How many times have you been in near-death situations? Hopefully none. Hopefully you’ve never seen your life flash before your eyes. But there’s always been that case where you’ve stepped off the curb and nearly been clipped by a speeding vehicle, or you slip while going down the stairs and manage to catch yourself. Little moments like that.
But what if we think about the opposite? Think about how maybe you’re on the brink of death. Every time you close your eyes, every time you blink, you think it might be the last. But you’re stubborn. You’re desperately trying to cling on. Every time you open your eyes, you remember that you’re still alive.
For all you know, every time you close your eyes, you might not open them again.
In both the near-death and end of life scenarios, you could have died, but you didn’t.
Now consider this: Maybe you did die. Maybe, in each of those scenarios, you died. But you woke up. In a place where you didn’t die. In a timeline where you didn’t die. You woke up exactly where you would have left off hadn’t you died. And as far as you’re concerned, you didn’t die, you’re still clinging on.
There’s been a theory for a long time that there are different timelines. A huge number of them. I like to consider this the fifth dimension, a dimension made up of all the possible fourth dimensions of time, all the possible timelines that have been and gone. You’ve heard the story before. What if there was a timeline where you weren’t born, or where Hitler wasn’t born, or where Queen Victoria II wasn’t born, or where the first human was never born.
At the same time, this also means that there’s a multitude of timelines where you don’t die. That time a car nearly hit you? In another timeline, you did get hit and you died.
But what if you do get hit by that car and die? You simply wake up in a timeline where you didn’t die. You blink your eyes and hesitate, and the car zooms by. You could have fallen and broken your neck but you managed to grab that railing. Even while lying in a hospital bed, you blink and think you’re going to die, but are blessed with a few more minutes. In the universe you just died in, your family is mourning. In the universe you’re now in, your family is crying with joy that you made it.
Every time you die, you don’t.
And you might be none the wiser that any of this is happening.
In fact, you could essentially have infinite lives, because every time you die, you blink and reappear in a universe where you don’t. A bit like a video game, you reappear where you left off.
The problem with this sort of fifth dimension is that it’s infinite or nearly infinite, based on the infinite or nearly infinite possible things that could happen in all of existence. If you suggest there’s a timeline where you were born, that means there was a timeline where you were born fifteen earlier. And a timeline where you were born five minutes earlier. And a myriad of timelines in which you never made it to birth in the first place. This also means there’s a timeline (or maybe even an entire universe) created for every different thing that you do.
And then you have the infinite number of timelines for everyone else as well. It all ends up being insanely convoluted, what with there being an infinite number of timelines. Does everyone experience the same thing? Most likely yes. While there are billions of timelines where you didn’t die, there’s billions of timelines that your friend or your arch enemy doesn’t die either.
It all quickly turns into a massive mess.
Still, there’s a possibility in there somewhere. Maybe you don’t have infinite lives. But maybe, just for a while, you don’t die, you simply wake up elsewhere. Maybe we all in fact live until our bodies reach the end of our natural lives.
Of course, it’s all a bit pointless if you’re just a head in a jar and you’re dreaming all of this up.
“You done yet?” Arkadin grunted as the little thrope put down his sheet of paper.
“You sure?” The Lord of Death was not amused. This mortal had summoned him on his deathbed, and proceeded to waste Arkadin’s time.
“I am. But I have one question to ask of you.”
Arkadin rolled his eyes. “Fine. You’ve messed me around so far. Might as well let you ask a question.”
The thrope smiled, his life support beeping and hissing away. “All I want to know is whether I’m right or not.”
“You’re wrong.” Arkadin sighed. “Yes, there are an infinite number of universes but it is the universal constants that define them. Only one timeline is observed per universe, in a linear fashion.”
The mortal took a deep breath. They were clearly disappointed.
“And there’s no afterlife?”
“But there is a god of death.”
“And you never thought of making an afterlife?”
“With the sheer number of deaths per second, it’s simply not feasible.”
Arkadin reached for the switch to the mortal’s life support, then stopped. Instead, he got up and headed for the door.
“Where are you going, Angel of Death?” the mortal asked.
“Enjoy your extra time…” Arkadin smiled as he walked away. “You earned it.”