The first thing that children learn in school nowadays is that every point in the known universe is contiguous, in one dimension or another, with every other point. Or, seen from a different perspective, that every point in the universe is in exactly the same place. The ultimate quantum entanglement.
Why do they learn this? Because it helps explain to them why their divorced daddy, for example, lives in a galaxy one billion light years away, instead of down the block. Or why they vacation with their family every year on Brgphyyssxx instead of in Clearwater.
Activate the proper mapping of dimensional coordinates for every point in your body, or your body and family and RV, and you can translate the whole lot, instantaneously, to anywhere else in the universe, known or unknown. With this knowledge, the notion of sticking to your own little galaxy becomes instantly outdated.
The human race has kept its roots firmly on, or in, Earth, but folks otherwise have taken off, without reservation, for everywhichwhere. I myself set up my Galactic View Inn on a big chunk of frozen water, iron, and chromium listed as ASQQUUZZ42, an investment-property chunk of real estate that someone translated out into the intergalactic void for the purposes of privacy and misanthropic tourism during the recent asteroid bubble. The location has an unbelievably fantastic view of two colliding galaxies in all their glory. The spectacle fills the sky. If you book into one of our premium suites, you’ll have five supermassive black holes highlighting the panorama in front of your bedroom window, wreathed in swirls of multicolored radiation around their event horizons covering the electromagnetic spectrum, glorious as God’s personal rainbow.
Sad to say, the Inn, which caters to humans only, has not been the big money-maker I had hoped it would become. It’s hard to get noticed when you’re competing for the vacationer’s dollar with two hundred billion systems in each and every one of two hundred billion galaxies, including your own.
Even so, I maintain the “Humans Only” restriction. I don’t want to open the alien can of worms, and I’m not talking about just the alien worm tourists. If a guest calls me from his or her room or barges into my office complaining that he or she has caught a glimpse of tentacles in Room 501, then I will call the human guest in 501 and ask him or her to decamp with his or her pseudopodunous friend tout de suite. If I get attitude from the occupant of 501, I point out that the interior of the room is thoroughly mapped and if the unholy couple doesn’t leave it immediately, I will be forced to translate the two of them in a blink to the surface of Xssyzzpt, home of the Galactic News, the universe’s best-selling, sleaziest gossip rag.
As long as a couple is human on both sides, I let the two of them carry on as they choose, so long as they don’t do anything that scares the chambermaids.
All sorts of inadvertent careless mappers come through my doors. I have dealt with homeless waifs, dogs, aliens, non-living life forms, living non-life forms, formless living and non-living entities, and traveling salesmen, extinct for centuries but now back with their cut-rate bathroom de-sanitizers, underpowered vacuum cleaners, and knock-off Gideon Bibles. All this and those precious few, the tourists who come for a quiet stay and the view.
Such are the challenges set for an innkeeper to the universe.
My fruitless cogitations about how to increase the hotel’s patronage was interrupted one day by the arrival of a salesman, dusty and footsore from his peregrinations around the universe’s trillions upon trillions of sucker-filled worlds. He carried a worn valise that no doubt held his products, and a worner suitcase for, perhaps, his second suit.
I held up a hand to forestall his pitch.
“You want a drink?” I said.
He gave me a grateful nod. I reached under the counter and brought out a bottle and a glass. Poured him a drink.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Drummers aren’t welcome here.”
“Where is everybody?” he said, looking around. “Who is welcome here?”
“I want happy tourists searching out the wondrous spots of the universe,” I said. “They have been slow to arrive.”
The fellow stood with his glass already empty in his hand. He eyed the bottle and licked his lips. I held it out and gave him a refill.
“Where’d you get this?” he asked, smacking his lips.
“Never heard of it, but this is good stuff.”
“If I give you one more, you won’t be able to leave, so I’m not going to.”
“Look,” he said. “I know you’ve heard every line in the book, but the fact is, I’ve got a product here will make your dreams come true.”
He hoisted his valise onto the counter, unlatched its lock, and opened it. He drew out a small device and placed it in front of me. I raised my eyebrows.
“You know about homing pigeons on Earth?” he said.
“What’s your name?”
“Yes, I know about homing pigeons, Mr. Abbott.”
“What’s your name?”
“Trotter,” I said.
“OK, Mr. Trotter. You keep this device on your counter here, turned on, and every guest who ever visits and signs in will want to come back later.”
I reached for the device.
“Don’t turn it on!” Abbott said. “I don’t want to keep coming back here.”
