Too far to turn back.
A phrase used in relation to any endeavor wherein the loss in quitting outweighed the risk of continuing.
But for Daniel, the five single-syllable words marked the latest time and place in his life that he might have turned for home. Even considering that his velocity through space would have returned him to Earth as a much younger man, he had now passed the halfway point. And the ship was accelerating.
Yes, he had been warned. Barring some violent accident, the ship knew his lifespan. Her monitoring of his brain waves, his heart and blood, his energy and his psychological stability had given Elsie the very hour of Daniel’s expiration. Of course, she hadn’t told him; she had only warned him occasionally as the years took him to that time.
Some years ago (or days), she had told him, as she was programmed to do, that he had long ago proceeded too far. He had traversed sufficient light years that even with the hourly increase in velocity, he had aged in time and miles well beyond that mysterious turning point.
But was this not what he wanted? Was he not as determined today as he had been at launch that he would not go home again? Perhaps he would pass and scan many more worlds before he died. Perhaps he would see further oddities of things unimagined. As he had done in youth, he would experience the sights and events of places never observed by any man. Years ago he had passed those areas that were merely guesses on human astronomers’ charts. Already he had seen curiosities no computer had ever considered. Already he had disproved “facts” established before he was born.
“Acceleration boost,” Elsie said.
What a shame that distance precluded transmission of his findings. His knowledge would die with Elsie.
The thing Daniel would most like to report on was the darkness. How the scientific minds of Earth would struggle with what he knew now about darkness. Until recently (recently being a relative term), he had believed he understood the theory of absolute darkness. He had been certain that some voids were so deep that light could not escape it—that light died before it could cross the empty vastness. A partial truth.
Here, he knew that darkness could be more than absence of light. Here, darkness had gone beyond being a “condition.” Other “conditions” might exist as reality in some places. Cold was a condition, as was instability and cosmic weather. One could say that misery was a condition.
But darkness was not a condition. Not here.
Here, darkness had substance. Darkness was the substance of this place. The darkness here was so thick that it killed the ship’s lamps. No glow of instrumentation. Even a match would burn without light. Facts disproved.
Darkness. Elsie’s computers and chronometers had failed because of it. How could she measure light years where there was no light, and no reference to light? How could she know how long she’d been here, or how long it might be before she would emerge? Would she emerge?
And still, her velocity increased. Daniel felt that increase as the ship hurled herself through the black void where nothing was visible and had never been visible. He had instruments aboard that could detect the slightest hint of light, but now, even these were blind.
Time had no meaning now. Passing ages departed unnoticed. What the darkness had not already absorbed, it would get.
Daniel could not find his memories or his fears. Hope, too, had been snuffed out.
Death had everywhere and nowhere to hide.
Too far to turn back.