“What if aliens don’t like tacos?” Chelsea suddenly spoke, stirring me from my momentary malaise of the heavens and drawing my attention back to the terrestrial. My eyes shot to her, but she continued staring up at the night sky, head resting tenderly on her clasped hands behind her head. The grass of the meadow rolled serenely in the light breeze.
“Aliens.” She again clarified. “What if they don’t like tacos?” I pondered the philosophic conundrum for a moment, unable to stifle the chuckle.
“Why would they not like tacos?”
“Well I mean… they probably never tried them y’know? Plus, their physiology could be altogether incompatible. If they’re not carbon-based organisms for instance, then tacos could be equivalent to cyanide for them.” Her verdant eyes locked upon mine, and the two of us broke into a mutual laugh. It always amazed me how someone as well-read and passionate as Chelsea could seamlessly blend two radically different topics into a single conversation that actually made sense. I’d always tell her she was like riding a pogo stick; inspiring and goofy all at once.
“I guess they’ll just have to eat chicken nuggets instead.” I winked at her, alluding to an inside joke between us that had lasted several years. She just rolled her eyes and looked back out into the vast Milky Way galaxy, gleaming with all it’s splendor in the night sky.
“Can I ask you something honestly?” I though for and responded the only way that seemed appropriate.
“No.” I turned to meet her gaze, only to find her sneering back.
“Where are they? I mean, why do you think they haven’t come here?” I didn’t have a good answer for her then, and had no way of knowing how close we were to finding it out. Nor did I have any idea that it would be the last personal moment we would share. I should’ve made more of it.
The next day came, and the two of us woke early to get into the lab before the others. We wanted to be the first to be there in case Bob had finally gone critical. ‘Bob’ in this case was Chelsea’s nickname for a star we had been observing for many years. It’s true name: Hydra 3267-b didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and so Bob had become the shorthand.
For over 13 years we had been glued to our monitors checking for every infinitesimal change in behavior. Bob was classified as a white hypergiant star; approximately 93 times as large as our own sun and calculated at over 167,000 lightyears from earth. As you might have guessed, Bob was incredibly unique.
Initial observation noted a large debris cloud that fogged the imagery equipment. It also seemed to pulse every once in a while, emitting sudden flares and gamma ray bursts. The star was highly unstable, and found to be expelling enormous bouts of matter at a torrid rate.
Chelsea was the one who first discovered it, and from the get-go she seemed oddly entranced by it. Maybe she had a gut feeling, or maybe she really was the prodigy that so many believed her to be. She first spoke the theory that we had all began to subconsciously suspect; Bob the star was on the verge of going supernova.
The claim was met with immediate skepticism from the others. Once they analyzed the data for themselves though, they were unable to come to a concise conclusion, as no one knows for sure what the progenitor signs actually are. Some chose to corroborate her conclusion, but most abstained from decision. Chelsea didn’t seem to care one way or another. She held firm in her belief that Bob was a ticking time bomb, and rapidly running out of fuse.
Out of all the advancements in the field of astronomy over the last couple decades, we have yet to witness a live supernova. The last person to do so was Johannes Kepler himself back in 1604, and that was before telescopes had even been invented.
There are remnants in the form of nebulas and black holes, yet the event itself has yet to be recorded with modern equipment. Finding a supernova in time to witness it’s explosion is like finding a single grain of sugar in a beach composed of all the sand on earth. There are mountains of hypothetical scenarios, but we still don’t know exactly how they work, and that was what made Bob/Hydra 3267-b so valuable.
The two of us marched into the lab, lattes spiked with espresso shots to give us the energy needed to face another Monday. We had only just set cast off our coats and dried from the rain when Levi burst into the room.
“Finally, you guys got here, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning.” I greeted him with a yawn, and glanced down to my phone revealing several missed calls and texts.
“Levi… it’s still too early for phone calls; you know this by now.” I replied. Levi chuckled and shook his head, adjusting the glasses on his face.
“Well you picked a bad day to default to your laziness.” The grin then grew wide upon his face, and I could see the excitement sparkle in his eyes.
