Blank Space
rating: +19+x

I sit here on the brink of nothing waiting for something good to happen. It’s a pathetic use of my time but everything else feels so difficult at the moment. Creating stars takes so much energy. Planet sculpting is a pain. And don’t even get me started on how messy comets are.

So I sit here and look out at another patch of blank space to paint with starstuff. I know that the humans say to look elsewhere for inspiration but then I just wind up distracting myself with my own creations. Reliving the glory days instead of putting fusion to atoms and making something new.

I’m on my sixty third universe now. When I started Predecessor told me that I would love it. Keep me occupied for aeons. I think they would be disappointed to hear I’d bored myself this fast.

“Maker, Maker!” I turn around to see Watcher skipping toward me, “You start on the next one yet?”

I sigh, “No. Not yet.”

“Awww.”

“Yeah. Yeah I know.”

“Is it because of Ancestor? I know they can be a real critic but they’re like that to everyone so you shouldn’t worry about it.”

“No. No it’s not Ancestor.” Although Ancestor never helped. There was always an orbit out of place. Or a binary system just a few degrees off kilt. Everything had to be nice and tidy and not have too much life. Oh, and also the universe can’t be too barren either. It has to have astronomic variance, and but should have consistency and theme. So on and so forth. I always had to ride some invisible line with them and it was fucking impossible.

It would’ve been much easier if they just told me all of my universes were shit. I could just chalk it up to taste and tell myself it's probably a bad thing if Ancestor liked my work. But no, they couldn’t even make that easy on me. Back when I made Universe #47, which was a personal favorite, I dreaded showing it to Ancestor. I had this new civilization of gloop plants that pollinated across planets. Nothing sentient, just a universe filled with intergalactic ooze. It was stupid and fun and I put way too much time into it so I was ready for the deluge of insults.

Ancestor looked it over. Eyed all my star systems with that contemptuous gaze. Then they stood up and said.

“Nicely done.”

But that wasn’t what was slowing me down. In a way it was closer to motivation. I was chasing that high of Universe #47. Of course though universe design just for the sake of a passing mark from Ancestor was not sustainable. And it isn’t sustaining me now.

“Are you out of ideas?” Watcher asks.

“Eh, not really,” I shrug, “Although nothing’s really exciting me.”

“Hmmm…” Watcher crosses their arms and scrunches their face.

“What?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Well, don’t think too hard. You might pull something,” I shoot Watcher a brief smirk.

Watcher puffs out their cheeks, “Hey! Just because it’s my job to watch doesn’t mean I can’t be creative too! I’ve seen a lot of universes you know.”

“Sorry, sorry. You’re right. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.”

“What if… you… had a water planet. No core, all water! And then there can be fish that swim across the planet’s diameter!”

“It’d take too long to adjust the universal constants to make that stable,” I reply.

“You could do a macro rock! Like something that would have the pull of a black hole, but it doesn’t fold in on itself!”

“So then all of the small bodies just crash into its surface? Then what?”

“Hmm…” Watcher starts tapping her foot, really in the think tank now, “Ok! I got one more idea.”

“Alright.”

“You wait here.”

Watcher scurries off out of view. I let out another sigh. Figures. Watcher is great, been keeping me company since Universe #1. But there’s a reason they’re Watcher and I’m Maker. Although really, I’m becoming less and less sure why I’m Maker with each passing day.

Before I was Maker I worked in an emergency room. Not as a doctor of course, I was never that smart. I was just a nurse. But I liked doing ER work. There’s this thrill whenever a new patient got wheeled in that the main obstacle between them and death was me and my clipboard. Running from room to room, taking measurements, constructing reports for doctors. Every Friday night the place flooded with DUI accidents and stupid kids jumping fences. And for each one, it was up to me (and of course everyone else on call) to ensure they made it to tomorrow.

The day I met Predecessor, this woman was wheeled in with a hundred little glass shards sticking out of her face. The procedure was clear: we needed to extract the glass. I worked alongside a surgeon and two other nurses for a total of seven hours plucking debris out of her nose, mouth, ears and eyes. My movements were smooth and crisp. My senses on edge. I was working overdrive to make sure this woman had the rest of her life ahead of her.

The operation was successful: we picked out all of the glass and bandaged her up. But successful doesn’t mean perfect. I checked in on her the next day, and just before I went inside, I looked over her file. Apparently, the glass had gone too deep into her retinas. She was blind.

I don’t know why I cried, but I did. It might’ve been because I was so certain we had done everything right, and it still turned out shit. Or maybe I was just sad for her. She’d never get to see the world again. She wouldn’t get to see what is and what would be. At best she has her memory of what was, but that was only finite.

