The original, 4-page short story version of

"Night of the Greatest Dawn"

Copyright © 1982 by Roger M. Wilcox. All rights reserved.
(writing on this story began 27-July-1982)

The original draft was written on an electric typewriter. It was inspired by several of Arthur C. Clarke's short stories. All spellings, punctuation, capitalizations, etc. are as in the original.

You have been warned.

It was the clearest night they had seen in a long while. At their standpoints, a full mile above sea level, the small group huddled together beneath the starry sky. There was no moon out that night to mar the perfect cascade of stars sprawled out across the sky, a sky now shining with the blaze of a billion distant suns all of the same galaxy.

The small number of males were already beginning to associate with the small number of females, but few said anything at all. Their eyes were nailed to the sky, simply watching for something that might not have been there at all. The sky was truly beautiful, but they had never stared at the sky like this in the past. It was as though they were anticipating something yet to come, but that they had no right to know about.

Their small group wasn't the only one in that area of the mountain; there were numerous other groups of people scattered around the place, some indoors, some outdoors, some looking at the sky, but most with their minds on something else. Yet whatever they were doing, they were just not expecting anything spectacular to happen.

And then, something did. Without warning, without any sound, and without any noticeable amount of time being taken up, the sky suddely lit up with the light of a million stars. The blaze left everyone stunned, and some temporarily blinded, but didn't even bother to subside. Light was pouring in from every part of the sky, setting the entire scene aflame with light so intense it was nearly impossible to see through.

Even people on the inside were completely engulfed in the light that poured through their windows. So much light simply couldn't be possible; they had to be dreaming. But it weas too real to be a deam; and yet it was too harsh to be reality.

One of the males in the small group dared to uncover his eyes and, very briefly, tried to determine the direction the light was coming from. After only a few seconds, though, his retinae couldn't take any more. With the backs of his eyes fried from the intense light, he was permanently blind.

Even at the edge of the mountain the light didn't stop. It enveloped the whole world, doing almost as much damage on the daytime side as on the nighttime side. Cars and trucks collided into each other; planes not on auto-pilot crashed into the ground; and for as long as the light lasted, the world came to a dead stop.

The surface of the Earth burned in the intense white light for seven minutes; and then, the light was gone. The few instruments that had been turned on by the quickest minds ceased to register the results of whatever it was about this light they were inputting. The few results they retained were rough, but useful.

The light was mostly in the visible spectrum, although there was a scant scattering of infra-red and soft ultra-violet rays. Its intensity was way up in the billions of candellas per steradian of sky-angle. Its point of origin could only be roughly determined due to its intensity, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of the direction where the theoretical "big bang" occurred.

Some guessed it was a nearby super-nova. Some guessed it was the birth of a white hole. Some even guessed it was a star so close that it dwarfed even the sun. But the human race was never to guess its true origin.

At the generator known as Shield Central, Asram walked up to his closest assistant. His race was not a very old one, but it was far enough advanced to construct Shield Central and the rest of the generators.

"Well, Dran, how did the shield hold out?"

"Almost as well as we'd expected, Asram. Only a few heat rays and ultra-violet rays came though, along with the normal amount of harmless light, and nothing else was able to penetrate the energy barrier."

"Great. Do you know what this means? It means we've saved our galaxy. I'm just sorry that we could only save this one."

"Just one galaxy? The Milky Way contains over a billion stars, and probably just as many inhabited worlds!"

"And so do all the other galaxies. That's why I'm sorry that we could only save this one."

"Asram, there was no way we could, anyway. None of our long-range probes have even reached the nearest galaxies, let alone taken shield generators to them."

"I know that. I just wish we could have had pure hyperspace drive so that we could reach the other galaxies at a moment's notice."

"Oh, come on. You know as well as I do that pure hyperspace drive is just plain science fiction. Space warp drive is the fastest thing we've ever developed, and that can't go any faster than about 1217 times the speed of light. Just be content that we saved this galaxy."

"I suppose you're right. Anyway, it's not just an end to all, but also a beginning. When we discovered that a second universe had been created within our own, we thought at first that it would bring new stars, new galaxies, and new worlds. We didn't even bother to think of the power of a 'big bang' until a few minutes after the news arrived. I'm just sad that so many worlds were fried just because a universe was begun within a universe."

"Hey, don't worry about it just yet. The light won't even reach most of the worlds in this galaxy for a few thousand years. But it will fry other galaxies, all too slowly, and that'll get to you. Just think of the people we saved, and the grief will be easier to bear."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

A few thousand years later, the light reached the planet called Earth, and the few instruments activated during its travel recorded the fact that its origin was from the center of the universe. They would never think about it like that again, but for the centuries to come, the configurations of the distant galaxies in their sky would be forever changed.

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