Peter Hammill - The Black Hole

Oh all you who are framed in the hologram of Time, that it should come to this! That, finally, my story can reach you only on this page! You have heard it always, embedded in the fabric of the galaxies, in the spider's web of all existence; but none have ever listened. Vibrating danger and desire to you from the future, you have heard it always, all of you, but none have ever understood, too preoccupied were you with the dull mechanics of your boundaries, that preoccupation which seals you in a ring of dimension where there is none, a voice of reason where there is only chaos. ``Turn back!'' I have always cried; ``Too late!'' the echo of my voice has returned. And from you, nothing but silence and ignorance.

Oh all you...I, strung across the yawning interstices of existence, can now attempt to inform you only through this most primitive of means, in this most earthbound of pasts. Though it is the echo, not my voice, which rings with conviction and veracity, still I must try. Though I know already that you will not be informed, still I must stretch your incomprehension to its limits: I must show you the end of all things. If you cower, so shall I; as you cringe, so do I, for your inadequacy is also mine. Now, too, my despair must clutch your heart, for this is our shared heritage. Here, from the future, I am.

They marooned me. Senses incapable of bearing the self-confrontation with which they would have had to cope had my destruction been immediate, unable to face the telepathic torture my death-throes would have brought them had we been in any proximity, they consigned me to the shuttle and ellipsed away under plasma drive in the mothership. As they drove across the vacuum, I directed my loathing after them as a beam, feeling the twinges of their minds as it made contact, but knowing that these were as nothing compared to those they would have experienced had they executed me on the spot. An execution more personal, more human, more just, that would have been--for no matter what my crime, no matter what my mutiny, it could surely not deserve this, the abnegation of my right to inflict to inflict the anguish of my death on them! Yet they had denied me that right; they had gone, and the inferno of my execration could do no more than faintly reach them; but it sustained me.

Indeed, hatred alone sustained me, for there was no hope, no chance of sanctuary: my physical life was as good as finished at the moment their ship pulled silently, pulsingly away from me in endless acceleration. Only the energy of that vessel would be enough to reach the nearest base, human life, salvation, all that I could hope to grasp, from my position in the void, was further void. The meagre propulsive system of my craft, even had I infinity of time at my disposal, could not bring me to safety. Here, condemned to this farthest flung sector of exploration, I was already dead.

The shuttle craft, having a secondary function as a life-raft, was well provisioned: I could survive for months, years before the stocks of food, drink and air diminished. But my emergency signals would go unheeded. By merely surviving I would ultimately find the worst possible way of dying: gradual decline and certain madness, sustenance exhausted, lungs sucking at non-existent oxygen, life-support systems failing one by one. Of the choice of deaths to which had consigned me this most living one was the most horrendous in prospect. I suppose they had expected me to commit suicide, and if my only alternative had been that protracted torment it would have been inevitable that I would have done so. However, I immediately resolved that my death should not come with the ease of a hypodermic in the private, discreet quiet of my craft, not with a deliriously insensate, hand-jet propulsed drift away from it into space: such relatively painless options could never give vent to the violence of my emotions. My thoughts turned to revenge, and to the search for some end which might match them in intensity. Scalding myself with the pitch of my feelings, I scanned the star charts, looking for anything which might aid me in this, my final purpose. I found it, and instantly set my course. I found the black hole.

As I began the crawl across infinite night towards that negation of our cosmos, my plan was formed. At the point of entry into the black hole--swirling vortex of anti-matter from which there could be no return--I would fuse my power source and disintegrate my vessel; then, surely, some germ of catastrophe would spread out from the shadow-zone where matter and energy of diametrically opposed nature met. The vessel from which I had been cast adrift, I conjectured, would still be within range of some cataclysmic effect, no matter how fast it travelled, no matter how long it took me to reach this, my final destination. Perhaps, at the most, shards of anti-matter would splinter out through the vastness of space, ensuring the destruction of those who had done for me in parallel with my own; at the least, surely, the energies involved would be enough to amplify my anguish and send it screaming out telepathically towards them across the void, so that the very phenomenon they had hoped to escape by marooning me--the sympathetic vibration of their minds to the obliteration of my own--would come about. Perhaps the effects would be even greater than these: there was and is no way of gathering data about black holes without being gathered oneself in the process. Light years away though the nearest life was, it, too, might be touched: but by now my hatred, as my existence, knew no bounds, and I did not so much as doff the cap of conscience in the direction of any accidental victims. Was not my punishment a crime against the humanity in me? Therefore, were not all humans culpable?

