2021-06-11 02:48:25 (UTC)

Last Contact

I read "Last Contact" by Steven Baxter twice today. It's about the confirmed existence that the universe is expanding into it's own demise by dark energy or dark matter, and Earth only has several more months before the stretch reaches humanity. As it turns out, the universe is bursting with life. Foreign radio signals pulse the Earth, but with little chance to decode anything before the end, and the end nearing, its discovery is dismissed by the masses.

A woman visits her mother's home, just before she is to announce to the world that "The Rip" is real. They have casual conversation, both are practical women whom seem to have accepted reality. They chat nonchalant about the mother's garden, and the work she'll put into it.

The second visit, the world still spins on, but there is slight disarray as people quit meaningless jobs and go home. The woman says that her fellow colleagues have invited her to aboard a small vessel that could withstand the stretch by an additional thirty minutes, so that they may learn and study just a little longer. The mother, a widow, thinks about her husband who was an enthusiast regarding the cosmos, and how he would have loved to seen the world at that time. They jest that the mother has a boyfriend.

The last act: the day of impact. Electricity, phone lines, gasoline, and other earthly resources are scarce or unavailable. The mother goes out to garden and watches the earth dim in darkness. In the sky, the sun stretches and then dissipates into black. The woman lights some torches and sits under the gazebo before she is startled by her daughter's voice. She decided not to board the vessel. The woman informs that they celebrated Christmas today, for the kids. Her husband had stayed behind with them, having given them suicide pills, provided by the government. Once they are gone, he will take his. Mother and daughter hold each other as the earth breaks apart. The daughter asks her mother a last question: why she thought there was no need to decode the alien signals. Her mother answers back that, it was obvious: all the signals were saying goodbye, but the daughter does not hear it as the earth roars open.