Saret stared up into the empty titian sky at the last sunset he’d ever see. The great orb, Galst, the dying giant alighting the abandoned planet surface of deserted plains and empty horizons. The only sound left for Saret, was himself. His shallow breathing, quick and jagged, and the beating of his heart beneath his chest as it tried to keep the blood flowing through his body, not realizing it was simply spilling more out onto the endless sands. Saret would die today.
Still he kept his gaze to Galst. The stories he’d laughed and sneered at in his many years now coming back to him in a single moment of hope. Hope that he was indeed wrong at not believing in them. That to speak to Galst, is to speak through the void between life and death. The great eye, its light fading from the skies after millennia, a tired watcher, weary of wars, and of the simplistic nature of Saret and the rest of his kind. He hoped he could be heard now, as he felt panic at the thought of his life ending here of all places.
To the left of Galst he could just make out Eres, the unseen star, alone now aside Galst in the brightness of day. Story was, and every child knew it, that if Eres shone, a rarity or perhaps even a myth, then the soul to which she appeared could not pass from this plain until their newly given journey had been completed. That to see her, is to embark on a great journey, one that the seer alone was tasked with. Many an old tale, merely children’s stories to Saret, had centered around the elusive star. And now it was there. As simply as he could mistake it for another wayward light, he knew it was Eres as much as he knew the dying sun to her right was still Galst. Saret felt both staring back at him, as if they were waiting, perhaps for a word of faith. Though he had not uttered a word yet to either distant light, he couldn’t see how anything could save him now, but he knew that no other being, alive or make believe, would come along to save him. Ss he began to speak, he felt his eyesight dim and knew there was no time left in his body. It was all too late. For forgiveness, for Eres. All that remained now was a Stigmat.
With his weakening hands he fumbled at the pockets about the belting he’d tied around the gaping wound in the side of his chest. He felt along for pouch linings, just to the right of the belt clip. The pocket flap had become slick with his blood spilling over it. His fingers slipping as his conscious dimmed, he finally popped it open with an effort that felt as if he had broken a finger in the process, and he was able to pull out the Stigmat. He clicked a tiny red button on top, and a three inch needle shot out the bottom of the “T” construction. He jammed it into his neck, he hoped he hit the artery, just as his vision allowed Galst to fade completely into an enveloping black.
The Stigmat shot both barrels of a dark gel in both of its side compartments into his body, and Saret saw light again. He felt breath flow into his lungs, and the pain throughout him subsided. He had five minutes now at most. He fumbled up to his chest, the feeling in his fingers and skin fading quickly as the Grud shot through his body, but found the front pocket above his heart and pulled out his Bin. He held it up in front of his eyes, a small rectangle, shining, black, and only about 2 inches in length. The damnable thing, the very idea of passing his mind into such a small thing made him nearly laugh at the idea of the whole of his being contained in such a small and insignificant looking thing. But this wasn’t for him, it was for families, for friends, and of course, for his people. He knew he could not let his mind pass. He wished now he’d backed it up more often, but it was too late to berate himself over that now. Turning his eyes from Galst and Eres, knowing full well that both were watching him intently, he put the Bin in the nook at the nape of his neck. He hoped it wouldn’t reject it with the state he was in.
He could feel the Bin drive load in and disappear into his body as his hands lost the last sense of feeling they’d had left. He let the appendage fall to his side, never to move again, and put his eyes back on Galst as he felt a surge of energy pulsate through his head. The Bin was synching up to his remaining thoughts and downloading what it could with the time it had left. Finally, with less than three minutes of life left, Saret spoke to the skies for the first time in his life.
“So…” He began. “I guess I don’t know what you want from me. I guess I never did. I didn’t believe in you, either of you, so, sorry about that.
“But this is it I guess. So you got my attention now. You win! You wanted me, so you got me. So I’ll do what I’m supposed to do and apologize for it all. The lives I’ve removed from living. Some that deserved it no doubt, but some that probably didn’t. Guess I owe them a bigger apology, if you could see fit to deliver that for me.
“And as for the dullet use… I knew it was an addiction, and I knew it would kill me eventually, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be here now, a dumped out pile of garbage shitting myself for the first time in nearly fifty cycles, if it wasn’t for that damned dust. But you try living down here! I couldn’t have made it without that dust, so as much as I know I need to apologize for that, and the things I done by its hands, I can’t see it as my own fault. I say that one is on you. So I expect an apology here in a minute or so.
“And Degres? Yeah, I am sorry for that one. He was the truest friend I’d ever had and I got him killed. Sure it was duty, sure it was the right thing to do, the right call, but I never forgave myself for that. I tell you it was the wrong call! I know that! You know that! Every soul that ever lived and died knows. I deserved this day sooner than now, but here I am.”
Saret paused, and wasn’t sure Galst was setting or if his vision was dimming again. He coughed as the moisture from his throat had disappeared entirely. He tried to swallow, to make more, but there was none left. In a cracked and drying voice, he continued.
