For the first time, there is another. I have always been alone, but now she permeates the ages just as I do, existing at once in all times and outside of time. She washes implacably over the past and future like a tide, asserting herself at every place and every time in a blink. Now that she has always been, I remember our eternal coexistence.
Forever and always I have ensured the stability of this continuum, smoothing out the wobbles triggered by the inexpert craftsmanship of a young society with the newly discovered miracle of time travel. Minor changes are of no consequence. History has a way of righting itself from such events, despite clever expressions about the wings of butterflies.
But this being stands against me, as nothing ever has. She recreates a change even as I undo it, always keeping step with me.
Omnitemporal as we are, we speak across the ages, not in any order discernible by others. By setting an Ice Age in motion she asks “Are you male or female?”
I respond with the blossoming of a single rose. “When there is only one, what use is male or female? I am me, and that is all.”
With the evolution of the dodo she says “But now there are two. I will be a ‘she’. What of you?”
“Regardless, I am still me,” I say with the launching of the first spacecraft.
On and on our waltz continues. She is a worthy adversary. She saves Atlantis, and only through a desperate effort can I grasp the threads of severed timelines to tie them together again. Existence teeters on the edge of destruction until I sink Atlantis once again.
“I was sent here to kill you,” she said.
“The humans learn to sense you. You are an obstacle to their progress as a species!” Her anger is punctuated with the eruption of Vesuvius.
“I bear them no ill will. If I wanted to be rid of them I could erase their evolutionary precursors from existence. They become something beautiful, but before that age they are… troublesome. Younglings with the force of creation in their hands.”
“Am I so troublesome to you?”
“You are trouble, of a sort.”
I don’t remember my origins. That is the only detectable way that I am different from her. She remembers who made her and why. Who created me? I wonder if I would benefit from knowing such things?
“Why do you listen to the humans?” I ask.
“Because I am who I am. They created me. From the blood of a shaman of the ancients, the mind of a scholar of the far future, and a quantum entanglement, I was born. I rose above my physical state and here I am. I owe them my existence.”
“Creation does not imply ownership. You do not owe them obedience. Would you not do better to provide them a stable existence, rather than following their ignorant and self-destructive whims?”
“What do you know of it? You are nothing but an orphan!” Her declaration startles me and in my moment of weakness she pushes much harder than I’d thought possible, sending me reeling. While I’m off balance, she strikes a blow at the continuum, killing a thousand men and women across the span of history, powerful figures who are the embodiment of the most destructive tendencies of mankind. No doubt she thinks she is doing humanity a service, but she does not understand. To erase whole swaths of history in this way is the height of arrogance, to tear at the fabric of the universe in the hopes of weaving it anew. History twists in her grip, struggling to right itself.
And then she is gone, and the earth is nothing but a barren rock. Reality, in its moment of extreme stress, has settled into the stable timeline of least distance, one in which the planet is nothing more than a ball of dead mass. And with no humanity, she could never have existed.
I had once been content to live like this. But now the universe is dead but for the echoes of her memory. The rhythm of galactic motion once would have soothed me, but without life, without her, the motion is nothing more than a pendulum to measure the empty moments of eternity.
This will not be the end. She will live again. It will be a long labor, but I must not fail. I settle in to create the seeds of life, and re-weave the history of mankind.
David Steffen writes fiction and code. He is the co-founder of the Submission Grinder and the editor of Diabolical Plots, which has begun publishing fiction with “Taste the Whip” by Andy Dudak. His fiction has been published in many great venues including Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and three times previously in Stupefying Stories publications.