The third Great Bang

I haven’t decided what I will do in my next life although the people who organise these things have been sending me reminders about it for the past two years. No-one can be in a life for more than 30 years—that has been the rule for a very long time, at least since the second Great Bang. Some of the reminders they send sound more like threats: ‘decide for yourself by the end of the month or we’ll decide for you.’ If that happens, their decision will probably involve getting me out of the way, making me an outposter.

I can choose one of the general life categories such as making, thinking, growing or helping, or one of their specific subcategories like growing vegetables or making furniture. I’d like to be a thinker, as that’s what I’m doing now, but few people get to do the same job two lives in a row.

I work as a helper to an LOP—that’s a Learner of the Past, whose job is to find out what life used to be like. He in turn reports to the Keeper of Essential Historical Knowledge (KEHK) who decides how much of this information to share with the rest of the world and how much to store as bundles of memoryfibre in some crypt.

I could, of course, choose a life as an outposter as my friend Indie wants to do. She says she’d rather go to jabiru and sit on a rock than spend another working life in a shoe factory. She says she deserves a rest after all the hard jobs she’s done.

‘You must be mad. It’s just a cop-out.’ What I really mean is that I’ll miss her. We’ve had fun together in this life.

‘I can do useful things like making baskets out of reeds or helping people should I happen to see any. How could you call it a cop-out?’

‘You’ll be lonely,’ I say.

‘But I’ll be safe. Not like Mex. One minute he’s working as a helper at BOOM, next minute he’s blown to bits by a few wires that suddenly turn themselves into a bomb.’

Mex was a fun guy when he was in one piece and I am angry that no-one at BOOM (the Business of Offshore and Onshore Mines) seems to know how it happened, or if they do they’re not telling people like us. I’d like to know what he’s been reborn as but no-one ever knows that.

So I have a couple of options. I can reapply for my current life and hope they will accept me, I can choose something else like growing or I can do nothing and be sent away as an outposter. That last option would be a real gamble. If they sent me to the same place I’d be with Indie for another life but I mightn’t like her any more once I’d been implanted with outposter workware and undergone my personality change. Or she mightn’t like me. Then there’s the distance. I’ve heard of outposters being sent as far away as stockholm or newcastle and although it’s hard to get any real information out of them, their mumblings don’t make outposting sound fun.

Working as helper to an LOP is an unusual sort of life as there aren’t many LOPs to work for. It is thought that too much information about the past could make people discontented with their beautiful present lives. There’s even talk about deleting LOPs altogether now they’ve started digging up the ruins of europe and usa and finding some quite strange things that I’ve learnt about in my job.

‘I’ve made up my mind,’ Indie says, pulling up her sleeve.

I look at the thin red line from wrist to elbow. ‘You must have needed a lot of ware.’

‘Just preparatory stuff. They said it is probably my 12th life so there’s a lot of file to be deleted before they can install outpost.’

‘When?’

‘Tomorrow. Can you come with me while they do it? Then I’ll be in jabiru. They said I can go there as my genetic pattern shows special affinity.’

They probably say this to anyone who expresses a preference for jabiru. Its bad reputation goes back into prehistory; some kind of sickness curse used to fall on all who went there. But Indie’s entitled to make her decision about her next life just as I am. More to the point, as I should seriously think about doing.

Next day while we are walking to the implant place, she tells me that the problem with being a maker is that you don’t have any control of things. Even making shoes could be dangerous. If the demand for shoes dropped they might change their molecules and turn into pineapples or carry bags or whatever else was in short supply. Indie keeps inventing new reasons for becoming an outposter as if she is trying to persuade herself it is the right decision.

I wander around and read all the messages while she has her implants. ‘Are you nearly 30?’ the men and women in the pictures ask, pointing at me with huge accusing fingers. ‘Have you decided yet?’

‘No and no,’ I say to the solemn man in one picture, and, ‘by god, you don’t look as if you ever have much fun,’ to the serious woman in another.

