Which came first, the apple or the seed?
“What are you doing?” Caleb asked. Andrew was, as usual,
hunched over something. His room was an obstacle maze of tiny motors and
elaborate metal things. They were strewn everywhere, although he always seemed
to know where each was.
“I’m almost done,” he replied.
“That wasn’t my question, geek. What are you doing?”
“The thing.” He was half-muttering the words, seemingly too engrossed in whatever to create a sentence with meaning.
“Yeah, yeah. Dinner’s ready. Box five today. It’s Friday.”
“Fantastic,” Andrew groaned, standing at last. Five was his least favorite meal. Caleb hated it, too, but there was nothing either of them could do about it.
On our way downstairs, Caleb threw Andrew an apple. He caught it, but didn’t take a bite. He just stared at it, turning it in his hand.
“Inside the apple,” Andrew mused, “there is potential for five more apple trees.”
“Each tree makes hundreds of apples.”
“Each apple makes five trees.”
“Andrew, just eat the goddamn apple.”
“This apple holds hundreds, or thousands, or millions of apples.”
“Andrew. This is one apple. Not a million.”
“But it could be.”
“Eat the million apple, psycho-nerd, and stop spouting nonsense. There is one thing that matters, hear me? And that is doing what we are supposed to do, so we can get the things we need. Like food. Speaking of things we need, how the hell are you finding all that metal?”
“Around,” Andrew answered vaguely, his dark skin paling. He was lying, or at least not telling everything.
“The… when I was on my walk.”
“And did your walk, by any chance, happen to go past the third sector?”
Sector three is recycling, for items such as scrap metal. If Andrew was raiding the bins…
“So what if it did?”
“Andrew! You’re stealing from the bins!”
“It’s not really stealing!” Andrew defended hastily.
“…Dammit, Andrew,” Caleb said, much quieter. Surveillance can be anywhere. Technically, they can’t invade your house, but you’re an idiot if you don’t have a healthy sense of paranoia. “We could be raided. They could decide we need to pay with extra labor or-” Caleb felt a chill run through him. “Or spare parts.”
“I know, but…” Andrew sighed. He turned the apple, which he still hadn’t eaten, in his hands. “You know that our planet is in a solar system that's within an arm that's within a galaxy that's within a section that's within a universe. Well, what if the nesting doesn’t stop there?”
“What do you mean?” Caleb asked, confused.
“This apple holds a million apples. I explained that part to you. What if there was a universe… that held a million universes? Each universe would birth five other universes, and each universe would birth five other universes, and so on to infinity.”
“Universes don’t grow out of seeds, Andrew.”
“Maybe someone has to make them.”
“Make a- make? The hell? A human can't make a universe! They'd have to be clinically insane to try! Who the hell would be insane enough to make a fucking universe?"
“I’m insane enough, apparently.”
Caleb gave him his best blank stare. Make a universe? Who was he kidding? Stealing scrap metal alone was a serious deviation from normal, but making a universe! His brother thought he was a revolutionary, or a scientist. Well, good luck with that, Andrew. Sorry, but statistics are not in your favor.
But Andrew said, “Come see.”
As Andrew pointed out aspects of the universe in his room, Caleb had to admit it at least looked organized. That’s not to say it looked like it’d work. It was all metal, and it was scavenged, for god’s sake.
He raised an eyebrow at the Universal Scrap Heap.
“Andrew,” Caleb said, “You weren’t even good enough at physics to pass the JT5. What makes you think that you’ll be the one to make the new universe?”
“I don’t,” Andrew stated.
Caleb blinked and squinted. “Then what’s this for?”
“I’m the first step,” Andrew continued. “I’m just the seed. Someone else can water the seed, and someone can grow the sapling. Someone can nurture the plant and someone can trim the tree to perfection. And someone can grow the next apples. I’m just providing the possibility.”
“You are an insane, sick child,” Caleb commented, but he looked at that apple again.
“Hey… that apple grew from a tree?” Caleb asked.
“I’d assume so.”
“And the tree came from a seed. Which came from an apple.”
“Now you get it,” Andrew said.
“You think someone made this?” Caleb asked, gesturing to everything around him.
Well, hell yes, Caleb. I did.