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AST-217: A Moment in Time

by Bradley Ramsey (He/Him) about a year ago in Short Story
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Inspired by the Album "Consciousness" by I-Exist

Alpha and Omega stepped out from the waters of time and into the third dimension, taking the form of human males for the purposes of their research.

"We have arrived. Let us begin the examination of subject AST-217," Omega said.

"What language are you speaking?" Alpha asked.

"It is customary to speak the language of the subject when researching sentient life," Omega said.

"Of course, but can the subject hear us? I was told the human female was in a catatonic state," Alpha replied.

"It is...unlikely, but we must adhere to protocols."

Alpha nodded as he walked slowly into the enclosed space. The polished metal beneath their feet rose upward like a fountain, creating a plateau several feet above the ground upon which a human female, dusted in snow and ice, lay with her eyes shut.

Alpha noted the blue tinge of her lips, and how it matched the color of her hair. Neither were important, but the association caught his eye nonetheless.

Six white cables embedded in her skull trailed off the edge of the plateau, snaking across the ground and leading to six crystal obelisks evenly spaced across the back of the enclosure. All but one of the crystals were dark.

The last one burned with a pulsing blue light.

"What has happened to the other Crystalisks?" Alpha asked.

"The subject is fading. Her connection to those moments in time is all but lost. For our research to be complete, we must access the remaining Crystalisk. Will you begin the examination?"

Alpha nodded, walking past the subject and towards the pulsating blue crystal.

"Remember, she is the last of their kind. If we lose this subject, our research cannot be completed," Omega said.

"We cannot go back to a time before they perished?" Alpha asked.

"Time only flows in one direction, my young student. We can go forward, but never back. The Crystalisk acts as a beacon, cast into the waters of the river, tied firmly to a memory that is now fading. It is our only way of observing the past. Now, make haste and gather the last of our data."

Alpha placed his hands on the Crystalisk, connecting to a moment in time that would soon fade. The enclosure melted around him and he felt the temperature drop as snow began to fall all around him.

Through the subject's memory, Alpha was briefly returned to a moment otherwise lost to the river of time. The subject stood in front of him, dressed in the same clothes she wore in the present.

Snowflakes caught themselves in her flowing blue hair, which Alpha noted also matched her deep sapphire eyes. Alpha was not beholden to the emotions of humans, but he noted her relative beauty nonetheless.

"It's just a leap of faith, come on!" The subject said.

Alpha realized that he had stepped into the persona of someone else in that memory. Not unheard of, but he was simply a spectator, he could not control the flow of what had transpired.

"That frozen pond is not going to hold my fat ass," Alpha's persona replied.

The subject reached out and took the hand of Alpha's persona, guiding them out onto the surface of a frozen pond. The integrity of the ice beneath both of their feet was suspect, but the subject smiled nonetheless as she looked upward.

"I think winter is my favorite season. I just love the snow," she said.

"You should really wear your jacket," Alpha's persona said.

"Oh stop. You worry too much. Get over here and kiss me."

The subject pulled Alpha's persona closer and wrapped her arms around him. Despite the intense cold. Alpha noted a deep warmth as they embraced. The subject pressed her lips softly onto his, and Alpha noted a euphoric sensation within his persona.

"I love you," The subject said.

"I love you too," Alpha's persona replied.

A sharp crack came from beneath them. The smile faded swiftly from the subject's face as the surface of the pond gave way. She reached out for Alpha's persona, and he in turn reached for her, but their hands did not connect.

The subject fell into the frigid waters below. Alpha's persona fell to his knees and reached into the hole in the ice, but could not withstand the temperature.

He stood, turned, and fled, no doubt seeking help.

The memory ceased, returning Alpha to the enclosure. Omega was standing over the subject, holding a thin translucent pad that displayed relevant data as he observed the subject.

"Fascinating," Omega said, "I am reviewing the data from your examination. You noted several details that seem irrelevant to our research, such as the color of her eyes. Care to elaborate?"

"A harmless observation," Alpha replied.


Alpha looked over to the blue Crystalisk. Its light was fading, the pulse of the color slowing.

"What happened after that?" Alpha asked.

"The subject was never recovered, and the planet's temperature continued to drop until it was encased in ice across its surface. We extracted a number of subjects, but none of them persisted through the flash freeze. This one did."

"How is that possible?" Alpha asked.

"A scientific anomaly, but a fortuitous one. Without this subject, we could not complete our research before the human race goes extinct."

Alpha looked over to the Crystalisks. As the blue one began to fade, the others suddenly lit up again. Red, green, yellow, a rainbow of colors began flashing excitedly across the pedestals.

"What is happening?" Alpha asked.

"Her biological processes are beginning to cease. Her mind is struggling to grasp oblivion. It is searching across her memories, reliving her life from beginning to end in a desperate attempt to preserve itself. She is dying," Omega said.

"What happens when she dies?" Alpha asked.

"Nothing. She will cease to be."

"I do not understand."

Omega paused his review of the data and looked up at Alpha.

"You and I are infinite, and we will persist, but death is a common end for sentient life in the universe. Now please, let me work."

Alpha turned back to the flashing colors behind the subject. He could see the desperation reflected in those hues. He felt confused, scared, emotions he thought were not within his capacity to feel.

The subject's body began to shake, but Omega was unaffected by the development. Alpha reached out and took her hand, much like she did to his persona in the vision.

When his hand touched hers, the enclosure shattered all around him. It was as if he had touched another Crystalisk. There was a brilliant flash of light, a deep warmth washed over Alpha.

He found himself standing at the edge of a lush and vibrant forest. In front of him, a clearing housed an impossibly large tree, with infinite branches spanning in every direction.

Alpha shot across the clearing, soaring an incredible speeds. He passed through the branches, noting billions of teardrop-shaped pods dangling from the branches like ripening fruit.

Within them, all manner of humans and other species slept. His journey stopped abruptly and he looked through the exterior of a dangling pod at the very subject he was researching.

Her eyes opened within the pod and her hands pressed against the interior. Her sapphire eyes met his, and the vision ceased.

Alpha reeled backward, now back in the enclosure. The light of the crystals faded. The subject had expired.

Omega furiously tapped and swiped across the surface of his pad.

"This is not possible, what happened just now?" he asked.

"I touched the subject. I was taken somewhere."

"These coordinates are not possible." Omega said.

"Is it possible that she has gone somewhere else?" Alpha asked.

"Of course not. Death is the end for sentient life. There is nothing beyond."

"Then how do you explain this data?"

Omega closed his fist and the pad collapsed inward until it disappeared.

"We are beings of science, not faith. These creatures believed in something beyond their demise, but our infinite knowledge has never once showed anything to corroborate it," Omega said.

"Perhaps our knowledge is not complete?" Alpha asked.

"Impossible. To think anything else is a fool's errand."

"Then perhaps I am a fool," Alpha said.

"Indeed. Now, let us return. We're done here."

Omega stepped out of the enclosure and fell back into the river of time. Alpha took one last look at the subject and hesitated. Fool or not, he was not yet ready to leave her side.

Short Story

About the author

Bradley Ramsey (He/Him)

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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