The first we knew of our end was when the bodies fell burning from the sky. Signs of things to come, although we didn’t know then what was coming.
They smashed into our cities like bombs, striking bank towers and shopping malls and car lots and apartment blocks. When we first saw them blazing down from the heavens, we thought maybe the aliens had finally answered our calls, for better or worse.
But they weren’t aliens, or even alien weapons. They were dead, mummified people in spacesuits. Our soldiers came in hazmat suits and gathered up the scorched remains, and our scientists studied them in labs sealed off from the rest of the world. The rest of us watched in live feeds online, but we wondered if what we were watching was real.
Because we recognized the spacesuits.
They were the kind worn in the early days of the space race, back when we still dreamed about the future. The suits were charred and torn from their descents through the atmosphere and their impacts with us, but the flags survived on some of them. Flags for nations that existed only in memory now.
Republic of China.
We didn’t know what the bodies meant, so we tested their DNA. We found matches around the world.
A dead spaceman had the same DNA as a Wichita man who’d dreamed of being an astronaut but had become a Fed-Ex cargo pilot instead.
A dead spacewoman had the same DNA as a Hong Kong woman who wrote poems about the stars.
A dead spaceman had the same DNA as a man who owned a Moscow nightclub called Sputnik.
The dead who fell from the sky were ghosts. But they were ghosts of the living.
We wondered about time travel, about wormholes, about cosmic strings and parallel universes. The dead were questions, but we had no answers.
So we turned all our telescopes in the direction the bodies had come, in search of we didn’t know what. And we saw more astronauts drifting our way through space. And beyond them, the fragments of a moon. But like the dead, the remains of the other moon also belonged to us.
We recognized craters we’d studied for centuries, and we found the Apollo 11 landing site, the flag buried in dust. Just like on the moon that continued to orbit us. Our moon.
But the remains of this ghost moon were different from our moon in other ways. They were host to water mines and solar farms. Buildings ruptured by meteors or some other disaster, with more bodies drifting through the tears in the structures. The other moon had been colonized, but now it just held colonies of the dead.
We searched for answers as the dead came at us.
Our universe was infinite, which meant anything was possible — even another us.
We’d collided with an alternate universe, and the universes were ripping each other apart.
Something had gone wrong with the universe’s OS and spacetime had become corrupted.
But we didn’t know the cause. We knew only one thing.
They fared no better than us.