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Patrick Stevens

Former mathematics student at the University of Cambridge; now a software engineer.

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Once upon a time, before this bountiful age of Matter and Light, there was only the Fell. A single being, surrounded by Chaos, content to remain alone forever (for it did not know what a “friend” was). It had not the power to shape the Chaos; neither had it the inclination, for it needed nothing and had no desires. For seething unchanging aeons, it persisted.

Then Chaos bore new fruit. A single electron, a point source of charge. The electric field thereby induced resonated throughout all of Chaos, propagating yet further, every second by the same amount; and so the Fell recognised distance. The Fell experienced curiosity then: for an electromagnetic field was entirely a novel sensation to it. The place it inhabited was changed, from isotropic to merely spherically symmetric: now the Fell identified direction. It began to move towards the point charge, first slowly, and then faster, until its velocity approached that of the electric field itself. All this was for to discover the nature of the descendant of Chaos.

As the Fell approached the electron, its existence became threatened: as a simple pattern in Chaos, it could exist indefinitely, but approaching a source of electric charge was a new disturbance, one which the pattern had not been purposelessly selected to overcome. And it recoiled from the intrusion with great force, the influence of the electron growing with the square of the Fell’s distance from it, much faster than was comfortable.

But the pattern that was the Fell was changed by the charge, and the charge was changed by the pattern. The same perturbations that had caused the first electron were still latent in the Chaos, and the Fell’s scramble to escape the charge was enough to revive them. A second electron emerged, accompanied by a single photon.

Now there was unbound energy in Chaos. Before the Fell could even begin to react, Chaos began to resonate, shuffling, its patterns collapsing into such regularity that a great explosion of matter emerged. At the speed of light, things emerged, a great array of muons, quarks and their ilk. The Fell could but race away from the catastrophe; most of it was shorn away in that first burst of creation, before it could flee. And so it continued to exist.

Gradually, the flurry of order was calmed. Chaos is infinite, unquenchable, and the energy which the Fell unwittingly brought into existence was but finite. At the boundary of the sphere of roiling matter did the Fell rest, recovering itself, painstakingly forging its old patterns anew from the Chaos. It felt the unconstrained resonance of the matter, and so could it know what was happening in this new world.

And indeed it came to pass that the Universe settled down, protected from Chaos by its sheer radius. Gravity, not present in the isotropic Chaos, was very much a factor in the Universe, and things came together to form new patterns. With nothing better to do, the Fell learnt to peer into the Universe, polling it with the gentlest bursts of electromagnetism to discern what new wonders occurred. (The Fell grew larger and larger, forcing its pattern onto Chaos, to keep and examine this new information.) It learnt to send information into the Universe by gently affecting the boundary, and eventually it occurred to the Fell to create something. It planned and tweaked, and when it was satisfied, it chose a star and a newly-made planet, and altered it subtly.

It came to pass that self-replicating structures emerged on that planet. With startling speed, they became better-adapted to their environment. The Fell’s usual languid pace of existence was not enough to keep up with the rapidity of the changes, so it began to poll for information much more frequently. It felt tenderness for what it had wrought, and it tried to keep that planet from harm.

And the changes accelerated, faster and faster: an exponential with no apparent end. The Fell struggled to keep up, polling yet faster; its error rate was low, but with so many polls occurring, every so often it misjudged and sent a beam of energy that was so powerful that it affected the planet’s star itself, causing plasma to gout out of it.

Reptiles had emerged before the Fell realised how quickly the changes were now happening. It stretched itself to its limit, polling more and more frequently until it could go no faster, desperate to document everything. It had no energy spare to protect the planet, and it came to pass that a very large chunk of rock hit, causing the destruction of the incumbent life; and so mammals emerged, followed in short order by primates and then humans.

Therefore, send not to know for whom the Fell polls - it polls for thee.