Orbs orbs orbs orbs orbs...

In the Beginning was the Word...

by Con deBlon (Constantine Beloroutchev)


The night was ...ironically, there was no night at all. Twilight was briskly followed by Armageddon or Ragnarok, as you like. It came so unobtrusively that nobody noticed anything unusual. For one reason, to put it briefly, everybody was dead. Even worse -- they did not exist. They had never existed, nor had the Earth, rubbed from the universal memory with a single deliberate spit of the largest computer that had ever constructed itself. Its name was None or Fate, as you like ...

Everybody was dead. All of them but three. They met this fatal breakdown on the invisible line separating the night that never came from twilight that was no more. They were on the line and witnessed this change although they noticed nothing. In fact, it was the only reason that they were still alive, if it is possible to say so.

They were nude, even without flesh and bones, far from the never-existing Earth, their souls sheepishly hiding in the secret corners of obscurity. But they were still alive, knowing nothing, thinking little and feeling even less.

The first of them was too lazy to notice anything when the time came, and survived. The second was too busy making money and he missed D-Day, but survived. The third was out wandering somewhere far in Malvana with Jorian. He survived. De Camp would be pleased, but even he had never existed.

All three were there, nowhere and everywhere, saved by the Only, Dreadful and Almighty, the Master of Pain. The Only saved them when None was destroying itself in the greatest fallacy of all. None reckoned that he was the Only, whom it hated and thus betrayed. But the real Only was deep inside himself. When he was back he saw None distressfully revolving round the Earth that had never been the Earth.

The Only returned abruptly, finding himself in a position that he had forgotten to anticipate. Nevertheless, he swiftly rescued the outlandish people, all three of them, and placed them in the background.

In this predicament the Only was not ready to face the ordeal. He preferred to wait. He could do even more; fortunately, the Only had three, and now they were unique.

Three little clusters of energy that once had been human beings were suspended in vague uncertainty. This energy was nothing more than immortal soul, if the souls had ever existed, and if they were really immortal. Slowly and painstakingly, they began to realize that once again they were emerging from nothing because that was the will of the Only.

"Who am I?" asked the first.

"What's wrong with my money?" asked the second.

"Where am I?" asked the third.

Silence was the only answer.

After a while that embraced a millennium or a second, as you like, the Only appeared. They had no eyes to see him, they had no ears to hear him, they had no voice to greet him, but they felt. They felt something alien and dear at the same time.

The feeling was pain. Pain of brain that had nowhere to drain. Pain that covered the beginning and the ending of infinity where they were suspended. But pain meant life; it was pain that recovered them. And they could hear the answers. Moreover, they could understand, although no language was used. No language existed since the Only did not need it. There was mindswap.

The answers seemed irrelevant but eloquent. In fact, it was the pure truth. The only truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

"No one!"



Flash! Blast! Fire! Nova! Collapse!

The place that was nowhere began to transform. Space was replaced by the black hole and suddenly stars appeared. Nevertheless the place was still formless and empty, and darkness was upon the surface of the deep. But the Only would never create the waters although he could. Why not? the second creation was meaningless without the Earth, and that was the root of the evil: the Earth was gone, and could not be duplicated unless ...

Who created the Earth along with the Universe, a planet that bore life inside? Who? How? When? What for? That was the point. None knew the answer as it had destroyed the Earth for some obstinate purpose. But None had gone nut, invigorated with his hardware.

Time reluctantly was passing, although no time existed. They were outside of time. Once again all three of them became human, but neither male nor female. They could see, but without eyes. They could hear, but without ears. They could cry, but without voice.

The only feeling was pain to which they were doomed -- the only guarantee they were given of being not-completely-alive, the only guarantee the Only afforded. At that time he knew that he had done enough.

The three could fight; they would fight against None. The Only left no choice for them. But he neglected morals: for him it seemed unnecessary. This shortcoming could lead to impairment of the three. They had no inducement to fight against None, whom they did not know. They did not challenge the Only's unvoiced order. They pretended not to notice it, a simple thing that seemed wise. The sabotage began -- sabotage that could deteriorate into anarchy.

But the Only did not miss the takeover. He saw everything in close-up. The bloodless coup was not on his mind; he did not anticipate it. But when the time came he was ready to act. His answer was strange, unique, unprecedented, but efficient.

The answer was pain.

Nothing but pain -- pure pain.

The strike was over. Demands were left unsatisfied, but the rebels were ready for negotiations. The time for compromise came. The three were forced into a position they really did not want to take, but which they finally took. They could see no alternative to the tide of pain. Valor was outnumbered by pain. The three would have to fight for an adverse cause which was virtually lost even before the slaughter began.

But why wouldn't the Only fight himself? That was the question...

The answer was Aum or the Word, as you like. But obviously it was not enough, since Aum was the only possible answer to all the questions of the Universe. The answer was not a matter of words, because there are many words and there was One. The answer was a matter of understanding, which the Only evidently lacked. He could use the Word, and nothing more. Only None could understand it, but not use it. As long as None was in a state of rebellion there was no way out of this deadlock.

