Astral Journey to the End of the Earth
This experience was a very profound one for me psychologically for many reasons. Due to the extreme distance into the future of the journey, I was "marooned" for a long time on a dying and dead planet. Due to the extreme time dilation effect*, that I hadn't fully understood at this stage in my astral evolution, my homing beacon was to prove very unreliable and virtually undetectable.
*Time dilation is part of the Theory of Relativity. Simply put, it states that objects moving very close to the speed of light experience the passage of time at a much slower rate than an outside observer standing still. A speeding space traveler might experience a trip lasting days while centuries pass on a Earth. I have observed a similar phenomenon when traveling many thousands, millions, or billions of years into the future while in my astral body.
500 Million Years AD
Before leaving my physical body, I had decided to travel to the distant future, much further than I'd ever dared travel before. Once free, I propelled myself like a tightly coiled, and focused rocket to my destination - 500 million years into the future. When I arrived, I stood upon an arid plain. No signs of greenery, birds, or even insect life. The ground beneath me had a red sandstone tint, with grey granite cliffs in the distance. The sky was cloudless. My astral body cannot feel heat, and the look of the landscape prompted me to issue a silent thanks for that disability. Needing another perspective on my reality, I stretched my arms into the sky and willed myself into it, or perhaps it into me. In a blur of color and movement, I floated miles above the New Earth.
The familiar continents I learned in grade school were gone. Beneath me was a massive supercontinent, with one large land-locked interior sea surrounded by a planet-wide ocean. My first thought was that I'd lost the Earth and hit another planet instead. However, my astronomy knowledge turned that thought aside as I looked for and soon found our planetary siblings Venus and Mars still coursing through our heavenly environs. Of course, the moon was easy to spot. I noticed a few new large craters that I didn't recall from previous lunar visits.
I decided a planetary survey was in order before the inevitable return signal forced me back to the "past". The pesky homing signal had a habit of calling me back to my physical body much too soon, usually within a few minutes of my initial departure. In fact, I started experimenting with future travel as a way to "duck" or hide from the signal, thereby extending my astral trip. At this point I had actually managed to stay out for 24 continuous hours once before (the astral body doesn't require sleep), while only 20 minutes had elapsed back home.
I dove for the coastline of the ocean and the supercontinent, but pulled up as I saw the massive breakers hitting the coast. Every wave looked like a tsunami! The sky didn't look stormy, but I opted for a landing far enough inland that I could survey the coastline for life without undergoing the psychic trauma of being swamped by skyscraper-sized waves. At any rate, I knew I could look for signs of land-based and oceanic life just like people do today - walking the shore. If there's life in the water, some of it will end up beached on a shoreline eventually!
As I landed near the shore I noticed something remarkable. My foot made an imprint in the sandy soil! I had never made any physical impact on a physical landscape before. In my astral body I'm usually the equivalent of a ghost or phantom. Sometimes seen, but never heard, felt or touched. I reasoned that another side-effect of the extreme far travel had changed the nature of my astral matter to allow for physical interaction with my surroundings.
In the sand I used my right hand to inscribe, "RICK WAS HERE" in ten foot letters! The future was lucky there wasn't a spray can to be had for hundreds of millions of years, or I would've made my imprint in an even more colorful and tacky way. The novelty of physical power available within my non-physical astral self was a heady, intoxicating mixture!
I continued my tireless walk for miles. I found a decayed creature the size of my foot that might have been a jelly, but I couldn't ID it positively due to my ignorance or it's advance state of decay. The sun set and rose on my first day. I had broken my previous continuous future travel record! I felt a surge of joy at my achievement, but the emotion was tempered by the expectation that the inevitable return home beacon was probably already well on its way.
I continued to walk the barren, alien shoreline. A few more days passed, and I began to doubt my astral senses. How could there be no life left on Earth? Worse, why was I still here? Was something wrong? No answers were forthcoming to my questions.
More days passed as I reached an area with volcanic vents spewing hot water vapor every few yards. I was in no danger, of course, but dodging them one after another relieved by doubt, worry, and boredom. Five minutes into my game, however, the ground gave way and I was pitched head over heels into a dark, watery pit. Splashing about blindly, I became angry and frustrated. I pounded my fists furiously, raising splashes in the water and visible gashes into the mucky cave walls. Mucky, I thought? As my anger drained away, I was able to focus on brown-greenish algae growing on the hot, moist cave walls. Walls that I had just damaged, I realized in horror!
Here was the first real life I'd encountered on my 500 million year journey, and I had wounded it! I thought back to everything that had made my time travel trips worthwhile. It wasn't the places or the eras of time that made them treasured memories, it was the amazing biodiversity of the Earth that I had encountered. It wasn't until my trek through endless desolation, completely and utterly alone, that I could truly appreciate the Earth I'd know in the past.
At that moment I offered to stand guard over my only living kin, the cave's simple plant life, until I was recalled to my long-lost physical form. On some level I think I hoped that my sacrifice would tilt the cosmic balance in my favor, allowing this solitary prisoner a parole back home to my beautiful green version of Earth.
I maintained my vigil above the underground pool for several weeks. I piled rocks over the broken surface entrance areas in an attempt to heal the damage I had done. If you've ever seen the Tom Hanks movie, "Cast Away", you'd have a window into my state of mind at that point. The algae was my "Wilson". I cared for it like a doting mother. On my 12th day, a storm blew in. Waves hundreds of feet in the air were visible from my slightly inland position. Rain came down in hard sheets. For a full day and night the sky and ocean battered away at my isolated shore, in an unholy partnership not seen since the famous flood tales of old. My astral shell shielded my body in armor of pure energy even during the worst of the elemental assault. The single chink in my defense lay in a more subtle area, however, as the storm intensified its vigorous attack. Soon, my sanity slipped away from me like fine, dry sand, through my tightly clenched fingers. At times I begged and pleaded for the storm to relent, at others I cursed the dark waves and the clouds that threatened to submerge my new home, and my fragile charges. I think I also cursed all mothers that had ever born the children of mankind, as their actions had directly led to my inevitable, intolerable, solitary suffering. Of course, it was mostly the chattering nonsense of a madman sick to the soul. When my mind could take no more, I simply shut down, and curled into an impervious armadillo-like astral sphere.
