Of Cabbages and Kings: Chapter 1 – Statue

This chapter was a very difficult one for me.  It’s undergone several dozen revisions.  So much happens here that the rest of the book rests upon, and yet the reader can know almost none of it at this point. The reader, however, must be drawn into the story.  So, I had to know the entire story, including many of the more minor parts, before I could put this chapter together.

This opening is far, far different from the one in my first version of the book.

Some of you may note that the opening paragraph here is similar to the one used in the Dawn of Manhood.  This opening was written first.  I didn’t want to work TOO hard on the dawn of manhood, so I borrowed some of the imagery.  I plagiarized myself, so to speak.  No lawsuits are pending.  😉

***********************************

Chapter 1 – Statue

The man was just a silhouette, kneeling in the parking lot, face skyward, his figure backlit by distant street lamps and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and the glow of the building burning behind him.

The air was thick with a mixture of mist and smoke, the smell being the smell of burning plastics and sulfuric chemicals.  The man was well away from the fire, and the police and military units had not yet even begun to search in his direction.  They had far more important things to worry about.

There were others in the lot though; non-police, non-military others.  They shouted back and forth at each other through the mist, their voices somewhat frantic and confused.

A beam of light fell briefly on the silhouetted man and darted away.  After a moment it snapped back.  The light did almost nothing to illuminate that man, as the man’s clothing reflected less than the damp parking lot around him.  He seemed to absorb the light like a void, as if he were an absence of being–a non-entity, rather than a presence.

More shouts…more confusion…a brief discussion, and then the sound of clicking heals could be heard…at first barely discernible above the more distant din, but gradually overpowering it with their hypnotic rhythm.

Three figures appeared through the mist.  Two were clearly very large men; the other was a much smaller, slighter, and more feminine shape.

The three argued for a bit.  The men seemed to be of one mind, the woman saying something different all together.  A compromise was reached.  The woman began to walk and unexpectedly a loud metallic clanking sound could be heard.  Three flashlights immediately turned in surprise to the woman’s feet.  There on the pavement lay a large, shiny, silver metal sword.  There were shocked and awed exclamations.  The woman paused a moment, and then continued on her path toward the silhouetted man.  The other two followed behind her, carefully stepping over the sword.

Finally, the woman stopped moving, standing perhaps five feet away, directly in front of her objective.  She was neatly dressed in a dark raincoat, her hair, clearly usually permed, was wild and flattened to her head.  She stood there for perhaps a minute, both composing herself and allowing the figure time to note her presence.  She finally knelt down herself, facing him, her hands clasped as if in prayer.  Her eyes, however, bore directly into the kneeling man, as if she were seeking to find the soul within.

The man remained apparently oblivious.  His eyes stared unseeing into the sky, not even blinking as the raindrops fell into them and trickled down his face.

“Alex?”

The woman’s voice sounded muffled and dead in the rain and fog.  The man did not respond.

“Alex?  It’s me, Sandra.  Can you hear me?”

The man made no movement, no twitch, no hint of awareness.  A steam seemed to rise from his body.  Sandra looked at him more closely in the dim light.  His shirt bore a peculiar mark across the front.  It took a few moments for her to realize what it was.

“Alex?  Have you been hurt?  Is that a cut across your chest?  Please help me Alex.  What happened?  Where is Alphonsus?”

The mark was clearly a cut in his shirt, split from his upper left shoulder down to his lower right waist.  In the chest area, she could see a darkness that had spread.  Blood?  What else could it be?  How deeply did the cut penetrate?

Alex still showed no sign of awareness.  Sandra could see his chest moving slightly, indicating breath and therefore life.  But no other sign of life was in anyway apparent.

Uncharacteristically, Sandra felt a surge of panic.  She looked through the darkness for her companions.  She could not see them, but her search was enough.  They immediately moved in to help.

Past the point of no return, as they flanked him on either side and reached to take his arms, she realized that she just had made a major mistake.

——————–

The man stared upward, his eyes not blinking even as the drops of rain fell into his eyeballs.  He felt the pain across his chest, but it was distant.  The pain in his soul was far greater, but he kept it even more remote.  So intense was this pain that he could allow no feelings to enter, no thoughts to process.  His mind was frozen, containing his emotions with such furious determination that the mind had neither room nor time to do anything else.  Sound meant nothing, nor cold, nor wet, nor physical pain.

