The vacuum of space. Few really understand it and even fewer can conceive what they do understand.
But you understand it well; as there you are in the middle of it; space that is.
There is no light; as you are near no star. You are in no system. You are between galaxies. The nearest help is light years away. In chrono terms; help would arrive in approximately three hundred seventy thousand years at current technology of your species. A staggering number to contemplate.
The suit you are in is standard issue. Meaning you have twenty four hours of air—at best. Breathing a consistent steady pattern is difficult. Especially when you know you are going to die. Your thoughts will race. Your mind will play tricks on you. Your heart rate will increase and your breathing pattern will follow. But you know this won't matter as your suit's power will run down long before that and you will then freeze to death. Fear and panic enter in with this realization but you have the will to suppress them as they will only rob what little time you have left.
No matter where you look there is nothing but ink-black space. And this is space. It is infinite. Forever the black ink expands; there is no end. A concept the tiny human psyche cannot conceive. No matter how vivid or fertile its imagination. It is impossible. You know as studies have been performed and the inevitable conclusion an individual will conclude is it has to end at some point. Infinite is for the minds of the gods for only they can conceive of it.
If it weren't for ease of movement of extremities, you'd swear you were in an ink-bath stasis. There is no depth perception as there is no reference point. You maybe think you see a pinhole of light here or there that may be a galaxy but you no longer trust your mind for accurate information.
You are acutely aware there is no up; there is no down; no right; no left; no forward or back. The only sounds are your thoughts or imagination and your breathing. This you are certain as a vacuum is utterly silent and you are completely alone in life's vacuum.
You have the presence of mind to pose the question: What does one think of before death? Is it by choice or is there an uncontrolled cascade of thought, memories and emotions that engulf your being? Is it a combination of the two? Do you surrender to it and feed it or do you fight for your own choice of thoughts, memories and emotions? And as you contemplate such idiocies it becomes very clear; that which is most important to you is that which is most important. Whatever that is; whatever you are most proud to have achieved in your life is the mere essence of life. You may have cured cancer where entire generations benefit, yet your most proud and fulfilling moment is that one perfect day with your nine year old daughter. That is the meaning of life. How trite it seemed to hear it in songs; to read it in books and watch it in those sappy movies and yet, it's true.
With the press of a button you could end it all but don't.
It is strange how a person who knows they will soon die continue to hold on to life. That one last thought. That one last contemplation. That one last memory. You know you will die and nothing you do—not one thing will matter to any part of this universe. Your family, your friends, your neighbors, none of mankind will be affected with what you do from now until death, yet you strive for that last bit of life. That last bit of enjoyment from pleasant thoughts or better still, memories. Why? What's the point?
Is it pure hope? Hope that you may be found—rescued? Is this attributed to the undying spirit of mankind to fight for survival until the very end? Or is it just the selfishness of individualism and self-preservation and enjoyment; even if those thoughts are morbid and fleeting?
Like the universe itself the questions are endless and unlike the gods the tiny intellect of mankind cannot conceive the answers.
As you float you accept your fate. The regrets of wasted opportunities of a lifetime seep in. Yet there is nothing you can do to change it. There is no point in lamenting the past. Conversely, there is no point in looking forward—toward the future. You have none.
The power light on your suit turns from green to amber. You know when it begins to blink you will have roughly thirty minutes of power remaining. For some reason you wonder how, in their infinite wisdom, the engineers would design a power pack that would run out of power before the depletion of oxygen. Just one more question that you will never know the answer to. This, in turn, brings about a certain numbness of thought. Your mind is shutting down or is paralyzed by the sheer fact it is now useless. No more questions will be answered. No ideas will ever come to fruition. Memories only serve to exacerbate the fact the end is quite near. Apathy sets in.
Time has passed quickly in these final moments. While in a daze your power light has been blinking for an indeterminate time. You have no idea of remaining power. All you know is the minus two hundred seventy degree Celsius temperature that is just inches from your body will be merciful and swift. You will not suffer. The mind will blackout before death. And death will be here soon.
The light blinks slower and dims more with each cycle. You panic in silence. In the ultimate irony, your muscles are frozen from fear yet still retain warmth and flexibility.
Mere moments pass and you begin to feel the cold encompass your suit and creep in. This is the very definition of reality for you. This is life; it doesn't get any more real. Death is imminent and the only thing you don't know is how many seconds you have left.
Numbness permeates throughout your flesh. The cold is so intense it is quite painful before the numbness. You feel your lungs begin to expand as the water in your body turns to vapor. You know this is what happens when exposure occurs. Soon your entire body will swell to twice its size.
The pain intensifies and you begin to see that familiar sight of tiny bursts of color before forced unconsciousness.
The pain has ceased. Your body has expired, yet you see it floating in open space. You assume this is the mind's last attempt to understand before the final blackout. It is not. You are quite aware. You feel a slight remorse as to the fate of your body. There is a sense of peace combined with anxiety. You're alive in the middle of space and looking at your dead, bloated body. Suddenly, all seems rather unimportant. Your entire life was just a meaningless tromp on a worthless planet. This you measure against your newfound realization that life was never what it seemed and neither was anyone else's existence. You now understand the infiniteness of the universe—it's so simple.
Then it occurs to you: If you are not mortal then how is it you can't remember the past deaths? It must have happened before unless this is your first which seems unlikely. In fact you know it isn't.
Memory loss; that must be it! What the mechanism is you do not know. How to change it is also unknown. You realize these may be the very thoughts you have with each death. You make a vow to yourself—I'll do better next time; I'll remember... Before you can finish your thought your awareness fades.
Two weeks later a young couple in the upper west side of the lower east section of the northern part of the city's southern stretch announce the birth of their new baby boy!