Closing Time

Jeremy jumped in his seat. He sat on a dark beach watching the last star in the sky and enjoying frigid black waves lapping at his feet. The surf was the only sound Jeremy was expecting in the inky night until someone yelled out.

“Hello!” Jeremy was on his feet in an instant whirling around trying to see anything in the night. He could not remember that last time he saw a human, much less heard English. Over billions of years, he traveled from star to star with the human race in search of what was out there. Now, at the end of the universe, watching the last star dying, Jeremy had the answer: Nothing.

Most planets he spent time on did have delicious alien plants and animals, but humanity never discovered intelligent life. A dim golden glow appeared about 20 feet away and slowly moved toward Jeremy. As it approached, he identified an older man with thick, wiry eyebrows. Jeremy realized the voice sounded familiar the moment he saw the man.

“Uncle Theo?” Jeremy asked. He used a name he hadn’t heard in millions of years, but somehow it was the first words out of his mouth. He remembered his uncle being one of his favorite people in the world when he was a child; Jeremy took his death hard.

“Jeremy, Hello!” The old man reached Jeremy and gave him a big hug with several solid pats on the back. He smelled like grill smoke and beer, just like Jeremy remembered. “It’s amazing to see you again.”

“You’re dead,” Jeremy said after the hug. “Am I dead?” he asked. Theo laughed.

“If you could die, I wouldn’t be here right now. Your immortality is screwing with how things normally work. They pulled me out to explain what happens next; they thought a familiar face would help.”

“They?” Jeremy asked. Theo shrugged.

“The afterlife isn’t as cut and dry as Heaven and Hell. You’ll find out eventually, maybe. Anyway, pay attention, I don’t have a lot of time.” Jeremy nodded. “Each universe-,”

“Each!?” Jeremy asked.

“The details will make sense later, don’t interrupt.” Jeremy nodded again. “Each universe has its own predetermined timeline; although, strange things happen sometimes,” Theo nodded at Jeremy.

“This universe is about to reach the end of its timeline, so you have two choices. You can stay here and start at the beginning of Earth again or you can choose to go to a new Earth of your choice.”

“And then?” Jeremy asked. Theo shrugged.

“Keep being immortal, live through it all again. We’ll probably end up right back here giving you the choice again.”

“That’s it? The universe just keeps resetting?”

“UniverseS,” Theo corrected. “That’s it?” he returned Jeremy’s question with a hint of loving mockery. “What did you expect? You’re not even supposed to have lived this long.”

“But… where is everyone? Where are all the aliens, I only met other humans,” then Theo’s correction registered with him. “Are there aliens in other universes?” Theo shook his head.

“There are no intelligent aliens anywhere in any universe,” Theo said.

“Oh,” Jeremy sounded deflated. “Well,” he sighed. “There’s nothing out here. Hundreds of millennia ago fully-immersive VR was a thing. I never tried it because I kept wanting to explore, but I don’t have to do that anymore I guess. Can you put me on an Earth with the best VR games?” Uncle Theo grinned.

“I know just the place.”

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