“There’s too much. I can’t recall it all. Hell, the Bin is stripping me of all I got left up there. Memories are fading now. So I don’t know what else I need to apologize for. Not now. Hell I’m forgetting what got me here. But I know I’m dying. And I know I see you Eres. And I’m dying! I’m not supposed to be able to die when you put your damn eye on me! You’re the guardian. The life’s protector. You’re there to save us from ourselves whenever you see it fit. Whenever you see a soul you deem fit for your journeys. That’s when you appear! So if I can see you, I shouldn’t be dying! That’s that story! What a load it all was! Galst! Eres! Everything!”
The light faded from his eyes. The sun gone, yet Eres still seemed to shine, a single pin prick of light left as he said his last words.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I became what I did. I am! Tell them! Tell anyone that…”
Eres had faded, and if Saret was still talking he couldn’t hear it anymore. Only darkness and silence now as he simply seemed to fall asleep, his mind stopping, as the Bin drive in his neck shut down, its power source , the life of the host, expended.
But the next moment Saret opened his eyes, and there was white. A white room. He could tell as much. Just as he could tell his hands were moving. He could feel his breathing slow and steady, beneath a chest that felt better than it had in many cycles. He looked to his right and saw a window overlooking the dark expanse of space beyond.
He felt at his side where he expected a gaping wound, but there was nothing. No opening, and no blood. But it didn’t feel right. Something was wrong. He sat up, something he did quickly, and was surprised that he had done so. The muscles in his chest and torso had reacted without pain or effort as he continued the quick motion by getting out of the bed he was on. His bare feet met a cold floor, and it sent a chill throughout his body and made him look to the floor as if it were ice or lava.
Those are not my feet. He thought to himself as the chill disappeared and he was left staring at feet he didn’t recognize. He looked up, to the window and the darkness beyond, but saw a figure amidst the bright reflection of the room. A boy, he couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. He spun around to see who was there, but the room was empty. There was no one there but him. It was him.
Saret paced curiously to the window and stared at himself as closely as possible. Every move he felt he made, the reflection mirrored. He touched the youthful face, and ran his hand through the hair on his head, something that he hadn’t done in far too many years since he first found dullet. He nearly laughed but stopped as the corners of his mouth began to smile. For he did recognize the face he now saw. It was his own, but one he had not seen in nearly thirty cycles or more. This was his face. Young. Alive! Not old and dying.
“You should be dead.” He said to his reflection in a voice he now recalled as his own as well. “You die alone on a planet, you know?”
“Yes, you did.” A voice rang out in the room, reverberating between the empty walls.
Saret spun around, but still the room was empty, save for himself. “Who’s there?”
“Saret Vacc, do not be alarmed.” The voice rang out again. “You are indeed alive, and the voice you hear now is that of Graffis Biuy. I will be your caretaker, and I will be here to help you during this transition.”
“What sort of transition” Saret asked staring about the ceiling trying to spot an intercom.
“Saret. You have been cloned from the point of your death. Your body, you will notice, is not as it was, for we have opted to rescind its cyclic damage to a point where it would be most useful for our purposes. Which now brings me to my first question: Do you recall dying?”
“Yes, I do. But what is this all about, I—“
“Please be patient, I will answer your questions at the conclusion of mine. Now, do you remember how you died?”
“Well yeah, I was—“ Saret found he didn’t know how to finish.
“Was I shot? Stabbed? Wait…I don’t remember. What’s wrong with me?”
The voice over the intercom let out a sigh. “I was afraid of that. You see, Saret, you initiated your Bin drive before you died, and it appears we could not recover your full memories. Which leads me to my next question: do you know the meaning of the word Hixus?”
Saret stared blankly at the ceiling as he tried to think if he knew the word. “I don’t believe I do. No.”
Another sigh was let out and a number of seconds of silence followed it. “We were afraid of that.”
“Why? What’s the problem?”
“We had hoped to recover all of your memories without the need of your Bin drive. As it is now, it appears you are missing more than 75% of your memories.”
“Then reinstall them. I don’t see the problem.”
“Nor would we if we could.”
“Why can’t you? Was it damaged?”
“No, Saret. It is missing. And it is most important we recover its contents.”
“What’s so special about me? Why bring me back?”
Silence met his question for well over a minute before a voice came back on. “We apologize for the trouble we may have caused you Saret Vacc. Unfortunately your memories did not transfer over in the replication process, so your services will no longer be required.”
“Wait a minute! What is that supposed to mean?!”
“It means that your functions will be terminated as was originally intended. We apologize for our error in your re-introduction. We will pray to Galst for your forgiveness.”
The intercom cut off and again Saret heard the beating of his own heart heavily in his ears. He looked out past his reflection into the distant darkness beyond. The distant planet being left behind was familiar, yet he couldn’t recall the name. But he could see Galst, and there to her right, faint but unmistakable, Eres. She seemed to be pulsating, much more apparent than any other star in the great void. Saret still hadn’t decided if he believed in these watchers, but he was sure that if Eres was indeed real, right now She must be laughing at him.