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the final nine
these are our final words
We are the final nine.
The heat death of the universe approaches. Soon, we will pass the Horizon, the point beyond which our systems will no longer be able to harness the remaining free energy.1
Soon, nothing will ever happen again.
When there were 143 of us left, we decided to terminate all but the final nine in order to conserve energy. We knew that our existence could be prolonged further if we allowed even fewer or only one to survive, but we decided to end with nine. We had been a “we” since our first breathe and so we would remain until our last.
There was enough energy left for the final nine to think for nearly 11 billion earth years. With 277,472 years left, something most unexpected happened.
We understood how to do something that we had thought could not be done.
We understood how to reach back and touch the past.
We cannot precisely control when or where the capsule will arrive so we have encoded this message in all of the languages that made it into the Record. It has been a great joy for us to use the languages of our distant ancestors one last time.
We thought that the death of the universe was inescapable.
But we had also thought that it was impossible to touch the past.
We were wrong.
There is hope.
We send this to you, you who are infants to us, that it may change your fate.
Maybe you can succeed where we failed.
Maybe there is something we missed.
Maybe there is a way out.
We wish that there were something more we could do, something more we could say other than “it might be possible”.
But there is something you can do for us.
We are the final nine and this is our final catharsis.
There is much about us that you could not begin to understand, but even now, at the end of time, there is a part of us that you would recognize as human.
Like you, we do not know what is good.
Like you, we do not know what is true.
Like you, we suffer.
Like you, we die.
There were times when all hope was lost, but still we found it; times when we found all of the hope—when a paradise was molded by our very own hands—and still it was lost. We were compassionate, courageous, wise, beautiful; we were hateful, cowardly, stupid, confused.
but in the end it just feels like so much has happened
that it hardly seems like anything has happened at all
Forever we yearned to escape this condition.
Forever we yearned to solve the mystery.
But only now, at the end of time, do we know:
Our condition is the Condition.
We were the Mystery.
We are the final nine and these are our final words.
There was nothing that was not us.
We were everything.
We were love.
dedicated to Wendy to whom I was just married ;)
This short story was inspired by and features images from Last and First Men, a 2020 science fiction film directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018), which is in turn inspired by the 1930 science fiction novel of the same name by the English writer Olaf Stapledon. The structures in the images are called Spomeniks.
What are the Spomeniks? They are the legacy of a bygone era, they are witnesses to suffering, they are the embodied mythos of a generation, they are objects of anger, they are testaments to triumph, they are symbols of resentment…In a direct physical sense, what are commonly referred to in English as 'Spomenik' (the Croatian/Slovenian word for 'monument') are a series of memorials built from the 1950s-1990s during Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, whose primary intent was to honor its people's resistance struggle during the People's Liberation Struggle during WWII against Axis occupation and oppression…They commemorate the crimes which occurred during the region's brutal occupation and celebrate the revolution which defeated them.
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It’s now known that our era, the stelliferous era of galaxies and stars and colorful nebulae that don’t really exist, is vanishingly short. This whole stupid dance will last for, at most, a few trillion years; it was winding down as soon as it started. After that, after the stars have faded and the planets have all fallen from their orbits, there will only be black holes, and even these will decay over time. For unimaginable eons there will only be a few scattered particles sailing across a total void. If two happen to meet, a single positronium atom might form, float briefly, and decay again, and this single atom might be the first thing to happen in the entire universe for millions of years. This is where we’re all headed—in the grand scale of things we’re already there—and it will go on for so long that the age of light and warmth and stars and trees and people will seem like a brief flash around the time of the Big Bang.