Gateways: “Eternity” by Jake Baker

This story is written by Jake Baker, who mainly writes plays, one acts, and short stories but has started dabbling in television screenplays at the behest of friends. He tells us he is a cleverly dumbfounded writer with an existential overtone. He will forever be laughing at the moments most would find dark and humorless. This is “Eternity”.

“Do you hear that?”, Josie said as we turned the corner heading home. In truth, I couldn’t hear anything. The headphones in my ears blasting Smashing Pumpkins as loud as I could stand made sure of that. In truth, it’s a miracle I could even hear at all. The sound she was trying to draw my attention to turned out to be a high-pitched whine that preceded an explosion. In time, I would find out that it was a nuclear research facility in Grovesgrove that had undergone some sort of malfunction and instead of trying to fix the issue, a lab assistant threw his coffee at part of the machine. This turned out to be a bad idea. Hot tip: don’t do drugs and operate particle accelerators.

I would say that we had about a minute and twenty seconds before the wind from the blast hit us. Every leaf from the trees around us flew into the air and we got knocked on our ass. Before that happened, however, we saw a flash of blinding light from the east and a cloud of smoke rising in the air. Imagine a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb, only right up close and about five times the size. We saw the cloud rise up into the air and after we picked ourselves up off the ground, we saw it get sucked back into the tree-line. What happened next can only be described in the following way: Imagine the color black. The black you see when you close your eyes and after all the noise goes away. The black you see when all of the sudden the lights go out in your city. The black you see when you open the basement door and peer down into the depths and think to yourself, “Yep, if I go down there, I will definitely get killed by something.” Now double it. Now triple it. You still have not come close to how dark this was. In seconds it was on us. Engulfing. All-encompassing. Black.

Next was a sensation of tingling that intensified into burning. Then it felt like a million people took tiny needles and poked me all at once. This grew and grew as if the needles were puncturing the skin and then puncturing muscle and on into bone. Then the needles grew to twice the size. Triple the size. Quadruple the size. Until butcher knives were carving me into a trillion little pieces. But the worst was the noise. It splintered into my ears at a register I’m certain humans aren’t supposed to hear. It grew louder and louder until I was sure my ears were bleeding. My head felt like it was being crushed by the weight of the noise all around me. As if the sound had grown into fifteen thousand bodybuilders all putting their weight into crushing my skull. If you can imagine a tenth of what that feels like, then I say that you madame or monsieur, have suffered in your life, and I truly apologize for anything and everything that has happened to you.

And then… Nothing. The black was still there, but I felt nothing. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. For a solid hour I waited weightlessly and weary from the ordeal I had just undergone. As if whatever was out there amidst the black knew that I needed some time to myself before coming at me with what was next. Slowly I started to feel something. It’s the feeling you get when you’re alone in a room, but you feel as if you’re suddenly not alone. You feel something at the nape of your neck. Something that breathes ever-so-slightly, but when you turn around? Nothing. For me, something was out there in the black, waiting.

When the hour was up, I started to feel like I was falling. But there wasn’t any wind. Just that sensation in the pit of your stomach. I tried to turn my body one way or the other, but I was still aching from everything that had happened, so even trying to move my fingers came with great agony. I fell, silently in the black for what seemed like millions of miles. Millions of seconds. This gave me some time to think. Because how else do you spend an eternity in nothingness?

I hadn’t been the best person. Especially to Josie. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s no Saint Theresa either, but she was nicer than I was. I couldn’t help but think that this was my punishment for being a little shit. I treated my sister like she was stupid, when I should have been loving life the way she did. Free and simple, never a care in the world. To a certain extent it really pissed me off that nothing could make her mad. Annoying, really, when you think about. Pretty sure the reason I started being mean to her was because I wanted to see if I could get a rise out of her for any reason. Only once did I manage this. It was her eighth-grade dance, and I told her date that she already left for the dance without him. I’m sure that was the last straw in a barn full of hay, but that night she kicked me in the vagina and punched me as hard as she could in the boob. Up until the incident with the needles I’d say that was the most pain I’ve ever felt. Mom said, “You get what you get,” and Dad chuckled while he helped me up off the porch and inside. My parents are great, but even they were like, “We told you so.”

Thoughts about how to be a better person came and went while I was in this freefall. I ultimately came to the conclusion that if Josie was still alive somehow, she’d be better off without me. It’s probably for the best. My death would make her even stronger and she would probably end up curing cancer or something. Me, on the other hand, I was never going to do anything with my life. Honestly, I was surprised I made it this far. Twenty isn’t a bad age to get booted off this mortal plane. I knew I wasn’t making it to twenty-five just based off the shear amount of drugs and cigarettes I was smoking. And the drinking. Oh, the drinking. Pretty much solidified that this gal ain’t sticking around to play in the big leagues, if you catch my drift.