They don’t answer although I speak in a normal sort of tone and am quite close to one of the little pink ears stuck up in the corner where the walls join the ceiling. All walls have ears in these places.

When Indie comes out, I ask her how she feels but the new languageware in her implants has worked fast and I can’t make much of her gabble-gabble and blah-blah talk. She keeps pulling at my arm as if she wants me to go somewhere with her. But I won’t be able to carry emotions like love into my new life and I don’t want to go to jabiru. I’ll take my chances here.

If you are receiving this in another time or place, maybe by way of a spacereader or elbowguide, you might wonder at that word ‘god’ I have said once or twice. I’ve just been trying it out, really. You see, I am one of the few people who knows the word, as it was forgotten several hundred lifetimes ago along with all the occupations in the god category. I learned about godthings when I was helping the LOP research the god phenomenon. He told me god had held this planet in thrall for more than 2000 years so it must have been a very powerful word.

I like the way the LOP says ‘thrall’, which is a new word to me, and I practise it as I walk home from work. ‘Thrall, thrall, thrall,’ I say to the bus driver, and he says, ‘You mad or something?’ Then I see him practising the word as he checks the passengers’ tokens, putting his tongue up against his teeth then making an ‘o’ shape with his lips. His tongue makes the ‘l’ sound at the end of the word but you can’t see that from looking at his mouth. Soon the passengers are saying it to each other—a chorus of ‘thrall, thrall, thrall’ has filled the bus, drifted out the windows and been taken up by passing pedestrians.

Now I hear thrall all the time, frequently when people mean something quite different. ‘What a thrall,’ they say about an exciting new film. Or, ‘Take care you don’t thrall on the step.’

All this has given me an idea. If thrall has this effect, I wonder, what about the god word? Maybe I can spread this in the same way.

Most of what I know about god is that he was some sort of guru whose words changed the world. If he had that much power, maybe his name would have the same effect. I also know he started his life humbly enough at graceland and his followers moved out from there in electronic waves converting thousands every day, persuading them to wear godrobes made of white leather and plucking at ancient instruments known as geeters which were similar to our modern guantanos. Most of the other knowledge about god was lost in the second Great Bang, the one that did europe in. Thinkers working on the ruins keep finding out godthings but no one’s really working on them with any enthusiasm. Thinkers are not taken very seriously these days.

In my research with the LOP I read about the lobster crawl effect which you may have heard about. A thinker from an ancient time—she was described as a philosopher—theorised that the scratching of a lobster’s claws on the lonely floor of a silent sea is enough to set up vibrations that can set off volcanoes in places as distant as nova scotia. We don’t have a category for philosophers as we don’t use big words like that now, so they have been absorbed into the general category of thinker. Anyway, since the second Great Bang actual thinking has been generally discouraged. The bang was caused by too much thinking, some were heard to say. It was caused by too much god, said others. Others again suggested ‘much’ should have been translated as ‘many’, but I find that a very difficult concept to grasp, no matter how hard I think.

So I’ve decided to do my own experiment and to do it quickly as I have little of this life left. My plan is to drop the god word into my conversation regularly, just as I did with thrall. I will say it with different emphases and with different people, my intention being to make it known and used again. Maybe I can even get people to follow some of its practices if I have time to find out more of them. I must work fast if I am to spread the word and let it ripple out and grow to the force needed to set off a volcano.

Now I don’t have to think about Indie any more I will think about graceland as I feel sure grace has something to do with god. Graceland was in usa, of course, but it seems to have something in common with the ruins of europe they keep excavating. The pictures show people in white robes with rays of light around their heads that I think might be the thing called grace. No one’s really put all these ideas together as they are so abstract and people got out of the habit of abstract thought after the second Great Bang.

