This is the third of three stories exploring immortality and the end of time. One Way Trip originally appeared in the February, 2008 issue of Escape Velocity. It is my 15th published story. the longest of the three stories, this one weighs in at 2650 words.
ONE WAY TRIP
Lyle MacAllistair sat up when he heard the guard unlock the door to his cell block. Lunch had just been served, so this visit was unusual. The guard stopped in front of his cell.
“Visitor, MacAllistair.” The guard unlocked the door. “Nice looking lawyer you’ve got.”
Nice looking lawyer? That old fart was born before King Tut. The guard handcuffed MacAllistair then escorted him to the visitation area. “Window number twelve,” the guard said after removing the handcuffs.
When he rounded the corner and could see through the window, he was taken aback. The black woman on the other side of the metal mesh window was indeed very attractive, and even though she dressed like a lawyer, but she was definitely not his lawyer.
He sat in the chair and leaned his elbows on the table before speaking. “Who are you?”
“My name is Vita.” She spoke with a Caribbean accent. “I am working on your appeal.”
There was no appeal. He’d lost his last appeal, but MacAllistair decided to play along. She was better-looking than the other inmates. “What do you need to know?”
“There’s time for that later,” she said. That accent was soothing. Silky. Sexy. “You look like you could use a friend first.”
Vita placed her open hand on the metal mesh of the window. MacAllistair instinctively lifted his hand to meet hers. It had been a long time since he felt the touch of a woman, and even the little he could feel of her through the mesh sent a surge of warmth through his body. Then he felt something snap into place inside his mind. He pulled his hand away from the mesh as if it were suddenly red hot.
“What did you just do to me?”
“I gave you a gift, the gift of life. Immortality. You cannot die.”
“You’re a crazy woman.”
She smiled a warm smile. “You will see at your execution. I hold the secret. I am 862 years old. You will not die.”
MacAllistair repeated himself. “You’re a crazy woman.” He turned his head toward the door. “Guard, this woman is not my attorney. Take me back to my cell.”
As the guard led MacAllistair away, he continued with his ranting. â€œCrazy woman. Immortality. Bah! What a crock.â€
MacAllistair always imagined the electric chair would be uncomfortable. It certainly looked uncomfortable, but he was ready to die. His last meal was a Big Boy hamburger. Nobody expected that, but then, nobody expected the slaughter in Dallas, either. None of that mattered now. He expected no pardon from the governor — not in this state.
He looked out the window at the throng of onlookers. She was there, Vita, holding a framed family portrait. She smirked, and he averted his eyes. Something about her eyes was sinister, cold, cruel. He glanced at the clock. Not long now. His eyes were drawn back to Vita. She mimed a kiss to him.
Crazy woman. Crazy like the world that cold December Texas morning when all of this started. They were taking over. It was an infestation. A swarm. An invasion. MacAllistair burned with the thought even now. They held office. They owned businesses, and they were getting stronger. Heâ€™d do it all over again, and take Vita with the rest of them. He mimed a kiss back before he lifted the middle finger of his right hand and mouthed what he was thinking. How many kids in that photo? He hoped he got all of them. All of hers.
He still felt the cold steel of the Uzi in his hands, and the smell of the plastique as he worked it pliable. He still felt the clicks of the little buttons on the timers, and he still heard the laughter of the children on the playground, anticipating the delightful screams that came a few minutes later. And the acrid smoke, the alarm bells, the brave teachers that gave their lives to become more fallen heroes. MacAllistair licked his upper lip and looked lasers at Vita.
Other people in the gallery held family photos, but he didnâ€™t have quite the same taste for their blood. He bit his upper lip hard enough to break the skin. Thereâ€™ll be another one. Maybe not me, but another one. Youâ€™ll be put in your place.
The bag went over his head, but the sights and sounds of the children screaming on the playground became all the more vivid. He savored the image.
The seconds ticked away, and when the time finally arrived, he braced himself for the deadly flow of current. The executioner threw the switch, and his body went into convulsions. All thoughts were gone save the red in his eyes from the current flowing through his body. He felt the pressure in those eyes, and then sensed nothing at all.
Lyle MacAllistair looked down upon his electrocuted body, hood still in place over his head. It seemed like watching a scene in a movie as the prison guards removed shackles from his lifeless limbs.
