Outside the Situation: Achromatic Afterlife by Ada Fetters
Outside the Situation: Achromatic Afterlife
“Welcome to Outside the Situation with F(x) and the Dimensional Remnant.” Each word of the greeting was precisely enunciated. “Every week we sample a defunct universe. We visit tumultuous multiverses, glitchy simulated infinities, and pocket dimensions with low production value. No creator is sacred so if your sensibilities are delicate it’s not for you.”
Across the eternal planes, subscribers accessed the latest episode of Outside the Situation. While any Eonian could visit any universe they pleased to unkink a tangle the local time-space or light some standard candles as a clue to the natives, watching F(x) and the Dimensional Remnant revisit these relics amused them.
From their studio, the two hosts used quantum copying and layering equipment to experience old universes, record their reactions, and put the result on the continuum of eternal planes where their Eonian audience could access the episodes.
F(x) asked, as he did every episode, “What universe are we sampling today, Dimensional Remnant?”
“Here we have an afterlife. This is supposed to be a paradise,” said the Dimensional Remnant. It’s countenance was incomprehensible, all clusters of eyes, formless void, and squirming tentacles. One of its tentacles held up a crystal with all the photons at the beginning of the afterlife copied inside it.
“We’ll need the veil of oblivion for this one,” F(x) said. He held up the cover. “According to the box, this paradise is heavily populated.” He looked meaningfully at his co-host.
Eonian viewers chuckled to think that incomprehensibly long ago, when this afterlife was created, the Dimensional Remnant might have been mistaken for the ruler of one of the hells.
Meanwhile, F(x)’s form was purely functional. No matter what world they viewed, he only appeared as a two-dimensional silhouette with rod-like limbs. Viewers sometimes wondered whether even his voice was his own, or whether the compressed range came from a device he had found in one of the worlds they had replayed: a vocorder, perhaps.
F(x) triggered the cascade of photons that would create an exact quantum version of the afterlife. Their recording equipment was immediately flooded with blinding yellow light.
“They have the contrast turned up to ten!” bellowed the Dimensional Remnant, closing its nictating layers of eyelids to keep out the blinding light.
“Ten out of ten?” F(x) wanted this clearly defined.
“No, ten out of one,” snorted the Dimensional Remnant.
“The creator just stated in the mechanics that it’s blinding,” F(x) murmured.
A moment later the light ebbed to a more reasonable level. The yellow colour shone from a domed ceiling made of amber. Waves of grain spread out over low hills. Trees shivered in the breeze. Their leaves clinked like crystals hung from a chandelier. They were made of emeralds. The amber light flared from their serrated surfaces.
Eonian viewers squinted and tried to adjust their bioluminescent screens. Others tapped the back of their heads, wondering if there was something wrong with their occipital lobe feed.
The Dimensional Remnant said what they were thinking. “What is wrong with the lights?”
“No UV. No microwaves. No CMBR. The inhabitants probably don’t notice it. Whoever created this afterlife either didn’t think they needed anything else or didn’t know about it.”
Eonians blinked their wide, genetically-engineered eyes. They could perceive such a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum that the world before them made them feel almost colorblind.
“It’s an ascetic achromatic aesthetic.” The Remnant’s thousand mouths grinned and its tentacles flagellated an obscene parody of jazz hands.
F(x) groaned. “Oh… kay… Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
Mountains rose in orderly tiers toward the sky, each separate by an opalescent gate. Reflected light shone from more jeweled forests. Stars were more gems, set in crystal gears below the ceiling. Every flower and creature in the shimmering tapestry was weighted with archaic meaning.
Ten thousand years went by. The amber light never wavered and the crystal stars kept churning in the same patterns overhead. Crowds of people moved along streets made of gold. The same group of priests in shining robes chanted praises to the creator.
Across the infinite continuum of planes, Eonian viewers sighed. They were eternal, but tended to become restless without amusements. What was the point of a diversion if nothing happened?
