Tech entrepreneur Lance Larson had a busy week.
This Monday, just an hour before he was supposed to board the research vessel he had chartered to take him to Greenland just in time to see its last ice shelf tumble into the ocean, his received the news alert about earthworms. He thought it was too late, but after few days of frantic scrambling he managed to be ready before schedule.
It was late and he hadn’t had supper so he fixed himself a tray and took it into the lab. He thought he had time enough to enjoy a relaxed last meal, but as the numbness spread after the first sip of the Malbecs he knew something was wrong.
He almost breathed a sigh of relief when his peripheral vision discerned a slim figure emerge from a corner. “Hello Lenore.”
“So we meet again.” She said with a mock supervillain accent.
“How considerate of you to use a different paralyzing agent this time. You remembered the last one made me nauseous.”
“You’re very welcome.”
“So to what do I owe this pleasure?”
She grabbed the back of his chair and started to wheel him toward the large console at the center of the lab. “Why don’t we play a game? I’ll guess what you were planning to do this evening, and you can guess why I am here?”
“I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“Great. Let’s start from the beginning. Remember back when the astrophysicists first found out that they can make dark matter visible through passive detection of virtual boson emissions? They found that as soon as they mapped the contour of an area the amount of details revealed was always greater than the initial energy signature suggested. I made a comment then that dark matter behaved just like the universal texture algorithms used by the virtual planet software to maintain the appearance of a continuous surface. I even showed you an online video about it. Remember that?”
“Then a few months later, after government and wealthy individuals started to apply this new technology to map sections of space filled by dark matter, people started to notice that all of the oysters and clams seemed to have stopped moving unless they were being observed by fish or other lifeforms with eyes? I said this looks like the reverse of a watched pot never boils. When this started to happen to starfishes too, I joked that it looks as though the universe is running out of memory and had to shut down the lower organisms unless they’re being observed by a consciousness. That joke was an eureka moment for you, right?”
“So, shortly after that, we divorced, and almost immediately you became a dark matter mapping fanatic. At first I couldn’t figure out why you were so passionate about theoretical physics all of a sudden. I thought maybe you were engaged in some kind of race with another multi-millionaire. But when you cancelled your Greenland trip, something you told me is on your bucket list, I realized it is more serious than a race. So I started putting everything together and this is what I think. You had somehow came to the conclusion that all of the dark matter mapping is causing the universe to run out of memory, and the loss of high subjectivity terrestrial organisms like earthworms means that a critical threshold has been crossed. In other words, the universe will soon crash and cease to be. Why would you and the other scientists want to bring that about? You’re too selfish to have a death wish, so the only possible explanation is that your calculation shows that after the crash the universe will reboot itself in another Big Bang, and that the consciousness into which the last wave function collapsed will also become the primary observer of the next universe. You were planning to activate the largest virtual boson detector in the world this evening to bring that about. So, was I close?”
“Bravo. If I could stand I would give you a standing ovation.”
“But, isn’t the prospect of having one’s consciousness transposed onto a cosmic scale terrifying?”
“You’ve always said that I have a God-like ego.”
“I guess it takes one to know one.”
Lance asked, “I gather that since you didn’t notify the authorities your plan is to take my place?”
Lenore rolled up another chair and sat down next to him. “No. I am here to save you from the fallacy of solipsism. After all, a world with only one will is one that has no free will. Any decent universe must be dualistic in first principles. A yin must also have its yang.”
Lance smirked. “Would you mind showing me your math on that?”
Lenore granted herself a Mona Lisa smile. “Look at it this way. If I am wrong then we won’t be around to be bothered by it.” Her hand danced on the touchscreen and a while later her index finger hovered over a large green arrow that blinked on the monitor.
“Before we do this, tell me again why we didn’t stay married?” She asked.
“Like I said, we’ve just drifted apart.”
“I don’t buy that. We’re both too strong and willful to drift. If we separated that’s because you paddled away.”
“Well, if you’re such a strong swimmer then you could’ve kept up with me.”
Lenore thought about it for a second. “I guess I was just too proud to be a follower. No matter. I’ll follow you this time.”
“Wait. If we could barely stand one another for five years, doesn’t an eternity together sound like hell?”
“Remember that time when you got us on that steak-only diet? We both ended up practically vegetarians. I think you’ll find that, after the first couple of million years, heaven and hell are basically indistinguishable.” She dipped her finger and gently tapped the green arrow.
Michael Wen writes computer code by day and short fiction by night. His fiction has appeared in The Lovecraft eZine, Bewildering Stories, and other publications. He lives in Houston, Texas. A chronic procrastinator, you can easily keep up with his writing at http://relativeabsolutist.blogspot.com.