“I don’t believe you. How does it work?”
“It does something to the human brain. It adds or turns on that pigeon thing. There’s a pigeon-like race in the Gabbu8wl galaxy that uses these. They are one crazy bunch, but still.”
“How soon will my guests return?”
“They’ll go home and after a couple of Earth months, they’ll start to get the itch. They’ll think it’s the view, that they want to see it again. Back they’ll come.”
I just wanted to get rid of him.
“Leave it,” I said. “I’ll turn it on.”
“I will leave it, on consignment. You’re going to be completely satisfied,” Abbott said. “I’ll give it enough time to bring you some returns and then I’ll come back for your payment, OK?”
“OK,” I said.
He left and I turned the device on.
Later, a refined couple named DuBuque arrived for a week’s stay. They hadn’t signed up for any of the extra excursions, the bridal specials, and I didn’t like their hangdog expressions when they appeared, but they had come to patronize the establishment as it was intended to be patronized and I felt strongly that they would not steal the towels, so I welcomed them effusively.
As they stood at the counter to check in, they both focused on the “Humans Only” sign behind me.
“What’s the meaning of that?” the man asked.
“We aren’t human,” he said, “either of us. Neither of us.”
“You look human to me,” I said.
“We were human,” he said, “but we’ve resigned from the human race.”
“Why did you do that?” I said.
“We’re sick of the lying and fighting and general ugliness of the breed,” the woman said. “I guess we’ll be leaving.”
They turned to go.
“Now hold on,” I said. “You’ve come all this way.”
“It took less than a nanosecond,” the man said.
“Still, your anticipation… Look at that view!”
They stopped and stared out the window, which was filled with the spectacle of the two colliding spiral galaxies, enveloped in a complex hydrogen nebula larger than any I had ever seen or heard about, lobed and sectioned, septa irradiated, with colossal jets of expelled particles streaming out each pole thousands of light years into the black, like searchlights from the edge of heaven.
“I have a special on for the resigned,” I said.
“Thank you,” the man said. “We’ve signed a mutual suicide pact and we thought that this would be the perfect place to execute it. There is something spiritual about your location, as if we’re being treated to a preview of our eternal glory.”
I winced. These two had their homing mechanisms already activated. They were heading home to their maker.
“Our special does not apply to those who not only resign, but turn in their bodies,” I said.
“Take it up with our estate,” the man said, as they headed off to 301, a premium suite. This couple would enjoy the ambiance of our location appropriately, but instead of stealing the towels, they were liable to ruin the sheets with a profusion of blood.
I did value the couple’s appreciation for the unspeakable beauty that the universe could provide, not just on a small scale, like in a zzypprt flower, but on the grandest scale of all, short of the heavenly host actually breaking out of the celestial sphere and performing in front of us.
I commenced to worry about the couple. I’m ashamed to say that, in part, I was concerned about the mess they might make, if they chose some radical form of self-elimination. If they opened the windows, for example, their internal pressure would cause them to explode and splatter the walls. But I was also anxious on a simple human, or resigned-human, level. I wanted them to enjoy a pleasant stay until they went home, not until they went to Jesus.
An hour later, I heard a thump and splat. They had ignored the safety warnings, torn away the protective straps, and opened the window.
I called my cleaning service. Returning the suite to service cost me a bundle and took time.
Two months later, the suicidal couple walked through the door.
“We’re back,” Mr. Dubuque said.
“I thought you were dead,” I said. “Who was that, got killed in your room?”
“That was us,” Mrs. Dubuque said. “It turns out, when you die, you just show up somewhere else in the universe. The universe is so big, nobody ever noticed before. We want our old room back.”
“You’re not going to… to mess it up again?” I said.
“We sure are,” said Mr. Dubuque. “We’re as suicidal as ever.”
“Well, I can’t rent the room to you again. You’ve resigned from the human race, you know. Plus, your estate still owes me for the last time.”
“That was the former Mr. and Mrs. Dubuque,” said Mrs. Dubuque. “We haven’t resigned. We’re as human as you are. You are required to give us a room by the Hotelier’s Association Code. You are a member of the Association, are you not?”
I nodded, with great reluctance.
“We’ll pay in advance,” said Mr. DuBuque, holding out a credit card. “We appreciate that you’re trying to make a living, unlike us.”
A couple of hours later I felt the vibration and heard the splat.
When Abbott the drummer returned, I picked up his device and handed it to him.
“Didn’t it work?” he asked, amazed.
“It worked,” I said. “Only too well.”