Stop me if you've heard this one. In the beginning there was nothing...
13.7 billion years later, there was everything. An infinite universe with infinite worlds, and among them, a single blue-and-green life bearing jewel, floating with its seven siblings around a single star, in a single spiral arm of a single galaxy. And we called it "Earth," because it's dirty and a bit of a mess, but good things grow out of it.
Now take a half-step back, not away from anything, but away from /everything./ Slip out of the three-piece suit of reality and into the comfortable pyjamas of imagination, and suppose, for a second, that somewhere in the infinite mirrored hallway of alternate dimensions, there is one where, in the beginning there was nothing, 13.7 billion years later there was everything, and a single blue-and-green life bearing jewel floats in space. And they call it "Earth," because it's dirty.
Now suppose that this Earth had a few more seeds planted on it, and that they produced a few extra sprouts. And suppose that these sprouts became part of a garden that looks much like ours, and which flowered into much the same history, resulting in much the same cities, most of the same inventions, and all of the same mistakes.
Let me put it another way.
Suppose that dragons are real, and are struggling to pay off their college loans...
Dennis looked down at the now still figure of what used to be his body. What surprised him the most was how unsurprised he felt - how little of ANYTHING he felt. He had, after all, nothing left to feel it with. It had been quick, at least, he'd give them that. Dennis wondered what the equation would be to calculate the force it had taken to sever his spinal cord, and found that it came to him as easily as it had in life. That was something, at least. He'd be upset if dying had made him forget how to do sums.
He watched his murderer ransack his former room dispassionately. Somehow he couldn't find it in himself to even be annoyed at the mess anymore. But something did linger at the edges of his soul, a nipping sense of regret. He felt bad for Louie. Louie had gotten him the job in the first place, and now he'd gone and gotten himself killed before he could serve out the contract. He wondered if that would cause a mess in the paperwork.
His murderer seemed to find what they were looking for. They stuffed it in their clothes and disappeared out the window from whence they'd come. Dennis watched them go. Then turned to the figure lurking behind him.
"Does something happen now?" he asked. Death waved a bony hand, and he found out.
Louie Rust was on the phone. He wanted desperately to be off it.
"My friend Margaret, you know Margaret, she's the one with the husband who runs the hairspray company, you know, the one for centaurs, and she says-"
"Yes, mom," said Louie.
"-and you could just try it for a week and you wouldn't have to stay for too long if you didn't like it but I just-"
"Yes, mom," he objected.
"-lots of opportunities you know if you just show up every day and apply yourself to-"
"Yes, mom," he opined.
"-but will you just please call her? I sent you her number, and she knows you'll be calling so please do it this time. Okay Louie?"
"Yes, mom," he lied.
"I'm just so worried you'll get left behind. The job market is really hard for people who don't have experience you know."
"Yes, mom," he disagreed.
"Ok I have to go, I have a meeting, but you will /call her/ all right? I'll see you next week. I love you."
"Yes, mom," he conceded, and she hung up.
Louie put the phone in his pocket, then took it out again. He took a selfie, and it came out awful. He put the phone away again and fiddled with it in his pocket. He wandered past shops and bodegas down Snakeskin Street, and bought a hot dog from a werewolf. It would be a full moon soon, judging by the man's beard. He considered tweeting something supportive about full moon awareness as he ate the last bit of sausage. He sidled into a comic shop and flipped through a few issues, then to a bookstore where he tried to look well-read for a selfie. It came out okay. He bought a paperback about economics and went to a cafe where the server got his name wrong. He tweeted something relatable about it. A couple of pretty elves giggled about something in the corner and he watched them surreptitiously for a while. He liked elves, but then, everybody did.
Louie Rust had a normal life. He'd been raised by normal parents in a normal house, gone to normal schools and made normal friends and, as is normal, promptly lost touch with them when he graduated college with a degree in English Literature. He had had the very normal ambition of becoming a famous something-or-other (he'd said "novelist" to his parents and "blogger" to his friends), producing the very normal outcome of listlessly drifting around the city in vague anticipation of the Big Break, always just around the corner.
When he finally took a sip of his coffee it had gotten lukewarm, and the autumn sun was setting. He sighed and left it, and left the café, and wandered into the chill to feel cold rather than useless.