Our Early History
I could begin anywhere. I could start with the milk in your morning cereal bowl before I came up behind you, pushed your face into it and held it there the full five minutes, then comparing it to what was in that bowl when I let go. Retell in those five minutes the whole shebang. But seen from that view it's all too 'determined.' We have free will too, after all. And that's Petey's method, not mine. He can do things like that with words , make them mean something other than what they actually do. I believe he led us into articulation. I know Dave said the first words, sure, but it was Petey's centuries in the desert - sound familiar? He'll admit it – when he was looking for new illnesses, that helped him and us learn to communicate. Like we're doing now.
I'd like to start in the dark. Near the first black hole again. Or the last, if you want. If there'd been air you'd have heard the dust and scraps of burned pebbles, etc., sweeping with a washing sound into this space even darker from the outside, a space that wasn't, not really. At this time that wasn't yet a time, there was only one of them. I've got no doubt that plenty more dirt and so forth out there rushed toward it, but the 'transparent-hot' interior - forget even white-hot – would run out of room shortly.
"...though I didn't hear the command ('Let there be light'), I know it was said. It doesn't even bear argument. Go ahead, build your 'sarcophagus of coincidence' if you want to – give us something to bury you in..."
At that time you and us, we were all close relatives. We occupied the same pinpoint. To be honest, I don't remember this any better than I remember the 500 years before we saw something that made us laugh for the first time, but I know it happened. Dave had spoken maybe a day previous to that. But I'm confident we knew you. Once. We were you, within that pinpoint, just as you were us, as we were all solid and liquid and gas at the same time. Could be that's why we are becoming you again (reread my opening statement!). It's that 'alpha and omega' you've read about, kicking in. Another approximation. And then again, maybe not. Should you worry about that for a whole different reason? But then one speck too many crossed the event horizon and collapsed into the maw now too full, and the gravity which crushed us all together had no further choice but to let go. At the command.
Again, though I didn't hear the command ("Let there be light") I know it was said. It doesn't even bear argument. Go ahead, build your 'sarcophagus of coincidence' if you want to – give us something to bury you in -- but I've seen too many angels and too many demons. I've got too close to certain things in the last 2000 years and felt a Hand slap me away. So you atheists can cease and desist right now. Some things don't need examining. They're just true! Where'd that Hand come from, I want to know, if it wasn't on His arm? All right, no, it wasn't exactly a Hand. Felt like it, though. One time it was a badly-placed (for us) gust of wind. Other times, a heaving reef, a detail of swordsmen on the road to a walled city, a volcano, a chorus of soulless mouths, a city astride Eden, a crack that ran across an entire reality, a herd of cats. Yes, you read that right. A herd of cats. And you think there are no miracles? And I've seen the hyperstructure from outside too. I didn't dream that up. It's the column of realities you and all your 'counterparts' live in. Petey's mentioned it. It wasn't entirely built on your suppositions, you know. Go ahead and deny, deny, deny. Tell me that because I've been awake for almost two millennia, I've gone crazy. Ask your unanswerable questions. They're not answerable because they're invalid . Don't forget that. So stop asking them. Wake up. Or build yourself another sarcophagus out of your elegant human-derived logic. Always good to have a spare handy in case one gets lost!
To get back to it: the contents of the black hole flew apart and are doing so to this day, some thirteen billion years later. No news. What followed? Recombining suns, planets, nebulae... next wheels, baskets, chariots, aqueducts, rain... no, not in that order, but you get the drift. One civilization gave way to another throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe. And a gray-bearded man was exiled in the year 90 C.E. to a small island called Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor by one Domitianus Imperator. This exile had 'obscured his origin,' like they put it back then, which is what they said about Christians. The boatload of soldiers threw him onto the shore with his small bag of possessions and heaved off, catcalling the usual insults in Latin. From what Petey tells me, this Domitian had decided he was a god, and worship of other gods irritated him. I know it's been explained to you that you as a human being have some ability to redirect slightly whatever reality you inhabit, but I guess Domitian didn't get how a lot of other humans have to believe the same thing he did for it to be real. 'Scuse our repeating that. Don't want you forgetting. So, the old fellow – St. John the Apostle by name -- looked about him and saw an empty island. A skull here and there; Domitian had run out of islands to exile these 'Galileans' to some time before and had had to start reusing them. Not a lot more was evident but for this voice... which the boat of soldiers probably didn’t hear, or they would have come back.
