After three weeks of sailing west, Columbus and his crews tumbled over the side of the world. First to fall were the two speedy caravels, the Nina and Pinta. According to the mate atop the mainmast, the ships appeared to wobble slightly and then buckle, before disappearing entirely. By the time Captain Columbus gave the order for the Santa Maria to turn, it was too late for the lumbering carrack. The sailors saw the ship’s bow dangling over sudden blackness, and soon the dark consumed them as well. They plummeted off the Earth and into the unknown, too frightened even to scream. Chris, huddled in his cabin below deck, stared in disbelief at the globe he no longer knew and prayed to the God he suddenly doubted, and waited, alone for the end his own hubris incurred.
Without the sun or stars to tell time or place, none could say for certain how long they fell. Only that it felt like an eternity. Only that after a while, after the flat world fell away from view, they were not even certain they were still falling. The feeling was akin to a bug suspended in molasses, struggling as it sank, its struggles bearing it ever closer to certain doom. Days, Weeks, passed. Their stores grew low. Men wondered if they would die there, if their skeletons might fall forever, with no one to ever learn their fate. One by one, they fell asleep, alone, or huddling together for warmth and comfort and… something more, waiting for the inevitable end.
Men closed their eyes, expecting never again to see the light.
It was then that they awoke en-masse at a loud splash. They opened their eyes to see the ocean, the sun, to feel the wind on their face and a hazy mass in the distance that could only be land.
“We’re alive!” They cried, “We’re saved!” Captain Columbus called the three ships together to celebrate their good fortune and plot their next move.
But, as they sailed ever closer to their salvation. He couldn’t help but notice more was amiss. First off, the sun had reversed its habits, sinking in the east and rising in the west. At night, he could not recognize any of the stars, they aligned themselves into constellations of strange beasts he could not name. The water, even under the bluest sky, remained blacker than night and was empty. Their nets yielded no fish, no birds flew in the overhead. This was indeed a new world.
At night, when they slept, they all suffered nightmares. When they woke, they knew by the frenzied look in each other’s eyes that their visions were shared, yet they dared not speak of them, for fear that naming them would make them true. They dreamed of strange, human like creatures who descended from the sun and the stars, translucent bodies full of brackish blood the color of the strange ocean they swam through. Their skin, thin and yet rough like sand-paper, occasionally bubbled like living creatures swam within. Their mouths were full of pink flagella instead of teeth, and when they spoke, their lips did not move, they talked directly into the minds of Chris Columbus and his crew.
Welcome to the New World.
They floated above the three ships, descending slowly, yet surely. Arms wide in greeting.
Welcome to your new homes, brave voyagers of 1492.
Columbus stood at the head of his crew in these dreams, their guns and crossbows at the ready.
“What do you want?” He would ask, signaling with his hands for them to fire at his signal.
What we want has already been achieved. You are here. On our planet, in our time, never to discover ‘America’ or the ‘Indies’. Never to set a chain of events in motion that doomed several trillions of creatures across a hundred thousand worlds.
“What are you ta-”
You were identified as the Catalyst, Chris. The one that set a long chain of events in motion that ended in the collapse of a universe, yours and mine. Long after your death, to be sure, but this was the latest point we could identify that would stop it.
Columbus did not understand, and he signaled to his crew a simple message: On my signal.
“You talk of things far in the future? How can I be responsible? I merely seek glory for Spain, sights unknown, riches, the spices of India. Are these dreams so wrong? So abhorrent they merit the death of my crew? I am the… Catalyst? You say? Well then take me and do what you will, leave my men to their lives.”
It is too late. They circled the ships now, these creatures, about three score in number. Arm in arm they surrounded Columbus and his ill-fated followers. There was no escape except what violence might bear. You are here now. The only way to be certain is to claim all of you.
Columbus sighed and let his hands fall in seeming supplication. The signal at last. Bullets and crossbows passed into and through these post-humans without incident or injury.
It is as we expected. Savagery from a savage race. Let us lance this boil here. Let them consume themselves and their planet before they ever discover the Others.
And the circle of strange beasts slowly constricted. Their bodies glowing green, their eyes filled with hate. The screams were as terrible as they were short.
After they were done, after they floated back away from their toxic world and into the sky. Only skeletons, only blood-stained wrecks, remained.
Every morning, after Chris and company woke from such dreams. They spent an hour, maybe more, staring at the sky, waiting for them to come true. In the meantime, land, beaches of purple sand. Naked trees under which strange shadows loomed, waited. Some feeling told the Catalyst Columbus that whether it was by land, or by sky, or by sea, their doom was an inevitability. One that would arrive quite soon.
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
Never to be heard from again.