Okay here is the sequel to 'Farther From Heaven' suggested by TR. Hey, maybe he was only kidding, too late it's done!
…I haven't been the same since he told me the story. Nor has anything else for that matter. It should go without saying that on hearing this it caused me great concern. All sorts of things were swirling through my head. Was it Xenia that had come? Why? It had been agreed that I was the one that would come and stay. Who was the ‘old man’ that came and took her away? Was it Ian or Sid? No, neither would presume to pull her away like that. Maybe it wasn’t Xenia. Maybe it was one of the opposers, one of the small group that had from the beginning objected to the whole thing.
Joella. It had to be her. Poor Joella, she had been the one most troubled by it all, the one that just could not detach herself from the humans. She wept often for them once the decision had been made. She should not have been allowed to come here, however, they should have watched her more carefully, especially now that the routine was so close to execute, so very close. And now this…human had been exposed to her story and I could only imagine what it was doing to him. He had gotten a few things mixed up anyway. No matter, however, he would not have long to suffer. No one would.
It was morning and it had rained the night before, that much I could tell. The street, lined with sycamores, pin oaks, and a few rather large pines, was empty. The gold and red colors of the leaves told me it was autumn and my long sleeved shirt was not uncomfortable. There was a crispness and freshness to the air, like right after a spring shower. That's all I knew. I walked a few more steps and more awareness came. Not sudden and forceful but gradual, like soft, slow, summer rain it soaked into my dry soul and I became aware of myself. My name, where I was, who I was, or what I was still eluded me. It was as if I had been viewing this as a dream, far off and disconnected and now I was a person in it. Everything seemed all right for a few moments while at the same time there was an undeniable wrongness about the whole affair. I felt as if, and I will never forget that feeling, that someone had dealt me a glancing blow. Whatever it was had hit me but not full force. And here I was walking down Oak Street (every town seems to have an Oak Street) without a hint of where I was going or where I had been, I was without purpose. I stopped.
On the corner of Oak and 16th and to my left was a white house with a large front porch and two front doors. Looking at the house I was thinking of how silly it is for a house to have two front doors. Which one do you knock on? Of all the things about which to be concerned I was pondering this enigma when I happened to be come aware of two old men sitting on that porch. It was as if one moment there was nothing and then during that same moment, in an interval of time so short as to be immeasurable, two old men occupied that space and time. Startling as that should have been to me I was actually encouraged by the sight. For no reason discernible to me at the moment, I’d felt that I was alone, truly alone.
I turned and walked across the wide, shaded yard to the porch and I could hear them talking as I approached. They were in the middle of a conversation, talking about--what? I could hear the voices but the words did not seem to coalesce into any sentences with meaning. I was happy to hear the sound of human voices. I sat on the edge of the porch and listened for a time and eventually I became involved in the meaningless conversation. I spent the day there talking to the two old gentlemen. Again I can't remember the conversation, only that it all seemed so natural at the time that we should be doing this. Strange, everything is strange. I still have no idea of who I am and yet I am making idle talk. I am afraid to ask them what is wrong, afraid that they will tell me and that I will not want to know.
Dusk came quite suddenly. A soft, cool, fall breeze blew ever so gently at the now dry sycamore leaves and made a very soothing, almost musical sound. Eventually we went inside, ate supper, and I went to bed as if that was what I had been doing all my life. Everything seemed normal, everything seemed wrong. How could that be? And yet it was.
The next morning was crisp and clear. There was water running in the ditches so it had rained that night, not at all uncommon for this time of the year in the South. Exactly where in the South, the town, state, region, I had no idea and yet that did not bother me. I knew this was my home and that seemed to be sufficient for the time. There was a chill in the air and as I looked across the yard from on the porch I could see more leaves falling from the sleepy trees. The leaves that the trees had so meticulously grown in the spring and maintained throughout the blistering summer heat were no longer of any use and they were dropping them. I felt sadness for the leaves that had done their job so well and now were being discarded without so much as a farewell. Strange words come to my mind: "Only God can make a tree" Is that from a poem? Something about that doesn't seem right. Why does he kill the leaves, are they not part of the tree? A Strange feeling began welling up inside of me. Panic! My heart began racing and beads of perspiration formed on my forehead and I took all my strength to fight it down. I steadied myself with one hand to the wall until my head stopped spinning. Then old men merely looked at me. They had no expression.
