This is a continuation of a previous story, Erosion, because I guess it wasn't depressing enough yet.
I can look at the surface of the universe and see my funhouse reflection from the other side twenty feet away, getting darker on each recursion as light is erased; reflections turning into shadows and then nothing at all. There were walls here once, and beds. It was always cramped but there was a zero-gravity exercise station and a big air recycler. And air to recycle. We wear our environmental suits now, the same ones we wore before leaving the timeline, and the speakers in my helmet giggle - Jeremy's endless laughter like white noise, comforting. In the center of our little spherical universe, strapped to a support beam left over from when there was something to support, there is a large box with a power plant, a control panel, and a hollow rectangular chamber just barely big enough for both of us, though it has something more important in it - a metal cylinder destined for the year 2003, the year I'll never be born in.
The universe is my Aunt's indoor garden, inside the decorative mirrored ball. Aunt Lilly will come and let us out soon, bring us sandwiches and lemonade; she was always great about that. Sudden silence wakes me and I don't have an Aunt Lilly ever anymore. I'm dreaming without closing my eyes, I think that it's been happening a lot lately. Jeremy is staring at a blinking green light: Fully charged. He isn't laughing, and he's not hitting the button. I should say something, do something, but I can't remember how. It's in my head, but I haven't talked in forever and haven't moved since the day the walls gave out and I pressed my bare hand up against that black surface. My palm still feels raw. Jeremy just laughed and made a joke, pulled me away and put my suit on for me and tied me to the beam. The three of us were always a good team, when there were three of us.
Instead of the control panel he’s hunched over Samantha, lying on the ground like she was that day, her helmet off because it doesn’t matter anymore. Past her I can see all the way to the rotting skyline I left behind. Jeremy is in the same position he was when the control panel was there, staring not at the green light but at the tear in her suit. We’re all crying, but Samantha’s tears are starting to turn pink and I know they'll be red soon. I want to hold her while she dies like I did before, but I'm still frozen. It's just a dream, a hallucination, a memory - a memory everyone in this universe shares, of something that will never happen to someone who was never born. Who should have been with us outside of time, dropping off the care packages while our bubble got smaller. She's shaking now, and I know she's dying, dying a second time because the memory of her is dying. This time I can save her. I can throw away the cylinder and we can drop ourselves back into time, Jeremy and me and Samantha's memory. She's lifting her arms, begging. That must be what she wants. It must be. I reach towards her, I need to take her hand but it's gone. Gone. Where Samantha's trembling hand was a second ago is the button, depressed by my outstretched fingers. The little green light is dark like the shrinking edges of the universe.
Jeremy hugs me, holding me like I held Samantha, and I can't tell if he's laughing or crying.