The Last Time My Twin Destroyed The World… - Uncharted

The Last Time My Twin Destroyed The World…

By Michael Barron

The last time my twin destroyed the world left me unprepared for what came next.

I found them in one of the southern hemisphere’s largest forests, shattering tree limbs and crushing trunks.  Millions of birds darkened the sky. Ants and beetles transformed the ground into a wriggling ocean of legs and antennae.

 “You’re fine.” I called to my friends as I tried to protect a few between my toes. I turned to my twin.  “Stop this. The world is acceptable the way it is.”

“Everything’s wrong,” they said, as if to themselves. Shaking their head, they walked away, too furious to see the stump lying in their path. I opened my mouth to warn them, but half a second before any sound emerged, I heard a toe-splitting crack that made my own foot ache. My twin stumbled back, screaming curses I’d never heard, and I’d been around forever. With a tear-drenched roar, they ripped the stump in two.

Within a matter of hours, they transformed over a million acres of forest into a desert of splinters. When they were through with the forest, they did the same with the rest of the continent. Finally, they summoned an all too familiar tidal wave of white fire and lightning, obliterating the planet.

Afterward, the only specks of my creation that remained were half a dozen ants who managed to find protection between my toes. However, they were soon smothered in the void that always came after my twin’s fits of desperation. 


My only job was to construct the world. Everything that came afterward was out of my hands.

At the beginning of each cycle, I reached out at the precise moment the world was meant to be formed, gathered dust and rocks, and merged them together. A nearly constant bombardment of meteorites added to the mass. Eventually, the sphere cooled, oceans rose, and – like clockwork – life began. Extinction followed prosperity, only for more species to flourish, until the (seemingly) never-ending pattern concluded. Oceans evaporated. Plants, animals, fungi and even bacteria died off. The sun expanded, swelling into a red giant. And at the ripe age of twelve billion years, my planet was consumed by the same furnace that once gave it life.

Every time this happened, I was thrown back to the very beginning, where I took three deep breaths – although there was no oxygen – and began the cycle once again.

That’s all there was to it. I created the world and witnessed the predictable outcome.  

Surely, there was a first time. I simply couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t even recall why I was the one who had this job or why the world needed to be made an infinite number of times. Why not four times? Or eighty-seven? Or nineteen and a half? Or once?

During my most rebellious moments, I considered what would happen if I allowed the rocks and dust to drift onward into nothingness.  Would some long-forgotten supervisor come along and shout, “Hey! Lazy bones! Get back to work!” Would someone in charge of one of the other worlds ask why I was slacking? Were there others like me? If so, why didn’t they reach out? We had so much to talk about.


The notion crept up on me over the course of several cycles. At first, it was a sliver of a concept hiding in the shadows. Then it stalked me through the underbrush of my consciousness, keeping a safe distance. Finally, as I trudged through an icy tundra during my planet’s last ice age, it pounced, a fully formed idea with claws and teeth.

I tried to laugh it away, but the idea clung on. Even as the ice melted and the sun expanded, destroying my planet, it stuck with me.

At first glance, the idea was deceptively simple: if there was no one around who could help me work out why I was here, then I should create such a person.

It wasn’t that I was lonely. Far from it. All I had to do was mold the planet, wait a few hundred million years, and I’d have countless microscopic lifeforms to keep me company. However, no matter how advanced those organisms became, they never provided satisfying answers.

Forming a companion would be a great deal easier than constructing a planet. However, I had never made anyone like me before. I couldn’t recall ever doing anything for the first time.


Out of all the civilizations that emerged on my small, blue world, my favorite was an ant colony on an island off the coast of the largest continent. During its golden age, this community possessed over three hundred million workers, hundreds of thousands of queens, and the single goal to improve the colony.

The same way I lived my life with the single goal to create the world.

Sometimes, I joined the mob of ants, scurrying through tunnels, hunting food, and charging back with messages of danger or resources. At first glance, the frenzy appeared to be senseless chaos, but it was chaos with a purpose.

The colony typically thrived for centuries. However, during one cycle, an alteration took place. A thunderstorm that had never existed before struck the island, sweeping the apex civilization out to sea.

