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At the End of Time

By: Moon Liu

It was that fateful day when that dark-clothed being gave me what I believed was the opportunity of a lifetime. Working overtime at the lab makes you see things, but I’m sure I felt a tap on my shoulder when he beckoned me to follow him. He led me to a dimly lit, mysterious room, inside which a similarly dark chamber was placed. It was there that I received a deal, one which I couldn’t decline: see everything worth seeing, but remain a bystander to all that could be. I couldn’t call myself a scientist if I didn’t opt to find out. I must know the meaning of the universe! Being a bystander was a cheap sacrifice. Curiosity got the better of me, and I accepted to satisfy it for eternity.

As I walked into the chamber, I looked back. The being seemed to be… smiling at me. Not a crooked smile or a prideful smile, but a bittersweet one.

No matter. As I took a step, images of those whom I loved appeared in my mind. They smiled as well; not a joyful smile or an exuberant smile, but a bittersweet one. It was as if they missed something or someone, but I simply couldn’t figure out who. Seeing my sister secretly wipe her tears at family reunions stung, and watching my brother’s bright flame of a personality dim felt awful. At some point, though, they got over whatever it was that they were so unhappy about, and they began to live again. As I watched, I saw them grow up, blossom, mature, wither, and die. At some point, I started to feel something like regret. But that didn’t matter to me.

I took another step, leaving that melancholy scene behind. I was sent to the place where I grew up, but I couldn’t see a trace of how it looked when I grew up. I tried to find my childhood home, but to no avail: the beautiful plot of land it was once on had been wiped clean and replaced with scum. The quaint suburban environment I loved as a child vanished before my eyes, replaced by redwood giants of glass, steel, and concrete, then replaced by spires of chrome and crystal, collapsing at a vanishing point in the sky. I should have been happy, but I couldn’t be. After all, my home had grown up and developed! But it was as if the warmth of the world had dissipated, dissolving in the never-ending forest of isolation.

As I took another step, I felt a jolt backwards and watched the entire world appear in front of my eyes. The night scene was stunning: a multicolored myriad of lights melting in front of my eyes into one river of incomparable luminosity. As the sun rose on the scene, the truth of the matter revealed itself, and any joy I felt about this new world was diluted by the shock of what my Earth turned out to become. Craters from wars dotted the surface, power-washed by the storms of acid rain which a millennium of industry had brought to this world. The sea and earth had merged into a singular mass of coffee-colored waste, inhospitable to life. I couldn’t understand how it could turn out like this.

Suddenly, the words of the being from centuries ago registered in my mind, a prophecy of the mistake I made back in that day. As I ran, hopelessly trying to reach the world I loved through the void, eons passed in front of my eyes. As the world began to recover, a new species like humanity would grow up, blossom, wither, mature, and die, leaving the world in a sorrier state than before. Samsara of tragic events played out over and over, while I couldn’t intervene to tell even a single soul how to save themselves. What good is it to know everything if you can only watch as those who don’t know slaughter themselves?

As the universe closed on me and the last galaxies, stars, and civilizations died out, I began to wonder why I began this adventure in the first place. Interest? Boredom? I couldn’t remember. For the first time in the history of existence, someone really did see everything! Yet, I couldn’t feel anything except disappointment and sorrow. As I stood at the end of time, the only thing I could wish for was a chance for it to have happened slower.

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