A pair of short stories.
There is an object, in outer space, approximately in the middle of nowhere, that is absolute darkness. Average surface albedo 0.00000025 . It was discovered almost by accident, four years ago, when it became apparent that the heavenly body that had occulted a whole portion of the outer fringe of the Perseus arm of the Galaxy, following its own trajectory, must have been a rogue star. Its measured diameter was twice that of Earth's sun. We know it now, it is not exactly a star. It follows no apparent orbit, but is heading outward from the Galaxy, at an average speed of one light minute a day. We have deployed two orbiting sattelite outposts and established a base on its surface. We had soon discovered anti-grav generators weren't to be of much use: the stars gravity was 0.01 times that of Earth, our home-planet. That had also implied the very low altitude of our sattelites, thus impossibility to remotely survey the surface. An extremely light solid black rock. Conjectures were raised throughout the allied scientific community as to what this was due; some wild, others downright foolish. But that illustrated quite well mankinds position towards this: craziness. This was a surreal artefact, its existence alone defied reason. Some lunatic must have seemed more credible than others, when he said the answer to the problem must be found beneath the surface, because our new orders are to forge the inner layers of sector 6B. To be honest, I don't like it. We don't even know what is on more than a millionth of the Dark Stars surface, and we're already trying to change it? The place gives me the spooks. And I wish I could see with my own eyes out there! I'm fed up with using those creepy detecors. What about failures? Don't they ever occur?
Something's out there. I'd swear it. It's watching. It's waiting. What for?
An old tune sounded through the headphones: “ ‘And we all like to live beside the sea- side, ho we all like to live beside the sea…’ Whenever that was true must have been a thousand years ago. The sea is wasted. Meet Blackpool. One of Britain’s oldest sea-side resorts. I think not. The ruins of seedy old hotels strew the coast here and there, overrun by the gigantic dark-brown walls of modern civilization. No windows to the sea. No windows to the outside at large, come to think of it. Way too ugly. We rather enjoy the cosiness of our own virtual exteriors. Everyone wants to flee the rock. Mars! That is humanity’s utopia! Why don’t we all go there? Where the birds sing and the trees are happy! Our world is crumbling. I say we make it habitable again. When was the last time it snowed on Earth’s scarred surface? I say we…” The senator’s monologue could go on for hours, and never come to the point. Bill was supposed to take note of everything he was to say for his local journal, the Star Of Gatford. But he was slowly losing himself in the depths of slumber, and it seemed to him nothing could take him out of them. Obviously not much had, because by the time woke up, the screen was showing an advert for dental floss. He yawned. Damn. He waved his hand and a menu appeared. Seven seconds later he was rewinding everything. By the looks of the time measurer, he had been sleeping for two hours, forty-three minutes and nine seconds. When he was rewinding, there was a flash. A yellow turgescence took over the whole screen for a few seconds. It looked like an explosion. In the senate. What on earth??? He asked the controller to slow the pace, and set it to play the sequence. The senator Migs was still rambling and fussing about how he used to dream of magnificent landscapes when he was a kid. Boring. Then came what he had rewinded for. A tall man dressed with a long, black coat walked up to the cabin, stretched his arms and. Commercial break. “Please use Fagot dental floss when you sleep, the floss that automatically cleans your teeth and gives you sweet breath..” He fast forwarded a little. The commercials seemed to go on and on, dental floss and unreal virtuality (“ our world is better than the real world”) until it came to that precise moment where he had woken up. He checked the whole sequence from the start. No more sign of that man. What did that mean? Where was that tall guy? How come the film he was watching had been changed? Or had he been dreaming? He must have. How about another of those unreal™ pills and a trip to infinity? And his breath? He should use Fagot. He didn’t need all those questions, they wer ea nuisance. It always came to this in the end. Why bother move in a modern society like this? We don't need movement anymore. We are an evolving species. Hey. Wake up. Not this time. Where was his coat already? This time, he would go to the senate, this time he would move and see for himself. He had just the time to find out how to open his apartment door again. Or was it a door?
The doorknob wouldn't move. I was trapped. Or maybe I just didn't want to move it. Maybe I was just too tired. It felt bad. I was lost, almost helplessly looking at myself from some other point of view. I wasn't myself. And it fell apart. Or, more precisely, I realised it was falling, or maybe it had already fallen. My universe, my identity, my only reckoning of the exterior, all my memories were fading away. Without my memory I am nothing. Not even a plant, I cannot feed myself. And there I was Contemplating it going away. Like the thousands of cells were dying. Like they were being destroyed. Like I was being killed.