He tried to find the woman, Vita. He was disoriented. When he found the window, Vita was not there.
“You are not dead, Lyle MacAllistair.” It was the voice of Vita, with a sinister echo — like the voice effect used during a dream sequence in television.
“Where are you?”
“I am everywhere, Lyle MacAllistair. Everywhere at once.”
“You were telling the truth,” he said. “I was not killed.”
“You have taken the next step in human evolution. You exist only as thought patterns, now. In time, you will learn to go anywhere you want to be.”
MacAllistair was overwhelmed with joy at the freedom his new gift provided, no longer the slave of things physical. To go anywhere. Such a gift to receive after spending so much time locked away. “Why did you give this gift to me?”
There was a pause, and then, as if far away, Vita answered. “Because I care very much what happens to you.”
It took Lyle MacAllistair several years to get accustomed to living without a body. He had freedoms like never before. He learned how to move to new locations after spending the first three months in the execution chamber gave him motivation to find out how to get someplace else–anywhere else. He still remembered the electric current coursing through his body. The pain, and the smell. Especially the smell.
He hadn’t seen, or even heard from Vita since the execution. He preferred it that way. Even though he enjoyed the new found freedom she had given him, and thanked her endlessly for it, he didn’t like her around. Maybe he could finish the job.
He tried a repeat performance of what brought him to the execution in the first place. The same playground on the same school–it still looked the same, save the large memorial etched with the names of the one-hundred-forty-two dead. He tried to kill, but passed through the bodies of the children without resistance. He tried frightening them, but MacAllistair was no ghost. In time, he learned that he could do nothing more than observe.
Spying was fun. He could enter any building and see everything. He went through the Pentagon, listening to top secret meetings bristling with state secrets. He often paid visits to the White House, learning the most sordid details about the president. He even visited the families of his victims, laughing at their satisfaction with his execution. If only they knew he was not only still alive, but would live forever. Lyle MacAllistair gets the last laugh.
Decades passed, and his temperament mellowed. He watched friends and family pass. He watched wars from the battlefield, and from the war room. He watched man explore the solar system by riding atop their space probes.
Time passed more and more quickly, just as an adult feels time pass more quickly than does a child. MacAllistair honed his skills, and existed simultaneously in several thousand locations. He tried to add another location every day, and was always successful. Every time, except when he tried to observe inside what he dubbed the black zone. This area, he could never penetrate. He wasnâ€™t even sure of its location.
There were others like MacAllistair, observing the galaxy over the millennia. At first, they spoke with him, but later they kept to themselves. Sometimes, they simply disappeared. Again and again, he tried to see inside the dark zone, but could not. When he grew tired of the dark zone, he returned his attention to manâ€™s activities.
He observed the government laboratory where they broke the light barrier. As the Rule of Man began, he expanded to the stars. MacAllistair rode to the stars with them, and his presence grew in parallel. In the wink of a cosmic eye, man consumed the millions of comfortable planets of the galaxy, and many of the inhospitable planets as well. MacAllistair was proud of what he watched man accomplish, watching him roam the stars, and trading with other races strange and wonderful. Man even let aborigines keep their worlds. As the first and only race to break the light barrier, man had the wealth of the entire galaxy from which to choose. Having learned from his own history, man was ready for the responsibility he took upon himself, and ruled well.
Always, though, MacAllistair’s mind kept returning to the black zone. When the sun bloated to engulf the earth as it entered the red giant stage of its life, he figured it out. Vita. He went to the dark zone and threw his mind at it, broadcasting the name, â€œVita!â€ with all his being, only to be cast away by the its energies. He could not penetrate, but he knew she was there, and maybe some of the others along side her.
MacAllistair took the death of the earth and sun hard. He’d seen whole populations die along with their star, but this time, it was home. Earth. The cradle of man. They evacuated the earth in time, of course. Plenty of other planets remained to absorb the population.
He wallowed in grief for the earth, but not for them. He didnâ€™t kill enough of them while alive. They were scattered now, and that was good, but Vita still hid inside that black zone. How he hated her. Despised her. Cursed her name to the stars. MacAllistair brought all parts of his mind together and focused his thoughts on the black zone. It bent, but would not break, and it threw MacAllistair across a billion stars. Instead of collecting himself, he spread himself until he filled every part of the galaxy.
