This Here Universe Ain’t Big Enough…

by Damon Alan • Illustration by Jonathan Moore

This story originally appeared in September in the Mensa Bulletin’s second annual fiction issue. The Mensa Bulletin is the official member magazine of American Mensa.

Davis studied the revolver in his hands as he closed the cylinder. Three rounds, one in every other chamber. Harold should walk through the door any second.

Harry. Harold Reginald Jamison II. The man currently screwing Margaret.

Davis wasn’t sure what she saw in that pig or why she would stray after 20 years of marriage, but in typical fashion he’d devised a resolution that would both please and vex. In the beginning of their relationship, when he and Margaret had dated in college, she’d loved him for that rebellious and creative spirit.

He turned around to face the whiteboard in his office. It was covered with mathematics that fewer than a dozen people in the world could understand. It was even possible he was the only one capable of unraveling this particular truth of the universes.

Margaret had never understood, but once she had loved him for his genius, too.

A knock pierced the stillness, three staccato raps that violated the silence of his office.

“It’s open.”

His unsuspecting enemy walked into the small space. A broad smile erupted on the visage of the man. A kind tone and friendly words spilled out of the traitor’s mouth. “Morning, Davis. You’re in early.”

Davis took his time answering. He thought of the agony he’d felt at 3 a.m. when a drunken Margaret had told him everything in a fit of tears and remorse. Her loneliness. Harry’s advances. Her acquiescence.

He didn’t blame her. He blamed the man standing in front of him. And now, blame assigned, this universe wasn’t big enough for the both of them.

“Hello, Harold,” Davis finally hissed after an uncomfortably long pause.

The man tilted his head quizzically to the side, much like a dog would, which seemed appropriate considering the circumstances. Harry had certainly done enough leg humping lately. He stared at Davis before meekly uttering, “Harold? Since when are we on such a formal basis?”

Davis ignored the question. “I thought you might want to know that I’ve finished my research, Harold.” He waved at the whiteboard behind him. “There it is.”

The sexual Judas stepped forward. He slithered around Davis’ desk and spread his arms wide to encompass the space filled with arcane calculations. “You’ve solved quantum consciousness?”

“Yes,” Davis answered. “I’ve proven the existence of the soul, of a shared essence that stretches into parallel universes. I’ve proven that our consciousness continues to the maximum duration of the longest surviving parallel copy of you and that we suffer the disintegration of conscious vitality via the loss of data redundancy as copies reach their mortal limits and cease to exist.”

Harold stared at the ingenious mathematics. “Damn, Davis, this is brilliant….” His mouth hung open like the simpleton he was. “What’s this part?” he asked as he pointed out a particular section.

“You don’t get it?” Davis asked. “The math is right there, Harold.” His voice was too loud for the small office, but Harold didn’t seem to interpret it as anger. He probably confused it with excitement for the scientific breakthrough.

Harold intently studied the figures. To his credit, he seemed to at least partially comprehend the formulas before him.

“Right there,” Davis almost shouted, as if the figures might explain themselves.

“Davis, this is far beyond my abilities. Explain it,” the turncoat begged.

Harold was intelligent enough to recognize he was party to a momentous twist in history, a moment when understanding exactly what it meant to be human was about to change. But he wasn’t smart enough to grasp how or why.

Davis savored the desperate admiration on his peer’s face. The twinge of jealousy that appeared to rest on the edge of Harold’s lips. The realization that while this lesser man might be screwing Margaret, it was Davis that was going to be remembered in history books 1,000 years hence.

“It’s simple,” Davis began. “There are an uncountable number of universes running parallel to this one. Every time an event occurs that can have more than one outcome, a new universe fractures from that decision point, creating potentially a host of new realities that proceed as though one of the possible outcomes, different in each case, occurred.”

“The multiverse theory,” Harold said, once again facing the whiteboard. “Nobody’s found a way to prove that.”

What does he think I’m doing?

Sighing deeply, Davis explained. It was important for Harold to see the repercussions of what was about to happen. “You see, Harold, you exist across an infinitesimally small fraction of those universes. I exist in another fraction, at least one of which overlaps with the portion you exist in.”

Harold took a moment to absorb that. “The dinosaurs still exist somewhere in the multiverses then?”

“No. The path of that asteroid was a mathematical certainty based upon the force applied and trajectory. The multiverses are a result of consciousness, the byproduct of choice. The process that killed the dinosaurs was a cascade of random events with no application of intelligence or whim. It was as certain as your next breath.”

