Thursday, May 24, 2012

What is believable after the apocalypse?

So weird. I was sure I had posted this story long, long ago, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the archive. If I'm just being extraordinarily blind and it is there somewhere, feel free to let me know. 

In the meantime, this is a story about the relative values of good and evil, about everyone's dreams coming true and about choosing what to do when you can do anything. Also a healthy dose of tribute to Grant Morrison.


On December 22 2012 the world ended. Through a series of internal philosophical arguments, linking together with flawless mathematical precision, a young man called San Kung achieved enlightment and elevated his consciousness above the constraints of the mundane world. He demonstrated the power of mind over matter by turning himself into a superman, disintegrating many of the weapons in the world and having sex with a thousand women at the same time. Then he seared through the veils of every single person in the world and exposed them to the light he had seen.

We were all then capable of doing everything we could imagine; indeed incapable of not doing everything we could imagine. The physical world was destroyed almost instantly, torn apart by warring opinions and wills, and abandoned for a realm of pure energy. We fought then, ego against ego, self against not-self. It was a battlefield of imagination and strength of purpose, raging through space and time without end.

Two sides formed, because our perception was still – is still – ruled by duality. It was yin and yang, freedom and control, light and dark, white and black, chaos and order, individuality and unity, courage and compassion, war and peace, life and death, red and blue, anarchy and hierarchy, adventure and stability and every other dualism we could think of. The forces of evil employed tactics, operating with cold logic and merciless clockwork warfare, while the good guys fought with passion, desperation, righteousness and rage. God have mercy on them, they really believed in their cause.

And good triumphed, and covered the entire creation with a perverse, terrible brightness. Wild, joyful laughter echoed through the endless empty potential space. The surviving god-men began to busy themselves with creating an approximation of the world they knew, with planets governed by universal laws like gravity, although the law-making was not in their temperament, and the laws were more like guidelines, or jokes, or playful experiments.

We made a shadow for ourselves, unseen by the light, and found a little bit of peace in the riotous, vibrant world. The teachings of the Outer Church spread over time, and the great white space came to be marred with spots of darkness; small and fragile and surrounded and brave, and constantly fought by the bright emptiness, the forces of good seeking to ultimately eradicate all imperfections.

Out of all the possible realities, of the endless fractal growth of possible moves, I pick one without hesitation, without doubt, without looking back or even thinking about it. That is my skill. I am Colonel Saw, chosen for this rank because of my skill. The enemy close in at us, raw energy moving at relativistic speed, and instantly I choose a move. I haven't told anyone that when I see the innumerable possibilities unfold, I make that choice immediately because they scare the crap out of me and I don't want to look at them. So the enemy close in and I give us all physical form, I make us human like in the old days when time existed.

Clad in flesh, we advance on Dane and his cell. They're guys and we're girls, so we can tell each other apart. They strain to unmake my weaving and lose the substance I have given them but I strain back and we're locked. They turn the ground into a desert of broken glass. It reflects the light of the sky and burns under my feet even though we make boots to step on the glass. We open fire in perfect unison and take out half the cell and scare the other half but they make their guns bigger and nearly blast the ground away from under us. Private Rom and Ram shield us from the worst but Major Sears fall, screaming. Sergeant Tank turns herself into a giant-sized cannon and makes a crater out of Dane and his boys so that's that.

I kneel and cut my knees on the ground to check Sears. She is still with us, but there's blood gushing from her mouth when she tries to talk and she convulses and goes limp before anyone can work a healing, and long before I think of undoing the flesh trap. I look at her dead eyes and try to imagine her going somewhere nice, but I know it's too late. Ego dissipation. Death. I'm not prepared for the flesh interface and I can't help it when the hormones go off and make me cry. I'm in command, damn it.

I have to work to stand up and give the orders. Rom and Ram is already raping the remains of our enemy and Captain Call is watching, laughing. I smile encouragement at them and tell the rest to make it dark. We stand in a circle and shoot a ray of darkness over the sky, negating all light within a cubic parsec or so. It's the job, it's what we're chosen to do, and it has to be done. So much light out there, I don't know how the bastards can stand it.

I don't like desecrating the corpses, really. That's my secret. We should do everything to lower their morale, the meaner and crueller and wickeder the better, we have to make them know we're bad, so bad they can't ever stop us, but I just don't like it. There has to be a better way to do bad. I'm going to think of something soon.

I think my face is showing disgust, Lieutenant Core is looking at me and asking, so I let our bodies melt away and tell Core I'm thinking about Sears, a little vaguely. We have no eyes anymore but I can see Core is sorry.

