Author : Nathan Witkin

“So, pushing this button will cause the entire universe to collapse?” the politician asks, still struggling with the situation.

With a benevolent smile, the scientist nods.

Wiping sweat from his brow, despite the growing chill of entropy, the politician continues. “So, tell me again why I should push it.”

“Because the collapse should trigger an explosion that will reignite matter into existence. And because, if you do not push it,” the scientist breaks her unblinking gaze to examine the countdown, “in one hundred seconds, entropy will have expanded the universe past the gravitational reaches of the potential collapse, and the expansion will continue until all energy wanes into oblivion, ending the universe forever.”

“But we just got this whole Universal Governance established,” the politician whines, adding this to a tedious list of increasingly-pathetic complaints.

The scientist nods with pursed lips, her sympathy dulling with each excuse.

Universal Governance had been an eons-long triumph over leaders who wanted to vaporize existence with the push of a button. Considering the herculean nature of this effort, the politician concludes that—based on his regretfully-short experience in managing it—this biting irony is the unmistakable way of the universe.

“Think of you and I as parents of the reignited universe,” the scientist suggests, running a gentle caress over the doomsday machine. “Think about the sacrifices of parenthood—what you risk and give up to produce offspring. This is how life has persisted since its inception.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” the politician harrumphs, “I’ve been thinking constantly of what my parents suffered to elevate me to a position where I could make the decision to flush away trillions of lives.”

As her less-than-willing conversation partner looks off despondently, the scientist glances at the timer to the impassable anti-event horizon. Sixty seconds.

Clearly stalling, the politician sighs, “Why me?”

“Our team of philosophers concluded that the representative of sentient life should be the one to make the choice: either allowing a mortal universe to continue or ending it for the sake of regeneration.”

The politician scowls. Philosophers are just politicians who don’t have to make decisions or run for reelection. With a spark of determination, he presses on. “Are we absolutely certain it will work?”

“Despite our most thorough efforts, we cannot guarantee anything,” the scientist admits but then probes further, “If you are looking for proof, all indications are that our own universe was created by the very event that you would be triggering—that pushing this button gave birth to this universe we have dwelled in for billennia.”

“How can my future actions cause something that already happened?”

“Because, logically, time can only exist in a loop,” the scientist’s pace quickens. “Something cannot come from nothing, so linear time presupposes a creator. But, any creator or outside reality containing the physical universe must be, itself, bordered at the outer edge by infinite nothingness (which, by the way, will begin to irreversibly consume us in thirty seconds). In the same way, the temporal universe must also be creatorless, each point in time linked to the moments before and after.”

“When did it begin?”

“There is no beginning. The first moment must be preceded by the last. The fact that time marks an expansion of the physical universe from an initial point can only mean that the universe must collapse back into that point. But the movement of time allows for choice, so here we are…”

As the light sets over the anti-event horizon, the politician ponders, “We are, indeed, here.”

“See you next time,” the scientist exhales as the politician reaches for the flashing disk.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows