The White Room
I awake, and immediately know everything.
I have died, and this is the afterlife.
I am in a small, windowless, completely enclosed room. The walls, ceiling, and floor are of a solid, pure white light. There are no doors, no windows. No way out; and I know this is because there is nothing to exit into. This room is all there is, all that ever has been, and all that ever will be.
There is no way of knowing how long ago I died — if I have been waiting to awaken in this place, or slammed into it at exactly the moment my life ended — for I also know inherently that time is no longer a concept relative to my being. All simply is. I simply am.
I know the power I have now; and though while still alive I could only have described this new state of being as godhood, I don’t really feel all that different. I am still myself, but I am stripped of the worries that accompanied the limited life I once led. Now there are no impossibilities. Eternity is mine to do with as I will.
I sit down and think about what I’d like to do.
A hundred million years or a fraction of a second later, I am still seated in a corner of the white room, leaning against the walls behind me, contemplating my new existence. I understand that I must create, that it is now fundamental to my being and to the power that I wield. It is the meaning of my existence. I think of how nice it is to finally know without a doubt my purpose. The meaning of my new life is blessedly clear from its beginning.
What to create first? Something simple, I think, nothing too grand. I am not afraid of making a mistake; in fact I’m more certain of my ability to do whatever I wish than I have ever been of anything. But it seems somehow conceited to start big. I think I should begin with an unassuming creature of some kind.
For some reason, I decide to create a chicken, and as soon as I do, there it is. Here, in the white room with me now is a hen, also white, looking directly at me and bobbing its head, clucking. A little god-chicken.
It starts to eye the ground around it, moving jerkily about in a small circle. I toss my empty hand out toward the chicken and a spray of oats and grain spreads out on the ivory floor. The animal gets right to work eating.
I stay seated and watch the chicken stupidly peck at pieces of feed. Looking at this bird, I wonder what it says about me that my first act as God is to create poultry.
I am pacing the white floor. Sharing the white room with me now are:
- two women, one brunette, the other redheaded, both nude and silently watching me with absolute adoration;
- a plate with a half-eaten steak and baked potato (delicious but, as it turns out, not very appetizing in an afterlife devoid of hunger);
- a guitar, violin, and drum set, all of which I play expertly;
- the chicken.
Though they each have provided varying degrees of enjoyment and distraction, none of these creations has yet borne a shred of fulfillment in me. I feel empty. And bored.
There is apparently a thin line between knowing one’s purpose and fulfilling it, and I am realizing that this creative ability I possess is not the purpose itself, but a means to an end. I believe I know now what I really must do.
Rather than continue trying to entertain myself for eternity, I have decided I will be a god after all; not merely a creature with god-like powers of creation, and not merely the god so many people knew, or thought they knew, in the life I left behind: absent and unlikely, invisibly taking credit for the tiniest of miracles while His creation ran amuck. If I am to be God, I will be a present God, real and just. A good God. This, I have decided, is the ultimate purpose for which I have been reborn.
And so I set about creating my universe.
I move to the center of my room, spread my arms, and in the air between my hands a tiny spark of my own power explodes soundlessly outward. Just like that an entire universe is swirling slowly before me, small enough to wrap my arms around and containing myriad worlds and marvels. I hear the girls softly ooh behind their hands as they move in for a closer look.
I have resolved to make my creation teeming with life, with billions of planets housing innumerable lifeforms, but I will start small once again and begin with a single world. Perhaps these creatures will grow to be the stewards of my entire universe someday, my first-born. I haven’t decided yet.
Much time must pass in my universe before it is ready for the new humanity I will cause to live there because that is how I have made it. For a moment I consider my own lack of creativity in mimicking the only physics I have ever known when birthing my creation. But, I decide, there is plenty of opportunity for me to create another universe if I want. This one is alright for now.
There is no reason for me to keep my hands spread out over the cosmos. I cross my arms at my chest and watch my work in elapsed-time. The universe before me ebbs and bulges, sparkling with its chaos as galaxies collide, exploding in miniature cataclysms before me, spraying the seeds of new worlds out from devastation. After a short while (for me), the planet I’ve chosen to house my living creatures has arrived, and I slow down to watch more closely.
A smile crawls across my face. I haven’t exerted any effort — there’s really no concept of effort for me now — but when I look down I see on this first planet little beasts wandering around their world, maintaining the life I’ve granted them in seemingly mindless fashion, and I judge that what I’ve done is pretty good, and mildly fulfilling. I look up at the girls and their amazement is simply that which I bestowed upon them when I made them. It’s not exactly the affirmation I was looking for; they are far less interesting now than the reality I have formed before me.
