“Look what I’ve found!” exclaimed Zab.
Klex ambled over from a distant corner of the multiverse and looked on, unimpressed.
“So?” he said. “Seems pretty straightforward.”
Zab and Klex were higher-order entities operating in at least 18 dimensions. To them, time looked rather like a line, and the intricacies of something moving through it in the linear fashion of lower-order entities was comprehensible at a glance.
Zab demonstrates one of the new slides he had found, clambering on at the moment of birth, slipping down the space-time gradient of an unspooling life, before being deposited unceremoniously at the bottom as the thing terminated.
“So what?” he said. “The multiverse is full of this ‘life’ stuff. Old news, really.”
It was true. Klex and Zab spent their existence surfing across the infinite expanse of the cosmos, occasionally regarding it with profound wonder, but more often just mucking around with stuff. Life was marginally more interesting than the birth of stars, because - although much smaller - the nascent spark of consciousness it sometimes contained had a pleasing way of interacting with space-time, turning each spark of the stuff into a tiny, inwards-facing ride.
It was fun.
Zab rolled his multidimensional sight appendages.
“Yes, but look!” he urged, mounting the life at birth once more and zipping down the thing.
“Oh, how odd,” said Klex, noticing what was unusual about the life-slide. “Do all these ones do that?”
“All of this species, in this little fragment of space-time,” said Zab, indicating a region of phase space which corresponded roughly to a particular planet over a million-year-or-so time span. “See for yourself!”
Klex did, mounting and zooming his way down the same life-slide several times.
“But...but it came out differently,” he said, puzzled. “Every time. Different loops. Different...chains of causality.”
This was pretty odd. Across almost every inch of the multiverse, life-slides unspooled the same way every time you rode them. It was built into the fabric of causality. How could it be otherwise, if consequence was to mean anything at all?
“It’s got something funny in it,” said Zeb at last, after he had enjoyed Klex’s confusion for long enough. “Look, see for yourself!”
Klex lifted the life up and regarded it closely.
“Oh, yes!” he said after a moment, seeing the tiny flickering spark deep within, so subtle that at first he mistook it for a reflection of the background sentience of the Universe. “Is that...?”
“Soul!” said Zeb, a little smugly. “Real, true soul-stuff! I told you it would evolve, sooner or later.”
“Yes, well,” said Klex dryly. “It’s only a very small amount. Just enough to bend the life differently every time it runs.”
“It only needs to be,” pointed out Zeb. “That’s how we started, after all. Time and infinite phase space will do the rest.”
Klex looked for a moment as if he would argue, then just shrugged, defeated.
“Fair enough,” he said. “You win. Looks like Soul does emerge, not just Intelligence. Lucky that you found it, really. What do you call this place?”
Zeb looked proudly at the little pocket of space-time.
“Earth,” he said, a trifle smugly. “Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
Klex wrinkled his multiply-protuberant scent organ.
“Earth? Really?” he said. “Sounds a bit like the noise a lower-order entity makes whilst being sick. What about the creatures, themselves? These life-slides you’re so pleased with?”
“Oh, I call them gerbils,” said Zeb excitedly. “Aren’t they magnificent?”
“They’re ok,” allowed Klex grudgingly, before looking in a bored manner around the little pocket of space-time to which Zeb had brought them. “Well, that’s that, I suppose. Nothing else interesting around here, I take it?”
Zeb shook his head.
“Not really,” he said. “Well, there are these silly ape-descended bipeds who looked promising at first, but their life-slides seem to revolve around sex, violence, and the pursuit of rudimentary reality television.”
The two higher-order entities regarded one another for a moment, then shuddered.
“So, the usual, then,” said Klex. “Doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“Absolutely,” said Zeb. “But the gerbils, now. The gerbils show real promise…”