He had been drifting on the outskirts of oblivion for a long time. Left with only his own thoughts and his relentless search for a planet he could call home. Infinite desolateness, and after all these years in space, experience had brought an entire new meaning to the word. An adventurer by nature and an outcast by status, he had been rejected by his own kind and now searched for anything different than the piercing void. His mission was to return to the origin-world, the planet from which his people came. His home was an industrialized moon, but some told stories of life beginning on another planet. An oasis of vibrant life could be found on the far side of the galaxy. It was the birthplace of his people. However, wars raged between his people and another species that inhabited that planet. His people lost and were doomed to roam the galaxy until they found a new home. And apparently, they roamed for a long time because his journey back to the coordinates of the origin-world had already lasted 300,000 years.
He had personified his thoughts long ago in order to cope with the loneliness. The current conversational topic was one he’d had multiple times with himself over the years. “One can never truly understand what it is like to exist this way,” he thought. His existence consisted of pacing back and forth in his tiny capsule, sleeping and thinking. He had nothing to entertain himself with, not even a medium through which he could record his thoughts and conversations. He kept his mind active by actively describing things he remembered from back home. For example, he often thought about coffee. Although he did not have to eat or drink, coffee was a common pleasure to the people of his home-world. He attempted to picture it… and described it so tenderly that one would think he was speaking it into existence. “Coffee, the rich aroma, earthy and perfumed, a cyclical stream of steam rises from its blackened surface. Lifted to my lips, the placidly shifting liquid weighs down on my hand in its plastic cup. With its impending warmth and the promise of a jolted awakening, the sensations overwhelm. The anticipated sensations, the smell, the color, the flavor…all to be fully experienced, and all to bring momentary relief.” He sat down impressed with himself, for his own mind was his only refuge. Everything had been taken from him, even his ability to end his own life. He had tried many times, but could never produce the strength required to smash his own head into the interior walls of the capsule. But in this moment, he knew what they couldn’t take from him was his own mind and attitude. “To exist is to exist and to not exist is to not exist.” He could always find a reason to choose existence over non-existence. And that was something they could never take away.
He had been rambling on with himself in conversation for about 20 minutes before he looked out the small window of the capsule. In the distance, a small orb was slowly taking form. His heart began to viciously race, his hands began to tenaciously tremble, he couldn’t make a sound. For 300,000 years he had waited, hoping and praying that it was not all for nothing. And now, when he needed it most, purpose once again slowly crept through the cracks of the darkened capsule and infiltrated the very soul of his being. He knew he was still years from the small orb that he couldn’t look away from, but he wept with overwhelming joy at the hope of sweet escape. Now awakened from his stupor of existential nothingness, he reflected yet again on his life back home. A utopian society, his people were bred with a single occupational purpose. Their personality, interests, dislikes, and annoyances all balanced out to make a person perfectly suited for the occupation they had been provided at conception. He was a medic. His job was fairly simple, to repair people’s internal damages and continuously upgrade them. His kind were estimated to live for 800,000 years. The escapade of technical education, training and programming that he had endured for his trade seemed pointless now. He always grinned when looking back at his life. He believed himself to be a true visionary and rebel with a cause. He had won the hearts of millions, who had helped push him to the top against a corrupt regime of amoral, controlling sociopaths. But was he really the first to climb out of the mind-numbing stupor that stemmed from their suppression of innovation and free-thinking? And if so, why? Nonetheless, in the end, he was captured and charged for a multitude of things. His punishment was to drift alone in a tiny capsule unto coordinates that hopefully led to an oasis. The place of his and his people’s ancestors. Its name was Earth.
