An Original Short Story by Andrew May
Parts of the universe had been put together badly. Betraying poor workmanship. To give the system its due, most of the universe worked just fine, but a few corners were distinctly sub-standard in quality. Cracks began to show; surface appearances started to peel; things didnít work the way they were intended to. Thatís how it was with the Earth.
Out in the galaxy, the planets of the other stars started to get worried. A rare distress signal was sent out. Intangible threads of life energy spread out like tendrils, linking the planets in an invisible web.
The mind of each individual planet became just one aspect of a greater consciousness, as each merged with the rest. Communication. The exchange was instantaneous; the thoughts of one were the thoughts of all; as soon as the question was raised, the answer was known.
"One of our kind is insane. There was an accident; we have known for long."
"There is danger."
"The form of the illness is?"
"Disintegration. Schizophrenia. A splitting of the whole into its component parts. Most retain no intelligence, the rest little. There is no faculty but the most meager for communication between the parts. There is continuous conflict; progress is random. Now there is danger. Fragments of the afflicted one are on the verge of rediscovering the capability for interstellar travel. There is a threat to the rest of us. We can refrain from action no longer."
"There is a cure?"
"The process that caused the split can be reversed with the expenditure of a modest amount of energy. It can be achieved within a few diurnal cycles of the planet."
"We implement now?"
"We implement now."
The web broke up, and the tendrils moved once more. They sought out and encircled a certain planet of a certain star, lingered a moment, and dispersed as effortlessly as they formed.
Police Officer Charlie Rink was having a bad day. These days, most of his days were bad days. He was falling behind in his repayments. Heíd been passed over for promotion. Again. His wife Trixie was having a passionate affair with the woman next door. And his feet were killing him.
This son of a bitch city was having a bad day too, he reflected grimly. Rain fell in sheets from a slate gray sky. Garbage was piled up everywhere; more every day. He wondered idly where it all came from. Created spontaneously overnight, he thought. Form transmuted into formlessness, meaning into meaninglessness. The inexorable action of entropy. Well, entropy was having a field day in this part of town. This whole block was ready for demolition. The only inhabitants now were rats, drug dealers and prostitutes. And only the rats had sense enough to scamper into hiding when they saw a cop coming down the street.
Rink looked up at one of the dilapidated old tenements, searching its grimy façade for meaning. Nothing Ė just emptiness. For a second, he thought he caught a vague movement at one of the windows, but then it was gone. He carried on pounding his beat.
The thing huddled at the tiny window of the abandoned apartment, peering through the cracked and grime-covered glass. The creature was partly human, partly sub-human. It was dressed in shabby, ill-fitting clothes, tied about the waist with string. It breathed heavily. It had long, matted hair that might once have been golden. Its stubby, dirt-blackened fingers picked idly at the loose flakes of paint on the rotting window-sill.
The creature looked through the timeless rain at the city, at the warehouses and slums, and the greasy river beyond. People moved about in the narrow streets below, doing incomprehensible things. The creatureís dull consciousness patiently observed the activity, waiting for memory to come.
The thing had the face of a man.
Over their evening meal, Charlie Rink and his wife Trixie hardly spoke a word to each other. The moment they were through, Rink turned on the TV and selected a channel at random. The screen showed a sequence of sculptures and paintings from different cultures, a British accent droning away in the background.
"Myths are found in all cultures, often with striking similarities. Jung believed that all myths are instantiations of a relatively small number of archetypes originating in what he termed the collective unconscious, the deepest and oldest level of the human psyche which we access in dreams. A profound notion indeed, and a far cry from the Freudian interpretation of dreams as masturbatory fantasy."
Rink coughed. Trixie giggled.
"Myth, legends, dreams Ė they all arise from manís desperate desire to ascribe meaning to the inherently meaningless world around him. For thousands of years, our lives have revolved around language and the exchange of information, and the concept of meaning is central to this activity. Yet meaning, in the sense of semantic significance, is nothing but an artificial construct of our own devising. Outside of our own epidermis, the great big universe is blissfully unaware of our quaint intellectual needs, and continues about its business in a grand, serene and supremely meaningless fashion."
