I read a short story sometimes ago on Reddit, it really stuck with me but I cannot find it anymore.

The story is told by a sentient being in a universe where people have to fill their lungs in some sort of air fountains and everything in this world is powered by air.

The narrator realize at some point that the pressure difference between the reservoir and the atmosphere is decreasing and they all will eventually die or stop moving due to this. It is an allegory on the eventual death of the universe due to increasing entropy.

Does anyone know what this is?

1 Answer 1


This is "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang, available at Lightspeed Magazine.

Fill their lungs at air fountains:

For the filling stations are the primary venue for social conversation, the places from which we draw emotional sustenance as well as physical. We all keep spare sets of full lungs in our homes, but when one is alone, the act of opening one’s chest and replacing one’s lungs can seem little better than a chore. In the company of others, however, it becomes a communal activity, a shared pleasure.

And the end of the universe:

Perhaps a few of us, in the days before we cease moving, will be able to connect our cerebral regulators directly to the dispensers in the filling stations, in effect replacing our lungs with the mighty lung of the world. If so, those few will be able to remain conscious right up to the final moments before all pressure is equalized. The last bit of air pressure left in our universe will be expended driving a person’s conscious thought.

And then, our universe will be in a state of absolute equilibrium. All life and thought will cease, and with them, time itself.

  • You are my savior ! Thanks a lot for your (impressively) quick answer !
    – Guikks
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 14:26

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