When the Maaheseum wore off, Onteia knew she was close to death. Her hair had gone white, her eyes were sunken and glassy, her flesh had receded. Those in her pod were the same: decrepit old men and women, none of them older than twenty-five. Outside, the blueshift had pushed every black hole, every brown dwarf, every burst of cosmic radiation from every pulsar in the Galactic Center into visibility. In hyperspace, even someone who never saw the shining beauty brought out by Maaheseum could see what lay beyond the cursory glance that was their lifelong perspective.
The pod was nearing its final destination--the spectacular, unmatched glory of a collapsing star. This was what all Travelers longed to see before their inevitable early death from the drug. Onteia reached into the small container at the center of their pod, where there were enough green-tinted black shards to last a hundred Travelers a decade. She took a piece just over an inch long, and set it on her decaying molars, and bit down just as the pod left hyperspace.
First, there was the taste of blood and dishwater. Then the bones of her body all seemed to be rubbing against one another, scraping away--only the sensation, without pain. As that ebbed away, her eyes filled with cascading waves of electric colors, and she could see the life-force of her fellow Travelers, their aura that radiated, now further than ever. And then, the event filled the pod. A million holographic projectors the size of pinheads replaced cold steel and sterile white paint with stars, nebulae, nova, and the event.
She could see radio, infrared, ultraviolet, microwave, and cosmic radiation. All at once, hundreds of thousands of color shades that had never existed, that had been incomprehensible to her before biting the shard, they all radiated off the superdense core of a star in its final seconds of self-destruction. She could see the event horizon of a newborn black hole as it shredded the supernova from inside-out.
She wasn't aware, but her brain had begun to hemorrhage--as had those of all her fellow Travelers. She wasn't aware, but their bodies were finally overloaded, and they had only minutes to live. She wasn't aware, but she didn't care either way. The universe was so beautiful. So much more than what she had seen before that first shard, years ago.
And with this glimpse into what lay just beyond soaked into her psyche, she passed into death.