|Works by Eirik on Shifti|
The email had been mysterious to say the least. "Come to my house down in Rhode Island," it had read, "and I'll show you the secret of the universe."
He might have been happier if the message had come from Maria, his on again off again girlfriend, but the fact that it came from Elvin Cherry, Ph.D. was intriguing in itself.
Aaron turned his car down the old country road and, with some effort in the dark, managed to find the house. For all his reputation as a lover of all things scientific and technological, the eminent MIT professor and researcher liked to live about as far from Cambridge as he could and still make it to campus when he had to. He'd set up his home on an old, unused farm. If it wasn't for the fact that it was hidden deeply by forest, his neighbors probably would have protested the state of the place.
Aaron didn't even have to knock before the door flew open. "Aaron! It's good to see you. I've made a breakthrough that even I have a hard time believing, and I needed someone who could confirm it."
He shook Dr. Cherry's' hand, "I appreciate the though, Doctor, but shouldn't you be talking to your colleagues? I'm just a computer tech."
Cherry almost didn't seem to hear him at first, then beckoned him into the cluttered farmhouse. "There's going to be time to allow them to see it later, but for now I wanted someone who could simply confirm what I think I'm seeing." He pointed at the mass of computer equipment scattered around the room, "I think there's a chance I'm simply hallucinating or seeing things. And I think you'll find this more up your alley than you think." He sat down at a silver laptop and started typing.
Aaron didn't say anything at first until the silence got uncomfortable. "What's the big discovery?" he asked finally.
"A few years back," he said finally, "someone presented a theory that the universe wasn't real, but rather part of what amounted to a massive simulation."
Aaron nodded, "I remember that, it was just talk and random percentages. The idea that we're all part of a computer program so vast and complex that you couldn't tell the difference."
Cherry kept tapping away, "Of course, a ridiculous idea. Just a bit of scientific humor." He made a final, dramatic tap on the keyboard, "Except that it's true." The air suddenly filled with a slightly electric feeling. Aaron felt a slight bit of vertigo, then just as abruptly it went away. "Ta da," he said with a grin.
At first, Aaron didn't know what he was talking about, then he realized that the room, which had looked like a disaster zone, was suddenly spotless. It took a couple minutes to realize that it wasn't even the same house, but rather it seemed more like an Alpine hunting lodge. That, and sunlight was streaming through the window. "What the hell?"
"I just made a couple small changes to the universe," he said. "I told it that we were supposed to be in a Chalet in Switzerland. " Aaron ran to the window and realized that they were in a mountain range, and definitely not in Rhode Island anymore.
"How did you do that?" he asked, bewildered.
"It's easy. I managed to tap into the central program that runs the universe."
Aaron looked at him skeptically, "With a Dell laptop?"
Cherry laughed, "There's more to it than that, I assure you." He pointed at a small black box, "There's some extra equipment in there, but it was surprisingly easy once I hit on a couple of key concepts last month. I've been experimenting for days." He tapped a few buttons, and the familiar feeling returned. Moments later, they were back in his house in Rhode Island. He tapped a few more, "Check your car."
He slowly went to the front window and looked out. His old Toyota was gone, replaced with a blue BMW convertible. Numbly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys, finding one with the familiar logo and an unfamiliar key fob. "How?" he asked again. "Like I said, it's not that hard."
Aaron felt his mind reel at the implications. If you could literally re-write the universe, then Cherry had inadvertently become a God, even if the man didn't realize it yet. "You could do this even with people, couldn't you? You could make a person toned, or cure any disease?"
Cherry laughed, "You're thinking too small! I could do that and so much more. I could make you a woman and make it so that everyone, you included, thought it was always that way. If I wanted, I could even make it so that you never existed."
When Cherry started to tap on the keyboard, Aaron stopped him, "look, I believe you. Aren't you worried at all about the implications?"
Cherry nodded, "I am, it's why I'm not going to let this get out except to a tight number of colleagues. After all, can you imagine if everyone had this kind of power? The universe would probably fall apart in days."
"That's what I mean," he said. "Look, if I was writing a computer simulation, if I had access to something that could produce simulations that were self aware, I wouldn't want them to have access. If they managed to find it, I'd need to find a way to lock them out."
Cherry just shrugged, "I suppose. But then the worst that could happen…" He didn't get the sentence out before the air filled with a loud buzz. Cherry jumped backwards as his laptop and the mysterious box attached to it suddenly sizzled and vanished, taking part of the coffee table with it. "I guess that does it, then," he said sheepishly, "The universe corrects its errors."
Aaron wasn't so sure. "Look, you have the knowledge on how to reproduce this! This could be bad, Elvin!"
Cherry only then started to look worried. "The universe can't just wink me out of existence, because the knowledge on how to reproduce this won't die with me."
The lights suddenly went out.
Aaron scrambled to his feet and started running for his car, not sure how he was going to escape the wrath of the universe. He made it to the door before it crumbled to dust. He fell forward, realizing that his hands didn't look right. They were… paws?
He sat heavily down on the forest floor and looked at himself. It didn't take long before he realized that he was a brown bear. He looked around to find that all traces of the house were gone, the car, even the road. It was as though it had never existed.
Looking to the sky, he saw stars that he'd never seen before. The light pollution from Boston and Providence were gone. Aaron had the sinking feeling that was exactly the case, the cities themselves were no more, and the people were like him. The universe had made a correction by eliminating humanity.
Sitting in the center of what had been the house was a very agitated raccoon. It ran in circles for several seconds before spotting Aaron and running over. It chattered wildly, as if trying to explain away what had happened, or perhaps promising to fix it.
Aaron felt anger rise up, and in a swift motion he swatted the raccoon against a tree where it struck with an audible snap. Instinct took over as he laid on the ground and started to eat.