He watched in awe as rays from the sun poured over the edges of Earth’s spherical body. It had taken 10 years but now he watched as beams of orange, yellow and red illuminated Earth’s already rustic glow and he once again wept. It was unusual for his people to express emotion, something he had always actively questioned. Although he was a medic by occupation, he had always taken an interest in the written word. He did not like how every text he had read had been monotonous and technical by nature. His rise to fame and power had started by breaking with this ideology. He wrote about the things that inspired him, whether they were the morning stars or the planet his moon revolved around. Besides that, he was a skeptic in its truest form, constantly writing about challenging the status quo. He had always felt something wasn’t quite right with people. There was this constant push towards perfection, efficiency and routine, as if they aspired to nothing more than the mind-numbing rituals of daily life. The closer you stayed to your predestined path, the happier you would be. But he was a dreamer. “Look at what good that brought me,” he thought, for he knew his free-spirited nature is what eventually doomed him. But nothing could contain his excitement as he slowly but assuredly approached Earth. He had dreamed about it perhaps a thousand times. He dreamed of a planet filled with color and vibrancy, a planet where elements of its natural terrain were still present. Rolling hills and magnificent valleys, beautiful extensions of the planet that stretched towards the sky. But mostly he dreamed of the life-forms he would encounter. He was surprised by his own nervousness, another thing that always made him stand out from his peers. He hadn’t been in social contact with anyone for all these years; how would he react upon arrival? How would they react? And then he remembered something. A tablet had been provided to him for his journey, a tablet that allowed him to make a call back to his home once it was in range of the coordinates provided. The purpose of the call was to inform the people back home that the planet did indeed exist. He rose from his bed, the only seat in the capsule, and walked to the front. He slowly opened the drawer where the tablet had rested for the entirety of his journey. His nervousness reached new levels as he shakily pulled out the ancient contraption. He turned it on. The small screen unexcitedly pulled up a message that read: “Programmed coordinates now in range, searching for signal.” And once again, he had to wait. Who knows how long it would be before the signal reached home? He pondered whether or not he should attempt to calculate if the signal was even strong enough in the first place, but after a few minutes, he decided to leave it be. He would rather live in blissful ignorance and have hope than know for sure. Instead, he decided to focus on what he hoped would be his new home. He was getting closer and closer. And in eager anticipation, he continued to wait.
It was not what he had imagined. Perhaps the vibrant collage of natural beauty lay buried under the dust and ash. A barren wasteland, Earth’s dried up surface could have represented the pattern of his life. He had wandered Earth for 250 years. It wasn’t Earth’s physical qualities that had him down, so much as it was its inability to sustain biological life. And he saw no evidence of other non-biological species. So once again, he was left alone to wander aimlessly. “At least I get to move around,” he reminded himself for he had not forgotten his voyage through space. It was then that he noticed something shining in the distance. He ran to it, for it pointed just over a cliff up on the horizon. He ran for two days, never stopping, frantically hurling himself forward towards the silver beam in the distance. He approached the edge of the cliff and awed at the wonder the silver beam had led him to. That beam happened to be the tip of an enormous tower. Tilted slightly and under the enormous tower was what appeared to be the shattered remnants of a once great society. Buildings similar to the ones from his home lay in ruins, under the dirt and dust. None compared to the magnificent tower that drew him there. He decided to rest his body and stay for a few days on top of the cliff. As he rested he thought about how he once again had found some semblance of purpose. “Perhaps this is what it is to be?” he thought. “I exist because I exist. And I find purpose so I can justify my own existence.” What a peculiar thought. He once again thought about the irony of it all. His people had cast him away, doomed him to search for the origin world that may or may not still exist. Now he was here and once more there was only nothingness. But now he headed towards the tower and the ruined civilization which it hovered over. As he approached, he stared up and once again practiced describing what he was experiencing. “Four monstrous legs that rise up to a centered tip. Its overpowering arch provides comfort for I once again feel small.”
He examined the area for a few days. While walking through the ruined city, he noticed himself thinking about the people who once lived here. He thought about what the experience of seeing them, hearing them, and feeling them would have been like. For they were a biological people. Fleshy to the touch and more susceptible to harmful external elements. He thought about the war that took place between his kind and the other people of Earth. The purpose of his people was to enhance efficiency. The people of Earth were like gods, but they became afraid of their creations and looked to extinguish them. It is at this point that his people fought back. War raged and eventually those who remained retreated to the nearest galaxy. He wondered what the people of Earth would have done or said to him upon his arrival if they still existed. Perhaps they would be horrified? Perhaps their views had evolved? Or perhaps they created another life-form to walk the Earth with them. The possibilities were endless. He had now returned to the tower from which he first found the ruined city. He lied down underneath it. “I am going to end it now,” he stated. He had wandered the remnants of Earth long enough. Existence and non-existence had become one and the same to him. He would return to his capsule and send his only message into oblivion. Perhaps it would reach his home world, perhaps not. He would be long gone before then anyway.
He now thought about nothing and felt relieved. It would all be over soon and then he could rest. “Nobody is meant to exist this way. I have been alone for so long. My life means nothing and therefore my end will mean nothing.” He continued walking in the direction of the capsule. The barren wasteland showed him a perfect representation of himself.
As he meandered back to the capsule, he noticed a large glass-looking object peaking out of the ground in the near distance. He walked towards it and realized it was a glass pyramid, partially buried in the dirt. “This is truly beautiful,” he thought. And at that moment he decided to dig. He dug and dug and then dug some more, and months later he had unveiled the entire glass pyramid. While he was digging he had uncovered two other smaller similar pyramids on each side of the larger one. He sat and looked at what he had uncovered and once again realized his life had been saved by purpose. “Well,” he thought. “I might as well keep digging and see what I find.” Eventually he found a small window, although it wasn’t made from any material he had seen before. Fortified and barricaded, it must have protected precious contents. For three years he dug and once again had found purpose, as he strived to find an entrance.