For the rest of what happened on Patmos, read Revelations. St. John is a much better writer than I am. But about us, now. The first four seals opened by the Lamb admitted us to the air, and the slaughter began. Yes, then. We scattered to the four winds –appropriately – taking out gobs of your ancestors in the manner prescribed. Again, true enough, my recall is kinda sketchy. I recall bits of action here and there. No real pattern. I've concentrated and seen in my head (when I have one) what was ripped from bodies fallen by a road, in a city, in a hovel. We dropped them behind us and rode on. I saw Petey again and again sinking a fog of flies into entire villages and rotting them away in what almost seemed an instant. Saw Willie slay armies, Dave hack penitents and Pharisees and Imperators to shreds. I hear my horse sometimes... long gone now. He may be neighing from another reality; the way you humanity and G-d wrestle over control of this island creation I wouldn't be surprised. There are times I'd like to see him again. Pat his head, give him an 'attaboy.' He did well by me. But what's done is done.
Oh, yes. Where were we before the seals were opened? Again, no idea. Waiting beneath the earth since the day of creation? Your guess is as good as ours. Let's say that, then. Why shouldn't that be right? Any more than Dave's surmise that the blank page in every Bible previous to Genesis 1 is just as important as the last page, the blank one after the Index. He's correct, by the by. Another of us will talk about that later.
Now, initially it seems we weren't supposed to be able to think. Why? We were doing Another's bidding, as Petey would have it. Didn't need to. Let's leave it there since I can't come up with a better explanation. I do recall clouds mirroring my image back at me one day. I don't remember colors, so it wasn't a rainbow. I was huge and grey on my mount, in full armor spotted, morning stars raised; and one iron ball dashed this mirror of droplets before me. It's possible I didn't see me again for centuries.
I remember something else. I was by myself at the time, hovering. A road, lined by ill-kept trees. Possibly in Gaul or Rhaetia. A litter approaching, carried by retainers. Some fat advance man waddled up front, looking for somebody to warn that What's-His-Name was approaching, get out of the way. That works in Rome, but not here! I swept my morning star at them, the lot grew empty-eyed and dropped the litter with a crash. Fallen to their knees, they withered to dust and bones... even the slob in front. I saw a man tumble from the litter, stunned and s houting. He saw me. I know he did because his mouth opened. I turned and rode away into the sky, leaving him with his mouth.
"Remember, all terms are relative. No absolutes. None. You can count them on a mutilated hand."
Now at some point we four met one another. Seeming to understand we were alone in the world, we forged something of a bond and began to ride together as often as not. Did that same Another direct us in this time as well? I believe so. Some loving G-d you all... we all have. Petey had a bag at his belt, he sowed plagues, dropsy, ague, yaws... David had an axe, he dispatched the high and the low, one at a time. Willie had pretty much one of everything; his ability to take men, women and children out by the swath amazed even us. You remember that famous quote of Jean Rostand's (“Kill one man and you are a murderer. Kill millions and you are a conqueror. Kill all and you are a god")? I'd say that of the four of us, Willie was the most godlike. Paradoxically he's never said much about it, or a lot else. He's never had to. And you already know what I carried. We all had swords, we used them too. But again, in no known or, I believe, knowable pattern. We were a chaos... reintroduced into a world going too ordered for Somebody's liking? Was that the reason? Sure, why not.
