They burn coldly out here, beyond the last light of civilization, far from the small dome that shudders in the sandstorms that come up every seven days. You mark time in the sweeping of grains against polycarbon, the slow erosion of the passing murmurs. Once, the clocks ran, but unsynced from the dying satellite high above, you only mark time in sevens. Seven Earth days to each sandstorm, seven months since the last of the team vanished off over the horizon to repair the transmit tower at Alpha Base.
You are the last human on this dying world that should have been a colony, the last of the Flying Dutchmen of the stars, the great generation ship left flying between the stars until the solar sails became too tattered to continue on and the last of the uranium has been eked away to nothing. You remember the brightly colored posters, the incentives to leave an overcrowded Earth, to leave the choked press of humanity and the squalor of the teeming masses.
Now, you are surrounded by nothing but space, and it echoes.
Out here, on the edge of the plateau, is a waste of the air in your tanks, and breathing in, you can see them high above, winking in the darkness. Science and learning have taught you that each star is hotter than anything born, the crucible of the universe. But centuries in the fragile shell of a dying ship have taught you better.
The stars are cold, and they are legion. At night, the seven year night of this ancient planet, you name them not in the constellations of the Greek lexicon, but the demons of the Christian mythos. Sometimes, their names are not so Satanic: sometimes they are the names of those who choked to death on faulty gas that kept them suspended in an eternal, frozen slumber.
The few scientists that survived, wizened and grey, to wake you, you who survived lone out of six remaining, tell you that the cheap labor who built the ship cut corners: simple carelessness left your family, your mother, your father, your sons and daughters and uncles and aunts, to remain. They tell you that they jettisoned them into a brighter pyre than any have known before: they are the fuel of the burning stars now, a Viking funeral beyond the straits and longships.
Sometimes, you see them floating away in their capsules to some unnamed star. Choronzon yawns wide to devour them. You are convinced that they are still frozen, still dreaming in the stasis tubes. Still asleep, burning with the cold.
And despite the light of the ten thousand manifold stars, despite the velvet darkness and the environmentals in your suit, you are cold here in the light of the heavens. The last human left, you gaze into the obsidian, wine-dark sky.
Hell is very cold this time of year.
With apologies to Charles Stross.