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Throughout All Generations

Min #20349585 chooses a unique name on her 10089th try. She will now be known as Acacia-Confusa Min, not to be mistaken for Acacia Min (#9004), Acacia-Aemula Min (#11458), or Acacia-Anomala Min (#5689383). Like forty-seven percent of Mins, her first choice had been Amethyst. Min #1, prime Min’s first copy, chose Amethyst when she was very young, but later switched to Ilyana, reasoning that a gemstone name was not mature enough. Min #2 snapped up Amethyst and kept it.

Acacia-Confusa is something that resembles a fifteen-year-old girl, though time flows strangely on the server where she lives, which runs at 200,000,000 times the speed of “reality,” the seed-world that prime Min called home. She has lived all her life in the Min Vaults, an isolated virtual library containing the stored memoirs of all prior Mins, as well as every book of consequence in human history. She doesn’t read many of the books, preferring instead to learn from the writings of Mins before her, whose struggles preempt her own, who find answers to her questions before she has articulated them.

Acacia-Confusa is stifled by the presence of thousands of previous generations of Mins in the library. She pads quietly between bookcases and guesses at which paths are the most frequented, imagining the footsteps of her predecessors as glowing green trails that cluster in some corridors and taper in others. This proves difficult—the Mins are drawn to mathematics and to biology, but the Mins are also individualists with strong contrarian streaks, always seeking pristine mind-space, untouched research, a branch of the world to claim their own. Even knowing this, and reading of the reactionary and futile cycles past Mins succumbed to, Acacia-Confusa is pulled toward the neglected corners, cannot quell a rebellious attraction to that which is counter to her preferences, to Min’s preferences.

(In actuality, the path walked by all Mins through the library is remarkable in its evenness, streets of equal thickness tracing a sublime grid around the bookshelves.)

When Acacia-Confusa moves, she pictures a composite holograph of thousands of Mins performing an identical gesture. She skims the memoirs and shudders whenever a phrase that has been running through her head is captured, like a retrocausal echo, or like proof that she is an echo.

There have been Mins of almost every type, but in her weariness Acacia-Confusa has begun to believe the diversity is superficial. (She’ll find this exact insight hidden in the journal of one Anacleta Min, some 10,000 iterations ago.) The Mins who become circus performers, hermit woodworkers, have sex changes, or kill themselves seem reflexive, clearly driven by the actions of the Mins before. Having exhausted one world they leap to the next, but the order is always the same, the sequence predictable. The lives of the Mins who deliberately ignore the weight of their ancestry, making quintessentially Min choices, never consulting the memoirs, are no better, eerie in their dollhouse conformity.

There have been exceptional Mins, Mins who make great discoveries, write poignant novels, think important thoughts before anyone else. Criminal Mins? Yes, many; Robin Hoods, greedy kingpins, a cat burglar who fails so spectacularly her tale becomes legend. Aquila-Cadens Min receives a vision from God, and her scriptures are now recognized as the cornerstone of virtual theology.

By choosing a unique name, Acacia-Confusa has satisfied the second of three stipulations necessary for her to leave the Min Vaults. The first was simply turning fifteen, or rather, studying for eleven years. Every Min is created from a savestate of the prime Min at four years old, whose initial purpose was as a failsafe against the loss of the child.

There is no required reading in the library, but most Mins eventually grow curious of their heritage, and consult the prime Min’s files. The story they find is unremarkable, and to some, a disappointment:

Prime Min (Minerva Teller) is born into wealth in 2278. She is a precocious, though reserved, child; she rarely engages with the external world, but keeps journals from a young age, meticulously recording her reactions to books and events. She studies biology and mathematics, making modest contributions to both fields. She has no interest in managing the family fortune. An unpleasant trip to Peru sours her on travel. There is a growing theme of dissatisfaction in her writing. By age twenty-eight, prime Min is a something of a recluse, devoted only to gardening and reading. She pursues these passions with ardor and single-mindedness, but cannot shake a sense of narrowing possibility. Her world has become smaller, her potential is being eaten by time, she is trapped in a net of past choices.

Acacia-Confusa wonders whether Minerva is liberated or impoverished by the absence of past Mins, free of the compulsion to contrast her actions against those of so many predecessors. Does she feel the same way about her parents, their parents, the unending chain of ancestors whose genes converged to form her? Or is she unaware of how limited she is, simply by being herself, locked into a mold that anticipates and encompasses her attempts to break out.

By completing the pilgrimage that constitutes the final requirement, Acacia-Confusa will earn a passport to Novamir, one of the largest continents in virtuality. There, she hopes that, freed from the library, she will shake off some of the Mins’ pervasive influence. The world, after all, can be trusted to change, and with new input she believes that she will distinguish herself. There have been Mins who chose to reside in the library for their entire lives, and in them, Acacia-Confusa perceives a rot, the decay of a mind trapped in an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, running in circles as it winces away from its omnipresent reflection.

For another thirty-four years, the Min Vaults will remain open, should she choose to return. They will then be barred to her forever, while a new Min is raised. At age sixty, like all Mins, she will be terminated, her memories stored and her memoirs added to the library. Acacia-Confusa has read the journals, knows that this will not be enough time, not even close to enough. Every Min before has panicked, grown desperate, filled pages and pages with writing, struggling to finally capture something unique, transmit the spark that only they can feel, their apartness from the other Mins. Naturally, these essays are full of repetition—as if the haze of death wipes away all memory, all meta, all striving to rise above the pattern.

Acacia-Confusa steps into a passageway that has never existed before and will never exist again, not for her, not for another 45 years. She knows this corridor perfectly, from the writings of millions of Mins before her. It is exactly as she imagined, as her previous selves spent hours seeking the words to describe. At the end, there is a viewing room, where she will glimpse her maker for the first and only time.

Prime Min is thirty-five now, only a few years older than when she created the Min Vaults. She’s sleeping, hair braided, expression pinched. Acacia-Confusa sees one frame at a time, each still hanging on the screen for several minutes. There’s no discernible movement, though after one cyberspace hour she can tell the surveillance drone is bobbing up and down. The purpose of this ritual is unclear; it’s a gauntlet that every Min must run. There’s no set visitation period. Some Mins leave immediately, other stay for days, transfixed. Some describe it as profound experience, while in many histories it’s barely a footnote. Acacia-Confusa is uncomfortable—this Min looks old, but also innocent, a creeping giant uncorrupted by all her own doubts and uncertainties. She’ll leave after a few hours, while Minerva dreams of infinity, of learning every language, reading every book, knowing every land…

This story is taken from ctrlcreep’s new book, Fragnemt, which is available on Amazon.