Any sort of colour was a welcome sight to him. In his field, people grouped different subjects in terms of their colours – red, yellow, blue – and studied them. The different hues showed the maturity of each star, how close it was to its doomsday. They could blow up in a interstellar firework, or collapse to a black hole. Of course, the assumption was the star died to a natural cause.
To him, yellow was particularly alluring. It signified home, instilling a sense of belonging in him. The appearance of a small yellow speck on his navi-globe could have brought him to tears. That could mean the Sun, and in turn, Earth, his home.
He has been a space nomad for twenty years. Or that’s what his console’s screen showed him after the superluminal device broke down. You couldn’t really count days and years in space without a reference point. After all, the notion of year started as the time for Earth to revolve around the Sun for a complete round.
His space capsule was kept in a tumbling motion to create a micro-gravity environment, not unlike how a rollercoaster could keep the passengers on the seats. He once groaned at the reason when Mrs. Amy mentioned it in Physics class – “For God’s sake, there are seat belts!” No one could argue with the universal law of centrifugal force though, especially when you’re stranded in space without any seat belt.
He was on a mission from Aegean: to be a herald of inevitable doom from Marathon. And he’s afraid he was too late. Mrs. Amy and all the people he knew might have perished, and everything he knew turned into dust.
I dreamt of a constellation called Mergus last night. In the dream, I was learning to scull a sampan towards the West direction, navigating with the help of Mergus. All the stars in the sky were subtitled with their own names, sparkling in the dusk sky with magical dust.
I never come across the word, and Mergus the constellation does not exist in real life. However Mergus does exist – a genus of sea ducks.
Word had it that space was the final frontier – a boundary to push ourselves beyond our capabilities to achieve things beyond our imagination. What the word didn’t say was we might cower and crumble under the sheer speechless horror when facing the unimaginable.
He opened his eyes and gasped when the capsule shook uncontrollably. It has been two hundreds years since he was put in the stasis, and his awakening could only spell one thing: the total destruction of Starfleet Endeavour. The battle at Aegean System must have failed, and he needed to carry the message back to the Earth.
He was one of the ten Mercury agents, a special crew trained for superluminal travel to carry messages between two predestined points. The discovery of such technological breakthrough happened in 3,257 AD at Planet Ionian, a planet at the outer rim of Aegean. Humanity elated at its potential: hyperspace travel, information transmission and other dreams once forbidden by ordinary physical laws.
And they came. Cold and calculated, as if they had been waiting for this precise moment to happen. They belonged to a species called Perxian, according to an intercepted signal. Not much intel was extracted, only one painful fact: they consumed light, creeping endlessly in the dark space.
He tried to recall what happened before his pod was ejected: Endeavour warped to Marathon space in Aegean to stop the spreading of the mad Perxian mass, and arrived only to be swallowed by the swirling void. Mercury agents were deployed when the hull cracked, to warn the Earth: RUN.
Fumbling the console in front of him, he saw a tiny screen with a reflection of his eyes. Haggard and bloodshot. He pressed a key and a message flashed on the screen.
“This is not the right way! Go back!” A man cladded in armor shouted, signalling two persons at his back before a huge glob of black matter swallowed him alive.
The two persons stopped and turned back silently without saying anything. They strided forward and navigated themselves in the maze. They could not see anything beyond the two walls beside them, and a harrowing long tunnel in front of them.
The first spoke. “What’s the status now? We flee or we fight?” His sound was bloodied and defeated. His face was marred with black oil, a memoir from the previous encounter.
The second peered at him. Her stare projected authority.
“Yes, ma’da…” A long glass spike pierced through his armour. That was not in the calculations. Glass, being an artificial material, was a rare sight as nobody knew how to manufacture it anymore. At least those who were still alive.
She cursed and ran again, trying to recall all the routes they have tried and erred. She swung her club wildly as if it could get rid of the nightmare the befell her and the humanity. What would you do when the world you built turned against you? The steel they hammered, the oil they harvested, the plastic they happily used and wasted… These dead materials seemed to gain conscience, and decided to revolt against their former slaver.
She vaguely remembered something called “flight or fight” response when an animal meets an adversary. She’s just human, and human is animal too. When running out of choice, she could only run.
He was constantly on a good mood. He was full of excitement, bursting with energy. Like a dog unleashed in a grassy park or a cat patted on its furry head, he was happy and not afraid to show it in public. It was raining marshmallow and lollipops everywhere he went.