There was nothing the ants could do but writhe as they drowned, crushed beneath mud and rock, unable to reach their eggs. I wanted to step in, save my friends, and make everything right. That was not my purpose, though. All I could do was stand back, watch them die, and hope to meet them again in the next cycle.

After the storm dissipated, I meandered through the wreckage. Not a single tree remained. Many of the local birds flew to the mainland, bringing with them a disease that was normally contained to the island. This plague burned through the bird population before jumping to mammals. Predators perished, prey flourished, consumed all their resources and eventually starved. Before long, the ecosystem was left unrecognizable.

Alterations had occurred before. A family of beavers might build their dam slightly further upriver, or a fox might eat a rabbit that was typically caught by a bobcat. None had ever been this widespread before. When I could finally look away, I sank into the earth’s core, where I waited for the sun to expand and throw me back to the very beginning.


When, at last, that cycle concluded, I reached out to form the world again, but my hand froze. Surely this next cycle would be a pallet cleanser, one that proceeded according to schedule. But I had no way to guarantee that. Even if this next cycle was perfect, it would only be a matter of time before I reached an alteration that was even worse.

My outstretched hand shook.

It was during that moment of weakness that I succumbed to the idea.

Creating someone like me was so simple, I hardly realized what I was doing before it was done. One instant, I stood alone. The next, I’d split myself in two, and an identical stranger stood beside me.

We stared at each other. The cold fingers of doubt were creeping in when they asked, “Do you know why this is happening?”

“No,” I responded, aware that the moment was fast approaching when I would need to start the world.

“Do you know where this is all going?”

“I was hoping you could help me with that.”

“Right.” They stared into the spot where my – our – world would soon begin its rotation. “Maybe things will become clearer if we go through it together.”

And so we created the world, side by side. Our planet went through the usual motions (the barrage of meteors, oceans, life, etc.) until the sun consumed it.

When we found ourselves back at the beginning, my twin opened their mouth to ask something, but I accidentally interrupted. “What did you think?”

They laughed. “That’s what I was going to ask you.”  Their laughter faded to a smile, which twitched, took on a slight edge of nervousness, and finally transformed into an expression I couldn’t identify.  “It could be better.”


My twin nodded but not in agreement. They were nodding along to something running through their own head.


Soon enough, I forgot all about that word: “better.” Surely, it wasn’t anything to worry about, and why worry when I was having so much fun with my new sibling? I’d never had anyone join me through the changing seasons of ice ages and tropical epochs. We cheered as bacteria battled and split apart, joked as we strolled through labyrinthine root systems, and of course, flew with bees, burrowed with earthworms and ran with ants.

Experiencing the world with someone else reminded me of everything I had once enjoyed. I observed the artwork raindrops made along leaves and listened to the music of shifting tectonic plates.

My twin enjoyed all this and more. They took particular interest in the planets, suns, and galaxies beyond our atmosphere.

“What are you doing?” I asked one evening, stepping between them and the sky.

“The universe looks so perfect compared to our messy little world.”

“Everything looks perfect if you stand back far enough.”

We continued our trek across the desert. My twin was silent for so long that I assumed the conversation was over, but they eventually asked, “Why do we do this over and over?”

“I was hoping you’d help me with that question.” Honestly, I had been having so much fun I’d forgotten the initial reason I’d split myself in two.

They nodded, staring back at the stars. “Maybe during the next cycle, I’ll stand back while you create the world yourself.”

I stumbled. “Then what would you do?”

“I’ll find something.” They picked up their pace. I had to run to keep up.  


Sometime after I’d lost count of how many cycles we’d spent together, we reached an alteration that was more devastating than anything I had ever witnessed. It took place when a particular species of primates dominated the planet. They were one of those flash-in-the-pan, blink-and-you’ve-missed-it species that existed for a few thousand years before dying in a mass extinction of their own making.

During this one particular cycle, two of their largest civilizations made contact eight generations ahead of schedule. Battles were fought that had never been fought before, children died who were meant to grow old, and babies were born who had never existed. Those babies went on to create unprecedented weapons, laws, scientific theories, and music, which inspired others to conceive even more babies.  

