01 Feb Listen to the sounds of your own extinction
My hands trembled as I pressed the cold metal against my own temple. I was ready to go, but I needed another minute to deal with the finality of it all. I wanted death, and I’d made damn sure the gun wouldn’t jam on me. All I needed to do, was to pull the trigger.
“You don’t want to do that,” I heard a voice say.
I jumped from my chair, and swung the gun around the room in panic. As always, the motel room was empty, save the ancient television and moist bed. There was no one there.
At first, I wondered if the sound had come from outside. Maybe they hadn’t been talking to me at all. Once the initial shock had worn off, I sat back down.
“Don’t do it, Garry,” the same voice said.
Still, the room was empty.
“Who – who’s there?” I stuttered.
I stood back up and scanned the room. I basically spun around in circles as I tried to comprehend where the voice had come from. Then, as I prepared to finally end my own existence, I saw someone standing in the corner.
He was a sickly pale, elderly man with a thin frame. He was dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, and didn’t seem the least bit fazed when I pointed my gun at him. In fact, he just smirked.
“Get the fuck out of my room,” I demanded with a trembling voice.
The man just gave me a peculiar look.
“You’re afraid of me?” he half asked, half stated.
The question froze me in place for a moment. There was a strange man in my room that had seemingly materialized out of thin air, and he had the audacity to ask if I was afraid.
“Why?” he continued.
“I don’t have any money or anything, but I’ll fucking shoot you unless you leave,” I said back.
“What are you afraid of? What were you planning to do before I arrived?”
“None of your business.”
“You were moments away from what you consider blissful death. What could I possibly do that frightens you?”
He was right. Though I’d planned to kill myself, I was scared. Not from death itself, yet, something about the man just sent shivers down my spine.
“Are you depressed? Is that why you want to leave the world behind?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Yet, you so desperately want to die.”
The fear I’d felt as he arrived, had been replaced by morbid curiosity. Something about his utterly calm appearance, made it impossible to refuse his questions.
“I just – I don’t actually – I – “
“You feel like you don’t belong?”
These simple words sent a wave of sudden realization through my body. I’d thought about death a lot, but I could never pinpoint exactly why I wanted out. But, as he uttered that sentence, I finally realized what I wanted to escape from. My whole life, I’d never once felt like I belonged in this world. Despite having good friends, a decent job, my life just felt as if it was a crime. As weird as it might sound, I wasn’t supposed to be there. Though it seemed so obvious then, I’d never been able to define it so clearly.
That was it. That was exactly the reason.
“How did you – how did you know?”
“Because it’s a simple fact, Garry Widmore. You don’t belong here.”
“I don’t understand… How can you be so sure?”
“If you so desire, I can show you.”
I didn’t have to respond. The man, whoever he was, could read me like an open book. I put the gun down, and just stared at him. Then, with a simple touch, everything turned dark.
As my mind awoke once more, we were in a void. I saw my own body from afar, walking through an endless world of darkness. Time passed, but whether it was a second, or a thousand years, I couldn’t tell.
“Where are we going?” I asked, but the man wouldn’t respond. I was too far away for my words to reach him.
Then, as I felt my mind fuse with the emptiness, the world came back into view. It was a town, or strange facility made solely out of gray, concrete blocks. An emaciated woman sat down beside the dead body of a man. He lay there in a pool of dirty blood, with a slit throat appearing to be the cause of death.
She cried over the loss of the man, but her eyes weren’t fixated on the corpse. Instead, she wouldn’t stop staring at a broken greenhouse, full of dried out plants and ruined vegetables.
That was the only sound we could hear. The woman crying, in a world devoid of any sound. It was if everything around her had been erased… no animals, no traffic, nothing.
Beyond the concrete jungle, there was nothing save barren landscape. The air was unnaturally dry, and the sun seemed to be hidden beyond a sheet of dark gray clouds.
“Hello?” I tried to call out to the woman, but not a single sound emerged from my throat.
“She can’t hear you,” the pale man said.
I walked over to her, and tried to put a hand on her shoulder. Though I could feel her, I couldn’t actually affect her in any way. She was like a solid object, and I had no power.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Bunker #108, the last human embryonic-regeneration facility on Earth.”
Everything seemed so basic, yet modern in the most dystopian way. Despite it being impossible, I knew exactly what had happened.
“We’re in the future?” I asked.
The man nodded.
“And these people?”
“Are the last of humanity.”
He touched me again, and suddenly we were standing atop the tallest structure at the facility. The barren ground beneath stretched endlessly far in all directions around us. There was a depression of the ground far off in the distance, only containing small puddles of muddled water. It quickly dawned on me that it used to be the ocean, dried out and rid of all life.
