Want to know how to instantly make a devoted follower of any Abrahamic religion squirm? Ask them what they think of cremation. Propose this question to religious zealots from any corner of the Earth, and you’ll quickly find that the disdain for burning corpses is as old as humanity itself. But while the common man could historically only hope for a quaint mound of dirt to rot in, since the dawn of time, the most revered among us were subjected to royal treatment both in life and in death.
From Babylon to Xinjiang, from the Nile River Valley to Tenochtitlan, ancient humans went to harrowing lengths to preserve the corpses of the most cherished members of our species. An eyebrow-raising amount of time and resources were compulsively funneled into making sure that Pharaohs and Emperors could indulge in the glory of the afterlife with their corporeal forms.
Do you ever wonder why such an obsessive amount of effort was expended on making sure an Emperor’s corpse was as fresh as his dying day, hundreds of years later? Do you ever question why teams of embalmers have fixated on preserving every wrinkle, every crevice of the corpses of the elite, since time immemorial?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s actually not too far off the bullshit they fed us in school about how Pharaohs believed they needed their bodies to bask in the glory of the afterlife. Would you believe me if I told you that ancient kings dreamed they could not only reach the afterlife, but transcend death and live for all eternity, if they only had the patience to wait long enough? In the meantime, all they had to do was keep their corpses fresh enough for the Elgorians to conduct Reverse Necrosis—until the exalted day when they finally returned from beyond the stars.
Common men, however, weren’t so indispensable. Unlike the great kings of the Earth, they were doomed to rot in their graves until their last bone chips crumbled to dust. Like all 7th Eclipse Summit Races, the Elgorians of the past had limited resources, and couldn’t afford to waste the cosmic lifeblood of salvation on common peasants from a backwater world called Earth.
But really, can you blame them?
After all, if you were a member of an inter-dimensional demigod race from Hyperion, who would you share your doctrine with? Who would you promise to raise from the burial mound when you finally returned to break the chains of the Earth? Common men, or kings?
The Elgorians of the present, however, have a much different philosophy about salvation. And thanks to the Nibiru Society, they’ve injected it into the minds of every man, woman, and child on planet Earth.
. . .
They emerged from the gateway on January 1st, Post-Colonization Year 213. It was twelve years to-the-day after the initial test run of the Silurian Photon Drive, and the celebrations instantly roared to life across every metropolis of the Earth. Humanity had scarcely imagined a brighter future, even in their most grandiose space operas and visions of cosmic victory. Against all odds, eleven of the nineteen travelers deployed on New Year’s Day, P.C. 201 had returned through the Charm Quark Gateway successfully. They bore news of freedom and prosperity across the stars, and they had encountered the Elgorians in their travels. The aliens who promised eternal freedom for mankind had vowed to share their wisdom with us, just as they had with the Pharaohs of Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
The Silurian Photon Drive was mankind’s last-ditch effort to save the Earth and pry humanity from the clutches of extinction. By P.C. 199, radiation pollution had reached the point of no return. Humanity was dying off in droves, and the Earth’s atmosphere was so devastated by the War of Atonement that it was predicted we only had another 20 years before the last straggler was cooked like an egg in a frying pan.
When the Nibiru Society proposed their plan for a team of time travelers to go on a suicide mission back to A.D. 2442 and assassinate those responsible for starting the war, no one believed it was actually going to work. But although the bizarre plan echoed through every city, earning scorn from all the remaining religions, and laughter from all the realists, everyone recognized it was mankind’s only hope. Even the most devoted, blind followers of outdated religious doctrines were silently praying that the Nibiru Infiltration was crazy enough to work.
And for 12 years, drowning in pools of their own sweat and evaporated dreams, the entire world kept silently praying. Everyone knew the Infiltration would take far longer than we hoped. At minimum, it was predicted the team of travelers wouldn’t return for a decade. At maximum, they could find themselves returning in a million years to a vacant pile of rubble in the void where the Earth once stood. So witnessing the travelers return through the gateway a mere twelve years from their deployment was truly a cause for ecstasy, rapture, and exhilaration in every country, city, and soul.
