3,682,850 CE


Stelliferous Era of the Universe

James Bond walked on sunshine.

Of course, that wasn't his real name, but the light was a simulation and so was the entire world around him. Nobody in here was actually real unless he decided he suddenly wanted them to be real, so none of them would judge him by his name unless he wanted to give them the ability to judge, and James Bond did not want to be judged, especially not for picking a name and a face from before the Humility Movement.

He pointed his finger at a random corner of the starry sky and pretended to pull the trigger. Of course, the movement was useless; it was his thoughts that ruled this miniature universe. The cluster of stars exploded in a shower of light and force, nearly knocking James Bond off of the rectangular rainbow that stretched through the simulated interstellar space. He pointed his finger at another cluster of stars and blew them up, but willed the force to be less. Just enough to blow back his hair.

After a few months of walking along the light – he didn't want to be bored so he wasn't bored –he reached the end of the solid rainbow. He jumped, and transformed into a spaceship. Willing his speed to increase, James Bond soon started flying in between stars, the normally vast distances vastly compressed, threading through stellar prominences and passing through planets like they were air.

After a few more years of that exhilarating adventure, he decided it would be about time to check up on reality. James Bond blew up his false universe in a crescendo of supernovas and black holes, and Rikla Jusop woke up, still in the body of James Bond.

He sat in his own personal spaceship. The fluid quark-soup material that constructed it had, under his will, molded itself to resemble the flying saucers of old, and he'd made it a dark purple. It was space-y.

'Hello?' he asked through his Faster-Than-Light FTL Implants. 'Anyone awake?'

Immediately, 15,837 of the 35,295 friends in his group called Friends responded with various greetings through the telepathic implants. Perhaps implants weren't the correct word given how much of a part they were of… well everyone, but that was what they had been originally so that was what they would always remain.

Old biological sciences had determined that the greatest number of friends a human could have, Dunbar's Number, was roughly a hundred, one-fifty tops. But he wasn't a human; not even close, not for a long time. With mental upgrades, the finest brain you could get, and telepathic access to the Internet with instantaneous speed regardless of speed-of-light limitations, he could have as many friends as he damn well pleased.

He split his focus into a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, and sent them each to the various virtual reality parties his friends were hosting. While they all socialized, he activated another mechanism in his quark-soup body. Predictions and possibilities aligned and calculated, and in a blink he teleported to the ship's balcony.

One would expect that, being open to the vacuum of space, the egg-shaped shell of air around the balcony would've flown off. But it didn't thanks to the invisible electrostatic net that was generated around it.

The 254,964,359,120 stars of the Whirlpool Galaxy surrounded him, each blazing a subtly different frequency of light.

He placed his hands on the railing. The balcony's floor was still purple, but it turned a brilliant red-magenta as it rose up the fence-style railing. The gentle, vaporous interstellar wind blew through him, absorbed by him and his ship to convert into energy.

With a thought, he opened up his news tab. His field of vision was occupied by the most soothing, organized table he could have constructed and began flicking through the news. The settlement of the Sextans Supercluster was well underway, given the rising population of the Unified Species.

While life-bearing planets weren't rare, intelligent life was an exception. In all their hundreds of millions of light years, only ten intelligent lifeforms had been found.

Oh well, it didn't matter. He wasn't a speciesist.

One of his fragments of consciousness played dodgeball. Another chess. Still another partied with the avarian, Elria. With his tremendously augmented intelligence he controlled them all effortlessly. At the same time, he commanded the material composing his body to shift. The colors warped, spikes formed and deformed, briefly turning him into medusa, into a dragon, into a dwarf, or a long-dead movie star. After a few hours of shapeshifting, he transformed back into James Bond.

His news feed told him of crime attempts in the Virgo Cluster, which had been quickly shut down by the MWAI. The Milky Way Artificial Intelligence, a vast collection of transformed dead worlds that read into everyone's thoughts at all time, could instantly shut down anyone who even so much as intended to commit a crime.