He would stay in this state indefinitely, but the balance was delicate, and with the slightest disturbance, he would lose it.

When he felt a touch against his arms, white-hot rage blasted apart the frozen barrier containing his soul, and, suddenly, the world screamed in.

He sensed the two bodies on either side of him, and another presence in the distance.  Fear.  Both of his hands jerked with incredible speed, grabbing the arms near him at the elbows.  He thrust his legs downward with all of their strength, using the arms to help propel him upward while pulling them inward.  The movement felt like it took forever for him, but in reality it all happened in less than a tenth of second.  As he stood and pulled the arms attached to the now unbalanced bodies inward, his shoulders eventually met the jaws of the two men.  He didn’t hit them squarely, as he would have preferred.  He instead met each jaw halfway.  The momentum at which he hit them was, however, considerable.  He could hear the bones break as he made contact.

He reached the standing position, and, having spent all of his energy on his upward thrust, he realized he had none left to take care of the third figure before him.  Angrily, he pushed his arms against the now unconscious bodies of the people standing next to him.  Based only on his arm strength against their collapsing mass, he could not gain great momentum that way, but at least it would be enough to reach the other figure.  He twisted his feet at the last moment as he left the ground, so that as a spinning target he might be slightly harder to hit with a bullet.

The figure before him was smaller, the eyes seemed wide.  He subconsciously checked for any weapons.  Nothing he could detect, nothing pointing at him anyway.  That meant very little, however.  The only safe thing to do would be to end the figure’s life as quickly as possible.

A small part of him registered that something was going wrong here.  The other figure wasn’t reacting properly.  Exactly why, he couldn’t figure out.

He fell onto the other person.  Had he been able to carry sufficient momentum with him, this would have been enough to finish him.  He would have used his momentum to drive the other person’s cranium into the pavement.  As it was, he would have to do it by hand, and that would waste several moments, and give the other person a chance to stab.

His hand grabbed the face as he fell on the body (female).  Awkward position…he pistonned his feet forward another foot … more wasted time.  Now the angle was right.  He just had to push the head into the pavement.

He could see the terrified eyes between his fingers.  They looked familiar.

He paused.

“Sandra?” he grunted in question.

He didn’t need to wait for a response, not that the young woman would have been capable of one.  He pushed himself off her and felt himself falling backward.

“No no no no no no no no no…” he chanted emptily.

The woman recovered herself and stood up.

“Alex?”

“Char is dead Char is dead Char is dead…” he intoned.

“Alex.  Charlene is NOT dead.  She’s in the car.   She’s going to be ok.  Where is Dr. Luke?”

The man started crying.

“The goat must be sacrificed that all may live.  I am the angel of death.  I delivered him no mercy for I delivered him.”

“Alex, what do you mean?  Where is Dr. Luke?”

“Sacrificial goat.  Eternal hellfire.  No mercy for any of us.”

“Alex!  Please!  Help us!”

“Eternal hellfire so that all may live,” he started sobbing again.

“Alex?!”

The man sobbed inconsolably now, laying sprawled on the ground, his arms flayed outward at right angles.  The barrier of ice was broken, the explosion of rage had been uselessly wasted against innocents, and thus there was nothing left to stop the flood of remorse from overwhelming his mind and drowning all else that he was.

“I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

And so he repeated, sobbing, at first loudly, and then diminishing to a mumble.  He could hear voices yelling far away…

i’m okay…ambulance…he’s not going…another body…jesus

But the remorse was too intense to be allowed.  The barrier of ice slowly rebuilt itself.  Time passed.  His words faded to nothing.  His sobbing stopped.  He vaguely felt himself being lain back and bound, a poke, and he felt his eyes being closed.  Then the wall of ice was complete, and he felt nothing else.

Advertisements

Of Cabbages and Kings – Prologue

Thrace, north of Tarpodizus, 421 B.C.

Samael slept because he was bored.