“It happened.” Chelsea suddenly jolted to attention; her green eyes quivering inquisitively.
“You mean…” She couldn’t’ even finish the thought. Levi just nodded, and quickly beckoned us toward the array station.
“It was last night at like 2 am.” Levi spoke looking over his shoulder as we hurried to the terminal. I chuckled to myself – because of course it had finally happened when we weren’t there to see it live. Levi punched in some commands and the computer began to load. I watched the display screen rotate around the familiar map of the cosmos and pinpoint our specified coordinates.
The lens slowly began to zoom onto a point of light which grew more luminous and further pronounced with each passing frame. It soon reached the point in which the entire screen was engulfed by the effervescent blast, and that was when I knew it was real.
“Is this it?” Chelsea asked. Levi nodded and pointed towards the screen.
“This is the location in which Hydra 3267-b was previously located.” He then paused and shot a proud glance to both Chelsea and I.
“Bob is gone.” His words were met with only a stunned silence from the two of us. All the late nights running simulation programs and checking the data over ad nauseam. All the years we had spent waiting and hoping for the opportunity of a lifetime. It was all worth it; Bob had gone supernova.
We had a telescope that was oriented to monitor that particular splotch of sky 24/7 in hopes of seeing it. Lucky we did that too, as otherwise it would’ve passed without us being able to watch. Levi quickly rewound the feed, and as the frames went by, the light shrunk inward and coalesced back into the star. He then hit forward slide, and we waited in eager anticipation.
The star was seen shimmering, twisting and contorting the light it emitted as the nuclear fuel within it’s core had finally run dry. Gravity then took hold, forcing the star to collapse inward upon itself. The event finally reached the point of climax, and Hydra 3267-b burst into a magnificent stellar paroxysm. The light burst outward, expanding to envelope the entire feed of the telescope in seconds.
I looked over to Chelsea, who stared with wide eyes and a hanging jaw. Tears had begun to stream down her alabaster cheeks. I remained silent, not wanting to risk ruining the moment with anything I might say. After all the work she had done, and her accurate prediction, it felt only right to give her the first words.
“It’s beautiful…” Her words were accompanied by a small giggle of glee. I looked to Levi.
“Is that it?” I asked half-sarcastically. Levi chuckled, and nodded back.
“For now, at least. I’m afraid we won’t be able to see much of the aftermath until the initial outburst dissipates. Should take a couple weeks at most.” I turned back to Chelsea, still watching her stare in amazement at the whiteout on the monitor. I slowly put a hand onto her back, and she turned with tears glistening in her green eyes.
“You did it.” I said, offering a pensive smile. Chelsea wiped the tears from her eyes and grabbed my hands with a giggle.
“We did it.” She argued, but I wasn’t about to let her off the hook.
“I pushed buttons and drank coffee. It was you who found it. You who said this would happen… and now it has. The world’s very first glimpse of a live supernova, and it’s all thanks to you.” Chelsea was always too modest in my eyes, and would seldom take credit for the accolades of her work. It was always ‘us’ and not ‘me’ for her, and although that mindset is to be commended on most occasions, I refused to let her live it down that day. The only reason we had achieved everything was because of her. Bob was her baby.
Chelsea just smiled and melted into my arms, gripping tighter than her usual embrace. It almost felt as though her body was light as a feather in that moment; like all the stress of the years of waiting and wondering had all been jettisoned from within her and back into the universe. She radiated a glow of passion, and her touch brought serenity to my heart. If I were a poet, I’d like to think I would’ve written something comparing her with the cosmic burst we had just recorded, but alas, such skills have forever eluded my grasp.
“Well, technically it wasn’t live because it happened 167,000 years ago, but it’s still a nice sentiment.” Chelsea looked up to me with her familiar smug grin; one she brandished heartily whenever correcting me on technicalities.
“Just shut up and be the hero for once, would ya?” She smiled back and I stared longingly into her eyes. It was like I was seeing her for the very first time, and falling in love once more. I know it sounds corny, but after all the heartache she had been through, it felt right in that moment.