Eventually I regained my composure and I told one of the men (I didn't know their names) that I was going into town to see what there was to salvage. The moment I said it I realized that I knew something down deep inside that my conscious mind would not or could not deal with. While I was mulling this over, one of the men said: "Be careful, son, there aren't any people anymore, you know." Coldness came over me so intense that I felt that I was dead. The old man had said what I dared not even think--there are no more people!
I struck out from the house full of confusion, fear, and dread. I was more afraid of finding out what happened than of my current situation. Half way down the street and still wrestling with these strange, alien feelings, I began remembering certain parts of the town...well, sort of. For instance, I knew that just around the corner was the library. Did I ever visit it? I could not remember either going or not going. I could remember some things but not my association with those things. I watched clear water running in a grassy ditch and took the time to break up some branches that formed a dam with the large, sycamore leaves at the entrance of a culvert. No animal life of any sort stirred, no bird fluttered, no squirrel scampered, no dogs or cats roamed the streets. As I continued walking a thought entered my mind of the possibility of survivors in another part of the town. Survivors? Why did the word 'survivor' come to mind at that time? Things were still very bewildering and I felt like a man trying to pick up something that is too large for him to get his arms around. I passed a young man headed the other way, across the street, and I nodded hello. I froze in my steps! Another human! I shouted at him. I ran across the street, stared at the young man and blurted out: "You survived!"
He looked at me very calmly but with mild puzzlement on his face. When he spoke his voice was soft..."Survived?"
"Yes!" I exclaimed. "Everyone else is gone. There is no one else here."
He gave me a strange looked and walked off. Just then a house across the street caught my attention. People! There were people moving about inside the house. I found myself walking up some rather high and steep steps to a house without a porch. I could see people inside. My first impression was that they were trying hard to act normal, as if by so doing they could make it so. There was no life in their eyes and coldness crept into my soul. They milled about aimlessly and without purpose and my every effort to communicate with them was futile. The word "rape" flashed into my mind. Why? I didn't know.
I left the house, walked down the steps and turned left onto the sidewalk. I saw a man sitting on the porch of the house next door which happened to be on the corner. He was wearing a coat and tie.
"I am very confused." I confessed to him, expecting the same, blank stare I had received from the others.
"Yes," he said, to my surprise. "I can well imagine."
"What's happened here?" I asked him.
The man, stroking his necktie, looked down at me and asked: "How was it? I mean how was it while you were here alone?"
He knew! "I can't seem to remember much. I'm disoriented; no specific memories only disconnected facts and trivia. I don't feel anything."
I looked beseechingly at him but he offered nothing more than a curious stare. I waited for a few more seconds and then finally walked off. I was thinking about the man. He was different from the others in that he acknowledged that something had happened. He mentioned my being left here alone. That would exclude his being here, wouldn't it? I was trying desperately to put things together. The old men on Oak Street told me as I was leaving that there were no more people. This man asks me how it was when I was alone. Was there a connection? Somehow this man seemed different from the old men and myself. He seemed--detached, like the young man I talked to before I went into the house. I had almost forgotten about him. The only confusion he expressed was at my ranting about survival.
Out of all the bewilderment and insane incidents certain things began to congeal. Rational thought began putting things together in an effort to make sense of the nonsense. The two old men seemed to be above it all, aware of the situation and yet not interfering. Then there was the young man and the man with the necktie; they were definitely not like me. They seemed part of the madness. Were they responsible? As for the rest I was not sure that they were human anymore.
