Henry Kissinger Will Never Die – Daniel Lukes

        The time-travelers’ return was underwhelming at best, mainly because it happened twenty minutes or so after they left. There was a big ceremony where they got into the machine – a large shiny sphere, and then twenty-one minutes (and fourteen seconds) later the ball was back: considerably dented and blackened, its earlier rainbow-white sheen replaced with a singed, smoky look; one of the doors was crushed and melded into weird shapes.
        The tempunauts looked considerably worse for wear: how long had they been away? They had big rings under their eyes, a haunted look about them: the captain seemed like he was going to faint at any moment; he wanted to tell his story straight away, under the hungry eyes of the world, but hazmat-suited helpers ushered them all away. The medic had her arm in a sling and they all looked so dusty, like they’d been wading through swamps of cosmic ash.
        At the press conference later that day they still looked spooked and anxious, even though they’d been spruced up and washed and combed; the navigator stared vacantly into space, and the dresser just stood there and winced, his lips moving in silent muttering.
        That scary was it, the future? What the fuck had they seen?
        “We slowed down about 3600 CE, there was a lot of smoke and heat for several centuries around the middle of the fourth millennium,” the captain began, standing at his podium, after the perfunctory introductions had been made by judicious officials: a typical spiel about exceptional bravery and sacrifice yadda yadda yadda. “The Earth becomes very smooth at that point: when you’re – when you’re traveling that fast through time the light is very warped and the horizon rises up, it’s a strange visual effect.”
        At this point the medic seemed to crumple a bit, wincing over in pain and holding her arm (which we’d later discover was broken in three places) – the captain, oblivious to this, went on with his story, flat and toneless.
        “We have a device which warns us of oncoming danger, via fluctuations in the wormhole passage, so you can – you can tell there if there’s a blockage or some cataclysmic event where, for example, you don’t want to access any place in time you can’t get back out of. We call this a ‘cul-de-sac’; anyway we don’t want to risk that because we’re not getting back.”
        He chuckled and a strange smile, creepy, broke over his features. His eyes were still seeing a world we never would.
        “We stopped and got out at 3666 CE, September 13th in fact, if our calculations are correct. I wish we could have recorded what we saw but as you well know, no media can make it back through the tunnel. The land is very flat, the sky is red. There are clouds but they are metallic, like those squeezy metal sponges you use…to clean the bathtub. They move very quickly.”
        His voice was dry and raspy, but he didn’t touch the glass of water perched in front of him.
        “We ventured out on foot, toward what looked like a system of rocks and crevices; the air was breathable without our masks but smelled horribly of sulphur; the surface of the planet looked severely burned and the land was ash. As we approached the rocks we could see thin columns of smoke rising. There was an opening and we entered the canyon of hewn orange rock; a low thrumming intensified in volume as we reached the center, coupled with a high pitched whine – just the sound alone was stomach-churning, reverberating in our stomachs.”
        The other three crew members were visibly suffering at the recounting of this story, the dresser (whose job it is to “dress the wounds of time”) looked like he was about to collapse.
        “At first we couldn’t comprehend what we were looking at. This, like giant, uh huh–” (he chuckled nervously) “this diabolical Jabba the Hut, just sitting there. A human form, an obese man, about twenty feet high. Like a Buddha, but evil. With all sorts of pipes coming out his stomach, out of his torso and abdomen, leading into the platform under him, he was like welded onto some sort of seat. When we looked at his face you could see–” he winced, and looked around the room, but without meeting anybody’s eye. “You could see that he was Henry Kissinger. He was Henry Kissinger.”
        There was stunned silence. The captain did not elaborate, just stood there grinning goofily. The silence yawned.
        “The Henry Kissinger?” someone asked. There were titters. These guys were off their rockers, it was obvious. Time travel had thrown them for a loop and melted their brain cells.
        All four tempunauts looked extremely uncomfortable, all of them looking downward, as if in shame.
        “Yes,” pleaded the captain. “All four of us can confirm it was Kissinger. We all saw him: Kaneko stayed by the pod the first time, then he went to look while Jones stayed behind the second time. It was Kissinger, he was even wearing his characteristic glasses. Horn-rimmed glasses.”
        Confused mumbling amongst the present.
        “Captain. Did you attempt to speak to the speak to the man?,” asked someone else. “Did you speak to this future Mr. Henry Kissinger?”
        “I–” the captain faltered. “We–”
        “We couldn’t speak to him,” interjected Drew, the medic. Her face was gaunt and sweaty. “We couldn’t get close. As we tried to approach the atmosphere grew thick and sluggish, like a gelatinous fog. We saw that out of pores in his body, holes opening up in his skin, fluorescent ghosts rising up in columns to the sky. Glistening images of human bodies, flickering like on a screen. This smell… a stench like I’ve never–… those millions of bodies were the columns of smoke rising to the sky.”
        The dresser, Kaneko, was weeping softly. Jones, the navigator had closed his eyes and was gnawing his index finger.
        “We went round in front of him and tried to make eye contact, we waved our arms, we even shot a flare over him but it disappeared into the mist. He did not seem to notice us, which is fine, we were probably nothing more than insects to him, or maybe he was in some other… dimension somehow. I will never forget the expression on his face: it was mirthful, he was smiling, he seemed amused by all this carnage, these bodies plopping out of his insides, floating up into that hole in the sky, writhing with agony on their faces as they melted into luminous smoke.”
        The words “delirium” and “hallucination” could be clearly overheard among the mutterings of the press corps.
        “Is Henry Kissinger the last human alive?” someone asked.
        The medic faltered, as if to say we don’t know he was human.
        “Henry Kissinger will never die!” shouted out someone, in a shrill and violent voice. A clarion call, it was obvious. And that’s where it all began, right there, this cursed cult of Henry Kissinger as the last living human being on Earth. There was a kerfuffle, and someone cut the mic.
        “Alright everybody,” said the compere, in an attempt to restore order. “Thank you for your testimony. Scientists and bold time-travelers, we are so grateful for your account. We look forward to assessing further its veracity, and to carrying out further tests.”
        The crew were being huddled back out of sight into the tunnels of the compound.
        “Thank you to everyone for being here. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please leave in orderly fashion.”