Back in 2008, Livejournal conducted a flash fiction contest where 500-word-stories had to be written on the theme: journal. They gave us a sop saying that all selected stories ‘might’ go into a published book, and we were allowed to send in more than one entry. I sent in five.
I’m serializing them on this blog. This is the third story. You can read the second here.
With five minutes to go, Akshay eyed his final resting place with relative calm. He had had long enough to get used to, and ultimately even like, the idea. Sitting down near his coffin, he let out a tired groan. He was no longer as young as he used to be. It was not going to be long now, though. Just one final task remained.
He flicked the switch for the global Beacon. Powered by the water of the seas, the Beacon sent out frequency-modulated light pulses in all directions. The message it sent out was only eight pulses long – the digits of the number pi to seven decimal places – but it was relayed over and over again. The Beacon would not stop until it drained Earth’s oceans dry.
Akshay smiled sadly behind his flowing white beard. It was man’s desperate cry for attention.
Humanity hoped that some day in the future, those pulses will hit the receiving antennae of another civilization on some far-off planet. It also hoped they would be advanced enough to understand the signals, and curious enough to embark upon a visit.
Maybe it was not appropriate to say ‘humanity’ any more, Akshay thought, given that he was the only human being alive, but old habits died hard.
When the visitors came knocking, they would be fittingly welcomed. Mankind had made sure of that. The history of the world had already been documented in pictorial form on giant, radiant monitors all over the globe. All Akshay had to do was turn them on. He did.
All the early civilizations were there. The Aztecs, the Mongols, the Romans, the Chinese. The industrial revolution was there, complete with detailed pictures of early machines. And, of course, the War was there, too.
There had been a time when people referred to it as the Fourth World War, but in hindsight, it made sense to call it simply, ‘the War’. It was the only war that really mattered. Humanity had never believed in its ability to destroy itself, but the War had proved it. It was possible.
Also in the set were pictures of human beings themselves, stripped down to the last anatomical detail. Drawings depicted the evolutionary bush and how Homo Sapiens fitted into it. It was a one-stop story of mankind, from dazzling to dismal, from beginning to end. It was humanity’s journal.
Ego played a part, no doubt. Even with its last gasp, mankind wanted to shout out to the galaxy that for a short time, it had been there, and for a short time, it had mattered.
But, thought Akshay, that was not all. There was another driving force – a feeble hope that our guests, however advanced they might be technologically, will learn from our mistakes and not repeat them in their own futures.
Humanity’s last act was also its noblest.
Akshay looked at the time. With a silent nod, he walked to the coffin and locked himself. His eyes closed.
And Earth commenced her wait.
Image Courtesy: Montrose Mathematics