Teacher God stepped a little closer, then bent forward and gazed over his pupil’s shoulder and down on the trial universe soon to form under the transparent reality dome. Then he frowned, straightened, and said “No. That’s too many.”
Pupil God, a creative and eager-to-learn lad of about eight or so billion years turned away from the dome under which he was constructing the first molecule, and looked up at his teacher, then turned back to the shiny, spinning construct hovering, quite visible for its small size, in the sterile and shielded midair. He regarded it silently for some time, as if stalling or as if deciding how best to break some unpleasant news. Then he turned again and looked back up at Teacher God.
“Sir,” he began. “Gray’s Book on Universes is quite clear on this point. For expansive ramifications, which is what I’m aiming for here, Gray says eight, or even ten.”
“And your nucleus ratio?”
“Eight positives and two true neutrals.”
Teacher God, tall and ancient—give or take a few billion—drew himself even further erect, if that were possible, and re-frowned. “My Book on Universes does not hold that view,” he said.
“Yes, sir, I know. You recommend four electrons and a lighter kernel.”
“Yes I do. And you can take my word for this: you do not want more than four. Eight, in my experience, is to court disaster. It also makes for twice the gravity. Have you thought about that?”
Pupil God had thought about that, but gravity was not his main concern here. Instead, he said, “Gray says four will make it too rigid, even prone to implosion.”
“I know what Gray says.”
“I know you two don’t see eye to eye, sir.”
“I have tried it both ways,” he replied, “and I have created a few more universes than Gray has. I grant that Gray does looks good on paper, well-reasoned. In fact, I know Gray quite well. Brilliant God, quite brilliant, but not one to get his hands dirty, not if he can help it, if you know what I mean. And very particular about his manicure. A little, what is the word…?”
“Yes, that’s it. Fastidious.”
Teacher God continued to regard the hovering molecule in silence, then—with four quick pinpoint glances—turned to black four of the eight little electrons darting around the nucleus at God-like speed.
Then he said, “Those four, the black ones, take them out.”
Pupil God looked at them for a while, then vanished them. After another while he said, “I have to adjust the kernel.”
“Four and two?”
“You know that in the first molecule two neutrals can serve as one positive.” This he said like a question.
“Yes, I do. I would keep them true neutrals, though.”
“Or, I could use three protons and two neutrals, the two forming one positive to make four.”
“How do you determine the best way to go?” Pupil God asked.
“Trial and error,” said Teacher God. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Pupil God and reduced the kernel to three positives and two neutrals—pseudo-neutrals to be exact, since they added up to one positive—feeling safe in constructing what had been suggested (if not outright demanded) by his teacher.
“Looks good,” said Teacher God. “Why don’t you go ahead and test it.”
“For how long do you think?”
“I would simulate a billion or so years, at least.”
“Which environment would you recommend?”
“Which environment would you recommend?” said Teacher God, pointedly.
Pupil God considered for a while. “Ocean. I think Ocean. It has been a while since I worked with ocean.”
“Interesting choice,” said Teacher God. “Can’t say I have tried ocean myself, with four. Should work fine, though.”
Pupil God scanned the many environment drawers lining the wall above the row of reality domes where he was sitting, and found “Ocean.” He reached for it and brought out one of the prefabricated, bluish ocean molecules. This he released into the reality dome alongside his own first molecule.
“Now,” said Teacher God. “Keep a close eye on them.”
The two molecules looked at each other for a long time—not unlike stunned goldfish, too surprised to move—then began to circle, slowly at first, touching here and there, intersecting on occasion, then faster and faster, performing what more than anything looked like two curious dog noses taking reciprocal inventories. Then they finally came to an understanding.
The Groon (which is how the Pupil God thought of him, though he would be hard pressed to explain why) was plain monstrous. He covered one half of the ocean floor, while the other half of the ocean was crowded with what bred only to provide him food. The Groon lived to eat and grow. This is all he did. Ever.
His food lived to breed and be eaten, that is all it did. Ever.
The Groon ate and ate and swelled and swelled and slowly swayed with the currents of the water below and, once he finally broke the ocean’s surface, with the winds above. And there was nothing else. There were no fish. There was no land. There were no plants. No animals. No birds. Only lots of water, the Groon, and his water eating pet food desperately copulating to keep pace with his never entirely stilled appetite.
Pupil God, a little disgusted (possibly with himself; actually, mainly with himself) sighed, stretched, rose, and went looking for Teacher God.
Soon to return to the dome, his teacher in tow.
“I didn’t work all that well,” said the pupil.
Teacher God observed the monster for some while. Frowned. “What did you do?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. I’ve been sitting here. Watching.”
“How long has it been?”
“Nearly two billion years, simulated.”
“Well, that’s certainly long enough.”
“What is that thing?”
“It’s a Groon,” said Teacher God, still frowning. “Bad news all around. There won’t ever be anything else—well, aside from his food, of course. Once a Groon gets a hold—and this one has taken hold, oh yes, believe me, it’s taken hold—nothing else will spawn or survive. You’ll have to scrap this, I’m afraid. If this guy gets loose, he’ll eat us all.”
“Maybe we should have used eight electrons?” suggested Pupil God as diplomatically as he could.
“As I said, I admit that I’ve never tried four with Ocean. Obviously not an optimum mix. Try five.”
“In Ocean again?”
Pupil God reached under the shiny counter and pulled the green RCD (Reality Content Disposal) lever and within seconds Groon along with eighty-six thousand trillion metric ton of water and just about as much of his pet food, vanished as Nowhere inhaled deeply.
Pupil God’s new molecule had five little particles darting in and out, sparkling under the dome roof. The nucleus was three positives and four pseudo-neutrals to make a total of five positives. A certain balance he felt, and reached for another Ocean molecule.
They too performed their stunned inspection and dog-nosed inventory ritual—sniffing each other out, as it were—before they merged, but mate they finally did.
While Pupil God watched.
Algae opened her fine watery eyes on the universe of blue all around her. High above in thin air hung yellow sun warming ocean and forming wind to chase the waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to her left was the tiny movement of tiny fish, of tiny mouth, of tiny jaws. A tiny flash followed by tiny blackness and then Algae was no more.
Tiny fish opened her blue watery eyes on the universe of blue all around her. High above in the air, circling daily, raced yellow sun warming ocean to form the wind to chase the waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to her left was the small movement of small fish, of small mouth, of small jaws. A small silvery flash was followed by a small blackness and tiny fish was no more.
Small fish opened his brown eyes on the universe of blue all around him. High above in the warm air, baking down, hung yellow sun warming ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to his right was the not so small movement of not so small fish, of not so small mouth, of not so small jaws. The not so small silvery flash was followed by not so small blackness and small fish was no more.
Not so small fish opened her wide eyes on the universe of blue all around her. High up there in the air, streaming down, marched yellow sun warming ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, just behind her, was the bigger movement of bigger fish, of bigger mouth, of bigger jaws. A bigger, golden, flash in blue water was followed by a bigger blackness and not so small fish was no more.
Bigger fish opened his grim eyes on the universe of blue all around him. Up top looking down floated yellow sun warming ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to his left was the even bigger movement of even bigger fish, of even bigger mouth, of even bigger jaws. An even bigger bluish flash, an even bigger blackness and bigger fish was no more.
Even bigger fish opened her black, empty eyes on the universe of blue all around her. Topside swung yellow sun laughing and warming ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, a little to her left, and seemingly out of nowhere, was the really really big movement of really really big fish, of really really big mouth, of really really big jaws. A really really big eruption of water and blood was soon followed by a really really big blackness and even bigger fish was no more.
Really really big fish opened his still, hungry eyes on the universe of blue all around him. Above him, on the other side of the surface, yellow sun pranced around shining down warming ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to his right was the huge movement of huge fish, of huge mouth, of huge jaws. A huge flash churned the water into foam and blood and then there was a huge blackness and then really really big fish was no more.
Huge fish opened her starving eyes on the universe of blue all around her. Above her, beaming down from light-minutes away, sailed the sun warming the ocean to form wind to chase waves to sway the water below this way and that. Suddenly, to her right…
Pupil God had seen enough, and went to fetch Teacher God.
“They keep eating each other.”
Teacher God returned with his pupil and regarded the blue of the reality dome for some time. “Food chain,” he said finally. “It’s like a Groon with a little added variety. Some call it the Groon-chain. Not good. Scrap it and add another.”
“Bring them to six?”
“Why not? Let’s be consistent.”
Pupil God pulled the RCD and started from scratch. This molecule had four protons and four pseudo-neutrons, making two more positives along with six electrons darting in and out around the kernel. He then brought a new ocean molecule, released it into the dome and watched the two inspect and mate.
Pupil God settled back to watch.
Bad Guy turned the corner of Thirty-Second and Third and did his best to melt into the pedestrian river running up the Third Avenue sidewalk. Really, he was too tall to have any hopes of vanishing altogether, but at least he should be a little harder to spot. There were other tall people about, after all. A few, at any rate.
