Nothing. An absence of matter, of light, of information. Energy, entropy, nonexistent.
The first conceptual object to come into being is a sound.
One bombastic chord, a cataclysmic catalyst. And instantly, the universe is set in motion. For a short time, matter is pressed tightly together, millions of times denser than any earthly object. But the seeds of galaxies are soon expanding across the empty caverns of nothingness, and as they accelerate, they form light years in the blink of an eye.
As matter is spread out, order becomes chaos. In the infant days of the universe, matter diversifies and invites conflict. Movement happens without purpose, and all matter is aimless. It is a confusing time.
Energy, on the other hand, is growing exponentially and conglomerates into floating entities. These entities are pinpricks in the scope of the ever-expanding universe, but in this age, scale is irrelevant. These new stars are rumbling with activity, giant furnaces that produce many important elements that will one day form the basis for life. Some stars reach the end of their lifespan and explode, releasing these elements into space.
It is not long before many stars gain followers, who traverse wide circles around them. In some cases, these followers increase in size until they themselves gain followers, irresistibly pulled into orbit by an invisible force.
Conditions on these star-followers vary widely. The concept of weather is new, and it is very much unsure of its identity. Temperatures are fluctuating rapidly in the scale of cosmic time. The planets orbiting closest to their star are hot and fiery, while those farther away are eerily still, cold, and equally inhospitable. A very small number of planets in the universe orbit at a distance that guarantees a moderate temperature, an even smaller number of these planets has solid matter on the outside, and only one of this select group has a thick atmosphere: Earth.
At this point, change begins occurring so rapidly that the universe sees it pass in a moment. The newly-trapped air surrounding Earth contains all the necessary ingredients, and soon much of the planet is covered with water. These vast aquatic spaces provide a safe haven for the formation of the first life. These life forms are microscopic and non-thinking. They don’t comprehend how or why they are here. They are minuscule in comparison to the vast oceans of Earth, which is minuscule in comparison to the fiery mass of the star Earth orbits, which is minuscule in comparison to the panoramic white blanket that is the Milky Way galaxy, which is minuscule in comparison to the unfathomably vast expanses of what our universe has become.
These tiny life forms evolve and diversify until they are spread out across the oceans, forming ecosystems teeming with organisms desperate for survival. As these organisms increase in size, their functions also become more diverse. In an evolutionary instant, plants come about, and even simple animals. As the animals grow more and more complex, some venture onto the land, where there is already an entire world of plants. The planet is swept up in the inexorable sweep of evolution, and before long life is everywhere.
The animals that come into being are hugely dependent on both the surrounding plants and friendly climates. Many extinctions occur when one of these is thrown out of balance, but animals always come back in some form after a while. Intelligence increases with each new iteration, but the most important leap is the incalculably precious gift of self-awareness. This gift transforms these early humans from barbaric animals to thinkers, planners, and innovators. Through this newfound ability, these humans will master fire, build sophisticated shelters, and even begin to farm. Weapons are fashioned from whatever was readily available. It is a time of great experimentation.
Abruptly, bronze bursts onto the scene, pushing the already-hurried development of humans into overdrive. Civilizations sprout up all over the world, bound together by another astonishing development: written language. Oral communication is finally standardized into something that can be represented in simple scratch marks.
For millennia, while these humans were making great strides, they had a desire for understanding. They felt that there was something Beyond, something that they did not yet understand. And from this desire, religion was born. It was something to hold onto amidst everyday struggles, and it caught on quickly. New religions now spread like wildfire, serving as a bridge across cultures and interweaving itself through the dense fabric of trade. Religion and government are soon so closely linked that governments misuse religion as a means for punishment. This distrust of government and religion leads to a revolution of science and of the arts, a period that sees literary and visual works coming to the forefront. Individualism and reason soon experience a comeback, leading to the colonies of imperialistic empires to rise up in the face of perceived tyranny. Monarchy is no longer the norm, and democracy becomes more and more prevalent.
Chaos ensues in the years after these revolutions, as sophisticated technology allows for mass production while composers and writers rail against a logic-driven world. The economy booms and collapses under its own weight. Wars break out, and the world is left confused and fearful of the future, setting the stage for the rise of modern technologies. The Information Age has begun.
New machines arise that can receive and display data, and these machines grow more and more complex by the year. Soon they can do complex calculations and display information from across the world. They can eventually fit on your desk, and then on your lap, and finally in your pocket. The knowledge of millions of books can now be carried with you and accessed at any time. In the business world, data and analytics are paramount. Information can be shared at the touch of a button; everyone can see what everyone else is doing. New ways to express yourself and share activities make their way into the mainstream in a matter of days. Art made with nothing but a digital camera can be viewed by millions of people in a matter of hours. We are more interconnected than ever, but never have we been more disconnected from reality. Our digital lives occupy virtually no space in the scale of the all-encompassing universe, and our biological lives are an evolutionary blink.
In the end, all we have is our desire. Our desire to push history forward and to challenge what was thought to be impossible. Our desire to learn, to connect, to understand how insignificant we are in this universe. And our desire to see Beyond, to comprehend an underlying purpose behind that which started with a single sound.