“Madelyn would be so proud.” She nearly broke at the mention, and part of me recoiled a bit. I didn’t want to risk sullying the moment, but I wanted her to know it was true, and that every fiber of my being believed it.
Chelsea leaned in, and her lips locked against mine. I like to think it was the best kiss of our lives. It stirred memories of our very first some thirty years ago, on a bridge overlooking a lake in New York. I was so nervous I almost flaked on picking her up, but showing up that night proved to be the best decision of my life.
Love is easy at first. You go on dates and flirt like schoolchildren every chance you get. The years are the true trial, and your relationship is tested in ways you never imagined. The bills, the struggle to find work and purpose; but more than anything it is tragedy that tests how strong your bond truly is.
Chelsea and I rose to every challenge, coming out stronger than before, but then there was Madelyn. She was our daughter, a cheery green-eyed girl who loved to paint. She always used to say she wanted to be an astronaut one day so she could wave at us while orbiting the earth in her spaceship. I’d give anything to hear her voice again.
Chelsea and Madelyn were driving out to see some friends one day. The roads were slick, and covered with black ice despite the rapidly rising temperature. Chelsea lost control, and the car flipped into an embankment. Chelsea survived, but Madelyn did not.
It was a freak accident, and something which was in no way the fault of Chelsea. I told her that too many times to count, but I don’t think she ever truly believed it. We tried for more children, and tried to move on as best we could, but it never seemed right. That day when Hydra 3267-b exploded into cosmic dust and gas was the first time I’d seen Chelsea wear a genuine smile since it happened.
“What the heck?” Levi’s voice suddenly ripped me from my waltz through memories, and back into the moment.
“What is it?” Chelsea asked. Levi continued scrolling through the frames of the feed, and pointed hand up to the screen.
“You see that?” He glanced back at the two of us, and we moved in for a closer look. The feed was almost entirely blotted out by the white flash produced from the supernova, yet on the lower quadrant there appeared to be a black line. It flashed for maybe three frames before suddenly vanishing. Two frames later and a black dot then appeared in it’s place.
The subsequent frames then went on to show random dots and lines that would appear for a few frames and then vanish. There appeared to be no pattern nor immediate explanation for what was happening.
“Gotta be a bug in one of the relays.” I said, offering my half-assed explanation.
“Yeah… maybe.” Levi replied, pushing his hands to his chin as he watched the frames roll on once more. At a certain point it just stopped, and there were no further sightings of the dots or lines. That was weird that a photometry issue seemed to have resolved itself, but at the time I didn’t really put much concern into it. After all, we had a celebration to prepare for and the real work was about to begin.
For the next few days the three of us obsessed over the data. We must’ve reviewed those frames at least a couple hundred times, trying to pick out every minuscule detail from the footage we possibly could. It took about a week for the initial flash to fade from our scopes, and then the real wonder emerged.
Our various tests and analysis software seemed to confirm it was a type-2 supernova as we had predicted. The shards of cosmic debris had been flung for dozens of lightyears in all directions. One system, located approximately 50 lightyears from Hydra showed signs of devastating results. Several planets in the system had received a celestial bombardment of solar radiation. If by some miracle there was life on any of them, it was surely eradicated.
Gamma ray bursts were projected to travel outward for hundreds of lightyears, but it would be awhile until we were able to observe the full extent. Around the previous epicenter had burst forth a colossal cloud of gas and superheated plasma that stretched for millions of kilometers. It was beautiful, painted with all variations of color and reminiscent of a flower blooming in the spring.
At the center of it, the core of the star lingered in wild uncertainty; naked and in a radically different form than previous. Due to Hydra 3267-b’s colossal size, it was projected to coalesce inward and compact into an incredibly dense version of it’s former self. This process would give birth to what is known as a neutron star; one of the strangest and most fascinating objects in the universe.
It took us awhile to find it, and the resolution of the equipment had to be adjusted several orders of magnitude, but there it was. It was only a fraction of a fraction of it’s former daunting size. The star that had once dwarfed the skies at over 3 million kilometers in diameter, had been condensed down to only 60 kilometers, or about twice the distance between Long Beach and LAX.