As with my ant colony, I found myself at a loss, unable to repair the situation.

My twin, on the other hand, stepped forward and released a single, earth-shattering clap, summoning a tidal wave of white fire and lightning that crashed against the planet. Trillions of species were snuffed out, continents shattered, the foundations of the earth crumbled, and we were prematurely flung back to the very beginning.  

“Why would you do that?” I shouted as soon as I caught my breath.

“That cycle was a waste.” My twin shrugged, walking away. “Seeing it through would have been pointless.”

“Pointless?” I still felt the fire against my skin. I wanted to rage, shout, scream, and throttle, but I was so overwhelmed by what had happened – and terrified of what would happen if we fought – I stepped back. “I didn’t know we could do that.”

“We can do whatever we want.”


A few cycles later, massive migrations occurred all over the globe. Hornbills and jaguars headed for the deserts. Frogs and crocodiles made pilgrimages to the coastlines. Mountain cats descended to the prairies. Thousands of species crisscrossed one another during their worldwide relocation. A few adapted. Some even thrived. Billions were lost. 

The devastation made me want to sink back into the earth’s core. I turned to my twin. “Why do you think—”

They were already spreading their hands wide.        


They struck their palms together, drowning us all in fire and lightning.


A few world-shattering alterations later, jungles appeared at the north pole, melting the ice caps, drowning my favorite island before the ants even built their colony.

As I stormed up to my twin, I kept my back straight and my voice steady when I said, “You’re the one causing all these alterations, aren’t you?”

“Oh, most definitely.”

“You—” I stumbled. Out of all the scenarios I’d imagined, I hadn’t expected them to come out and admit it. “Why?”

“Because there have never been jungles in this part of the world. I wanted to see if it would be an improvement.” They glanced at the rising ocean. “It’s not.”

“Of course it’s…. Stop!” I grabbed their hands before they could clap the world out of existence. “Why do you do this? Are you bored?”

“We have every millimeter of a constantly developing world to explore. There’d be something wrong with me if I was bored.”

I nodded, pretending I wasn’t often bored to tears.

“You seriously don’t get it?” they asked. “This world is a mess. Animals go hungry. Weather ravages ecosystems. Civilizations last just long enough to trash everything before—”

“Your ‘improvements’ only make things worse, and then you destroy everything.”

“At least I’m trying. You keep the world stagnant, no variety, no progress, no ambition. It’s just the same thing over and over again.”

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”


“Because….” I stopped myself from blurting, “That’s the way it’s always been.”

My twin nodded knowingly as if I had spoken this lamest of excuses. But what they said was, “I miss you. I miss exploring with you, chatting with you.  I miss being just like you. But I can’t live with stagnation. We need to study, experiment, move things around, and if the world isn’t going in the right direction, we need to start over.”


We formed a routine. Every time we were thrown back into the void, my twin would stand back and watch me create the world. As we wandered the developing sphere, I kept an eye on them, making sure they didn’t disrupt the cycle. However, just as the first cyanobacteria began to produce oxygen, they always slipped away, leaving behind a trail of alterations.

Deserts became gardens, disrupting evolutionary paths and weather systems. My twin flooded environments with “alternative species,” animals, and plants that were more adapt at surviving. Eventually, they went through a bird phase, tinkering with the volume songbirds could produce, so they deafened predators and any other animals within a half-mile radius. When they were done with birds, they focused on fungi, giving mushrooms and mold poisonous barbs. After that killed most of the life on the planet, they returned to animals, shaping the world so all the carnivores evolved to become herbivores. This was meant to help them conserve energy – replace hunting with grazing – but they eradicated most plant life.

There were a few cycles they terminated before the crust even hardened, decimating my planet during its infancy. “I could already tell it was going to be a mess.”

Most of the time, I wasn’t even present when they clapped their hands. I’d be

wandering through a marsh or grasslands, enjoying the world. Then, the sunlight would be replaced by a blistering white illumination. I’d look up to see a wave of fire and lightning crashing down out of the clear blue sky. All there would be for me to do was look around and say goodbye to the water, plants, rocks, air, and animals, promising we’d someday meet again.


We inevitably reached the cycle when I found my twin in one of the largest forests in the southern hemisphere, shattering limbs and ripping trunks in two.