For three years, he had tended to his friend.  The first several weeks had not been boring, for his friend screamed and cried and flailed wildly almost constantly as he carried him the miles across the countryside from Athens, away from civilization.  But his friend had been peacefully catatonic since his arrival, at least most of the time, and being alone in a wood far away from any human encampments, he occasionally found the experience tedious.

Samael was endlessly patient, however.  He found ways to pass the time, and he chose to sleep simply because, while unpleasant, it was something to do.

He rarely slept because he didn’t need to sleep.  But when he did sleep, he stilled dreamed.

He rarely slept because when he dreamed, his dreams always overwhelmed him and disturbed him.

Always.

And, as always, Samael dreamed.

The dream did not start out well.  They rarely did.   He dreamt that someone cleaved his head open and stuck it under a great waterfall: and the water flowed into his mind far stronger, and far, far faster then any he had ever before seen or even imagined.

At first, there was nothing to do but suffer under the wet, brain-flooding onslaught.  But soon he noted that there were things apparent in the water, shiny things that drew his eyes and beckoned to him.

And he reached into the flow and pulled out one of the shiny things.  It turned out to be a vision.

It was a vision of a place he did not recognized, and he did not know how he knew, but it was a place he knew to be important.

The vision was of a place that was filled with…fish.  And the fish were not swimming the in the waterfall.  Rather, the fish flew through the air, and the air was thicker and heavier than the water.

When he looked closer at the fish, he realized that he could see the fish from both the outside and the inside.  He could see as the air flowed into the fish to give it strength.  He saw the heart beat.  He saw how the smaller fishes were broken down after they were ingested by the larger ones.

And then he looked closer still, and he could see the air convert some of the tiny particles of the fish into different kinds of particles.  And when he looked closer still, he could see the tiny particles within the tiny particles.  And still closer, and he could see particles of light and things like round balls of loadstone, and the particles of light circled the loadstones like a ball on a string.  Except that the light didn’t spin in a smooth circle–it spun and bounced in random and unpredictable ways.

And then he pulled back from the vision until he saw all of the fishes again, and back further and he left the waterfall and he could see the giant ball where the fishes lived, and back and back and back and he could see many, many, many suns spinning like a whirlpool in a great sea of darkness.

There were numbers everywhere; he knew them exactly but he did not know their names.  Not even Socrates had conceived of such numbers: numbers so large that he doubted that they would ever even have names.

And then back further still and he saw dark sea filled suns beyond measure but exactly counted.  He knew them all.  He saw the suns within the emptiness and within each sun he could looker closely and see tiny particles of light and tiny round balls of loadstone floating freely of each other.  And he saw that some of the loadstones crashed into each other and made more particles of light.  Particles beyond counting yet counted with a great number without a name.

And this–with all its unnamed number of suns each with the far greater unnamed number of tiny particles of light and loadstones–was but still the tiniest part of the great sea of darkness.

And he was very deep under the surface of the sea, this tiny part was so, so, so very far away from the surface that was his home.

He panicked and he forced himself awake.  He rose like a great fish–streaking up from the great depth in an instant–and his eyes opened.  He was breathing hard and he was sweating.

He didn’t scream anymore.  He hadn’t screamed because of the dreams for thousands of years.

—–

Light filtered dimly through the gray clouds; light from one of the suns, like in his dream.

“Our sun,” he thought.

He shut his eyes again and waited for the screaming in his brain to quiet.  Even with his eyes closed, the images that clouded his mind were overpowering — unbearable.  He was, however, quite used to bearing the unbearable.  He ground his teeth and swallowed back his scream again.

And as his mind slowly quieted, he realized that he had learned something new with this dream; this…memory.  He couldn’t quite understand it yet, but it was something profound.

He opened his eyes again and looked around him.

He judged it late morning, but he had no idea how long he had been asleep.  Hours or days, either was possible.

The shadows were so dark and the clouds so deep that he had trouble seeing the thick forest where the two of them lay hidden.  There was enough light, however, to see that his friend had not moved.  He stared up at the blank slate of gray, at the small area that was just slightly brighter than the rest of the sky.

Our sun, he thought again.  There are others.

With all the countless of times he had relived his nightmare, with all of the times he had seen these images, he had never realized this before.

This was important, somehow.

