A baby cries.
Una opens her eyes but sees nothing. She tries to move but is bound. Struggles, but cannot move. She is naked, wrapped in a coarse cloth that chaffs against her bare skin. She tries to tear it but cannot get free.
The baby cries.
Una slips a little forward but is still bound. Her skin is scratched and raw as she fights desperately against the cloth. She slips a little more.
The cloth tears and she is loose within it. She writhes forward but there is only more cloth. It stretches out before her and behind her and she pulls at it to see past, but only sees more cloth.
The baby cries.
Panicked, she rends the cloth and it scratches her hands as it rips, but there is only more cloth behind it. Then it opens suddenly before her and she falls onto the floor. The room is dark and she cannot see. Naked, she pulls the cloth around her.
Nyx, dressed in darkness, descends from the blackness of the ceiling, arms outstretched.
The baby is naked on the floor and screams. Una jumps to save it.
Nyx’s gloved hands grasp Una’s ankles. Una struggles forwards and kicks but is held firm. Nyx watches her with black eyes.
Nyx’s now talloned hands tear at Una’s flesh as she struggles to the child.
The baby cries.
Una wakes in a filthy lean-to, breathing heavily, and stares around. She has built her shelter of rusted metal sheets. Everything is coated in a greasy grime. Covered in sweat, she breathes for a moment.
She stumbles from the lean-to into a huge metallic cavern, empty save torn and twisted steel. She stares out a rusty port hole into blackness, the emptiness of deep space.
She drinks from a bottle of brandy. She finishes the last of it and drops the bottle. It falls onto a pile of empty bottles.
She settles next to a small wood box on the floor. She opens it and pulls out a knife.
She cradles the knife for a moment, considering it.
“This is my suicide,” she says to no one.
She holds it to her chest and hesitates. Pricks herself and drops the knife. One small drop of blood runs down her belly.
She wanders from the chamber into the ship proper. It is massive. Indistinct lights of a city spiral up and around her, populating the insides of the ring. Cabins, offices, great machines whose purpose she does not remember. All empty. She steps slowly, lethargically. A city to house a dozen generations, to bridge the stars. But she is alone. She is the last. There will be no children, nor children’s children to reach the distant star.
She stops at a machine full of levers and blinking lights, a jumble of wires that she does not understand. She adjusts the dials. A terrible static overwhelms her, rattling violently from deep in the metal. She covers her ears and shakes until it is done.
She has been alone for a thousand days.
She hears something scurry beneath scraps of metal and wire, but she cannot see it. She advances towards the spot, a corner of piled electronics and unused parts, but nobody is there.
She turns and a shirtless man dressed in a dark black cloak stands before her.
She is already kneeling.
In a small dark room, four candles surround her. The master stands before her, obscured by light.
“What are the three fold-lights?” he asks.
Una is confused. “Master, I do not understand.”
He strikes her with a cane and she falls to the ground.
“What are the three-fold lights?” he asks again.
He strikes her to the ground again.
“The first light is the constant light,” he says, “Light that is not truly light. Action so small that no further division of actionable space is possible. A long steel rod, terrible and rigid, the mundane indifference of the galaxies.”
Una bows and backs away, frightened. He strikes her again and she bolts, crashing into two gas-masked figures behind her, a naked man and a naked woman. They force her back to kneeling.
“The second is also not a light. It is the bending of man’s will to God’s.”
Una struggles against her captors but cannot free herself. Their bodies are hard and covered with grime.
The master strikes her again.
“Say yes master.”
He strikes her again.
“You speak but you do not understand. Only you understand, I think, but not learn. The constant is the gap of perception. Between the signifier and the signified. Eliot’s shadow, between the intention and the action. That is where God lives. And gods and demons. Our self delusion, necessary by our natures.”
Una struggles to pull away. Nyx’s terrible shadow descends from the ceiling and blots out the naked figures holding her. But Una is not free. Nyx grips her in her talons.
Hyperventilating, Una struggles as a baby cries. She looks at her body and she is very pregnant, womb stretching against her belly.
The master strikes her as Nyx licks her face.
“The last is suicide. The terrible constant. You hold it in you. You carry it. A black and wretched light. It shines through every spasm of your mind. Every twitch of bone. Your suicide waits for you.”
Nyx pulls back her cloak, revealing the nude and gas-masked figures. They assault Una with electrified rods, shocking her belly and kicking at her.
Nyx holds and kisses her.
The Master watches grimly.
Blood seeps from between her legs, first a trickle and then a great flow. Nyx pulls up her cloak around the naked figures and they are gone, Nyx swallowing herself into her shadow.
The master says, “You have lost your baby.”
Una cries out and searches through the gore and filth.
A baby cries.
“Here is the tragedy of our lives. The uncaring of a mechanical universe, the futility of God, the terrible promise of our suicides. The only infinite we can grasp.”
The master throws her and she sprawls to the ground. The gas-masked figures are gone.
None of them are real. Una is alone.
She hyperventilates, groping about the debris and grime of the ship. Some debris shifts and there is a body beneath it. She draws away but the body does not move. She turns away from it, but another body falls on her. She scrambles away but there are more. She is surrounded.
The first body speaks to her. “You murdered me.”
She looks at it in horror and tries to flee, but more are behind her.
“You murdered me,” says another body, zombie, groping towards her.
“You murdered me,” they say in chorus.
They corner her and she presses against a wall.
She says, “He made me do it. He made me do it.”