I walked the streets for a week. When I got hungry I would stop wherever I was, go into the first house I saw, sit down and eat with the family there as if that was the most natural thing in the world. At night I would do the same thing. No matter where I stopped, I would be accepted and given a meal and a bed. I couldn’t talk to these people because by then I knew that they were not really people. What then? Shells. Yes, that seemed to be the most appropriate term. What was saddest of all to me was that they seemed to be aware of what they were and that I was not like them, they sensed that I was whole and they were not, that they were taken and I was not. Taken. Another strange word that came into my mind. Taken where?
No one wanted to talk about what happened. No one talked about anything. No one was working anymore, people were just scavenging the grocery stores for what they could get to eat. Trash piled up in the streets and the power began going out all over town.
Suddenly one day I made the startling discovery that all the children two years old and under seem unaffected by the--attack. Yes, the term 'attack' seems most appropriate. When I visited homes with these young children the mothers always, I mean always brought them to me for me to hold. The mothers always looked at me in the strangest way, as if they expected me to do something with the child. I became very depressed over the matter and began avoiding any place with young children.
I passed in front of what was once my home. I recognized the house as soon as I saw it. I could see movement inside, through the screen door, as I approached. I didn't stop. My youngest child was five years old. I could still remember no details, just generalities. A great sadness came over me as I turned the corner and I decided that I should never pass this way again.
I eventually found myself back at the house where I first saw the two old men. A feeling of familiarity washed over me as I approached the step. Just as my foot landed on the first step the screen door opened and I froze where I was. It was the man with the necktie.
"Where are the old men." My voice sounded weak to me.
The man looked puzzled and then said: "What old men?"
My knees felt weak, as coldness grew deep inside of me. I felt as if things were shifting on me again. I asked again: "Where are they?"
Someone from behind came out. It was the young man I had first encountered on the sidewalk. Somehow his presence did not surprise me but I must admit that it brought me no joy either. He put his hand on the necktie man's shoulder and looked straight at me.
"Why don't you come inside and wait?" he suggested.
Something clicked. Realization began descending upon me like a torrential rain. I was getting dizzy and having difficulty remaining standing. It was like I was dying and I panicked, like someone had punched me in the stomach. The world about me reeled. I fell to the ground and my body began convulsing. There is only one word for the way in which it came to me ...overwhelmingly. How long did it last? I don't know, I was having trouble with my perception of time then. But it did eventually subside and I regained control of myself. I rose from the ground and brushed myself off. The two men had worried looks on their faces.
I felt worse than before. It was like awakening from a terrible nightmare without being able to remember any of the details, only that it was awful. I turned on one foot and began walking toward the southern edge of the town. I eventually found a car that still had gas and headed for New Orleans. I couldn't remember ever being there but then I couldn't remember not being there either. Somehow it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I felt better once I was on the interstate. It wasn't long after that when I saw the accident. It happened right in front of me. The car veered off into a culvert.
While I was running to the ditch where the car was I saw a man and woman crawl out from under the overturned car. The man was holding the limp body of a child that could not have been more than five or six years old. When I got close enough it was apparent that the little girl was dead, her neck was broken. He looked at the woman who, like him, had no expression. He handed her the lifeless body. She took it with the greatest of gentleness and looked at the little girl for perhaps half a minute then turned and promptly dropped her down on the ground like so much baggage. They looked at one another and began walking off in the direction their car had been heading, apparently continuing their journey as if nothing happened. That is the saddest thing I have ever seen.
I got back into the car and drove on. Everywhere I saw cars and trucks run off the highway. I saw people wandering about aimlessly, sometimes in the middle of the highway and I would have to swerve to miss them. I eventually came up on the New Orleans city limit sign. I saw a hitchhiker! Correction, it was a woman flagging me down. I knew right away it wasn't one of the shells, they lacked the initiative/ambition to ask for a ride. The shell would simply walk until it reached its destination or drop dead of exhaustion. As I approached her I could see she was quite young, early twenties maybe, jet-black hair and slight of build. I stopped about twenty feet past her. I backed up to her and put the passenger side window down.
"Hop in!" I chirped.
She got in, looking very suspiciously at me. I steered the car back on the highway again. I looked at her and she looked at me.
"Class 1" I said.