You've noticed how we all more or less think that the greatest gift and the greatest bane we've ever had inflicted on us is and was intelligence. Here's how we 'woke' one day. Petey will tell you that the Paradise unreflected upon is the only one that truly exists; consider the Garden of Eden! Remember, all terms are relative. No absolutes. None. You can count them on a mutilated hand. While we pruned the Kingdom of Earth, as opposed to our Kingdom of the Air, you see, we didn't notice the stains gathering on us. Blood, fecal matter, clumps of hair. The rain washed us cleaner those times we grew 'temporal,' a trick we used sparingly early on... but something of you all did get left behind, crisscrossed us, grew into us with time. I'm still not sure exactly what that 'something' was. Something of you. A basic difference that took hold in us and made you and us more the same somehow. Psychic residue? Maybe that's it. I've since noticed how in every room you enter you leave something of yourself behind. When you return to that room or that place, you re-access what you left there. The 'memories' remain for you to plug into when you return. They are not actually within your mind. As to those parts of those we did away with which clung to us and never let go... what held them in place? Simple meta-gravity? Again, no idea. But your remains colored us, your dying emotions sank deep. And possibly due to that inferred influence, we lost our footing now and again. Yes, we'd learned to throw on bodies to better aim our weapons, but we didn't yet understand that to step onto the human plane is to risk the human lance at our throats. Sometimes that occurred! Mindless, we committed similar mistakes again and again. Like you still do. So growing awareness may have been our own survival instinct? Or would it have happened anyway? As before... you'll have an opinion.
We never knew any of this was going on within us until one day, Dave opened his mouth and hissed or cackled a few syllables. We turned, not sure, looking to see who else was there. Even he doesn't recall this. I'm not even all that sure he knew at that time he'd talked. We looked up too, from where 'our father' St. John had come, and gone back. But the joke was on us. Heaven didn't offer any clues; not that it was above us anyway. At that time we were walking along a road, ragged, unarmed except for a few small knives we'd managed to beat out of a group of highwaymen. Lombards, maybe. This was after a thoroughly disastrous visit to Rome I won't go into right now. So we were probably in Italy or at least Mediterranean Europe somewhere. About 600 C.E. Even given our condition, I could have sworn we still had our horses and our weapons; but once Dave talked, that vision – if it was one-- disappeared and we never entirely saw it head-on again. We stumbled into a town; I remember a lot of marble and stone so it may have been a local capital. We resembled garbage with legs. Nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to us; more refugees from one part of the fallen western Roman Empire going to another that wasn't there any longer either. A busy marketplace was to our left; empires come and go, but there's still money to be made, mouths to be fed. Correct?
We saw a group of workmen lifting an obelisk in the square on the far side of the stalls. Well, it seemed like one. We walked towards it. As the horse teams and the block and tackle sets lifted the pointed stone into a wooden scaffold built to hold it up, I remember Petey lifting a hand. About ten cubits to our right, one of the flagmen who directed wagons and carts around the construction area was chatting up a pretty young thing in a servant's marketing outfit. Clean and fresh as he was rotted at the armpits and sweaty. But what Petey'd seen was how the rising member occupying his pantaloons mimicked the slowly rising obelisk! Petey loves looking for the connections between things... again, he thinks it's all just metagravity. The massive imitating the minuscule. Whatever. Well, we saw, and we laughed, for the first time. And then looked at one another thunderstruck, because we did not know we knew how! But the flagman noticed Petey pointing at his own pointy point, I guess you could say, and he came after us, swinging his flag staff. Petey panicked, threw all the fleas in his bag and the town died around us in what seemed seconds. Completely.
I was stunned. We all were. Odd, because now I recall we'd seen this effect before. We just didn't process it until that moment. Not understanding, we ran across the town, tripping over bones and scattered teeth. How the skin and muscle boiled off them so quickly we didn't then know. Maybe we'd stood in the square, in shock, for years. Decades. A collapsing wall shooed us back into the forest. Some time on, a larger city, this one with walls, appeared over the hill. Abandoned tombs, some looted, others still shut tight, lined both sides of the road. I recall it was autumn, from the hue of the trees and their dropping leaves.
