If You Don't Like This Universe, Try Another One!
by Alternate Reality News Service staff
"The problem with pocket universes is that they don't fit in your pocket."
Ah, how often have we heard that since the Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS) adapted its patented Interstitial AnnihilatorTM for consumer use? Too often. And, you know, long after the feeble joke stopped being funny, there remained a kernel of truth in the observation.
The ARNS Home Universe GeneratorTM is a big black box about the size of a kitchen cabinet. (Consultant Steve Jobs has suggested that we offer it in a variety of pleasing colours. We'll see.) That and the fact that it needs to be hooked into a computer monitor or television set for display makes it somewhat less than portable.
This isn't entirely ARNS' fault. The original design called for a portal that would allow consumers to travel between universes, just as our reporters do. Well. As soon as they got wind of it, the Federal Transdimensional Travel Commission (FTTC) put a quick stop to that. "We have enough trouble keeping track of your lot - we're not going to let a bunch of untrained civilians stomp around the muiltiverse, destroying established timelines willy nilly!" FTTC Chair Olivia de Zourbraueten sternly wrote us.
The compromise we came up with was a machine that allows users to see into other universes. Sorry you didn't do more drugs when you were younger? Check in on a universe where you did and see how it would have changed your life. Sorry you did as many drugs as you did when you were younger? Same drill. Wonder what your life would have been like if you had run away and married that biker like you threatened? Or, if you hadn't pursued that career in ophthalmology? Or, if you had been born a squid? The ARNS Home Universe GeneratorTM allows you to see all of these possibilities, and so many more.
Some customers have complained about the safeguard that allows them to use the unit for only four out of every 24 hours. This was a compromise thrust upon us by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was concerned that some people would literally get lost in the infinite number of alternative lives which they could access, losing their life in this universe as a result.
And, there is some justification for this concern. We have started receiving reports of people starving to death at their Home Universe GeneratorTMs in Japan, where a hacker has already found a way to bypass the four hour a day limit. It would seem that some people can't resist one more tweak to the parameters, one more alternate universe to peek into, in much the same way that some members of a previous, simpler generation kept clicking on links in the early days of the World Wide Web.
There's even a name for this phenomenon: the ecstasy of infinity.
ARNS Laboratories is, of course, looking into a patch to fix the hack. Until then, if you suspect somebody you know of spending more time than is healthy in a Home Universe GeneratorTM, please report them to your local Transdimensional Authority (TA). For their own safety, of course.
We did manage to prevail upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which had pressured ARNS Laboratories to filter out business information, especially information relating to the stock market. As our lawyers pointed out, there are an infinite number of universes where a given stock, a combination of stocks and/or the market as a whole rise, just as there are an infinite number of universes where they fall, so alternate universes aren't a good indicator of what to expect in this universe.
On the other hand, as our literature makes clear, The ARNS Home Universe GeneratorTM is not a time machine; what appears on the screen from one universe happens in real time, corresponding, from moment to moment, to the time you watch in our universe. We cannot guarantee, therefore, that what you see on the screen will in any way be edifying, entertaining or even mildly interesting. If you find a particular alternate life is dull (or otherwise not to your taste), tweak the parameters and find another one. Customer satisfaction surveys over the five years since the Home Universe GeneratorTM was first introduced into the market have shown that if you keep at it, sooner or later you will find a universe you want to watch.
In a similar vein, we highly recommend that you do not allow children to use the Home Universe GeneratorTM unsupervised. ARNS takes no responsibility for children traumatized by finding a universe in which their parents have snuck home for a little afternoon delight.
Despite its limitations, used as directed The ARNS Home Universe GeneratorTM can provide you with a lifetime of fascinating experiences. Several lifetimes, in fact. Please remember: ARNS Laboratories recommends that our customers navigate alternate realities responsibly.