Carl drifted a long time. Blue filled the hollow bodiless center of his mind with peace. Memory became a soft distance. Expectation remained unbegun.
So, when the voice returned, directionless as smoke, intimate as a friend, the words embraced all of him. What followed he would remember ever afterward as semantic liquid, a torrent of fantasy and weird ideas that emerged from a cloud of dreams and fell awake inside him as a voice – to which he listened rapt as the face of the world—
“At the end of time, in the last million years of the universe, an unusual creature drifts through the slow hurry of evolution into the glory and anguish of self-awareness. It is an eld skyle, and it is I. I am vast by human standards: a cubic kilometer of silaceous cell matrices intricately and delicately interpenetrating. A colossal jellyfish floating in a lake: a radiolarial system, highly specialized, yet stationary and witless-looking as a brain without a body. To you, I would appear as a cloudy pond shimmering with biotic iridescence. Yet, what makes me unusual is not my size or unlikely form. I am unusual, because I thrive almost wholly on ghosts. I eat the past.”
“Wait a minute! Hold on now!” Carl assumed he was dreaming and called through the nightmare’s thickness. “Where am I? I can’t see myself.”
“You are inside me. I am reshaping you. To even begin to understand how this is possible, you must know something about my world. I live in a special region inside the cosmic black hole at the end of time. The universe around me is small and hot. Spacetime has long ago completed its expansion, braked, and begun to fall back on itself. At the time of this telling, one hundred and twenty-five billion years after your star, Sol, cindered to frozen rubble, the whole universe is a mere six hundred thousand parsecs wide, the distance from your Earth to the Andromeda galaxy. All of spacetime has been reduced to a mote of what you knew the cosmos to be.”
“I knew the cosmos to go from Brooklyn to the Bronx,” Carl’s voice quaked. “Where am I?”
“I’ve told you. You are at the end of time.”
From In Other Worlds
Find this science fiction journey to the end of time at Amazon.