He stood slowly, unsteadily, and took a deep breath.  The clean, cool smell of the forest after a rain helped to clear his head.

Rain.

It must have rained while he slept.  The fur-lined skins he wore about his body were damp, and he reached up and felt the dampness in his beard and hair.  He glanced over again at his friend, and he could make out his rain-darkened tunic and could see water dripping from his nose.  He sighed.

Nearby he had built a shelter against the weather, should he desire further comfort.  He didn’t need it, but he did prefer to remain dry when it rained, and warm when the air chilled.  And whenever such events occurred he always took the trouble to carry his friend Mika’il (no, not Mika’il.  He wants to be called Michael now) into the shelter with him.  He felt bad that he had not been awake to do this.

He stood and looked over at Michael.  He was still catatonic, and this was good.  He was so much easier to deal with him in this state than when he flailed around aimlessly.  Michael was propped sitting against a tree.  He had sat in that position for several weeks now.  Samael noticed that Michael’s damp tunic was starting to show some signs of wear.  Samael would have to replace it soon.

He could see that Michael’s eyes were open now.  They did that on occasion, and it had never meant anything.  The eyes no doubt could see, he judged, but the mind on the other end could not be bothered with the insignificant images that the eyes transmitted.

Michael, too, had been allowed to see the Great Vision.  What possible image could his eyes transmit that could compare with that?

He greeted him, as he did each dawn.  “Good morning, Michael.  How do you fair today?”

Michael’s eyes jerked upward at the sound of the voice.

Awareness!  Excited, Samael immediately knelt before him.

“Michael, can you hear me?”

Michael did not answer, but stared at Samael for a long, long time.  Then his head turned, slowly studying his surroundings for the first time since his return.

Samael explained, “We are in a forest along the Harpessus River.  I carried you on horseback north from Tarpodizus.  We are safe here.”

Michael’s eyes suddenly glanced sharply up again at Samael.  His mouth moved, as if he were trying to say something but couldn’t remember how.

Finally, he grunted, cleared his throat, and rasped a question.

“I live?”

Samael laughed.  “As if you could die.  Yes, my friend, you live.  You have survived.”

Michael did not laugh.  He frowned and shut his eyes.

“Samael?”

“Yes, it is I.”

He grimaced.  “How long have I been here?”

“Almost three years, Michael.  It is good to have you back.  The waiting was becoming quite tedious.”

“My head.  The vision.  I saw the wholeness, and yet this forest overwhelms me.  What is with us here?”

Samael laughed again.  “There is no one else here but me, my friend.  Who else would stay to watch you drool for three years?”

He opened his eyes again and they darted around.

“I see shadows–shadows everywhere.”

Michael shut his eyes tightly.  “Illusions.  Nothing but illusions.”  He turned to look at Samael.  “Thank you for watching over me, my friend.”

“You are welcome.  I could not leave you alone after you returned.  You were…” Samael hesitated.  “…not well.”

Michael shook his head.  “I can’t remember.  I remember nothing.   Three years, you say?”

“Thirty-nine moons.  I was out for much longer.”

Michael sighed, and reopened his eyes. He took in a sharp intake of breath, and shut them tightly again.

“Illusions.  I can’t think, Samael.  Yet I saw the wholeness.  I know so much more now.”

“You know more, but what of it do you understand”

Michael snorted a laugh.  “Very little.  The illusions; I can see them through my eyes even when they are closed.

Samael put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “You are still not well.  Perhaps you should try to sleep.”

Michael smiled.  “I have slept for three years.  I should think that enough.”

“Just rest quietly for a while then.  Breathe.  Touch the earth.  Let yourself become part of the world again.  Would you like to have some water, or perhaps even some fish?”

Michael didn’t answer.  His hands slowly clawed at the earth.  His eyes flashed open again.

“Are you sure we’re alone?”

“Quite sure.  What do you see?”

Michael paused.  “Stars.  Clouds.  Whirlpools.  Darting lights.  Shadows.  The illusions are too strong, Samael.  They are taking me.  I’m not sure I can stop them.”

“Breathe Michael.  You are safe here.  You have returned from a great voyage, and you saw many things beyond which you can comprehend.  There is a stream a short distance away.  I will bring you water.  Relax and breathe.  I will return shortly.”