A couple of blocks up Third he ventured a glance back over his shoulder but quickly faced forward again at the sight of the two tall plain-clothed Good Guys he knew were following him, wading through the crowds, yelling at people to get out of the way, and gaining on him.
The irony, thought Bad Guy, the irony was that this had been an accident. He had hit her a little too hard, that’s all. She just wouldn’t shut up, would not shut the fuck up, and he had applied a little too much persuasive pressure that’s all. Across her jaw, which unfortunately snapped along with her neck it seems and in public to boot. Someone called the Good Guys, of course, and now they had spotted him and were closing in. Bet they were happy she was dead, he thought. Now they finally had something on him, something concrete. Witnesses and all. He moved as fast as he could through the lunch crowd, long legs reaching for more pavement, arms and elbows pushing stunned pedestrians this way and that. He turned another corner and onto much less peopled Thirty-Ninth Street.
The Number 147 bus braked with the usual bussy squeal and rattle at the bus stop and long black legs and tiny tits probably thirty or so wouldn’t be surprised if she was a whore jumped up and in through the open door while the bus was still rolling. In fact, since she was the only one waiting for the bus it never quite stopped. He waited a breath or two until the bus had picked up some speed again and then he too jumped onto the bus before the doors closed, stepped up to the driver, pointed his revolver at his head, actually touching it, and said, if you stop this bus as much as a foot earlier than 91st Street I will kill you. The driver believed him, nodded furiously and gunned the bus. Whoa, said Bad Guy, keep things normal. Driver nodded again, as furiously, slowed down and crossed Third Avenue just like any other bus then turned right onto Fourth. Now, said Bad Guy, let’s see some speed, or you’re dead.
The black legs who obviously overheard all of this and who had eyes to see the revolver with, sort of fell down into the front-most seat and, short of breath, began a heart attack, or something just like it, which she fainted from. Bad Guy continued to train his revolver on the driver who continued to get the point, even the one about oh, by the way if you have any accidents I will also kill you, and the bus, at hilarious speed, really, charged up Fourth Avenue and did not as much as slow before it reached 91st Street when Bad Guy said, stop here, which is exactly what the driver did.
Bad Guy leaned out through the open doors and looked left and right. No Good Guys to be seen. Keep driving, he said to the driver, and jumped onto the sidewalk.
Marie lived on the fourth floor with her mother. He knew that much, knew the address, knew her mom owned the place, but he had never actually been there before. The Good Guys didn’t know about Marie, he was pretty sure about that, so they wouldn’t know about this place, pretty sure about that, too. So that’s where he was heading. To hide.
No elevator. Green front doors, broken lock, lots of dirt on the floor, dirty stairs, dirt on the landings, loud doorbell.
Slow, scraping footsteps approached from the inside. Reached the door. He imagined an eye pressed against the little porthole looking out at a swollen him. A chain engaged, the door opened a crack held narrow by the taut little string of links. Old eyes looked out at him.
“What do you want?”
“No, she is not.”
“Can I come in and wait?”
“No, you can’t.”
“Let me rephrase that, I will come in and wait.”
“No, you will not.”
“Sorry, lady, but I must see her.”
Bad Guy was nothing if not strong, and the one hard shove he gave the door ripped the chain right out of the jamb and sent the old woman sprawling on the green and red hallway carpet. He stepped in and closed the door behind him. He sniffed the stale of unair.
The old woman looked up at him with very large eyes and it took her quite a while to say the next three words, “Who are you?”
“I’m Bad Guy,” he said. “Friend of Marie’s. Mind if I wait here?”
The old woman had trouble getting up so he helped her. She was apparently not hurt. He looked around at drab walls, dark hallway, and a lighter room ahead. He went there. A sofa, a table, four chairs. He pulled one out and sat down. “You have any coffee?” he asked.
The two Good Guys watched the Number 147 bus cross Third Avenue then turn right and disappear up Fourth. They watched but didn’t really notice, they weren’t looking for a bus, they were looking for Bad Guy.
“Fuck did he go?” said one to the other. They had both stopped at the corner of Thirty-Ninth and Third and looked around. No sign of Bad Guy. “Don’t know,” said the other to the first.
Marie, a tall woman with a face that struck you as two large eyes with lips, was climbing the stairs with her grocery bags. Normally she took the stairs two steps at a time but now, loaded down with milk, butter, flour, eggs, frozen fish, soup, and two loaves of bread she climbed them one careful step after the other, slower and slower as she approached her own landing. Once she reached her door she leaned on the bell with her right elbow and waited for her mother to open the door.