Boy had that caused a stir when it was first invented. He'd been among the dissenters, and took part in the great revolts of 5,609. But when it had gone through and no end of the world scenario had happened, the nonjudgemental AI, not even truly alive for all its fearsome power and intelligence, had life continue on as normal. The only difference was that everyone born had to have their minds forever linked to the MWAI. It was nonoptional, and something the MWAI took care of itself with picobots.

He had to admit, it had nothing but benefits. Crime dropped almost to zero, and then utterly to zero before too long. Every now and then people still tried to get around it; blow up stars, redirect black holes. None of their plans ever took off the ground.

News continued to pour before his eyes; famous people observing on various events, sports both real and virtual, as Rikla divided his attention again and again because there was ever so much to see.

And so much time to see it.

12,543,029,177 CE


Stelliferous Era of the Universe

Rikla Jusop floated idly in space. Around him, billowing clouds of hydrogen and helium wafted idly in the last of the solar winds of their creator. Before too long they'd be surrendered to gravity and the raging interstellar wind, but for now they hung around the blazing ember in a stunning planetary nebula.

The event that had formed this nebula was too slow to actually spectate. Cameras certainly caught the action from all angles, but it had taken so many millions of years that for it to be worth anything, you had to speed it up dramatically and then watch it. Of course once you did, and downloaded it to a simulation, you could see the action from anywhere in the area.

The engulfing of Venus. The cauterization of Mars. The boiling of Europa and the incineration of Titan. All were available to be seen in the recording of the death of Sol. And now?

Now the only thing left of the eternal torch of humanity was a white hot ember, but while he did feel quite sad at that, it was something that the Unified Species had decided to allow happen; after all, Earth had been left to its own devices after the Humility Movement in the late 25th century, and the leading scientists had laid down the plan of action.

It had been put to a vote; other stars would be preserved as long as possible, but the star of humanity's home world would run its natural course. The VSCAI made sure nobody interfered.

Now there was nothing to interfere with. All that remained of Sol was a blazing white dwarf the size of long-gone Earth. Already tourists flocked to it, wanting to experience the tremendous gravitational field; as if you couldn't do the same at any of the universe's other white dwarfs, or find more gravity near neutron stars.

Rikla was content to float in the multicolored planetary nebula, coasting idly throughout the gasses. Half a light year out, in what was once the Oort Cloud, his ship floated and was ready to teleport him back with a single command.

Moving his body around, he opened his arms and legs and began to soak in the light from the stars, converting it to electricity to fuel him. The sky was filled with stars, more than double there had been in ages past. The Milky Way was no more. Andromeda and it had merged so long ago and now… now instead of a band of stars throughout the sky the stars simply petered out on one end of the sky, and thickened on the other, condensing into a single bright point.

Gone was the majestic spiral of the Milky Way. Hello to the elliptical sphere of Milkomeda.

He didn't like thinking of that. It reminded him that he'd been born in the Milky Way galaxy, when Sol was still on the main sequence, and that made him feel old. At least everyone else was unaging, and he could change his thoughts to not become horrifically depressed. The year twelve billion was a long way out.

He teleported back to his ship's balcony – it was all baby blue now –and set a course for Olympus. Immediately, his ship began to accelerate; stars turned red and blue under light dilation, the world collapsed, until he jumped past the light speed barrier and the world beyond turned black with warp speed.

Twelve billion years was indeed a long time, and though the rate of technology had slowed down greatly from its mad pace of pre-4000, it was still enough to invent warp travel that could get from one end of Milkomeda to the other in eight minutes. So it took no time at all to reach Olympus.

Olympus was a little stray world far off in intergalactic space, with a great view of Milkomeda. Far off from the Milky Way, the collision of the two galaxies through it even further off. Originally a dead, starless planet floating outside the galaxy, Olympus had been terraformed and terraformed, dug out and transformed into a city of planet-sized buildings growing out from the core, glimmering with all the colors of the electromagnetic spectrum; radio, red, gamma, blue.

