Disagreeing With the Universe: A Short Story
By Jack Giesen
Summary: Kids grow up so fast.
There’s a story in this world that says that you close your eyes once—surrounded by family at your bedside, perhaps, in pain but content with what you’ve given to the world—and open them again to find it all gone. You look around the dark place you’ve found yourself in, and when you realize that the pain is gone, you try to bring your hand up to your chest. Only… you can’t actually see any part of your body. The only thing here is whatever is left of you, and a bright spark of light in the darkness.
The light speaks gently to this version of you, telling you that your life has only been a part of your journey, that you’re about to be reborn into another life. That you are a child growing up into part of the larger universe, or perhaps a caterpillar-human who will someday, after many lives, transform into a butterfly-something-else. That if you stayed here, in the dark in-between place, you might come to remember everything from your previous lives, but that it’s time to move on, to be reborn into your next life. And this version of you goes willingly, ready for anything.
It’s not always so easy to convince you.
This version of you will open your eyes and perceive your own idea of nothingness, the feeling of an endless expanse of a blank page. You will see the something-else and catch a glimpse of your Mother, a glimpse of your Father, in its face. You’ll be reminded of a high school teacher who always pushed you to write, and a grandparent who laid out paints on the kitchen table for you as a child.
“I made you,” it will say, “I made you and I made the world for you.” You’ll feel the truth of this to the very core of your being. It’s like hearing the sky is blue and yet you’ll still ask—
And it will explain that you are its child. It will explain that it created this world, created this universe, to let you grow up, to allow you to be born into its world. It will explain that you have experienced many lives, that you will live the lives of everyone in human history before you are truly born. And it will tell you that it’s time to begin your next life.
“Wait,” you will say. You’ll still remember your human body, so your brow will be furrowed in thought. “Just… wait.”
And there will be silence for a moment.
“Why?” you’ll ask again. “If this is my last opportunity to experience existence as myself, why wouldn’t I take the chance to learn everything I could? To remember all of my lives as the person I am now?”
You examine the face of your, of your parent. You get the impression of being a child in a grocery store asking sweetly for the sugary cereal, where before you might have thrown a tantrum, and of a mother who hasn’t had to work overtime this week and who might—might—have the patience to deal with your shenanigans.
“I mean, is time even a dimension of existence for you?” you’ll blurt out without thinking, talking in a rush. “At least while you’re here? Do you lose anything by hanging out in this universe while I…” and you trail off, waving your hands in frustration.
“Hush, now,” your parent will say to you, and you’ll feel like you’re being gathered up and hugged close to its chest. You’ll feel warm and safe for a moment.
And you’ll pull away slightly and grin, bright and dazzling as the sun, and you’ll send forth the feeling of grabbing your friend’s hands as a child and spinning until you’re both dizzy, of your father picking you up and twirling you around.
“I want to fly with you to the bottom of the Marianas Trench,” you’ll tell your creator, letting go and spreading your arms wide. “I want to go look at the world from the inside of an active volcano and see planet Earth from the orbit of the International Space Station.”
Another memory of your father, explaining how the walls for a house are put together and then leveraged until they stand up straight and can be secured into place.
“I want to stand with you on the surface of the universe and look for the seams that hold it all together,” you’ll say, and hold your hands out to your creator, imploring. “I want you to tell me how it all fits together, how some of the code might have been repurposed from another universe and what you had to put together for the first time, just for me.”
And your parent will look at you with a small, sad smile on its face, and remind you gently, “When you finish remembering, you will no longer be the person you are now.” It pauses. “That’s… rather the point.”
“I’m not the same person I was when I graduated high school,” you’ll counter. “I want to have the chance to be able to process my previous lives in a way that only I—this version of me—possibly can.”
“A misunderstanding of the process,” it will observe, “To think that only one aspect of yourself could come to a conclusion that your whole self couldn’t.”
“Maybe,” you’ll say, “But right now I’m learning. Understanding comes later.”
And the two of you—one, a tiny aspect of humanity; and another, an intelligence beyond your understanding—will stare at each other for a moment.
“Show me a story,” you’ll ask.
And your parent, your creator, will take your hand. “Just until you remember. Then it’s time to move on.”
Based on the concept of the universe as presented in Andy Weir’s “The Egg.”