Dawn of Eternity

Now it's been ten thousand years
man has cried a billion tears
for what he never knew
now man's reign is through
But through eternal night
the twinkling of star light
so very far away
maybe it's only yesterday...

Rick Evans (1964)

It doesn't happen to me often to wake up before the alarm clock. That tin rascal is almost always faster. But sometimes I manage to beat it. About three times a year.

It happened to me today. I just opened my eyes and was fresh and I knew I didn't need to sleep anymore. I don't like sleeping more than I need to. Especially when I wake up before the alarm clock, because such days are worth living.

I stepped out onto the sun-drenched wooden porch and, squinting, perhaps for the thousandth time marvelled at the spectacular scenery of white cliffs above the bay, a picturesque little harbor with a fish market, and hundreds of bright white houses stacked on top of each other in a desperate attempt to save space and pilfer a bit of shadow.

I learned about the end of the world from the newspaper.

It was really quite prosaic. I was having breakfast at my favorite place, in a reed chair under a green canopy, when I read about it.

One would say that they give it a larger headline. At least a letter per page or something. Well, it would be useless, I guess. The article about the end of the world does not need a bombastic headline.

I looked over the edge of the newspaper. In the distance, two toasts with butter lay on a tray on the table. A jar with raspberry jam. A cup of tea without sugar or milk.

Uh, so it's all over. Everything around is being burned by hard radiation, small annoying particles of energy from space, since a few hours. Even those toasts and jam. And tea. Not that they mind, unlike everything that lives.

In fact, nothing really matters to anything; only living creatures can suffer. That jam, for example, does not care that somewhere in orbit, an entire arsenal of nuclear warheads has exploded.

Apparently, it is important to wear sunglasses, the newspaper claimed. I smiled.

I suddenly realized that I didn't acknowledge the whole catastrophe more than the jam. It confused me a little. Reason demanded tears and regrets, but I had a strange feeling that it didn't concern me at all. Nothing could ruin that day for me.

The end, I repeated suggestively to realize the terrible truth, in a few months there will be no higher land animals, only insects and a few resistant species of plants. And man will probably disappear first, kill himself in the confusion he causes. Collapse of the world economy. Collapse of human values. The world will stop. Like in that fairy tale where a wizard cast a spell and all the wheels in the country suddenly stopped spinning. Looting shops, fighting for food and fighting for plain — oh, life. Sight will undoubtedly go away first. A rapid decline will follow. Cancer-crippled dying figures and decaying corpses. Cholera, typhus, black plague. A rapid rise of religions, for a short time, until all of us perish without any regard to our beliefs and ideals, along with the rest of the self-proclaimed messiahs, down to the last Jehovah's Witness. God is dead since a long time ago. Stuff of so many stories. The captain will be the first who leaves the ship. That is, the one who was convinced he was the captain.

We thought we were eternal. And yet only ants and lichens will remain. And fish. Then, in a few million years, perhaps some more dignified followers of humans will climb out of the sea. A new race, maybe some walking dolphins. And certainly here, in this place, a young dolphin will be sitting in my place one day, and she will be eating toast when someone telepathically announces the news to her. And again, new tenants will come. An immense cycle of civilizations beyond our comprehension ...

I closed my eyes for a moment and shook my head. I folded the newspaper, maybe the last newspaper that came out, in half and put it on the table. Then I got up and went to make new toast. I hate cold toasts.

Originally published in Slovak in 1993.

apocalypse civilization dolphin nuclear cyclic etenity future evolution story fiction