The manned probe was the first of its kind. It was built for a crew of 5 people, and its mission was to fly beyond the bounds of our solar system. Engines and rockets were built using what few blueprints remained of the Nazi superweapon that had threatened the world only two decades ago. In 1965, man attempted to truly venture beyond. There were a lot of speeches, a lot of high minded optimism, and a lot of men on earth hungering for a life away from it. They were the ones who wanted it, but not the ones who did it. That fell to a few lucky astronauts who weren’t so keen on something so risky.
Captain George Reeder didn’t remember his crew’s names anymore. There was no way to send a transmission when the craft exploded. A wave of light bombarded them. He distinctly recalled a crewman mentioning that it wasn’t coming from the direction of the sun. It tore through the ship, and in an instant, it was reduced to a mass of debris.
George watched as his 4 crewmen choked and died in the vacuum of space. He remembered their drifting forms, still in the airless void.
For some reason, though, George didn’t die. He simply hovered in space, unharmed, but without a way to propel himself in any other direction, he spin in circles as he hurtled past the planets.
It was a disorienting experience, initially. He couldn’t figure out a way to slow his spin, and very quickly vomited out everything in his stomach within hours of the accident. He could reposition himself, but the spinning never ceased. He learned how to not let it bother him, and after what seemed like an eternity, he was able to simply sleep.
And sleep he did. There was nothing else to do, and he had no equipment or tools to communicate with anyone or anything. He was a man, spinning endlessly, shooting through space at an extremely fast speed. Immortality meant nothing if he had to spend it bored out of his mind.
Years passed. He spun. He felt himself leaving the solar system.
He wished he could finally be home. Everyone thought he was dead, and, if he was honest with himself, he was. There was no trace of him, and no trace of his crew. The ship had been reduced to nothing, and the rest of his crew was most likely turned to ash.
But then the light hit him. It didn’t happen instantly, though. George saw it moving towards him for a very long time. It moved very slowly—relative to his position in space and its distance from him. He waited for a very long time, trying to think of what it could possibly be.
It was a curtain of light, shining in a nearly endless array of color. Beams of gold seemed to fly from it, giving it the look of a spiked ball.
He hoped it would kill him. If he died, then everyone back home mourning him wouldn’t be lying to themselves. He wouldn’t be forced to come home again, and tell them that they lied to themselves, and that he was actually alive all this time.
He wanted to die, but if his body could survive years in the vacuum of space, then he feared that nothing would truly be able to kill him. He was afraid that his immortality was total and all-encompassing.
There was no comfort in that. He feared that he would suffer forever without any way to lessen or even end it. And what is an existence of suffering without a way to end it, or even mitigate that suffering?
It was horror. It wasn’t living. It was simply a way to mark time until the end came, and even then he might survive it.
I will never be, ever again, he thought. His mind was consumed almost exclusively by thoughts of what he’d like to do to die. He imagined a chair with a noose, breaking his neck when he kicked it from under his feet. A fistful of pills along with a bottle of his favorite bourbon. That would be a nice way to go. Just kick back and let sleep take you.
He could put a gun to his head and pull the trigger, splattering his brain all over the walls. Destroy his ability to live instantly. That would be pretty nice. He would like that. A simple and easy way to end his suffering.
It would all be a hell of a lot better than the life he had to live right now.
He was so totally entranced by imagining increasingly elaborate ways to kill himself that he didn’t notice when the light hit him. It filled his vision and bombarded every inch of his body in the most intense heat he had ever felt. His uniform burned away, leaving him completely naked in space, trapped within a golden ball of radiation.
He didn’t resist it at all. He had hoped for this moment for what felt like eternity. He could finally die now! He could know that all of the framed photographs wreathed in flowers, the pomp and circumstance of his and his crew’s funeral, the tears the entire world would shed for him and his comrades—it would all be completely true now. No more holding out hope, no more looking up at the stars and thinking “maybe they’re wrong”.
But something happened. He stopped spinning. He started moving in the opposite direction. He started moving back to the solar system, and very fast. Faster than he thought possible.
His muscles tightened and felt like they were going to explode. His mind opened to the vast possibilities of the universe. He saw himself as a part of it, a cog in the vast machinery of existence.
And he grew so strong. Stronger than even he thought possible. The light was giving him life.
And he hated it. This was the true toll of his power.