12

I'm looking for another short SF story where Google has no clue as the premise is kind of dated: the Big Bang and expanding universe have grabbed the reigns from the Steady State Theory...

The story starts with some background: the Universe was found to be fixed, with all stars held in position in the night sky. Not only that, but the stars were aligned to a gigantic geometric pattern that contained a definite centre point, but that we could not yet see as not enough time had passed in the Universe for light to have travelled the great distance we were from it.

Fast forward to a meeting of astronomers on a cold winter evening, on the night of the supposed arrival of the light from the centre of the Universe. Much talk on its effects, incidental conversation, and then it strikes, a blinding light from the heavens opposite the growing dawn from the sun.

The initial effects are devastating in under an hour: the lingering snow melts, the ocean surface gives of great clouds of steam that then turn into clouds that block at least some of the light, but hurricanes and tornadoes quickly developed and wreak havoc in the towns and cities.

As the sun rises there is a strange glow all around it as the Earth casts a shadow into the daylight from the blinding light behind, and the heat, whilst unbearable, stabilises for a while. The main character of the story describes seeking shelter with a fellow survivor in a wrecked building and the story ends with the two turning towards the new dawn at the end of the day, the final dawn anyone would ever see....

I read this about 30 years ago from a book on a dusty school bookshelf, so it's definitely not recent. I'd be very grateful if someone had any idea what I was on about :-)

  • 7
    "If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from." – Daniel Roseman Jul 25 '17 at 15:56
  • 2
    Always try and stay on the Dark Side :-) – James Dodd Jul 25 '17 at 17:01
  • 3
    Darn, I read that story. It was really old, like prior to 1940s old. Initially an object of almost sun-like brilliance appears, the protagonist realizes this is the moon. The moon's increase in brightness is because it is reflecting the light from the centre of the Universe. Then the centre itself rises, and everything starts to melt. – Winchell Chung Jul 25 '17 at 20:40
  • That strikes a chord, the moon reflection is familiar now you mention it! Ah, so so close - any ideas? :-) – James Dodd Jul 25 '17 at 20:48
  • The moon reflection might be a red herring. Larry Niven's "Inconstant Moon" had a somewhat similar theme but ended quite differently. – Kyle Jones Jul 26 '17 at 3:59
8

It's not exactly the same as your description, but I think this is "Finis" by Frank Lillie Pollock - Wikipedia description here. It doesn't mention the Big Bang and Steady Theories, which is hardly surprising since it was published in 1906 before General Relativity was formulated. However it matches in lots of other respects.

The light is from a huge star at the centre of the galaxy:

Somewhere there must be a central sun, a vast incandescent body which does not move at all. And as a sun is always larger and hotter than its satellites, therefore the body at the center of the universe must be of an immensity and temperature beyond anything known or imagined.

It was objected that this hypothetical body should then be large enough to be visible from the earth, and Professor Bernier replied that some day it undoubtedly would be visible. Its light had simply not yet had time to reach the earth.

The moon does appear blindingly light due to the light from the central star:

Davis abandoned his intention of leaving, and they watched the east grow pale and flushed till at last a brilliant white disc heaved itself above the horizon. It resembled the full moon, but as if trebled in luster, and the streets grew almost as light as by day.

“Good heavens, that must be the new star, after all!” said Davis in an awed voice.

“No, it’s only the moon. This is the hour and minute for her rising,” answered Eastwood, who had grasped the cause of the phenomenon. “But the new sun must have appeared on the other side of the earth. Its light is what makes the moon so brilliant.

And so on. I won't list every point that matches, but the seas do boil and storms wreck buildings. The story ends with:

This is the end, Alice,” said Eastwood, and his voice trembled.

She looked at him, her eyes shining with an unearthly softness and brilliancy, and turned her face to the east.

There, in crimson and orange, flamed the last dawn that human eyes would ever see.

I read the story in This Way to the End Times edited by Robert Silverberg. The text is now in the public domain and is available on Project Gutenberg.

  • John, that's the one! Brilliant! It's a great answer indeed, and yet another jigsaw piece filling in the blanks of my memory. Thank you so much! – James Dodd Jul 26 '17 at 12:15
  • Looking over the ISFDB I see I must have read it in Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History of Science Fiction in Popular Magazines, 1891—1911 isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?29096 – Winchell Chung Jul 26 '17 at 14:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.