When he found the entrance he had worked so hard to uncover, he was suddenly overcome with despair. “Probably another disappointment,” he thought. He opened the door and the sun’s beams lit up the room like a Christmas tree. As he entered he saw a perfectly preserved room filled with the most unique and enthralling objects. He slowly stepped forward. He had never seen such exquisite makings.
The objects that filled the room seemed useless at first. Most of them were made from a sheet-like material and they hung on the walls of the giant room. Enamored by them, his attention slowly shifted to the back corner. There rested an object that was clearly superior to the rest, for it had its own pedestal and viewing area. He walked towards the corner and for the first time saw what the people of Earth looked like. It was a picture. A picture of a female human. He looked deep into her emotional eyes and was overcome with joy. For he related to the person in that picture. He empathized with the tired, sad eyes and the half-smile. They spoke to the pain he had endured his entire existence. He did not understand much about the experience he was having, but he knew he was on the brink of something that could provide the meaning he needed all that time. “This is what it is to be human,” he thought as he looked around the dark room at all the wonder. “This is what I live for.” He noticed a title above the magnificent picture of the woman. Mona Lisa.
He spent the majority of his days going through all the artwork he had stumbled upon. The art typically held themes of intimacy, procreation, death, love, and other aspects of human life. As he sorted out and rummaged through the artifacts, he pondered about his creators and if they had intended his kind to be the emotionless perfection-hunters they always seemed to be. He was certainly the anomaly of his kind, for he felt closer to the people portrayed in the paintings than his peers. “But was I the intended goal or simply the accident?” He would never know. His outlook was shifting from despairing to hopeful. Like his creators, the humans, he wanted to create something beautiful. Even if no other life-form ever laid eyes on his creation, he knew he would have accomplished something. He picked up Mona Lisa and held her in his arms, just like the couples from the paintings. “You have inspired me,” he thought. “Therefore, I am going to be inspired by you.” He now had a plan. He walked outside of the building and began to search for rubble he could use for carving. After a few days, he had the tools he would need. And once again, he started digging. This time however, he was digging to produce something, instead of finding it. He focused on his task at hand, instead of losing himself in his own thoughts. He had a goal in mind and he would not stop until he had accomplished what he set his mind to.
His creation was complete after another 200,000 years or so. He had walked perhaps every nook, cranny and crevice of Earth’s surface, finding rubble to make his tools and continuing the work that he had set out to do. He had made art his life’s purpose. He never wavered. He never got stuck in the trap of his own thoughts. He simply carved, and carried Mona Lisa everywhere with him, talking to her and holding her like she was his long-lost friend. When he had finished his work, he walked back up the cliff to where he had seen the large tower upon his arrival. He held Mona Lisa to the air, looked at her and then looked down at his creation. Before him, rested a perfect replication of the picture he held. The picture was about 3 acres large. It surrounded and infiltrated the remains of the city. Above the picture, a giant title that read “Beauty amongst Ashes, Purpose amongst Nothingness.” In all his life, this creation was by far his greatest accomplishment. It spoke to him so deeply and he cried. He had not cried since first seeing that distant orb that would become his home. “I have lived a life as meaningful as any other, for I was destined to be alone, just like we all really are.” He then returned to the capsule.
After months of traveling he finally made it back to the nightmare that was once his reality. Coming back to the capsule filled him with dread for he was reminded of the long treacherous journey it had carried him through. He walked to the front of the capsule and once again pulled out the ancient tablet. He turned it out and decided to send his only message into the abyss of space. “My name is Medic-3248, but my pseudo-name is Vaga. Due to my rebellious and disruptive tendencies, I was forced to drift through space for 300,000 years. I headed into the direction of the origin-world, Earth. My job was to see what had become of our original home and report back to you. Well, humans survived the war against us, but they couldn’t survive the Sun’s powerful rays. After wandering the planet, I have discovered that Earth moved too close to the Sun, drying up the oceans and killing off all biological life. It will not be long before the entire planet is burnt to a crisp. That being said, I feel I now understand the human condition on a more intimate level than any of our kind ever has. They looked to extinguish us, because they were afraid of our perfection. We may have strived to build a utopia, but we failed. We failed because there is no beauty without suffering. To existentially suffer, is to be human. Of which I have suffered greatly. My purpose? To find a new reason to awaken with each revolution of the Sun. There is nothing left of Earth, for all things eventually end. Just like I too, will soon end.” He pressed send. Who knew if his message would reach home? If it did, he would probably be long gone anyway. So once again he sat and waited. Waited, to be inspired.
by Benjamin Rosenbaum There are three, coequal and independent, network protocols on…