"What does that mean?" She asked. "What's class one?"
"Surely by now you must know."
"Know what?" She asked.
"You were puzzled when I stopped and spoke to you. You were expecting one of these shells, these zombies. When I spoke to you it confused you because they don't talk much. You're confused because I'm neat and clean. That's why I stopped for you, I could tell you were class 1.
"What's your name?" I asked
"Lenore" She answered.
"I'm..." I'd forgotten that I had no recollection of my name. "I'm sorry, Lenore, but I can't remember my name." I apologized.
"Don't feel bad about that. There seems to be a lot of that going around now. Don't you carry identification with you?"
"Boy do I feel stupid now. It never dawned on me for a moment to look into my back pocket for a wallet. I've changed clothes since then and so now I guess I'll never know my name."
"What's with the class one business?" she asked.
"Class one, is you and me. Class two is the shells. Class three is them."
"I ran across two men earlier that are not shells and they are not like us, victims, I mean. These guys seem to be in touch with whatever has or is happening. They seem a little... sinister, I guess 'sinister' would be appropriate.
"So," I asked, "why is it you're headed back into the city?"
"Why are you going there?" She asked.
"I don't know." I said.
"Let's go to the city park." She suggested and I agreed.
I must have been to New Orleans before because I instinctively knew where the park was. We sat under the large oaks in Audubon Park and watched the squirrels playing until the sun was low in the sky. The city lights were not coming on so this part of town was going to be awfully dark once the sun was down. None of the shells had thus far shown any malevolence but things could change and I didn't like taking any more chances than I had to. We slept in the car with the doors locked.
We drove around the city the next morning. The situation was deteriorating quite badly. It seemed that the shells were becoming less and less interested in life and living. They looked positively haggard, all of them. They had stopped eating and many were dropping from exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration. It was horrible.
I spotted her on the corner of Royal and Canal. She was dressed in a steel-gray jumpsuit and spotless. Lenore gave me a funny look. I pulled over and saw the surprise on her pale face. I rolled down the window and smiled.
"Pardon me, but could you direct me to the French Market?"
She didn't smile. Her right hand went down into her pocket quickly. A weapon?
"Take it easy, lady. We mean you no harm. We're just trying to make some sense of this mess and looking for survivors."
"Survivors?" she asked. "Why do you say survivors?"
"Hey," I said, "You call this living." I gestured toward the streets of the walking dead.
Her face was impassive. She began taking her hand out of her pocket very slowly. I must admit that at this point I was concerned.
"I have a gun." I lied. "If that hand of yours moves one more centimeter out of that pocket I'll kill you where you stand."
Her face showed no expression but her hand stopped. She seemed resigned to wait for me to make the next move. She was about six feet from the car so normal conversation was possible. I intended to find out what she was before I drove off.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Xenia." she replied without delay. "Who's that with you?"
When she spoke it the strangest feeling came over me not unlike what had happened with the two men at the white house with two doors on Oak Street only not as intense. Incredibly vivid flashes of impossible memories flashed through my mind until I felt I was going insane. Then it stopped.
"Look", she said, "I don't have a weapon. Let me take my hands out and you can search me."
I agreed and Lenore did the honors. She was telling the truth. She was clean and agreed to get in the car with us. I drove to the end of Canal and we got out of the car and walked to the edge of the river.
"You're a class three." I said
"Who's the woman with you?" she asked again.
"Never mind her, you're the cause of all of this." I said. "You or someone like you has done this."
I looked into her eyes and that awful sinking feeling came upon me again. I felt like I was falling off of a cliff. I panicked. My head was reeling and I felt like vomiting and all the while I was fighting to catch my breath. I couldn't move my limbs, it was as if I were completely frozen. The more I tried to struggle the more futile it was. I thought I was dying. Then as abruptly as it started it stopped. I was sweating and the two women were looking down at me on the concrete.
"Are you all right?" asked Lenore.
"No", I said. "Not by a long shot but at least I can function now."
Turning to Xenia I said: "Something went wrong, didn't it?"