But maybe not as certain as your hundredth.

“So, you and I share the same universe because all possible decisions by sentients prior to us in the time stream created a reality in which we both exist,” Harold said slowly.

“Somewhat. You’re getting it, in some rudimentary way.”

His enemy turned to fully face Davis. “So what is this maximum duration of consciousness you speak of?”

“Our consciousness leaks between the universes, and the whole is affected by the stability of the neural net in each universe. Like a stack of hard drives, duplicating data and protecting the whole with uncounted backups.”

“What?” Harold laughed. “That’s a powerful claim, my friend.”

Davis smiled as his fingers tapped against the gun in his lab coat pocket.

We are not friends.

“Not at all. I’ll prove to you in a moment how much I believe in my research. It stands to reason, and, as I said, the math is right there,” Davis pointed to a small section of scribbles on the board, “that there will be one universe, one reality if you will, where you exist longer than any other — a universe where the last remaining vestige of your consciousness dwells, until that moment when you don’t exist anywhere in space or time… which may be at least part of the reason we fade in sentience during our later years.”

“Incredible! But how is that a soul?”

“Well, it’s a soul only in the sense that some essence,” again Davis pointed at the scribbles on the board, “communicates across universal boundaries and reinforces the conscious state by regulating the quantum fluctuations within the human brain. You are, in essence, a quantum computer. Your brain is the computer case, and the CPU, if you will, is the entirety of your existence across the multiverse.”

Harold looked perplexed and at the same time hungry for more. “You’re saying there is entanglement between the particles of your mind in this and other universes?”

“Surprisingly, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Our minds, across the parallel universes, are an error-correcting data storage system for our consciousness.”

“But what about universes where your life is completely different than in this one?”

Davis shrugged. “That part isn’t exactly covered in my figures, but it seems to me that for one of my lives to be completely different than my life here, the realities must have separated from this one in the distant past, which resulted in events that weren’t even possible in this universe. My consciousness is data redundant in the universes nearest mine, while that other me with a completely different life would have other universes nearer to his that would provide his data backup. Potentially, copies in between might contain data from both realities as well as their own.”

Harold smiled again. Davis wanted to knock his teeth out.

The bastard turned back toward the whiteboard.

“What about this part?”

“That’s the part, Harold, that conclusively proves you and I don’t have to live in the same universe any longer.” Davis pulled the revolver from his pocket and aimed it. He pulled back the hammer, making an audible click.

Harold turned around, saw the pistol, then turned sheet white.

“You’ve been sleeping with my wife,” Davis said.

“Margaret? I would nev — ”

“She told me everything this morning, idiot. I know it all.” Davis’s hand shook as he pointed the gun at Harold’s face. With anger or fear, he didn’t know.

“Please, Davis,” Harold begged. “I never meant to hurt you.”

“Right. You just meant to accidentally fall into my wife’s vagina, I’m sure,” Davis growled. “But I have a deal for you that gives you a fifty-fifty chance of getting the girl.”

“W-w-what d-deal?” Harold asked, teeth clacking together like key strokes on an ancient typewriter.

“This gun holds six rounds. I’ve placed a bullet in every other chamber of the cylinder.” Davis spun the cylinder randomly. “Therein lies the crux of my plan.”

Curiosity dampened a bit of Harold’s fear, his teeth-chattering subsided. “I don’t get it.”

“Of course you don’t, Harold. We were friends because you made me look smart, and I’d like to thank you for still upholding that tradition.” Davis sighed before continuing. “Neither of us knows whether the next pull of the trigger will fire or not. I’m going to take the first shot while aiming at you. If the gun goes off, I’ll wait for the authorities to come get me.”

“Davis… y-you don’t have to do this,” Harold pleaded.

“And if the gun fails to fire, I’ll simply point it at my head, and it’s game over. In this universe, you win.”

Realization dawned on Harold’s face. “You don’t want to live in the same universe with me anymore?”

“A bit slow, moron, but you got there.”

Davis squeezed the trigger.

With more than 57,000 members, American Mensa is the largest national Mensa operating under the auspices of Mensa International, Ltd. There are currently more than 130,000 members worldwide. Members of American Mensa share one trait: high intelligence. To qualify for Mensa, they scored in the top 2 percent of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test.