This confirmed the presence of the aforementioned neutron star; an impossibly dense object with some truly bizarre qualities. The substance that composes it – known as neutronium, is unfathomably dense. One single cubic centimeter would weight nearly 50 million tons on earth, enough to break right through the crust and do some serious damage to the planet’s core.
Fun fact: if you weigh about 150 lbs. here on earth, you would weigh roughly 75 million tons on a neutron star due to it’s immense gravity. Needless to say, you would also be dead as shit if you tried that.
That find was significant in it’s own right, but we had also somewhat expected it. What we didn’t expect however, was when we realized it was rotating phenomenally fast. Neutron stars are known to do this, but our star took it to another level.
The incredible force of the gravity exhibited by these stars exerts phenomenal pressure on the neutron star’s crust. Because of this they are wildly unstable, and matter tends to leak from their poles when cracks form in the surface. This matter is observed by anyone looking as flashes of light, which give it a sort of pulsing effect. Just imagine gluing two flashlights onto a basketball and then spinning it around and that’s basically what was happening.
We monitored the pulsing for several full cycles of analysis, and eventually calculated it’s rotation at about 1.36 per second giving it about 80 RPMs. Almost identical to the rhythm of the human heart beat.
Chelsea was essentially glued to the monitor by that point, and we ended up staying late into the night, still without having announced our findings in an official capacity. It’s good we did that too, because not long after we discovered an anomaly. The star wasn’t always maintaining it’s same momentum.
Sometimes it would slow to only about a quarter of a rotation every second, and others it would speed up to nearly 3 per second. It didn’t make any sense, although much of what we know about neutron stars is remedial at best. Every time one is discovered, something has to be amended. We didn’t notice the pattern in it at first, but we really should have.
Chelsea then gasped and suddenly leaned away from the monitor, eyes trembling behind her steamed-up glasses.
“Chels… you alright?” Levi asked. I just smiled, somehow, I knew what she was about to say.
“Magnetar.” I couldn’t help but laugh as my prediction proved accurate.
“Autobots, roll out!” I shouted with a laugh, but neither of them seemed to appreciate my joke. “It’s a little early to be making that call isn’t it?” Chelsea shot me a furrowed brow.
“Joseph it has to be! It’s movement… it doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah a lot of stuff about them don’t yet make sense.” Chelsea seemed vaguely annoyed by my response.
“Yeah, I’m gonna have to side with her on this one Joe. She’s been right about everything so far after all.” I scoffed, furthering my wife’s irritation. That was just how our relationship always was; both of us always challenging the other’s assertions.
“Everyone’s luck runs out eventually.” I argued. The smug grin then returned to Chelsea’s face.
“Not this time.”
For those wondering; a magnetar is not in fact the villain from Transformers, but instead a special variation of the neutron star. The biggest difference being it’s magnetic field which is so much more powerful than our own sun’s that numbers really start to become asinine. These magnetar’s are rare – maybe accounting for only 10% of all neutron stars, and incredibly vicious.
Their powerful magnetic field acts as a buffer which slows the rotation speed, basically making them giant floating magnets of death in space. A flare from one of these bad boys is powerful enough to erase your cellphone from one-hundred thousand lightyears away. It was known that a magnetar would have a slower rotation speed, but what was unknown – and what we lacked the ability to explain was how it was able to speed up and slow down at random.
I didn’t know what to make of that, and seeing as how it was almost 2 am by that point I decided to go home and sleep on it. Chelsea finally agreed to accompany me, and together the two of us left. Levi said he was going to hang around a bit longer, so we wished him a good night and headed home.
The whole way back Chelsea talked in wild enthusiasm about all the possibilities our discovery represented. The passion that exuded from her every word and the aura radiating from her was truly beautiful to see. I guess more than anything I was glad that all her hard work and dedication had finally begun to pay off.
