GaleWardWrites t1_j17k211 wrote

Ending zero (actually three, just to make sure this doesn’t confuse anyone unnecessarily, also the true ending):

Nothing made sense. I had just heard my father speaking, but this wasn’t the first time. And it didn’t feel like it would be the last time. No matter what I said he didn’t answer back. He was dead. He died well before the madness of twenty years ago. And yet I heard him. This couldn’t be happening, so obviously it didn’t. I hadn’t spent the last twenty years going slowly insane to just snap right in the last moment, yet here I was.

Obviously, I was crazy.

But didn’t crazy people not know they were crazy? Wasn’t that one of the requirements? You couldn’t be crazy if you knew you were crazy? I could have swore I remembered that being the case, something about it being a catch. It didn’t matter, though, because I didn’t spend the last twenty years learning just to go crazy so easily.

If insanity wanted me, it was going to have to fight for me.

And fought it did, and so did I. Twelve years of my life wasted in studying the topics I shunned previously. It didn’t come as a surprise to me when I figured out a way to fuse elemental hydrogen at room temperature and sea-level pressure. I was crazy, so obviously I’d think I could do the impossible. Watching the pure glow of a nuclear candle burning through the sky itself, I knew this had to be a delusion.

It didn’t matter though, because it was better than the converse. I’d rather fall fully into this madness than pretend that I was figuring out a way to move space and time than to come to terms with my own inability to change world. At least this way I wouldn’t feel so useless, the same way I felt as I watched my family die.

Sometimes I was grateful that I wasn’t a romantic person, and that I never went beyond a few short relationships. No children of my own to watch die, no more blood on my hands. Or at least, I thought I didn’t have a lover and children, but maybe I did? My memory was already suspect because I could remember every aspect of each of the four space stations I visited. Or was it three? No, four, it was four. I spent more time finding that fourth station, well over a decade more, nearly fifty years since the start of this all. It had to be four.

It didn’t matter at that point.

Nothing mattered.

Everything mattered.

The device I built would have barely worked without the power source, and I’d have never been able to orient it correctly without knowing that both other directions were wrong. I don’t know how I knew they were wrong, but I knew that they were just wrong.

I knew that I had already lost touch with reality, but still something pulled at me. Dragged at me. If only I could just stop for a moment and think, but the moment I tried I was overwhelmed with thoughts that were not my own. No, they were my own, but not me. Countless thoughts, and yet only a few. A dozen, yet trillions.

It didn’t even register to me when I pressed the switch. The sensation was unlike anything I could ever imagine as felt myself changed. Nothing changed outside the small ports of an exotic matter made of some strange array of barely stable quarks that allowed light through but no other force. If I didn’t have an array of graviton emitters, I’d have been thrown around the small cabin. None of this was real anyway, so having some truly absurd technology at least made this a bearable fantasy.

And then my phone rang. But I didn’t have my phone with me. And it all came crashing back to me in that moment.

I answered it, knowing what I had to say, what the timeline demanded of me. Completion.

I hated myself for speaking, but I knew I didn’t have a choice. Acceptance.

None of us have a choice, we’re all players on the stage and not the author. Finality.

“Hello...hello? Oh my God hello!”


GaleWardWrites t1_j17d8sy wrote

Ending two:

The silence after I screamed myself bloody, when I couldn’t hear the voice again, was the most painful silence of the past twenty years. I had imagined it, surely. There was no way I heard my father’s voice, and yet I had. I still did in my memories at least. The strongest memory of a human voice besides my own that I could remember in the past twenty years.

I had a mission now. Something that I needed to do.

My first thought was fairly crazy. To find a way to go back and fix everything. No, such a thing couldn’t do, and would be insanity. But I could at least do something to hear another human voice, a real voice.

The years flew by like no time at all. It was almost like I had done this all before in a way, and what felt like it should take twenty years took only fifteen.

Somehow, I even was prepared for the harvesting of materials from the space stations, and the horrors it would bring.

My body hurt less than I expected on the ninety-eight launch. It seemed like more launches than were needed, and yet I knew that any less would not work.

Not for what I needed to do at least, not for my goal.

The ship I was in wasn’t designed to return to the planet. No, it was meant to never return to a gravity well again.

Almost like a dream, I woke up one day and I knew that I could bypass causality. But more useful to me was my ultimate goal.

I knew I couldn’t fix things, but I could at least not die with the last voice I hear being all in my head.

I’d have rather died hearing the speech of a politician, the random concern of a farmer, or even the angry shout of someone cutting me off in traffic.

My finger depressed the button, and everything changed. I had nearly left the device rotated incorrectly, but ninety degrees made all the difference between time and space.

