Monday, April 7, 2014

Fiction: The Cloud

This story at Fictionpress

Sadcore warning

The Cloud

I was born into the apocalypse.

They knew when my parents were young. They thought that they could still do something. There were some wars as everyone tried to sort out what was going to happen, but ultimately we gathered under a single banner and were able to focus our full energies on saving our people.

It didn’t work. It never would. They realized that a couple of years after my parents had me. The birthrate’s been plummeting ever since. Fewer and fewer people want to have kids like this. How’d Ligotti put it? “Wrenching lives out of the peace of non-existence and into the agony of existence.”

I don’t know. It was something like that.

My chest hurts.

There’s this thing that the scientists came up with a long time ago. It’s called Fermi’s Paradox. You see, the universe had been going on long enough that it was a strange thing that we didn’t see evidence of any intelligent species besides our own. Was there something that kept life at all from developing? Multicellular life? Intelligence?

Or were intelligent tool-users pretty common, and it was just that they kept dying before they could spread? For some reason.

We know the reason now.

Science fiction writers were talking about them for generations. RKVs. Relativistic kill vehicles. Kinetic weapons. All you need to do, you see, is speed an object up fast enough and it’ll punch through anything. A dozen rocks the size of a house could smash a planet.

Some of them are the size of Australia.

We can’t stop them. We don’t even know where they are, really. That’s one of the problems with tracking objects going almost the speed of light. You can’t. Track them, that is. You can know where they were but it’s dang hard to figure out where they are and flat-out impossible if there’s any kind of course-correction going on.

Doesn’t matter where they are, though. We know where they’re headed. We’ll be right in the middle of it, and there’s no way that we can block it.

Someone had to have assembled it. A cloud of metal and rock and just about everything that you can think of. Big shards, little shards, they’ll tear our solar system apart. Even a chunk the size of my fist could hit with all the force of a hundred nuclear bombs, at the speed they’re going. Some of them will crack a planet like an egg. Some of them, if the size and the make-up is right, might trigger a supernova.

Not that we’ll be around to see any of that. The gravitational warping will probably kill us before the rocks fall. There won’t even be a world for the rocks to hit if Earth is torn apart.

Imagine fifty moons. Imagine a thousand moons. Imagine them. Not even hitting our planet, just passing by. Slinging asteroids. Pulling orbits out of whack.

There’s no running from this. They had to have dismantled five star systems to get as much mass as the astronomers have detected. We could leave, leave right now, and we wouldn’t be able to make it out. Even if there wasn’t a supernova to catch us in transit.

And where would we go?

Do you know the thing that gets me? It’s like some kind of sick joke that the universe is playing on us.

“Hello there. This is the universe. You never, ever had a chance. You didn’t even do anything to cause this.”

Homo sapiens wasn’t a thing when they sent the Cloud. Do you get that? Using tools wasn’t a thing when they sent it.

Whoever they are, these Cloud-makers, they had to have sent it before there was anything but the barest promise of future intelligence in our ancestors. No carelessly-released radio signals tipping them off to our existence. Maybe they didn’t even come here. If they were here once, why not do the job then?

They probably just sent the Cloud because Earth was a life-bearing planet. We knew the signs to look for. We knew how to judge the possibility of Life As We Know It on another planet in another star system, without ever going there to visit.

What if they did the same? What if, looking through their alien telescopes and collating whatever data they collected, they saw that there was life, or even the potential for life, they started working and built the Cloud and flung it at us. Just in case our world might bear intelligent fruit.

The Earth is the cradle of the mind. So said some Russian rocket scientist. But you get older, you don’t need the cradle anymore. You can build your own habitats. It doesn’t matter how many cradles you hit.

And if that’s the right way of looking at it, then it reminds me of the massacre at Bethlehem. The infanticide of a species.

Do you know about Bethlehem? Have you read about that yet?

The Cloud’s been going for millions of years. Do you get that? The Cloud-makers, they might even be dead by now for all we know. Maybe they’ve been dead for a billion years and the process is just automated. Berserkers, like.

Have you read Saberhagen yet?

And the thing is, the thing is… I won’t live to see it.

Civilization’s dying already. Why art? Why music? Why love? Why look to the future? Why, when this is what we’re going to see?

Better to look at the past. Exult in our glory days— no, better to close our eyes, lay us gently down to sleep. Forget the world and our deaths in a haze of chemicals

They’ve been subsidizing suicide for thirty years now.

But how many people are going to live to see it? Some of the kids, maybe. Not me, and I’m not even fifty years old. But I can see my grandson’s death. It’s there, up in the sky.

So listen to this. Listen to what we’re saying. We’ll send this message out again and again until the Cloud comes. We’ll send it all. Everything that we can transmit, forever and ever until the bitter end.

And maybe, if you get this before you see your own Cloud, then maybe you’ll have enough time.

Good luck kids. It’s a hell of a universe to be growing up in.

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