It was about this time that the sensation of falling stopped. I had arrived, it seems, wherever this little journey was taking me. I could move my fingers and toes. So I moved onto other joints and limbs, moving them as freely as I had done while living. I sat up, as if there was a floor beneath me, but it was still so black, I couldn’t tell what it was. Felt solid, so we’ll call it a floor for now. I stood, wavy and bumbling about, for a total of three seconds, before I fell over. I tried to stand again only to fall over once more because my balance couldn’t be found. Push with hands, step with left foot, step with right, try to stand up, fall over. Repeat ad nauseum.

After a while I laid on my back staring up into the void. I laid there for another million seconds that turned into a million minutes. I started thinking again, but this time as I started to form thoughts, little specks of light began flashing throughout the void. It looked like stars twinkling just too far out of reach. After a while they started getting brighter and brighter. Lines began to form between some of the little stars, and before I could comprehend it, a flash of light burst through the nothingness and blinded me. I raised my hand to my face and peered through my fingers at the light show being created above me. Magnificent colors connected dot among flashing dot throughout the void until it was all around me. What looked like nebulas phasing in and out of existence. A billion little lights flashing like fireworks among the dark sky.

And then one blew up in my face. It was blinding and burned like someone had shoved a soldering iron into my eyes. I regained sight momentarily only to have another flash go off in my face again. Same burning, but now a thousand times worse. I gained enough balance to get my ass up and start running from the lights, but everywhere I went another one would go off in my face, making sure to let me know they were saying, “hey, look at me, I’m amazing! I’ll burn my image into your skull, just so you know how awesome and glorious I am!”

Again, this went on for so long I got used to it. Just like the falling. Just like trying to stand. I finally sat on the floor and watched as billions and billions of lights blow up all around me. Many of them in my face. After millions and millions of seconds this slowed. After that it was quite beautiful. I saw colors I had never imagined form in front of my burning retinas. Swirls of lights and patterns of color formed all around me. After a while the particles and colors started to meld together and form bigger globs of particles and colors. (I’m sure you see where this headed) The globs then formed with other globs, which formed a sort of swirling globular mass, which then started to swirl around one of the bigger swirling stars. Finally I got it. Obviously, a fucking solar system was being formed all around me. This was amazing, except for the fact that a fucking solar system was being formed all around me. After a while I started dodging debris from the mass hurling around and around at incredible speeds.

And then one of them hit me. Ripped clean through me. No blood was shed, but there was a burning hole left where the molten rock had shot right through me. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. More and more molten pieces of rock ripped through me. I tried to dodge as many as possible, but alas. A million little pieces ripped through my body and finally they converged into one giant piece that hit me so hard I shattered into a billion tiny fragments. Don’t worry, though, I was still alive, so to speak, as an anguishing consciousness that felt all the pain my body was going through as the planets were formed. I thought the needles were bad but having molten pieces of rock rip your body into billions of tiny pieces is much, much worse. After a while, the anguish my body was feeling subsided. Mainly because there was nothing left of my body to feel anything. “At least”, I thought, “I can’t feel any more pain”.

It’s funny, when you think you’re done with one thing, the universe just throws something else at you. Yeah, my body was gone, so physical pain was a no-go, but oh, buddy, that’s when the emotional pain hit me. I watched the earth form. From the first spin around the sun. To the moon getting ejected from the molten sphere. To the dinosaurs getting wrecked by that asteroid. To the middle ages. All the way up until the day I died and beyond.

As a floating consciousness you can pretty much go wherever and do whatever, so I poked around the day it all blew up. That’s how I found out about the drugged-up scientist, and the nuclear research facility, and what happened to make that explosion. Turns out, the drugged-up scientist got the drugs from my friend Fink. Not his real name. But he sold them to Jeffreys, the scientist, because I had said I was going to lay off the drugs for a while to “try to get my shit together”. So, crazy as it may seem, the reason a nuclear-powered particle accelerator exploded is because I didn’t buy drugs from my dealer. If he hadn’t thrown coffee on it, it would have been fine. A much smaller explosion would have happened. Some people would’ve gotten hurt, but it would’ve been fine. It wouldn’t have resulted in a mini black hole getting unleashed on the world. I saw the explosion happen and I rode the gust of wind all the way to where me and my sister stood watching the subsequent chaos. I watched as my body was vaporized by the blast instantly, and I watched as the same thing happened to my sister. Turns out she doesn’t live past the explosion, and neither does the world. After the surrounding life within the vicinity got vaporized, the rest of the world was sucked into the black hole. And so was Mars. And Venus. And Mercury. And Jupiter, the Sun, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. The Milky Way

Somehow, I don’t know how, I got pulled into the black hole right as I was vaporized. And now here I am, watching as it devours everything in its path. Nine planets and a Galaxy down, trillions to go. And the only words I have at the moment are, “Black Holes Suck.”

Rachel Granda Gluski is a Chicago based voice actor and movement professional. She currently enjoys working with radio play companies Starlight Radio Dreams and Locked into Vacancy Entertainment. She also performs every summer with the Bristol Renaissance Faire. When she’s not performing she enjoys being a huge nerd and hanging out with her cats.

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