He had travelled a long way in space and time, searching for answers to questions which remained for the most part elusive; to those which he had found some reply the passage of both time and distance had long since swept their meaning from him. His humanity had been subsumed and sustained by the technology around him, as had the spirit within, yet the desire to return had burned continually. He now found himself, for only the second time in his life, staring down at that which had once been his home, Earth. The part of him that was navigation assured him it was so, the ashen gray globe beneath him was home, and the bloated red sphere to his back was the life giver, the sun. Had it been so long he asked himself, knowing he did not want the answer. It had been as long as it had needed to be.
He had set off one day long ago in April, gentle rain coursing down the side of his vessel as it rose from its field in Adelaide, to see what lay beyond the outer edges of the solar system in an untried and yet to be proven craft. A combination of the animate and inanimate, machine and flesh, he had been integrated so thoroughly where man ended and man made started was impossible to tell. No regret was felt at leaving the seething boiling masses of humanity in his wake, only for the green blue ball shrinking rapidly behind him, as he carried a faint hope that he could bring some sort of relief to the declining civilisation of man if he found anything of that sort.
Riding the cusp of relativistic travel the universe aged around him whilst the man machine did not. Of life beyond Earth he found relatively little, most of it being confined to low mounds of algae and lichen like forms eking out existence where life should have flourished. Higher forms he had seen only three of, two of which were more concerned with feeding on themselves to be concerned with him. The other, being rooted physically to their planet unable ever to leave, were so consumed with envy and anger they had refused to communicate in any way, shape or form save to vent their venom at him. Only once did he meet what could be called sentience, in close to the centre of the galaxy, and he had been warned away, being told he was not yet ready to enter, not truly unbound, still a child of the soil and not of the stars.
No lack of ruins faced him however. Nations, civilisations and planets he had seen in ruins, some bearing the signs of conflagrations of planetary scale that had seared life from the surface, and some having choked on their own filth of pollution. Others had, seemingly, quietly given up and drifted to oblivion as their sprits died, and for some the universe itself had conspired against the life it had nurtured, sending death from the heavens in untold ways. All death, no life, and where he found life he found no companions, no peers, no solace.
Mankind, he had considered on his homeward journey, was truly alone to face its future. And now he could see that the promises of a species was naught. Atmosphere stripped by solar winds, seas and life burned by the radiation of the sun, his home was a cinder. No man walked the surface, no work of man survived. What had been raised up was now cast low, the highest and the basest desires of humanity all availing nothing.
He had outlived his father, and that was as it should be. But he had outlived his children, a tragedy by any other measure, and had now survived his children’s children, and theirs; grown older than his country and civilisation; and now was all that remained of his race, the sole reminder of the brief and vainglorious rise of life in this small part of the galaxy. What was and still remained of his emotions wept bitterly; he was truly alone in the universe, more than he could have thought was possible.
There was no Earth to be bound to, none like him to mourn his loss. He was now a part of the cosmos, whole and complete in himself as there was nothing left to be a part of. He remembered, recalled a place once unprepared for, now perhaps admissible. He turned his face to the galaxy’s core and left.