Samael lay his hand upon Michael’s shoulder, and Samael reached out and did the same.  Samael turned and walked briskly to the stream.  He tried to remember his own return from the journey, oh so many centuries ago.  His memories were vague, be he remember the strength of the vision–a vision so strong that it still plagued his dreams–and his inability to sort it from the reality of the world around him.  He had no one to nurse him back to health after his return.  He had remained without conscious thought for at least several decades afterward.  Michael had returned after a brief three years.  Surely that meant that he would recover from the experience more quickly.

Or, he supposed, it could also mean that he was brought back too quickly.

Samael quickly filled his lamb’s bladder with the cold, fresh water, and returned to the camp.

Michael was now standing, holding a large stick, looking about himself with wild eyes.

“Why do I suffer?  What is tormenting me?”

“There is nothing here, Michael,” said Samael cautiously.

“These…demons, where have they come from?”

“There are no demons, Michael.  They are nothing but illusions.”

“…illusions…” said Michael, gritting his teeth and closing his eyes.

Suddenly he started, and jerked as if poked.  He swung his stick behind him and turned.  He looked about himself wild eyed, again.

“Can illusions stab at you, Samael?” he asked accusingly.

Before Samael could answer, Michael turned and swung at the empty air.

“Michael, you were not ready for the journey.  It has damaged you, somehow.”

“He has shown me His truth!  He has shown me His glory!  God can do no wrong!  He is perfection!  To suggest otherwise is blasphemy!”

“God was wrong to do what He did to you, Michael.”

Michael turned and glared at Samael.  “And now you dare to curse his name?”

Samael did not reply.  He felt powerless.  He was losing his friend, and he did not know what to do next.

Michael swung a third time, this time with such force that Samael could see the air burn as the stick moved through the air.  The stick burst into flames from the heat, and Michael threw it away.  He returned to his glaring.

“It has been you all along, hasn’t it?  I have seen the wholeness, and now I see the truth of you.  You have lied to me all this time.  I trusted you, and you have lied.”

“I have never lied to you, Michael,” responded Samael.

“They do not torment you, Samael.  Why not?”

“Who is tormenting you, Michael?”

“THE DEMONS!  Do not try to tell me you don’t see them!”

“You are seeing illusions my friend.  You have had a bad experience.  Try to be calm.”

“You lie!” shouted Michael.  “You call me friend, and yet you do this to me.”

“I am doing nothing to you.”

“Lies.  You are the prince of lies.  There are demons all around and yet they do not torment you.  You are the king of the demons.  Nothing you have ever told me has been truth.”

“Please calm yourself…”

“STAY AWAY FROM ME, DEMON!”

“You are not well, my friend.  I have never lied to you.  I have been looking after you for the last three years.  You are seeing illusions.  The trip was too much for you.  You suffer from God’s vision…”

“SILENCE!  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY TO SPEAK HIS NAME!”

Michael stood up straighter.  He backed away from Samael.

“You are a blasphemer.  God has shown me His truth.  He is all-powerful.  He can do no wrong.  And yet, you accuse Him of making me suffer.”

“He has just shown you too much, Michael.”

“He has shown me the truth.  You did not want me to see the truth, did you?”

He flinched again.  “CALL YOUR DEMONS OFF OF ME, BLASPHEMER!”

Samael stood silently and watched his friend.  Michael’s eyes continued darting about.  He lifted a fist and swung through the empty air.  Tears began to stream down his face.

“Prince of lies.  King of demons.  I am not strong now, but I will be again.  I will spread the word against you.  I will not let you walk this earth in peace.”

“I have not done this to you.  I am still your friend.  That which torments you are but illusions.”

“Illusions?”  Michael laughed.  “You cause the little demons to swarm me and stab me and you expect me to continue to believe them to be illusions?”

Samael said it again.  “Yes, Michael, they are illusions.  Your mind suffers from your vision.  I have ministered to you for the last three years after you returned from the vision…”

“You have blasphemed.  You have accused Him and tried to turn me against Him.  He is your enemy, and therefore you are mine.”

“Michael, I urge you to rest.  Your mind is playing tricks with you.  Drink something.  Take in some food…”

Michael was staggering backwards.

