Questions from Codex


Illustration by Sally Foster (Forth Designer)

In the year 142,304, the original human star called “Sun” finally burned itself out, becoming the white dwarf it was always destined to become. Life on the original planet persisted for almost two millennia, adapting as it were to the cold, harsh climate of the planet they still called Earth. But finally, in Cosmological Decade 18, two full space decades earlier than expected for the Degenerative Era’s birth, the Sun’s dwindling energy had completely defused, and the original planet called Earth became uninhabitable.

I am fortunate to be a descendant of one of the Presidential Star Union members, the few who were afforded leave from the planet on the early Star Gazers in search of a new home—a new star that hadn’t yet completely lost its heat. We do not know what happened to the rest of the planet, for that was over forty-seven millennia ago, and our historic digitabs have only recorded vague images of the Earth as it once was.

And what a beautiful place it must have been. There are simulations in the digitabs of bluish skies and within them great, ashen clouds and the species called bird—the flying things that slid along the air with feathers and wind. And the natural oxygen pumping from the hearts of the species called plant, which existed in bulk all along the landscapes and underwater jungles—the species which exist now only in the growth tubes of Laboratories 5 & 12. Why they didn’t preserve the birds, we don’t know.

Though the Earth seemed tragic as well… If the records are true, they read of massive conflicts called wars, wherein groups of people fought with technology designed to expire one another over differences in beliefs about the reasons for existence and the proper modes of living on Earth. Those so-called differences are quite unfathomable now. All of us here, at Station House, understand the nature of humans as a singular, unique entity among the stars, a fragile and fairly insignificant creature, with no need to fight…for this is who we are, all of us together.

Still, I envy those early humans, what their lives must have been like when not fighting in wars. They must have spent all their time outside under the blue sky, beneath the burning Sun, among the plants and the birds and the other species; how they must have loved and appreciated every moment of their bright and colorful planet and the warmth of natural light.

Today the sky is black. There is no more light that is natural—only produced now by the generation tubes and star panels facing Codex. We are the descendants of the union, who found Codex 115—the star around which our station orbits, drowning the last whimpering pump of energy from the surface of this burnt white dwarf. It still emanates enough heat to be useful for our growth and sustenance, but creates no fresh nuclear fusion—that much we’re sure of—and so eventually, like the original star Sun, Codex too will go dark, and there will be no stars left to orbit, and the Degenerative Era will pass into the Black Hole Era, and all matter and energy of any kind will cease to exist.

Sometimes I question why, what is the point of our own continuing. What is this tendency to survive that we inherited upon our delicate births? All things expand outward, all things change and grow. All things exist and then do not. What is it that makes us, the humans, desire for life? Is it enough to know that I will live as an individual, even though my species is dying away, and that eventually there will be no things, no history, no record at all of any human existence? What is this instinct, this need for self-preservation, when somewhere in the dark of time and space, all memory of us will be lost—unpreserved, unappreciated—and is this loss in record also the loss of meaning? Do we mean anything at all?

I look into my wife’s eyes, into my small daughter’s pure and smooth face, and I feel love and meaning and fear and despair all at once. In my small corner of the Universe, in my strange ability to think and contemplate the reason for my life, in their eyes, I find the wanting of more love…and the desire to transcend the fear. This is what keeps me moving, keeps me surviving, keeps me in meaning: This desire for love and relation and for overcoming the challenge of hopelessness. I will love and be loved. I will overcome this fear of non-existence and the despondency of non-meaning. And we shall continue to mean something and to survive, until we war with the gravity of a new era, sucked in bone-dry and disintegrated back to the nothingness from which we came. No yesterday, no future, only now, only this. Their eyes, my desire, my innate tendency, our legacy of survival, of being human, of living and loving and dying. This is our mission. This is our meaning. And that must be enough.


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