No one came. She pressed the doorbell again. Still no one. She swore and placed her bags on the floor, rose and searched her pockets for keys. She found them and unlocked the door, pushed it ajar, crouched down to pick up the grocery bags, but then heard, and then looked up and saw the swinging end of the broken chain hanging from the door, still dangling.
She grew very still.
She never picked up the bags but rose again, slowly. “Mother?” she said. There was no answer, but she heard some movement from inside the apartment. “Mother?” she said again.
She stepped into the living room and didn’t quite understand what she was looking at as her gaze alternated between Bad Guy at the table looking at her and her mother on the floor bleeding from many wounds.
“Bad Guy,” she said. “What…?” She looked back at her mother who was dead. “What…?”
“She wouldn’t make me coffee,” explained Bad Guy and took another sip.
“What…?” she said again and fainted to a blue and green colored heap with red hair.
Bad Guy got up and stepped over fainted Marie and out to the grocery bags on the landing. He picked them up, carried them in, kicked the door closed behind him and brought the bags into the small kitchen. He carefully put the groceries away. Then he didn’t find a beer in the fridge and instead sat down to clean his gun. He turned on the television.
Two identical sets of white legs and medium tits sang, “Double, double, double mint gum.” He looked around for a remote but didn’t find one. Other commercials came and went while he finished cleaning his gun.
“Fuck happened to him?” said the other Good Guy the first. “Fucked if I know,” said the first to the other. They were both walking back to their precinct.
Bad Guy slowly screwed the silencer to the short gray barrel. He placed the end of the silencer to the temple of Marie and killed her. No way she would not squeal, not when it was her mother.
“Must have found a cab or a bus or something,” said the first Good Guy to the other, as they walked up the four steps to their precinct doors.
Bad Guy went in to the kitchen and began cooking himself a meal.
Pupil God shook his head, rose, and went to find his teacher.
“It didn’t work so well this time either.”
They returned to the reality dome. Teacher God, very still and frowning, looked at the world for many a long moment, then said to his pupil, “What a mess.”
“It is, isn’t it?” answered Pupil God.
Teacher God sighed, “Yes.”
“Start over?” asked Pupil God.
Teacher God sighed again, “Yes.”
Pupil God pulled the RDC lever, and Humanity vanished into a hungry nowhere with a sucking sound.
“Seven?” asked the pupil God.
“Sure. Why not?”
Pupil God mated his new molecule with ocean and settled down to watch.
The meadow seemed endless, and perhaps it was. It was a sea of tall greens and yellows and turquoise. Winds, young and playful, chased here and there across the vast surface, now close, as a wide wave, now in a long and sweeping arch and then away to where the ripple was only a distant suggestion, away to where the heads of grasses seem to bend below the horizon. Yet other winds crisscrossed and laughed as they did. The many grasses laughed too. A tall, black finger rose from the very center of this jubilant growth, a massive projectile aiming perpendicularly and precisely at the second of three moons, always stationed at zenith. Two suns chased each other across the sky, drifting across the always nightless meadow.
A large window half-way up the shiny black finger opened wide—some eight miles above the meadow surface. Inside, you could hear someone singing. Notes, brilliant and clear rose into the air and grew wings to then be swept upwards in the breeze.
As they rose they unfurled wider wings that spread like sails against the blue of the sky and the gold of the sun. Their song touched Pupil God and he lost himself in the dome for many, many, many seasons. For many, many, many songs and unfurlings of wide wings.
That is how Teacher God eventually found him, lost in beauty. He tapped Pupil God on the shoulder. Once, then again, before Pupil God sheepishly came to and apologized. But Teacher God only smiled at him. “Wonderful,” He said. “Wonderful.”
“Yes, it is,” said Pupil God.
Then they both, Pupil and Teacher gazed upon and into New World for many more seasons.
“Do you think we should leave it at this?” said Pupil God.
“Do you think we should leave it at this?” said Teacher God.
“Very well, then.”
Pupil God, Teacher God by his side, fell silent again, watching the winds chase and the wings sing. Then he stirred and looked up at his teacher. “Tell me,” he said, “how can all this spring from two molecules?”
“Yes, tell me,” said Teacher God.
Pupil God looked down again at the dance of meadow and sun, of wing and sky. “It isn’t the molecules at all, is it?” he said finally. “It’s me in there, isn’t it?”
Teacher God smiled, and patted Pupil God’s shoulder. He would go far, this one.