I’m tearing up even now. Finite. That word hits different when you spend time crafting universes. The lack of possibilities and opportunities is really the most cruel thing to take from someone. I think, even now, I would give her my eyes if that would open doors for her again. I’m sure she’s making the best of it now. Or made the best of it… something like that.

After my shift that night, I was still having trouble composing myself in my apartment. I heard a knock around 11PM, which I didn’t even question. I opened the door and before me towered a cloaked figure. Their arms translucent, but sparkling.

“H-hello?” I sniffled out.

“Hello. I have come to you with exciting news.”

“Is this— is this a solicitation? Please don’t try to sell me something. I’ve had a long fucking day.” At this point I thought the avatar before me was mostly cosplay or something.

“I am not selling anything. I would like to give you a gift. An opportunity.”

I took a moment to compose myself. I wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and swallowed.

“What kind of opportunity?”

From there, Predecessor showed me the universe. Then the other universes. And then the tools to sculpt them. Predecessor told me that those tools were their tools, and their workshop before, but now would belong to me. I had but one job: to make. Predecessor told me there was far too much empty space, and that they had done as much as they could in filling it, but now it was my turn.

I accepted the position without hesitation. I liked my old job, but after seeing so much, I felt like it would be spoiled for me to turn away.

And now I feel that it was spoiled for me to accept. I really have no qualifications. I’m not a creative. I’m not much of a leader or a self-starter. I mostly followed directions and routine back at the hospital. Now, I am literally limitless. How terrifying of an opportunity to squander.

“Maker Maker! I’m back!”

“Great,” I continue to look out at my blank nothingness, “Now can you tell me your idea?”

“An idea from Watcher? I did not know this was the reason for my summons.”

I perk up and turn around to see Watcher literally dragging that tall, cloaked figure back into my workshop.

“P-predecessor,” I stammer, “I— I’m sorry about the mess. I just… it's been so long.”

I frantically stuff stray ores into cabinets and wave dust clouds under workbenches. Predecessor gives me a polite smile, and presses their back against the wall to stay out of my way.

“Worry not, my dear Maker. The workshop is for you. You should not bother yourself with appearances.”

I put the cap on one last bottle of stardust, before returning to my perch. I am embarrassingly out of breath.

“Now, Watcher, for what reason have you invited me from my retirement?” Predecessor asks.

“Maker is having trouble with the next universe!” Watcher exclaims. Predecessor peers over my shoulder.

“What appears to be the issue?”

“It’s not a mechanical one…” I murmur, “I hope Watcher knows better than to bother anyone over that.”

Predecessor chuckles, “Of course, of course. It has been quite some time since I have stepped foot in this room. If you struggled to use the tools, I imagine I would have been summoned sooner.”

“It’s a motivation problem!” Watcher adds from behind us.

“Motivation?” Predecessor cocks their head to the side, “Do you not feel compelled to create?”

“… I mean, I want to make something. Designing entire dimensions is… amazing.”

“But you still feel no desire?”

I spin around to face Predecessor.

“Why did you choose me for this anyways? There’s a million people back on Earth who would be better at this. I’m not an engineer, so all of my physics is hackneyed together. I’ve never been much of a creative, so all of my planets are bland. I just… I know that this next universe is going to suck. It’s gonna be fucking bland. It’s going to be unoriginal. It's going to look like five different other universes that you probably made in an afternoon and then discarded because they weren’t good enough.”

Predecessor nods. They synthesize a seat out of some spare minerals I left on my table, and take a seat. I even realize their posture is better than mine.

“Maker.”

“Yes?”

“You are right. You are not an engineer. You are not a creative. But you are the best for this job, because you care about the things that could be,” Predecessor says, “You care more about the things that could be than anyone I have ever seen. You don’t even know what those things are, because they are not. But it is clear that you want them to be. You spent years toiling in that hospital, saving the things that could be. Because you cannot bear the possibility that they will be lost.”

Predecessor stands from their chair, which crumbles into dust and then reforms as a miniature nebula, floating above my head. Predecessor pokes it, and the dust turns like a mobile.

“This job is not about creativity, or problem solving. This job is about bringing that which isn’t into being. It is the emergency room of existence. For if an idea slips past you, it truly may never come to be. That is why you are here. Because you care about the lack. About the missing opportunities.”

I can feel tears tremble down my face. I can imagine the woman with the glass in her eyes. I can picture Watcher, patiently waiting for me to finish my next project. I can hear Ancestor, chiding me over my missteps and failures. I don’t want to cry. I have been given this opportunity, I shouldn’t be crying about it.

“Th-thank you,” is the best I can make out, “I— I think I know what to do now.”

“Do you have an idea for your next universe?” Watcher excitedly asks. I wipe the tears from my eyes and turn back to my desk.

“No. Not in the slightest.”

And then I begin to write.

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