‘Are you sure? He said that we’re outside the universe.’
‘Well, why wouldn’t it be safe? We’re in a massive white room.’ She accentuated the word. “Maaaaaassive. There’s one door. If we are outside the universe,’ she said skeptically, ‘then how would we be in a room? We have to look, to find out.’
‘But didn’t you know, curiosity killed the cat?’
‘Well, what else is there to do?’ Hands thrown up in frustration, she paced away and paused. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go.
The room was massive and white, like she had said. The compass on their wrists indicated they were standing near the south wall. They couldn’t see the end of it and none of the other walls were visible. The floor was white and of the same hard, smooth material as the wall. It wasn’t glossy like porcelain or marble and it was harder than the walls of pulped up trees that they’d found on Earth. It wasn’t wood; it was too dense for that. Yet, the scrapings they’d taken had indicated that it was layered and each layer was white, pure white, at least down through the top three layers. There was nothing of interest in the room. Nothing but the door.
‘Well?’ She sighed. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘Sh.’ The tests had indicated the room was several kilometers in length, with an incalculable volume. They had few options. Either they took the black door, placing their faith in the mysterious voice that had declared them outside the universe, or they kept walking. Everywhere was white. It was like being stuck in a blizzard except they were indoors.
She was pacing again. The sound of her steps echoed loudly, which was technically impossible, given the volume of the room. Really, they should be making a dull click. Her shoes were soft soled save for the heel and toe, which were hardened graphite. Tap shoes she’d called them and attempted to demonstrate. She’d fallen over and he’d learned what laughter was.
‘What do you reckon the outside of the universe looks like? A large whorl of stars? A ball of fiery light? Perhaps…’ she smiled at the memory. ‘Jeremy would have said it looked like a pizza, with the stars as pepperoni.’
The Earth woman was strange. She had enjoyed her travels with the company but this? This may actually destroy her mind. Humans couldn’t comprehend a universe outside their universe. They knew it was expanding but they were unaware that something was pulling it outwards. However, she was right. There was nothing else to do but open the door.
The thought of opening the door prompted a strange emotion. It was more than apprehension. Perhaps it was terror? They had learned terror on Earth. Strange how different universes felt emotions differently. Galaxy 827 had felt hope more than anything. They had been the ones to invent sugar. It imbued every occasion with a sense of hope about the future. The sugar of Earth, however, was tinged with terror. Terror of growing old. Terror of growing fat. Terror of dying young, or alone. Wedding cake had been the worst. It was full of promise, hope and light, yet, when it came down to it, only two of its consumers would get to live that dream. The rest? Terrified of the fact that they were alone. Or terrified of the expectations that not being alone put on them.
The being sighed. Had they underestimated humans? Perhaps they were the best species, being able to live with the terror of life every day and then move past it, grasping at the glimmer of hope on the other side of the universe. What was better? Terror or hope? What would lie on the other side of the door? Stars? Pepperoni? Maybe even wedding cake… Now that would be a strange universe. Left to himself, he would have thought about it until their supplies ran out. His species were thinkers, pondering every possible eventuality. Time ticked on and she grew tired of watching him stand there.
Finally, with a sense of finality, she decided.
The handle turned. Two steps and a neat click as the door swung softly shut.
By Emma-Louise Groucutt © 2014