(Once a week, on Wednesdays, I’ll be posting a short piece of fiction. It will be part of a larger work, or its own self-contained story. Enjoy.)
She couldn’t remember how long it had been since the world ended—in truth, it had ended so many times before that keeping track of a specific apocalypse seemed like a waste of time. The wheel would turn, and entire existences—universes; populated with people, animals, and divinities, unreal and real; rules of nature and physics and chemistry; cultures of every imaginable size and organic level (some wholly inorganic and artificial, from living beings to entirely synthetic people); solar systems, galaxies, entirely separate planes of reality that occupied parallel multiversal space—would rise and fall, each constructing their own idea of greatness, only to crumble and decay, turn to dust.
And it was nearly always by their own hands—she could count the number who hadn’t on one hand. The questions inherent in Fermi’s Paradox always seemed to ask themselves, regardless of his existence in a particular universe. Interstellar travel would be discovered, refined, perfected, and then life would end in calamity, no matter what precautions were taken.
The distances would be too far, even with current technology, and first contact was impossible, leaving planets to whither and die without ever truly touching the stars.
First contact would be made, only to collapse into slaughter—war was never equal in those timelines.
Or intercivilizational contact would be established and peace made, but unplanned disasters would kill them off. There would be survivors, of course—there always were. But they would never be enough to truly rebuild and last. Those scenarios would last for a time—a year, a decade, a century, even a millennia—but there was never enough left to truly regain a foothold in a cold and uncaring universe. Hope would never truly leave them, and it was painful to see it carry them so far to a truly hopeless end.