“This is your future, where mankind is heading.”
It was too much to comprehend. Not only had humanity reached its end, but the planet had basically fallen apart with all aspects of life.
“What year is it?” was all I could think to ask.
He looked at me with an uncertain expression on his face.
“We don’t know. There are small details, variables that change with each iteration of time. But, the outcome is always the same. The planet dies, and no matter how hard humanity tries, it will succumb to the never ending passage of time. Your people never managed to leave this planet. Instead, they draw their last breath here at this facility as they desperately try to maintain the last plant life on Earth. In the end, your species will be forgotten by the universe, with no impact on the fate of existence.”
I just stared at the dead landscape around us. The wind howled ominously through the concrete structures, and in the distance, we could still hear the woman cry. She was the last person on Earth, and soon she’d be dead.
“Humanity goes out with a faint whisper…” I thought to myself.
Dread filled my body, and I came to the harsh realization that we’re absolutely unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But, it didn’t make me sad, it only made me angry.
“Why are you showing me this?” I asked after a long moment of silence.
“Because, I wanted you to listen to the sounds of your own extinction.”
Again, the pale man touched me, and the world faded away beneath my feet. We wandered through the void for another eternity, before we suddenly found ourselves in the streets of New York. The sound of honking cars and people talking, greeted us like a long lost friend. In contrast to the emptiness we’d left behind in the future, it was pure bliss.
Thousands of people walked on the streets, each of them with a full fledged-life, their own purpose to fulfill in life. There was a strange static-like aura surrounding them, one they couldn’t notice themselves. Yet it was there, an energy I couldn’t understand.
As I admired their casual demeanor, I noticed pitch black silhouettes walking among the crowd. No one seemed to notice, but the more I looked, the more I saw. There must have been thousands of them.
“What are these things?”
“The silhouettes are the people that could have been, people that don’t exist this time around. The rest are the chosen ones for the current iteration of time.”
They were potential people. They were humans that belonged to a different reality, or timeline, but how I could see them?
“Our job, is to select the right people. For the past hundred million loops, we’ve tried to piece together a puzzle, all to prevent the future I showed you.”
“Because, humanity had a greater destiny than what you saw. Something changed everything, an entity placed here on Earth, with the sole purpose of destroying history.”
The words hardly came with any comfort, but I couldn’t understand why I’d been chosen. Of all the great people on Earth, why chose someone who didn’t even belong.
“Why me?” I finally asked.
He just stared at me, and answered the question with one of his own.
“Do you remember your parents?”
“I was raised in an orphanage. They said I was found on the street as an infant, abandoned and close to death.”
“No one knows where you came from?” he asked.
“I – I suppose not.”
As we talked, we made our way down the street. The man explained to me what the static-like aura was. He said it was energy that kept people linked to reality, that without it, everyone would look like the silhouettes; real, but not existing.
We walked down the street as I tried to recall my childhood. As we passed a department store with freshly polished windows, the man stopped me, and told me to look at myself in the reflection. Still, there was a massive difference between myself, and the others.
I didn’t have any aura surrounding me. Even the man that had accompanied me through the bizarre trip, had the same static around him.
“Why don’t I have an aura?”
“Because, unlike everyone else, you were never chosen to exist. In fact, until this very iteration, your presence on this planet remained unknown to us. You, Garry Widmore, are an anomaly that needs to be corrected.”
The implication had a sinister undertone. I wasn’t supposed to exist, how could they correct that fact?
“What exactly does that mean?”
“It means, you have to be removed from time itself.”
“Removed? Why didn’t you just let me kill myself like I planned to?”
“It’s not quite that simple. Your life has had impact on people, the good, the bad, and the seemingly unimportant. It all contributed to the world as it is. We have to make sure you never existed.”
His words made recall a quote by David Eagleman: “There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
While the first two deaths hadn’t bothered me all that much, the idea of being forgotten by everyone, was a horrifying one.
“Everything I’ve ever done, it’ll be erased?”
“Only if you accept.”
“And it could change the course of history?”
“How does that even work? Are you just going to erase me, or split my body into atoms? I don’t really understand how that would work.”
“You’d become one of us, an agent. Everything you’ve done up until this point, will be forgotten and removed, but you’ll still have an impact on the world. Since you went undetected from us, we’re hoping you can do the same against whatever is trying to destroy history.”
“There won’t be any proof I ever existed?”
The man paused for a moment, as he mulled over what to respond.
“You can leave behind one thing. A story, an artifact, a letter. It’ll be yours, but no one will know where exactly it came from. Your name will be turned into a tale, but at least it won’t be completely forgotten.”
It was better than nothing, but it bothered me.
“Do you accept?” the man asked.