A notification beeped. It must be another Like or Follow from his friends. He popped the notification and checked the number: 357 Likes on his photos last week for a trip in Italy. That photo with him posing like a Starbucks siren holding a latte – and everyone knows Italy has no Starbucks – caught the attention again. He always had that edge of photography over his friends.
He tweeted the same photo with a caption: “Italy terrorized by my wonderful voice. Make Starbucks Great Again!” In five minutes, it was favourited, retweeted and replied few dozens times. Five new followers today, 3 of them hot babes. He hit the jackpot again, maybe one day he will be on the list of trending topics on Twitter.
The same patterns occurred through the day. Share, Follow, Like, Favourite, Retweet – He never stopped in spreading his social influence to his sphere of friends. In a better term, he was unstoppable, driven by an undeniable desire to share and by an undying anticipation to see the numbers going up.
It was a long day. Two men in white robes removed a headset from a man. While they were pulling him out of a sphere contraption, a third man looked at the charts on a wall screen. “That’s a high number today, good job everyone.” The patient, sitting on a chair, listened to the doctors’ discussion on how this prototype machine that echoes one’s thoughts and reinforces in a positive feedback loop, and how it helps to alleviate the increasing number of depressed people who couldn’t shine in real life.
He didn’t really care. He just sat there silently, wishing to scream in his little own echo bubble again.
“We must kill these heretics! Cut off their heads, skewer their skulls and burn their bodies in the pyre!” To his platoon, the commander shouted at the top of his lungs as if his order could have torn those non-believers alive.
This day has been long predicted in the sacred book among his people five thousand years ago. The Farseer has passed the message from the Higher Being to his chosen men and women – “we must spread the true words to the four directions of Earth, like a piece of cloth slowly becoming wet, be it milk of ourselves or blood of our enemies.” They fought the heretics using all sorts of top technology – bone clubs, iron axes, flintlocks, AK47 and now nuclear-powered armaments. Conflicts, battles and wars declared in his name were countless – the faith of humanity could not be wavered.
Looking across the battlefield, the commander spotted his adversary – his counterpart in the enemy, his nemesis in the cult. He was amazed by how the enemy has the finest equipment, and disappointed by how many men and women have fallen for the trick to believe in the evil thoughts propagated by the cult. We must either convert these lost souls to the right path, or cleanse them by wiping them off the surface of Earth. By these deeds, he thought, the world could be once again united.
“Charge!” In an almost raw and primitive roar, he moved his troops to clash with the other.
“BEEEP—–” The meter emitted a warning signal. A man in white lab coat looked up and sighed. He looked grumpy and frustrated, possibly due to long hours of work without any sleep.
“Another negative. When could I get my results and graduate from this bloody school!?” He took a petri dish on top of the meter and washed it under the tap. Two large patches of bacteria, each with different stain, were washed down to the drain and disappeared from his sight. Another culture to grow again, he shrugged.
That’s not how it should have ended. All the research, all the hard work, all the time the team has spent in finding the truth culminated to an empty promise.
For a lack of better term, he was forced to walk the path alone now. His team has perished one by one in the name of discovery. He still remembered how the headlines reported the collaboration – “An All-Star Team Strive to Look for the Secret of the Universe”. The clash of intelligence will bring a spark in the darkness to cast a glimpse on the answer. Provided there is any, of course.
In the first few years, they got extraordinary results. With the particles colliding, the coffee brewing, the liquid helium cooling, the lasers focusing, the papers were being churned out day by day. He thought to himself they were getting closer and closer to the answer after every beer session.
And the progress halted. It was like a bullet train which decided to hit the “ABORT” button to hit a wall. For years, the team was stuck at what they had, puzzled and disappointed. They were the best the world could offer, the experts in their own fields, the cream of the crop in this big pot of seven billions people.
Three committed suicide, two killed each other in a fiery argument, and four lost their mind and ended in an asylum. They all went out like a candle, snuffled by an invisible hand one after another. He could not figure out why, but he almost felt that there was something not ought to be discovered. What if there were something greater, some ideas beyond human’s ability to comprehend? If sanity was defined by one’s ability to think and understand rationally, then the knowledge might exist outside the realm of sanity. An answer that couldn’t be explained at all.
Anticipation kills, he recalled his mentor’s words.