This short story was done as a writing challenge to go with this image posted on the Dammit, I’m a sci-fi writer, not a doctor! page on Facebook. It’s based on the theory that our universe is one of a number of parallel universes, or branes, separated by differing frequencies; and the belief by some that at certain times, two branes will shift to the same frequency and combine, annihilating each other and creating a new brane, a new universe built from the elements of the old universes.
“Standing here now, I have to admit: I always doubted that I’d see this day.”
Rik turned and regarded Wey, and smiled. “Well, strictly speaking, no one was ever supposed to see this day. I still don’t believe we were ever supposed to know that it was even coming.”
Now Wey turned away from the senses-filling display screens to look at Rik. Rik had that wry smile that xe was famous for; it gave xim a welcoming, self-amused disposition that had won xim pods, allies, and love partners throughout the creation and deployment of the Construct. Wey was immune to Rik’s charms—xe was just a bit too masculine in appearance for Wey’s tastes—but it was still easy to like xis attitude about things.
“Supposed?” Wey repeated. “Are we suggesting that knowledge of the branes was somehow supposed to be hidden from us? By a canny, or callous, God, perhaps?”
Rik chuckled and waved an admonishing finger. “No baiting… remember, we agreed!” After a moment’s shared laugh over an old joke, they both turned back to the monitors. “But if—IF—there was an intelligence operating this grand universe of ours, I find it hard to believe xe would want one of xis creations to grow so much, to achieve so much, only to have it ripped from them in an unexpected and unpredictable moment of all-fusion.”
“As I remember,” Wey said, “that used to be almost exactly what God was supposed to do. One of them, anyway. Everyone would experience a Last Day, at which point all of their sins would be judged, and they would all go to Heaven. Or something.”
“I suppose,” Rik admitted, “there may be a parallel here. Though I doubt anyone suspected that we’d arrive at Heaven’s door with remodeling plans.”
“There is that,” Wey agreed. “The very epitome of arrogance.”
Rik shook xis head and smiled widely. “No, not arrogance. Aspiration. We aspire to make a better universe.”
“And you don’t consider that arrogance?”
“Not at all,” Rik replied. “You can’t deny what we knew about the violence of our galaxy before the project begun. And as we’ve traveled to the end, you’ve seen that it gets no better. And we know that it can be better. An adjustment to a cosmological constant here, an elemental shuffling there, a directional vector or two… and not only will the next universe be kinder to life, but life should be kinder to itself.”
Wey looked about xim at the massive room surrounding them, a mere atom in comparison to the whole that was the Construct. The Construct was contra-rotated in reality, allowing it to travel faster than time, and to appear to those outside of it as a planet-sized machine, though in fact it took up no more physical space than a duo of angry hydrogen atoms. In the primary control bubble, other realicists worked at their stations, monitoring the changes of the universe around them and making sure the Construct adjusted its parameters to compensate. And at this point, the moments before all-fusion, they had a lot to monitor.
Rik noted Wey’s glance, and swept an arm to take them all in. “They know. They want a better universe. One with more life, and more friendly voices. A universe where life has a better chance at happiness. If you will: Heaven. We’re being proactive.”
Wey turned to Rik, noting the unusual tone in his voice. “I sometimes forget,” Wey said, “how much of yourself you have wrapped up in the Construct. Your progenitors’ project.”
After a moment, Rik shrugged. “I consider it an honor to be able to carry on Gart’s work. I hope xe was proud of me.”
“Oh, I saw xis face before we left, when xe said goodbye. Xe was very proud. Xe knew the next universe was in good hands.”
“Not just mine,” Rik pointed out. “All of our hands. And either we, and the Construct, can tweak the next creation… or nothing can.”
“I so wish we knew if we’ll actually live to see it.” Wey put a hand on Rik’s shoulder. “Gart wanted to have seen it.”
“I know,” Rik nodded. “And if I could have brought xim along, I would have moved the Galactic Center to do it. But look at it this way: When the branes fuse, the essential elements that make all of us will be fired into the new brane, ready to create again. An ancient scientist on Earth once observed, ‘We are all starstuff.’ We all will be again, either at the moment of creation… or not long after we survive it. We’ll be reunited with Gart—and all our progenitors and all our children—soon enough.”
“Very soon,” Wey nodded to a nearby station, where three realicists gathered and animatedly discussed the readings on their stations. “That looks promising. The branes are relative moments away from all-fusion.” Xe cocked xis head. “Hear that? That’s the Construct’s slowing its time-progression to match the moment. Soon, it will happen. We’ll rewrite creation.”
“Did you really have a doubt?”
“Yes,” Wey answered instantly. “I always had a doubt! But for a chance to mold creation and create a better universe… how could I not be here?”
“Exactly,” Rik smiled. “We had to be here. Maybe someone had to be there at the beginning of our universe, too; to give us the best start possible.”
“If so,” Wey stated, “imagine what their universe was like. On the other hand… if that was the case, then their efforts to create a better universe didn’t turn out so well.” Xe turned to Rik. “Is this really likely to work? Or might we just make things worse?”
