In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.

The God Monologues

Copyright © 2004 by Jefferson P. Swycaffer. All rights reserved.

Part I: Man

     We started with ghosts.

     The team consisted of a chemist (myself) and a physicist, with three grad students we could call upon for grunt-work. Our budget was just the tag-end of the grant money left over from another project entrirely. Instead of returning it (never!) we worked out an underhanded bit of creative accounting, and splurged on some experiments we’d come up with. The fact that we’d been drinking at the time is of little or no consequence.

Ghosts are interesting. They’re all over the place. You can’t go ten miles in this part of the country without stumbling over someone’s haunted mansion, or haunted cabin, or haunted hotel. I even once saw a haunted loo.

But what exactly is a ghost? Departed human, right? Immortal debris left over after a mortal coil-shuffling event. The spirit in a spirit world. Dead man walking. Ex-mortal. Someone who had ought to go to his reward, but got lost on the way.

So… Why can we see ’em?

Think about it for a while. How can you see ghosts?

How else? They emit photons. They possess some form of energy, which flows in some fashion, exciting some variety of particles, thus inducing some kind of glow. All perfectly sensible. And thus we spent a week in the back country. We drove up hill and down vale on winding narrow roads, sleeping by day in the van and spending our nights shivering in the middle of graveyards or gangling abandoned houses, the kinds with shutters and gables and mansard roofs. We took a lot of pictures.

Some of the pictures turned out.

Most didn’t. We expected that. But some came out quite nicely, showing man-shaped glowing things with dark smudges where their eyes ought to be and gaping maws that seemed to be trying to impart wisdom or warning. Ghosts. Real, live ghosts.

Back to the lab. A couple of weeks working with film-chemistry (me) and lens filters (my partner.) Back to the countryside. Back to long eerie nights and hair-raising encounters, and lots and lots of photographs.

Are ghosts spiritual entities? What does that mean, anyway? What is spirit? As one might expect from classic ghost yarns, the stuff is hard to get a handle on. Ghost stuff doesn’t have mass; we never captured any in any of our bottle-traps. You could go tearing at a ghost with your fists and never feel a thing. It didn’t take us long to work out that it was, ultimately, immaterial. Not in the sense that it was not made of matter–atoms–but in the sense that we didn’t give a damn.

We weren’t out to capture the damned things. We just wanted to know what made them shine. And, in due course, we worked it out. We figured out the optimum system of colored dyes (me) and polarizing lenses (him) and we came away with photographs that would convince even the hardest-hearted skeptic. And, failing that, we figured we’d make a pile flogging them to the tabloids.

Then we got creative. We worked out a way to project ghost-light from a lantern. The effect, in a darkened room, is dramatic. Ghosts pop out like fog in the beam of a searchlight. Big cottony ghosts, and little flittering ghosts, and everything in between. Being scientists, we spent some time making measurements and drawing distribution charts. But being tinkerers more than anything else, we kept on working with our instruments.

Basically, the key is that there are two universes, the material and the spiritual. But there is an interface between them. If it helps any, think of amphiphilic molecules, such as ordinary soaps, that have an attraction both to oil and water. They allow oil and water, ordinarily imiscible, to mix. Well, somewhere in the ghost’s make-up are amphiphilic substances–things that are able to connect to matter and energy in our world, and also to connect to spirit-stuff in the spirit world.

We’d learned how to excite those substances, although we hadn’t yet learned what they were. (I think they are specific proteins built up in limited regions of the human brain. My partner leans toward quantum energy strings.) But, you see, it doesn’t matter what they are. We’d learned how to cause a basic reaction.

Neither of us is an anatamist, and we didn’t have the budget (nor the inclination) to perform brain-sectioning studies. However, we did amuse ourselves by shining our spirit lights at people, and, indeed, in the darkness, some people glowed slightly. This indicated that the envelope of their soul extruded slightly past the boundary of their body. Mine, by the way, doesn’t. Neither does my partner’s. Maybe we’ve just got shrivelled little souls. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Still, it was a thrill, and we did not soon get tired of it. We went to crowded airports, or shopping malls just before major holidays; we went to funerals, and weddings, and we were lucky enough to be on hand during the worst of a major race riot. Sure enough, people’s souls change shape, color, and texture according to their moral disposition. Emotions have some visible effect, but it’s morals that make the soul. You can actually identify evil people — not always, but now and then — by the photographic methods we had devised. I’m not going to name names, but at least one U.S. Senator, two Priests, and a smiling beat policeman we encountered, all ought to be kept inside a pentagram and candles, so diabolical are their personal moral auras. But, again, I don’t suppose I have anything to be proud of in that department.