Chelsea was out almost the instant her head touched the pillow, and soon after I fell fast asleep beside her as well. Our slumber did not last though, as a sudden shriek woke me in a cold sweat several hours later.
I shot up in bed, frantic and with my heart thundering in my chest. In the darkness I heard Chelsea quietly sobbing.
“Chels… Chels are you okay?” I asked, managing to finally flick on the light. My eyes stung as the light accosted them, but after a moment of adjusting I saw Chelsea sitting on her side of the bed. Her knees were tucked into her chest, and she was shaking.
“Chelsea what happened? Are you okay?” I tenderly embraced her in my arms, but she didn’t react much. I felt her shiver, and tried wrapping her in the blanket when she spoke.
“Madelyn.” The words struck like knives into my chest.
“It was just a dream hun.” I tried reassuring her, but she didn’t seem to react. I’d always suspected that Chelsea suffered from PTSD with what happened to Madelyn, but she had never been diagnosed. She vehemently refused therapy, and every time I brought the subject up, she would wave it off. It wasn’t the first time she had nightmares.
I stayed up with her after that, trying my best to comfort her and silently assure her that things were alright. She didn’t say much, just leaned into my chest and held me tight. I would’ve done anything to take away the anguish she was forced to bare.
The sun finally cracked through the blinds of our room about an hour later, and I rose to put on some coffee. My focus was on my phone as I sifted through the meaningless drivel of the day’s news, when suddenly a call came through from Levi.
“Levi, what did I tell you about calling this ear…” Before I could finish the question, a harsh grinding noise rang through from the other end. The sudden digital screech felt like an arrow through my headphones and into my ear canal. I ripped it out and shouted a couple expletives, spilling my coffee in the process.
“Joseph? Joe you there? Can you hear me?” The voice of Levi echoed through the phone as I grabbed a paper towel for the spilled coffee.
“Yeah… yeah I’m here, what’s going on?”
“Are you on your way in?”
“Uh… we just woke up. Jesus Levi what time… are you already at the lab?”
“I found something.” Levi spoke nearly cutting me off. “You need to get in here asap.” I was taken aback for a moment. Levi refused to elaborate on what he was talking about, and just kept urging me to get into the lab. He hung up soon after, and I went to check on Chelsea.
She seemed a little more relaxed than earlier, but perked up as I mentioned Levi’s call. I said he wanted us in as soon as possible, and she seemed to deflate.
“Did he see it too?” I didn’t know what she meant by that, and she didn’t bother explaining. We got ourselves ready as quick as we could, and soon after rolled into the parking lot of the lab. Chelsea was out of the car and inside in record time.
Inside we found Levi leaning half-asleep on his arm at the monitor. He stirred as Chelsea scanned her card to unlock the door. There were bags under his eyes, and his shirt was stained with sweat. His cheeks were pale, and his hands trembled.
“Oh thank god you guys are here. Check this out…” Levi eccentrically waved us over. He brought up several diagrams and the photometry analyzer program pointing excitedly at the screen.
“These are the images from the initial blast; and also, the ones when we saw those weird blips remember?” He looked to both of us and I nodded. The look on his face threw me off, as it wasn’t one of excitement for a new discovery, but more akin to one of utter dread.
“Okay so, I spent a lot of time analyzing the images, and it corresponds to no known celestial phenomenon. When displaying these images the way they were received, I noticed the pattern.” He then brought out a sheet of paper with a series of dots and lines upon it, but counter to what he claimed I saw no pattern within them.
“Morse code.” Both Chelsea and I eyed him with outright disbelief, and he pulled another sheet of paper that had two words written upon it.
“That’s not all though.” He then pulled a second piece of paper with even more segments of Morse code etched upon it. There were more words too.
We know you are watching, turn back.
“This was the code translated from the magnetar’s fluctuating pulses.” I couldn’t help but laugh after that, as there was just no way that what he claimed was actually possible.
“Levi… I think you need to get some sleep.” Levi scoffed and grunted in annoyance.
“Oh come on Joseph, measure it for yourself. It’s a message.”
