The bedazzled luminosity of the warm early afternoon sky glistened off Peter’s forehead and for the last time, humanity would sweat in the African Sun. He watched the scene of guaranteed disaster unfolding millions of miles away through his telescope. The sky was much darker than it should have been so early in the day – it was like standing right beneath a total solar eclipse, only this was nothing so grand. The Sun was faded now, a fraction of what it’d once been. He thought of how perfect conditions had to be for life on Earth – how the Sun was exactly as far as it needed to be from Earth, how gravity was the perfect strength for all animals to thrive, how oxygen was regulated by the plants so nature’s creatures could breathe, how both fresh and salt water existed in abundance enough to support such variety of life – how humanity had finally sealed the coffin on their galactic Goldilocks scenario.
Peter grimaced hopelessly as the cranes grasped the final curved solar panel. That’s perhaps the fastest construction crew to ever exist, Peter begrudgingly thought. They rotated and positioned around the panel which was larger than a small country, then together they began to move it. This was it – mankind’s final destination. Man’s last moments on the planet for which he’d never properly cared.
Peter retracted from the telescope and blinked as the starry images lingered in his sight. “Eight million years,” he said. “Eight million fucking years everything that’s ever lived on this God forsaken planet of ours has seen that Sun. And Bella, my friend, we’re going to be the very last to have such a privilege.” He continued grunting and cursing under his breath.
Bella sniffled and rolled her cigarette between her fingers. “Not exactly,” she corrected. “People will still see the Sun from inside the Sphere, you know that.”
“But not like this,” Peter sighed. “Think of the wonder of it all. Don’t you remember when we were kids? What got us into science in the first place? When you looked up at night out in the fields of Oklahoma, you got to wonder and craft fantasies in your head. You got to think of space ships and Death Stars and aliens and hitchhiking across outer space.” He paused with a shake of the head. “What about our kids, huh? They’re going to think there’s nothing out there but the Sun. Even the time of day is going to be a simulation. How are you supposed to explain we aren’t the center of the universe then?”
Bella scoffed. She agreed with him, but she’d never say. What was the point? Within the hour, they would take the last ship to the Sphere. There was no protesting left to do. No crying, no huffing nor puffing. This is how it would be. “You know we can’t stay here.”
Peter pointed to the telescope. “Just have a look.” He could sense Bella’s resistance as she looked back to the cigarette. “It’ll be the last time we can. You know you want to.”
Bella frowned but acquiesced. She pressed an eye up to the lens already damp from Peter’s oily skin. She saw the Sun the way he did, the bit of it poking out from the Dyson Sphere – the first real one ever made. The only way she could spot those cranes was by the fiery tails that came as they boosted themselves into position. They look like ants building a hill, Bella thought. Only much more destructive.
“If this is such a good idea, then why are we the only ones doing it?” Peter blurted. “You look at the other stars and there’s no sign of any civilization building big domes around their Sun. Why is that?”
“Maybe we’re alone,” Bella absently croaked.
“Nonsense,” Peter objected, now pacing. “We’re not alone. There’s mathematically no way.”
“Then what do you think it is, Pete?”
“You want to know what I think?” he said. His incensed voice cracked. “When you look at anything from bees to gorillas, rabbits to elephants, what do you notice in comparison to us?”
“They’re stupid,” Bella tried to joke. But as she watched the panel close on the Sun she felt her stomach knotting with it.
“No, not stupid. They’re just not as compelled to destroy as we are.” Peter threw his arms at the sky, shaking his fists like the old man he was. “I think any aliens out there are the same. They know what they have. They value what they have. Not us. We destroy, destroy, destroy until we have to build a giant monstrosity to house the monstrosity that is our civilization. And as we leave we’ll wonder what would have been if only we were more prudent, if only we showed more care for what we had.” Peter was on the verge of tears. “And we’ll just do it all over again. We haven’t learned a damn thing.”
Bella finally pulled away from the telescope and checked her watch. She gave Pete a pat on the back and said, “I’m sure we weren’t the first to do this. And we won’t be the last. But remember it takes the light millions and billions of years to travel here before it reaches our eye. Maybe someone else has done it too and we just haven’t seen the effects yet.”
Peter thought about this and it didn’t help him one bit. He thought of how anyone or anything out there surely wouldn’t know of their peoples’ reckless decision to build that sphere until millions of years after the fact. By then they might do the same and by then it’ll be too late to see the warning of a faraway dead megalith floating in space.
Bella lead the way into the rocket ship just as the last vestiges of sunlight disappeared behind that final panel and the Moroccan plains began to freeze. “Come on Pete,” she said quietly, “time to go.”
dyson cluster dyson sphere earth end of world global warming horror megastructure outer space planets scary sci fi short story space