“It’s possible,” Rik nodded. “But that’s the best part of this entire venture: No matter what we do, no matter how things turn out… the universe is self-correcting. Someday, the brane we’ll mold will undergo fusion with another brane, and it all starts over. Whether we like it or not. Or, maybe… maybe those we help along will learn enough to finally arrest the process of all-fusion, and their universe will truly exist forever. Think of that.”
“People who can stop the branes from colliding?” Wey shook xis head. “I’m not sure I want to imagine anyone with that much power.”
“It won’t be long,” Rik stated. Xe pointed to a number of stations, where the realicists were leaving their posts, their work done, and heading off to individual and group rendezvous with others on the Construct. “The process is going autonomous. The Construct will do all the work from here.”
Xe laid a hand on Wey’s shoulder. “My pod is waiting in Sele nine. We plan to celebrate the all-fusion in the throes. Please join us.” When Wey looked at xim, xe blushed. “I… I know Yul would love to see creation with you.”
“Would xe?” Wey knew how Rik’s throes went… and xe knew what Rik was really thinking. Not that it was a bad invitation: Yul was a beautiful person, and Wey had seen xis eye turn to xim in the past. And there were others in Rik’s pod, very young and sensuous souls. Xe could imagine wonderful moments in the throes of lovemaking with any number of them… and xe suspected xe was blushing a bit, as well.
“Perhaps I will join you,” Wey finally acquiesced, and was rewarded with the most glowing smile xe’d ever seen on Rik’s face. They had already shared so much… why not creation itself? “I just need a few minutes.”
Wey glanced outward, at the incredible vista before them, and Rik nodded. “Of course. Don’t be too long.” Xe nodded, then turned and walked with a hurried step for his rendezvous.
Rik was almost the last to leave the primary bubble, followed out by the last two realicists, and leaving Wey alone. Outside, the vibrational frequency of their universe was changing at a faster rate, approaching the frequency of another of the many universi that existed just beyond their version of reality. Already, a slight change in the fabric of reality could be seen outside; partially a glow, as if reality was warming up, along with a distortion that was hard to make out, a sort of multi-level vibration… if Wey could have described it, xe probably would have said the universe was beginning to make music.
As the branes rushed into their inevitable collision, the Construct sedately positioned itself at the nexus of the imminent creation of a new universe, the point at which the elements of both old branes would recombine and erupt into the new brane. In reality, untold years had passed in the lifespan of the universe—many billions of years had passed since they’d left their loved ones behind and voyaged to the end of time and space in the Construct—and they were now seconds from the end. In the Construct, time was fracted and pebbled, allowing the machine plenty of time to hit its mark and ready its guiding systems and payloads.
Wey knew that, even if it worked, the Construct might not survive the moment of creation; it might do its job, and leave no one behind to confirm it. And if creation happened, and no one was there to witness it; did it make a sound?
Wey chuckled at xis joke, and decided to leave the last moments of all-fusion to the Construct itself. Xe started out of the bubble, working out the fastest path to Sele nine, and already imagining the taste of Yul’s lips on xis.
As xe reached the exit to the bubble, a sudden change in the outside light caught Wey’s eye; and xe glanced back, wondering if xe had, in fact, waited too long. Xe stopped dead, and xis jaw dropped as xe witnessed an effect the realicists hadn’t predicted: Somehow, the distortion of reality as they approached all-fusion was creating an unexpected lensing effect around the Construct. As Wey watched, a massive ring formed outside, thin and mercurial of features. As if some titan was tuning in a telescope image, the ring slowly shrunk in diameter and thickened in volume. Wey could see features in the body of the ring, but they were impossibly stretched around its circumference, and changing every instant.
The ring continued to alter, until it was a doughnut with now-stable-looking edges and a wildly-distorted dark center. As Wey watched, the center finally closed, making the ring a disk, and the rest of its features began to settle down and coalesce. It was an incredible mirror image of the Construct, slowly approaching to meet them as they neared the moment of all-fusion.
Wey smiled like a child, enamored by the sight that no one had predicted… and, in fact, only xe was seeing. Xe started again for the exit, hoping xe had enough time to present this last gift to Rik, to anyone—
When xe stopped, and looked again. Wey’s eyes narrowed as the image became clearer and details could be made out on its surface. Wey had spent enough time on the Construct, had been heavily-enough involved with its construction and operation, to recognize the outer features of any aspect of it on sight.
It wasn’t a reflection. Xe was not looking at the Construct. Not their Construct.
In an instant, Wey imagined another race, living in the other universe… deciding, just as they had, that the universe was wrong, and that they could reshape the next universe to their liking… arriving, at this same nexus in time and space, with their own Construct… and their own agenda…
“Of course,” Wey said to ximself. “Heaven is not for the arrogant.”
And even as the Construct around xim began to scream, and the machine in the approaching distance began to glow with the impossible light of uncounted suns, Wey’s heart sank as xe tried to imagine the chaos that would be unleashed upon the other side…