National Novel Writing Month, 2004
November 1-30
Just an Experiment
A Science Fiction novel excerpt by John D. Boyden

Chapter 1
The End of the Universe
"Any ending is just another beginning."

"The End is near!" Screamed the prophets, charlatans, believers and connivers spread like lice all across the planets still holding life on their little pebbles in the universe.
"The End is near!"

Is it? Was it? Well, isn't it always? Me? I had already had a taste of being bad, so I didn't want to go there. Instead I was sitting in my bar/cafe "The End of the Universe" drinking coffee when it happened. We had a pretty good crowd. The prophets were all pretty type-typical, wrapped up in whatever passed as raggedy prophet clothing on their planets. There were the usual few in fancy purple robes and joyous smiles. People, What can you say? Wherever people were, they were. Whatever and wherever their planets were, IGNN was there. IGNN-InterGalactic News Network- simulcast a "News Special" through PLW. That's post light wave broadcasting on the Outternet Vid screen. The blazing three tetra download path socked in the video quickly from anywhere. But it was the use of quantum mechanics to create near instant communication that was the true hero.

"Good to see you Dave. Another end of the world party?"
I nodded, smiling at Fred. "Whatever's good for business, Fred."
Fred nods over his right shoulder at Hawthor, his buddy and number two entity of the six-creature camera crew.
"Hathor, set up the cameras and start rolling. Be sure to catch all those crazies in both the bar and the cafe."
He turned to me, grinning in delight. "Can we do a quick interview? This universal phenomenon is a ratings bonanza!"
"Ok we'll be on tape. I'll edit it to make you look good, Dave. Just give me some great sound."
"I appreciate that." I pulled myself together, trying to look like I knew what I was doing, not too cynical or at least act like I was a reasonable interview.
"Just a moment." I got up, stepped to the bar, took a quick look in the long mirror behind the bar. Bald, 40, cynical black eyes, well built- running to fat. Good, I had shaved today. Lucky break. I was ready. Good to go. I turned back to Fred.
"Here or in the office?"
"Here. First question coming..."
Fred sat down at my table, checked with the camera critter and then nodded to me.
" This is Fred Orab for IGNN. I'm here at the "End of the Universe" bar and cafe with owner David Robinson. Dave, Do you believe the end of the universe is coming?"
"Of course it is. All good things come to an end."
Fred indicated he wanted more.
"We know that scientists have been reporting for over 1,000 years that this final contraction was coming and..."

My universe ended. Just like that. I was kind of sorry that the feed wasn't live. It sort of pained me that the last images some people could have seen would have been me, but weren't.

This Universe is and was finite. It was now the smallest and oldest ever on record. It had finally all been explored, thoroughly studied even. Yes, explored, settled, its boundaries recorded, owned, fought over, killed for, died for, used up and finally most of it left abandoned. Then the universe got even. It began shrinking. Like the original expansion from "the Big Bang" it took a while. Just not as long. The destruction of the Universe took 1, 255 years and six days. Naturally I was gone on the first day. My cafe was pretty far out there.

That's how it finally ended for me, I just poofed. I ended, not with a bang, a whimper, nor even with a classic stoic silence, just sudden transition and what was left of me? I was only on tape, for heaven's sake. On tape one moment and then gone. The planet began to crumple at that point as asteroids and moons, maybe a planet or two all tried to occupy the same space. On the positive side for me, I was spared the sight of those ever-popular videos of death, destruction, blood, and gore... not to mention the feel of it all coming down. The process was pretty messy, or so I was later told.

What with all those massive planetary bodies and multiple systems colliding in that inevitable contraction, it seemed reasonable that it was messy. But that wasn't the real end of the universe, only the end of all life and quintillions of individual sentient lives and huge multiples of other unaware or less aware life forms. No, the universe finally ended with an incredible sucking pop. Everything contacted to down to nearly nothing and went somewhere else. And no, I didn't see it...yet. No. I didn't hear it. But it was recorded. How? Hey, I was only told! No clues here. I wasn't there, I told you that already! I was in my cafe and bar when it started, and gone days before the end finally happened. I was totally out of it when it happened. Out of my life, the universe and everything.

