Jessie Moon sat on her bed with her back against the wall and her legs splayed out before her. Textbooks she hadn’t touched in weeks were strewn across the floor. Her bedroom’s unlit lamp cast warm, soothing darkness over her. She closed her eyes and felt her mind stretch like a cat in the sun. Out there, beyond the walls of this tiny house where only she lived, people were moving and horns were blaring and the stars above whirled about the sky, but that was out there, and this was in here. In here…
Jessie Moon scooted over a foot to the side, making some room in her bed. She stared expectantly at the empty space next to her.
A second later, another Jessie Moon appeared.
The other’s face was turned, so Jessie could not discern the expression on her face. There was silence between them, unbearable silence that strained at her mind, so she said, “Hey. What’s up?”
When the other didn’t respond immediately, Jessie craned her head around to try to see the time on the other’s watch. The other pushed her head away. “Cut it out, jackass,” she muttered.
Jessie stuck out her tongue. “It’s not my fault that you’re making the game boring in the first place.”
“This is…hardly a game. And whatever’s my fault—”
“Is definitely not my fault. Present me is present me and future me is future me and present me is not future me.”
“You’re being so obnoxious,” the other said.
Jessie raised her hands in the air. “Hey, come on. Look, we don’t know why this is happening, right?”
“Because it happens. We’re stuck here…at least until I go back, and you already know when that happens, don’t you? The point is that you don’t need to be so pissy. We make the most out of where we are and what is happening where we are. Isn’t that exciting?”
An odd tension began to drain slowly out of the other’s face. Finally, she smiled. “All right, then,” the other said. She leaned over and rested her head on Jessie’s shoulder. “What do you want to do?”
The other was warm.
"In this instant, or more…generally?" Jessie asked.
"The second one."
“I don’t know."
“I guess I have to help you out, then?” the other said.
Jessie giggled. “Guess so.”
The other said, “We want to know more about ourselves. Reasonable?”
“Reasonable,” Jessie said.
“We want to know all about what we’re made of, and what stuff is inside us, and where that stuff came from, and what that stuff’s gonna be,” the other said. “Right?”
“So one day we figure all that out…”
The other tilted her head. “What happens after that, then?”
Jessie didn’t answer the other’s question. She had neither an origin nor an end; they blended together into one Ouroboric mix. She understood, more than anyone else ever would, that she was something that did not have a cause, that she was arbitrary and yet necessary. What would it mean to understand that? To understand the agent-less will of the universe? And once it was understood, what then?
“We’re afraid,” the other said.
The other started stroking Jessie’s hair. For a moment, she contemplated shoving the other away and ignoring her and just going back right then. But that was not what was going to happen—the universe hardly moved on the pettiness of one girl—so she relaxed.
“Fine, then,” Jessie said. “What am I afraid of?”
There was the world, spinning and revolving peacefully in space. There were people on that world, and there was her. She saw the timeline of her life explode outwards in spirals and curves and circles that turned in on themselves.
She saw at once her past, when she was ignorant in innocence, and then the shattering of innocence in the Revelation—
It had not been Revelation when she had realized that she could twist the world with a focused will. Anybody could know that. Revelation was when she understood that the world would only be twisted in a very specific way for no reason at all, that she and humanity and the world would only ever follow one path.
She saw her future, and in it she saw the emblem of the Foundation.
Jessie closed her eyes. “I know my future, don’t I? I…I can see myself behind the Foundation’s walls. This is what happens. What is there to be afraid of?”
“You’re not afraid of the Foundation,” the other said.
“Of course not. If I were, I would’ve run and joined the Hand, right?”
“But you are afraid.”
“I guess you’re right,” Jessie said. “But it doesn’t make sense! I know everything, but I don’t know anything. That’s the best possible way to be, isn’t it? I can see what happens, but I can’t see who I am, or what I’ll think, and I can see what I’ll do and what I’ll be but not…not what the meaning of that being is. Isn’t that exciting? I should be excited, shouldn’t I?”
The other nodded. “It’s…unbelievably exciting.”
“I know exactly what’s going to happen, for me and for humanity and for the world…and I’ve accepted all of it. And I know the richness of experience, I can—I can taste it, I’m salivating, just waiting for it to come over me! So then…”
Jessie opened her eyes.
“Why am I afraid?” she asked.
The other smiled. “Oh. Oh, huh. I understand now.”
“You already know the stupid answer.”
“Yeah,” the other said. “Yeah, don’t worry, this ends…this ends in a way that is simultaneously satisfactory and unsatisfactory.”
“Literally everything is satisfactory and unsatisfactory. You’re satisfied by the things you like and unsatisfied by the things you don’t. We are just dropping brilliant insights left and right.”
The other frowned and punched Jessie in the arm. “That’s really annoying, especially when I’m not the one saying it.”
“More brilliant insights.”
“Shut up,” the other said. “Look…listen, all right?”
The smile crept off Jessie’s face. “All right.”
