There wasn’t much chance for Derek Doyle. He’d never had much of one, anyway. Born a bit of a natural loser, his own mother had known he had a face only she’d love. Growing up, he’d been distinctly average at everything – but the kids had still picked on him for his awkwardness. In adulthood, this ended with poor Derek working in a car garage, doing manual labour for the more qualified engineers.

What it didn’t do was stop Derek Doyle from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When the car fell off the jacks and came crashing down to the garage floor, distinctly average Derek was crushed.

His mother cried for a week.

But Derek didn’t. He was too busy being dead.

Or so he thought. Funny, but death wasn’t what he’d imagined it being. For all the talk of pearly gates and singing angels, Derek found the sterile whiteness of death to be a bit of a let-down. He’d woken in a new place – clothed in nothing but his own nakedness. This had surprised him too, as he wasn’t what you’d call body confident. If anything, he’d been body shy to the point of wearing coats to bed at night.

But here he was: dead, or what was supposed to be dead, but stark naked. And the body in front of him was nothing like poor Derek Doyle’s. No pockmarks on the belly, no stretch marks on the thighs. A far bigger appendage than he remembered.

Odd, this.

But Derek Doyle wasn’t much of a thinker. Or so he thought. He wandered awhile through the infinite whiteness, wondering why heaven was so dull and what he was going to do here for eternity. Not that little Derek Doyle comprehended eternity.

“You have passed.” Came a voice.

“Passed?” Derek responded, swinging his head around to try and find the voice.

“Yes. Passed.”

There was no visible source from the voice that called through the sky – so Derek stopped looking. He was practical, at least.

“What have I passed?”

“Simulation number 98,788,223,132.”

“Oh.” Said Derek. He’d never had a head for numbers.

“You are not Derek Doyle.” Said the voice. This confused Derek, so he scratched his head and shrugged.

“Pretty sure I am. Always have been.”

“No. You’re not. You are Alpha. You are Omega. You are my test subject. And when I sent you into simulation 1, millenia ago, you were just as reluctant. You didn’t want to be the first man on Earth. When I sent you into simulation 94,788,123,424 you didn’t want to become Adolf Hitler and enact those terrible crimes. When I sent you into the last one, you’d complained that you’d learned too much to live out the life of a simpleton.”

Derek Doyle scratched his head again. A bright light flashed. Suddenly, he was not Derek Doyle. He was Alpha – and Alpha remembered it all. Trillion of lives, lived throughout history and the future of the human race. A simulation ran by his creator and tested by himself. Each and every conciousness created in that world had to be trialled. A full life each time.

Alpha had been Atilla the Hun. He’d been Jesus of Nazereth. He’d been Julius Caesar. And just now, he’d been Derek Doyle.

“You lived his life well. You were shy, kind and loving despite your flaws. Derek Doyle’s mother – who you will one day play, cared for you with a love that burned brighter than the hate you had to deal out when you lived as Benito Mussolini. That means you passed.”

“And, if I remember correctly,” Alpha said to his creator, “I get to choose the next life because I passed?”

“Indeed.”

Alpha thought of the many great men he had lived as. Of the despots and the kings, of the thinkers and the poets. He thought of them all – and he felt the weight of millenia’s worth of work weigh heavy on him. He was tired. He thought long and hard – then he smiled.

“Can I be Derek Doyle one more time?” He asked.

A white light flashed in reply.

A simple boy was born once again.