"Yes" she said carefully. "Something has happened to all these people."
"No", I said, "That was supposed to happen, wasn't it? No, something else went wrong and it has to do with you and me, doesn't it?"
"Keep talking" she said as Lenore watched on silently.
"You're determined to make me fight for every word, aren't you? Is that part of the plan? Whey can't you just tell me what's going on?" I pleaded.
She didn't answer so I continued. "You, the man with the red tie, let's see that would be Ian, and the other one, who was that? Jeff? Sid? It doesn't matter. Why am I here? What went wrong?"
"How much do you remember?" she asked.
"Bits and pieces. I remember something about the procedure, the routine. There are large gaps in my memory.'
"Wait just a minute, here" interrupted Lenore. "You two are talking like you know something I don't. Do you know each other?"
"Some of it is coming back." I said to the both of them. "Something is coming back and I don't like it. Something terrible has happened and somehow I share the responsibility." I turned to Lenore and admitted: "I'm one of them."
Instinctively she began to back up.
"Wait!" I cried. "You don't have to be afraid of me, not anymore at least." I turned to Xenia. "Give me some straight answers and I mean now!"
Lenore stood by as Xenia unfolded the story. As I listed to her I knew what she was saying and yet a part of me did not want to believe it. Part of me wanted to run away and hide in shame.
"Why were some missed? How many?" I asked.
"We didn't miss anyone." She said quite matter-of-factly.
"What about Lenore?" I asked
"I am in contact right now with the others and I am assured that no one was missed."
"Then explain Lenore." I challenged.
"Marcus, do you really know what you're doing? I mean do you fully understand the repercussions to yourself for your decision?" She was trying very hard to ignore the woman. "Ian and Sid tried to persuade you through one of the portals and when that failed, they asked me to come personally and try to dissuade you from your foolish course."
"Good-bye, Xenia." I said. I walked away. I got into the car and drove away. I didn't stop until I was far from the city. I pulled off on the side of the road to let a few things digest in my mind. It was only then I realized that Lenore had followed me to the car and had sat silently for an hour while I drove.
The memories that I had about my family, my job, and everything connected with this world were not real. The information was there but there was no emotional association with that data. I guess that's what first got me to suspect that I didn't belong where I was. Now that my memory had returned, instead of bringing me comfort it was tearing me apart.
"Marcus" she said gently. "Marcus, what happened?"
"I'm going to say it once. Once will be difficult enough. I will simplify it for you to understand and so forgive me if there are a few gaps.
"This universe of yours was constructed, it's not an accident nor did it just happen. It was designed using the highest form of mathematics, some of which you are just now learning to use with the aid of your most powerful computers. Everything was programmed from the beginning, the galaxies, clusters, superclusters, the stars, star systems with their planets and moons, the earth and its eco-system, and at last, man himself. Everything was designed, everything worked out to the last minute detail. A good illustration of that would be your DNA. This particular molecule has the blueprint of your entire body, color of eyes, hair, sex, even your disposition and tendencies. Well, imagine the entire universe reduced down to the size of something smaller than that molecule with all of the instructions, all of code for everything that exists and its relationship to everything else written into it. Now we have this tiny capsule with all of the code for all of the matter and energy, even time itself, for time is something that is unique to your world, we invented it, just sitting there waiting to be activated. When everything was ready we activated the capsule.
"The Big Bang." Ventured Lenore calmly.
I had expected a little more than that considering the information I had given her.
"It's interesting that you call it that because it is so descriptive of what happened. The first few moments were spectacular even to those of us who were in on the programming. It was staggering! The energy and matter reacted with the utmost precision. Our hearts swelled with pride as we saw all of the hard work and preparation, calculations of unimaginable proportion and complexity all came together and worked flawlessly. Finally the process began to stabilize as things got into place. It was breathtaking, it was perfect. We stood back and admired our work. A material creation, something so drastically different from what we were and yet with so many similarities. Everywhere we looked there were material metaphors of our world. It was a little frightening that something so alien and different could be so be so much like us. The energy was in so many ways like our own form, the matter was in so many ways like our thoughts. But the most marvelous creation was yet to manifest itself. Humanity!