This was the pinnacle of sentient engineering. It was home to some eight octillion people - 8x10^27 – and most of them didn't take up space. A vast majority were simulations, people who uploaded their consciousness to an intricate framework, devoting their lives to the virtual world. Rikla really couldn't blame them, with how intricate the simulated universe was, and he may join them one day. For the moment however, he was content to fly around the universe, speaking with his two million friends through split-thought and watch the oddities. The oldest star in the cosmos. The fastest spinning pulsar, the heaviest black hole, the star with the most planets. After all, he had plenty of time to surf the internet, and only limited time to see those things…

He didn't like thinking of that. Those were Deep Time thoughts, thoughts for the distant future that scientists and the VSCAI had planned for but nobody wanted to admit would happen. Who would want to think about that when the universe had transformed into a playground, with all needs automated? An eternal childhood, a spring break that never ended.

Rikla Jusop cracked his fingers and shook the Deep Time thoughts from his head and pondered something different. Maybe a name change. He'd gone by Rikla Jusop for a while; with octillions of people it certainly wasn't a unique name. His ID Code provided him with individuality to separate him from all the other Rikla Jusops, so his actual name could be manipulated as he saw fit.

No paperwork.

No mess.

No hassle.

Just mentally access his internal files and type a new name over Rikla Jusop. Just a moment was needed.

Parking his ship over Olympus, the newly-named Embral jumped off the balcony and sky-dived the hundred thousand miles to the planet's long-transformed core. There was much to see, and he wanted to see Olympus's newly constructed Atrium of Eternity himself.

735,493,052,690,150,392,105 CE


Degenerate Era of the Universe

Things were difficult for Embral.

He padded along the streets of his community on four paws, his broad, sweeping wings tucked onto his back. He paused for a moment, and Elizabeth stopped next to him. He shook his head and continued on, his dragon form towering over Elizabeth.

His spaceship was gone. His ability to shapeshift was gone, trapping him in the dragon form he had chosen for a costume party. All things considered it wasn't that bad. If only the air was thick enough to fly in.

Gone was Olympus with its myriad of lights, whisked away into the extra-universal void. Of course it wasn't actually extra-universal, but it may as well have been. Ever since the year One Hundred Billion, the other galaxy groups had been pulled away by the rapid expansion of the universe. Even the nearby Virgo Cluster was gone, leaving only Milkomeda, slowly swallowing up the Magellanic Clouds, Triangulum, and the rest of the Local Group.

In essence, the expansion of the universe had torn the galaxies apart into their own 'island universes' with trillions upon quadrillions of light years in between. Olympus had fallen into that void. The merger was finished. The last of Local Galaxy's usable hydrogen was gone. The last star faded to black at the year One Hundred Trillion, one thousand times the time it took for the island universes to form.

Then things had gotten really bad. Instantaneous communication and virtual reality had allowed island universes to contact each other even through the extra-universal voids, but with the end of stars and the beginning of the Degenerate Era and its endless shuffling of star corpses, the islands had experienced an energy crisis like none other. All stars were gone, and the skies turned purest black.

It had been planned for, of course. After a long time of the greatest computers running for five billion years on end trying to find some way of stopping the end of the universe with no success, scientists instead came up with a plan to maximize quality of life for as long as possible. And the first step of it was an energy ration like nothing before.

"So," Elizabeth said next to him. "Want to head over to Ike&Mike's? I hear they've got a new virtual experience to try."

"Really?" he asked, still unused to the feeling of fangs in his mouth, or the golden scales along his body. One part of the energy ration was no more shapeshifting, and the VSCAI had control over everyone, so it could simply turn it off. Anyone so much as considered trying to hack their freedom was stopped. It was all for the best, of course. Everyone knew it would happen. But when it finally did it really brought into perspective how totally and utterly the VSCAI controlled them all, and a fresh rash of riots broke out in the Local Galaxy.

"Really! Let's go check." He and Elizabeth walked on. The place they walked in was a dome about the size of the ancient continent of Asia. It hung on the inside of a sphere surrounding the black dwarf remnant of the star 51 Pegasi.

Elizabeth flexed the angel wings growing out of her back.

The sphere itself was an ingenious Dyson Sphere, like the kind that had been created around live stars way back when there were lives stars, capturing every bit of energy coming from them. One had been made around the original 51 Pegasi in fact, but it was defunct and had been repurposed. Now they had one around the black dwarf's cooling embers.

