seems to affect him. He pulls out a paper lunch bag, folded neatly at the top. “I got your Special Order here, just
need to see some green.”

The Man pulls out a folded envelope filled with bills and hands it over. The dealer smiles at the fullness of it and passes the Man the lunchbag. “Use it well, my friend, and wisely.” The Man smiles, and walks away into the rain.

The manager lives in an affluent area of town. The Man is soaked by the time he gets there. The manager invites him inside, “Are you ok man? What happened? Did your car break down?” He disappears and returns with a large, fluffy towel. “You’re gonna get pneumonia.” They both sit down at the dinner table.

The man smiles and pulls out his water-soaked paper bag. He opens it up, reaches in, and pulls out a revolver. Old, but still serviceable. A sleek chrome finish glints in the flourescent lights. The revolver has absorbed the chill of the rain outside, the grip
is so cold as to almost hurt the Man as he holds it. He cocks the hammer.

“Christ!” The manager jumps back out of his chair, the chair bangs off the wooden floor. His hands up, “Wait! Wait!”

“What is this about?” Is this about the promotion?” The Man nods. “Seriously?”

The manager is shaking, eyes looking about for a way out. “Look, I respect your years of service, we all do. But, you’re not QUALIFIED for the position, we explained that to you at your last performance review. You’d need to do a ton of skill upgrading. At
your age and how close you are to retirement, I thought you would prefer to just ride it out.”

The scream throws the Man off-balance. He had completely forgotten about the manager’s wife. She was shrieking at the top of the stairs. The manager, seizing the opportunity, grabs the salt shaker off the table and throws it at the Man.

“Susan! RUN!” He turns to run, heading to the back entrance.

The salt shaker strikes true, square in the face of the Man. The sudden sharp pain causes him to drop his revolver.

The gun hits the ground and fires.

The screams continue, clearly audible to the rest of the neighborhood. As is the second gunshot.

In the alley behind the fast food joint, the dealer is savoring a warm cup of coffee. It has been a good day, despite the weather. The Man lurches out of the shadows, the freezing rain has sapped something vital from him. His breath freezing in the air as he
pulls out his revolver and hands it to the dealer.

“What the Fuck Man?” You don’t just bring it back! What’s wrong with you?” The coffee, forgotten, slips from his cold fingers. “Did anyone see you?”

“POLICE! FREEZE!” Suddenly, the alley is awash in strobing red and blue lights.

“God damn it!” The dealer, seeing no way out, pulls out a sleek handgun and sprints off down the alley. He blindly fires off a few rounds, hoping to stall pursuit enough to get away.

The Man, numb physically and emotionally, barely noticed the arrival of the police. But the gunshots provoked a reaction. He throws his arms over his head, the revolver slips from his hand and falls. And fires.

Of the two police officers that exited the patrol car, one drops, a spray of blood erupts from his throat. The other officer ducks behind the door of the cruiser, and screams into his radio, “Shit! Shots fired! Officer down! We need backup!” He draws his service
pistol and returns fire.

The Man turns to run, but stops and retrieves the revolver first.

Nearly frozen, exhausted, mentally confused, the Man takes the first corner and the next corner. He finds himself in front of his office. His passkey allows him entrance. He doesn’t notice the pursuit. Does not care anymore.

He takes the elevator to the top floor, then walks the steps up to the roof. The rain has not let up. He looks up to the sky, hoping to see some sign of cloudbreak. There is none. Looking down, he spots multiple police cars surrounding his office. He misses
his wife.

He stares at his revolver. It glistens in the rain, vaguely beautiful, still cold as ice. He raises it to his head and pulls the trigger.

Nothing happens.

“God Damn you, you Accursed Thing,” the Man whispers to it.

He throws it over the ledge and follows it with himself.

Some time later, the rain stops. The police come and go. Life returns to normal. A Boy, hiding in a bush from his bullies, who seem to be everywhere, spots a shiny object nearby.