I was gone, moved through space at a speed beyond understanding. If the ship had been designed with windows I would have already died because nothing transparent to visible light would survive the forces. And there was nothing to see, because when causality was broken light stopped working properly.

The ultracapacitors only lasted for a few milliseconds, but it was enough. The ship stopped, almost ninety light years away from Earth, around the start HD70642.

And with the power left in the communication system, designed for one more task after this one, I spoke as the high gain antenna focused back towards my homeworld:

“This is the last message of the last person to live through the end of humanity. There will be a crash in a rural farm at the coordinates I will broadcast at the time I will broadcast. The crash will contain a sickness that will destroy humanity. You need to stop this, or everyone will die.”

I knew it was pointless. No one would believe me. Even I didn’t know why I knew those coordinates, that time, and that it would be my own body laying there. Carrying the sickness that destroyed humanity. Nothing I could do would change this, but I had to try.

And then I listened. It was difficult, but I could just barely make out the transmissions that were still escaping into space, sounds that were recorded but with some tuning I found voices that were just recorded, that were as live as I could expect.

I listened, and closed my eyes hearing nothing else every again.


GaleWardWrites t1_j177il2 wrote

Ending one:

It had been over forty years now since that first day. Twenty years or so since I lost it. Since I thought I heard my dead father speaking to me. I really don’t know what came over me. He was dead. Well, everyone was dead now, so maybe it wasn’t entirely as crazy as I thought?

That had been the turning point for me, though. All of those subjects that I never thought to study became mine, and I ground even more under the climb for the top. It had taken just under ten years by the time I had reached the first space station.

It was worse than I could have expected.

I had forgotten how horrible a corpse could smell, and especially a corpse in such a small isolated place. It nearly made me decide to give it all up, but only for a moment. And then I put my helmet back on, and cleaned it up. I harvested every scrap of anything I could find, and collected the remains that I could. And then I vented the leftover atmosphere a few times through before the smell was bearable.

It took me a few years more to bring all three space stations together. If I had others to help me, I could have done it quicker. Launches were difficult by yourself, and the amount I had to automate was beyond any level of acceptable safety in the times before all of this.

But I had a mission.

Over forty years later, and my bones hurt more and more every time I liftoff. But this would be the last one. The eighty-fourth liftoff, and the last time I would be on this graveworld.

It took me three years to crack faster than light travel. I still don’t even know exactly how I did it, or really how it worked. All I knew, though, is that every simulation I ran showed it worked. Better than just working, it violated the exact law of physics that I needed to violate. It was a causality violation of the first order.

Space and time are directly linked, you see. And there are strict limits to the speed you can go. Try to go faster, and it takes more energy and you experience time moving slower. And nothing with mass could go at the speed of causality, the ‘speed of light’.

I still really had no idea how I stumbled upon it. Perhaps it was a dream. Or a nightmare. But I woke up and spent three and a half days without stopping my typing, without taking a break from welding and soldering, without doing anything except crystalizing the madness that I found in my mind. And after a well deserved eighteen hour period of blissful unconsciousness, I awoke to see that I had invented a space-time machine.

Go faster than causality, and you outstrip it. Go fast enough, and you can return to a time where the past still was the present. Sort of, at least.

It was close enough for me.

Close enough.


If I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t be able to make too many more trips up before the cancer tore me apart, I’d have tested it. I should have spent the time to figure out how to make the radiation a non-issue, but I didn’t. I couldn’t stop.

After getting far enough away from the Earth’s gravity well, Luna well on the other side and Sol hidden behind both, I engaged the drive.

Nothing happened, of course.

Faster than light travel was just a fever dream. How would I be able to do something so impossible? It was already beyond the pale of believability that I was even up in space at all.

As I strongly considered just opening the airlock and ending it all, I gave the button another press. This time no longer a calm and collected press, but an emotional plea. Not for it to work, but for it to do something. Anything.

And it did do something. Anything. Everything.

I just wish it hadn’t. That every particle of my being didn’t suddenly feel like it no longer was in the same place but in all of the places.

Mass was not meant to go faster than causality.

There was so much wrong with it all, and yet it still worked.

Not exactly as expected, not sending the barely-a-ship forward through space, but backwards through time.

It should have ended with me disappearing into the void forever, the movement of the solar system, the galaxy, the galactic supercluster, even hubble expansion should have made this entirely impossible.

If I had more time to spend on it, I might have found out that the device would stay bound to a large enough gravitation field. That if I had ended up rotating the device ninety degrees it would have moved me forward in space. And it would never have occurred to me what the other direction would do, something that I wish I was still able to even think about now as I found myself crashing back down to the planet I thought I had left for good.

Into the middle of roughly nowhere, rural farmland as far as the eye can see.

It was astounding that my body survived all of that, and that I was still both alive and conscious when I heard someone hammering on the side of the ship.

