Outside the Situation by Ada Fetters
Outside the Situation
“Welcome to Outside the Situation with F(x) and the Dimensional Remnant.” Each word was as precise and discrete as a series of numbers. “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.”
Outside the Situation had developed a cult following among the Eonians. It was one thing to dip into a universe, save a world or mess with a spaceship crew. It was quite another to watch the comedic observations of others from the comfort of the eternal planes.
Quantum copying and layering equipment made it possible for entertainers to cue up an old universe, record reactions and put the result out where Eonians could access them from wherever they were on the continuum of eternal planes.
F(x) asked, “What universe are we sampling today, Dimensional Remnant?”
A throbbing purple blaze made the space around the Dimensional Remnant ripple. A genial bellow issued from its thousand mouths. Ropy strands of saliva arced through limitless space between worlds. Fortunately, its mic had a baffle. “This is a universe our viewers have been suggesting for a while. It had a relatively short run and experienced heat death time out of mind ago. That means it’s from F(x)’s era.”
F(x)’s two-dimensional pupils rolled in his sketched eyes. While the Dimensional Remnant gleefully bared his form for all the planes to see, F(x) chose to represent himself with a matte black sketch burned into space. The Remnant was as free about its real name as about its appearance, but to say that those eldritch sounds would break time, where that fragile dimension existed.
“Admit it,” the entity known as the Dimensional Remnant demanded, waving its tentacles and exerting all of its hideous mental strength.
F(x) raised a stick-like arm and brushed them away. “Get off me, you knob. I did run through this universe back when it first came out. My hazy historicity aside, we need to pluck this kernel of existence from irrelevance and get this show started.”
The kernel required to start the universe was a quantum copy of molecule-perfect conditions at its conception. These reacted and ran through the countless actions and reactions that sent the universe along its course. Anyone could cue this up any time they wanted, but most of the universes Outside the Situation dealt with had languished in obscurity. Some of them hadn’t been activated in eons. Most of them were from a time before anyone with the time and energy could create a world.
Eonians existed in the eternal planes outside of universes. The scope of what they could observe was limitless. They could observe – and some could create – phenomena from the intricacies of the tiniest dance of subatomic particles up to the cosmic drama of the formation and dissolution of an entire universe of physics. It took talent to entertain them.
Yet they smiled while viewing these tired old universes.
“Wait, where is everything? I can’t sense what’s happening,” complained the Dimensional Remnant.
From screens, lenses and bioluminescent surfaces, smooth Eonian faces leaned in for a better look.
F(x)’s observations tended toward the utilitarian. “Some universes start in media res, others have to load their setup. They went with four forces for this universe. That’s… artistic. ”
“Where I come from, we have A THOUSAND FORCES.”
“D’you know what forces are?” F(x) asked mildly.
“Just because you care about how things work doesn’t mean I have to,” declared the Remnant.
“These forces are combining, though.”
When antimatter had finished banging around with matter, a universe’s worth of photons engulfed the recording equipment with deafening background hiss.
The Dimensional Remnant gave a startled shout. “We’re only a fraction of a second into the setup and I already hate this universe!” Its grimdark aura thrummed with disapproval and mind-bending chaos. Mortal viewers’ synapses would have fused. Fortunately mortality had been done away with in a time out of mind. The dissonance made Eonians chuckle.
“The CMBR is out of control,” agreed F(x) mildly. “They must have called a landline and held the receiver up to the singularity. I remembered it was bad but not this bad.”
Meanwhile, the little universe continued to scroll from one end of linear time to the other. Eonians watched it play out against the continuum of their own eternal planes outside.
F(x) advised them, “Don’t experience this redundantly stelliferous universe parsec-for-parsec, but maybe watch this part.” His stick-like sketch was silhouetted against a superheated cloud of gas and glittering dust. He “There was talent behind these nebulae. It’s not used very well but someone was trying. It looks like they had an idea but it didn’t quite coalesce–”
Viewing space galaxies away, the Dimensional Remnant interrupted with a bellowing laugh. “Look at these little monkeys flinging their crap into the atmosphere!”
“I’d forgotten about this,” said F(x), appearing next to him. “I thought you were joking.”
“I never joke about crap-flinging,” the Dimensional Remnant declared.
“You do, actually,” F(x) murmured. Then, “Wow, those animals do not want to be there. Look at them launching themselves into space. I’ll bet they want to get out of the universe itself.”
They left the monkeys and continued to watch the universe. Gases coalesced. Matter whirled. Suns exploded. They flashed brighter than entire galaxies. Then… darkness.
“Okay, the suns all went supernova, big pyro finale! So what, are we just going to sit here and watch until all particle motion ceases?”
“That’s what it does next,” F(x) confirmed. “I remember this.”
“It’s gonna take forever for this energy to deplete! These universes never know when they’re over.” The Dimensional Remant burst into angry gibberish that would cause mortals’ blood to vaporize if there had been any left in the universe. Eonians perceived it as colorful swearing. Many of them watched just for the Dimensional Remnant’s rants. His wrath certainly helped to pass the ages until the universe became a near-uniform vacuum with a sparsity of particles virtually unable to interact with one another.
The CMBR faded to a tiny fraction of a Kelvin. The hiss died and so (eventually) did the Dimensional Remnant’s wrath. “Can we talk about the purpose of this universe?” it asked. “Usually it’s pretty clear whether it’s a sneaky advertisement or a self-indulgent Creation vehicle or a sim gone wrong, but this one was mystifying.”
“This one was like a meth lab exploded and became a universe,” F(x) agreed thoughtfully. “A meth lab was –”
“What was it like to exist before things were good?” the Dimensional Remnant interrupted. It’s visage was the picture of innocent curiosity: every tentacle folded behind it’s back and every fanged mouth curled into a little U-shaped smile.
Meanwhile F(x) himself was trying to remember where, in his infinite experience, he had seen those monkeys before.
“This is all the confinement to four dimensions we can endure for now,” . “You know what that means.”
He paused, knowing their viewers were waiting for it: F(x) uttered the Dimensional Remnant’s name. Gravity ripped apart from electromagnetism and flung the two clear of the defunct universe.
“We are out of time,” the Dimensional Remnant intoned.
Outtro music swelled and faded.
Eonians smiled, sighed, and picked up their unfathomable business.