“You think a dead star is trying to communicate with us using Morse code? You know how crazy that sounds right?” Levi didn’t have an answer for that, instead he deferred to Chelsea. She seemed less skeptical than I initially imagined she might, and said nothing as she approached the terminal.
I argued with Levi a bit more about the whole thing, but he refused to admit it was a prank on his part. He swore up and down that what he had found was authentic, and the sheen in his eyes told me he believed it. Finally, I managed to convince him to go and take a nap, as he clearly seemed like he needed it. Chelsea then gasped from behind me as I ushered Levi out.
“What is it?” I asked walking towards her. She said nothing, only continued rapidly adjusting coordinates. I posed the question once more, and again I was ignored. I was about to ask a third time, when the screen zoomed in and I found the answer for myself. Chelsea looked to me then, her lips trembling.
“It’s gone.” She spoke as if solemnly proclaiming the death of a loved one.
“That’s not possible.” I stepped in and made a few of my own adjustments, but nothing I did could locate the neutron star. She was right; it had just vanished along with all our recorded footage and evidence relating to it.
“How the hell?” I couldn’t even finish my own question, and found myself reeling for a logical explanation.
“It knows we’re watching.” Chelsea announced, only adding to my confusion.
“Chels… it’s a damn star. A ball of gas and plasma, it can’t know anything. Don’t tell me you believe Levi.” Chelsea took a deep breath, and spoke words that only confused and worried me more.
“It hides in the stars.”
“In my dreams Joseph, I saw it. It found us, it showed me…” Tears suddenly flooded her eyes, and she appeared on the verge of a mental breakdown.
“It showed me everything, it showed me Madelyn.” She started to cry, and I didn’t know what to do. The email alert then echoed from the computer. I glanced back as it popped onto the lower right corner of the screen. Chelsea then darted by me, and clicked on the email. The page displayed out onto the screen, and Chelsea held her hands over her mouth. I moved in and read the message.
“You see me, I see you.” The sender was listed only as a single familiar name: Bob. I laughed out loud again, unwilling to engage the charade any further.
“Okay very funny Levi, you got us. Come on out and have your laugh.” I walked away towards Levi’s office. He was out cold at his desk, or at least he appeared to be. Now somewhat annoyed I began to shake him.
“Levi, wake up!”
“Mmm what… what are you doing? Let me sleep.”
“Levi you’re not fooling anyone, I know this was you.” He groaned and lifted his head as he rubbed his face.
“What was me?” I scoffed.
“The email… the messages… all of this. It was all your doing now just own your prank, and I’ll admit you had me going.” Levi’s eyes then shot wide open, and he looked to me with an unrivalled confusion.
“Yes Levi, the fucking email you sent under the name Bob, it got me okay? Can we just move on?” Levi seemed utterly bewildered at the accusation, and just shook his head.
“Joe I… I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I had enough of his denial, and dragged him to his feet so that I could confront him with the evidence on hand. He and I stepped out of his office, and into a place I didn’t recognize.
The lab was no longer a lab, but had inexplicably transformed into a jungle. Tall trees jutted from the ground straight into the skies, and foliage dripped with the morning dew around us. The terrestrial ambience of buzzing cicadas and croaking frogs echoed in the air around us.
“Is this part of my prank too?” Levi asked, but I no longer had an answer. The two of us walked slowly into a clearing up ahead, marveling at the scenery around us. Something then caught my eye; there was a child in the grove up ahead. He was dressed in a white robe and faced away from us, but standing motionless as if awaiting our arrival.
Levi and I slowly walked towards him, as we didn’t know what else to do. When we got within a dozen feet I called out.
“Hello?” The kid didn’t budge. We stepped closer, and twigs snapped underneath our feet. The kid then twitched, and slowly turned around to face us. I felt my knees grow weak beneath me as I beheld it’s uncanny visage. It – for no longer did I suspect the boy was in any way human had a face unlike anything I’d ever seen or imagined. No more than jagged, black slits for eyes and a mouth, like some drunk person who carved a pumpkin. It was blurry, like my mind couldn’t even properly understand what I was seeing.
