Starting From Scratch
Nestled deep in the small valley town of Dundas, Ontario, hidden from sight and sound by a basin of tall trees and the work of glaciers melted tens of thousands of years ago, there lay a small body of water called Lake Jojo.
It wasn’t actually a lake - more of a marsh, really. But someone, at some point, for some reason, decided to christen this little body of water in a valley-within-a-valley Lake Jojo, and there were always those few throughout the generations who stubbornly refused to call it anything else.
One of these stubborn souls was a man named Figg, who liked to fish there, down in Lake Jojo. Figg the Fisherman, the locals called him – everybody knew Figg, because Figg sold more fish than a fancy supermarket. If you knew Figg well, you knew the simple love he had for spending a clear day on calm waters, whether with fishing net or rod and bait.
He especially liked to fish with the latter on Lake Jojo, which he thought he knew like the back of his hand: he would always proudly tell anyone who would listen about things like the best times of day to fish, and where all the most populated spots were, and the best kind of bait to use, and so on and so forth.
But Figg didn’t know Lake Jojo as well as he thought he did, which he found out one day to his great surprise and slight irritation. You see, Figg, like all of Dundas, like the rest of the world, was oblivious to the fact that at the bottom of the middle of Lake Jojo was a hole – a small hole, barely noticeable in the sandy underwater terrain, but a hole nonetheless, and a very important one at that.
Here’s why: it was a wormhole. A very special, specific, one-of-a-kind type of wormhole, as it just so happened to contain the very fabric of space and time. It was placed there at the bottom of Lake Jojo so randomly, on odds so unthinkably astronomically unlikely, that to write them down would take more time than there are trees.
As Figg settled into his boat on that fateful Saturday morning, looking around with the usual calm satisfaction he wore when he fished, his mind remained blissfully blank as the small splash of his line in the water echoed in the silent air.
The hook sunk slowly towards the bottom of Lake Jojo, sunk slowly towards its dark, sandy center, towards the tiny, unseen wormhole.
The moment it came into contact with the wormhole, everything was, quite suddenly and without warning, sucked straight into the depths of the water and into a pitch-black void, including Figg himself. The lake drained, the ground was swallowed, the stars sunk into the growing abyss of cold dark nothingness that Figg was soaring past at incalculable speeds, his mind a mix of overwhelming terror and moderate curiosity, the roar in his ears increasing by the second. He closed his eyes, which made no difference in the pitch darkness, unaware of what had happened or if he had somehow caused it, but the universe itself, he noted, appeared to be disappearing.
After some time, the roaring noise he was hearing began to subside, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in a large white…nothing. It was much like the pitch-dark nothing from which he had just arrived, only it seemed to stand perfectly still in a peaceful manner, in stark contrast to the black void’s howling winds. It did not appear to be a room, or any sort of space, indoors or outdoors, just a large circle or square or any infinite number of shapes made up of a pleasant sort of light. He sat with trepidation on the floor, waiting, for what he did not know - to wake up, perhaps? For this surely had to be a dream…
He thought these thoughts as a door he did not know was in the white wall opened and a man whose age seemed to be of an uncertain variety, a sort of timelessness about him, walked out. He nodded as he walked towards Figg, who nodded back, hoping this man could explain where he was.
“Where am I?” asked Figg.
“The beginning,” replied the man.
“The beginning of what?” asked Figg.
“Oh,” said Figg, slightly surprised. “Um, how did I get here, then?”
“You found the wormhole,” said the man.
“The wormhole…yeah, wherever you came from and whatever you did, you opened the wormhole that contained the fabric of space and time, which restarted the universe. And because you found it, now you need to recreate it.”
“The universe, man! Come on, I’ve been at this for like, 14 billion years, you could at least try to learn a little more quickly.”
“Wh – 14 billion - ?”
“Yeah. I’ve been sitting here, building the universe for about 14 billion or so years, by my count, waiting for someone to find that wormhole. The one before me, they didn’t have it so bad, they were only here for like 100,000 years or something before I found it. But I don’t know about anyone before them. There aren’t really any history books, or anything. Hey, so where’d you find it?”
“Find what?” said Figg, still slightly dazed at his situation.
“The wormhole, man!” said the man, with clear irritation. “Where’d you find the wormhole?”
“Oh…uh, Lake Jojo. The bottom of Lake Jojo…”
“Look, the universe is a big place…can you narrow that down to like, the galaxy?”
“Which galaxy was this lake in?”
“Oh, uh…the Milky Way.”
“Hm...I don’t remember making that one. Which planet?”
“Yeah, not ringing any bells,” said the man after a pause, staring at Figg blankly and shaking his head.
“What?” asked Figg. “Aren’t you...aren’t you human?”
The man laughed. “Not at all,” he said. “I’m not any species you would understand, and I’m not speaking any language you would understand, either. This place makes whoever you meet here look and talk like something you’d be familiar with, you know, to make the whole thing easier.”
Figg was absolutely flabbergasted. He stood there with his mouth hanging open, unsure how to start his next sentence, when the man, or whatever - it - was, seemed to consider their business complete.
“Alright, well...good luck, man!” he said. He walked towards the wall opposite the one he had walked out of, towards a door that Figg had not seen appear.
“Wait!” shouted Figg.
“Yeah?” said the man, turning back.
“Wh – I mean – why – how do I – what do I do?” stammered Figg.
“I told you, man,” said the man. “You build the universe.”
“How?” asked Figg.
The man shrugged. “You just sort of think it up. That’s what I did, I sat around in a white room like this one and I just thought of stuff. Eventually your thoughts’ll run away with themselves and you just sort of go on autopilot. It’s like that for most of it, to be honest...I only really paid attention to what I was thinking for the first fifty million years, or so. You think about other things, but they all make their way in there, you know. The universe is always on your mind, and you’ll unravel it for however long it takes for someone to find the wormhole, whether you realize you are or not.”
“Oh,” said Figg. He paused for a moment, the man staring impatiently back at him as if to ask if he was quite finished with questions, when he thought of another.
“Can’t I just think up someone finding the wormhole?” he asked.
“No,” said the man, grinning and shaking his head. “I thought that too, but the wormhole will only be found once you build the universe. Then someone else finds it, somewhere in what you’ve created, someday, and then they get to make their own universe when they do.”
Figg was slightly intimidated. This business - building space and time from scratch - this did not seem like a job for him. This seemed like a job meant for someone stronger, like a president, or his old boss, Ned Stelworth – “the toughest union man in Steel City,” they called him – but seeing that no presidents and no Ned were wherever he was, and seeing as how the man did not appear to offer any sort of exit, he supposed he had to do it.
“Do I have to do it?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the man.
There was another slight pause.
“So yeah, listen, good luck, man,” said the man again, turning to leave.
“Wait – where are you going?” said Figg. “Where will I go, when someone finds the wormhole?”
The man shook his head as he reached the wall, as though trying to explain a complex problem he knew Figg would not understand regardless of how simple he made it.
“I can’t know that,” he said, very quietly. “All I knew was the universe I lived in before I found the wormhole. Then all I knew was this room, and whatever my head came up with for the universe that you lived in. Wherever is after that is, quite literally, beyond me.”
And with that, he walked through the door in the white wall, leaving Figg alone with his thoughts.