I know my eyes look sunken without actually touching them. They always do, now days.
I can feel them—them—both pressed against my chest, just above my heart, and for the first time in eons, I push a smile onto my face. This will be it, then. One last swipe, one last… Ending. But it was worth it, wasn't it?
I have to believe that it was. If I didn't, I'd have put a bullet in my head a long time ago. Or a knife in my gut. Or a grith behind my ear. Depends on the universe, after all. As I drum my fingers along the ark, I allow myself to reminisce. I only do it now, at the end. It's the only time I dare to. Because I'm sure that—at any other moment—my conscience would get the better of me. It's odd, I admit, thinking like that. I'd thought it was gone, along with Alyssa, but it's still there. It nags at me.
Leaving home was hard, after all. Quite hard. Not just for me emotionally, but… the science there, I couldn't begin to fully comprehend. Imagine, just for a moment, you're floating above the world. Now, imagine it suddenly being stabbed open by some invisible, incomprehensible thing. The world cracking open like a filthy, blue egg—oceans falling down the sides helplessly, the lava generating huge gouts of steam. And an uneven keening sound. You may imagine that it's the sudden steam, but I've lived long enough to know better.
Now… imagine falling into that. Falling and falling and falling until you hit the ground. And when you get up… it looks like the same, damned place. The same people. Evolution is, if nothing else, remarkably consistent.
Now, do that for a thousand lifetimes. And tell me you don't feel guilt.
I feel old. And I am old. But I'm also nearly done. After this one, I should be able to put my work to use… To change things for the better. Which made it so much worse when you walked in my office. And I knew, when you looked at me, what you were about to do.
"I can explain," I say. But the gun is leveled at my chest. And I know that I'm out of supplies. I reach into my pocket quietly, pulling out the key card and my diary.
"You don't know what this means for you," I say.
"It means you aren't going to kill us all," you respond.
I stand up. I look at you closely and shake my head. "No. It means that you'll have to. The key code is Thaum—"
The shot echoes in the small room, and I feel the hollow point hitting my chest like a sledge hammer, feel ribs splintering and sinking into my lung, my organs being ravaged. And I smile. And I laugh. And through bloody spittle, I manage to barely gasp enough breath to speak.
"Good luck," I say. You're not smiling.
And I hope, for the millionth time, that all universes share one heaven. And I hope, for the millionth time, that I can see you in it from my special hell.