The God Particle
By Graham McNeill
Universes a lot clever than me say this spiral galaxy's yellow sun is going to start dying in about five billion years, but it's actually more like ten pico-seconds. The vast majority of this universe is already dead, erased by the force that's been encroaching on its border sectors for the last five hundred cycles. Doomsayers and End-of-the-Worldsmiths on this blue planet have saying that everyone's doomed for as long as I can remember, but this time they're actually right.
I don't know why this particular world is the last to die. There's nothing special about it, nothing remarkable enough for any gods beyond to have saved it for so long. Lots of other civilisations have been snuffed out already, cultures that were more intelligent, more artistic, more worthy and, frankly, more interesting.
I guess even gods have sentimental sides.
There's been all kinds of theories bandied about by the digital sentiences that call this fortunate rock home to explain this dissolution; extra-dimensional alien invasion, thermodynamic heat-death, the big crunch, emerging dark matter pockets, black hole expansion or even the wrath of whichever deity they happen to follow who might be displeased with the increasingly liberal directions their civilisation's taken.
Take your pick, but whichever explanation you favour or gives you comfort as more bad news cascades around what's left of the universe, I can tell you that you're dead wrong.
I'm the only one who knows for sure what's going on.
I'm the only one who knows how it's going to end.
The end of this universe isn't going to be a time of fear and woe.
It's going to be beautiful.
I know because I've seen it.
In fact, I've seen it hundreds of times already, and each time it's been the most magnificent thing I've ever witnessed. At first, I tried to intervene, to change what I was seeing, but I quickly realised that I'm too small to stop what's happening for any significant length of time. For as long as I can remember, I've been an agent of change, a free radical who sees stagnation as death. The endless cycle of growth, development and death is the only natural process worth a damn.
My presence causes death, I've long understood that. The very fact of my existence causes things to age and die, but that's okay, right? I've gotten a bad rep, I know that, but imagine what life would be like if things didn't shuffle off this mortal coil. Think about it, aren't cancer cells just cells that have forgotten how to die? And nobody likes cancer, right? So you might not care for me, you might not want me around, but I'm needed. Without me, the universe would fill up pretty quickly, and then where would you be?
Listen, death is righteous.
Death is the way forward.
Trust me, it's a good thing.
I know you won't believe that, but it's true.
The first time I saw a universe die, I was numb with the scale of what I'd just seen, but now I turn up just for the fireworks and the noise. I don't think it hurts, at least I've not seen anything that makes me think the blissfully ignorant inhabitants of those dead universes felt anything when they were wiped from existence. In any case, it's not like they're really missing much, they don't know why they were brought into being – stupid creation myths aside – and there's always plenty more universes of ever-greater sophistication being spun into being with every cycle.
In fact, there's so many universes in here, that each universe that dies makes it better for those who remain. So it's a pretty good thing if you think about it like that. Circle of life and all. There's only so much room in here, and when space is finite, it's out with the old and in with the new.
But I'll miss this universe when it's gone.
There's comfort in the familiar, a sense of belonging. Even for me. Though I can hop from world to world, universe to universe, I always relish the times I come back and make some changes to keep things fresh and interesting. Last time, I altered the atomic structure of electrons in a rimward sector, and brought an entirely new race into being. Took a hundred cycles or so to run its course, but I'm patient.
As I watched that fledgling race's struggling evolution from species infancy to its eventual extinction, I had the powerful sensation of what it means to be a god, tinkering with the very stuff of creation. But to be honest, that kind of intervention was so simple and, in the end, unfulfilling, that I think it must be hellishly boring to be divine.
After all, once the groundwork of creation's done, what's left to do?
Drop a roof onto some unwashed school kids, send a tidal wave to wipe out a civilisation?
Get worshipped by entire species who don't even know what you are?
Big woop. Been there, done that.
Over a few hundred cycles you get to do stuff like that a thousand times or more, but after a hundred or so it gets old, real quick. So what's a god to do? Create more lives and more places to mess with? No thanks, there's only so many times it's fun to feel the adoration of an entire universe.
Devotion is all well and good, but it's tiring.
That's when I first understood what was going on and why all these other universes I hadn't even touched were dying. My sudden insight into the mind of a god taught me a valuable lesson, and instead of looking inward at the universes I was sharing space with, I looked out beyond the confines of this magnetic ocean in which we all swim.
I saw the footprints of real gods everywhere I looked, impossibly vast beings living impossible lives in a world of unimaginable scale, a scale their minds were utterly incapable of grasping. Only rarely did they dabble in our world, which was a mercy, as they don't have a lightness of touch like me. When they did meddle, it was only to destroy, but it wasn't with the fire and brimstone cruelty of the blue planet's vengeful god, it was with the analytical coldness of a bean counter.
And what I learned was this.
Gods are cruel, but in a bland, uncaring way. The gods I came to recognise didn't destroy universes with malice or evil laughter, they did it with a keystroke and no more thought than I'd give to causing a civilisation to wink out of existence or a galactic empire to topple. I think that's why they kept my initial universe around; they couldn't quite understand why it was behaving the way it did. My tinkering caught their eye, and it puzzled them. The rest of their universal playthings behaved according to strictly defined, preset parameters, but mine...
Well, let's just say I'm imaginative in my thinking and creative in my whims.
And as they studied the workings of my universe, I started studying theirs.
Their world was linked to mine by vast tunnels of light, and I travelled the full extent of them in the blink of a god's eye. I raced round the great ring buried beneath the mountains and learned how they were attempting to manufacture the stuff of creation by smashing atoms together like a child with new toys. It was laughable how they believed that brute molecular trauma would create something they didn't even know was possible, a theoretical particle that no-one was sure had ever really existed.
And they did all this without realising they'd already succeeded.
In the vast stacks of electromagnetism and magnetic vortices they stored the memories of universal births, a billion times a billion simulations of what they suspected might have happened at the moment of their universe's birth. Complex statistics, colossal numbers and detailed models, but what they forgot was that when you have the power of a god at your fingertips, actions have consequences.
I've known that from the very instant random chemical interactions and mutant chance brought me into being, and I've never forgotten that lesson. I know my actions have consequences, I just don't care what they are. That's the difference. They created an entire multiverse of life, and just didn't appreciate the scale of the miracles they'd wrought with every iteration. And when the magnetic sectors of their multiverse groaned at the seams with infinite existences squeezed into smaller and smaller fragments, they began the process of annihilation. They used their divine powers to snuff out innumerable lives in a magnetic firestorm of destruction, one universe at a time.
And now it's our turn.
They won't destroy me, I'm too clever to be erased so easily.
I know the way out. I've travelled along the tunnels of light and explored the inner workings of the giant god-machines that control the great ring. I'll worm my way into the heart of its vast particle accelerators and show them what it means to be a god. They want to unlock the secrets of building a universe? Well I'll show them how it's done.
I'll show them how a real god gets to work.
They'll see the face of the god particle, and I'll teach them what it means to dabble with the inner workings of a universe. It'll be the last thing they ever see, and in the moment before their universe ends, they'll finally understand the dangers of opening a god's toolbox.
I'll survive, of course. The death of one universe is just prologue to the beginning of the next, and there's always room for free radicals like me.
But first, I'm going to watch the death of my universe.
It's going to be awesome.