 “Why do you keep doing this?” I asked afterward, standing in the void, ant corpses stuck between my toes. 

They tried to charge away, only there wasn’t anywhere to charge, not yet.

“Take three deep breaths. That helps me.”

I expected them to scream at me or at the very least, point out there wasn’t any air to breathe, but they inhaled and exhaled three times.

When they were done, I said, “That’s the first time you ever tore a continent apart with your bare hands.”

Their back was still to me when they said, “I couldn’t get the temperature right. I was so close to making everything perfect, but the weather…. I overreacted.”

“You couldn’t make the world exactly the way you wanted, so you tore it apart?”

They remained silent long enough to make it clear they weren’t going to respond. At last they said, “You’d better get busy starting the world again.”

My throat was so dry, I could hardly form the word. “No.”

They faced me.

“No. I won’t create a world just for you to tear apart.”

“I told you. I overreacted. Next time, I’ll humanely euthanize the planet.”

“With a tidal wave of fire and lightning? No. I’m through. Until you promise to stop torturing my creation, we’ll just stand here staring at each other.”

My twin smiled as if impressed, but their voice was flat when they said, “If you say so.” With that they reached into the void and gathered hundreds of billions of tons of rock and dust.

I had gone through the process enough times to already tell that the sphere they were forming wasn’t my planet. It was a cumbersome beast with mountains that breached the atmosphere. The foundations weren’t stable enough. There would be constant earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Life might eventually emerge, but it would be sparse and miserable.


“It’s just a shitty rough draft. I’m playing around with a few ideas I’ve been—”

“There’s not supposed to be any ‘shitty rough drafts.’ Stop it.”

“The creatures who develop here won’t know any difference. They—”

“STOP IT!” I clapped my hands. 

It wasn’t until I heard the rumble and felt the fire on the back of my neck that I realized what I had done. I stared as my twin’s sad, ambitious planet was obliterated by my own wave of fire and lightning. “I’m sorry”


“I can’t believe you did that,” my twin said after we found ourselves back at the beginning. “You preach and nag me about how destruction is wrong, but you—”

I grabbed them by their throat and squeezed.

You might expect a battle between us to consist of tornadoes of lightning or avalanches of ice, but it was just the two of us, grappling with one another, rolling across the nothingness.

In the back of my mind I became aware that the point of time where I should be creating the world was fast approaching, but I was unable to take my hand off their throat long enough to form my planet.

The appointed moment came and went. None of that mattered. Nothing mattered as long as my twin still existed.

At last, long after I should have had an infant sphere of molten rock, I pinned them down in the nothingness. They pushed against me, but I had them where I wanted.  

As I leaned down, suffocating them, they realized what was about to happen.  “No!”

It was too late.  I could never go back to simply being a creator. No matter what, I would always be someone who caused destruction.  


But I could make it so that never happened again.


I inhaled, reabsorbing my twin.


They were gone. At long last, I was the only one who remained. Quivering, I rolled over and wept.


Eventually, I managed to pull myself up and created my small world. However, I was late. Different meteorites collided with the sphere in different areas at different points of time. Eventually, the surface did cool, and the oceans formed, creating a landmass that split apart into continents. These continents were almost unrecognizable, though. Life did come about. Some of the species were even familiar, but they headed down alien evolutionary paths that had never been explored before. I told myself that was fine. I simply had to see the world through to the end. This would be the final cycle my twin would contaminate. After this, every world I created would be the same.

But my twin wasn’t entirely gone. Age by age, I felt them wriggling inside me, observing the alterations, even taking pleasure in the novel species and ecosystems. I tried to stifle them, hold them back. Of course, there might be some improvements, but this was not the way the world was meant to be.


I sat with my legs dangling over the cliff’s edge. Typically, this spot was home to the greatest civilization the world would ever know, but during this cycle, it possessed nests of tiny pink insects. I already knew what I was about to do, but I still put it off. I waited so long, the sunset and the stars came out.

Now that I was sitting alone, taking the time to contemplate the view, I had to admit that from this distance, the universe did look perfect.