I give the order to get back and we bob through whitespace back towards the home grids, a little melancholy, a little closely. We can take it easy, we won one after all, and the rich, soothing darkness behind us make me feel damn proud.

But then Call picks up a wave of approaching enemies. It is several cells and none we have classified. Call sends out shock and worry – I can almost see her face from back there when we had bodies twisting in fear – it looks like Red is with them. Goddamn Red, I think, trying to remember how many that bastard has wiped out. And how easily. I shrink the space ahead of us, and then stretch it behind us, putting as much distance I can between us and them. I can feel them tugging back; they eat up the distance faster than we can produce it, even with all of us together.

I've never met a light who could match any of our concerted efforts. Are they learning to work together? Or is Red just that good? Fucking Red. We can't win. If we take them back to base with us maybe they'll take the whole base. That should be more important but damnit, I don't want to get killed. Not by Red.

I clone us a couple of hundred times over, simple copies that don't break the ego laws but hopefully enough to fool Red and the gang. From a distance. Then I tell everyone to split up. We set off in seven thousand directions, a clone of me heading straight to them, Core heads home. I'm not sure if I wanted that. No time to think.

I make speed as fast as I can, pushing asteroids and planetoids behind me to block the way. I'm alone for the first time in my life, and three lights are on my tail, and there's infinite whitespace ahead. I think about how hard it is to kill anyone in the energy state, how unpredictable things get if you try. Should I slow down and fight? I reach back with a mind lens, but they nuke me before I can catch anything.

I pray to the dark for inspiration and then it hits me; I become a black hole. The infinite mass slows my speed so fast I can hardly think before I see them struggling, already caught in the gravity well and trying to think up a way out. I pull, awkwardly with unfamiliar limbs, and one of them gets sucked into me. The light fades, screaming a high-pitched radio wave, panicking and taking some sort of ectoplasm form that can't do shit before its component atoms are torn to shreds.

I catch one of the two remaining lights trying to move backwards and remake the last event sequence. There's a smell of tachyons and shit whenever someone does that, you learn to recognize it, and I reach out with my mind and sort of smack the time vortex thingy into itself so the light becomes inside out time and breaks in 196 833 shards that shatter all over creation. Of all the things we can do to each other I don't know anything that more definitely kills someone. Permanently ends their being, like.

The last light is completely stunned so I turn us into flesh and zap down to the nearest planet. It's an artist planet, something made by someone with great attention to detail. We're standing in a jungle with chirping birds and smell and sound of sea nearby. The coarse earth is warm under my feet and teeming with plant life. Oh, I do love being flesh. I hold him still, he struggles a little but I've got his motive power completely overwhelmed. Probably a newbie. He stops trying to move and looks at me. In his eyes I can see his mind working to find another angle, some way to hit me that I won't expect. I think the look on my face tells him I'm confident I can handle him, because he gets scared and totally loses his concentration.

I tell him if he tries anything I'll hurt him more than he can imagine, and I think he buys it. I ask if we can talk. I tell him I'm Colonel Saw, and then he gets so scared I can smell it in his sweat. His eyes almost fall out of his face. Apparently I'm some kind of celebrity. I ask if there's any one of us he's more scared of, and he says there are a few, but he hasn't heard any definite stuff about them, there's just this vague fear of the leaders of the dark. Hell, I don't know the highest leaders myself. But it seems I'm almost as scary to them as Red is to us.

I tell him about the Outer Church, because I don't know what else I'm going to do. If I finish him off I'll have to fight more. Maybe against Red. So I stall. The light – Daryl – is pretty fascinated. Maybe he's capable of learning to love the dark, or maybe he's stalling to so he gets to live longer. He doesn't get what's so bad about the light that we have to destroy it. I'm starting to figure that we can't win. We can't cover the universe in dark any more than they can wipe it out. In the beginning, I say to Daryl, there was nothing but light, but the dark appeared anyway.

At about this point I let go of the holds. Daryl, free to move, kisses me on the mouth. Flesh has its own appetites. We surrender to them, lose ourselves to each other, and taste the pleasures of the mundane body. It feels good.

We talk, with our mouths. About rejoining the battle. About joining sides. About switching sides. Asking why there has to be war.

We make a mixed dark and light shine around the world; a greyish shade that will avoid the attentions of both sides. Or maybe attract them both. It's a gamble.

The dull light of our sky is bearable for us both. We are in balance. At peace.

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