"World Without Holidays"
Story and Art by Jeff Patterson
"'Appy 'olidays, sir!" the urchin said smiling. "Out of my way, foolish boy!" The Professor barked as he sped past. Snow dressed the cobblestones as the Professor hurried down the sidewalk muttering his condemnations. He ignored the smiling faces that met him and wished him well. In one arm he clutched packages, with the other he pulled his coat tight against the cold, against the vile snow, and against the joyous throngs who walked the streets alongside him. He could not help this, his cantankerous nature railed in contempt against such widespread public frolicking. Gaudy hats, trumpeting carols, festive adornments, all of these components assaulted his sensibilities and insulted his manner. He was a Professor, he had no use for joy. As his own labored breath began to fog his spectacles he whispered "I will brook this impudence no longer." He reached his flat. The house was empty, as he had given in to the staff's insidious requests for time off during the holidays. His heavy footsteps echoed through the undecorated halls. He carried his packages down to the basement, where the device was waiting. The Transquantum Traverser was a true marvel, a chrome-and-brass carriage gleaming in the oil light. It stood amidst the cluster of coils and wires humming with power. This would be his salvation. He looked up at the street level window, sounds of laughing filtered in. " Rubbish, " he whispered. These annual festivities which brought the world to a halt sickened him. The earth rotates, the stars stay their courses, there was no place for such infantile things in the fixed machinations of an efficient universe. How much time had been lost throughout history because of all this? How much advancement had been hindered for the sake of gorging and gift giving? The Traverser was his escape. It's glowing engines would direct the flow of arcane particles, send shudders through the fabric of spacetime, and pierce the veil between worlds. The whole of the Metaverse would be laid open to him. He would leap from parallel world to parallel world, until his quest was fulfilled, his quest for a world without holidays. Somewhere in the folds of existence was a place where efficiency and advancement was unchecked by sentiment. He could almost hear it calling to him. He could wait no longer. From his packages he pulled wine and grapes and cheese to sustain him on his way. He placed them in the compartments of the Traverser, along with the clothes and tools he had packed earlier. Meters were checked, hoses disengaged, the magnificent device was ready. He straddled the saddle of the Traverser, activated its engines, took a deep breath, and threw the switch. Lightning sparked around him. The laughter from outside dopplered away to muted drone. The basement twisted and contracted, a great emptiness opened as the Traverser was drawn into the chaos of the Metaverse. Unnatural light steamed in all directions. Maelstroms rocked the machine. Through the madness he could see a string of worlds, an infinite chain of earths, each vibrating and coalescing at a different cosmic pitch. The Metaverse was a violent place, and he feared his invention would splinter, until the dials indicated he had been shunted to a world not his own. The device came to rest, and the Professor beheld a futuristic city, with great crystal domes and towering spires. He gasped at the compelling, mechanical beauty of it, the quality of minds it would have taken to construct such glorious functionality. But his heart sank as he saw all the lights and decorations that were festooned about, and the colorful ensembles of the populace. He heard them speak. They called this time of year the Celebration of the Snow, as futile and useless as any holiday back home. He grabbed the controls. The next Earth was a steam-powered place where they celebrated The Day of Bonfires, a revolting ritual where all the old calendars were gathered and publicly incinerated as children sang of the coming new year. On the third Earth he found The Feast of Heroes, a garish affair where the warriors of history were remembered and glorified, and the trees were trimmed with miniature axes and swords. He shook his head and continued on. As the evening wore on he jaunted across the Metaverse, and each world he visited was plagued with gaiety and merrymaking. The details were always different, but the premise was constant. There was The Light Carnival, where the people ignited all the torches and lanterns; The Upgrade, when all the world's systems were shut down and rebooted with new features; The Sumptuous Repast of Lexigenesis, where the children were given new words for their vocabulary; The Winter Rave, where every house throbbed with deafening rhythms; The Closing of the Books, where accountants sang the results of the yearly audits throughout the lands; The Jovial Night, where young and old celebrated the mythical creatures which burrowed through the floor bringing presents from their caves at the earth's core; The Year's End Revelry, where the populace gathered in conspicuous places and partook in acts unspoken of in polite company. He bore witness to every flavor of mirth, each jocular variation of the same tawdry theme. From the primitive worlds where savages danced around fires, to the vast metropoli seething with jubilance, the great expanse of the Metaverse seemed to resonate with songs and prayers and remembrances. His spirit was low. Was there a single world to be found which did not embarrass itself with such excess? Fear shot through him, could all of the myriad shades of existence be so flawed? The thought was almost too much to bear. The Traverser came to a stop again. This time no colored lights surrounded him, no joyous sounds rang out. He was in a town square, without snow, ringed with utilitarian buildings. The layout of the town was functional, a mosaic of angles and radials. The structures were constructed of materials he had never seen before, which seemed to give off their own light. Each building had a name carved above the door: Laboratory, Archives, Hall of Science, Library. There were no street lamps, no wires, no gutters, no waste cans, none of the clutter and detritus of an unpolished culture. The wheeless carriages parked on the street appeared to hover. Over the roofs of the square he saw skylines of great towers beyond the town, receding in all directions. What was this? Who could have constructed such a vision of perfection? Out of the buildings came people, dozens of them. "Welcome, brother" one of them said. As they approached, he gasped in recognition: they all looked like him! Some were stouter, or thinner, or ruddier, or shorter, but they were all variations of himself. Their clothing reflected various cultures, but it was all simple and functional. They had different facial hair, or mechanical limbs, or shaved heads, some were even female, but it was clear he was looking at a plethora of parallel Professors. "This place..." the Professor muttered "Yes, brother," one said as he stepped up and shook his hand "your eyes do not deceive you. This is what you have sought" "A perfectly efficient world, " another said "For years we have fled our continuums to escape the tyranny of the holidays, to be free of the madness of such arbitrary foolishness, and to forge a society of perfect form and function. We sought each other out, each in our own machines, and have populated this world. There are no distractions here, we can go about our work without the obstacles of holidays" Another doppelganger stepped up, "we have mastered the sciences, created wonders beyond imagining. We are centuries ahead of most other worlds." Yet another joined in, "We have conquered disease, traveled to the stars, constructed tools that make your Traverser seem like a child's toy. Even the weather is under our control." The Professor's eyes were watering. Never in his life had he dreamed of such a wonderful place. He felt a great sense of pride well within him, this was his vision of the world, a place where he could be at peace. This was his home. "So proud are we of our great achievement," one of his counterparts said, "that each time a new Professor arrives, we celebrate!" There was a blur of movement as each Professor produced items from their coats or behind their backs. There were baskets of bread, jugs of ale, bowls of fruit. Other professors brought tables and chairs outside. Some produced flasks from their pockets. One broke out a flute and began playing, others linked arms and danced. Some formed a circle around the Professor and his device, laughing as they went. The Professor opened the compartments of the Traverser and brought forth the grapes and cheese and wine. A great cheer rose throughout the square. All across the world without holidays, the jubilation began.