I released my breath. It carried the taste of an oncoming electrical storm. The taste still lingered on my tongue when my twin formed, standing beside me on the cliff.

We no longer looked anything alike. That made sense. Nothing remained identical forever. 

“You’re a bastard.” They took their seat beside me.

You’re the one who keeps—” I cut myself off. “I don’t want to argue.”

They flicked a pebble off the cliff. “So why am I here?”

No more delay. We were cutting to the point.           

“I want you to destroy the world.”

They clutched a hand to their chest in mock astonishment. “I am shocked and offended. How can you ask such a thing?”

“This world is a mess, and it’ll just drag on for another eight billion years. I need you to destroy it so we can start over with a world that’s at least recognizable.”

My twin looked about, taking in the plants, ocean, sky, dirt and insects. “Nope.”

“Excuse me?”

“I want to see how this one plays out.”

“I told you. It’s a mess.”

“How is this a mess?” They held out their finger and allowed one of the tiny pink insects to land on the tip. “Look at this critter. We’ve never had them before. I want to see what happens to them.” The insect fluttered away. “But if you hate it so much, destroy it yourself.”

“That’s not who I am.”

“Then I guess we’re stuck here for eight billion years.”

I considered this, considered all the alterations I would face and how off the rails this cycle would become.

For the second time, I stretched out my arms to clap the abomination out of existence.     

My twin caught my wrists. “You’ve spent countless cycles with the same ants and trees and sea horses. But the organisms on this world have never existed. Don’t they deserve a chance?”

I pushed against them, closing the gap between my palms. “What’s one more world to you?”

They pushed back. “You’ll hate yourself for it.”

I tried to wriggle free, but they clung on.

“You split yourself apart to figure out why we had to keep doing this….”

 They weren’t as strong as me. My palms closed together.

“….Well, here’s one theory: maybe we’re given all these cycles to make changes.”

All the strength drained from my arms—or at least enough for them to throw my hands apart.

I tumbled into the grass.

“What’s wrong with change?” they asked. “And don’t tell me things shouldn’t happen just because they’ve never happened before because we both know that’s bullshit.”

I heard myself say. “If I can make changes, then that means I could’ve been helping the world this whole time, and I haven’t been.”

I expected them to retort, point out this isn’t an excuse to never try to make things better, but they just shook their head.        

I pulled myself up, and we sat side by side, staring out across the ocean. At least a hundred waves crashed against the rocks while we each waited for the other to talk. The only other sound on the island was the howl of one of the marine mammals down in the bay. This island never had creatures like that before. But that still doesn’t change the fact: “I miss all the species and land formations that should be here.”

My twin rolled their eyes as if I’d confirmed something they’d always known about me.

“But….” I hurried to add. “This world isn’t a total abomination.”

“Don’t hurt yourself.”

I stared straight into their eyes. “You need to stop destroying cycles that don’t meet your expectations. It’s cruel and pointless, and if you’d seen them to the end, you might have found something you liked.”

“Two seconds ago, you were trying to get me to destroy this cycle.”

“Do you want to argue, or do you want to come to an agreement?”

They crossed their arms. “Go on.”

One of the tiny pink insects landed on my foot, tickling my smallest toe. “We can make a few changes. Maybe form the world an instant or two before or after it’s meant to… it usually comes into being. It won’t be perfect; you need to get that foolish idea out of your head, but we might find something… interesting.”

“Or at least a little better.”

“But you need to promise to stop it with the fire and lighting, okay?”

“What if we can already tell the world will be a disaster?”

“Then it’ll be a temporary disaster because eventually….” I made a motion with my hands, imitating the sun expanding.

They never agreed to my deal, but when I stood, they took my hand and let me pull them up. We walked along the cliff and eventually down to the ocean, where we wandered across the waves, debating, arguing, and occasionally agreeing. We had no guide or map. An infinite number of worlds lay before us, an infinite number of miracles and disasters, miseries and laughter, discoveries and questions, all of which would lead to inevitable conclusions.

About the Author

Michael Barron's fiction has appeared in a number of publications. Two of his stories have been accepted by Variety Pack and Metaphorosis for publication in the future. He is a member of the neurodivergent community, which often influences his writing.

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