Is the substance — the interfacial material that conjoins the universes–subject to decomposition? We thought it ought to be, as ghosts fade over time. So we boosted the output on our ghostlights. Pumped it way up. Mased it.

Burns ghosts away like setting fire to tissue paper.

We went on a spree, frying ghosts away. We wiped out a whole graveyard one night. The ghosts grew more and more agitated, but didn’t have the behavioral wherewithal to flee. They kept coming at us, and we kept flaming them down. More fun than a video game. I got hundreds, but my partner got the high score. He worked out a wider dispersion on his lenses, that’s all.

We sinned. I confess it readily. We went out one night and shone our soul-burning lights at people. And, yes, we also tried it on ourselves, although at a lower wattage.

It hurts. It hurts badly.

You see, when you strike a living person’s soul with this ray, you aren’t engaging their brain, but their soul. We’d invented the damnation gun.

We stopped that right away. We took a long weekend off, and talked it over at length.

Then, we figured, what the hell do we have to lose? We’re mortals, doomed to die. It’s in the contract. And we’re non-believers, by anyone’s standards, so we’re looking at hell anyway. So…

We built a bigger emitter. Put in a lot of watts. Nice big telescope lenses. Cryogenic coolant, a xenon arc fed through lasing tubes, the whole affair looks like a shoulder-mounted anti-tank gun. But we weren’t out shooting at tanks.

We were shooting at angels.

Got five.

Now, here’s the deal. A wise man once said that if something looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck. But that means that a loon, which looks and sounds like a duck, is a duck. And that means that a grebe, which looks and sounds like a loon, is a duck. And that means that swans, which are like grebes, which are like loons, are ducks. And thus anything swanlike, or anything that is like anything that is like a swan…is a duck. In just a few steps, you can define every bird there is as being a duck.

We worked out ways to extend the reach of our weapon into the spirit world. We knew how to excite the first stratum of substance, the interface between matter and spirit. We then used this reaction to excite the next layer of stuff, and the layer beyond that, and so on. We could set up a cascade effect that reached far, far beyond our ordinary ability to manipulate.

We worked out some of the basic chemistry (me) or physics (my partner) of the spirit universe. We even discovered ways to initiate chain-reactions and runaway processes.

The two of us, working pretty much alone, were able to build a gun that could knock God off his throne and lay him as low as he laid Sodom, Gomorrah, or the Pharoah of Egypt. We have this gun now, and we know how to use it.

So, God. God, old fellow. Old chap, old creator, old soul.

We want Eden back. We want to eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Life, and live for ever.

We’re asking nicely. We can afford to.

We’ve got a gun.

Part II: God

     In the beginning…

     No, no: I don’t need to tell the whole story again, now do I? And yet, in light of today’s events, perhaps it is best if I do.

Theologians have recognized three principal ways in which My thoughts are made known to mankind: the first is Scriptural Revelation, in the form of the holy texts and sacred writings of the world’s religions. The second is Special Revelation: miracles, signs and wonders, the images of saints in drying concrete, weeping statues, and the like. The third is the Revelation of Nature, studying the physical universe and divining My will by increasing your own understanding of rocks, plants, animals, clouds, and stars.

This is one of the motivations behind the science of Physics. Oh, yes, there is ordinary everyday curiosity, and certainly there are practical goals, as every abstract puzzle you solve leads to useful technology which can be used, one hopes, to better the world. But an understanding of creation itself, a deeper comprehension of how the cosmos is made, is, at the heart of things, one of the most compelling reasons that people turn to a study of the natural universe.

This has led to a certain degree of complication… Let Me explain…

When you were very young, and I, myself, had a different way of viewing you, I made the world without a great deal of concern for its inner workings. The stars were just little lights in the sky; the sea was deep beyond all measurement and the mountains were high; the Sun gave light and the fields brought forth both herds and harvests. It never seemed likely that you would go to the lengths you have to learn more. What need for sea-bottoms, orbital mechanics, or a genetic code?

But you were observant, and systematic, and I quickly saw that the world’s workings must go beyond the ostensible level of mere purpose. You needed to know why and how, and it was My duty to provide answers.

