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Ouroboros Wants a Word about Eternalism and Fundamental Attribution Errors
by Mike Hickman



Ouroboros snakes around the room, drink in hand, collecting canapés, and meets himself coming back the other way.

"Evening," he says, cheerfully.

"Is it?" he asks himself, comparing his own plate of canapés, now half eaten, with his other self's.

"Oh yes," he replies. "And morning, afternoon, night, and all stages in between."

They laugh, the pair of them, as they continue to snake around the room. At least three, maybe four, maybe an infinite number, of their other selves join in.

"You can't beat the old ones, can you?" asks a passing self.

"Absolutely not," says the self with the freshest plate of canapés, whilst picking up the plate, whilst entering the room, whilst being born and dying all at the same moment. "Or the new ones, the ancient ones, or the yet to be thought of ones."

"Like the glint in the milkman's eye, you mean," says another Ourobrous, cleaning up after the party and with Henry Hoover in hand.

"Steady now, we won't be having any of that smut here," says the perhaps first, perhaps last, Ouroboros.

They rest for a moment to watch the party, as they rest for a moment to watch the dying of the last embers of the final suns at the heat death of the universe.

They agree that this is, all things considered, really rather beautiful.

Which troubles them a little, all of them, because beauty is the most fleeting of all fleeting concepts and they have, all of them, spent an eternity and a fortnight attempting to find a definition for the term. Which leads them to think, all at once, of one particular party guest and – yes – there she is, standing alone in the corner of the room with her thoughts, and they know they are going to have to say something.

"I think it's my turn," says the first, perhaps last, perhaps always Ouroboros.

"Be my guest," say the others, as they contemplate the arrival of a new bottle of champers into the room and the instant mummification of the waiter carrying it.

"Penny for them?" Ouroboros asks the young lady in the corner.

This would be cheap at half the price, he thinks.

Or would that be several times the price.

She has so many thoughts.

And he thought he was deep.

And shallow. And every single point in between.

Which was kind of his job description, wasn't it?

"You've asked before," she says, with the wry look and the eyebrow raise. "And afterwards, and inbetween times."

"I know," says Ourobrous, his customary shiver and wriggle not disconcerting her one jot because she isn't the type to be disconcerted by theoretical constructs at New Year's Eve and End of the Universe and Birth of All Creation parties. "I'm asking again. And for the first time."

She sighs. "I just feel..." she says, and she looks at him, and he manages to stay in that picosecond, that svedberg, that jiffy for at least the time necessary to accommodate what he believes, at least, to be her essential beauty.

It is a few thousand years, then, before she finishes her sentence.

Perhaps a yottasecond or three.

The Henry Hoover drones away in the background.

"I just feel, when I'm here," she continues, now she can, "with these people, the ones who know me from before..."

Ouroboros knows the ones she means. He looks over at them, the middle-aged and older versions of them, standing with their own plates and drinks. One or two of them regarding the young woman and looking as if they know her, all of her. Something Ouroboros knows to be entirely impossible to the point of almost finding them charmingly naive. If he wasn't also a tad irritated with their certainties.

"I see them," Ouroboros says, not telling her how he sees them, fixed as they are to the start of the gossamer timeline he can see stretching from the centre of the soul to the furthest reaches of her lifespan.

And, of course, beyond, but to say more would be to give away far too many secrets to her about the truth of all things.

Not that he doesn't suspect she already knows.

"I just feel like... I'm regressing, you know. I'm that person again... They see me as the child and that's all I am, and everything – everything – I have been since is just..."

Her eyes are deeper even than Ouroboros' concept of eternity. He falls into them for a moment. Orbits them for a galactic year. It is still not long enough to contemplate their pull.

"You see yourself as they see you at that age, and you find it hard to remind yourself of everything you have been since, is that it?" Ouroboros gets it, he thinks, in one. Although they have had this conversation many times before, and since, and each time he has tried a different spin on the idea that time pulls her back, even when she is so far away from these people. Even when she has grown.

"How is it going?" asks a passing Ouroboros, freshly arrived with party invitation and paper hat.

"I've got this, I think," the first and perhaps last Ouroboros says. "For now, anyway," he adds, waving away any attempt from any of his other selves to define "now" when there is no definition, and neither will there ever be.

"Maybe they're right," the young woman says. "Maybe that is who I am, always." The eyes are at one and the same time sad and sparkling. She looks both sage and desperate for knowledge.

She is, Ouroboros wants to tell her, entirely perfect in her contradictions.

It is those who try to fix themselves in time, in place, in state who have it wrong.

He wants to tell her this.

He picks at his vol au vents and he tunes in and out of the background radiation of the chatter in the room as he determines that perhaps he needs to tell her this.

And then, as is so often the case, he is whisked away – plate and canapés and all – by himself rushing back towards him from ahead and above – and there is another him standing there in front of the young woman.

And he has something else to tell her.

The creature who exists at all times, all at once and never at all, has something else she needs to know.

"It is who you always are," he says. "And, to a degree, they're right," he tells her. And then he looks at the thread that stretches away from her into the future and all she is now and all she will be. "I mean, look at me," he says. "You are always that person," he says, "just as you are always these people, too..." He plucks playfully in the direction of the thread that he would not dare disturb, for she has been, always will be, always will have been, far too precious to him.

The young woman turns to look at the thread she cannot quite see. She meets the eyes of the hypothetical entity she cannot see, either.

And he tries to give her a reassuring smile, an empathetic nod, a succession of gestures and emotions that encompass everything he is. And everything he feels for her.

And, because she is who she is, and she stands where she is in relation to the room, she sees those alright.

And she hears his explanation of eternalism and fundamental attribution errors and beauty and love and capability and everything, everything he knows her to be. To have always been. Because how can she be here if she hasn’t always been that person?

"Canapé?" Ouroboros asks, arriving in the room and spying the first of the proferred trays.

"Why not?" the young woman replies, arriving herself, again, and with only the most passing of nods to the self she sees standing in the corner.



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