At The End.

In the far, far distant future there is a small ball of piercingly bright white light, millions of miles away from any of the other orbs of silver littering the night sky. Although in fact, there are no other orbs like this one; each had succumbed to the relentless forces of entropy and burned out, leaving only the light they emitted thousands of years ago to carry on its journey across the depths of space as the only evidence they existed at all. This ball is a white dwarf, a star in its death throes. Around the star there revolves a single planet, making up a binary star system. It is a small planet, charred and black, and barren of life and water. If there was anyone to examine the surface of the spheroid, they would see pale grey dust and ashes, and a flat and empty landscape. The buildings have long since fallen, the civilisations that once inhabited this small speck of the universe long since gone, the atmosphere long since lost. The only indication on the surface that intelligent life ever existed at all here is the remains of the technology, the computers and cars, transmitters and trains, skyscrapers and screens, the last remnant of millennia of evolution: the ground up glass that glints among the ashes in the feeble light given off by the sun.

This is the end of the universe.

Deep underneath the planet is the last man left. The bitter cold that envelopes the cosmos as a result of loss of energy, and therefore of heat, has forced the man underground, to try and claim a small fraction of the last source of warmth in the molten core of the planet for himself, before the universe falls to absolute zero and he freezes to death. He sits in his metal bunker. It's a fairly large room, but it appears to be much smaller, due to the amount of debris that fills it. Ceiling high metal bookshelves line the walls. Every shelf of the room is filled with small, flat electronic books, all currently switched off, with blank screens. They represent the remaining knowledge of the past ten million years of human advancement. There are thousands of books. Unfortunately, they are but a fraction of all that has survived, and they are mostly technical books that detail advances in science and engineering. There are but three works of literature left to the disposal of the last of mankind.

The rest of the room is filled with metal and plastic. There are sheets and sheets of steel, tin, iron, copper and aluminium, resting alongside long tubes of plastic against the bookshelves. There is also heaps of scrap metal, strange constructions of various sizes and shapes. There are glass light bulbs littering science tables, upon which sit more technical scientific equipment. Countless batteries of every voltage imaginable line many surfaces. There are computer mother boards scattered across the room, along with a kaleidoscope of wires obscuring the view of most of the floor. In one corner there is a small bundle of sheets and pillows, which constitute a bed for the man. The light is provided by a single bulb, giving off a harsh white light connected directly to a socket in the middle of the room; it is connected to a long, thick, white lead that runs along the ceiling and down through a gap in the bookshelves to a small, black transmitter.

The man is sitting on the floor.

The proximity of the core means that the room is of a reasonable temperature, but with each day that passed it becomes colder and colder, and the electricity the transmitter provides become less and less. Many of the books have lost their power source, and most of the batteries are dead.

In front of the man is his last, best, and only hope for survival, which shall be discussed later. For now the focus is on the man. He is a rather unique man; in another time he would be heralded as a genius, a credit to the species. He had read every book in the room, and had intuitively deduced from their contents many of the conclusions about the universe that had been lost to humanity throughout the ages. If anyone else was around to call this man the smartest man who ever lived, they would not be wrong, at least on a technical level, for he knows the collective wisdom and knowledge of the entire human race at this point.

However, you would not think this to look at him. He is an older man, with hair that had turned pure white through the strain of surviving in a world full of nothing but death and hardship, but he is by no means weak. Through the rags that remain of his clothing can be seen rippling muscles, given strength through the hard manual work of collecting all the metal he could find, building his bunker (dismantling his spacecraft in the process), and then constructing the device that is in front of him. There is a great power in his hands, and with them he had shaped what was left at his disposal to suit his needs; his humanity cannot be disputed.

And it was his humanity that had driven him here, to the last spark of life in all the cosmos. Humans were not designed to be alone. The man craved to see another face, to hear another voice, to speak to another person, and to have his thoughts validated by another's mind. He had not always been the last, and while they had been alive he had loved and cherished every single human he had met, and rather than giving up and wasting away, he had stood up, and had gone to any lengths to regain that connection, any connection, to another living being.

And that was why he had built the machine he is sitting in front of. He had poured over the books, and when they had failed them he had constructed in his mind the knowledge to make it. With his raw strength and materials he'd scavenged he had created in reality the image of what lay in his mind, and when the batteries had failed he had drawn from the largest remaining power source left, the core of the dying planet itself. And he imbued all the hope and faith that remained in his heart into what he had created, drawing on the sum of all that had come before him to create what was now in front of him.

It had taken the lifespan of the entire human race, but now the pinnacle of scientific achievement had finally been achieved, the ultimate boundary between the possible and the impossible had been displayed.

The man is trembling with fear and excitement. With shaking fingers he activates his creation.

The man is many things; vastly intelligent, impressively strong, and remarkably compassionate. But, like all humans, he is not infallible. His machine works: it works too well.

From the machine comes a great roaring noise, the sound a dying star might make when it collapses in on itself to form a black hole. It is the last noise the man ever hears, because then there comes…

Nothing.

There is nothing. There is no man, there is no machine. There is no bunker, and there is no planet orbiting a white dwarf. There is no light, there is no dark. There is no distance, there is no space. Everything is nowhere, but also nowhere is everything. All that exists is a small, highly compressed… singularity.

The machine did exactly what it was designed to do, but the man had made one mistake; he had not limited the range of his machine. And so it has taken him, and his bunker, and his binary star system, and all that was left of his universe… back.

The machine can only work for so long, and under the great pressure it has been exposed to, it fails, releasing everything into this no-realm. The entire universe is released from the influence of the man's machine, in the process getting reduced to its component atoms and re-ionised, transformed from the potential energy of its end days back to the kinetic energy of its youth. The friction caused in this sudden release of energy creates more energy, which only fuels the combustion of everything that had been and ever will be. This impossibly powerful force rushes through the path of no resistance to fill the void it finds itself in, for nature abhors a vacuum. Suddenly, there is an explosion into nothing.

This is the beginning of the universe.

The shockwave radiating from the singularity expands out into the nothingness that it had once and will have occupied in the future. Within the shockwave are trillions more explosions, trivial compared to the one that has just taken place but which would have been sufficient to eradicate everything that had still existed both minutes before, and will exist in quadrillions of years.

The man, of course, has been atomized as well by his machine. No living creature could survive such a cataclysmic event. And yet, his atoms still remain, mixed up in the atoms of the rest of the universe.

They will, perhaps, bond with other atoms, which will form molecules, and maybe, billions and billions of years from this moment, on a small, water-covered planet, third from its sun and shining with new life, the atoms will be able to come together again and reform the man, so he can be with others of his kind again. Maybe he will retain all the same intelligence, strength, and love that created what he sees all around him, and maybe he will be able to push mankind forward again, and even maybe be able to push the boundary of what is possible and impossible even further. In the far, far distant future.