It is a revolver. Fully loaded. Sleek and chromed.

It is ice-cold.

My College experience

During my college years, I was a lonely guy. I had no social skills to speak of, at parties my anxiety would spike and I would do anything to avoid social contact with others. I would read any nearby magazines or books. I would even stare intently at plants, anything to fake that I belonged there. Or I would drink, heavily. That never worked out well.

Imagine my surprise when, at a friend’s house party, I met a girl. She was smart, funny and ridiculously attractive. We talked and laughed long into the night.

She called me a week later. We chatted for what seemed like forever. She really seemed to like me. My self-image could barely handle it. I’ve never considered myself an attractive man, but I do have a charm that turns on by itself at random moments. She seemed out of my league, but I went with it.

We arranged for a date downtown. My excitement was through the roof. I through on my least shabby clothes and made my way to the restaurant.

There she was, waiting on the corner by the restaurant, smiling and radiant. We made our way inside. I was all smiles and charm.

We seated ourselves and looked at the menu. Then it hit me: the Stench. Her perfume was overwhelming, this thick miasma hanging over the table. There was no escaping it.

My reaction was uncontrollable. Coughing, choking and gasping for air, I covered my nose and mouth with a napkin. Her reaction was understandable, anger. I tried to pass it off as a cold I was fighting. She did not buy it and the meal passed quickly and coldly.

We talked a few more times on the phone. Much better for me, scentwise. My charm miraculously returned and she gave me another chance. Coffee this time.

We met outside the coffee shop, so radiant she was. Her perfume punched me squarely in the face. I desperately tried to maintain my composure but I could tell it was already doomed. Perhaps it was because I was dancing around her, trying to stay up wind of her. She looked at me like I was mad.

She politely drank a cup of coffee with me and made idle chit-chat. I was still struggling to breathe in her presence. Then she left and never talked to me again. I remained and drank another coffee and pondered the situation.

Through the sadness of the moment, a smile cut through it all. It was the most Seinfeldian moment of my life. Cue the bass line.

Many years later, I met another woman. Smart, funny and ridiculously attractive. And she doesn’t wear perfume. Plus, she introduced me to the other Love of my life: a cat named Wesley.

A Mother, remembered.

My mother passed away just over one year ago.

Several members of my family gathered to remember and feast in her honour. As I have no connection to  my spirituality, much of their words fell flat in front of me. But I understand their intent: a woman they all loved died and they needed to gather and remember.

What I have to offer, is a story of Her:

My family never had much money. My father could never hold a job and my mother had the task of raising a gaggle of children. We walked a lot.

The nearest grocery store was a considerable distance away, walking there and back took quite a bit of time. One day, my father asked my mother to go to the store for a few items. She obliged, and set off.

Time passed. One hour. Then two. We children became anxious, looking up and down the street in hope of spotting her. My father became angry and demanded that we go out and look for her. Happy to get away, we left eagerly.

We walked to the grocery store and looked around. She was not there. We looked in the local thrift store, always one of her favorite stops. She was not there either. We looked in every store up and down the street from the grocery store to our home. She was nowhere to be found.

We returned home some time later, empty-handed and sad. My father’s anger was great. Where could she be?

As the sun set, my mother came home. We all ran to her, our fear washing away. We asked where she was, what happened to her. She told us.

She was arrested.

My father was a chain smoker. A pack a day, perhaps more. It was a difficult habit to maintain on a tight budget. My father coerced my mother into occasionally stealing a pack for him. This was in the old days, when cigarettes were put proudly on display in a rack by the front tills. She was caught, and taken to the local police station and given a fine.

She walked home. It was a very long walk.

She was so angry. The shame and embarrassment of being arrested brought out a fire in her that I’ve never seen before. She had never been arrested before, she only committed the crime at the behest of my father. She unleashed her fire upon him and he shrank back in the face of it. She swore that she would never steal for him again.

And she never did.

I have never forgotten how strong she could be.

Stories are now all I have left of her.