‘It’s this universe you sold me last week.’
‘Oh, yes. The NuCreation 159B – Model x1W? What’s wrong with it?’
‘It doesn’t work.’
‘Really? That is unusual. The x1W is usually very reliable. Most of the supreme beings we’ve sold it to down the aeons have been very satisfied with it.’
‘Well, this one. It just sits there. The planets don’t even orbit.’
‘Really. Would you mind stepping into the back, into the workshop, and I’ll get one of our quantum mechanics to have a look at it.’
‘Couldn’t you just give me a new one?’
The counter assistant sucked his teeth, shaking his head slowly. ‘Thing is, sir, you’ve had it out of the box.’
‘Well, how else would I tell if it is working or not?’
‘True. But I don’t make the rules. You see, once you set the celestial spheres in motion, it is no longer new, is it? Do you see my point?’
‘Yes, but that is the point. The celestial spheres didn’t get into motion. Not even once.’
‘Thing is – though – the x1W.’ The assistant looked across the shelves of universes, stretching out to infinity and the escalator to the first floor beyond that.
‘What about it? The Supreme Being shifted about in his robe. It was a new one. The wife had bought it for him for his birthday, and it made him itch. But as she’d pointed out, that was the problem with immortality. It made it very hard to think of new birthday presents. He’d asked her what was wrong with the beauty product gift pack he always bought her for her birthday, but then she had given him one of those looks, and he’d – wisely – dropped the matter.
The robe still itched though.
‘It’s a discontinued model.’
‘Oh. I thought you said it was popular… and reliable?’
‘It was, but you know even in universes fashions change. Even immortal beings like a bit of novelty now and then. Take the new ‘in thing’.
The assistant leant forward over his counter towards the Supreme Being. ‘Intelligent life.’
‘What? No, really?’
‘Evolution? I thought that was last aeon’s thing?’
‘Well, they had a few teething troubles, couldn’t get the parts apparently.’
‘Oh, some bright universe designer fresh out of art college came up with the idea of reusing the existing parts for something else, adapting them.’
‘Did it work?’
‘Apparently. He is a multi-millionaire now. He goes out with all the Sex Goddesses. Fertility rites every night… probably.’
The Supreme Being sighed. He remembered when his wife was a Sex Goddess, back aeons ago when they were young gods, and everything seemed possible.
‘How long would it take to fix?’
‘Well, you are immortal… you know about time.’
The Supreme Being nodded.
‘Listen,’ the assistant leant back over his counter again. ‘I could do you a favour.’
‘I’ll take this one back, put it down as damaged stock, and knock 15% of the price of one of these new universes. How about that, as a gesture of good will?’
‘They are all the rage. You’ll have jealous gods, your neighbours, queueing up to have a look at your intelligent life, evolving all over the place. A great conversation piece at parties.’
His wife liked parties. He didn’t, but a happy wife was a quiet life, or so he’d been told, anyway. ‘It’s a deal.’
‘Right.’ The assistant reached behind the counter and lifted a large box onto the counter. ‘Any problems just bring it back, and we’ll take a look at it for you, on the house.’
‘Thanks.’ The Supreme Being took the box. It was heavier than it looked, but he was meant to be omnipotent, so he tried not to show the strain as he walked out of the shop.
Behind him the assistant smiled, now one step closer to this aeon’s sales bonus.