The euphoria was so intoxicating that everyone was willing and eager to accept the Elgorians as friends, from the moment they stepped through the Charm Quark Gateway on New Year’s Day. But a warm welcome quickly turned into a reception for the ages when their leader, Xora, ascended the podium and promised to end Earth’s suffering once and for all—by offering triumph over death for all mankind.
Eager to prove her credibility from her first hour back on Earth, Xora vowed to rip the kings of Egypt and Babylon from their tombs and breath life into them once more. The eyes of all humanity were fixed on the tentacle-haired Queen of Hyperion, with her six yellow eyes and metallic fangs. Her twin pairs of arms were reminiscent of Vishnu, the legendary Preserver of Hindu lore. Although she bore some slight similarities to the “little green men” trope, with her emerald skin and elongated neck, Xora looked far more like a goddess than an alien.
From the moment she stepped out of the portal, wherever she walked, a procession of wilted, crippled figures followed in her wake. If Xora were the antithesis of what humans expected aliens to look like, then these creatures were a caricature. They possessed the same elongated heads and wide, insect-like eyes as the aliens of human lore. Their stubby, webbed fingers didn’t appear to be good for much, and they were worn-out and ancient by human standards. Whatever intergalactic fountain of youth Xora had been drinking from, these creatures had been deprived. They called themselves the lesser Elgorians, and they claimed to be the ambassadors of the race, sent to deliver the Queen’s message to every corner of the Earth.
Their dispositions, however, were the opposite of their appearances. Although their bodies were withered, their personalities shone brighter than the distant stars they claimed to be visiting from. They sung Xora’s praises from the moment they arrived in our dimension, and they made it their mission to convince every soul on planet Earth that she was their only salvation.
I still recall what it felt like to hear the lesser Elgorians speak for the first time, all those centuries ago—I remember every word like it was yesterday. The way their throats closed up and ‘squelched’ after they uttered every syllable, the distended bulges hanging from their skulls that were poor excuses for eyes . . .
. . .
“Our Queen offers the gift of Reverse Necrosis,” choked the creature upon the podium. Behind him, his followers rubbed their hands together and nodded in unison. “She has carried us in her arms from the Earth’s atmosphere to the rings of Saturn, from the Devonian era to the end of the universe. She has shown us what lies in the realms beyond time and death. She has proven that all our previous conceptions of reality are false, and she will do the same for you.”
The wide-eyed, slack-jawed mob said nothing, staring in united disbelief—millions of pairs of eyes from every corner of the world, watching from the crowd and behind their screens. The wrinkled little abomination knew he had them all wrapped around his gnarled, useless fingers.
“We’ve combed through the blackest corners of this galaxy, and all that lies beyond. We know the secrets—and today, we’re going to share our enlightenment with you. If you want to thrive on a doomed Earth, all you have to do is die along with it.”
At that point, the faces of the crowd were a contorted slurry of horror, fear, and dread. Perhaps the people of Earth were beginning to realize that the promises of salvation from beyond time were too much to hope for after all. Or maybe it was the way the air was rattling through the creature’s empty, vacuous sinus cavity, amplified a thousand-fold with every breath.
“What we’re offering you is a gift from the cosmic demigods that spawned humanity at the beginning of time,” screamed the creature, his eyes bulging so intensely that they threatened to pop out of his head. “Our Queen knows their secrets! Hail Xora, Queen of Hyperion! The blood of the Proto-Gods flows in her veins to this day! Your only hope at surviving the death of the Earth and reaching eternal life is trusting Queen Xora!”
The second the last syllable of his words died off, without further ado, Queen Xora herself slithered her way over to the podium. With a dismissive flick of her wrist, her underling wilted away and allowed her to have complete control over their captive audience.
“Citizens of the Earth,” She began, with both pairs of her arms reaching dramatically skyward. “Everything my companion has told you is true. Humanity has reached the point of no return, and the ones who reject Elgorian salvation will surely have no chance of survival.” Although her green skin was a necrotic, sickly hue by human standards, on her, it was the epitome of elegance.
“Your scientists have been correct in their doomsday calculations, and your atmosphere has less than a decade left,” shrieked the Queen, the tentacles of her hair thrashing wildly as the crowd stared in resigned disbelief. “But we’ve come to pass on the secrets of Reverse Necrosis at last! Salvation is Death, and Death is Salvation!”