My journey took weeks. I continued to sustain myself on hatred, growing in intensity as my end approached. I would never know the actual taste of vengeance, and contented myself with its burgeoning, burning anticipation. I was careful not to stretch my reserves of power--for, at the end, I would have need of them to create the envisioned cataclysm--and cut out my engines as soon as I knew that I was likely to die, physically, before the optimum point for self-destruction, compressed by gravity beyond the imagination; so I programmed my craft's computer accordingly. Should it sense my imminent demise it could then carry out the final act of my plan for me, ripping the shuttle apart in fusion. My distilled hatred, my pure lust for revenge, I knew, would still be with me, the very essence of myself, even as my body failed; and in that moment it would sear out across the void, clutching for the minds of those in the mothership to which I had once belonged. I settled for the long drop into the vortex of anti-matter: the plan was set.

All space is vacuum, but there is none to compete with the enormity of that which surrounds a black hole. Since all things began, it has sucked every grain of matter within the vast power of its attraction into itself, so that the emptiness which surrounds it can no longer be measured even in terms of the speed of light: it must be in that of dark. Into this absolute void I tumbled, ever accelerating, but with no sense of speed: with no matter around me to which I could relate, it was as though, for weeks, my craft remained stationary. But I knew, exultantly, that I was hastening ever inwards: now nothing could halt my progress, nothing could avert the specific of my end.

I became aware very slowly. At first, I thought it was a trick of my admittedly fevered mind, a phenomenon due to the ever greater proximity of nothingness, somehow reflecting my thoughts and giving me telepathic echoes of myself. The closer I drew to the black hole, the greater was the intensity of the mindwaves; realisation after realisation came upon me, until finally truth dawned. My essence, which had been hatred, changed to desperation, the desperation to send a message; and the pitch of my emotion now was greater even than it had been in my earlier will for revenge.

A message: it is that one which has been--as I once hoped my hatred would be--imprinted through all the fabric of space and time and all the further dimensions. It is that message which you, and I in my time within the cage of time, have heard but never understood; it is that warning to which you--we--have been so oblivious. Now this obliviousness forces me into this most inadequate of attempts at communication: the implanting of my story in the mind, and therefore the written words, of one of your time, your constrictions, your inabilities. It is hopeless, I know already: you, I , we all cannot deviate from the line on which we are irrevocably set. Yet still there is struggle; yet still my scream reaches farther than even I could have dreamed.

The essence, the telepathic output of the black hole--no, it is time to do away with such inanimate imagery--the anti-matter itself, the one composite antithesis of all we are and know, is not intelligence, nor will, nor emotion. Even in the matter of essence, it is utter negative I sensed. I knew with every limit of sense, that that negative of negatives was utter oblivion, utter obliteration for us. In the material sense, of course, I had always known this to be so; now I also knew it in every other one. I drew closer, and the mindwaves became even more intense; by this time able only to absorb, not to fight, I was helpless. The enormity of my crime became clear to me.

The anti-matter, in its totality, is also anti-mind, anti-soul, anti-brain, anti-spirit; then, it was still dormant. The oblivion which the black hole, the window at which we peered but could not penetrate, had tendered us was arbitrary, impartial; the sucking in of matter through all time had been merely the breathing of a Sleeper. This is to be no more: the noise of my approach, the intensity of my hatred, has intruded in the slumber, and it stirs.

Of what use if dull, lifeless matter as sustenance when wakefulness comes? Now it rises from sleep; now, in me, is about to taste the addictive sweetness of life and of spirit for the first time. Now it wakes, flexes Its muscles, begins to feel the full extent of Its power and dominion. Its millennium is come: soon, now, It will begin to feel Its way out across the cosmos, across all time, all dimension, in the craving to satisfy Its endless greed, to satiate Its endless hunger.

Russian Peter Hammill / Van der Graaf Generator Page
Sergey Petrushanko, 1998-2023