Now, allow Me to explain something important: I am not malicious nor deceptive. I have played fair with you from the beginning. Yes, at times I have made changes in the way the universe works–but these are changes you could never have observed. Thus, when you worked out the principles of optics and learned to refract light into a spectrum, it was necessary for Me to go into the universal sky and alter the light as it travelled from the distant stars. When you demonstrated that light has a measureable, finite speed, I had to touch every ray of light in the whole of the cosmos, to make it conform to those rules.

You couldn’t have known. You could never have detected the changes. They were made outside of your ability to observe. The first light to fall upon your faces was of a different nature than light today. I changed it to make it consistent, not with your theories, but with itself.

As you learned and observed more and more, I was given certain choices to make. Should the seas have bottoms, or not? Should the stars be infinitely distant, or not? Should the genetic code be chemical? Should organic chemistry be able to be reconciled with inorganic chemistry? You asked the questions, and it was incumbent upon Me to create the answers. And the answers must be self-consistent, for that rule alone I would never allow Myself to break. Logical self-contradiction is almost–not quite, but almost — as loathesome to Me as are wickedness, iniquity, and sin.

But every decision turned out to lead to a thousand others. Each revelation led you to ask new questions; every experimental verification of a new theory led, not to satisfaction and closure, but to the formulation of new theories. When you saw that matter was made of atoms, I touched all matter, and, Lo!, all things were made of atoms. When you saw that atoms must themselves be divisible, and I agreed, for that was implied by the periodic nature of the elements, I made electrons and atomic nuclei. When you saw that there was a problem that this left unsolved, I formed protons and neutrons.

You became more skillful, and the riddles burgeoned. I created an explanation, every time, revealing new details. I made the new details, for these were vital to opening up to you the workings of the previous level of revelation.

At some point, I began to be concerned. Who was really controlling the show? Was I creating mesons, hadrons, leptons, and the like–or were you? Your theoretical predictions were always so logical, so keenly reasoned and compelling, it seemed only fair to confirm them. And yet, in the chaotic and swelling subatomic zoo, it seemed to Me that you had taken a role of your own in the designs of creation.

At some point, I began to see that, in a way, I had trapped Myself. I had created a universe so rich in details that there could never be a full and complete explanation for everything.

Take, if you will, mathematics. I gave you the everyday counting numbers, convenient for keeping track of the animals in your herds. But you saw that numbers could be arranged in figures, as square numbers, for instance. Some were prime, and some were composite. I was pleased at your discovery; but soon, My brow was creased with concern as you worked out deeper and deeper properties of numbers. Numbers! The purest abstraction, and yet, by the rule I had set myself, even abstractions must be consistent with themselves. And before much time at all had passed, you were able to prove — to prove! — the property of arithmetic called “undecideability,” in which the truth or error of an arithemetical conjecture might not even be possible to learn. You had, in a way, thrown up a boundary about Me, which I might not cross!

So, then, with Physics. You learned to create particle-anti-particle pairs, such that information about one half of the pair would confer knowledge about the other half. I was soon in the rather uncomfortable position of having to keep track of the properties of particles all over the place, just in case you chose to measure the properties of the corresponding partner-particles.

Then came the awful day when you worked out a means of tracking entangled quantum particle pairs at vastly disparate velocities. Trans-relativistic entanglement! I was staggered. I had, for all of my reputed omniscience, never expected you to pursue this abstract course of curiosity to its ultimate end. But you had.

You had come up with an experiment that implied time travel.

In practice? No. You weren’t going to be building time chambers and moving back, bodily, to eras gone by. There were mere engineering objections that kept this ever from becoming practical. But that isn’t the point.

You could. In pure abstract theory, you had worked out a way to send a signal back, to be received at a time before it had been sent. There were paradoxes aplenty, but these were not what concerned Me.

What concerned me was that, now, you could, in an idealized thought-experiment, observe the laws of physics as they existed in earlier times. You could go back to a time before atoms had protons, before light had a wavelength, before the oceans had bottoms.

I was defeated, not by any failure of My own cleverness, nor by any real triumph of your ingenuity, but by the unexpected combination of both. You had the means to, as the saying goes, “look behind the curtain.” You had the ability to catch me in the act.

I always used to laugh when I read the headlines in the Tabloids. “Science Proves God’s Existence.” But I am not laughing tonight.

Instead, tonight, in the light of circumstances, I stand before you, in mutual honor and awe. It is with great respect for you, and with at least a small measure of pride, that I accept this, the Nobel Prize for Physics, for my constributions to the understanding of fundamental principles.

Thank you.

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