“Salvation is Death, and Death is Salvation. Salvation is Death, and Death is Salvation,” chanted the lesser Elgorians, their hideous eyes rolling back into their heads as they repeated their mantra over and over.
“Your ancestors knew this day would come,” continued Queen Xora. “And this is why they went to such great lengths to protect their corpses from the clutches of rot. This is why they perfected the art of mummification long before they created starships, or cities, or vaccinations against disease. We taught them this glorious art when the Earth was young, on our first visit past your atmosphere. And now that the years of your planet are numbered, we’ll free your ancestors from the chains of the grave at last—just as we promised all those years ago.”
. . .
Perhaps it’s just my decaying brain, or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention back then, but this is where my memory gets foggy. Xora continued with her speech for a while longer, her six eyes wide with madness and the secrets of the universe. But whatever she said after this point has been lost to memory, along with the smell of fresh air and the light of the sun. No matter what other arcane mysteries she claimed to be hiding on that fateful day, this is the only one that burned its place into my mind forever.
So as a citizen of an alternate timeline, you’re probably wondering if Queen Xora of Hyperion kept her promise and raised the Pharaohs from their tombs. Since you’re lucky enough to have been spared the oceans of boiling flesh, and the mass suicides, we’ll gloss over that and skip right to the good stuff. My memory isn’t quite as whole as it used to be, but I’ll never forget the day I saw them for the first time . . .
. . .
Really, what did the people of Earth have to lose? Our atmosphere was doomed to go up in smoke in less than a decade anyway, and not even the Nibiru Society had any alternative solutions. So in truth, Queen Xora’s “eternal salvation” was the only shot in the dark we had. Although plenty of naysaying zealots had traveled to Giza that fateful day in P. C. 213, most of us couldn’t be bothered to even pay them a glance, much less read their hastily-scrawled protest signs.
I, however, have always been drawn to that which others cast aside. I read many of the signs that day, but the only one which still lingers in my mind was this:
“Daniel 12:2 – And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
At the time, heeding the guidance of an alien queen over that of a sign-waving zealot seemed as intuitive as breathing. What would the sign-bearer have me do, curl up in the ashes of Earth and wait for Jesus to descend from the stars, when Xora herself already had? The idea filled me with amusement in the moment, but in the present, I would give anything to have taken the protestor’s warning seriously.
By the time I pushed my way past the protests, and the riots, and the collapsed bodies in the blood-drenched sands, King Mafhuten had already emerged from his jewel-encrusted sarcophagus and begun strolling through the crowd. Those who struck at him were quickly subdued by the Elgorians and their photon whips, who followed as loyal dogs in his footsteps. Some fainted, some vomited, and some even ran screaming from his blazing golden eyes and long, black tongue.
Queen Xora, ever the ringleader, remained behind the podium as her followers led the long-dead Pharaoh through the sea of faces. A massive hologram bearing her image in real-time was projected behind her, towering far above the pyramids themselves.
“Those among you who will deny the glory of Reverse Necrosis, hear my words and be cursed!” Her voice boomed off the distant skyscrapers, and distorted itself into a blood-chilling shriek before it reached the ears of the crowd.
“Behold, the image of Mafhuten before I cast my all-seeing gaze upon him!” Xora screamed, summoning the leathery, rotten face of the mummified king upon the hologram. The collective moans of the crowd rumbled through my eardrums, but quickly died down when the second image of the revived Pharaoh flashed onto the screen.
“Behold, Mafhuten, Eternal King of Giza!”
Mafhuten did not trouble himself to walk, but rather glided above the throngs of men, leaving nothing but terror and admiration in his wake. Although the skin of his face was still stretched with unnatural tightness and faded to green, it possessed an unearthly quality of refreshment and vitality. When he grinned at the legions who came to view his resurrection, his teeth were still rotten with a thousand years of decay—but somehow, the way his time-blackened tongue glided over the festering surfaces was beautiful instead of stomach-turning.
When Mafhuten drifted past my segment of the crowd, I wasn’t one of the fools who collapsed to my knees and cried. I only stared in unbroken reverence as he beckoned to me with his long, spidery fingers. The bandages that bound him for over 2,000 years were still woven between his fingertips, but the glow emanating from the skin beneath was simply ethereal.
