1442 words (5 minute read)

3. 1001 Earths

They had started the Human Observation study a little over eight years ago. By reverse engineering the “Mountain Out of a Molehill” experiment, a team in the HEVIn Chemistry Department had successfully created an entire universe inside a one-meter cube.

Initially the scientists would simply mixed the raw materials, add the necessary catalyst, and then watch the creation process unfold naturally. Each resulting cosmos would produce the same stars, planets, black holes, gravity, light, and so on, but in different configurations so that no two were alike.

The novelty of this soon wore off for Maria.

We’re no different from third graders making “volcanoes” with baking soda and vinegar, just throwing some stuff together and waiting for a reaction, she thought. But can we create the exact universe we want? Could we create a model of our own universe with an Earth at its center?

The challenge, of course, would be to start the creation process and then sufficiently guide it to come together in just the right way. Who knows if it could actually be done, but she knew exactly who she needed to bring on board to help her try. If they succeeded this would be a bigger reinvention than The Wheel 2.0.

Suddenly Maria Godwin felt energized. In fact, she had not felt excited by much, but especially not scientific discovery, since her husband and partner had passed away. Arthur Godwin had been the yin to her yang. Maria brought discipline, meticulousness, and methodology to their research; whereas her husband’s contributions were more along the lines of “it’s so crazy it just might work.”

Dr. Thor Rasmussen had been one of her earliest recruits and had helped develop the correct formulation for specific universe genesis, complete with a microscopic Earth at its center.

“Because of its scale,” Maria explained to Jasmine. “The hundreds of millions of years it took for our world to form, Dr. Rasmussen condensed down to about a week.”

“Actually, I created the cosmos and the Earth in six days. On the seventh day I rested,” Thor exclaimed, correcting her. “To give everything a chance to gel.”

Once they had created a miniature universe the same as their own: now what?

The answer to that question would come unexpectedly from a chance discovery by the HEVIn Astronomy Department around the same time. Now this model Earth could have a purpose. But, first, they needed to create life. And, not just any kind of life—human life—in their own image (and time) that they could observe.

Since this had never been done before, the team decided to create 1,000 Earth specimens each in its own micro-universe, all housed in neat stacks of twenty on the top floor of this building.

What happened next exceeded everyone’s expectations. In all but one case, the Earths had managed to produce humans. And, the overwhelming majority of those had been rapidly approaching Earth Zero’s timeline.

“Then, three days ago,” Budd stated. “The shit hit the fan.”

He clicked through to a video of Earth-0014.

Yep, looks like Earth, Jasmine thought. Nothing remarkable about it—

Except oh my Doc, Earth just blew the fuck up.

Jasmine gasped loudly, and clasped one hand over her mouth. Everyone else had turned to look at her. No one else seemed remotely surprised by this.

In fact, Athena raised one eyebrow and then resumed knitting.

“That was the first specimen to explode. But, what you just saw repeated 993 more times within 48 hours,” he continued.

“Damn!” said Horus shaking his head. “Yesterday afternoon when I left we were only down 274.”

“So, what happened?” Jasmine said dismayed.

“That’s the thing,” replied Dr. Ha, pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose. “We don’t know exactly.”

“It’s actually why I’ve asked you here,” added Maria. “I believe your expertise in predictive probability, not to mention your uncanny genius at recognizing patterns where other people see none, can help us sort this problem and save our last specimen. If we don’t, all this will have been for nothing and we don’t really have the time or resources to start over.”

On the ride over, Jasmine had considered many bizarre scenarios of what they could be working on and why they needed her to help. But, this surpassed even her most fantastic ideas by a kilometer.

“Any questions before we move on?” asked Budd, surveying the room. Judging from the newest addition’s expression, she had a million. “Dr. Jones?”

“Um—huh—Not sure where to start—” she said. “—but, first, I guess, why were the dates on each Earth different?”

“Since these universes exist on a much smaller scale,” Jesús interceded. “Everything naturally happens at a much faster rate for them than we experience. This actually played to our advantage in trying to bring them to our timeline quickly.

However, as you would expect, there are limits to how rapidly we can allow things to progress before these systems become unstable. We can, though, safely slow any of the universes down to match time as we experience it, or any rate in between these two extremes.

To answer your question, though, if we detected an anomaly with one of the specimens, we would often need to slow it down long enough to help it course correct,” he concluded.

At the point Earth-0014 exploded, most of the specimens were experiencing time at a heightened—but nowhere near maximum—rate. They were preparing for landing, so to speak, since most were only a thousand years away from Earth-0000’s present date. Since the specimens all self-destructed during the same small window of time, the team only managed to save the handful of straggler Earths that were decades behind their counterparts.

Without fail, though, even these stragglers managed to blow themselves to bits when their calendars hit the Doomsday Zone.

“Maybe they made a suicide pact,” offered Athena unhelpfully while still knitting.

“Since we haven’t yet been able to sift through all the data from the mass event we aren’t exactly sure of its root cause,” said Dr. Ha. “I thought what may help would be to see what all of these destroyed Earths had in common with each other and with Earth-0233. Obviously I skipped through things like air, humans, water, and other things we created to be there.”

He clicked through a series of slides:

“Fortune cookies—Ferris Wheels—all you can eat buffets—meggings, or, male leggings—

“Well there’s your answer. I’d blow myself up too,” said Athena.

—cats, the animal not the musical——gay people—Bob’s Big Boy—that burn you get on the roof of your mouth from hot pizza cheese—and, therefore, pizza cheese—baseball cards, although, surprisingly, not baseball—

Budd continued like this for another 45 minutes.

—Charro, deviled eggs, The King—

“How much more is there?” asked Thor.

—‘That’s what she said’—

“Apparently, it’s the punch line of a joke,” explained Budd.

—clowns—quinceñeras—Las Vegas—The Mona Lisa

“So, then Leonardo DiCaprio too?” asked Horus.

“Actually, on Earth-0233, the Mona Lisa was not painted by Leonardo DiCaprio but by an artist named Leonardo DiVinci. He was considered quite a genius.”

“More than DiCaprio?”

Budd chuckled. “Of course not.”

When the meeting had concluded, Maria turned to Jasmine.

“Will you excuse me one moment while I ask Dr. Rasmussen something? Then we can go to the lab and I’ll show you the Earth specimen.”

The instant Maria departed, Athena swooped in and tossed the young mathematician a soft, blanket? Jasmine unfolded it and held it up in front of her. No, it was a beautiful navy dress.

“You knitted an entire dress while we were meeting?”

“Yes, for you—” Athena stated.

Jasmine didn’t know what to say. How generous! Maybe she had misjudged Athena. Perhaps she was shy, not cold.

“Wow, thank y—“

“—Well, you look ridiculous. You look like you’re wearing a potato sack. With a little effort you might be attractive.”

Jasmine’s face turned 100 shades of embarrassment. Although, she had to admit that Athena wasn’t wrong. She had intended to sleep in these closes after all.

“So you’ll put it on now?”

Jasmine nodded sheepishly.

“Well, ok then.” And, with that settled, Athena marched past her and headed straight down the hall.