-Do you think… -D.
That was Dave again. He did most of the talking for the first few days or weeks. But we knew what he had in mind. Was this Rome? Again? Had we gone around in a huge circle? Could have been; the city was immense, and somebody apparently had taken all the milestones on our road to build a church nearby. Or something. So we had no idea where we really were. As I said, you play at the human, you invoke their cruelty. And their cats', too. Embarrassing, all right, but Petey said the truth alone is acceptable here, so... we were still 'temporal.' Rome, if this was Rome, was positively the last place we wanted to visit. To steady himself, Willie put his hand on one tomb wall, idly scanning the flaked Latin inscription he couldn't read anyway. There was nobody on the road, but conceivably the day was early yet. I remember a ring of light about the treed and walled horizons. No more. Possibly too early. David looked at the barred gate some three hundred cubits distant, and said...
-Anywhere… not here-- -D.
If we weren't fully conscious up to then, we certainly were after that.
- Levites hath purified themselves
- thirty upon four
- alread woven
- nets of cities, above and below
- blood-flecked apse
- for sambu
- incinerated more lead
- Onan lieth among
- salt prayers
- firma incognita
- gravestones and tombs gavotte
- all faiths
The ground fell beneath and the air all but fled up. This is the only way I can say it. We ricocheted in directions you can't even find on an astrolabe, Willie wisely hanging on to us all somehow, in terror for our existence. All places of any religious affiliation whatsoever are wormholes, you see – it's how prayers get to where they are aimed - but how would we have known that? We saw endless places and endless times. We saw the plains of Abraham, dancing elders, a brutalized woman on a temple forecourt, soldiers marching across a field, screaming burning rats, the sack of Treves, massive stretches of tropical greenery stained orange and dying, pools of boiling lead, until some uncountable time later, Dave screamed--
-THE TOMB! THE TOMB! ON THE ROAD! –D.
And there we were again. No idea what we'd just done or been. We'd Traveled for the first time. Not a very cheery thing to try if you don't have a particular place you want to go. Found that out the hard way.
Willie let go of us, collapsed half-conscious. We helped him up, once we found our own feet. A wagon of rough-cut masonry blocks angled along the road towards us, the drivers looking us over while their horses kept clacking on the hard ground. The sun still had not entirely appeared. One of the men called out but we didn't understand him. He jumped from his perch, whip ready, and Dave had seen enough. But that wasn't all we'd see.
At exactly the second that the man made to jump off the wagon, a barrier light-years long and wide came out of the earth, slicing him and everything about us in half. Frozen and unwilling or unable to think, we expected his entrails to go flying as our lost swords had once been able to make innards like them do. But this time the man, also frozen in the air for the merest of moments, became two. Everything around him did the same. Two wagons, two roads, two walled cities, two identical skies. All identical but for one of him staying on the wagon, the other striding toward us and cracking the whip. Each cut half of the world around us became whole again and the one with the wagon that rolled by drifted away at an increasing speed nearly godlike. It vanished with a blip, and naturally we stayed in the reality with the advancing drover! At that point Dave pulled us all behind
"[During Pestilence's time in the desert] sometimes we'd bring him [the] heads of executed wise men, tyrants, women poets, all still warm... and he'd page through their brains, whorl by whorl..."