The sun rose, the wind stilled, and my senses returned. I tentatively unrolled, and opened my astral senses to receive new input. I found my underground cave had been scoured clean of all traces of organic residue. Bereft, I picked a direction and began my death march anew.
I wandered the continent for several more weeks. I felt as guilty as the Biblical Cain who killed his brother. I don't recall much from this period. I was very closed down, just walking and sometimes flying for short trips to relieve the monotony. I was convinced that I hadn't been recalled because my body had died 500 million years ago, and I was stuck in my own private hell as penance for my cosmic sins.
Strangely, dwelling on the thought of my physical body long buried beneath my astral feet began to bring on a sense of peace and acceptance of my unique situation. I felt my astral blood returning to my prickly limbs, and my energy levels rising. Gradually, a veil of torment was lifted from me, and my mood brightened.
On one of my short flights the following day my returning curiosity noticed something strange on the shore, hundreds of feet below me. On landing I read the word "WAS", still clearly visible in ten foot tall sandy letters. All traces of the other words had vanished. It occurred to me "someone" had once been here, but now that man was long gone.
You don't have to hit me over the head, Universe, I thought wryly!
505 Million Years AD
With a renewed sense of purpose, I aimed for One Billion AD or bust! Good intention, but a few million years into the further future a blackness covering the a Earth jerked my focus from me. A mountain in space had collided with the Earth, kicking up and choking the land, ocean, and air with blackness. I slowed my progression down to a more moderate pace. As millennia went by, I exchanged my barren earth for a frozen one.
The icy landscape crunched under my footprints in loud greeting as I touched down. No crass graffiti for me this time, however. The mile high glaciers were blue, white, and exuded an aura of solemnity, grace, and sacredness. I trod the valleys and spires with the same respect and awe that a young child feels when entering a great cathedral. For long reconnaissance flights I looked for signs of volcanism, and breaks in the ice. I found none until the sixty first day of my total journey. Everywhere I had traveled the sky had been clear and cold. Suddenly snow and ice crystals rained down upon my hovering astral form. Like a missile, I dove into the exposed ice to find the source of the erupted water that had frozen to form the falling snow.
Deep under the ice I swam through lively, lovely, boiling water. It was a true miracle! I looked carefully for signs of what I'd been searching for all these weeks. In minutes, I knew I would not be disappointed. Clinging tenaciously to icy, mineralized crags feeding off the main geyser, I found them. My brown-green algae Abels were still alive, resurrected by a just Universe!
1 Billion Years AD
It was time to redirect to one billion AD. This time I arrived on target without delay. With a deep astral breath, I surveyed yet another version of our fickle Mother Earth. The surface oceans were gone. I assumed some water may have retreated into the deep interior of this brave, new Earth. However, it was the roiling thick clouds above that reminded me of the dense atmosphere I'd surveyed on a buzz-by Venus I had made previously. The air itself was mottled by heat waves that made the Sahara at noon look positively chilly by comparison. I saw no point to any search for life in this sterile and oppressive landscape.
1 - 7 Billion Years AD
I'd served my time in hell, I thought, so it was time to move on. I pushed forward blindly now, letting the billions of years roll by freely. I stopped at a random time/place for a check. The thick clouds had vanished, and I suspect most of the Earth's atmosphere as well. There was no breeze, no movement. All was the silence and deep permanence of the grave. I could see innumerable stars in the sky now, day and night, but they had lost their twinkle. For me, though, they had lost much more - their magic.
The sun was smaller and dimmer in the sky, keeping its distance from the now barren and lifeless satellite. I don't normally wax anthropomorphic, but it seemed to me that Mother Earth deserved better than to die alone after being a fertile home for so many life forms over its long history.
For the next 30 days (my subjective experience), I gradually, slowly, moved forward in time billions more years. The Earth didn't change greatly now as I traveled in time, but the moon shrank by a third in the sky above. Our sun went through a series of violent convulsions as I progressed forward closer and closer to the end time. I didn't become overly concerned about the periodic solar fluctuations, though, until I witnessed old Sol growing steadily larger, redder, and angrier in the sky. Every astral bone in my body cried out for me to flee, and escape the oncoming apocalypse. It was only my innate pigheaded nature and my sense of what was right, that enabled me to stay with the planet.
In a flash of searing light, the surrounding Earth was torn asunder, burnt, and destroyed utterly. Only I, the adrift astral wanderer, remained as a silent witness to the end of the late, great, planet Earth.
Mercifully, a remote signal pops up on my long unused astral radar screen. I latch onto the beam as tightly as a drowning man clutches a thrown life preserver.
Good 'ole 21st Century AD
I awoke at home in the 21st century in bed. My alarm clock told me exactly 11 minutes and 11 seconds had transpired since I left on my 92-day journey of distant time discovery!
Peering out my back window I survey a suburban development in early Spring. Surely, there is nothing special here to comment upon after my epic journey, I muse silently. I open the window a crack to smell the clean, sharp air rushing inside. I detect a hint of ozone from a recently ended, misting rain. The birds chirp contentedly in the neighborhood trees.
I stay by the window longer than I have for some time.