A Keeper of Worlds (short fiction)

 Wanted: Keeper. No Experience Necessary. Flexible Hours. Good Pay.

Red had called the ad out of curiosity. Also, he didn’t have many other options. Bills were piling up. His unemployment was up. Desperate circumstances. It didn’t hurt to call.

They took his name and gave him an appointment for an interview. They didn’t ask anything other than that. It was obviously some sort of scam, but he didn’t have choices. He put on his only suit and went, resume in hand, with very low expectations.

The building was unremarkable from the outside. More unremarkable on the inside. Bare gray walls. A lobby without chairs. A small office to one side. Two doors that he didn’t go through.

The woman giving the interview was the same who had made his appointment. He recognized her voice. She didn’t introduce herself, took his resume, dropped it on the plain brown desk without reading it. “We’d like you to start as soon as possible.”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am.”

“The sooner the better,” she said. “Is today too inconvenient for you?”

“Uh . . . no.”

“Good.” She shook his hand. “Shall I show you the worlds then?”

“Worlds, ma’am?”

“The worlds you’ll be keeping,” she said. “You’ll be in charge of everything on the third floor.”

She led him to the elevator without explanation, and he didn’t ask questions. He assumed it would make sense if he gave it some time. And he was right.

The third floor was full of worlds, great stretches of miniature lands and oceans encased in glass display cases. One was nothing but water. Another, an endless desert. The others were anything and everything in-between. His first thought was that they were elaborate dioramas, but then he noticed the things moving throughout them. Tiny little creatures. Little more than specks.

“These are yours.” The woman pointed to the control panel beside the ocean world. There were surprisingly few buttons for controlling something so complicated as a world. “You’ll find your operation manual in your desk. I suggest you read it. Up to you, of course.”

She paused before a case where a bunch of the creatures were gathered together in some sort of strange chattering mass. “Not another war. They were only left alone for a few hours. I know this is your job, but do you mind if I make an adjustment?”

He shook his head.

She twisted a knob, pushed a few buttons, and a clap of thunder shook the world. The creatures scattered in all directions.

“That’s better. Of course, if you should elect to encourage them to kill one another, that’s your prerogative. Your predecessor seemed to favor pitting the poor things against each other, with predictable results.”

She nodded toward a case filled with scorched landscape and smoking ruins of miniature cities. In the rubble of a ruined world, there were still traces of movement, tiny beings struggling to survive in a broken land.

“I can’t do this,” said Red.

“Of course you can. It’s really not that hard.”

“What if I fuck it up?”

She smiled, and it was the closest she ever came to laughing. “You will. That’s part of the experiment.”

“What experiment?”

“The only experiment that matters,” she replied. “They will make mistakes. So will you. And we will read your reports and hopefully, learn something useful along the way.”

He didn’t ask who We was. He didn’t want to know.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have some business to attend to on the Floor Seven. We still haven’t cracked that heat death problem in Universes. Really should have maintenance take a look at that.”

She left. Red stood in the hall of his worlds. He shouldn’t be God. He hadn’t even made it through college.

He studied the ruined world, and its dying inhabitants. Maybe he could fix it, give them a second chance. He found the manual in his desk, sent them some rain and a little sunlight with the few pushes of a buttons. He didn’t know if it made their lives any better, but he hoped it might.

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  1. John Cionfolo
    Posted March 13, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I would love to see were this story goes. A very intriguing idea.

  2. Auxolust
    Posted April 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I concur, if this were a full novel I would sell a kidney to afford it. Not my own, but still…

  3. Rod Baker
    Posted May 9, 2015 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Great concept for a full novel.

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