"There were quite a few deliberations among our finest minds about the nature of man. Different schools of thought developed and one after another would gain dominance only to be superseded by another until finally a sort of compromise emerged but still not completely accepted by everyone. There were still some serious reservations. The biggest issue by far was the radical idea of free moral agency, the capacity for determining right and wrong and the freedom to pursue that choice. We began widening out the parameters of free choice. Many doubted that a finite, material creature with so many limitations could handle that. It was decided that man would be limited to six senses by which he could discern the world about him. Later that was reduced to five but somehow some residuals of the first subroutine remained and in some very rare cases that sixth sense showed up in some of you. It was rare enough and undeveloped enough not to cause any serious problems. I'm telling you this in order for you to understand that the project had so many safety checks and back-up routines so as to compensate for minor glitches. Sexuality became another major issue for debate. Something so unique and fundamentally different from our nature was not fully understood and somewhat feared. Most agreed that it was important, indeed that it was imperative, but not all. It was argued by some that this would in the end be the most important factor in virtually all aspects of human development. Some pointed out the negative aspects, of the violence, death, and destruction that this was capable of promoting. The factors were all mapped out and simulations run. In the end it was agreed upon by all that the dangers, real as they were, did not outweigh the marvelous possibilities of this revolutionary concept. As the project progressed it became clear that the right choice had been made.
"I must admit that sexuality did produce some unexpected problems for us. Some of our kind actually tried sexuality although it had been forbidden to us. Our nature and our social structure simply will not allow for it. Those that did try it ended up paying dearly for their exploits.
"What about the other planets?" asked Lenore.
"We never got around to do anything with them. You proved to be most challenging and entertaining. We simply did not have the inclination to start another project when this one was proving so demanding. Your behavior was being observed and carefully analyzed. As you developed we began to notice that somehow we had put more into you than we had planned. You became much more like us in your nature than we had ever expected. We grew very fond of you and began thinking of you as our children."
"What about the animals?"
"They have remained what they were always intended to be. To put it quite simply, they were created to entertain, amuse, and educate you. Physically and behaviorally there are many similarities. Interestingly, although that was never our intentions from the beginning, some of you began to develop the theory that you evolved from the lower life forms. At first we assumed it was because of the similarities I mentioned earlier but later we recognized it as part of an unanticipated turn of events in your programming. You began to develop a strong desire to make a definite determination of your origin, this became very important to you although, logically, it should not. This is one facet of your development that generated much debate and deliberation. We were certain that your programming was such that you would concentrate more on the differences between you and the animals rather than on the similarities. It was realized later that we had erred in that area and by that time we were too committed to do anything about it.
"At first, animals were much simpler. They fed on plant life and reproduced and had some interesting behavioral patterns. The plants and animals were pretty much all in place and yet the development of man was as yet incomplete. As different schools of thought gained acceptance, the complexity of man increased. Just when it was evident that a final product was near completion a second look at the animal kingdom was in order. It was understood at that time that a more complex animal kingdom would be in order to challenge and amuse mankind. Another radical idea was advanced. The thought of prey and predator was explored. Scenarios were played out and details worked out until a very complex and delicate balance was established between not only prey and predator but also with the plant life, both on land and in the sea. It was truly a wondrous work that taxed all the knowledge we had ever accumulated and then pushed us into unexplored areas.
"And yet if this delicate, sophisticated balancing was wondrous then what came next could only be described as miraculous. The creation of man was the culmination of the best efforts of our best minds and then some. Physically he would be animal in nature and to some limited degree also behaviorally so. But there was a point where man was to deviate from the animals. Animal behavior is dictated by programmed instinct within very limited parameters. Man on the other had would have instincts with a very wide range of parameters. In animals instincts were commands, in man they would be more like suggestions with free moral agency having dominance, the ability to override instincts. Some saw the dangers in that very quickly but free choice could not exist without freedom to choose.
"Who determined what was right and what was wrong?" Lenore asked.