“Found you.” It’s voice was simultaneously high and low, and caustic to my ears. Before either of us could respond, the thing began to glow. In mere milliseconds I’d swear it’s luminosity surpassed even that of the supernova. I turned away, unable to bare the blinding light. When I opened my eyes again, I found myself back in the lab.
The forest was gone, and Levi and I were back. We both checked ourselves over, with neither of us able to reckon with what had just happened.
“You saw that too, right?” Levi asked, but I couldn’t even muster up a nod. My mind was reeling, and I felt panic encroaching from every angle like the black seas upon a sinking boat. Out of the corner of my eye, I then spotted Chelsea, sitting motionless at the terminal.
I called out for her, and we rushed to her side. She didn’t respond, her gaze was transfixed upon the monitor. I tried getting her to respond, but she appeared hypnotized with the static upon the screen. I shook her, but she just kept staring. I was about to call 911 when suddenly she spoke.
“It’s here.” As soon as the words left her lips, the gates of Tartarus themselves unleashed. The static on the screens then faded to black, and a single eye then ruptured forth to breach the darkness. Eyes more numerous and inhuman than I could ever reconcile flooded the various screens, and I stepped back.
The world then twisted and elongated around me in a sudden vertigo that robbed me of a clairvoyant mind. The room rippled and cracked, as pillars of obsidian burst from the ground into red skies above. The lab was discombobulated beyond all sense of rhyme and reason, yielding visions of places no human mind has ever conjured, nor eyes ever beheld.
Nightmarish bubbles poured forth from the chasm, offering eldritch glimpses into an endless pantheon of worlds more innumerable than the grains of sand upon all the beaches of the earth. Beasts as large as skyscrapers stampeding along fields of glowing grass. Civilizations of countless sentient beings stretched from all iterations of time and space. Entities as large as stars gibbering and writhing in the dark tapestries of the endless cosmos. It was all too much. I could live a thousand lifetimes and not properly describe the sights unveiled in that moment.
The unparalleled terror inflicted upon me in that moment was entirely beyond description. The visions given attested to a truth of the sheer insignificance of myself and every human being to ever exist. Somewhere deep within something stirred; a dread from the very depths of my subconscious that had suddenly been awoken. I felt the blasphemous presence of eternal quivering madness nibble upon the cortex of my mind. A primal horror that left me yearning to scurry into the darkest crevice imaginable and be entirely swallowed into nonexistence.
Laughter than broke my stupor, and I looked to my side to see Levi, embracing something of abominable proportions. A large fleshy aberration with multiple heads, appendages and reproductive organs. Levi had locked lips with one of it’s heads, and thrusted vigorously into it’s dripping orifice as he laughed with the resonance of an eternally fragmented mind.
I had to turn away, I knew there was no saving him. There was no saving any of us. For what hope can an infinitesimal humanity ever wager against something so vast and incomprehensible as the wretched mind around me?
The menagerie around me faded into black, and I was left in the abyss alone. I looked to my hands and feet, and found I was still alive; suspended or standing on a void. Before me, two silhouettes suddenly blurred and became clear. Chelsea… and Madelyn. I rubbed my eyes, feeling tears surge from them and drizzle down my cheeks. I knew it wasn’t possible, and yet she stood before us. Chelsea began walking towards her.
“Chelsea no!” I called out, hearing my words lose all meaning as I spoke them. Chelsea turned back -her expression stone cold but with tears dripping from her eyes.
“I have to go Joseph.” I shook my head and wiped the tears.
“Chelsea no it’s a lie, all of this is a lie!” I shouted the words as loud and powerful as I could, but they faded into irrelevance, and even I myself did not believe them.
“No Joseph, it’s the truth. The unity of all minds into one eternal place. We are broken, we need to be whole again.” I could do nothing but shake my head and cry.
“Come with us.” She beckoned.
“Please daddy.” That voice; the sweet voice of my beloved Madelyn. A voice I had been robbed of by an apathetic world. I wanted nothing more than to embrace them both and be sealed forever in the abyss; away from the terror of life. But I couldn’t do it, for in that moment I understood what it was in the most feeble way I was capable.