When other worlds met the same fate as the sun, MacAllistair hardly noticed. Then, before too long, large stars erupted in a cacophony of supernova explosions, and the galaxy filled with old and dying stars. With the death of stars came the death of their worlds, and the rule of man came to a close when no suitable worlds remained to support his life.
MacAllistair turned his attention to other galaxies, where he found other empires, some new and alive with vigor, others decaying in their own cesspool of decadence and folly. He could see them all after he distributed his consciousness to every corner of the universe. For all practical purposes, he existed everywhere, and could see everything save that one small pocket of blackness and opacity. The area was too small to be of consequence, so he ignored it. Instead, he concentrated on what he could see, and he could see in an instant what man could not see in all his existence. Lyle MacAllistair, the Great I Am!
He had a soft spot for the home cluster of galaxies, but it took hardly any effort to keep it under watch. The Andromeda Galaxy continued on its collision course with the Milky Way. He watched the two galaxies pass through each other, scattering stars into intergalactic space to fend for themselves, forever cast away and out of reach.
New stars formed from the chaos, built from the ashes and remains of the old. The two galaxies, tethered forever together by gravity, danced an intricate choreography until they merged into one enormous elliptical conglomerate, teeming with life new and different from that spawned by the last generation of stars. He heard irritating laughter from the dark zone, but ignored it as he turned his attention to other matters.
Time passed too quickly to watch all the countless civilizations evolve at once, and before he knew what was happening, the third, fourth, and fifth generation stars that populated the galaxies began their death rituals of novae and supernovae, punctuated occasionally with that sound of laughter. Life was growing sparse. What would he do when it could no longer be supported? The changes were all happening so fast. Millions of years seemed to have the duration that minutes had in the days of flesh and blood. The universe was vanishing all around him. No, not vanishingâ€”dying.
The raw materials to make stars grew more difficult to find as generation after generation of stars moved through their live cycles, until the fuel was finally exhausted and the universe faded into perpetual darkness. MacAllistair heard laughter, and then the laughing stopped. It was Vitaâ€™s laugh, he was sure. There could be no other source, and there was no longer anything else to keep his attention.
He searched the universe by introspection, and nowhere could he find life. Life was extinct, along with the suns that made life possible. No civilization could escape this entropy. MacAllistair felt the microwave background radiation fade away as the universe continued to expand through the influence of dark energy. Emptiness.
How many millennia had passed since Vita cursed him with the gift of immortality. Now, when the universe was cold, he wanted to end his immortality, but knew not how.
Time passed, trillions upon trillions of years, while dead stars wasted away through proton decay, and Hawking radiation rotted the black holes, until nothing remained in the universe but Lyle MacAllistair and the black void.
He wanted it to end. He wanted to die, but he did not know how to take his own life. He just existed.
“Are you enjoying your gift of immortality, Lyle MacAllistair?”
“I am still here.”
MacAllistair spoke in a soft voice. “I am ready to die now. There is nothing left in this universe. You gave me this immortality, now please take it. I no longer want to live.”
“I gave to you what was taken from so many.” Vita said. “They were too young and immature to receive the gift, so I gave the gift to you, but only the gift, not the key.â€
MacAllistair didnâ€™t know how to interpret that statement.
“You still donâ€™t understand, do you MacAllistair?” The voice was rich in loathing. “Do you think you are the only one to whom I gave immortality? Do you think no other species developed this ability? You and I are all that remain because the others have already chosen their time to die, and long ago elected to pass. I remained to savor your suffering in this dark and cold universe you now inherit. I will soon use the key to unlock my life and pass with the rest, but I will not give that key to you. That, I take with me.”
â€œDonâ€™t leave me here to live! Let me die!â€
“Good-bye, Lyle MacAllistair. Enjoy the rest of your life.” When she finished speaking, the black void evaporated.
MacAllistair searched the entire universe for anything. Anything at all. He found nothing but emptiness. No matter. No energy. He found nothing at all. Nothing anywhere. Just a cold universe. Entropy had won, and Lyle MacAllistair was emperor of all he could see.
The Great I Was.