Vampire Gustav at the End of the Universe
by Sean Monaghan
Gustav floated. Nearby, perhaps a hundred trillion miles off, a nova flared. Gustav put his arm out to slow his gentle spin a little. He could watch the nova for the next fifty years as his drift continued. These days there was little enough to see.
Twenty thousand years ago he had passed through a nova himself, sucked into its gravity well, cool enough that he was not reduced to ashes, buried within the star for hundreds of years before it burst, casting him loose in the void again. He had been able to gather some heavy minerals then. Good mass for a modicum of control.
Strange, he thought, how he was able to still think in terms of years, of the orbit of the Earth. It was at least three hundred million years since the swollen sun had sucked the tiny world into its maw, much much longer since the human population had vanished from the planet, leaving the parched globe to the adapted wolves and bugs and the undead.
He had long ago discovered that the old idea that sunlight withered his race was a myth. Even vampires had believed it. So few things could harm his kind. A wooden stake was bad, but there was no more wood. Crosses? No big deal. Garlic? Tasty.
Many times he had been caught in the pull of gravity and had slammed into planetary surfaces. Sometimes it took decades for his mangled body to rebuild, but then he would walk the surface, gathering and examining, filling his mind. Sometimes there were inhabitants on the planets and he could satisfy the cravings.
How he still hungered. He was just able to recall the last drops of real human blood he’d taken. From Marie O’Donnell, in Cork. Ah, the green fields of Cork, the beer in Dublin, sailing on the Irish sea, walking across the wetland moors to southern England.
Lucky Marie, so mortal, her soul now gone, while he and his brethren were cast out through eternity.
Then, silhouetted by the nova, he saw a dark mass. A dead planet, not far off. Gustav watched for a year, another year and knew he was near enough. He threw one of the heavy meteoric rocks he’d collected over the aeons and his new velocity carried him close to the planet. It took most of his remaining pieces to cut his speed and put him into an eccentric orbit around the body.
He waited, orbiting, studying the dead surface beneath, able to see where continents and seas had met. Where once there had been great cities and huge forests.
A people, he thought. A billion years of alien civilization, with their own vampires and crusades. Extinguished now.
He monitored his orbit, counting seconds between periapsis and apoapsis.
After perhaps a hundred thousand orbits he knew every detail of the surface, had watched the wisps of lost ghosts drift through their haunts, confused and dispersed. He knew the mechanics of his own orbit too.
He balled one of his last space rocks and gave it a gentle toss into an even more eccentric orbit than his own. It drifted off, picking up speed.
He had observed long enough to know now that the universe would end in a Big Crunch, all matter returning to an infinitesimal core in perhaps another five hundred million years. He was done waiting and here, finally, was an opportunity.
Over the next few years he watched on. The nova was fading, but his sensitive eyes could still see. At the expected time he squinted and saw the tiny piece of nickel he’d tossed years before angling in on an intersecting orbit. It smacked into his chest like a bullet, passing through his heart and out into space.
Gustav knew then that it would work, and even in this changed orbit very soon he would know the trajectories and be able to launch his last remaining pellet. The one that over the millennia he’d pressed together from tiny scraps of silver. He was mortal.
Copyright © 2009 by Sean Monaghan