The endless eternal consciousness who cradles in a comforting dark, and the sweet caress of nonexistence. A state free from pain, anger, heartache, anxiety, depression and all other forms of human suffering. Together forever in endless shadow. The whisperer in the dark. The key to -and the guardian of the passage. Past, present and future all unified into one.
I have no reason as to why I refused, or how I was even capable of it. Surely the entity as vast and eternal as that thing could snuff me out without even a thought. There can be no defying it, and yet I remained kneeling. Perhaps it wished to torment me, and allowed me to walk free and share the things I have seen. All I can say for certain, is I watched my wife and daughter fade into oblivion together, and I returned to my mortal plane.
They never found Chelsea or Levi, and they never will. I was told by the time the other employees of the lab found me, I was huddled under a desk crying and laughing hysterically. Broken beyond repair from the sights I had been subjected to. I couldn’t even begin to relate the things I had seen to them, and I was taken into custody soon after.
Authorities wanted to charge me with double homicide, but that proved difficult when there were no victims to be found. The charges were eventually dropped entirely, and I was released from both my incarceration and my former employment. A man with nothing, and no one.
That thing haunts me every night with the same nightmare. I find myself upon a barren desert, with a glowing green ring lingering in a black, starless sky. I always walk towards it, and the thing hidden within starts to reveal itself. It has to be hundreds of meters tall, but beyond that, it’s features elude me entirely. Perhaps I am not even capable of understanding it’s full manifestation.
There is a scale in astronomy known as the Kardashev scale. It’s a rubric developed by a Russian astronomer named Nikolai Kardashev, and has pretty much become the standard for identifying the advancement of hypothetical civilization.
According to this scale, type 1 civilizations are those capable of harvesting the entire energy reserves available to it’s host planet. This includes petroleum, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro and any other potential form of power that is available on a given planet’s troposphere.
Type 2 civilizations are those capable of harnessing the energy output of an entire solar system. This includes the other planets as well as the host star or stars.
Type 3 can harness the energy of an entire galaxy. Usually this also includes more exotic forms of potential power like pulsars and black holes.
There is no official type 4, but many astronomers and physicists have begun to list it alongside the others as the next step beyond type 3. This 4th type would comprise a civilization capable of harnessing extragalactic energy sources such as dark energy and tachyon molecules.
It gets a bit complicated at this level, as most of this is purely theoretical and not yet proven science. A type 4 civilization would essentially be equivalent to a god in our universe, as it would be capable of harnessing the energy output of the entire universe – or at the very least, countless other galaxies.
As it stands now, our planet and all the feats we have achieved have amounted to us being classified as a type zero civilization. We do not even meet the requirements to reach the first rung of the Kardashev scale.
In the grand scheme of things, we are little more than infants who have only just begun to take our first steps away from the cradle. There is much hope that we may reach Type 1 by the end of this century, but there are many roadblocks in our way, especially now.
In seems the scale may need readjustment, as it didn’t account for one thing. Perhaps there are civilizations or entities that are entirely beyond classification altogether. Things that simply can never be categorized into any meaningful group, as the mere act of perceiving them is enough to drive the most astute of men into the gibbering depths of true madness.
Whatever we found, exceeds the scale in exponential proportions. There is simply no way to wrap your head around it, and I know better than most, as for the last twenty years that has been what I have tried to do.
The truth is, we are children screaming into a hurricane. Helpless at the whim of unimaginable forces that will forever be out of our reach. There is no relating, there is no fighting, and there is not even understanding in any significant capacity. This is Kardashev Type 5, the top of the pyramid on a level we cannot ever possibly hope to ascertain or truly understand.
And now, after I have told my tale, I fear there is nothing more I have left to give. I have seen things beyond the scope of any mortal, and it has done nothing but leave me broken and yearning for the blissful ignorance I can never again possess. If that thing wishes to keep me alive and tormented, then I will defy it by the only means available to me. Now I go into the howling dark, to join my wife and daughter where I am meant to be.