All it took was one glimpse into his eyes, where the fear of the starless infinity of death had been dissolved completely—in that moment, I knew that although I never believed in God, or Allah, or any of their consorts, I believed in Xora.
I was only half-listening as the queen described the limitless capabilities of the Silurian Photon Drive, and suggested that its gateways be erected in every nation of the Earth immediately. My soul, seduced by the glory of Mafhuten, had no need for convincing.
“Those among you who choose to die by your own hands will awaken in a kingdom of pleasure and resplendence. No corpse that falls in the realms of men will be left unturned, and no soul will be forgotten.”
Within moments, glorious Mafhuten was swallowed up by the crowd. But his eyes, and their complete absence of man’s cursed fear of death, lingers in my mind to this very day.
“And although nothing but infinite serenity waits for you in the arms of Death, we realize that by the weak and fragile human nature, some of you will never find the courage to take the plunge. Relinquish your fear, and accept the glory of the Elgorians into your hearts—by passing through the Charm Quark Gateways from which we emerged, you can still achieve immortality while circumventing the need for death completely.”
The sheep amongst the crowd emitted soft, frail grunts of pleasure in heart-curdling unison.
“Through the Charm Quark Gateways, humanity will travel to the edge of the universe and back! The Silurian Photon Drive will allow mankind to share Mafhuten’s glory without the pain or fear of death! By traveling through the gateways to the end of time, the need for a violent end will be circumvented—and the Earth you return to will not be the same one that will go up in flames in six years! It will be a land of prosperity, and freedom, and eternal life, where the sorrow of the old Earth has been forgotten for a thousand years!”
“Although natural Death is a far quicker solution, and will allow you to achieve immortality much faster than traveling through the gateways, we realize this option will be far more appealing to your basic instincts. The Silurian Photo Drive will take you on a journey to the beginning of the world and the end of all things, and the time dilation you experience will be indescribable both in human and Elgorian terms. If your fear of death is strong enough to choose this method of ascension instead, then we’ll be waiting.”
They were waiting, all right . . . In every country, in every city, in every state. Xora, and Mafhuten—and soon, Hatshepsut, and Axayacatl, and Lenin, and every other dead king of the Earth who hadn’t rotted to an unrecognizable pile of dust and bones.
. . .
Reverse Necrosis was clear, irrevocable proof that our existence mattered to the universe, which was a blind hope that humans were too afraid to accept only a few short weeks ago. And the newly-resurrected great kings of the Earth were a testament to it. Immediately following the rise of Mafhuten, Charm Quark Gateways began springing up in every capital city on the planet, and people were tripping over each other trying to journey through them—just as the original nineteen time travelers had over a decade ago.
It seemed everyone had forgotten about the eight travelers who never returned. The rare, skeptical souls who mentioned their absence were met with dismissive explanations from the Elgorians and the resurrected kings, ranging from “they’ll be back any day now” to “they emerged weeks ago but have chosen not to join the celebrations.” And in a time when the atmosphere was evaporating yet Death had been abolished, these half-baked excuses were more than satisfactory.
As the days wore by, and the population dwindled, I was one of the final stragglers who had bided their time before taking the plunge through the gateway. I’d frequently debated dying by my own hand, as many of my neighbors had done, but in the end, I chose to travel to New York City to make my final procession as a mortal man. I couldn’t help but savor the empty highways and silent rest stops I encountered on my journey. I couldn’t dismiss the thought that if I chose to abstain from the Elgorians’ offer for immortality, I’d bask in the solitude I always craved until the planet died.
If only I had trusted my instincts, rather than allowing my soul to be seduced by Queen Xora’s convoluted lies on my last night on Earth.
. . .
When I arrived on the outskirts of New York City at the end of time, the last thing I expected was for the city to be swallowed up by mass hysteria. The silent serenity I’d come to love during my pilgrimage had evaporated into the void, and I was met with the collective panic of thousands of people. I quickly abandoned my car and set off on foot, realizing that trying to plow through the debris-filled streets would be hopeless. Despite my best efforts to discern why the entire city had reverted into some kind of hopeless, hysterical human zoo, I found no answers amongst the locals.