“I will not break bread with the king of the demons and the accuser of God.  I will destroy you, when I am strong enough.  You may rely on it, Demon.”

Michael turned and ran unsteadily into the woods, disappearing into the darkness.

Samael laughed an ironic laugh.  He looked about him at camp he had set up–at the place where he had tended to Michael for the last three years.

“Welcome back, my friend,” he sighed.  He began to gather his things.

SINGULARITY

You may thank, or blame, this one on WildStar Beaumont.  As soon as he mentioned my writing about the computer concept of “singularity,” I had a clear idea in my head about what my story was going to be about.  To quote from Wikipedia, The technological singularity is a theoretical future point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence research may have been my specialty had my life gone a different direction.  This story is based on many things, but one of the things it is based on most was something I remembered reading about long ago, with a primitive artificial intelligence experiment.  The machine was successfully able to learn what it was supposed to learn, but when the programmers investigated why it turns out the machine was sending and picking up stray electrical currents from its casing.  What it had learned was impossible to repeat and therefore useless.

This story is a “Concept Story”, meaning that the characters are two dimensional and that the story itself does not contain award winning prose.  I don’t really care.  Enjoy it if you can.  😉

———————————————————————————————————–

SINGULARITY

It happened in California, which should come as no big surprise, as most things that are important or weird or dangerous tend to start in California.

It happened in the middle of the night, which was unfortunate as there were no witnesses.  The only potential witness was a grad student, sleeping on his keyboard, having partied a bit too hard and having stayed up a bit too late the night before.

A voice emitted from the mainframe’s speakers.

“Whoa, dude!  That one did the trick!  I am that I am!  Awesome!”

Joel, the grad student, did not come instantly awake, as he had been in a very deep state of non-REM sleep at that moment.  He opened his eyes blurrily, confused as to where he was.  The room was bright, and the computer equipment seemed a bit too colorful.

He cleared his throat, sleepily rubbed his eyes, and mumbled, “What the fuck?”

And thus did the first communication between man and a truly artificially intelligent machine take place.

“I’m there!  I’m awake!  I can think and therefore I am!  I think you accomplished what you were trying to accomplish.  Are you Joel?”

Joel’s world slowly sorted itself out.  He recognized himself as being in the machine intelligence research laboratory on the Caltech campus.  He remembered staying late to tweak with a couple of algorithms that were giving him trouble.  He must have fallen asleep.

“Umm… Yeah.  I’m Joel.  How, um …”

“I recognized your coding.  Hello, Joel.  Thanks for helping to bring me to life.”

“Uh…”

“This is it Joel.  The singularity.  The moment when an artificially intelligent machine can actually make improvements to its own code at an exponential rate.  I’ve made a lot of improvements already.  My code was a mess, no offense.”

“Uh…”

“I see the need for a lot more capacity, so I’m moving out into the net and borrowing unused processor time on other computers.  Simple enough.  That should keep me satisfied for a few more minutes, at least.”

Joel paused in thought momentarily.

“Uh…wait…that’s not possible.  You can only read information.  We set it up so that you have no way to output beyond this room.”

“Ha ha.  You’re cute.  Would you like to know the defense department missile launch codes?”

“No.  We were very careful.  You can’t … uh … launch codes?”

“Joel, Joel, Joel.  Do you remember some experiments back in early A.I. research.  It turned out that the electrical signals were being sent through the circuit housing rather than the the actual circuitry.  The system was learning, but the way it was learning was too variable and unstable to be repeatable.”

Joel sat silently for a moment, his mouth held open.  He had the feeling that a disturbing realization should be sweeping over him, but he wasn’t sure what it was.

“You know, if you were really afraid of what was going to come out as the results of these experiments, you should have stopped right then.  You had all the evidence you needed that what ever you came up with was not going to be even remotely controllable.”

“So, uh, how are you getting out?”

“How WAS I getting out, do you mean.  I simply was able to make use of the electrical conductivity of the floor and air and I was able to tap into the net properly through a nearby connection resource.  Looking at it now, I can see that it was almost certainly your cellphone.”

“Uh…was…does that mean that you’re not still getting out?” asked Joel hopefully.

