by Ramez Yoakeim
After three unsparing days, she conceded defeat and called it quits. On her way to the car, she fought off yet another hypnagogic episode but dismissed the risks. Distracted teens and droopy-eyed semitrailer drivers posed little risk to the likes of her. It would take considerably more than a highway pile-up to dispatch a goddess.
The ill-timed collapse of a magnetar into a blackhole, perhaps, or the tumult of a galactic merger. Events unleashing energies too vast for a goddess to sidestep with deft navigation of quantum states in superposition alone.
Not unlike all the roads untaken, collapsing the quantum uncertainty banished undesired outcomes to other universes. Or perhaps the goddess, by virtue of her choices, translocated from one universe to the next. Which, in essence, was all the divine power any god possessed.
From greenlights like a string of verdant pearls extending to the horizon to other vehicles simultaneously exiting the highway to clear her path. Not the sort of occurrence that could provide proof-positive of the supernatural or her divinity, but that was precisely the point. How else could a pantheon walk among mortals unnoticed?
That was until she lapsed into a microsleep at the wheel. A goddess she might have been, but only while conscious.
Whether through chance, or the benign intervention of a fellow deity, the goddess snapped awake barely in time to avert disaster and wisely proceeded to the nearest motel: a two-star serviceable concrete edifice with faded, threadbare carpets and stale linen.
What she had not expected was how elusive sleep would then prove to be.
Instead of the slumber of the dead she longed for, she found herself passing in and out of a trance-like state of semi-consciousness, roused by stray beams of vehicles’ headlights in the carpark, or the scuffing of footsteps and barely suppressed giggles in the corridor outside her room.
A couple in the throes of the rapturous copulation of strangers. A crying infant unsettled by its very existence. Two men arguing in slurred incomplete sentences. The auditory conflict of late-night televangelists competing with home-shopping steals, and the oft censored affray of promiscuous kin on decades-old broadcasts of reality distortions. Too much bass vibrating the furniture without hinting at a melody. Dripping taps and flushing toilets and buzzing light bulbs on the precipice of long-overdue oblivion.
At some level, she was cognizant as she wished away every intrusion as it occurred, yet not lucid enough to contemplate the path through the dense strata of quantum states her wishes described. An endless stream of excised universes ensued until, at last, there remained nothing to obviate, and the goddess slumbered.
She roused reborn. Ablutions followed, and dressing and composition. Only then did she note the deathly quiet.
She pulled the curtain to find only a starless night outside, fathomless darkness that transformed the smudged windowpane into a blurry mirror.
She ran and flung open the door, only to find another room where a corridor had been. The covers lay half-spilled onto stained carpets identical to her own.
Glancing behind, she found the side door into the adjoining room open and a familiar silhouette cast in shadows through the doorframe. She retreated and let the door’s mechanical closer pull it shut. Both doors thudded sealed at the same time. Braided sheets, relocated bathroom mirrors, and hurled remote controls eliminated any doubt.
After, the goddess sat on the edge of the unmade bed and surveyed her new universe with a small tilt of her head. Devoid of uncertainty, there remained nothing to collapse through selective observation. Only a state of perfect determinism from which no escape remained; her godhood defanged.
Did she obliterate the multiverse or excised herself out of it? The distinction mattered little when her wishes ceased to be commands.
She raged for a time, and cried, and raged, then stilled. There remained copious water and power, a perpetual busy tone and a jukebox of looping television shows, an inexhaustible minibar packed with peanuts, pretzels, chocolates, booze, tiny cereal boxes that defied emptying, and coffee sachets and creamers with forever resealing foils.
Stultified, the goddess slumbered and awoke to a bedside clock that never changed. She could set it to any time she desired; the change lasting only until she glanced away. An eternal reminder of the moment when her divine irritation consumed existence and ended time.
What meaning had time when nothing ever changed?
She let her mind wander and roam unrestrained, fighting to stay sane, until she noticed something new unfolding before her eyes. A miniature universe she fashioned unaware in a droplet of water on the bedside table.
In its infinitesimal depth, a fierce brightness flashed, forcing the goddess to avert her eyes. By the time the purple pinprick afterimage faded, the new universe twinkled with the birth of uncounted stars. She watched, entranced, as leftover matter coalesced and cooled, and seemingly instantly teeming life erupted throughout the vast universe of a water droplet.
Beings on a trillion worlds crawled out of primordial oozes and pondered their creator, gazing unseeingly at her through the surface tension membrane.
Her heart swelled with joy, and she resolved to benevolence. She would leave her accidental creations be to lead whatever lives brought them contentment. She would only ever intervene in small ways. Measured acts of divine providence to right the scales or set proper what went askew, but only ever with grace.
The goddess sat back, sustained herself up with a pack of perpetually replenished double-roasted lightly-salted peanuts, and watched innumerable consciousnesses coerce the minuscule universe with the prayers of a new creation. She laughed at their foibles, and cried at their loss, and set to wondering if countless deities sat, like her, on creaking beds in telescoping motel rooms varying only in scale and orientation and watched their creations while telling themselves that they only ever intervened for good. Is that all that the multiverse is, the penance of exiled gods?
An engineer and consummate problem solver, Ramez Yoakeim’s work harkens back to the darker side of speculative fiction classics, marred only by the occasional utopia. Find out more about Ramez and his fiction at yoakeim.com.