Everything else disappeared.
Krapp squeezed his thumb and forefinger. The screen collapsed onto the single email.
He felt somehow akin to this single message, floating in the aether. Humanity may no longer be alone among the stars, but Krapp was. Here, at the end of a long uneventful life, which had been interrupted far too briefly by the tonic effervescence of his wife, Bianca, one final message awaited him. Was it a promotional, sent from that unknown country wherein time and space were one? Or an advertisement by some enterprising theoretical business man selling negative-space real estate?
Krapp shivered. Perhaps it was a message from God himself, summoning him home in Courier Font. How many times had he taken the Lord’s name in vain in the last seventy years? What if God had a Digital Interface System, one that allowed him to hear every black oath that had ever been uttered using of His name.
Well, if that was the case then Krapp wouldn’t waste any more time. If now was his moment of truth, he would meet it with dignity, not dither and prevaricate, wasting months and years when now was his time. He had heard tales of old men and women who had become trapped on the Internet. They were carted away insensate, still attached to their devices. One rabbit hole too many. One message more.
He let the white finger linger atop the envelope. Its summary appeared.
“DO NOT DELETE this message. Our Dinosaurian resear…” That was all the box would allow.
Krapp cursed silently. That had done nothing to allay his curiosity!
That last word: was it “research” or “researchers”? And if the former did it mean research performed on the Dino-Clones or by them? It was amazing how the smallest words could make a world of difference.
Everybody knew of the Dino-Clone Corps. They were the finest peace-keepers the Federation had at its disposal. Or so President Putin maintained. Krapp himself remembered with revulsion the televised dispensation of citizenship to the first Dino-Clone solider, directly after the public implantation of an explosive near its carotid artery. The beast had been dressed in khaki fatigues. A hole had been punched through the rear seam to make room for its tail, which twitched expressively.
What a monstrosity. Just thinking about it….
A pop-up appeared on the interface’s edge, warning him that: “Increased excitement will result in defecation in approximately two minutes.”
The equipment with which he gazed upon the virtual world also peered into him. Two minutes and counting. Should he disengage so he didn’t shit his shorts accidentally or soldier on?
That was the problem with analytics and substantiation: knowing something was going to happen hastened its onset. Theologians, theoreticians and even economists had argued over this conundrum, but for Krapp probability mechanics no longer entertained him as they once had. In fact the idea of taking a good shit spurred on by adrenal impulse was much more exciting.
“What the F*ck,” he thought, and then speaking aloud. “Open. Message.”
He read the first lines: “President Vladimir Pushkin is pleading with you! Second Lady JeongSook Pushkin is begging you! We don’t know what else to do to get you to pay attention. THE BOMB HAS DROPPED!”
Not quite yet, Krapp thought glibly.
“In 2190, the Galactic Federation sent a team of DinoClonian researchers on a one-hundred year journey to Sagittarius A*.”
One hundred years ago? That was impossible. They had only been in existence for maybe twenty years. He read on.
“…we know your time is precious and we certainly don’t want to bore you with science or a lengthy explanation of Einsteinium relativity. Suffice to say that the fact that the research ship was moving towards the center of the solar system has meant that their message of warning, sent to their time, has been intercepted in ours! 100% of scientists agree with their findings. What they’ve discovered will change….”
Alright already! Krapp thought. Cut to the chase. He immediately scrolled down to the bottom of the message.
Well, that tore it. He had gone right past the important part!
Though his bladder cried out, and his ass, now numb, harbored a burgeoning payload, he had to know what the Dino-Clone research team had discovered.
He scrolled upwards until he found some words in bold letters: “…An Anti-Matter Entity has lain dormant in the nebular cradle of Sagittarius A* for eons. Their presence has awakened it and now it is growing with astounding speed, gobbling up nearby matter in its infant voracity. Scientists are not sure whether it will develop consciousness before reaching the Earth or even whether it is capable of reasoning as we humans understand it, but what we do know is we cannot wait to find out! Everything we know and cherish will be devoured in a matter of millennia!
“Will it really take the end of the world for you to chip in?
“Donate now to our humanity preservation pod, an ambitious project to digitally record the annals of human knowledge, from the works of Beethoven to Bieber, Sigmund Freud to Tony Robbins. You have our personal guarantee that somewhere in that good night, intelligent beings will intercept the preservation pod and put paid our fears of Universal obsolescence!
“A simple donation of §200 will ensure your name is added to the Virtual Ark. Humanity will be remembered. And you will too for this low, low price!”
So that was it. Everything was going to end in a few thousand years. Strangely, the first thing Krapp wondered was when people would stop having children. Would it be this generation or the next or a hundred years hence? He was glad now that he and his wife hadn’t had children. Not for the lack of trying, but he had met Bianca too late. He’d hummed and hawed as usual, and she had told him not having children was alright with her. He’d gotten her a Shin Hua proxy-dog instead. It’s astro-fur had been preternaturally smooth. That’s what the advert had called it: “preternatural fur.” Bianca used to sit with it on her lap, caressing the ridges of its face, those charming flaps of skin that hung in folds.
Still, he could have tried harder. He should have tried harder. What the hell, he thought, two hundred Bucks to get a name on the ledger. Why not?
He pressed the link and typed in—his hands always shook so much these days— Bianca Krapp.
They hadn’t been able to find her in the snow. Maybe someday they would find her in the stars.