Here is a bit of flash fiction inspired by a playthrough of the game Stellaris… and recent events.
It took thirty days for the world to end.
They first spotted it in Russia, and despite the best efforts of the government, images of the second moon in the sky spread across the internet. A passing meteor was the diagnosis at first.
A week later, we saw that moon blossom open, stretching out to cover a corner of the sky.
The astrologers said that it heralded a new age of change, that a new age had begun where we would transcend this reality and join a new one.
The scientists identified it as a machine, and it glowed like a second sun in the sky. They determined that it was charging itself, and within two months it would have enough power stored in it to destroy the planet twice over.
Why it was sent and by whom — they couldn’t answer.
Some said we should shoot it down with missiles, others called for us to try to contact it. An effort was made to redirect the International Space Station to allow the astronauts aboard a closer look. Contact was lost with the station shortly after.
The politicians waffled. The religious called for calm, or heralded it as a second coming. The scientists worked fervently to study it, churning out paper after paper. Conspiracy theorists once regulated to the sidelines became overnight celebrities.
A woman in Tenerife claimed she was in communion with the machine and that it was here to save us. A man in Arkansas said that he saw the machine after being abducted by aliens some thirty odd years ago.
Some called for global unity, that together we could stop the machine. An effort was made. A rocket was built and launched, but it too went silent shortly after leaving the atmosphere.
Some of the rich built underground bunkers and others built escape rockets. People scrambled to earn a place among them, signing away their lives in exchange for a place in a bunker or on a rocket. Stores ran dry. People bought up whatever they could, trying to prepare. For what, they couldn’t say.
There was a sharp uptick in divorces and marriages. Some people emptied their savings and sped around the world on one last trip. Others stopped going to work and stayed home, holding their families close.
We became a planet of refugees with no safe shore.
The machine gradually grew brighter then the sun, shining night and day. The animals panicked, confused and sensing danger. People began to starve in some parts of the world. Some people helped. Most sat frozen in fear.
On the fifteenth day since its arrival, the machine flashed once and then went dark. People, animals, even the plants began to sicken and die on the side facing it. A wave of death rippled outward, engulfing the world in a day.
Rockets were launched. Some exploded mid-air, others escaped earth to flounder in space. Some escaped to hang above their blue-green planet and watch it turn brown and pale.
The bunkers were the last to go. The people inside felt their blood boil and their skin sloughed off in wet sheets.
On the thirtieth day, the machine closed back up. It performed one more orbit and then a thruster ignited, and it went silently back into the black it came from.
Those of us in space watched it through the viewports as it shrunk until it was just another pinprick of light.
We clung to each other, the last natives of Earth, alone in space.