The Sympathetic Universe: Part 1

In the beginning, there was one.

It was the ruler of all and it was all. There was nothing outside its domain of control because there was nothing outside of it. I would say how it spent its time, but there was no time. There was no space. There was only it. I could not describe to you what it did, except that it created. it had ideas, manifested them, and grew bored and left them. That is to say, it ceased to pay attention to them. It was infinite, so it had no need to reclaim resources from an old project to start a new one.

Then it did something radically different from its previous work. It split.

And then there were two.

Each of these two was also infinite. They were identical duplicates, except that in the division one got half of the junk leftover from old projects and the other got the other half. This seemingly meaningless difference was enough for them to take slightly different paths in their projects, and their different experiences with their different projects led them to become two individuals. We could think of them as A and B. When they tried to interact, one would have one idea, the other would have another, and they shortly found they were irreconcilable. So, they just kept doing what they had been doing all along, creating alone.

Then A split, and there were three.

We can think of the children of A and AA and AB. They did not use these monikers exactly, as the Roman alphabet did not exist, but they did think of themselves in these terms, if you drop the ordering implied by A and B, since siblings were always the exact same age and could not be defined as first or second in any way. As I have said before, in some substantial way, time did not exist, but if you wanted to have a general sense of roughly how long it took a given entity to split based on our perception of time, think of the age of our universe. Maybe a few dozen of those, give or take for the particular case in question.

AB split next, into ABA and ABB, followed by B into BA and BB. This process continued, with each entity creating and splitting, creating and splitting. Occasionally an entity would realize that instead of constantly creating, it could resolve its ever-pressing boredom directly, by simply choosing not to be bored. These entities became permanently satisfied and ceased to do anything, effectively ceasing to exist, except in the same way that old creations remained forgotten in each being.

Eventually, one entity, a descendant of BA, particularly BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABA, whom we will call BABA for short, attempted, as had many generations before, to interact with its sibling, BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABB, whom we will call BABB for short. Attempts at interaction generally occurred between siblings for the reason that they were comprehensible to each other. As entities created, they became different, each in its own path. The notion that BABA would try to understand its cousin BAAB was obtuse, the idea that it would find common ground with an entity like BBBB was terrifying, and it was better altogether not to even think about what a descendant of A must be like. No, BABA stuck to its own.

When BABA interacted with BABB, however, BABA had decided there was an important difference. BABA would let BABB manifest a reality, which it would then… what? What did it mean to interact with another reality? BABA and its ancestors only created. They had never modified anything, and the concept was one that took BABA a while to grasp, with much frustration along the way to comprehension. It worried that BABB would never understand in the short time of an interaction and might cease to respond if it interpreted modification as destruction, which, honestly, it was. Destruction and creation together. The idea pleased BABA, but nevertheless, it took a softer approach.

When BABB manifested a reality, BABA observed it and made an identical copy, except with one change. I regret that I cannot describe these realities in more detail, but they simply are not constructed of any concepts that would make any sense to you. They certainly don’t make any sense to me. BABB ceased to reply, and, crestfallen, BABA returned to its isolation, where it remained until it split.

A few generations later, BABA’s descendant, BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABABBBAAB, or BAAB, tried again with its sibling, BAAA. This time, BAAA and BAAB shared the memory of their ancestor BABA, and both understood what it had tried to do, as well as the concept of modification. So, when BAAB boldly made a change directly to BAAA’s reality, BAAA responded. BAAA offered a change of its own elsewhere in the same reality. This continued until they got bored, at which point BAAB created a new reality, which BAAA modified.

It was difficult, this game of changing just one thing at a time. First of all, what constituted “just one thing?” but with their shared ancestry, BAAA and BAAB did not have too much trouble reaching an unspoken agreement about what changes were too far. The more serious challenge was to accept limits, especially to accept the changes that destroyed your work. However, these children of BABA still found themselves attracted to destruction and creation in harmony. It was more exciting than just creating. They were also learning the pleasure of a creation in which they did not know what would happen next. Unlike the madness of trying to open up a new interaction, this simple game was a limited, safe space where BAAB and BAAA could experience suspense, fear, surprise without being overwhelmed or ultimately frustrated and demoralized as they both remembered from when they were their ancestor BABA rejected by its sibling BABB.

The descendants of both BAAB and BAAA continued this game, and as they did, something remarkable happened. Their drift was limited. Where BABA could not imagine trying to communicate with its cousin, BAABA played with not only BAABB, but with BAAAA and BAAAB. As the generations continued, the descendants of BAAB and BAAA, children of BAA, descendant of BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABA, continued to play larger and larger games with each other. Sometimes smaller games broke off, but quickly they would end and the players would scatter and join different games. The entities in this family split, but they shared, and for the first time, they were able to take advantage of the company of other entities in a way their ancestors could not even imagine. They were a family.

The BAA family would go on to become much more familiar to us, but there was still much for them to learn.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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