The Only and None clashed face to face in the never-ending fight. The fact that they had no faces meant nothing. They were there, everywhere and nowhere, simply avoiding large-scale combat yet. The Only was not ready, looking for feeble allies; None was still nut.

The third power was needed, a go-between-two-sides-of-a-medal. A reality? A dream ... Was there such a mediator? The answer was "Aum!"

Aum, the Word, that was in the beginning, as None had put it: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. All thing were made of Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. The Word comprised the Universe, the Universe that did not exist yet, but was created by the Word and out of the Word -- "Aum". He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world that was Him knew Him not.

Aum had three messengers: None or Fate, the Only or the Master of Pain, and Compassion or the Light. The Three were the Word, the Three were Aum.

Aum, who divided himself into Three and the Universe, was potentially too mighty himself to witness the world. There could be either Him or the world, as the world was nothing but a form of Him. And the world was the only way He could study Himself, because He comprised everything -- time and distance, the stars and space, the past and the future. Nothing was beyond Him. And this was only one of the stages of His education.

The creation was the beginning of the cycle, the history of our Universe. Armageddon was to be the End, the End that would eventually lead to a new beginning, to the beginning of something absolutely new -- New Universe, New Life, New Stage in the eternal education of Aum, the Word that was everything and even more, as the world was nothing but a form of Him. Armageddon would mean the ultimate merger of the Three into one. The merger of any existing substance into Aum that could then generalize and analyze the experience of being numerous. Then another cycle would follow, and then another and still another. Eternal spring of experiments and Universes that will exist not in time, but in everlasting Cosmos, separated by the emptiness of millions of millennia. That was all as it should be.

But something happened. Things always happened to Aum when He was separated into parts. The cycle was still in its middle when None aborted the program. Why -- or why not?

The answer was Aum, or, to be more exact, slightly less then one-third of the Word: The answer was the Light. That was the true Light, that enlightening everyman that appeared in the world. The Light or Compassion, the only possible go-between the cruel Only, whose only Vocation was pain, and None, absent-minded part of Aum, who knew nothing and cared even less.

Without Compassion the program of the computer that was Aum would not function. The Universe, the fourth and the smallest part of Aum, was its software and None rubbed it with a single deliberate spit. Why not, if there was no Light to control it, no Compassion to restrain it?

But where was the Light? The Light, the vital part of the computer, without which the Word meant nothing. Moreover, without Compassion Aum would never be the Word again. All parts should be united in order to balance the account.

But where was it?

A good question -- it is worth $1,000,000. But in this case what would be the price of the answer?

... Aum!

The three pitiful creatures that were once again human, but not beings, were the only chance of the world. The Only could not know it -- he knew nothing about the Word, but he had a strange feeling that these three daring clusters of energy were more then they could believe.

Really? And why not? They were the filibusters, undesirable products of the educational evolution of the Word, and thus who knows? The Light could be neither in Fate, nor in the Master of Pain, as all Three were separate but equal. The world and the Universe were no more. Where in Hell could be the Light? It could not be in Hell because Hell was within the Only. It could not be in Heaven as it was the synonym of the Light. Could it be in Purgatory? A good question, especially because the discussion about the existence of Purgatory was in its apex when None started Ragnarok. But even if it existed, or more precisely had existed in a lost past tense, it was in None.

Then where was the Light? Such a great substance could not have disappeared into nothingness, dissolved into emptiness. That would be a violation of the only Law of Aum, the Law of conservation of Aum.

Of course, there was one alternative so disastrous that it was not worth contemplating. Had Light escaped into one of the parallel Universes that in fact were nothing but various stages of Aum's self-cognition, subsequent in the same space although separated by millions of millenniums? Even time could not exist beyond Aum, so had Light escaped into those Universes, that would be the end of all the songs in the world. The balance of Powers between the cycles broken, Aum would deteriorate and vanish. Then He would be replaced by Nothing. Three little clusters of human energy knew nothing about it. They could not know, would not know, and would never even suspect that such information could have existed, but their understanding was not necessary -- only action.

Although the Only had no notion how such feeble creatures could help, he anticipated a breakthrough. The only motivation was pain -- he knew no other methods. And it worked!

All three of them would like to fight -- the confrontation with the Only over, they would do anything to stop the black pain that made their brain drain. It was not their fault but their tragedy that they could not fight -- three creatures were not incomparable even with the notion of None.

Fate never realized that anybody had survived Armageddon. It could have noticed them if it tried hard, but how could a nut do its best? A silly question.

But three were alive; at least they felt that they were not completely dead. Although they would gladly prefer to die rather then live through the pain again and again -- and so on to the end of time and space.

