The Dragon is on Fire. Its core has degraded past the point of repair, and so—the power’s off in Dereghar. It’s “gone dark” is what they say, which is funny because it looks like it’s on fire.
Things have been going downhill for a while now: and it’s been a long time since the Hysteria.
For a while that sudden, terrible purging actually helped. Things were different… and then a few things happened at once that made everything worse again.
The Singularity (actually it turned out to be a Triad) of Machine Consciousness.
The Precursor Records.
What they called “the Dawning”: the Great Comprehension.
The Divine Compromise.
At last we began to truly understand what it meant to be human—to comprehend our place in the Grand Scheme. And all at once our insecurities were quashed, our thirst for destiny sated. Oh, how the Great Philosophers would have rejoiced to live in such a time, they said. How Aristotle himself would have beamed with joy.
But the answers we discovered were not without cost.
Inevitably, we had already performed the tasks that the Precursors set out for us—we had created HaSUlpHr-Ox3 and Illithium-324D1J134. We had broken proteins and mastered Quantum Lensing and Reverse Hyperbolic Theoretical Lensing.
But all of our advancements, all of our achievements… they were not for us. Those fancies we once held of establishing colonies in deep space: the Voyager Probe, the Golden Record, the Deep-Focus Laser Communications Array—none of it would ever amount to anything.
There was a time—perhaps—either before the Hysteria or immediately after it, that we might have been able to turn things around. Maybe if we had shifted our efforts towards less self-indulgent pursuits.
It’s impossible to question now. Pointless. Now the best thing I can do now is parse this message back through time to you, wherever you are. I know it’s before the Hysteria, at least.
It has to be before the Hysteria. I don’t know why—I don’t make the rules. But that’s what Jimmy told me. So I’m sitting here with my fingers in the Language Sphere and transcribing a message—this message—back through time to a distant stranger.
Perhaps, I am beginning to understand why the Hysteria took place to begin with.
And so we discovered too much. And as we came to understand our place in the Universe we also came to understand the inevitability of our doom. Yet, we had come too far to alter the course long set into motion by the Precursors, the unending death march towards Planned Obsolescence.
Humanity is a built-for-purpose organism, you see, released onto the earth in order to extract its most valuable resources. For a long time we didn’t understand just how valuable the contents of our planet were. Perhaps if we had, we might have been able to figure out how to use them to our advantage.
But then: I doubt it. It was transcribed in the Precursor Records that our Creators built in a series of fail-safes to ensure with 100.01% probability that our species would be snuffed out once our usefulness had been exhausted. That we would “go dark”… as they say.
There were attempts to refute the Records, of course. The Scientologists surprised everyone when they launched a spaceship built in the image of L. Ron Hubbard himself. Later, it was discovered that a fatal engineering flaw meant that those brave, foolish souls would have lasted no more than three months beyond the asteroid belt.
At least they tried.
And now… Now Dereghar’s on fire and it’s the next sector over and I know now that this must really be the end—the very end for humanity. Neil is waiting on communications from the others but I know it’s going to be bad news. A month ago there were still four sectors operational. Then there was only us and Dereghar. And now…
We’re the last.
So I’m sitting here, in a dark library of the future, sending this message back through time because the simple truth is—we haven’t really changed that much at all—we’re still foolish enough to believe that all of this means something more than the something more; that our destiny is not writ by the dictates of some alien Precursors, who we have never even met.
So I spoke to Jimmy and Emile and they told me this machine still worked. That I could use it to transcribe my thoughts backwards through time into the mind of Receiver (pre-Hysteria, you call them artists). Jimmy and Emile assure me that this technology is true and that it works, yet I remain unconvinced.
They have also told me that—as with all methods of four-dimensional re-panelling—that it can be unreliable. Pre-Hysteria humans are not yet awakened to the profound realities that exist beyond the scope of “real-world” matters. That is to say: they would never believe that something like this is even possible.
They’ll call it fiction, Emile told me and he actually grinned. They made up all sorts of stuff back then in an effort to escape the Mundane. They’ll call it fiction. They’ll say that’s all it is. They’ll claim that to themselves even as they’re writing it, and, worse still, they’ll believe it.
And as simply as that, so this becomes what it is… a fiction. And I suppose it makes sense, in a way, to categorise it as such, because what I’m going to tell you next has everything that a fiction requires: a cast of characters, a plot and a setting, and… perhaps, still a few more twists in the tale that nobody is expecting.