It was spring now, but in an instant, in the blink of an eye, it would be autumn. The passage of time no longer held meaning. From his vantage point, atop the precipice between the universe and what distant possibilities lie beyond, he stood and looked up and down the vast, expansive timeline. Humanity’s accomplishments, from first to last, sat arrayed before him as though polished awards locked in a dusty case. There was a smile…if you could call it that…perhaps rather a feeling of satisfaction, a swelling of pride in knowing all they had done, and how far it had led them.
He was part of the whole. One, yet many. Free of form, devoid of substance, a wisp, bright and magnificent, the sheer power of thought made manifest and given free reign over all that exists. Now, free to survey his past and his future, time held no mysteries as he pulled back the pages to view the earlier times. For him, the earlier times were both before and now. His mind’s eyes grew wider as at last he found what he was looking for. An age countless millennia before was pulled sharply into focus, and became the present. He looked downward, and dove into the page.
Pictures became people, that which had happened was happening again, as multitudes scurried about on their important task. There were stones to haul…great blocks of sandstone, cut by human toil and sweat, hoisted onto rollers by a hundred sturdy backs tanned to leather by an uncaring sun. Theirs was a cruel time; crude medicine, relentless heat, a life of privation, sickness and early death. Yet here they came together, each to donate a few of his precious years to doing something that would prove immortal, even if he himself would not. Though the memory of how they did this would die with them, the great pile of stones they left in the desert would not. In the greatest of ironies, amidst all the futility that was the early efforts of man, this was one effort that would have its intended consequence. They worked to grant their king, a god among men, immortality. They would succeed in doing exactly that.
Instinctively, he reached out, as a child reaches forth absently to fondle models in a museum display, yet he thought better of it, and quietly withdrew. All of this had happened this way before, and would happen this way again. There would be those who would exhaust themselves and die, who would perish from their wounds, yet he could not help them. They were already dead, and would continue to die forever. All things had played out as they should, and to disrupt the cycle would be to end his existence, and close the book forever.
He turned, and now the world was almost new. Great ferns, tall as trees with heavy trunks, shaded the world from a young and angry sun, the darkness beneath their fronds forming a nursery for the youngest, earliest stirrings of life. Insects grew outsized, while great armored amphibians hauled their ungainly bodies from the water to stare dimly at the sky. With seas of trilobites and stands of lycopods, this was not his world. It was strange, alien, as though orbiting a distant star. The strange creatures who roamed its surface had no idea what this place was capable of…what it would one day become.
Reaching forward, he grasped the timeline, and set it to spinning forward. It stopped right where he wanted it to. This was now…or at least as close to now as any of them understood the concept. Earth was silent…as were the other myriad worlds of man. The world of their origin was wild again, overgrown and surrendered to the nature from which man had borrowed it. The cities crumbled, the herds reclaimed their ancestral grounds. Great floods of bison now ranged once more across the American plains, elephants and wildebeest on the African savannah. It had been so long, most likely they’d forgotten what it felt like to fear the net, the spear, the gun…it had been generations since any beast of Earth had actually seen a human. Their world had forgotten them. It was almost hurtful…for a dozen millennia, they had hunted and built, cleared and fought, shed blood and broken bread. Less than a century removed from their departure, and their home world was hard at work removing every lingering trace of their presence. It was as though they had never been.
There was a touch from behind him…if you could call it that. The others beckoned, it was time to leave. He turned away to depart, yet for a moment he could not, and instead he lingered. Looking back, he took a final, fleeting glance at the faces…every human who had lived and died. They had lived out their lives never knowing that everything they did would lead to one, final generation. The last generation…a generation never to die, yet in some ways never to live, either. Free from matter, free from form, thought and mind power personified, boundless…endless. He smiled, a silent “thank you” for every sacrifice that had made possible man’s final, ultimate triumph. Then it was gone. Then he was nowhere. The great white light, soft and clear, enveloped him; he was back with the others again. As always, they would want to hear where he’d been…want to see what he saw. He would show them all, as he always did.
It was important to remember. To appreciate where one is, one must remember how far one has traveled to get there. To remain humble, one must always remember the sacrifices of others that helped propel them to their destination. It had been so long…others may have forgotten, but he never would. And so long as one of them remembered, the memory would live on until the end of time.
Their world may have forgotten them, but they must never forget. Even in this new era where time was meaningless, the past was important, and so it would remain…until it happened again.