It had been about three weeks since the message came through. Crackling static through the receiver, distorted and mechanical, but just human enough to be understood.
“Hey boys, this is Grant Wilson at Control. They betrayed us! It’s over! It’s all over! They are bombing us to bits! There is nothing we can do! The Earth is on fire! It’s a burning mess! We didn’t want to use it but you have to. I’m sending you the co-ordinates. Take the missile and kill them all! It’s up to you now to save the universe!”
Simon Blake had been wearing the same pants for three weeks now, and felt anything but heroic. He had rashes all over his body and the seat belt dug into him uncomfortably. Michael Sykes was snoring in his chair. His once immaculate uniform was covered in stains, tomato soup, melted chocolate and canned fish. The stench in the cockpit was indescribable
Sykes snorted in his sleep. Blake wanted to punch him in his stupid face. The two best friends had been chosen as the Alpha Strike team. They’d worked hard to get there too. The psychologist had mentioned that it was important that people got along, especially on long voyages through space. It was the only reason Blake was there and not Michelle. Michelle was a vegan and as such didn’t get along with anyone. Even other vegans. Stupid psychologist. Oh well, he was dead now. So was everybody. Michelle probably was too, even though she’d been assigned off world to the lunar base at Triton. A cold post for a cold, calculating bitch. Blake regretted dating her.
Sykes had been a good friend of Blake’s for a long time before they trained to be part of the Alpha Strike team. They had gone to college together and excelled because they pushed each other. They’d pushed each other through the training too, each day meeting their challenges and driving each other to excel. Now Blake just wanted to smother him. It would be easy too. All he’d have to do is take off his jacket and hold it over his face. But it’d be too cold, so it wasn’t worth thinking about it – besides, the conversations were occasionally good, and he would hate to have the responsibility of being the last man alive, especially tasked with the glorious quest of vengeance imparted on him by a man he didn’t even know.
Blake scratched his teeth with a fingernail. There was a lot of plaque there. Still, it didn’t matter really. It’s not like he’d need the teeth where he was going. Why bother looking after anything? He looked over at Sykes. He was definitely asleep. Blake unzipped his pants and opened up a plastic bottle to pee in. It felt good. The pressure on his bladder had been awful. The seat belt was beginning to cut into his now flabby body. Some hero… He no longer had abs. Out here in deep space, with a dead planet behind him, mass genocide in front of him, peeing into a plastic bottle because he couldn’t be bothered to climb out of his chair and go to the toilet like a civilised human being. Sykes stirred and Blake hurriedly finished and tucked himself back in, cursing as he felt pee release against his leg in a small jet of warmth that quickly cooled, but remained nice and wet. He hated that bastard.
“Oi. Oi. Sykes. Sykes you bastard wake up.” Nothing. “You’re getting fat. Hell, I’m getting fat…” Blake scratched his belly. It felt good to scratch, and in the past few weeks it had grown dramatically. He hadn’t been bothered to keep fit. Neither had Sykes so all was good his end.
Sykes’s hand moved. Blake watched it intently. He was going to do it again. It slid up, up, and an extended finger started scraping about inside his nose. “Go on you gross bastard. Eat it.” Blake whispered to himself. He waited, waited and waited until the finger was in Sykes’s mouth, scraping against his teeth. Then he brought his hands together with a mighty clap! Sykes woke up with a start.
“What’s going on?” He asked in alarm.
“You enjoying your snack?” Questioned Blake innocently.
“Nothing.” Blake sighed. “You know You made me piss myself?”
“Good. I’m sure you’ll do it again before we blow it all up.”
“Sykes, do you know what the worst thing is? It’s that nothing we ever did mattered. All those wars we had, suffering, politics. All those arguments. Christ! Music. Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart.” Blake was emotional. It scared him slightly. He had never heart Mozart… Now he never would.
“Man, Mozart is a pervert. He wrote some good stuff, but he was sick. He was into weird stuff.” Sykes sighed. It was almost like the bastard was psychic.
“Everyone is dead. All our art is gone. Our entire species meant nothing.” Blake whispered.
“Shakespeare is gone Blake, it’s all gone my friend. No more MacBeth, no more Romeo and Juliet… No more Othello. The moor is no more. That’s kind of funny actually.” Sykes grinned.
“I cried when I thought about Victoria. I didn’t want you to see. She was a terrible wife and a terrible cook, and she cheated on me twice. Why is it that even though she’s gone it upsets me?” Tears rolled down Blake’s face.
“All these things are gone. We still care. We are still human. As long as we live, these memories will live on. Shakespeare, Vivaldi, your cheating slut of a wife.”
“Thanks man, you know how to cheer me up. You do know we’re both gonna die when the star explodes.” Blake tried to smile. The jab at Victoria pissed him off. He wondered why…
“We are almost out of Froggo bars Blake.” Sykes said matter of factly.
“Is life really worth living? We are going to die anyway.”
“Do you want a Froggo bar?”
“We would be destroyed anyway by the inevitable heat death of the universe. When all the stars go out.” Blake closed his eyes trying to imagine the cosmos without human stupidity. It was hard. It was such a small universe and people were really stupid…
“Do you want a Froggo bar?”
“I wonder if there is a god. If any of our religions got it right…” Blake mused.
“Yes I want a fucking Froggo bar!!!” Blake hollered.