My first new memory was a deep wracking breath and hacking cough. And someone calling me Fred. For some reason I became one of the fabled 144 billion entities "saved"... for some reason... but we'll get to that later. All that happens in yet another far distant universe and in another far older time. Likely this universe was just some experiment gone wrong. Or perhaps where I am is an experiment. It doesn't much matter to me, although I know it should.

It wasn't until I started this job and began glancing through the recorded news screenies of my planet's destruction that I discovered how Fred lied to me. He lied. I guess he was trying to put me at ease. But I forgive him, poor lost soul that he is. After all was Vid and canned, I found that I was, in fact, the last picture images anyone watching Vid on my planet saw or heard. And Hundreds of millions on other planets saw me too. Cool! My last words were on the gossip and news Vids around the remaining universe...for about 10 seconds, 60 times that day. I was the first recorded, on tape, disappearance. Then other planets got in their last words, a few more disappearances and I was relegated to the cutting room floor the tape vault, which of course was destined to be destroyed. But, hey! I got my 10 seconds of fame. Not bad. And you know what? I'll bet IGNN knew the end was close and had the whole thing planned out that way. How manipulative is that? Hmmm I guess I could say it was the end of at least TWO universes that were important to me. Damn, I miss my bar and. Oh yeah, the cafe too. I'll find someplace here... Well, back to our narration. This stuff will likely be cut anyway."

The Peace lasted three thousand years this time. War, for once, was not inevitable. War wasn't even in the wings eagerly awaiting a cue. It wasn't needed. While recorded History has reported 716, 212, 189.5 wars from all the known, found, and excavated civilizations, it is not complete. How many beings have died? How many wars eradicated both sides- whole civilizations blasted before they ever recorded their brave warrior's significant historical achievements? That remains unknown. Or so I had thought when I started this 30 day project, not knowing what I was doing as usual. The actual number is 970, 651, 249, 352, 888.75, which certainly shows that all life forms do like their little wars. Mysteriously disappeared civilizations numbered 627,852. The number dead from such conscious militant activity exceeds 231.897 to the 24th power. I cannot even fit that number into my head. That Universal tombstone waiting for the end of All might well read: Life began, Life developed, Life created the conflicts and finally killed itself.

Wars, the history of civilizations. We got so good at it we began to rate conflicts. These Aliens I'm working with now, have it fine tuned down to .000001 conflicts. From the numbers above, you may want to ask what is a 1/4 or .25 of a war? I found a few examples in old earth histories. Depending on your era you might be able to research them. Or not. Our first readers are in the 2nd and 3rd milleniums, so go try to find the events in the War of 1812(.11)The US Civil War .6, the Spanish-American War (.5)t he Panama and Granada in the 1980s, which are about .1, The first United States-Iraqi war is a .25, the second war there was a .35 and some change. and the two world wars there were both about .94, Vietnam rated .75 as a war. Now for you 3rd Millenium readers/viewers, the War on terrorism became a .75 over the forty years it lasted. While the first Korean War in the 1950s was a .64, the second Korea war in 2110 was a mere .25. The 2125 Middle East Jihad rates a .5 by itself.

I'm learning on the job and while I sleep too. The powers that be tried to explain the formulae, but I only caught glimpses of meaning and recall only some of the variables: number dead, length of conflict, transformation of planetary civilization, new discoveries. I think there were 137 variable points in the formulae. I missed a few of them and didn't understand most of them. I don't plan to use that sleep tape/wave/inculcation/methodology again.

For our 4th millenium readers The Corporate wars were each considered about .25. The third and fourth world wars were the largest Earth conflicts and qualified as solid ones. For our forth millenium readers... We can see that the 2.15 war of [significant passages deleted for legal, procedural, statutory causation or for reasons of acceptable taste].

**** Now if you would be kind enough to go to The Survey and complete and send it,the Plenipotentiary Academy would greatly appreciate your response.