She looked into the other’s eyes. It was not at all like looking into a mirror. That was examining her imitation—her simulation. But the other existed both inside and outside herself. In the other’s eyes, she could see all the parts of herself that she thought she knew, and yet she could also see emotion and thought that she would not be able to identify internally. How could “future her” be so different when she was from only the immediate future?
The other said, “If you know everything that’s going to happen to you, then aren’t you only a few steps away from knowing yourself? From removing all the mystery or potential for surprise that your own soul holds? We've both embraced extreme determinism. So if we've spoiled the ending…”
The other chuckled and wiped her eyes. “It’s silly.”
“It’s not silly,” Jessie said.
“Fine,” the other said. “I mean, once we spoil the ending, what’s left to discover?”
Jessie felt the line of her life unfold and stretch before her. She averted her gaze.
“What kind of…boring person are we going to become, do you think?” the other asked. “What happens to us once we know everything we’ve wanted to know? Do we die the slow death? We wake up one morning, and being us is no longer worth being because every corner of our mind is mapped out?”
Jessie felt the dark walls of the room box and define the boundaries of her being. Inside of her mind, she felt a voice cry out as if on a mountaintop. The voice wanted to reach the very roof of the sky and the very depths of the most mysterious seas—it wanted to be everything that it could be. It wanted to exist. But the only thing the voice could fill was this room, small and peaceful and dark. She had to be humble in her omniscience and omnipotence.
Others might have said that she had a choice: to be this humble god, or to be the sort of god that was a rampant Will imposing itself on a soft, pliable world. But she was the first sort of god, so she knew that it wasn’t a choice. It was a question of definitions. She did not act. She was. She already knew everything that she was going to be, and the rampant Will had no place in her future.
She had to be satisfied filling the room.
“One day,” the other said, “we’ll know ourselves entirely. Then we will have…a choice.”
“We never have choices.”
“A pseudo-choice, then. We can be bored with ourselves and die the slow death, or…or it’ll be beautiful and wonderful. But I don’t know how. The thing is—do—do you understand what we have to do?”
Jessie nodded. “We have to accept that we will one day know ourselves.”
Now, Jessie understood.
“And you know what we have to do in order to do that,” the other said.
Jessie exhaled slowly as her vision detached itself from linear temporality. Once again, she saw the end of the line. As the image of the Foundation’s symbol crept into her mind, she saw herself in a room, closed in, unable to move…
She did not understand. No matter how much she looked, she did not understand what experiencing that was like.
“We have to be taken in by the Foundation,” Jessie said.
“Yes,” the other said. “And we have to—we will—set the necessary events in motion to have that happen. In an hour, we have a talk with Carmen.”
In the darkness, Jessie could hear the other’s breathing, and she could smell her own shampoo on the other’s hair. She was in the company of herself and could not be more content.
“Erase my memory,” the other said.
“What the fuck?”
“This was cheating. Conversations with myself to learn more about myself are cheating. And that aside, it’s not even causally open, which basically means it’s bullshit,” the other said. “Just wipe the details. I’ll remember to set the end into motion, but I don’t want to remember this conversation.”
“What the fuck? I’m not going to wipe you! That’s so fucked up. I mean, I don’t want to be wiped, and if I wipe you then in my future I’ll get wiped. No thanks.”
“It’ll be a game. Maybe one day, we’ll figure out that you wiped me— because you’re going to wipe me—”
“—yeah, I know that I wipe you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be weirded out by it.”
“—let me finish, Christ. I’ll figure out that you wiped me—I wiped myself—and we can have a game to see if future me can undo past me’s—your—wipe. It’ll be fun.”
Jessie rubbed her eyes. “Are we really doing this?”
“Yeah. You know we don’t like cheating.”
“…fine,” Jessie said. “God, now I know why you were so moody when you first came here. You had to do this stupid thing, didn’t you?"
“Well, I didn't understand then. But now I do.”
Jessie rolled away from the other. “Man, go fuck yourself,” she said. After a moment’s pause, she said, "I’ve applied the wipe. It’s time-delayed. In ten seconds…”
“So hurry up and go back,” the other said. “To have this conversation."
“Yeah,” Jessie said. “Fine.”
The other smiled. A few seconds later, her specific memory of the last ten minutes was destroyed.
There were two steaming slices of pepperoni pizza on Jessie Moon’s dining room table. Jessie took small, careful nibbles out of one of them. The other one sat, alone in the darkness of the unlit room, across from her.
Jessie took a sip of Sprite to wash down the taste of grease and cheese. She snapped her fingers, and an Italian woman materialized in the seat with the lonely pizza slice.
“Hello, Carmen,” Jessie said.
Carmen blinked a few times in surprise as her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the kitchen. “Sorry, uh…Jessie? Would you mind turning on the lights?”
“Yeah, I would.”
Carmen laughed. “Well, that’s fine. How are you doing, Jessie?”
“I thought I had a designation.”
“Mhm, you do. You’re SCP-Black Box. But you’re Jessie to me,” Carmen said. She took a large bite out of the pizza. In between mouthfuls, she said, “I mean, come on. I’m not going to dehumanize you when I’m a guest in your house.”
