What had I been doing all this time, I asked myself? Not enough obviously. Fred (the talking fox) was still convinced that the erosion of the dimensional barrier was being done intentional. Beast agreed with him. They both cited some rather made-up sounding scientific jargon to prove their assertion.
I briefly wondered if I should have alerted all the other geeky brainiacs that I know. Reed Richards, Tony Stark, those kinds of people. No point in causing a panic, I had thought. Oh well, too late know.
As I sat alone in my office with the lights out, my mind wondering which Hollywood starlet I would most want to spend my last moments of life with, when Gaia came bursting in.
"Professor!" she shouted.
"Hmm, what?" I answered, recovering myself.
"I think I figured out who is creating all these dimensional rips!"
"Really? That's wonderful! Who?"
"Galactus? I doubt it."
"But . . but why not? He's really powerful and he wants to destroy the Earth!"
"That's true, but he doesn't just want to destroy it, he wants to eat it. And we haven't seen any heralds and Reed Richards has some kind of Galactus detector. Plus Jean kicked his ass so I doubt he's planning on coming back here anytime soon. He's all about survival. This is all about total destruction."
"Well, the other guy I was thinking of was the Watcher."
"The Watcher. You know."
"No, never heard of him," I told her.
"Sure you have. He's a big bald guy. Lives on the moon. Watches people all day."
"I'd think I'd remember if I'd ever heard of someone like that."
"Well, he's met the Fantastic Four a couple of times. He tries to keep a low profile. Anyway, he's part of a whole race of guys that just watch planets."
"That sounds . . perverted. What could their justification for such bizarre behavior possibly be?"
"I'm not really sure why they do it, but they exist across all the dimensions and they watch each either other, too. Since they keep themselves isolated from others, they're kind of lonely."
"And how do you know all this, Gaia?"
"Well I have been around for thousands of years, Professor. And I do have experience with dimensional hopping myself."
"Assuming your tale of an entire species of peeping-toms is true, the thing that I don't quite get is, why would he want to destroy all of reality?"
"I don't know, but Beast was able to pinpoint the origin of the cosmic disruption, and it's the moon!"
"Why didn't you say that in the first place!? We have to get a spaceship and -"
With a Bewitched twink of her nose, Gaia and I were suddenly under a giant glass dome. Clearly visible through the glass was the Earth, looking rather blue and lovely in the distance. All around was the lunar landscape. Inside the dome, looming next to some giant computer banks, was a rather strange looking robed man with a giant bald head. He reminded me of a Hari Krishna, though I didn't say anything. I find people can be touchy about religion.
"Excuse me," I said,"are you the, um, Watcher?"
The oversized man slowly turned his massive head towards me. He looked briefly startled to see people, but then his expression quickly returned to the same doleful look on his face. Misery just radiated from him.
"Please don't take this the wrong way," I continued, "but are you in any way responsible for the imminent destruction of all of reality?"
As I spoke the air around us began to vibrate slightly. Glancing to the Earth, I could see a strange light start to envelope it. Clearly the last moments were upon us.
"You see, I was hoping that if you were the cause, I might be able to talk you out of it."
For the longest moment the Watcher said nothing. Finally he spoke in a soft, gloomy voice. "It is too late to stop the process. In just a few more minutes, I will finally be free."
Refusing to give up so easily, I asked, "Free from what?"
I could see he was debating internally about whether to waste his breath answering me, but thankfully he did. "Free from my slavery. I am practically an immortal, you see. And I am doomed for to watch the pathetic struggles of the people on your world. All the people. All the time. For my enitre, very long, life."
"Hmm, yes. I can see how that might get to one after -"
"Murray Abraham of Yonkers New York, for instance," he continued, ignoring me. "Did you know that he had a slight case of indigestion after eating his wife, Estelle's, strudel last night? It kept him up for about half an hour. Consequently he was a bit drowsy when he awoke. After he got out of bed though, he felt much better and went to work."
"Yes, that certainly does sound boring. Hardly a reason to destroy all-"
"But that's not the worst bit," he went on. "You see, my duties require me to be aware of everyone on Earth's life across all the alternate universes. On the 219 Earth, for instance, Murray's drowsiness caused him to sleep through his morning alarm clock. Consequently he was late for work, again, and his boss reprimanded him. Murray was feeling a bit grumpy due to his lack of adequate rest and he snapped back. His boss, who had lost quite a bundle on poker the night before, lost his self-control and fired Murray. Miserable and dejected, Murray drove home without paying close attention to the road. He wound up getting into a fatal car accident. Estelle collected $500,000 dollars on his life insurance policy and moved to Florida where she met Ethan Tannenbaum, a retired butcher, and lived happily ever after."
"Yes, that is a very nice story," I said, trying to hide my growing concern. Everything around us was starting to dissolve into a dull grayness and I could feel increasing pressure in the air. "But you see, if you destroy everything, then poor Estelle doesn't get to live happily every after. That wouldn't be fair to her would it? Murray's sacrifice would have been for nothing."
"All these lives are insignificant. By merging all realities into one, then there will be only one Murray Abraham and I will no longer have to concern myself with What Ifs."
"I can certainly see the benefit of that, however the thing you don't seem to have realized is, the basic substructure of all the multi-verse is a dimension of incredible force. Like one giant black hole, the source of all matter and energy. If you merge all the dimensions, then that base layer will destroy everything."
I could see the Watcher stare into space for a moment. He looked to be concentrating. Then he started nodding. The pressure around us was increasing dramatically. My ears were pounding and everything looked red. This was it.
Through the haze I could see the Watcher reach out and flip a switch on one of his machines. Suddenly the pressure stopped and everything was back to normal.
"That's it?" I said after a moment. "All you had to do was flick that little switch?"
"What were expecting?" he asked. "A big explosion? Dancing girls?"
"No, that was just fine. So . . you won't be doing that again, right?"
The Watcher let out a long sigh. "No, I won't do that again. And I'll be sure to let all my counterparts know about the futility of trying to free ourselves from out lot. Thanks, I guess."
And with that he waved his hand and Gaia and I were back in my office.