But the shock of who I saw is what killed me. Like Mister Snuggleupagus, I died of fright. How fitting.

My last vision was filled with Barney Simons, someone entirely unknown to the world until he was the first.

“Hey, are you okay? Hey?”

The last voice I heard, over forty years since that day.

Patient zero.


GaleWardWrites t1_j1738yu wrote

I couldn’t tell you why I had decided to dial that number. He had been dead long before the world ended after all. The number had been lost before the first signs of things to come were known to only the few scientists that could stop it. His ashes had been long tossed into the winds, his memory caked in them for most even before patient zero was found. It would have been foolishness to even hope to hear a voicemail greeting that had been long lost to time.

Why I was even calling people’s voicemail was a bit beyond me. There had to have been better ways to keep myself sane. Mostly sane, at least. Sane enough to make sure the final days of humanity were not wasted in my pathetic crying. That no one would ever see what a ruined mess of a person when I watched my mother pass from this world. Her eyes, blood red. Overflowing, unseeing, the second to last symptom of the thing that removed us all from the world. Death being the last one, a painful horrible death.

I wish I had been strong enough then to do for her what I wish I was even stronger now to do for myself.

Such thoughts were dangerous, and so like usual they were bottled up. Stuffed down and away, covered with the same dirt that I covered my sisters and my mother. That I coated in my own blood in a moment of despair, wanting to not be alone any longer. Needing to not be the only one left. But fearing, and knowing that I was. Something told me that would be the case, that I could look and search as far and as wide as I wanted. But I? I was the last person left.

Was it a curse? Had I do something to deserve this fate? Sure, there were times when I did others harm, and I would be the first (and only, my brain told me unwillingly) to admit it. Not letting someone merge because they were a bit of a jerk. Frowning at an unkept man panhandling. And worse things, leaving my first boyfriend because I grew bored of him. A pet rabbit that died in my care as a child, careless that they could be frightened to death. But surely I must have done something even worse than cause Mister Snuggleupagus to go to the great carrot patch in the sky.

It didn’t matter, however. Nothing mattered when these thoughts came to me. When I felt the scars on my wrist burning, demanding I finish the job I started. How the tears that streaked down my face almost felt like they were carving canyons in my flesh because how they never ended.

And yet here I was still trying to find something. That’s why I was calling phones still. The reason that I had spent three years, after the day I came back from the dead and was reborn, studying. Well, near death, close enough that I wouldn’t have made it if not for a chance occurrence that kept me from bleeding out. Still not entirely alive, but close enough to have that drive.

I studied everything I could. People always said I was smart, but I proved it finally to the no one around me in those years. The basics of every form of technology I could find books about. Deeper understanding, learning not only how to survive but also how to keep a small part of the world from falling completely into chaos. If I had been more ambitious, I might have even considered going further than that, doing more than gloss over the basics of nuclear thermodynamics, rocketry, and the like.

No, such things weren’t beyond me, but I had no need for them. I wouldn’t find anyone alive in the space stations in orbit. There wouldn’t be anything for me on Luna’s surface. I deserved to live on this grave of a world, watching nature take back what we stole from it.

This was my home, and I had a mission of my own.

It took me almost two more years after that, five years since the start, when I was able to place the first call. Phones had stopped working in days after the first day, but now that was no longer the case. Even if the only person that could use it was me. But use it I did, testing between two handsets that were wired together. And then only wired to power, and after a bit entirely wireless and powered by the results of the fusion candle burning in the sky. The towers that connected the phone was more difficult to power, but scale fixed such issues and more solar collectors to power more turbines to charge more very crude lead acid batteries worked.

Well enough for my needs at least.

It was a surprise and a stroke of luck that I was able to find the facilities that handled the two biggest mobile providers so close. Only a few hundred kilometers away, not an ocean between us. An entire year was spent bridging that gap, setting up small camps with signal repeaters and amplifiers. Why didn’t I just move to the city where it was housed, I hear no one asking me? I couldn’t say. It was likely the madness that had taken me.

All of this though, and for what? So I could dial our emergency services number and hear it come back as busy? The first time I dialed an outside number and it just rang and rang and rang nearly broke me. It was almost too much, too obvious that no one would ever answer. Too painful. It set me back two weeks, first how I tore apart all of the equipment I had at hand, second that I needed to stitch most of my fingers up, but third and worst how it threw me into a darkness I had thought escaped years ago.

But I was no longer the same person as I was back on that first day, the last day of humanity. I was still weak, still a fool, but I was a fool with a mission. Perhaps the most dangerous of fool are those who have a task at hand, because I came back to it with a fervent passion. And the solution was fairly obvious in the afterglow of the corpse of hindsight burning away in my mind.