"Who gave you the right to do that?" She asked.
"We presumed to have the right to do this by virtue of the fact that this was our creation. Before we created you, you did not exist. What you are, everything that you are, is a result of our creative process. Who else would have the right to determine what your values should be? We gave you our values. Unlike us, you are very finite, mortal."
"Somehow that doesn't seem right." She mused.
"This is another aspect of your development that has caused us some concern, this tendency of yours to establish your own values outside of the parameters we established. Strangely enough you seem to have developed a strong sense of independence, a tendency toward breaking free of your confines. We are unable at present to determine what is responsible for this.
"Maybe the creation has surpassed the creator." she smiled.
"Not hardly. While you have a wide range of parameters. They are finite. You can only go so far regardless of how much you might want to."
She walked over to the side of the road and simply stared out onto the countryside. "This is all very interesting but I've heard more cock and bull down at the corner bar." She turned around and spread her arms. "So what happened? What happened to your brilliantly conceived, flawlessly executed, almighty, exalted project? Why have you destroyed the minds of all the people in the world?"
"I was coming to that." I said.
"Before your resume your tale, let's take a ride. I don't think I can take much more of this without a drink. I'll drive."
She drove us back into the city and to the French Quarter and then to Pat O'Brien's. We herded out the wandering shells in the place and closed the doors so others would not wander in. She went behind the bar and mixed up a couple of concoctions.
"Well, these are not hurricanes but they'll have to do." She said. "What was the purpose of this project of yours? What was the ultimate goal?" She asked.
I was quite surprised at how calmly she had accepted what I had told her. We went to a table and sat down. I took a couple of sips before I answered.
"At first we told ourselves that we did this just because we thought we could. An intellectual, engineering, technical exercise. I realize now that this was not completely true." I sipped on my drink again.
"Well, come on, what was it?" she queried.
"We had reached a point where we had achieved perfection. We knew all the answers, could solve all problems. We were happy and content with that but somehow, down deep inside we had a need for someone other than ourselves to acknowledge that. There was no one else so we decided to create someone with the capacity to appreciate our greatness."
"Sounds like a case of the big head to me." She said. "Talk about conceit!"
"That term does not apply to us. Conceit is an exaggerated opinion of one's abilities. We are truly and accurately aware of our abilities and our accomplishments. By your standards we are in every sense of the word, great, infinite, omnipotent. I must confess, however, that a small group of our own objected fiercely to the whole thing. One such person, Joella, developed a fixation on the humans and even made an unauthorized excursion just before the routine kicked in. It didn’t really affect anything, however.”
"You telling me that I'm sitting at a table at O'Brien's drinking vodka with God?"
"I am afraid that I would have considerable trouble answering that question with a simple yes or no. The answer would depend on your perception of God. Although we are an aggregate, your kind keeps trying to personify us into one individual for some reason."
"Skip it." She said. "So what happened, we didn't seem appreciative enough so you zapped us?"
"I suppose in a way that's what happened. Your progress took a turn that a lot of us didn't like. You failed to develop the sense of brotherhood we had hoped you would. You became harsh to one another while the value of your lives diminished in your own eyes. You became obsessed with gadgets and self-gratification, greed, an inordinate desire to stimulate the senses without regard to the consequences. You used chemicals as a short cut to sensual pleasures and missed the whole purpose of joy and elation and excitement. You have polluted your world, destroyed countless species of plant and animal life long before you ever had a chance to study them. You have upset the balance so meticulously set up for your protection and enjoyment. You have refused to accept responsibility for your actions and even in the face of overwhelming evidence have refused to accept the existence of life superior to your own."
"You made us that way." She accused.
"No, we did not. You were given access to the knowledge of right and wrong. You have the capacity for mercy, for forethought, for compassion for your siblings. You have ignored your responsibilities and denied your fathers."
"Why haven't you shown yourself to us if you wanted recognition?" She snapped.
