I wrote this during my first semester in college. Same horrible creative writing teacher as previously mentioned. She hated it, of course. 😀
Celestial Innovations, Inc.
Sam was bored. So bored, in fact, that he was lethargic. Bored because he was lethargic, all stemming from his boss’ quaint request to “Build up a universe, Scout.”
“Scout.” He hated that name. His boss thought it was some sign of camaraderie to make up pet names for all his employees. Bill was “Clown.” James was “Duder.” They all put up with it because it kept the boss in a good mood—The boss of Celestial Innovations, Inc.
“What a neat job,” he thought when he was hired. “Where else can you build your very own moon?” That went on for the first week, when he was still in training for designing craterscapes. Now he built universes. That was a bit trickier.
He couldn’t simply tell the computer what he wanted it to look like, what kind of textures to put on it, and render it in the Celestial Replicator…It was a universe. A big blob of nothingness, when you think about it—but that’s the trick. You can’t precisely think about something that isn’t really there, and won’t be there even after you create it. It was the idea that counted.
“Be one with the universe, Scout.” That was his boss’ advice. It made him mildly suicidal, but he usually got over it.
He was cursing mildly and swiveling rapidly in his cushy-looking-but-not-really cubical chair. He swiveled when he was upset. If he was also bored he tended to curse mildly in rhythm with the clicking of the smoothly-operating-but-not-really Xerox machine. Good for something, he supposed.
His boss cuffed him on the shoulder. “How’s that universe coming, Scout?”
It wasn’t a question, it was a reminder.
Sam wasn’t ready for this. He hadn’t stopped cursing yet. “Damn good brainstorming, sir—gonna lay a good one.” Stupid machine.
“Keep up the good work, Scout, next Monday’s gonna be a real kicker!” Get on it or you’re fired—this is an important client.
“Like a fly on sh…shoo-fly pie, sir.”
His boss cheerily strode towards the next cubicle.
“Duder!” Sam heard from the next cubicle.
Yes, sir, kick ‘em in the client, sir.
He munched a Twinkie. They always helped him be one with the universe. There must be something deeply spiritual in those layers of synthetic starch and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It was as if with every bite he was biting into a heavily seasoned—
He impulsively leaned over and blew a sizely piece of Twinkie into the paper basket. The back legs were still wiggling. Must have been a cockroach—only a cockroach could survive inside a Twinkie.
After a bit more spitting and cursing he returned to his blank monitor. The computer had booted up and was ready for him to input his basic concept for the universe. He was mildly excited about trying out the latest version of Headspace.
The latest innovation was for the program to immediately put the computer into power saving mode while you thought up the basic concept. He hadn’t expected that. Go Microsoft.
“Basic universe, no specific purpose. Capable of containing planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, but currently does not.” (Planets, stars, solar systems and galaxies are an extra charge.) “Age: one trillion years. Size, four-thirds pi fifteen zillion light years cubed. Linear travel speed: 25 times diameter per second. Four-dimensional—standard settings.” That oughtta give it something to complain about. Much to his dismay, the monitor only stared back at him blankly. He shrugged.
Now was the tricky part. What was this universe to become? How long would that take? Was it moral to decide it? What was moral in that universe? Would people obey those morals? He proceeded to dig the project request form out of his lunch box. It would make a good napkin—it wasn’t a carbon copy.
…To create a strictly moral universe capable of recreating itself in the event of collapse, overexpansion, or any other ill effects pertaining to old age.
That was the gist of it. The rest was the kind of corporate mumbo-jumbo that keeps lawyers employed.
By moral, they probably meant something to the extent of protecting the young and helpless, not stealing, killing, giving to the needy—all the usual Christian stuff. That ought to be easy.
“Morality.” The screen blinked on. “New Testament values, strictly obeyed. Complete reproduction as needed, brief pupation.” The program ignored the error in syntax and proceeded to display his requests. It was about time somebody made a program for language-deficient techies.
Sam spent the next couple days setting up probabilities. He put a time flow hub at the center just for kicks. The computer handled all the mathematics.
The machine whirred into action, opening an inter-dimensional portal to the new universe. It was done in five minutes.
The last one he made took almost a week to replicate. Something wasn’t right.
“Replicate miniature, .75 inch diameter. Present space.”
The machine started up and instantly replicated a scale model of the universe. Sam’s instructions popped up on the screen. A wasp flew out of the replicator and landed on his shoulder.
“SHIT!” he screamed and began spinning violently in his chair, in hopes of losing the troublesome insect. The wasp didn’t move. After a minute or so of this, Sam stopped spinning and stared at the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle. His boss elbowed his way to the front.
“What is the meaning of this? Have you lost your mind?”
“Technical difficulties, sir, it’s all under control.”
His boss looked angrily around the cubical. It looked all right. The crowd was breaking up.
“Stay focused, Scout.”
That was all. He sat dazed in his reclinable-but-not-really cubicle chair. What a horrible time for a buggy program. Sam winced and then laughed.
Why not? It met all the requirements—“To create a strictly moral universe capable of recreating itself in the event of collapse, overexpansion, or any other ill effects pertaining to old age.”
A wasp would reproduce, it would protect its young, it had no problem with community housing…The boss isn’t going to like this, but how’s he going to know—he only needs to see the specifications, anyway. Besides, it was his wasp. He was in complete control of what it did.
He turned his head to see the wasp. It was crawling up his neck. It would be better not to let the boss see the evidence of his mistake. He picked up a newspaper and rolled it up. The wasp was sitting still just under his chin. Just one quick whack…
Whiff! The wasp stung him and flew away. Sam cursed loudly and gripped at his neck. It was swelling rapidly. As he went to the restroom to wash it off, he realized his universe simply wouldn’t do. It was dangerous. No other time, in the history of Celestial Innovations, Inc., had anybody’s creation ever backfired like this. What was he going to do? Destroying a brand new universe wasn’t generally a big deal, just as long as it wasn’t inhabited; but a living one…?
That was unthinkable. But neither could he give it to some client. He would have to hide it somehow. That wouldn’t be too hard—he could simply delete the coordinates from the mainframe—he had access to most files pertaining to his creations. His boss wouldn’t have to know.
But the program said it would replicate. Then what? He couldn’t remove that part without destroying the entire universe—it was in the imperatives. He would have to let it go.
Let go of his creation. He realized, almost abruptly, that he could not own a living universe. Besides, he’d never be able to hide it from the IRS. He only hoped that he could leave it something to remember him by. He could be its mentor.
He sat on the counter and tried to come up with some way of showing his presence in that universe—he wanted it to have purpose, unlike the one he lived in. He wanted only to create something beautiful to listen to, watch, love—it was his universe, but it could never belong to anybody—it had to have a free will—it had to act of its own volition—it wasn’t just a universe, it was his creation, and he would leave it a gift.
Sam returned to his cubicle, his head burning with joy. He sat down at his computer and ran the program. Yes, this was what he wanted. He pressed his lips to the microphone and spoke shakily.
“To present universe, add.” He swallowed deeply. He had to get this right.
By Dane Mutters, 2000.