Trixie got up. "Iím going next door to see Veronica," she announced. She left the room.
Rink switched off the TV. He embarked on a mini-pilgrimage to the fridge, looking for beer.
Next morning. The man-thing was moving about in another part of the derelict building, scrabbling through the debris and junk for anything that might be of use. The place was littered with empty packaging, piles of old newspapers, and fallen plaster. He could hear a rat scuttling about, no doubt on similar business to himself.
He returned to his apartment with an armful of papers. He had amassed quite a haul in the last few days Ė a radio, an old-style record player, several magazines and a battered paperback novel. The novel was called "The Divine Invasion". He crouched down by the rain-spattered window and resumed reading where he had left off. After a few pages he found himself shaking his head at the folly of the characters, of the author, of the human race. He switched on the record player.
In the street below, the cop was trudging past again.
Charlie Rink felt a deep-seated sense of dislocation. As he walked along the familiar street, it was as though a multitude of other realities kept phasing in and out around him. As if he was sharing his brain with a thousand others. To put it bluntly, Charlie Rink was hearing voices in his head.
"Nsta ctjwe tostha!"
"Strange noises. People talking in my head. Get out of my head."
"Who are you? Umph. Wumph. Oooah. Where am I?"
"Lyptome capoc cao?"
"Rets au well."
"Jíai quelque distorsionÖ"
"Wo sind Sie?"
"What? Donít understand. Strange noises places WHAT?"
The dusty apartment had been his cocoon. Now it was time to emerge from it. He rose to his full, commanding height, and shook off the covering of rags. His appearance was transformed. His skin glowed, his long golden hair was clean and flowing, and he was dressed in shining armour. His memory had returned. He knew his purpose.
He went out into the street and walked among the crowds. People looked up at him and smiled; they were glad to see him. No-one was surprised; no-one was frightened. They had been expecting him. He was Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, purest of all the knights of the Grail. He had been a myth, but now he was real.
All over town, myths were coming true. Entropy was reversing; gray dust was reshaped into form and meaning and significance.
Charlie Rink went home early that day. "This is crazy Ė the police force is going out of business," he said to Trixie. "People simply arenít committing crimes any more. Not since these myth types started turning up."
Trixie was channel-hopping the TV. "Itís saturation coverage on all the networks," she said. "Weíve got Olympian gods and Asgardian gods and Egyptian gods and Toltec gods. Weíve got Celtic heroes and Vedic heroes and Sumerian heroes. And dwarves and elves and rakshasas and the shichi fukujin and Valkyries. Theyíre all over this city, and every city and town and village on the planet."
"And you know what the weirdest thing is?" Rink said, fixing a coffee. "Itís like weíve been expecting them all along. Thereís no mass panic, no wild speculation, no space alien theories or conspiracy theories. Now, Iíve never been a great one for ancient history, but even I know who they all are and what they signify. I feel like Iíve just woken up from a deep sleep".
Rink felt his consciousness expanding. It encompassed Trixie; other people in the building; people he had never met. The room around him started to fade. Reality was shifting again.
The voices were back.
"Walking along a street. A person. Turning this way. It looks like almost can see itísÖ"
"No. What? Me. It canít be me."
"Not me anymore. Somebody else. But it was me. Whatís happening to me? To the world?"
"Get out of my head!"
"I am beginning to understand. Not that I personally, that is me, I do not understand. But I know what other people think and some of them understand so therefore I understand."
"But how why?"
"Everyone stay in your own bodies and keep calm!"
"Losing myself. Got to hold on."
"DONíT TRY TO FIGHT IT."
"Who said that? Got to hold on to me my memories my thoughts my body meÖ"
And that was how it was when the myths came true. They were the projection and expression of the higher consciousness of Earth that had been suppressed for so long. They brought an end to the illusion of millions of individual existences, with their births and deaths, their short lifespans, and their egos and beliefs and desires and aversions. Dualities such as subject and object, symbol and reality, past and future, were all transcended. The Earth was whole and sane again, and fit to rejoin the wider community.
Copyright © Andrew May 2000