Universal Secret

by Luca

The Final Chapter

The room was very white, smooth, glossy walls without windows. Zachary sat in the middle on a soft cushioned bench seat with no back. The material of the seat contrasted dramatically with the whiteness of the room, the olive green adding colour. Opposite him, across the low glass table sat Touma Shimizu . To his right sat Lowerstoff and to his left, Emile.

"There's a certain symmetry between order and chaos," Emile said.

No one replied, the room was filled with the soft hiss of the air conditioning and the sound of his own breathing.

"We really don't understand symmetry," Emile continued. Zachary was only half listening, his thoughts drifting. "Breaking the symmetry is the explication of the rupture and rifts in the universe.

Lowerstoff coughed and Emile frowned.

"We have harnessed the randomness."

Emile paused, he looked from Lowerstoff to Touma, then fixed his eyes on Zachary.

"Imagine an hour glass filled with sand, as it drops to the bottom the pile of sand resting there grows bigger and as it grows it becomes increasingly unstable. At any moment a single grain might start an avalanche. When this happens the sand cascades downwards and the base of the pile expands, widening, which increases its stability. This is what we have here."

Emile produced the tiny switch box, the machine that was the grain of sand which caused the avalanche, these universe slips. He put the box down in front of him on the glass table top.

"Perhaps it's hard to understand but it's the ultimate truth, symmetry is the order of the universe... universes!"

The air conditioning hissed, no one interrupted. Touma was watching Zachary, Lowerstoff seemed distracted, like Zachary himself, but he tried to concentrate, this was important.

"Connections!" Touma blurted out. "It's our connections that make it work."

Now everyone was focused on him, the small Japanese gang member who'd orchestrated the ir rescue. Something which seemed a long time ago now. Zachary had never really considered Touma's role in all this, but he had understood he was there for a purpose, they were connected.

"Where are we now?" Lowerstoff asked. "I need to know, because I think out of everybody I stand to lose most."

Zachary stared at him.

"I'm the guy who gets shot!"

"I don't think so," Zachary said. "I don't think that ever really happened. I think it was an illusion. I think at lot of these shifts or rifts are fake. Hamilton said it himself, smoke and mirrors."

"How?" Lowerstoff demanded. He wanted some answers. "Drifting in and out of scenarios, illusory or not, is getting nowhere."

"Exactly!" Emile interjected, sounding almost enthusiastic that someone was finally on his wavelength. "We take this," he picked up the switch box, "and program it to open the final destination."

"The final destination?" Zachary repeated, not quite getting it.

"Yep, the one where all paths are resolved and reality becomes singular."

"And what is the final destination which solves the puzzle?" Zachary questioned.

"I have no idea, but I know how we get there."

"You do?" Zachary was intrigued and he was not the only one.

"Artificial intelligence!" Emile stated like he'd simply solved the multiverse problem, the time shifts, everything.

Zachary looked around the room, the walls were white, there were no windows, no natural light. He sat in the middle of this room, cross legged, on a cushion. It was warm, not hot, but a pleasant temperature, the air disturbed by a small breeze.

Incongruous, he thought, a breeze in a room with no openings, no ventilation grills, nothing which would make the air move. He turned his head from one side to the other. The walls were white, but also odd. They seemed almost to have no substance. He had to wonder if he was dreaming, but he knew he wasn't. He remembered the sequence of events which led to this.

London, Emile had taken him to London, to this unremarkable old building somewhere in the city. They had driven past the cathedral of Saint Paul with its round dome whose construction was inspired by the Church of the Val-de-Gr â ce which Christopher Wren had taken note of on a voyage to Paris in 1665. Emile had led him into this building with its stone facade from the Regency period. Zachary pondered the idea of how he recalled such architectural details, but little else. They had been in a hurry, something needed completion, and there was a tight timescale. Perhaps it was for that reason the others had been left behind? He wasn't certain.

He was alone in the room, his hands resting on his crossed legs, palms facing up, like an Indian guru meditating. But he was fully conscious, not in any trance, concentrated on where he was. He knew what to do. Zachary was aware of the object resting in the palm of his right hand. The box was light.

Press, the word came into his mind. He knew it was the switch box. He knew what it did. He'd been through so many shifts. In so many different rifts. He hesitated as he played those scenarios through his thoughts. Inside the dome of that cathedral, it was where things started. The Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs de la Cité des Fleurs in Paris, which seemed to him like a hub to which he nearly always returned. There was Japan, like an adventure trip with a dramatic escape, a destination that reunited him with Touma. The ship, Hamilton Gode, Admiral Gode, a father he'd never really known. Violetta Cantagalli, his mother's best friend and a conflict with his father he didn't understand, would probably never understand. There was Lowerstoff, his soul mate whom he depended on, more than Touma, Lowerstoff was solid, but he wouldn't dismiss Touma even if they had been separated for years.

Like the image of the guru meditating, he felt serenely calm as his thumb slid over the smooth object resting in his palm. Hovering over the button, which was a sensor rather than any mechanical switch. There was nothing to press, only his thumb in place, that was enough. The scenes he'd been thinking over played like a movie on the white walls. Surrounding him in every dimension, 360 degrees, above and below. But just like the guru, he was detached, he did not enter any rift, did not shift through time or space.

A war ravaged the city of Paris spread out before him, the sounds of explosions rocketed from every corner, left, right, in front, behind. Missiles screamed overhead and explosions lit the sky above. A huge ship moved violently, tossed by the waves of a dark, cold, Ar c tic sea. More missiles. They shot skyward from silos in the depths of the ship and curved majestically towards the clouds, disappearing and reappearing, tiny flashes of light as they sped away.

He realised now. He knew without needing any answers. It was him. It had always been him. He was here at the centre of... of what? The universe, he supposed. It was the universal secret. What he created, made real. The possibilities were endless, they were his creations, his thoughts. With the realisation came loneliness. An immense feeling which built in the pit of his stomach, which threatened to invade and overwhelm his entire being. He took a deep breath, resisted the temptation to succumbed and sought the equilibrium.

Thoughts, like gunshots, threatened to destroy him, but they wouldn't. There was no Lowerstoff, I'm not real he recalled him saying and it was true. The knowledge was devastating. Eternity alone? He answered his own question. No, He would not let that happen. He would dream more dreams. He was god, he had the power.

The box was no longer in the palm of his hand. The movie was no longer playing all around him. There was no sound other than a heart beat. The rhythmic pulse. He was curled up like a baby, like a new born, warm, cocooned, wet. The sharp white light was not the walls of the room, nor the light at the end of the tunnel that beaconed the final passage to death. The light was the bright strong beam that greeted his arrival into a new reality.

He wasn't sure if he'd created this or would ever remember what happened. A baby cried!


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