Jessie sighed. “You do, however, fully intend on jailing me for life.”
“Of course,” Carmen said. A wide, warm smile stretched across her face. "That’s a given. Thanks for the pizza, by the way.”
The floor creaked as Carmen leaned back in her chair. “May I?” she asked, reaching for the Sprite bottle.
“Thanks.” Carmen grabbed a plastic cup, filled it with Sprite, and began to drink. Jessie stared at her in silence until she finished with a sigh.
“So,” Carmen said, putting the cup down. “You called because you wanted to tell me something, so that I could relay that to the O5s, so that events pan out in a way you want them to. I’m afraid I can’t quite tell what that way is, but, nonetheless—“
“Carmen,” Jessie said. “Carmen, listen. The Alpha-1 ‘I know things that you haven’t told me’ shtick is a lot less impressive to people like me.”
“I’m not trying to impress, Jessie.”
Jessie rolled her eyes. This conversation should have been finished in thirty seconds. Until this moment, Jessie had not been entirely certain if she was still capable of hate. Carmen was at least useful enough to rekindle those emotions.
“The hypocrisy of the Foundation astounds me. You guys in the Red Right Hand hop yourselves up on fucking HALMAS, which is definitely anomalous—”
Carmen laughed. “Memetoamnestics is a perfectly legitimate scientific discipline, Jessie,” she said.
“Okay, we’re not talking about this anymore.”
“You’re the omniscient one, Jessie, you tell me what we do and don’t do.”
The first time she had brought Carmen in for a conversation, the woman had only been surprised for a second before regaining composure. She freely admitted to being of the Foundation’s Red Right Hand and openly stated her intention to conduct surveillance. It was infuriating.
Jessie thought to herself that Carmen was wrong in trying to justify the Foundation. The Foundation was the Foundation; nowhere was there any guarantee that it had to remain internally consistent. She thought this, but she did not say it.
“On May 10th, 2016, Seattle becomes temporally corrupted,” she said. “It’s a betrayal by Sedna Prewitt, Director of Site 76. She defects to the Chaos Insurgency.”
Carmen whistled. “Wow. Heavy stuff. Are you going to move out before that happens?”
“I think I’ll stay.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because if you sufficiently prepare for Seattle’s corruption, which you will, a certain chain of events which I will not divulge eventually ends in my capture by the Foundation. Which is my ultimate goal.”
“Really,” Carmen said. She raised an eyebrow. “If that’s the ultimate goal, why don’t you just come with me?”
“Because I don’t want to go into containment,” Jessie said. “The universe, by and large, does not paradox itself into incoherency. I don’t do things that I don’t want to do because causality says so. Maybe the idea of causality makes me want to do something, but that’s not the case this time. All I want to do is experience my life, and an intrinsic part of my life involves being contained by the Foundation.”
Carmen laughed. “Oh, okay. Any more information? Specifics?”
“Just…prepare. You have six months. And you don’t stop Prewitt.”
“Of course, Jessie. I’m not an idiot.”
Jessie sighed. “Carmen, why do our talks always have to devolve into petty, passive-aggressive arguments? Look, I…I like people. I like friends. I wonder, sometimes, what it would be like to be friends with you, and I think it would be kind of nice.”
A vague feeling of satisfaction settled inside Jessie when she saw the smile on Carmen’s face waver. She blinked once, and then her expression was radiant again.
“I don’t know you, Jessie. I don’t understand you. Let alone being friends with you…I told you earlier what I’m supposed to do to what I don’t understand.”
Jessie and Carmen sat in silence for a while more.
“All right, fine,” Jessie said. “Go tell the O5s. Have fun. Don’t let the Foundation fall."
“The Foundation will never fall. You know that.”
“I thought I was the omniscient one.”
“I have some vision of my own, Jessie. Why do you think the Red Right Hand is so loyal to the Foundation after what they’ve done to us? We ‘hopped up’ on HALMAS, we read between the lines of the universe, and we picked the winning side. The Foundation is a universal, immortal constant."
“Go home, Carmen.”
“Good night, Jessie. Thanks again for the food.”
The door creaked shut behind Carmen, and peace was restored to Jessie Moon’s tiny suburban Seattle house.
Jessie walked out of her dining room and back into her bedroom. She peeked through the blinds and let moonlight cast her face into shadow. The moon overwhelmed her and her anger at Carmen with its indifference.
A thrill rushed through her body. It was like the thrill of the illusion of choice. Changing what would happen—what she knew would happen—was impossible. But now, she was living through those events—feeling the river of time run over her skin—and wasn’t that exhilarating? Through being, she had all the power in the world.
Jessie flopped onto her bed. Her eyes were already growing adjusted to the faint moonlight. She stretched her arms and legs out and felt her body settle into itself. A long sigh escaped her lips.
“Carmen is Carmen and you are you,” Jessie said. “Carmen is that she is Carmen. And she…even she…is beautiful in that way and in herself.”
She would be the humble god.
Slowly, Jessie drifted to sleep.