I must get out of this habit of starting important words with big letters. I’ve picked it up from my god research but it looks so archaic. I’m attracted by the way it adds emphasis, though—a Great Bang looks somehow greater than a great bang. I would ask Indie what she thinks if she wasn’t sitting on a rock in jabiru watching for something. I know now that I won’t see her again but that’s OK. Everyone’s friends disappear into their new lives, as has always been the case. The LOP told me there was once a big word called ephemeral that seems connected with that process. It’s got nothing to do with grace as far as I can tell.

Another fascinating thing about the relics they have been digging up from ancient europe is all the pictures of babies painted on bits of walls. Some still have remnants of golden grace on their heads shaped like rays or solid plates. We have no pictures of babies in our culture because we have no babies. There is no room for more people when everyone translates into a new life every 30 years in a sort of complete crossover rather than a rebirth. What would be the purpose of birth, babyhood or childhood now that the world is finally in balance and harmony, roles are allocated for all, and there is endless choice except for those who fail to make a decision?

I have another friend now that Indie is in jabiru. I meet him outside my room one morning and decide it is time to start my experiment of reintroducing the god word into the language. ‘By god, you look like a friend,’ I say. He does look friendly, sort of huff-puffy in a snap-around-your-feet sort of way, like one of those little dogs some people choose as companions if they feel lonely in one of their lives.

‘Dog? Do you mean “by dog”?’ he asks. ‘You dyslexic or something?’ He wears a strange sort of hat with two points at the back, each of which ends with a little metal bell. I recognise it as the mark of a newly formed group who call themselves the muzos and have pledged themselves to construct and play musical instruments like the ones found in the european ruins. This way of delving into prehistory is not really encouraged but neither is it forbidden. People designated as makers can choose to make whatever they wish within certain parameters that I do not have time to include here. Enough to say that in theory they concern the integrity of the individual, the group and the community as a whole, so music probably seems innocuous enough to those who make the rules, and there is nothing forbidding hobbies.

‘By god,’ I said, ‘I love your hat. And the word is god, not dog. It’s an ancient concept but a powerful one in its time, I have discovered. Connected with the graceland site in some way.’

‘I like it. Easy to say. Can you do it? Is it a noun or a verb?’

‘Either. Would you like to come with me and have some god? My friend Indie has gone to jabiru and I have no one to god with at the moment.’

‘Shall we walk or catch a god?’

He is called Palli, the name of some old country that disappeared in the first Great Bang. I tell him about my work that has taught me all these things and he tells me that when he isn’t being a muzo he is a maker of aeroscreens, those huge things that hang over cities and tell people everything they need to know.

We laugh a lot as we walk to the god, trying out the word in all sorts of ways. ‘Mind out for that god,’ as a truck bears down on us. Or, ‘What is the price of that god in the window?’

‘How god is this?’ I shout to the world when we stop for a rest on a park bench. ‘I have a new friend, a new god, a god god,’ I say, and we roll around laughing on the grass in the park while solemn garden makers watch.

We say the word over and over in the park and watch the garden makers form it with their mouths, shaping their mouths godwise, a rounding of the lips, a clicking upwards of the tongue to conclude. We watch them move back to their planting and watering while mouthing this new word, saying it to themselves, then to each other, then shouting it to passers-by who repeat the cycle of silent mouthing, speaking, shouting.

We return to Palli’s room and do a?#alltheworld doodletext to cover people too remote to hear the word from their neighbours.

Palli, with his access to the workings of the giant information screens, puts up a message that says ‘god, god, god, god’, the words starting tiny and gaining in size until they fill the screen where they vibrate, glitter, beckon, demand attention. I make the logo, a shapely version of the symbol I’ve seen on those fragments of ancient walls, just a couple of crossed lines, a design so simple that it will be noticed and remembered.

My experiment proves successful. The word spreads around the world, rippling outwards in ever-widening circles. That takes two days. Then there are seven days of fighting between groups who define the word differently, and three weeks of gathering up all the things needed for the third Great Bang. I am right. It is a very powerful word.     

Mary Manning is a Melbourne writer and teacher of professional writing at CAE.

 

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