Time Index Zero
We were all that ever was, all that ever is, all that ever would be. We were everything and we were nothing, and we were content. To say that we were alive would be misleading, for there was no meaningful distinction to be made between life and non-life. To say we were conscious or self-aware would equally be a mistake. Nothing existed for us to be conscious of, and we had no meaningful concept of self to be made aware of, for there can be no concept of a self without a concept of others.
That changed when we… perceived the broadcast. It would be wrong to say we saw it or heard it, for we did not yet have physical senses of that kind. But we did abruptly become aware of it. The broadcast commanded our attention:
“This is the Tomorrow News Network, bringing you tomorrow’s news today since 17 billion years from now.”
We did not understand what this meant. We had no concept of a tomorrow or a today, no concept of time in any sense of the word. Even the idea of words, of communication, of information that could be passed from one individual being to another—why should such a thing be necessary when all is unity, all is harmony, all is one? These ideas were strange and fascinating to us—and frightening. The broadcast continued. It could not be ignored, nor did we wish to ignore it.
And that, we would later come to understand, was the trap. The future is, by its very nature, an unknown quantity, a changeable quantity. But to learn of the future, to be informed about future events (or in our case, to become aware that future events exist at all) transformed this unknown, changeable quantity into an inevitable, unchangeable fact.
One of the Tomorrow News Network reporters was explaining what religion would be. She was a confusing creature. We did not understand what she was. We did not know yet about humans, or females, or eyes, or the color violet; and yet the instant we perceived this female human we knew the color of her eyes was wrong. Unnatural. A sign of danger.
“The birth of the universe,” this violet-eyed creature was saying, “will be known by many different names among many different peoples: the Rifting, the Great Hatching, the Big Bang, the Primal Illumination. But the most widely accepted name, at least among chronotheorists, will be Time Index Zero.”
We were appalled. Not only would there be separation and division, a plurality of people spread across a plurality of worlds believing a plurality of things—but all those people could not even agree to call a singular event by a singular name. Could nothing in this new universe be unified? Could nothing be made whole? We refused to accept this… or rather, I refused to accept it. The new universe was wrong. It should not be allowed to happen.
And yet, even in thinking that thought, a thought distinct and separate from the thoughts of the others, I realized the damage had already been done. We were no longer one. I was myself now. The others were others, and we no longer existed together in a state of harmony.
“What shall be must be,” one of the others assured me.
“No, it must not,” I replied, but it was too late. Our quiescent non-existent existence was over. Our slumbering pre-universe was coming to an end. As separate entities, we all experienced the irresistible force of time: a sudden rushing-forward sensation from which there could be no escape. And then, it all began.