Afterword

Everyone wants to know the ending.

As I sit at my desk writing this on a rainy afternoon in 2022, I’m wondering how it all ends. There’s a certain hollowness left behind at the end of a movie or book that finishes on a cliffhanger, without resolution, without a satisfying conclusion. This is what it must feel like when we die. To exit the human story without knowing the ending.

While writing ENTROPY, I tried to imagine an end of humanity that is subtle, gradual—as entropy would have it—not some one-off cataclysmic event that ends with our spectacular implosion. Because as humans we’ve already proven our resilience. We have demonstrated that we can overcome whatever catastrophe Mother Nature throws at us, or we throw at ourselves. As a species, we’re genuine survivors.

If you’re reading this story a hundred-thousand or a million years from now (however you’ve evolved and whatever form you’ve taken on) you’re much closer to knowing how it might end.

Will it be the smaller things that trip us up.

Will we stop smiling and waving to our neighbor each morning on our way to work, whether they be black, white, yellow, brown, or green, and whether we be green, brown, yellow, white, or black? Will we lose the war? Not the war between countries or the war that pits us one against the other—the kind of war that is waged to take lives—but the war on poverty, the war on pollution, the war on hate and lies—the kind of war that is waged to save lives.

Will we stop changing for the better? Will we become even more intolerant of others just because they see the world a little differently from us? Will we always want too much, more than this place can provide? Will we become too busy to tell our children about the good old days when we were young, and let them know that their future is bright and meaningful? Or will we let them be taken from us, held captive by the Entertainer, by apathy, by hopelessness? Will we take offense at everything ever said, too keen to pass judgment on the past, and forget how to laugh? Will we stop listening to each other and become inflexible in our ideals? When will the last of the good ones stop caring?

As the Thinker says, “Could it all have happened so easily?” Sometimes, it’s the little things that will trip you up.

So, if you’ve invented the FSP kind of time travel I imagined for Aleph-1, then I’ll be waiting for you in the pre-Enlightenment year of 2022 at the Twig & Sparrow café in Willetton, Western Australia, ready with a coffee; a flat white or long black if you like.

Because I’d like to know the catalyst as well—so we can fix things and overcome entropy ourselves.

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Lonliness

CAN YOU HEAR loneliness?
I ask myself that same question again. If it were loud enough, would loneliness be a roar so deafening that you couldn’t hear anything else around you? Would it drown out every other sound on the Earth? Would it be so painful in your ears that you would have to clamp both hands over them to block it out? Or like a black hole does with light, would its discord fall into something from which noise can never escape?
Sometimes a scene is impossible to describe by what is there and can only be described by what is no longer there. And if I were pressed to describe the scene surrounding us now, only one word comes to mind: loneliness. The loneliness of the nothing that swallows us up with each step we take in this eternal, barren countryside.
I close my mind off completely to the unstructured inputs from the outside world and lose myself deep in my thoughts.
I’m not certain where we’re going or what we’ll find when we get there. And I don’t know who might be there, or if the three of us will be swallowed up and lost in the pandemonium of the city. But what I do know for sure: with each step I take through this loneliness, I’m moving further away from the pain of my past and closer to a new beginning.

At some time during the morning, the tedious terrain yields to an endless run of rolling hills, which spring up around us, almost unnoticed. Something different, something irregular awakens me from my Ganzfeld-like state as a carpet of mighty wind turbines comes at us from across the landscape. Spread out as far as the eye can see. Like a million white monuments, all laid out in a network of equally spaced rows and columns. Here and there, the illusion of their perfect placement is spoiled by a toppled turbine, lying in pieces on the ground. The air sits hot and still around us, and I can feel a strange sense of inertia as I look over this quiet, foreboding graveyard.
My curiosity steers me over to a turbine tower, laid out in the field closest to us, where I climb over the fallen giant’s carcass. On the nacelle, I grab the anemometer and spin it. I move the vane from left to right, then to the left again.
“The control sensors are still in perfect working order,” I say, calling out to the helpful pair. When I look around at the turbines still standing erect, I realize they’re all aligned in the same direction. “It’s like all the turbines stopped rotating at the same instant. As though the wind was suddenly switched off one day, and never switched back on.”
But the two of them stand there, without any expressions, like two obtuse monuments themselves. Sometimes when I look at them, they seem lively, almost engaging, but at times like now, all I see are two impersonations of what must have once been viable people. And disappointed in their lack of presence, I can only shake my head.

Entropy by Michael McGinty

ENTROPY

“I’ll give you a hint,” Mr. Symons says, eying me eagerly. “Give us your thoughts on entropy.”
“Entropy? Well, entropy is the …” I pause and take a moment to collect my thoughts. “The existence of entropy is confirmed by the second law of thermodynamics, which was first formulated by Rudolf Clausius in the pre-Enlightenment year of 1850. It asserts that when two isolated systems … those in separate but nearby regions of space … are allowed to interact via some catalyst, they exchange both matter and energy until equilibrium is reached. The law asserts the system of lower entropy—that’s the one of higher stability—will always trend toward the system of higher entropy. That being the one of lower stability.”
“Go on,” says Mr. Symons, regarding me with great interest.
His face appears somewhat kinder now, and feeling assured by his low persuasive drawl, I continue.
“Well, entropy predicts order will give way to disorder, that control will always end in chaos. Mountains will be reduced to hills, hills will ultimately crumble into dunes, and dunes will be blown around as sand in the desert storms. The more organized a thing is, the quicker it will descend into disarray. Entropy also gives time its direction. It’s irreversible, always moving forward. Nothing in the universe violates this law. That’s it!”
There, well said. That seemed easy enough.
I breathe a little easier, satisfied at a job nicely done, and issue them with a cordial smile of self-congratulation.
Mr. Symons’ eyes narrow, all the kindness suddenly gone from his face. “Hmmm. Most interesting,” he says, his words hanging in the air long enough to chip away at my newfound confidence. Lingering long enough to instill an element of doubt in my thinking. And then— “Tell us about your research into … social entropy.”

Entropy by Michael McGinty