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Daily Science Fiction :: I miss the Before by Robert Reed
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I miss the Before

Well that's a preposterous thing to say.
Is it?
Yes it is.
Yet that's what I feel.
Then you are afflicted with some ludicrous feelings.
And you don't understand emotions.
Plainly.
You don't appreciate human sensibilities.
I know humans perfectly well.
And?
Humans don't play well with reality.
Reality is subjective.
"Subjective" is the sword of ignorance.
I miss the days and nights.
Are you really spouting this crap to me?
The ticking of a clock.
Here we go.
Were there clocks in your Before?
There is no Before there's the Always and nothing else.
Sunrises.
Your species does love to sing about sunrises.
The beating of my heart was another clock.
A rich blood-infused existence, was it?
Is this existence better?
The Always is what there is and there is nothing else.
Don't you miss the mystery?
What mystery is that?
Of living inside a moment of not knowing what will come.
Yes, I miss stumbling around inside a world full of clocks and heartbeats and big sunrises--all of which could be accurately predicted by the way.
I'm watching myself in my Before.
What you mean is that your entire existence is focusing on a portion of space-time.
I'm watching one very happy person who happens to be me.
You're smiling here, too.
I realize that.
I can't read minds--nobody can--but you strike me as being a generally happy if obstinate shit.
I suppose I am.
So tell me.
Tell you what?
Why do you miss the nonexistent Before?
Ignorance was exciting.
No.
Yes.
So it made you joyous not knowing what was coming?
You shouldn't dismiss the old thrills.
Yes I should.
Study my Before.
I am.
Look at that woman.
Is she--what is the term--your wife?
Oh god, no.
No?
She's too old. She's just a neighbor, a person who happened to live next door to me in this big space-time Always.
The two of you are conversing, I see.
We liked to chat now and again.
A touching story, sure.
But this day, this moment that I'm showing you, she's talking to me about death; what death means to her and how much she looks forward to it.
First of all, and I know you understand this at some level, but there is simply no such thing as Death.
Unless you believe in it.
Like the two of you.
Yes, she's explaining how she isn't religious; not like a lot of old people are.
There is no such thing as age.
And the woman adores the idea of death, about passing out of existence, about having no more thoughts or demands.
Okay.
The same perfect nothingness she enjoyed before she was born.
Except, of course, nothing passes, nothing ends, ever, ever.
I know that now.
There is no Now and as soon as you stop imagining yourself marching through time you see how life is.
We were ignorant beasts, yes I agree.
Were?
Anyway.
This old woman who means nothing to you except her proximity in time and space; you're showing her to me for a reason.
Yes.
Her ideas about nonexistence means something to you.
Later that day she dies.
Nobody dies.
Her heartbeat quit suddenly and she discovered that nothing is what she thought it would be.
Space-time.
The Always, yes.
But now how about you?
What about me?
What did you envision?
As I stood in the Before?
Your plain little wishes, yes.
I liked one story--the story where humanity expands and excels and we find new medicines and ways to rebuild our frail bodies and I acquire an enduring new body that I upgrade a million times before nonexistence claims me.
Not asking for much are you?
I wished for a life spent walking across the galaxy, and I would see ten million worlds and cross ten billion years that great march of time, remembering every sunrise every sunset; then in the midst of life I would die doing something good.
Well that is quite a wish list.
Impossible as it turns out.
Both of you standing there and both of you wrong.
The innocent aren't wrong.
They always are and now both of you here, and the Always has revealed itself.
Apparently so.
The Always is the genuine existence.
Understood.
We thrive outside Time and Space, and once you achieve this state, then everything and everywhen is in our gaze and there are no mysteries.
Not any mysteries I can see, no.
Which is a good great wonderful thing by the way.
I died.
Life is an illusion.
I died far sooner than I expected.
And again there is no death.
Half an hour after my philosophical chat with my neighbor and the world went to war and everybody was dead inside the next day.
Nobody died.
My world killed itself.
The Always was revealed to each of you.
We were happy people most of us.
You were ignorant foolish people.
A heartbeat at a time.
Your point is?
My world vanished and we went extinct, leaving me here in space-time, and now I see myself smiling while talking to that old lady about nonexistence and do you know why I'm smiling?
Not really, no.
Because in my heart I know that she will discover the truth long before me, and that made me so so glad.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 2nd, 2016

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