-the tomb and desperately whispered—
- all that was
- salutaris hostius
- he caught a view
- police organ
- Aegean curve
- white/beige among bluing
Home. Well, one of them! We found our noses crunched against the wall of a wooden church, hastily built, cross a bit askew over the roof peak. We fell back and sat, even more dazed. So this Traveling was a tool! We could make do without our horses. Not that we had figured this out entirely, yet. No sounds inside the holy hovel; seemed no need to look in. But Petey had not forgotten what we'd laughed about before; I recall him surveying us, getting our attention, and as we looked on he inclined his index finger to the right. Slowly raising its tip until it was pointed straight up, he began to laugh again, an ugly rasp but it would have to do, and I have no idea how long we lay there cackling hysterically. Patmos was empty grassland again, all the golden lamps dimmed and struck, bowls of judgment poured out and themselves melted away. But there was this one little church and these 'four simulacra sniggling in the dust' (again, Petey’s term). So, we learned to Travel. We learned of this hypermatrix of wormholes. Ingenious. Why? It works, who cares. It gets us from one place to another, one reality to another.
Deciding to explore Patmos a bit, we crept through the grass. Looking at the ground, surveying the air above that we'd lost and the differing horizon, throwing away bodies and sinking from sight, clothing ourselves again with molecules from the air and rising above the sand once more, we began to try to figure out our limitations. We saw towns on the island rise and fall around us, churches built and collapsed. I don't know how long we stayed there. We learned over time who we were and what we were supposedly responsible for, so we went to work once more in a different way but doing the same thing. Odd how sometimes I hear a certain number of opinions say we also did this or that, and it becomes as if we had. Or are, or will. Handing blame out is always fun, but as this X-iverse is nothing if not capable of bending back on itself, whoever does that should remember how things made of rubber tend to snap! You don't want us to notice you before your time. Yes, we often regret how our ability to think has limited us, but if we hadn't had that talent, among many other things Willie might never have found BAAGAAD. Or Petey might never have come to see that consciousness without a break on occasion burns itself out... so we have just recently learned to 'sleep.' It's still in the experimenting stage, but it's refreshing. Told you we've all but become you!
Other than the above, there was a period in the mid-18th through the early 20th centuries C.E. when Petey was all but disarmed, spending (as you recall him saying) a long while in the desert. Waiting for a sign? Are you kidding? From whom? No, for inspiration. We had to learn that, along with everything else. The other three of us let him have his head; sometimes we'd bring him other heads, of executed wise men, tyrants, women poets, all still warm –Andreas Vesalius did it with criminals, you remember – and he'd page through their brains, hundreds of them, whorl by whorl, learning, absorbing, devouring their contents. We took our fill as well, following Petey's lead –another bad habit, possibly. But it worked out well enough that time. Yeah, Dave taught us to speak, but Petey taught us to articulate. Fairly good swap for having to listen to all his weird ideas. But that was what The Wait was and is all about, to our minds; a time to prepare.
Take a look around now. You'll see our Wait was well spent. See our handprints large and small. Look where we aimed and where we swung what tools and weapons we still have. Use your imagination. A lot of my thumbnail account may seem a little bloodless. Where, to be graphic, is the splatter? Aren't we the purveyors of that? When we can now pinpoint you at 250,000 yards or more... and when we have learned (the hard way) how corrosive your remains are, you can hardly blame us. As I've already asked, how easy would it be for you, nowadays, to knock four massive creatures out of the sky? And it's not as if you aren't doing your level best to lift your own body count to our level. You have a ways to go, but.
Since as usual he's champing at the bit to say something, here's Petey to finish the thing off. Hungry? Thought so. –F.
-Well done, Francis. Only one thing to add. We continue to grow ever more convinced (and we believe we have demonstrated) that humanity, not their Creator, made It All as plastic as It is. As I've said, that may have not been the original design. What with one man wishing for dinnertime to arrive, another ignoring her approaching day of execution, over time Time became first a blacksmith's bellows, then a rank of them, then a hypercube of them, strung across and through just as many realities... then a fog. A quantum fog of tiny bellows, expanding and contracting. Like coiled strings.... Dear me, string theory again?
In closing, for the moment: you complain that the X-iverse as we describe it is incomprehensible? Again, blame yourselves.
Until, of course, the right number of you decide to believe otherwise.–P.firstname.lastname@example.org