Michael Sykes left the cockpit to get one. Blake dabbed at his wet leg with the stinky towel he kept besides him. It was covered in coffee, gravy and urine and smelled obscene. Blake was in immense pain. He didn’t even realise it until he was alone. He had been sitting and sleeping in the same chair for weeks. It stank, and he had horrible sores on his body. He wished Sykes would get back so he could be distracted again. Thankfully he wasn’t gone long. He heard Sykes enter the cockpit much to his relief.
“Honey, I’m home.” Said Sykes, holding out the Froggo bar and snapping its neck with his thumb as he held it out. It wasn’t even out of the packet and it was as broken as Blake felt.
“You bastard. You did that on purpose. You know I like to bite the head off.”
“You’re a sick puppy you are, Blake.”
“Man, I have pants rash. I’m in a foul mood. Don’t fuck with me.”
“Why don’t you clean yourself down there.” Sykes suggested helpfully.
“There’s no water left. We haven’t had water for weeks.” Blake moaned.
“Just use cola and soap, that’s what I do.”
“Cola and soap?”
“Why have a rash when you can have a carbonated crotch?” Grinned Sykes.
“Oh you bastard. You’re torturing me. I’ve died and gone to hell and you’re the fucking devil.”
“We are heading into the inferno. The star killers! Michael Alvin Sykes and his expendable henchman. El Blake-O.” Sykes roared at the universe!
“What the hell is an El Blake-O?” Shouted Blake, resisting the urge to punch him in the crotch. He could imagine it too. The contact would be rough from the trousers, followed by softness, warmth and a satisfying splattering sound as his balls exploded like mouldy plums. The pain would be legendary. Satisfaction? Guaranteed!
The chocolate was warm. It had melted in its wrapper and reformed several times. It barely resembled the Froggo it had once been. Sykes had had a good forage through the supplies and found some cheese slices. Human ingenuity at it’s finest. The cheese slice could be added to pretty much any meat with positive results. There was no meat left, so Blake and Sykes took turns skimming them through the air and onto the gigantic window above them where they stuck for a while with a sorrowful slapping sound then vanished somewhere behind the console where they would inevitably end up melting. They had been inedible, having not been refrigerated, and at least they helped pass the time. Computer games would have been a distraction so they hadn’t been allowed any.
Blake went to the showers and poured cola over himself scrubbing himself with the rough soap they had been blessed with. It was warm and the fizziness had left it long ago. It stung his rashes terribly and he felt miserable and sticky. He had a long satisfying pee into the plughole which mostly missed his feet and made his way back to the cockpit.
Sykes was there staring into space, watching the stars in the background.
“You know, these stars never parallax like the movies?” He said. “They just stay absolutely still. It’s like we’re not even moving.”
Blake smiled wickedly. “Maybe we aren’t moving.”
“Don’t say that. Besides, I can feel us moving. The ship vibrates when it moves.”
“Maybe that’s your imagination. Maybe we are stuck in space frozen by the gods and they’re mocking us.”
“Is it right to do what we are doing? Is it right to blow up an entire star, killing all those aliens we never even met?” Sykes asked earnestly.
“They did it to us.”
“Not all of them. Probably just a few. Maybe they have their own musicians. Maybe they have an Alien Shakespeare?”
Blake shrugged. There felt like nothing left to say. “Don’t think about it.”
They decided not to.
Another week passed by. Things had taken a different turn. Sykes was sleeping more and more often. Blake hadn’t noticed it at first. Both of them just wanted to be done with the mission. Despite Wilson’s message being the last signal from anywhere, they felt no inspiration now from, the death of their species… They had to remain silent, and there was no one to hear them even if they did send a message.
Blake poked Sykes. He didn’t move. He poked him again.
“What? I’m trying to sleep.” Moaned Sykes.
“Hear me out. Life is futile, right? We are born, we live and we die. Our works live on, as does the impact we have, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter does it?”
“It’s too early for philosophy.” Sykes whimpered. He had a headache.
“It’s four in the afternoon.”
“It’s too early for philosophy.”
“When is a good time for philosophy?” Asked Blake.
“Never. But you’re right, it’s all futile anyway. It’ll all disappear with the heat death of the universe. All the greats will be gone. Thank god for it.” Sykes breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, if that’s the case, answer me this: Have you enjoyed your life?” Blake murmured. He was deep in thought.
“Of course. Well parts of it. Well. Not really. Life is pretty shit.” Sykes thought about a few positive experiences. Being paid monthly, then income tax. The arms of lovers, and the inevitable breakdown and hatred of exes. Did he really enjoy anything?
“What are you getting at?” Sykes growled. “Now I’m in a bad mood.”
“That’s good! Life sucks! Your life sucks! My life sucks! Everything we ever did isn’t going to matter and life is dreadful! I can’t think of anything worse!”
“So living in general is shit.” Sykes had to agree. Life seemed a miasma of torment the more he thought about it.
“So let’s give up. We don’t have to finish the mission.” Blake smiled a smile of relief.
“But it’s the only thing that’s left!” Protested Sykes. “We’ve been up here going crazy for I don’t know how many weeks now!”
“So what? No one cares if we finish or not. They’re all dead!” Blake was ecstatic!
“What do you want to do then?” Sykes asked earnestly.
“Let them live. It’s the cruellest thing we can do.”