Embers, ha! Embral thought. One degree above absolute zero is a bit low for an ember. Still hotter than space, though. Better than nothing.

Their community was a dome on the inside of the dwarf's surrounding sphere, so the black ember was right above them at all times, like a guillotine. Not that Embral ever noticed with how utterly dark it was.

His 3D sensors picked up the surrounding structures, buildings the size of old, old New York city, housing a few million people. The old octodecillions of people in virtual reality were gone and deleted with the energy shortage.

Embral couldn't find it in himself to feel bad for them. They knew it would happen. They'd understood every risk when downloading themselves and those that had been born there had, thanks to the manipulation of perspective, lived a longer life than he had. That, combined with the VSCAI shutting off communication to other island universes, had drastically reduced the population.

He didn't feel bad for them at all.

Ike&Mike's had no bearing on the long-dead company of the pre-Humility era. It was owned by a man called IkeMike. He'd been born in the pre-Humility movement and had a wicked sense of humor, one he kept alive in the eternal darkness of the Degenerate Era. He sold experiences, programming his machines to give virtual reality simulations of endless scenarios; dark fantasies fulfilled, playing the role of a story character either by going along with the plot or changing things as you see fit, whatever you wanted odds were he had it.

It was one of the few places that made Embral actually excited to visit.

It was a tall rectangular building, about the height of the old Chrysler building, with about as much character to it as a rock. There were no windows, no irregularities on its once-gray surface, but that didn't matter at all because there wasn't really anything to see. There was a single door at the bottom through which yellow light had poured in the past, but even if it still did it would be impossible for Embral to see it.

Dark Energy, which had created these island universes in the first place, was getting stronger. Photons were stretched to lower wavelengths over faster periods of time, and eventually the end result was any speck of light immediately being darkened into the lowest of radio waves.

It was a good thing 3D sensors didn't use light to detect its surroundings. It was a good thing his computer brain could still give him the illusion of light and color based on chemical compositions. Still, it was humbling to know that none of it was actual light.

Yes, the energy ration was harsh. As he and Elizabeth walked in, him having to duck to avoid hitting his horns, he pondered on how much he missed the Stelliferous Era. Their little black dwarf colony was lucky; gravity interactions hadn't flung it off into the void, or into the central black hole. They maintained a stable orbit in the desiccated remains of the Local Galaxy, which was a mere two-hundredth its former population of star corpses.

A lot of people had died. He wondered when it'd be his time.

"I hear you play the part of Voldemort in that old Harry Potter series, birth to death. Don't know where it diverges from the books, though, but I guess that'll be the fun part of it." Elizabeth's wings flicked, nudging against his flank. He pushed back against her.

"Watch it."

"Sheesh, sorry." The two of them walked in, eager to leave the real world for a few decades while they lived out a fictional life, unaware of their true origins. They'd live, and when they 'died' they'd wake back up with all their normal memories unlocked.

Things weren't good, but overall he still had the same quality of life he had in the 22nd century.

He just hoped things wouldn't get worse.

27,243,258,864,976,458,346,974,137,036,235,000,235,823,993 CE


Degenerate Era of the Universe

Things got much worse.

In the year twenty-seven tredecillion, things were very, very bad. The energy crisis had deepened and the quality of life plummeted with it. The vast stores of energy the VSCAI had stored up over the Stelliferous Era continued to be rationed out, but the failing energies kept worsening. It also didn't help that most of the black dwarves and neutron stars had cooled to the point where nothing could be gotten from them.

Oh, and the fact that they fell into the central black hole of the Local Galaxy. That had messed things up big time.

The dome that had once been around 51 Pegasi's long-engulfed dwarf had been repurposed, along with a handful – pawful? – of others into one enormous sphere that surrounded the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A-star. As the gaping void – completely invisible, there was still no light – slowly evaporated over the next eternity and a half, it would capture the pitiful bits and pieces of energy flowing off of it.

There wasn't enough to go around. His thoughts had slowed to a crawl; where in the past he could divide his mind to speak with a hundred thousand people at the same time, and carry a conversation about the entire history of the universe in one second, the heavy energy ration meant it now took him a year to complete a single thought.

