// Fate, magic, death, implications
She stood out to you the first time you saw her, all those lifetimes and timelines ago. She had taken an interest in you which was both curious and unnerving, so you had made a point to take note of her: long black hair, sharp face, bright eyes, piercing gaze. She wondered if you had a secret you were hiding. Did she know, even back then? By that point, you weren’t in the habit of remaining in one world long enough to find out. Click.
When you first made the device, it was something of a last resort. Your world was dying, it wasn’t long before there would be no one and nothing left anyway, so what was the harm when it was all doomed to begin with? Click.
The device was simple, the visible portion was simply a smart watch with a small glass protector over the screen. The bulk of the machine, a twisted knot of pipes and wiring, was tucked outside of spacetime where it wouldn’t get in anyone’s way. Upon pressing the button, the device would extract the wearer from the universe, consume the universe as fuel, reboot it entirely, and then drop the wearer back into the new universe in the appropriate place. It wasn’t perfect exact, there was always variation, that was the point, getting another chance at the world. Click.
You were only going to use it the once, just the once to avert the disaster that was dooming your civilization, and then you would destroy it and hide the knowledge of its manufacture, better to prevent that sort of meddling. That was the original plan, it just didn’t pan out like that. Click.
The next few worlds were subtly worse in different ways, each one slowly sliding towards ruin, and in a few, your life was outright at risk near immediately upon arrival, it simply wouldn’t do. Click. Click. Click.
Somewhere in the first few hundred iterations you did find a world that was good. You started a family, got married, had a kid, it was good for a while, probably the best you could have expected to get. You were happy there, for a time. Click.
Would it have been better if you had destroyed the device then? Maybe. You never replicated the blueprints, so it couldn’t be made again, but at some point, someone in that world deduced the possibility of its creation from your research, and a swat team knocked in your front door. Your wife had ratted you out, taken your kid and fled. So fuck them. Click.
After that, you grew colder, more calculating, you played the worlds you found yourself in like a fiddle. In some you became a powerful CEO, in others a brilliant general, you spent some time in a monastery in Tibet. All those worlds, all those people, all those lives lived. Meh, who cares really, it’s all nothing in the end. Click.
The second time you saw her, you knew there was something strange about her. Although the same characters and faces were common enough recurrences, she stood out as somehow connected to that other world in a way that defied explanation. She canted her head, peering sideways at you in the supermarket aisle, her face contorted in an expression of deep concern. It unnerved you. She had asked if you’d met before. “No,” you lie, “I think I would remember that,” and of course you do. You remember your heart racing as you left the store, got into your car, locked the doors, and pressed the button again. Whoever she was, she wasn’t worth the risk. Not after you were jumped by the Russian Mafia in Vienna, too many variables. Click.
Some worlds were empty and devoid of humanity, and you tended to linger on those worlds more and more. They were quiet places of nature and life, they were just too dangerous to live in full time, and besides, you did get lonely. Click.
It was easy enough to get women, or men, or whoever else you wanted. Threats worked well, it wasn’t like you stuck around long enough for consequences to stick, but power and money worked even better, and acquiring them became more and more rote with each iteration. The permutations that arose weren’t duplicates of one another, but they resonated in predictable enough ways for you to exploit without much trouble, and if you ran into trouble? Click.
Over time, you began spending less and less time in each world. The multiverse was kind of boring after a while, and the more interesting worlds tended to also be less safe to hang out in and observe, you could pick any world you wanted to and settle down there, but you’ve been pressing the button so long now that it’s almost become second nature, like flipping through channels on a TV. Click.
When was it that you noticed her showing up more frequently? It was hard to say exactly, given that the first however many times were those sort of happenstance encounters, each one seeming to leave you feeling as if you were under the microscope of a vast and alien intelligence, and each one justification for the next button press. Whatever her deal was, you weren’t going to stick around and find out, it definitely wasn’t your problem. Click. Click. Click. Click.
You pass through thousands more worlds, burning stars and futures and timelines one each reboot, and each new universe leaves you as unsatisfied as the last. Click. Click. Click. No matter how far you go, the multiverse keeps going and keeps failing to please you, all you have to do is stop, but you don’t even seem to remember how anymore. It’s all pointless, everything and everyone is always doomed from the start, so you might as well enjoy yourself in the process of using up all the energy in the multiverse, it’s not like any of it was going to amount to anything. Click. Click. Click.
