“Well, it’s not bad,” allowed Ola, grudgingly. “I still prefer mine, though.”
The two pan-dimensional entities were comparing their attempts at substrates with which to fill lower Universes. It passed eternity.
Ki regarded Ola’s most recent creation, and frowned.
It was true: hers was certainly more elegant.
“I like the lights,” he muttered. “Lights are a nice touch.”
“You think that’s good?” Ola replied, complacent in her victory. “See what happens when I do this...”
Ola leaned into the little Universe, Phase Space telescoping around her as she gave it a flick, sending it rocketing along one further dimension: time.
The substrate flared brightly, much to Ki’s surprise, exploding in a kaleidoscopic panorama of colours, before dissipating gently into a barely perceptible hum of thin-spread background radiation.
“Well, good game,” sniffed Ola. “We must play again.”
She stared at him, waiting for a response. But Ki was too flabbergasted by what he had seen. Time - in one of the lower realities! Imagine that! And the way her substrate had behaved, flaring then dissipating. Why had it done that? And what if it could be made to do something else? The possibilities were...
And when he realised she had spoken to him, Ola was already gone, off to strut some higher rung of phase space, looking to win more contests.
Ki didn’t mind. She had given him an idea.
He spent the next three eternities hard at work, trying to perfect his new substrate. It was very tricky stuff, that was for sure. He had blown up seven distinct Universes before he had a sensible handle on things, and that wasn’t counting the attempts which had only been partial catastrophes.
And yet it still wasn’t working.
The trouble was getting the stability right. That, and the trajectories. Still, it would all be worth it, he told himself as he scraped up the remains of an eighth universe, folding it back into the depths of phase space and hoping no one would notice, or that if they did, they would be able to recycle it into something useful.
If he could just get the initial conditions right, then he was sure it would work. He could feel it, could intuit it, he could almost...
“Watcha,” said Ola, materialising from a higher order reality to which Ki hadn’t been paying much attention. “What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” muttered Ki, quickly moving to tidy away his latest unworkable attempt. “Just mucking about. Just...”
But Ola was already leaning forward, snatching the delicate thing away.
She glared at it balefully, as if daring it to be anything like as perfect as something she had made.
She picked up one of the spherical components, gave it a rattle so that the internal dimensions vibrated discordantly, and frowned.
“Well I must say, I haven’t the foggiest,” she said, dismissively. “Honestly, the rubbish you come up with. Some people will just throw together any old components, won’t they?”
Ki was watching his substrate. It was trembling. He didn’t think Ola had noticed.
“Yes,” he said vaguely. An idea had just occurred to him. A sudden thought, an inkling about what the stuff had been missing.
“But then, some people have no ambition,” Ola went on blithely. “Some people are content to imitate, but never innovate. To be always second best.”
“Yes,” said Ki once more. He had to stop himself from looking directly at his substrate. It was shaking quite vigorously now. It almost seemed to be leaning up towards Ola.
“It’s about class, when it comes right down to it,” said Ola, as if laying down the final, devastating piece of an elaborate argument. “Some people have it. And some people just like mucking about with junk...”
The substrate pounced.
There was a frozen moment. Ola stared in astonishment as the substrate flowed, syphoning up phase space and covering her. Then it was retreating, sliding back to its own home Universe, settling easily into its meagre allotment of nineteen dimensional space.
It looked almost the same as before. The spheres, the lines, the orbits humming with the inevitability of motion...but there was something else there now, too.
It would work, now. He was quite sure.
Ki leant down and gave the substrate a flick, setting the universe tumbling through time.
Just as with Ola’s substrate, there was a flare of light and motion...but unlike her substrate, this one did not dissipate. Instead, it flickered and changed, zipping in unlikely fractal patterns, coalescing, rippling, pulling tighter and tighter, dimensions sliding into one another until it was a brilliant pulsing singularity in the very heart of the little Universe.
It paused, frozen and beautiful...and then - with a flash - sprang open again, unwinding.
Time sluiced back into being, unfolding with the other dimensions, but in the other direction this time. As it did so, the substrate exploded outwards: whizzing, dancing lines of energy and force...and, bound up inside, inextricably linked, the final, special ingredient Ki had been waiting for: mind.
“Pretty,” he observed to himself, with some satisfaction, as the fine mist of substrate began to cool down, coalescing into galaxies, into suns which burst suddenly into pillars of fire, and into planets on which - inevitably, now - mind began to flower. Odd, novel stuff to find in a lower Universe, that was for sure.
But it was so obvious, now that he had grasped it. Mind and matter, matter and mind: it seemed absurd that he had ever not known the intimate way they related, given time. Emergence saw to that.
Backwards and forwards, dancing through time first one way then the other, the Universe would spool and unspool, forever.
A further thought struck him, and his smile faltered a notch.
It was a shame that this Universe, however, had been formed up out of Ola’s mind in particular. One couldn’t help but feel sorry for whatever small, soured minds might emerge there. They were cursed, more or less. He hoped they had a sense of humour.
Still, he thought as he clambered up through phase space, sweeping the sad little Universe away to tick over indefinitely, tucking it out of the way under a pile of phantasmagorical cosmic detritus beneath which it might hopefully lay forgotten forever, it wasn’t bad as a proof of concept.
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