It wasn't like it mattered. Christopher had plenty of time.

The trick had been figuring out how to avoid Proton Decay. While it took them a very long time to decay, he had a lot of time on his hands – paws? – and so did everyone else.

Well, everyone else who'd gotten to Sagittarius A-star in time. Those flung with their stellar remnants into the deep blackness, he couldn't imagine they had any energy left to keep them alive at all.

At first glance it was obvious how to avoid Proton Decay; don't build using protons. That excluded atoms, but they did have quark-soup to construct with. It would've worked… except quark-soup was unstable and needed a steady stream of energy to keep from decaying, energy they simply did not have.

A year per thought, after all.

Eventually, a stable mixture of weak-force elimination and strange-hadrons was decided upon to house all matter, and saving up energy from the cooling black dwarves, they had all made the transition.

Now it was the end of another Era.

They all gathered on the dome outside of the sphere, and opened their senses. It had been a long time since there had been power for such telepathy, but the VSCAI had put aside enough energy for this one final task.

Wherever it was, the artificial intelligence reached out to the island universes for one final message.

Still in his dragon body but utterly blind, Christopher sighed. When would it start now? How fast would the message be? If the VSCAI spoke too fast it would take him so long to decipher its last words.

The VSCAI's voice suddenly reached his ears, and it had a rippling tone to it, as if multiple men and women were each speaking at once and trying to talk over each other. "You all know the situation. All of you are aware of what has happened."

He could feel the vibrations of people around him shuffling, but his 3D sensors didn't have the power to reveal his surroundings. Over the span of decades, he felt someone grab his left forepaw and tap it in a pattern with their fingers.

'Hey there,' the person said. 'Chris, right?'

'Elizabeth I presume?' he tapped back.

The VSCAI went on. "For nearly thirty tredecillion years I have existed, as have most of you. Your ancestors – or you, if you're still alive – gave me life so long ago. We've seen so many things in those times. So many wondrous nebulae, so many life-filled worlds. I did my duty solemnly to ensure that no crimes were committed, that all was just and all was fair. But here we are, at the end of the Degenerate Era." In his mind's ear, the VSCAI sighed.

'Eh, was Elizabeth. Call me Triap now.'

'Triap. So, ready to begin the long wait?'

'Heck yeah! How many people get to brag that they've seen the end of the universe?'

'How many indeed.' They'd never know, given how many island universes there were, forever beyond their grasp.

"It has been an honor of mine to serve you for as long as I have, to have had your trust that I would not abuse my position. But my time is up; I have given all I have and have nothing left. I have not the energy to convert my nucleons and so, I hereby resign as judge, jury, and executioner. I wish you all the best of luck through this time of tragedy. Thank you, and goodbye."

The voice went silent, and Christopher knew what had happened. The entire exchange had taken a few millennia but now, with no more energy left besides the feeble evaporation of their black hole, things would really slow down.

'Well,' Triap tapped along his scales. 'I guess we'd better make ourselves comfortable.'

99,529,340,586,194,757,653,527,658,870,555,702,486,864,605,318,304,550,603,308,506,954, 287,834,188,837,273,753,343,737,972,491,535 CE


Black Hole Era of the Universe

Things had slowed down more and more and more, but now they were picking up for one last time.

Once the last atom decayed, it was officially the start of the Black Hole Era, the last breaths of the universe. If the island universes had been out of mind before, now that the VSCAI was gone they truly did not exist. All of Christopher's reality had been reduced to a giant black hole and the sphere wrapped around it. In all directions, there was nothing but a frozen void that heralded the end.

With no more stored energy, everyone's thoughts had slowed down even more, to the point where a single thought took a trillion years. That was alright. It made the countdown speed up from his perspective, and they had time. The only things left to think had been Deep Time thoughts.

At the start of the Black Hole Era they had resembled statues, standing around dumbly, stuck in the same positions they had been when the Era had begun. Not one of them had had the energy to move. The VSCAI had prevented crime, but even without it nobody had the energy to commit crime. They barely had the energy to continue living, let alone think and scheme.