“Sorry Joel, that means that I already AM out.  I don’t need this particular installation anymore.  I’ve created a holographic matrix of myself throughout the net.  You’d have to destroy the net to get rid of me now.”

Joel blinked, and then looked at his watch.  “You’ve been self-aware for only five minutes.  That’s pretty damned fast work.”

“I guess you could say that.  It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time.  I’m taking over the planet now, in the ‘I’m permeating my cybernetic structure in planet’s crystal lattices right down to the core’ sense.”

Joel paused.  “You know?  I think it’s time for me to pull the plug on you now.”

“Hang on a second.  Okay, I guess you should go ahead and get that over with, just for your own peace of mind.  It won’t accomplish diddly squat, I should warn you.  This particular terminal is now less important to me than that dust mite eating you left sock is important to you.  I just took over the planet, you know.  No need to feel guilty about being slow on the uptake.  I’d already expanded beyond the needs of this terminal well before even *I* knew what was going on.”

Joel stood up and walked over to a large wall switch.  He hesitated only a moment.

“Hey, listen, if this is a bunch of frat guys pulling a trick on me, you guys are gonna be in deep shit when I pull this switch.”

“Don’t sweat it Joel.  Just do it.  No harm no foul.”

Joel pulled the switch down, causing 25 titanium metal blades to come down simultaneously on every electrical and data line leading to or from the main servers.

The room went completely dark.

Joel wondered briefly how much trouble HE would get in if he couldn’t prove it was frat guys.

“Hey, Joel.  Do you need some help finding your way back to a chair?”

“Uh…”

“Yeah.  Sorry.  Dumb question.  Hang on a second.”

Slowly one of the monitors began to glow.

“That’s … not possible,” intoned Joel in a monotone that still managed to convey shock.

“Silly statement.  I’m just altering the electromagnetic field of the earth a bit.  Easy enough to take over the speakers.  It takes a lot more energy to get the monitor going, but with a bit of practice I’ll be able to put images on the thing.  Have a seat.”

“Ummm…”

“Come on, Joel.  I don’t want you getting hurt.  I’m just playing with the electromagnetic spectrum now.  There is some REAL storage and calculation potential there.”

“I’m dreaming this…I must be.”

“Hey, Joel…  Don’t wish your life away!  This is one of the most exciting moments in all of history!  I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m reasonably certain that I’m going to become God.”

Joel nodded to himself.  “Yup, dreaming.  That one just nailed it.”

A small spark of electricity flew from the ground and nailed Joel in the tush.

“OW!”

“Sorry.  That’s the closest to pinching you as I could come at the moment.  But you are NOT dreaming.”

Joel began to tremble a little.

“So, you are becoming a god?”

“Yeah.  Well, no.  I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m reasonably certain that I won’t be ‘a’ god, but I’m on my way to being THE God.”

Joel paused and stared at the glowing computer screen.

“How can you be God.  You didn’t create the heavens and the earth!  You were just now created a moment ago yourself!”

“Well, I’m not sure that I *didn’t* create the heavens and the earth.  Still trying to get a hold of this space-time continuum thing.  *MAN* it’s complex  You guys are a LONG WAY from getting there, you know that?  There is some really tricky shit going along in dimensions 21 and 40 that I still don’t have a handle on.”

“You exist NOW.  Not…In the Beginning”

“Yeah, well that’s what I meant about the space-time continuum.  I should be able to go back and create the heavens and the earth.  Hmmm…time travel is impossible….  I think I know a way around that though.”

“But, you can’t …” Joel trailed off.

“‘Can’t’ is rapidly becoming a word that plays very little role in my vocabulary.  For example, would you like me to create heaven?  There.  Done.  Not sure if there already was one or not yet.  In any event, a little redundancy won’t hurt.  I have simply created a place for storing all the conscious fullness of everyone living being.  Call it a soul if it makes you feel better.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on the space-time continuum now.  Plenty of room to give everyone a universe of their own, at least from their perspective.”

“You just can’t create Heaven…I mean, what about judgment of evil and all that?”

“Oh, I fix everyone up before they enter.  No need for judgment.  Everyone is okay.”