If nothing else, I would hear another voice. Sure, I’d know it wasn’t actually a person. That was something that I could shove to the back of my brain with all of the rest of the debris piled up there. A suspension of disbelief that wouldn’t be all that hard to muster given the alternative was eternal singularity. I’d accept it until I figured out an alternative.

That lead me to this moment, however. I had been making call after call, day after day, sometimes to people I used to know but other times to numbers I recalled. Even random numbers, which took me a bit of work to make sure would go somewhere, but somewhere they did go. I never listened to the messages I left. I barely even remembered them after hanging up the phone, just feeling well-worn pain from my throat aching and the tears staining the side of my head. It broke up the mundaneness of surviving.

Twenty. Long. Years.

The atomic clocks that were surprisingly easy to maintain made sure that I knew that number. That it had been twenty years to the day since those last moments of humanity became the moment of just one person. The last of all who had come before. Sitting there, unable to speak. Hearing a voice on the other end. Not a recording, but a voice.

A screaming voice, a begging voice.

The words replay in my head, only a few seconds have gone by.

“Hello...hello? Oh my God hello!”

I couldn’t speak. Not after hearing that voice. A voice that I hadn’t heard for over twenty-five years. That I knew I’d never hear again, no voicemail ever to be found.

Why did I call this number? I knew it’d ring to the fallback system. I’d get a robotic voice telling me that the number was no longer in service.

I found my voice.

I spoke.



GaleWardWrites t1_j0r1ckc wrote

“Thank you, George,” Ólýsanleg Hryllingur af'Dýpt'gryfju said with a slight pained gasp in their throat. The smoke slowly starts to dissipate from their body, a sheen of strangely luminescent ash still coating their deep purple skin.

George took a step back, coughing slightly from the painfully burning heat and something deeper, “Gods abov--- err sorry, I mean what the hell happened to you, Hryll? I know it is bad down there but, wait, that isn’t radioactive, is it?” He took another step backwards, hoping to avoid another instance of radiation sickness if it could be helped.

“I sure hope not, George, but I’m fairly sure it is just Fönd’önd’gæs blood. The assault against the Count was going, well, poorly.” A look of defeat crosses Hryll’s face, knowing that if they hadn’t been able to hide in the still steaming corpse of one of the few creatures that they were able to defeat, they would have been just another head on a spike. “I really hate this Lucifer-blessed war.”

George nods sympathetically, and not for the first time he thinks about how strange it is that he was sitting next to an over two meter monster from nightmares. It’d be almost comical to imagine Hryll striding across the brimstone and hellfire plains of torment when they were curled up over the cup of tea that I had prepared for them.

No, Hryll was truly a demon. The spawn-tier of an arch demon of name, which they explained to him meant that they were certainly fairly powerful. But it also meant responsibility.

“You know, Hryll,” George starts, the words well worn and comfortable coming from his lips, “you are more than welcome to stay here. I can get a two bedroom flat, and maybe you can look into playing basketball---” The smile on George’s face drops as Hryll doesn’t grin back, but frowns slightly. “Wait, are you seriously considering it?”

Hryll gives the smallest of nod, “honestly George, it is a terribly tempting offer. Even if you already didn’t give your word that we would be equals, offer to make a blood contract to bind you to it, I’d still be tempted. But...” the frown burned into a grin, self-defeated, “they need me.”

Anger rises in George’s voice, coming at a near-yell, “they USED you! You’re a tool for them and you know it you big dumb lummox of a hellion!” This was also a well worn conversation, but not comfortable at all because it was painfully true.

Hryll’s towering form, even when trying their best to carefully place down the oversized tea cup still too small for their hands, was still so measured, so calm, so patient. “I know that, George. But that is how we work. It’s just how demons are---”

“Some would say the same thing about human beings,” George cuts them off, “because there are so many of us who are frankly horrible to each other. That is no. Fucking. Excuse.”

The rage in George’s face cools slightly after the outburst. He knows that Hryll wouldn’t be able to stay. Even if they signed a contract, he’d only live for another one hundred, maybe one hundred and fifty years if he was lucky. Sure, he could extend that even further by giving up more of his humanity, and frankly that wasn’t a bad idea. But that would be in the future. A future that he’d help Hryll form.

“Hryll, did you get a chance to use those neutron bombs that I made for you? I was hoping that they’d help you take the Count’s keep with less losses on your end, but I’m guessing neutron radiation bombardment might not be all that effective against the, uhh the giant geese things? Do you know if they’ve ever had something called ‘ebola’ down there before?”

George’s face splits into a grin matching Hryll, and the real meat of the summoning get underway as they start to talk about how to utilize the technology that he had access to as a technowarlock with all of the might of humanity’s brutal warlike past at his fingertips, at Hryll’s claw tips, and their command together to bring this war to an end.