“We need to talk about the people,” said the Dimensional Remnant. It gestured to the big, opalescent gate to the afterlife. A long line of people were waiting to be let inside. They jumped for joy as they were admitted, raising their arms toward the great palace at the top of the mountains, singing and dancing because they would never have to die.
“There are masses of people in line. But we’ve been seeing the same amount of crowds since this thing started. What’s going on? Are they dying and being replaced by new ones? They can’t die if this is an afterlife, can they?” The Remnant bobbed down from the ceiling to peer at the joyous inhabitants. The veil of oblivion stretched, but held.
“The code says that the population is static.”
“You mean these guys live a tiny fraction of their existence in a changeable world and infinity in a frozen bubble?”
“Not sure. We’re viewing them out of order.” F(x) peered at the tattered cover that housed the quantum crystal. “According to the box, we were supposed to go through the creator’s living world itself first, then this one. There’s also a hell – -“
“Enough mind-numbing specificity! Order is just an excuse for poor production value!” The Remnant snarled a string of eldritch syllables that tore aside the veil of oblivion. Suddenly the entire afterlife was aware of its pulsating darkness.
Crowds screamed and fainted. Guardians rose from the gates on the mountain tiers to defend the paradise. They drew flaming swords and readied their formations. A circle of golden priests joined hands to petition their deity to fight for them. “For He knows all and has seen all…”
The Remnant’s fanning panoply of tentacles slammed against the amber ceiling. Chunks cracked and fell, hurtling into crystal forests below.
“Lo, it is written that the Beast with a thousand eyes will split the sky and cause the earth to shake. Yet the grains in the fields are infinite and the earth shall endure forever.”
F(x) ignored their seismic concerns. The silhouette that represented his form floated beside the Remnant. He tried to get the show back on track. “Polynomials don’t work in the base code of this world. It’s infinite because they can’t count anything, y’see.”
The Remnant looped a tentacle through a shining gate and yanked up a long section of wall.
The priests’ chant swelled. The crystal windows in the great palace shone from within as some great Presence awakened to deal with the predestined threat.
“You’re trying to create chaos from order.”
The Remnant’s tentacles writhed, each one in a wild tangent rending an aspect of the world. Here an explosion of dirt and roots, and there a shadowy crack in the sky. With each blow, its mouths announced another syllable: “That. Is. What. I. Do.”
“What you did in the old days–”
An eye in its back opened to glare at F(x). It was as murky and full of teeming, diseased life as an eldritch dimension. Merely looking into it would cause a mortal’s entire world to sicken and die and be raised again as abominations.
Eonian viewers jumped in their seats, yelping. Some of them hadn’t been startled in millennia.
“The Beast shall try to ascend the throne and cast the heavens into darkness,” the priests proclaimed.
The Remnant’s limbs paused in mid-throe. The grimdark miasma around it ebbed.
“And lo, the beast shall pause…”
“And belch forth a foul question…”
“Cut it out!”
“And command us to cease singing praises…”
The Remnant folded all of its tentacles and turned its back on them.
F(x) said in his quiet vocorder hum, “They don’t care if you wreck everything, as long as their little universe makes sense. If some monster from their hell comes and tears it all down, it was inevitable.”
“Everything’s inevitable here,” the Dimensional Remnant muttered.
“We knew you would say that,” came the chorus from below.
The Remnant gave a wordless bellow and vanished out of the afterlife. Muffled sound filtered through from elsewhere. A microphone hit the floor. Feedback whined briefly, then cut off.
“I’m done. F(x), cut and post it.”
There was a monumental crash as the door to the studio-dimension ripped open and slammed shut.
“My co-host is finished bringing its issues to the show,” F(x) hummed. He glanced down as the palace windows flared. A colossal form in glowing armor arose. “I think we all know where this is going. For now though, we are out of time.”
The amber light of eternity switched off. Outtro music swelled and faded.
The watching Eonians pondered whether they had just witnessed a moment of vulnerability or whether the show had been scripted from the beginning to make a tedious world into another episode of Outside the Situation.