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The Template
Volume 1, Part Five

The night he went home, Lucien knew he had to tell his family about the decision he had to make. He was, nevertheless, hesitant to broach the subject. He waited until after dinner. He did his best to enjoy the meal, which included the favorites of everyone present. He enjoyed the company of his family, the food and conversation. He hoped it wouldn't be too obvious that something was troubling him, but if it was, he supposed the others would simply write it off as the same thing that was troubling everyone in the Universe, that night.

He held a video conference call with a few old friends, after dinner, but that didn't last long. None of them could think of much worth saying. Still, however painful it was to say goodbye, it was at least a little comforting to have seen each other one last time.

Later, as his family sat together in the living room, with some light music playing softly in the background, he lost himself in thought, for a time. The others conversed amongst themselves, until finally a nephew of Lucien's... his sister's boy... spoke up and asked why he was so silent. And so, with a sigh, he told them all. It didn't take much discussion when he was done: they all agreed that he had to do it. Still, he wasn't sure. They insisted, and their support made him feel stronger, but still not entirely resolved. He said he'd have to sleep on it.

Oddly enough, he did sleep. Though no one would ever be aware of this, everyone in the universe slept soundly that night; at least, of those species that ever slept. Had anyone been aware of this fact, they might have thought it a final gift from God, for given the nature of the night, one would hardly expect anyone to be capable of sleeping at all, let alone do so, so peacefully.

And then there was the day to consider. Not the whole day, of course; the Universe was scheduled to end around 5pm, local time. In the morning, Lucien still hadn't made up his mind, but neither he nor his family spoke of the matter. They all simply enjoyed their day together. More good food, music, conversation, and other activities, whatever anyone felt like doing. Lucien's nephew worked feverishly to finish reading a book he'd started a month earlier....

At 4 o'clock, Lucien got up from his couch, bid his family good-bye, and took a direct transmat to a spot in the woods that contained the device. Dean had provided the coordinates for him to program his personal transmat. He found himself in a small research facility, long-abandoned. He went out and found the device, and stood on it, just to see what it was like. The knowledge came to him then that had come to so few others throughout history. He shivered at the immediacy of it... For everyone else who'd stood on the device, it had been an abstract and distant knowledge, but for him... it was so very real. He went back into the building, found a bottle of Dean's favorite liquor, along with a note to the President from the Secretary. He took the bottle outside, and sat against the wall, facing the device. Mostly he avoided looking at it, but rather sat either with his head down, or tilted back to take a swig from the bottle.

About 4:57, he stood, sighed, and went back inside. The bottle was far from empty, so he dumped it down the sink and tossed it in the recycle chute, and then chuckled to himself. He went to the bathroom. 4:59, and he was still undecided, but the hairs on the back of his neck were starting to tingle... he felt a great disturbance in the universe, but he told himself it was just his imagination. If the end had started, it would have finished already. He stood in the doorway, looking out at the device.

At 4:59:50, he jumped out the door. He imagined darkness at his heels, but had barely the time to imagine it before it overtook him. For a moment, he imagined himself a sort of cartoonish figure in pitch blackness, with only his eyes visible. It occurred to him this was ridiculous for various reasons, one being that no one was there to see his eyes.

Except, he almost imagined he saw another pair of eyes in the darkness, and then... there was nothing. Nothing at all.

part six
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