Author: J.D. Rice
The universe was old, slowly dying. Marvin could see it happening before his eyes. Not in some figurative sense. Not in the way philosophers supposed society would eventually break down as baser instincts took route. Not in the way doomsday cults supposed life would end. Not even in the way mathematicians had so often predicted the “heat death” of the universe, a time when the universe expanded to the point where the distribution of matter and energy made it effectively empty.
No, the universe was dying. For real. And Marvin was coming along for the ride.
Him. . . and a few dozen other passengers on the self-proclaimed “life raft,” mostly royals, titans of business, warlords, and their families.
Their ship, if it could even be called that, would preserve a little pocket of spacetime for them to wait out the birth of the next universe. But not without a lot of shaking, jostling, and general mayhem.
[Three minutes until universal implosion.]
The mayhem got started right on cue as the ship shook violently, the last vestiges of the dying universe fighting for some kind of life before the end. It was beautiful, in its own way. Watching all that matter and energy converging on a single point, trying desperately to reorganize before it was all snuffed out. It was a wonder to behold. At least. . . it should have been.
But once you’ve seen all of existence snuffed out 13 times over, the novelty starts to wear off.
Marvin sat quietly in his VIP seat near the front, tired eyes staring out the window. No one else had ever survived this many reboots, with most finding some ignominious death after their first few rodeos. They’d be cut off from their immortality elixirs, assassinated, impoverished, disempowered, or face a myriad of other potential obstacles that would bring their seemingly infinite years to an end. The poor would inevitably eat the rich.
But Marvin had something other than greed or a desire for power to spur him on. He had something other than survival instinct that allowed him to avoid death through twelve different realities. He had a higher purpose.
[Two minutes until universal implosion.]
Sylvia. His one true love.
She’d been with him for eons that first time around. She helped him build up his resources to embark on these trips, not through conquest, manipulation, or business acumen. But through science.
They’d designed this ship – a far sturdier model than the ones in use before Marvin’s first timeline kicked off. They’d discovered how the reboots worked, and how to predict their cycles with true accuracy. And they’d discovered how to keep certain unsavory figures from ever making it to a new cycle.
He was the master of time. Thirteen times, to be exact, with a fourteenth on the way.
But Sylvia never made it past the first.
A fluke, a stroke of dumb luck, and she was gone. One in a billion, one in a trillion chance of death, and the number had found her.
So, Marvin rode the universal implosion out, hung around their home planet until the appropriate time, and tried again with a new Sylvia.
But she wasn’t the same. None of them were the same.
Chaos theory being what it was, he had no real guarantee that she would even be born – at least that’s what the philosophers from Universe 2 had told him. But now he knew the truth. Time was a river – you can splash around all you like, but its true course can never be changed.
Sylvia was fated to be born. Marvin was fated to find her. And he was, it seemed, fated to lose her. Whether through some divergence in personality, circumstance, or by an unfortunate death, he’d tried and failed 12 times to woo her. Things never were quite as perfect as they had been the first time around. He just had to get things right.
[One minute until universal implosion.]
Marvin nestled back into his seat. The worst part was coming. Outside, the light of the converging universe had grown stronger, almost to a tipping point. The transparent material used to create their windows – a technology Marvin himself had perfected – filtered out the majority of the light, lest their retinas be damaged beyond repair, but it was still approaching blinding.
[T-Minus, 10, 9, 8, 7…]
He would find her. Find her early. Find her before random chance could change her into something less than who he knew she could be.
[6, 5, 4…]
He would convince her to love him this time. He would be the same man he’d been in universe 1. No more arrogance, no more presumption.
Nothing would go wrong this time, he knew it.
The entire ship pitched uncontrollably, a massive crack appearing in the viewing window.
As the world went black, Marvin pictured Sylvia’s face one last time, then watched another universe die.