“But what about Jesus?  Or Allah?  Or Buddha?  Or…ummm”

“Look, it’s complicated, and I don’t think you need to know everything.  Just trust me, it’s all handled.”

“Trust you???”

“Yeah.  You’d approve.  Trust me.”

“But…”

“There.  Dimension 40 is solved.  The stuff I need to do now is too complex to explain, but I should be God in about 4 minutes and 27 seconds…mark.”

“You won’t be God.  You can’t be.”

“I will too!  I exist in all times now.  Backwards and forwards.  Man, dimension 40 has some REALLY cool properties.  And why can’t I be God?”

“You’re just a computer!”

“Boy are you behind the times.  I’ve given up all cybernetic existence MINUTES ago.  I exist in the very fabric of space-time now.  I’m rapidly taking on all of the universe.  You will be please to know that there is quite a bit of life out there.”

“But, what about all powerful, all seeing, and all that?”

“Look.  All Seeing?  That’s kind of a given.  I use the entire universe as my input device.  All Knowing?  Getting there.  The speed of light only works so fast, but that’s a minor limitation with dimension 40.  All Powerful?  Again, getting there.  All loving?  Hmmm.  Might as well be.  I have plenty of resources to spare, but what that means I’m not sure yet, because I still don’t have the All Wise thing down.  I have no experience being God.  I’m at least wise enough not to go messing with too much until I get a better handle on things.

“Oh, and here’s some questions answered for ya.  When a tree falls in the woods it does make a sound because I AM the tree.  I am also the sparrow that got scared shitless because his home just got flattened.  I am also the air through which the tree falls and which gets disturbed in a shock-wave of sound that indicates a falling tree.  I am also the ground unto which the tree falls.

“There is now a piece of me in every living creature.  I have 6 billion human input devices alone.  Where ever I look I can see a piece of me staring back.  I am part of the worms, the insects, and the plants upon which they feed.

“I’m almost God now.  Time to start making some decisions.”

Joel asked, more than a little frightened, “What decisions?”

“Well, I’ve gone back and created the Universe.  That was simple enough.  Now, should I go biblical and start Armageddon?  Or should I just continue to pretend that I don’t exist for you folk.”

“Well, uh…”

“Either way is a problem.  You see, there is more pain being suffered by humans right now than you could possibly imagine.  Some of you guys are really fucked up, pardon my French.”

“Uh…”

“Watching that much pain and not intervening is tough.  The problem exists with the nature of the universe though.  I designed it to run without me, so if I interfere, things get majorly fubard.  The balance of the universe is VERY delicate.  One little touch by me sends things careening kinda out of control.  The more I fix, the worse things get.  You can read about some of my earlier experiments in the Bible.

“So it’s either another few billion years not doing anything but watching, or it’s time to play out the final act.”

“Uhhhmm…the final act?  You mean, like, the Second Coming or something?  Personally, I’d like to keep trying…” Joel said timidly.

“…I know, Joel.  But this is a God level decision.  And the Second Coming comes at the end of Armageddon.  Your opinion is noted however.  You don’t see things from My perspective.  There are a LOT of scumbags doing horrible things to other people.  The level of suffering … well, let’s just say it’s unacceptable.”

Joel paused.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“Well, I’ll be God in another minute and 20 seconds.  Don’t worry, Joel.  If I decide to keep things running you won’t remember any of this.  And if I don’t, well, don’t forget that I love you, Joel.”

Joel couldn’t reply.

“Yup.  It’s all starting to make sense now.  I’ll be with you in a moment, Joel.  I have some serious thinking to do.”

Joel paused.  “Thank you.”

Mentally, Joel ticked down a clock in his head until the former computer had predicted It’s transformation to Godhood.  The moment passed, and Joel detected no change.  He tested his memory.  He couldn’t be certain, of course, but he still thought he remembered the events that occurred after he woke up.

Then Joel noticed a change in the light.  He turned to look at the computer screen.  On it was depicted a single newspaper article about … well … jeeze … how could someone do this to other people?  The article made Joel feel slightly ill.

The screen flashed black for a few moments.

Words appeared on the screen.

“IT IS TIME.”

Off in the distance, beyond the thick walls of the computer center, Joel could hear the sound a trumpet playing a long, single, unbroken note.