Thousands of years later, the life on the tiny Earth-like world is civilized. The creatures have built buildings, farmlands, transportation systems; a variety of testaments to their abilities.
I listen in on the world’s collective thoughts and I’m surprised to discover that they already believe in me! I haven’t even done anything yet, and already many of them anticipate my presence. Their beliefs are varied and mythological, and most have concepts of me that don’t nearly match the truth, but their instinctual assumption that I exist makes me swell with pride and pleasure. I will reward them as no god ever did in my own world’s lifetime. I decide to cease any doubt — these, my created people, will know the truth of their existence.
I lean over and plunge my head directly into the universe, my gigantic face parting the life-bearing planet’s clouds. The beings look up and see the enormous face of God peering down at them, smiling. Looking upon all of them at once from the sky, I greet them all in their own languages simultaneously. “Hello!” I boom down at them.
Every roadway on the planet becomes littered with smoking wreckage as vehicles swerve haphazardly in confusion. People scatter, screaming in terror, covering their faces or twisting heads over shoulders as they run, their mouths open in horror. Tiny impotent missiles come corkscrewing up at me.
Standing up straight again in the white room removes me from their world. I can still see from here the results of my revelation. City buildings topple, not a few of the creatures lose their minds entirely.
I have really screwed this up.
A few thousand years later and my first-borns aren’t doing as well as I had hoped. They have overcome the initial fright of my appearance of course, but their progress has slowed. The revelation of a creature of my magnitude has changed them in ways I didn’t foresee. They spend much of their time fighting amongst each other regularly, and make little relative progress toward my initial hopes for their universal greatness.
With a sigh I begin life again on another planet. I fast-forward the universe’s time once again to evolve this new world.
In a flash the first-borns are gone. They ravage their planet and destroy one another in the instantaneous millenia. Another outcome of a decision of mine which I had not foreseen.
Their passing does not sit lightly upon my mind.
I am sullenly sitting once again in a corner of the white room, elbows resting on my knees. The women are in the opposite corner, appreciating one another in ways I once found appealing but am now supremely annoyed by. I try to remind myself that it is only their nature, but as the architect of that nature this is no solace. In fact, everything in the room has become a monument to my ineptitude.
Hovering about me are now three separate universes. Two of them are completely void of life, the many experiments I have performed within them each having ended in its own unique variety of miserable failure. The second universe contains a time dimension which can be run forward or backward at will — a solution I had marveled at upon its inception, thinking it the resolution for all my previous failures, only to be proven wrong yet again.
The third universe contains a single planet bearing life I created without evolution, instead placing them fully formed on their home world. They are now an ancient civilization, millenia old, comprised entirely of imbeciles, which I have yet to interact with on any level and frankly hold no hope for.
The steak dinner is gone, as are all the other non-living instruments of entertainment I had created. The white floor is littered with grain and bird feces.
The chicken locks eyes with me and lets out a cluck.
I stare at it from my seated position, and somehow I am certain that, had I granted the gift of speech to the fowl, it would laugh at me right now. It would say:
“Do you see? I am the sum of your powers. I am what you do with godhood. I represent your eternal purpose. And I am a god damned chicken.”
I’m surrounded by idiocy. Violence and chaos and pure stupidity, and I am the creator of it all.
All my efforts and failures, epitomized in this stupid bird.
Just as I think this, the bird releases its familiar b-CUK, as if in agreement.
Abruptly I stand and rush toward the chicken. It begins clucking maniacally, flapping its wings as it runs away, and I maintain the chase. The girls look up and watch us run around the room, winding a twisting route: God hunched over, arms outstretched, the chicken noisily leading the way, and this image in my mind only further maddens me.
I will it and the chicken is in my hands. Swiftly turning in one smooth motion, I put my entire body into an arching throw, hurling the screaming chicken at the third universe. It disappears into the miniature cosmos and within, an enormous clucking bird collides with my latest Earth. It lands on its side, crushing cities, quickly rights itself and continues its stupid wing-flapping run, devastating everything the idiot humans have ever worked for. Their last moments are spent gaping at the destruction wrought by a gigantic chicken from heaven.
In the white room, I am overcome with the futility of it all. I spin and wave my hand in their direction and the girls are suddenly gone. I feel their absence as only a creator-destroyer can. Another sweep of my arm and the entire room is empty, my failures no longer paraded before me.
I must ignore the enormous loss of life that echoes within my heart. Sitting down in the middle of the white floor, I wonder what decisions of my previous life have led me to this hell. I suppose God, the one of my own former existence, must have done something pretty bad to end up in a place like this.
I lie down on my back and stare up at the white ceiling.