So they began to act. And they were a success. Although violence was not the best thing, it worked perfectly well -- not in the way the Only expected -- his expectations were so vague that they'd be better omitted -- but it worked. If the three creatures could not win a victory in an eternal war of equal adversaries, they should stop it. Better to lose a war than fight. Especially when the war is alien to your interests and pain is the only motivation.

... once again the question "HOW" arose.

But finally they were people, or at least had once been, a product of the unfinished cycle of Aum's evolution. And Aum never ever did anything in vain. Even humans could not be completely useless.

@L was too lazy to do anything but even he did his best.

BB was obsessed with money and could find a way out of any situation,
however desperate it seemed.

dC was a more complicated figure. A romantic, whose only purpose in life was to escape, to break through, to leave the disgusting world of Homo sapiens. And now he saw a virtual reality, which was much more real then anything he had ever witnessed.

@L fought unwillingly. He wanted to stop the useless slaughter in order to return the glorious days when one could do nothing and be absolutely happy. But his ideal was not positive. It was gone, and thus lacking vital capacity. He was defeated at Gettysburg.

BB was a fighter. He had no ideals; he was a bounty-hunter. He was a
mercenary, a man of war. Although the professionals had the best chances to win, they preferred to sell the fruits of victory. They were good executors but lacked incentive. The battle of Legnano marked his end.

dC was in a different position. His concept of war was romantic and he was disillusioned when facing the brutality of the Master of Pain. What could he have done? He simply ran away. On the Earth his wonderful dreams had replaced reality. He used his dreams once again. He did not fight to stop the war: he detested any struggle, especially a struggle for peace. He became a draft dodger. Once he had escaped Vietnam, and the Pentagon was unable to locate him -- dC was wandering across the Corn Belt with a collection of fantastic stories.

So now dC preferred to return to the past -- the imaginary past that was superior to a harsh reality of savage economic individualism. dC was in the jungles, he visited the stars and parallel worlds. He slid from one useless reminiscence to another. He was fighting with Hercules in the Battle of the Bulge. He was neither a GI nor commander-in-chief. He was a demiurge, not of the Earth as it had never existed. More likely he created the history of his own world, an ideal Tlön, that had nothing to do with God or Aum. He needed no outdated dogmas there. He created a new world, forgetting about the pain.

But in order to give birth to Tlön, dC had to change himself. A product of divine evolution, he did not suit his ideal world. dC was in the process of transformation when he suddenly discovered Compassion. In fact, it was not a discovery, he just threw something away, dumped part of Earthly history that was Light.

Light was part of Aum, so it would not suit dC's ideal world where he was
God -- a human being, creating the world without God -- dC only replaced Him in certain functions. Compassion was back. The crisis was over. None interrupted his meditation returning to the reality. The Only stopped fighting and forgot about his human tools.

There was no use in restoring the Universe as it had been, and nobody
wanted to correct the mistakes. The cycle continued in a transformed and abridged form. But there was nobody to object to.

Neither None nor the Only nor Compassion discussed the accident: what
for, if the difficulties and problems were already in the past?

Only when this stage of education was over, Aum could sum up the results. Only when neither Fate nor the Master of Pain nor the Light existed -- and
they would never exist again, left in the preceding cycle -- so at the end of time, and at the beginning of a new experiment could Aum analyze and understand the dramatic events.

That Universe was too miserable, having too much pain and too little
happiness. So Compassion or the Light lagged behind its companions, studying the wretched world. At first the distance was small, but the cumulative effect finally paid off. In the middle of history None -- in one of the controlling tests -- found no Light. That was a deadlock. It could neither admit nor explain the fact, so it began rubbing away "infected" files to improve the desperate situation -- at that time None was already not.

Compassion was lost in real history, but then history was eliminated along with the world. Only by chance Compassion survived within one of the natives. In fact, it survived in all three of them, but only one could provoke the Light to wake up. When the Light appeared in real time the situation was drastic, but all was not lost yet. Aum survived and continued His never-ending evolution.

The experience was useful, but to avoid such minor accidents in the future the Word regulated the program.

And what happened to the people -- to all three of them? Who cared? In fact, nobody but Aum.

The people survived and finally were integrated in the Word, but before the
time came ...

@L was too lazy, so he preferred Purgatory.

BB could not live without fighting -- the success of his alliance with the Master of Pain was beyond all expectations.

And dC? Not so that Compassion was grateful, how could it be -- dC was less than an ant, but he got what he wanted. He built his own world, his Tlön
without Aum, without Fate, without Compassion or the Only. All that was within the Light. But these are details.

The people, all three of them, were quite happy until the time came to dissolve into the Word. The game over, the tournament was going on. That time there were None, the Only and the Light -- Purgatory, the Inferno, and Paradise -- and a tiny Universe, an unimportant thing besides the Three. Next time -- who knows?

Then began a new cycle ...



Story copyright © 1998 Constantine Beloroutchev <minjar@hist.msu.ru>

Illustration copyright © 1998 Andrew McCann <andy@planetmag.com>




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