They grab her and hold her down.
“Didn’t he make me do it? He made me. He’s waiting, he’s waiting, I’m the last, the last human, he’s waiting for me.
“You murdered me,” the dead say together. “You murdered me.”
“It was all the petty things. All the petty things. They oppressed me. They were so intolerable. I was so bored here, you were all such empty things. I should have been a savage. A savage creature. I can’t stand it here, it’s not in my blood, my blood is pure and civilization has ruined it. Ruined it. I should be naked, stalking through some wide savanna.”
She speaks to no one, rambles, words overflowing her.
“Your bodies bear down on me, their weight oppresses me. A thousand bodies crushing me. A billion hands, the wheels, then gears, then circuits and spaceships. A billion hands of invention dead dead dead, they weigh down on me. I am the last. I could not stand it, I can not stand it.”
“You murdered me,” say the dead.
“You were all cracked statues. Gray, rotted stone. I put my make-up on. I put it on but it was never thick enough. Never thick enough; I should have been a savage outside as well as in. A thousand cracked rocks, plastic bone and glass. Hearts like sand, hearts like sand. Who of you were alive for me to murder? Did I murder you? Did I? Or were your gray empty faces dead already? Dead. A thousand cracked and rotted things. My heart is full of rocks. Full of razors and shards of glass. My cut and bloody heart. Here it is, lonely, my bloody heart. This is my grace, this hulking mass of steel. My quiet grave.
Mumbling to herself she cradles her head in her hands. The bodies are gone. They were never there.
She holds a jagged length of steel to her heart. It is sharp enough, she thinks. It is sharp enough. She presses it to her skin, feels the prick.
Mumbling, she throws it away and curls up to sleep.
A baby cries.
Una starts awake in her bed. She is wrapped tightly in yarn. She fumbles out of bed and stumbles to a crib.
It is empty.
Frantically she checks a bouncer, a bassinet, but all are empty.
The yarn unravels as she looks.
She searches desperately. In a drawer, beneath the bed. Night stands, strollers, and other objects rearrange themselves around her. They appear and vanish.
She opens a Styrofoam cooler and the baby is inside. She lifts it out and cradles it, rocks it and carries it back to her bed.
The baby cries.
The yarn unravels above her breasts. She holds the baby to one but her breast is diseased. Thick, jagged lines cut across it and the baby cannot eat.
The baby cries.
Nyx hovers above her, her long cape engulfing the bed in darkness.
Nyx descends and takes the child. Una grasps at it but cannot hold on. The yarn unravels completely and tangles around her.
The baby is gone but still cries. Nyx binds Una with the yarn. Una struggles but is hopelessly ensnared.
Nyx pins her, hovers over her, packs the yarn into Una’s mouth. Her mouth is stuck open, full to gagging. She cannot breath. Nyx crams her fingers into Una’s eyes.
Una wakes. Sits up suddenly. Nyx sits behind her and cradles her in her arms for a long quiet moment. Una calms slowly.
Nyx has a knife. She hands it to Una and continues to embrace her. Una looks down at the knife.
An old witch woman screeches and chortles over her, whips Una into a terrible frenzy with a switch.
Una spasms and twitches on the floor. She holds the knife to herself, but the witch kicks it away.
The witch dances and shrieks with delight.
Una shrieks into the darkness, “I am a murderer! I gassed them! I gassed them all!”
“Yes! Yes!” cries the witch.
The witch falls on her, hugging and kissing over her. Una scrambles after the knife, but the witch grasps her arm, spins her up and away.
“I gassed them all! Threw their deaths savage into the great black. I fought it’s depth with infinite edge of death. I fought and lost. And lost and I am lost.”
The witch kisses her, rocks her, cradles her as a babe. “My beautiful innocent girl! My lovely golden lady! Light as lilies and the spring air!”
Una sobs and pulls away from her, but cannot get loose.
“Only my suicide is left. Only that last dark edge. A suicide that waits for me.”
Nyx drifts from the shadows, knife in her gloved hand.
Una takes it.
The witch soothes her, holding the knife away. “There is so much truth my love! We drift in it. As much truth as black. Yes! You stare at a little, the great infinity of time, but here, look at now! Cackle! Sing! Rave at the distant stars and streak the heavens with madness and unbounded joy! So much absurdity! A great cosmic joke! Dance dance dance!”
She dances around Una, giddy and unbalanced, and pulls Una to her feet, cackling madly, tearing at her clothes and gyrating wildly.
Una breaks away, stares at her with amazement. “You are too small! It crushes you! All the empty space it crushes you.”
She holds the knife to her chest, jerks it towards herself.
The witch catches it, hurtling her into a wild circle. Laughing giddily, she swings Una to and fro, a mad unbalanced dance.
Una jerks against her, throws herself onto the knife. But the witch catches her, laughing, relentless, spinning her up and up.
Una fights a smile from her lips. The witch laughs and spins her. Una breaks into a nervous, hideous laughter. Giddiness without base, a terrible hysteria. She crumples to the floor whooping madly. The knife falls away from her. She is shaking and cannot hold it.
The witch is gone. She was never there. Una collapses to the floor, laughter giving way to sobbing, rocking slowly.
Calm comes to her slowly. Nyx sweeps up behind her and holds her. Holds a knife for her.
Una takes it.
She sits with the knife for a long, long time.
She cries a little holding it.
The ship drifts slowly through space. It goes nowhere. She will die alone.