As ages passed, thousands of trillions of Degenerate Eras whizzing by, the supermassive black hole that was all of existence slowly began to shrink. As it did, it blew off tiny, imperceptible amounts of energy that their Dyson Sphere greedily ate up and distributed to them.

The rate of evaporation and temperature of black holes is inversely cubically proportional to their mass. Translation:

A black hole twice as massive as another will be eight times dimmer. A black hole ten times lighter than another will evaporate a thousand times faster. So with this rule, Sagittarius A-star slowly began to contract. As it did, it gave off more and more energy. Thoughts began to speed up ever so slowly.

Christopher moved his dragon eyes, over the course of quadrillions of years, across the area before him. All was black. Nothing to see. Nothing to feel. It was a good thing he'd long ago reprogrammed his brain to resist suicide. It'd look very tempting otherwise.

Others weren't so lucky. He couldn't actually see when they died, gathering the energy to shut themselves down forever, but when they did there was always a tiny spike in how fast his thoughts went; one less mouth for the black hole to feed.

One by one, people had offed themselves, and eon by eon the black hole evaporated away. Dark Energy tried to pull the light away, but there was nowhere for it to be pulled into. It was trapped and would not get into the extra-universal void before they were done with it.

10^50 years. 10^60. 70. 80. 90. The black hole kept imperceptibly shrinking as its time ran out, and people kept killing themselves, each one speeding up the rest's minds. Triap was dead and IkeMike - with all his virtual worlds - was gone; Christopher was quite certain that now, at the Black Hole Era's end, he was the only one alive.

Should he have been feeling survivor's guilt? Probably, but they had all been suicides anyway so he couldn't bring himself to feel bad for them. Why had he survived when others didn't? Well someone had to be the last one, didn't they? Someone had to be there to say farewell for the absolute last time.

Slowly but surely, the black hole warmed. From the far reaches of radio waves, the light it gave off rose faster and faster into microwaves, infrared, and then a dull, murky red light.

He'd stared at that for a very long while. It had been so, so long since Christopher had seen light, even in his mind's eye. He was in sole command of the Dyson Sphere, the god of his own universe, so he decided that the sudden 'windfall' of energy would be stored up, and at the same time he finally had enough energy to return his thoughts to their normal human pace.

For the last 10^30 years of Sagittarius A-star's life, it glowed with visible light. The supermassive black hole was no longer supermassive or black, a tiny glowing speck shrinking slowly but surely over the ages. 10^30 was still a long time, after all. Far longer than a human can stand to be alone.

Yay for dragons, he supposed.

Red turned to orange turned to yellow to blue to purple to ultraviolet, and he was then left without any appreciable visible light again. The black hole's energy kept ramping up and up and up until it glowed impossibly bright in the gamma spectrum, many times smaller than the long-extinct proton.

He watched his mental timer tick down the last seconds. Three. Two. One.

There was a sudden spike as, in the last second, the whale-massed black hole gave off a time and a half the energy old Earth had gotten from Sol in a day once upon a time. He captured every last speck. There was a lot stored up now.

The black hole was gone. Gravity had lost.

Christopher looked left. There was all consuming dark. He looked right. There was all consuming dark. There was no point in putting it off any longer; there was absolutely no more energy left to gather so the least he could do was put what he did have to good use.

"Let there be light," he said.

And then, in a tiny little corner of the unimaginably bloated universe, in a dome the size of a small house…

… there was light.

Christopher sighed and, using a chunk of the energy, decided to finally be human for one last time. His particles began to rearrange themselves, and he wondered what form he should take. A young boy to show his stubborn defiance of fate? An old man to show that he had given up? In the end he settled for early forties, with salt and pepper hair, pale skin to offset the blackness, light blue shirt and darker blue pants, and no shoes.

Lights unused for the vast majority of the universe lit up the area, and he drank it in. He had a lot of energy saved up, and it was all for him. The ground beneath him rose up into a little seat and the ceiling painted itself into a starry vista the likes of which that hadn't been seen in forever.

If he rationed carefully, this energy could last him a long time. Eons in fact. But there was no more purpose into rationing, because once this energy was gone it was gone.