It was the time you encountered her on an empty earth that really drove home the message. By that point you were pressing the button at least once a week, but had decided to stay on this empty world a bit longer, somewhere with no people to risk encountering.
Maybe you had been mistaken about there being no people? Maybe it was a post-apocalyptic world, or a hunter gatherer world? It was hard to say, as prior to suddenly seeing her striding confidently and directly towards you across the empty grassland you had seen no sign of humanity. You weren’t going to wait for her to reach you to find out what she was going to do if she did. Click.
It was taking her about a month to find you, but somehow, she was always finding you. It was impossible, inconceivable. There was no way she could be communicating between worlds, she shouldn’t even exist in every world and yet she seemed to inevitably show up eventually in every one. If you stuck around long enough, she would come for you. And long enough was shrinking, little by little. Click. Click. Click.
Her presence made it harder to move, harder to acquire resources and actually do anything in the worlds you passed through. Anything you did seemed to make it easier for her to find you, and the faster she would show up. You hadn’t spoken to her in thousands and thousands of worlds, but the thought of confronting her now terrified you beyond words. It was easier to run, and you could always keep running. Click.
All you had to do was keep running long enough to use up all the energy and the reboot process would fail. The multiverse would die for good and you could finally have an actual safe eternal rest with everything returned to nothingness like it belonged. It was a simple enough plan, all you had to do was keep pressing the button. Click.
When she started showing up sooner, you decreased the time between your jumps, but the time to her appearance continued to drop somehow. Somehow, in defiance of all reason and possibility, she was getting closer to you. Each iteration reduced the time it took her to reach you, and so you had to keep iterating, which kept reducing the time. You were running out of time. Click.
There was nothing you could do to escape her but continue pressing the button, it should work, there should be no way for her to follow you to the next universe. She should die with the world you left behind, she did die with that world each time, burned up in the impossible heat and energies of the collapsing spacetime. You hoped it hurt. Click.
With each iteration her appearance changed subtly. You weren’t sure when exactly she got the angel wings and the glowing red halo, but she definitely hadn’t started out with them. Was that just in your head? No you didn’t think so. Click.
You weren’t going to let her win. You knew she was trying to stop you from ending everything, you weren’t sure how she knew, but it was clear that somehow she knew. You weren’t going to let her stop you. At first you tried to arrange a hit on her, since you knew she would come for you it was easy to set up. What you hadn’t expected was for her to cut through the mercenary unit like a one woman army, causally batting away machine gun rounds and RPGs as she kept coming inexeroriably towards you. Nope nope nope. Click.
Three days until she appeared, then one day, then twelve hours, then eight hours, then six hours, she was beginning to interfere with your sleep. Click. Click. Click. Click. It’s a question really of whether you can run out the clock before she reaches you, something you uncomfortably realize is more and more unlikely as each iteration passes. She’s getting closer and closer, you’re running out of time and options. All you have left to do is keep pressing the button, with a manic broken intensity, and so you do. Click.
You’d wake up in the morning, press the button for an hour or two, eat breakfast, press it until you started to get bored or tired, rest for a few hours, and go back to it. She kept showing up sooner, but that didn’t matter, you weren’t sticking around long enough for it to be an issue. Click. Click. Click.
And then it began to be an issue, because she was already in your field of vision when you appeared, somewhere off in the middle distance. Click. She was closer. Click. Each time she was closer. Click. You didn’t have any way to get away from her. Click. She was actually catching up to you. Click. You’re going to fucking die. Click. Click. Click. Cli–
Pain, light, heat, your fingers reaching for the button find only air, your hand severed from the arm at the wrist. The flaming sword arcs around again for the killing blow, but it doesn’t come. Instead, she slams the blade into your severed hand, impaling the device and driving the sword through into the extradimensional space beyond. Energy and fire pour outwards and upwards in an aura of colorful heat shimmer. She twists the blade, the energy flow sputters out, and the device dies. You look at your burnt and cauterized stump in mute horror, then past it at the woman smoothly sheathing the flaming blade and rising to meet your eyes for the first time in many, many iterations.
“I’m Mercury,” she tells you, “and this is an intervention.”