"This is a complex matter. It is sufficient for you to know that you have all that you need in order to make a search for us but you have chosen not to. You were given the knowledge of what is right and wrong and even with that knowledge you have chosen the wrong. When we finally admitted to ourselves what had happened and resigned ourselves to the fact that you were lost... we cleared your minds."
"What happened to you and me?" she asked, finishing off her drink.
"Well, that's where it gets a little weird."
"Oh really," she chuckled, "You mean now the story gets a little weird?"
"I couldn't accept that you had deliberately chosen the wrong course. I had to know for myself. I volunteered to forsake my nature and come here as a human, to see for myself, as a human what the problem was. We ran a few scenarios beforehand to see all the possibilities of the consequences of this. Seeing that our project, your universe is sequential, exists on linear time, we could do this only once. The odds were great against any success but I took the chance. Once on earth as a man I tried hard to dispel the myths that had grown up and clouded the issues at hand but before long I was executed, true to the predictions of the scenarios. We had prepared for that contingency and my life force was immediately transferred back to our realm of existence. I had left some seeds of truth, hoping that these would in time sprout and perhaps put things back on course. It didn't work. All that I tried to teach you was somehow distorted and the result was far from satisfactory. That brings us to here."
"Not quite. Look, this might seem like it makes all the sense in the world to you but it sure is cloudy to me. I mean even you, you've changed from when I first met you. You seem different somehow ever since you talked to that Xenia woman. What about your family, your wife and children, your home, your life before all of this happened?"
"I was just getting to that." I said. "It was agreed by all that the project, as wondrous as it was, had fallen short of its potential. We retraced our steps back to the creation of man. Every detail of every occurrence was scrutinized and analyzed. Everything was accounted for except for one brief period of time, a matter of five minutes that cannot be accounted for. We reasoned that if something went wrong, it was during that brief time period."
"Are you telling me that you people or whatever you are can replay the history of the world at your convenience? "
"That is correct. I know how difficult this is for you to accept but by way of explanation I submit to you that linear time is something that exists only in your world. To us a thousand of your years is no more than a blink of the eye while at the same time a moment of your time, a mere second can be suspended for a thousand of your years if for some reason we choose to analyze it." I offered.
"And now you say everything is accounted for except for five minutes of our time?"
"That is correct." I said. "For five minutes, very early in your history, we do not have a complete record. The answer to all our problems lies in what happened in those five minutes.
"Time and again we replayed that sequence and we still have no explanation for what happened. Finally the decision was made to scrap the project. It would be almost as difficult to end it as it was to begin it. You have some analogies in your literature that can help you to understand it. Putting the Genie back into the bottle, so to speak. The mechanism for this was another one of our great accomplishments. If the creation of this material universe was a stupendous feat, then imagine what it would take to bring it all back into that tiny capsule from which it came! To re-encapsulate the universe, to put it in your terms, and then to reexamine everything and then do it again. Once the Armageddon routine was completed it awaited implementation. Final calculations were made and just before it was executed I convinced my brothers to allow me this venture. Of all the radical and revolutionary ideas ever propounded by my kind this would prove to find its way to the top of the list. I asked for and was granted permission to come to this material universe, sever my link with the home realm and remain here for the re-encapsulation. I returned to your world, the place where I was once, long ago, executed. I find it fascinating that in one of your religious works of literature it is actually predicted that I would return. This is just a coincidence, however, because even I didn’t know that I would return. Still it is very puzzling.
"Just think of it," I said, mentally shaking myself from my digression, "Everything that exists everywhere is the result of one, tiny speck of matter, a molecule, actually, that contains all the energy and matter for all of the stars, galaxies, and universes that exist! Inside that molecule is the formula for everything! Grass, water, air, insects, every human that will be born, every cell that will ever exist." I shook my head. "I know that it's too much for you to understand, Lenore." I said in resignation.
"Yeah, that's just great." She said with a sigh and a frown. She got up from the table and fixed us another couple of drinks. This time she didn't sit down right away but paced the floor, apparently in deep thought.
"You you've come here to die with us, is that it?"
-Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it-
Edited by - Frenchy on 23 October 2000 8:54:6