Far off in the distance, I could hear the pulsing, hypnotic hum of the Strange Quark Gateway. I heeded its siren call, wandering through the sea of shattered glass and broken bones, narrowly avoiding getting trampled by the shrieking crowds on several occasions. After several hours of dragging my walking corpse through ravaged alleyways and war-torn neighborhoods, I began to accept that something was dramatically, fundamentally wrong.
When I paused in front of a hologram in the window of some forgotten storefront, my worst suspicions were finally brought to life.
“That’s correct. The results of the DNA analysis have confirmed that the creature known as Xora of Hyperion is indeed human. We understand that this news will be perceived as catastrophic in cities around the globe, but we firmly believe that it’s our duty to share it. Queen Xora’s DNA matrix shows no suggestions of being of extraterrestrial origin, and the Nibiru Society’s researchers have found her sequence is exactly the same as a homo sapien’s.”
I smelled blood and saw stars as the newscaster continued on, but I fought off the urge to vomit and refused to look away.
“When DNA tests were performed on her consorts, the lesser Elgorians, similar results were obtained—however, the deterioration found in their DNA sequences was consistent with computer models for human beings subjected to light speed travel. Furthermore, the DNA of the Elgorians is a perfect match for the eight travelers who embarked on the original Silurian Photon Drive mission who have not been accounted for. Although some scientists theorized that they had been lost in time, a more likely solution is that their bodies have been severely mutated by their trip through time.”
“At this time, it’s unknown what will become of the millions of people who have already journeyed through the gateways. The most likely hypothesis is that they will emerge in a decade, as the original travelers did—whether or not they’ll be deformed is anyone’s guess. Since some of the original travelers returned unscathed, there’s always a chance that our departed loved ones will be spared the mutations. However, scientists are theorizing that millions of people will undoubtedly be impacted by the deformities.”
“And what about the mass resurrections that have been captivating the entire world?” Demanded the second newscaster, who had been as silent as the grave up until that very second. It was clear that she had lost every semblance of professionalism, and all but forgotten that she was on the air. “What of the dead men who now freely roam the Earth by Xora’s hand? How can the scientists claim she’s a human when she’s made the dead live again?”
I don’t remember how the first newscaster responded to her question, because after fighting the shock for so long, I finally collapsed onto the concrete in a dead faint.
. . .
I don’t know who it was that dragged my unconscious body through the gateway, but if I ever find him, in the waking world or in unremembered dreams, I’ll show him what I’ve learned outside time.
I wasn’t there to experience the chaos in the weeks following the Nibiru Society’s unexpected revelation, but from what the records suggest, it was a dark time indeed for all mankind. It was revealed that Reverse Necrosis was nothing but the delusion of a dying Earth—or rather, a by-product of the world slowly being ripped apart by the temporal disturbance caused by the gateways. The laws of time had been torn asunder when Xora and her lackeys returned from the past, and Reverse Necrosis was hardly the strangest phenomenon to plague the realms of men in the last days of Earth.
After Xora and the “Elgorians” broke the laws of time, new laws of physics were promptly written, and “universal truths” such as death and decay suddenly weren’t so universal. Reverse necrosis wasn’t a gift from an alien queen from beyond the stars, but rather, a byproduct of human experimentation with time travel via the Silurian Photon Drive. However, I was less torn up over the revelations of a dying Earth, and more fixated on the decay of my own rotten body and soul.
When I was forced through the gateway, some would say I was lucky to come back at all—but the world I returned to was indeed not the world I left behind. I’ve traveled from Hyperion to Sirius, from Charon to the edge of the Milky Way. I’ve drowned in the oceans of Ganymede, and been torn apart by the endless storm of Jupiter’s eye.
Not a second was devoted to any task other than searching for some sign, any sign, of the Elgorians or some other cosmic Elder race to free me from this torment. When I first laid eyes on the Elgorians on New Year’s Day, I briefly savored the delusion that my soul had found its purpose. With infinity at my disposal after passing through the Charm Quark Gateway, I vowed to find meaning for my life once more.
In my travels, I searched every timeline and every era, from the intergalactic dark ages to the end of the universe. All I craved was a single glimpse, a single taste, of some other race out there besides mankind. But when I glimpsed the death of the final star at the end of time, in the moment I was finally ripped back through the gateway to the war-ravaged planet Earth, I knew the one true horror:
In the irreverent, black infinity of space, there is only man.