21060000 Post-awakening Gregorian Calendar (PG)
The Novark was quiet, save for the late bloomers. From an objective viewpoint, they had it easy: businesses offering rides straight to a faction of their choosing, cities already built, resources and jobs already secured. But we, the first wave, we had it best. The galaxy was empty – the truest sandbox there ever was. But here I was, seated at a terminal, as I had been at launch, trying to make something useful out of the internet, and all that was there in the early days.
A solar system-destroying lightspeed-shooting dwarf star doesn’t tend to inspire the greatest hope, but we can now essentially do away with the thought of the apocalypse on a local level. There is no more “our home” – it’s gone. We now have a galaxy of unexplored planets to call a home of our own. When one dies, it’s on to the next. But the day we discovered the world had an expiry date, the sum total of human history became moot. I could never understand the thoughts of those who learned first. Was there terror, or despair, maybe a rush of religious fervour swept over them? The astronomer on staff kept a detailed journal of his time, and I think I found the date when it was discovered.
Thomas Albright, 22
December 21st, 2027
The Mayans got really close, I gotta admit. We didn’t really see it at first, but gravity was acting funny in a way that we couldn’t really quantify. I mean, gravity does what it wants, sure, but when you turn a brand new full-colour/UV/Gamma detection lens on Hubble at a gravitational distortion, you expect to see something fairly innocuous, like more dark matter. When I turned the camera, it was there, bright, beautiful, and based off the path it was making in the space interferometer, careening towards Earth at light speed.
The room was silent as I took the picture, sent the data to LLNL, and got a confirmation from 3 different relay stations globally. We glimpsed about 500 years in the future. The whole solar system was dead, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
I’m pissed, but more than that I’m terrified with a deep sense of melancholy. We all joked about wanting the world to end, just to shuffle off this mortal coil and just let this die…but to think we’ll have to raise countless generations with the unenviable position of knowing that their time here is limited… I’m gonna go get hammered and stop writing…think the bar I frequent out in Honolulu will be opening a lot earlier.
December 22nd, 2027
250,000 people globally committed suicide last night, and that’s just the reported case. The cops on the island had to do a routine health and wellness check on every room in the complex, and about 20 of my neighbours failed this rather morbid test. Honolulu isn’t really in a state of chaos, but more a state of despair.
Learning the world is going to end – not now, but eventually – was like putting the planet into a coma knowing that the plug will eventually get pulled. When I walked into the observatory, it was empty save for Doctor Weller and his cat, Al. He didn’t even bother with a tie today, just a flannel and some jeans. He had pictures up everywhere, looking at every possible angle of the star as it approached. Its density was incredible, bending a little bit of light around it every now and again because the gravity was so powerful; its mass shifted under its own speed. It would’ve been truly an amazing sight if it hadn’t been staring at us with such malicious intent. He was maddeningly staring at readouts and arcane mathematics. He lived here with a small cot in his office and an endless supply of fast food. His wiry frame would’ve been enviable if he didn’t remind most of us of a kid who was bullied just a little too much in high school. I sat for about an hour watching him do his calculations, perusing maps of quadrants of space and measuring the same things repeatedly. I went to grab an early lunch and didn’t return.
December 31st, 2027
My family…they couldn’t take the news. They left me to die out here on this miserable island without so much as a “goodbye”. I went to the observatory…I didn’t know what else to do. I sat in the corner, drinking from the bottle of champagne we kept for New Years. No point in keeping it shelved any longer. Dr Weller hadn’t changed, and it didn’t look like he’d eaten either. The dark circles under his eyes were deep, giving some unnecessary age to his already aged denim face. I fed Al, changed his water, and gave him some pats. I’d been buzzed for about two days straight now. The world didn’t demand sobriety yet, so I kept sipping. I was sipping as I left for lunch and picked up some food from the nearest grocery to bring back to the observatory. When I walked back in, he was asleep on his desk with Al on his neck and shoulders. I didn’t really want to go back to my empty apartment, so I ate the submarine sandwich and drank the 12-pack beer myself. I think I fell asleep eating cookies and watching reruns of old movies.
January 1st, 2028, 0100 Local
I bolted awake and scared Al off my chest. Dr Weller was looking manic, but in the way that means he’s figured out a problem that had been bugging him.
“I found it!” He was flushed, mumbling excitedly, “They’re perfect, all of them, they had the right everything, and there’s more nearby, the destination is perfect!”
Hungover from the intoxication, my glazed eyes stared at his excited figure with great apathy. He ran back to his desk, and I followed with a half-empty beer can. He had a graphic representation of the Milky Way on the wall, with our location pinpointed in the Orion arm of the Galaxy.
“See?! We don’t even have to go far! Just far enough.” his fingers pointed wildly across the map, sometimes at the Orion Arm, Cygnus Arm, and occasionally at the Scutum-Centaurus Arm. I guess his work kept him motivated, so I humoured him a little.
“What am I looking at, Doc?”
“Where we need to go, I found it!” He looked very pleased with himself on finishing that statement.
He had 5 long strings at various points from our place in the Orion Arm. Each one at a different arm of the galaxy.
“Sooo…what’re you saying?”
He ran to the big projector and pulled 5 pictures from the desktop, “Here!”
On it was five planets, extraterrestrial for sure, but I knew exactly what he meant the moment I saw all of them. The beer can was gone and I was looking at the images taken from the new lens.
“We’ve been looking for just one, and you found five in the span of two weeks?”
He seemed to relax when he noticed I was getting up on his level of manic, “This one here is the perfect candidate, but the rest are all within acceptable limits.”
They were a sight to behold. These planets spread across the Galaxy had water. But more than that, they had clouds, there was an atmosphere, the temperature readings were nominal.
These five planets looked like Earth.
/\END TEXT FILE/\
This particular chapter had been compiled and uploaded digitally from the diary of an aide to the great Dr Tobias Weller, an astrophysicist who found the five planets that the Novarks departed to. I pulled up a few articles from about a decade later, and in Dr Weller’s suicide note he left all of his work to Thomas. The photo of his funeral on the North Shore of Oahu was touching, leis and Hawaiian shirts adorned the crowd as Thomas spread his ashes. Al was perched on Thomas’ shoulder, looking spry for an older cat. There wasn’t any hint of sadness amongst them, in fact, they all looked happy. Smiles were shared and applause looked to be had by everyone around. The epitaph, written and read by Thomas, was also on file;
“Tobias was a crazed scientist, hell-bent in realizing the dreams of humanity, and it only cost him his life. To him, his time spent and his years lost in searching for our new homes was a sacrifice worth making. He spent his whole life in ensuring mankind realized its true destiny, not to die silently without a sound on a doomed planet, but to make the pilgrimage to the stars, and stave off that cancer of despair. He saved billions of lives, he gave us that shred of hope that we so longed for in our hour of greatest despair. We could never thank him enough, not in the centuries to come. He consecrated the stars for us, gave us a dream to fulfil, and now it is up to the generations to follow to realize this dream. To not go gently into that good night.”
Thomas died in 2102 at the age of 100.