Chapter 17: The Phone Call (continued)
Hello? Hello? Who is it? … It’s me, Lem. Lem? Lem? Is that really you? Yes, it really is me. How … why are you calling me? I think I’m losing my mind. You called me. Don’t you remember? I called you? How could I do that? I don’t even have a phone in my room. So what are you using to speak? A … a … an STU … but I don’t know where it came from … and this is not my room. I … really don’t think I can hold it together any more. Relax. You are looking over the edge of your rationality. It gives you a sensation of vertigo. Take a step back from the edge and inhale deeply. You wanted very much to talk with me, so I called you. You’re not very good at projecting your thoughts more than two centimeters beyond your skull, so I sent you an STU through the q-foam. I almost sent it to the wrong coordinates when you crossed over the line between dimensions. You’re probably a bit disoriented from changing universes. Try to relax a little and get used to your surroundings. In the future, you might want to be a little more careful about crossing over dimensional boundaries. Not every universe contains an earth-like planet or runs according to the laws of physics you’re used to. Just be a bit more careful. That’s all I’m saying. Now, what is it you wanted to talk to me about? You mean you’re talking to me from another universe? Well, yes. But how is that possible? According to current multiverse theory, each universe is an independent set of causes and effects. An event in one universe can’t cause an effect in another universe. So? The signal propagation between two STUs is a propagation of causes and effects. So? So, how can causes jump from one universe to affect another universe? Through the q-foam. It’s common to all the universes. Anyway what did you want to talk about?
Chapter 18: The Beginning of the End
The Thots were virtual beings, composed of virtual particles linked by virtual gluons. Unburdened by mass, they could zip around their universe at the speed of light or faster, depending on whether they were going forward or backward in time. Thots could also interact with real particles, but only really small particles one Planck unit in diameter and possessing very little mass. Of course, once such a really small particle was jogged out of position, it might knock into another particle and so on until a butterfly effect created a hurricane or a nuclear holocaust. When Thots interacted with real particles, they had to slow down to sub-light speeds and behave according to conventional laws of physics.
Thots built beautiful cities filled with the most exquisite architectures imaginable. Their constructions were a mixture of virtual and real particles, delicately entwined and stretched out to the thinnest of gossamer threads, bridges between dimensions and buildings connecting worlds.
Thots had their feet planted firmly on real ground but their heads were in the clouds. They lived almost forever, as long as they were connected somehow to real particles. They could survive for a short time without being connected to real particles, but then they would sink into a whirlpool of depression so intense that suicide was their only way out. Thots loved living. They loved each other and were fulfilled in the caring for each other, but without the ability to touch something real they would die.
Sometimes the real worlds Thots inhabited were extinguished. It could be during a collision of galaxies, a supernova, or a bullet through the head. In any event, the Thots on that world would be also extinguished.
At the time of the telling of this story, the Thot civilization was old but the days of its glory were long past. Worlds were disappearing, one by one, and the dark night was winning the sky, one star at a time. Countless Thots had been snuffed out of existence, their screams and crying still haunting the ears of the dwindling survivors. There was no more room on the remaining worlds to build the memorials for their dead. A sadness flooded their worlds like a monstrous tsunami. Soon there would not be even enough Thots to remember those who had perished, to sing their praises or at least their names. Matter itself was starting to crumble under its own weight and age. The very fabric of space-time was beginning to unravel.
There was no way forward, no hope, no future. Their edifices were cracking and crumbling into sub-Planck dust. The few remaining worlds were cut off from each other. Bridges between dimensions collapsed into the roiling quantum foam. There were mass-suicides of Thots. They collected in city squares, looked hopelessly into each other’s eyes, and let go of their beloved matter just long enough to plunge virtual daggers with deadly accuracy into their virtual hearts. A terrible keening could be heard around the world.
It was during this time of extreme desperation that two Thots, Exim and Asil, had built a meme, a virtual capsule capable of traveling faster than light through the foam between universes. They had no idea where they were going or whether they would survive their journey at all. They only knew they had to escape the world they had called their home since before they could remember.
Now they were traveling to a world they could not imagine.