With a whimper.

There was once a man named Barry. A detective from England who drank too much coffee to counter insufficient sleep. He was, it has to be said, a drab figure. Hardly likely to inspire even the easily lead to anything beyond deep disinterest. Nevertheless, Barry was good at his job. Too good, some might say. Barry’s superiors handed him a case they were sure he would fail to close. Not that it matters, as you will soon see.

The detective was tasked with bringing to justice a gifted criminal many believed might not actually exist. The criminal was known as Jack. Jack lived in a large house in Kent less than twenty miles from Barry’s modest two-bedroom terrace house. This is unimportant. Likewise, it is not relevant that the criminal empire left no trace even as its exploits were felt at the highest levels. These effects were not, it must be added, felt by average citizens – they were, as usual, blissfully unaware – but people whose job it is to stop other people taking things that are not theirs – such as time, mind-boggling wealth, and the lives of the sort of powerful people that usually owned time and mind-boggling wealth – those people noticed. They noticed and they worried.

This is not the story of the detective; nor of Jack. This might not even be the world where it occurred. We present, instead, a drab man who worked in a video game shop in Kent, England. Barry was the man’s name. He had considered joining the police force but, when the day came, he slept in late and missed out. This is not a Barry story. His only contribution to this tale is that on the night in question, he said “screw it,” locked up early, and went home. This alone is critically important. For, when – some minutes later – another man would try to purchase the most important computer game in the world, he would fail. That game – one from which destinies hung – is not important. Largely because its one true purpose was entirely unrealised. Best to forget it lest it drive you mad and you become aware of changes you can do nothing to investigate.

They say that sometimes the flap of a single butterfly wing can change the course of a storm. In this case, one drab Barry prevented a series of world-changing events and in so doing rewrote the fate of every living being. The man who should have purchased this game – whose name is, as a result, utterly irrelevant – cursed, kicked over an empty beer can, and went home where he would reheat some pasta before watching the news. Never knowing that he should have been setting out on the wildest of adventures. Instead, it rained slightly and nothing more.

The only creatures to notice the world had gone off course were cats, a man in a padded room, and a bumblebee with six and a half seconds left to its life. The bee, as I am sure you can imagine, was unable to do much except fail to avoid an oncoming truck. The madman tried to tell the world but men considered irredeemably insane are rarely listened to by people who think they know better.

As for the cats, most cats are utter bastards and, with one exception, they decided to have a nap and enjoy knowing yet another secret. Cats do this far more often than you might imagine. There is probably a cat within shouting distance right now that knows something that could change your life forever. It will never tell you what it knows and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

One cat did something else entirely. Being a cat, it first knocked a few items from the nearest coffee table before exiting via an open window to better watch the world end. This was not our world. Maybe it was not any world. Nevertheless, exactly six seconds before the end, two insignificant humans found a way to no longer be there. This story is not about them. Ignore them.

The world ended. This was a process that was enjoyed by no living creature except a few cats. Cats, as was said before, are total bastards. This story is about the cats; now it is over.


What if, by some happenstance, Barry was prevented from leaving – or at least delayed – that night. What was so important about the game and how can it save the world? Why did the cats know? The only thing we know for sure is that Barry, Jack and two insignificant humans were not involved. Of these known facts, a set of stories to be relayed to you later; in some reality at any rate. Of the remaining questions, there is more than a little doubt. Whatever story you tell in answer to these questions will be true in some world, somewhere; so you might as well tell them however you see fit.

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