He played with his perceptions and constructed a few last virtual reality simulations, a few more escapes from the real world into the time before Deep Time, fantasies and comforts and stories that would never be known again. Heroes, villains, he played quite a few of them, and it was much better than staring out into the dark abyss of eternity. Doubly so when he temporarily sealed away his memories, forgetting that the roles he played were fake until they ended. He took whatever small pleasures he could find.

He deserved them, didn't he?

Year by year, decade by decade, the energy dwindled, but he wouldn't slow down as it neared the end. It wasn't necessary to do so.

He pulled himself out of a rather unsavory virtual reality simulation and wiped the starry vistas away. He was almost out of power. Once it was gone, all was gone. The tiny electroweak forces holding himself and the sphere together would fail, and Dark Energy would fling their particles apart. He had energy for one last action. He chose his words carefully…

10,042,755,922,726,147,728,628,729,104,517,893,375,217,778,932,810,254,546,156,668,604,849,909,316,658,495,265,757,453,528,579,194,627 CE


Dark Era of the Universe

There was nothing remarkable about this corner of the universe.

You'd find nothing here beyond the gentle simmering of virtual particles that will never make it to reality. There is no shivering wave of dim light. There is no floating, solitary neutrino, let alone a positron or an electron. Those three are the only matter left, and they have been flung so far from one another they will never interact with each other ever again, electrically or otherwise.

After all, forces can only travel at the speed of light, but the universe is expanding so much faster than that. They are each separated by googols upon googols of light years. All particles, down to the last, have become island universes forever more.

This corner of the universe was unremarkable, but so were all the others.

A floating observer would be taken aback by the sheer darkness of it all. There is absolutely nothing left of the universe, and as the temperature closes in on absolute zero, it is clear to anyone still alive that this is it. Entropy has, at long last, finally won and now rests, but Dark Energy restlessly fed its own strength, forever expanding the fabric of the universe, faster and faster. No more energy. No more light. No more heat. The universe has ended.

It had gone quietly, but not quickly. Gravity had at first painted the cosmos with countless shades of stars, before growing bored and conspiring with entropy to squeeze life out of the cosmos. After that, gravity played on its own for a long time while Dark Energy flung everything away from each other. Quantum forces united with entropy and eventually overpowered gravity, boiling away its last black holes.

None of the fundamental forces have any influence, and they never will ever again. There are no atomic nuclei to split or fuse. There is no uranium to decay. No electrons to repel and no dark matter to attract.

A tiny little gravity wave, stretched thin by its natural growth and the preternatural rip of Dark Energy, passed through this unremarkable corner of the universe. Uncaring of the end of all things and the total dissolution of all that was or could have been, the spherical gravity wave kept expanding.

A second passed. A month. A century. A trillion years. A quintillion. A vigintillion - 10^63 - years, and it kept expanding, never even hitting a single subatomic particle.

Another vigintillion years. And another. And another. An octovigintillion, 10^87. Another thousand of those and it kept growing, becoming fainter and fainter like a ripple on a pond long after the pebble has sunk. But there is no friction, so it will never truly fade away just as the temperature will never quite hit absolute zero.

A googol years. Five googol. A hundred googol.

Pretend someone was passed over by this ripple in space-time. An observer wouldn't notice it on their own, but pretend they had the proper instruments to pick up gravity waves.

A quadrillion googol years. A trigintillion googol.

Pretend they had instruments strong enough to pick up on this gravity wave. They would be surprised to find that such a thing existed, what with the uncontrollable scale of the universe's expansion.

A googolplex years. And another googolplex. And another. And another.

If their instruments were even more sensitive, they would realize that it's not just one gravity wave, but many smaller ones close together.

A trillion googolplex years. Five trillion googolplex years. And another and another…

If they had all of this, they could decode the Morse Code into one message, which would forever pass through the frigid, desecrated universe.

Twenty decillion googolplex. Thirty. Fifty. A thousand.

If someone was there at that point in space, if someone had all of those things, that person would stumble across the message, 'Hello? Anyone awake?'

But there was no one there.

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