Andrew and Sarah were inside a metallic pod. The pod hummed with an ominous groan: the solid walls trembled, the grated floor sizzled and the hollow ceiling crumpled in. The computer console nearby screamed for attention, beeping incessantly while flashing a dire message to its passengers. On its screen, the console showed the current temperature. It had broken through the threshold of 1,000 Kelvin – it was 1,500 K inside.
Andrew and Sarah held each other closely, affirming their love for one another. They wanted to lock lips, but the helmet they wore prevented them to do so. The helmets looked like fishbowls, but they were far from being fragile – the helmets were made with Polyphelexine and Maorgian material, five times stronger than First Earth Adamantium and Eighth Earth Ndukwium.
Andrew and Sarah donned the same space suits which were made of thin, elastic Polyphelexine material. It had a built-in life-support system and an internal cooling system. The helmet and the suit were designed to prevent any damage from solar flares and were built to withstand 1,500 K.
Andrew and Sarah perspired in their suits; the internal cooling system could not keep up with the temperature inside the pod. The cooling system was supposed to stabilize the wearer's temperature at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But with the condition inside, it could only stabilize the temperature to 120 degrees F.
The pod was supposed to save them, was supposed to send them into outer space. At 60 million kilometers away, a mother-ship waited for the escapees of Twelfth Earth. There were one million pods manufactured, and they were only given to a select few from a brimming populace of two billion. Once the mother-ship harvested the pods within 12 hours of evacuation, it would propel itself in light-speed, away from the doomed planet. Andrew and Sarah's pod didn't even lift off due to a malfunctioning thruster.
There were two portholes on each side of the pod. Andrew wanted to see what was happening outside. But the portholes were as bright as searchlights, blinding anyone who would dare to stare at it. Also, the temperature of the beams were 1,000 K.
"Stay here," said Andrew. Sarah received the message through the built-in speaker, but his message was mired with static. The magnetic interference was too strong and too thick – like struggling through molasses. Andrew's curiosity tugged him to the porthole, but Sarah's embrace prevented him from doing so.
"Please don't," said Sarah. She believed that there was nothing out there – nothing to see and nothing to witness. This pod was their universe now, and she refused to accept what was outside . . . it made itself known through the glowing walls and scalding floor.
Andrew wanted to witness the final minutes of Twelfth Earth. He extricated himself from Sarah's grip, but a sudden pang of guilt froze him: he didn't mean to shove Sarah aside. A part of him wanted to return in her embrace, but the other part of him needed to see – needed to witness.
Andrew pressed a button on his wrist. The helmet transformed from a clear fishbowl to a solid gold visor. The Maorgian material had made it possible to reflect any harmful rays – or beams of searing light. He dipped his helmet in the beam and peered out from the porthole.
The heavens burned a bright yellow. The sun encompassed the horizon. Arms of fire waved like tentacles from the sun, burning everything it touched. Towers were crumbling, turning into ash and blowing away like dust. The soil swelled like magma, and the air of Twelfth Earth was blanketed in a fog of fire.
Andrew blinked twice; he didn't believe what he was seeing. But what had caught his eye was not the cataclysm that raged outside – a family of four, out in the open, stood in the fiery fog. They wore the same suits as Andrew and Sarah did. The family held each other hand in hand, facing the furious sun. They were unmoved.
Andrew couldn't break his gaze away from the family. While Andrew watched the family's defiance, he realized a fact – a constant in all life and a constant in the universe. This fact made his eyes tear, and it made him accept his fate without defiance. He felt awe within his throat and within his heart. The family felt the same way.
And the family turned into ash and blew away like dust.
Andrew turned away from the porthole. He was neither horrified nor shocked. He turned back to Sarah who was hugging herself. Andrew approached Sarah with a lightness in his step as if gravity had ceased. He also felt a tingling revelation inside his head, made his helmet feel like a balloon filled with helium. Andrew returned to Sarah's arms, ready for an embrace.
Andrew pressed a button that turned his helmet transparent, revealing his emotions: he was weeping, but he was also smiling. Sarah saw Andrew's lips move, but she didn't hear him. Instead, she received an earful of static. Andrew saw Sarah open her mouth and heard nothing but static. Andrew shook his head and reached for the latch on his helmet. Sarah stopped him, shaking her head while tears fell from her eyes. Andrew said "it's okay." Sarah heard "bahhzzzztshhhhhh."
Andrew released the latches on his helmet. He lifted it off, exposing his hair, his skin, his eyes and his lips. His skin slowly dried and peeled. The nanomachines on his skin worked double time, trying their hardest to repair the burning skin cells. Andrew reached for Sarah's latches, but Sarah parried his hands away – she wanted to do it on her own. She released the latches and lifted the helmet off, revealing her perfect face, unskewed by the helmet's refraction.
The computer console made an ominous sound – it was time. It beeped and squealed and gave a flashing red warning. "WARNING! WARNING! Critical Condition!" it said.
Andrew reached for Sarah's lips. Sarah closed her eyes, hiding from the gruesome detail of Andrew's burning skin, and entering inside her void, inside his kiss. They locked lips, and the pain of being burned alive was null. The pain was lost inside that kiss, trapped like a unit of light inside a black hole.
"I love you," said Andrew. No magnetic interference prevented him from saying it.
"I love you," said Sarah. She smiled. She also realized the fact – the constant in life and the constant in the universe. She opened her mouth and said her last words:
The pod exploded. The sun devoured the surface of Twelfth Earth, undoing every human creation and every human progress. The sun devoured Twelfth Earth wholly, along with its two moons and its neighboring planets.
And the sun consumed other neighboring suns, consumed everything until one sun – one light – remained in the dark expanse of space, and time slowed down until it ceased to exist. The single, lone light shimmered and hummed, pulsating with energy unmeasurable and unimaginable. The single light stood in the coordinate (0,0,0).
The light did not have any thoughts nor motives, yet it wanted to be alive ... again.
The light exploded into dust, spreading across the universe and painting the dark canvas with the beauty that could bring god to his or her knees. Within these lights were more lights burning with the same passion to be alive. While it burned, the light gave birth to other lights. The offspring cooled, transforming either to gas, liquid or solid – or to any combination of the three. The offspring flew away from the mother-light, but they were tethered to its gravity. The offspring formed rings around their mother, dancing within a circle.
On the third ring, the eighth offspring of the light gave birth to its own life form. Within the primordial sea, the life forms spoke to one another through chemicals, asking if it wanted to combine and create something bigger and better than themselves. It created and pro-created, then shriveled and died due to entropy. But its offspring carried on to create and pro-create. And this fact – this constant in life and this constant in the universe – was the engine, the invisible hand, that moved the life forms to change and to evolve. Life began anew.