Saturday, 26 December 2015


(teatime of the gods, part 2)

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“Why consult me?” asked Godlet Gamma, a touch peevishly, “I did a baddish Job and was taken off the Case. It was handed over to thee, I’m not allowed to intervene, I expect that includes consult?” and he reached for the consolation of the Laphroaig which he happened to have brought with him.

“Aye, right” said Fate, who believed that two affirmatives made a negative – indeed that two of anything made its opposite: for instance, two wrongs made a right, two adults made an infant, etcetera. “Come on, stop that snivelling, grow up and smell the reality. What’s in that bottle? Lap-phrow-ayg? How do you say it, what is it, anyway?”

“Er, it’s a Kind of Nectar, La-froig, I think. Wouldst thou like to try it? I like the smoky Flavour, and the After-burn.”

Some time passed in meditative sipping and noises of appreciation. Then Godlet Gamma suddenly remembered that he was consulting. Or being consulted. Or something, something to do with the Terra job, and reality …

“Um? What reality? … Reality?”

“Ach, forget that capital stuff, we don’t need it between just the two of us. And forget that thou/thee stuff as well, who needs it? The old  guy, Topgod, has to cover his ass in case of misunderstanding, but we understand each other fine.”

It took Gamma some time to grasp this startling idea. “I suppose so,” he finally replied. “Well, but what is there to consult about? You are Fate. Surely you decide what happens next, just you? All other inputs are out. Er, so to speak.”

“No, no, laddie, that’s not the reality, that’s the myth. See, I don’t decide anything. Stuff happens, and I just record it. Er this frog nectar is great stuff, could I …?”

“LaFROIG. Yes, of course, help yourself, plenty more where that came from. But who makes the decisions, then? It must be someone’s job. I suppose Topgod …”

“No, no, he’s just the administrator. See, no-one decides. Stuff just happens, like I said.”

“And that’s all you do, record it? That’s not really a top job, is it? I mean, you have to be totally reliable, of course, that’s important, but it’s not cutting-edge, not like making decisions, like I was doing before he took me off the job.”

“Ah well, recording is only a bit of what I have to do. The really fascinating bit is, once I’ve got What happened and Who did it and Where and When, I have to work out How and Why the stuff happened. That’s a lot harder, verging on the impossible sometimes.”

“So when you hear people saying It was Fated …?”

“It’s rubbish. See, I work out how and why the stuff happened retrospectively, and then folk can see that Z happened because Y had happened and Y happened because X had happened, and so on, back to the beginning of time. And because I’ve shown them this logical trail, they think I must have been in charge of it. And actually no-one was in charge: the stuff happened just because that’s the way things work. You could predict the future if you knew enough, but none of us knows enough.”

“Not even Topgod?”

“Mm. I’m not sure about that, but I suspect even Topgod doesn’t know absolutely everything. I’ve seen him looking surprised.”

“Oh? like when?”

“For instance, on Terra, when the human invented the bicycle – it took such a time after the wheel that he didn’t think it was going to join two wheels and add pedals … and I think the aeroplane was a bit of a surprise as well, not because of lack of inventiveness, more because it wasn’t needed, when there was bicycle and boat, and of course train – he really loved the train ... Och this is a really really great nectar, has he tasted it? I bet that surprised him.“

(When they speak about Topgod, they aren’t actually saying “he”, of course: none of them are he or she or it but something else, like “being” or “entity”, but there isn’t an appropriate pronoun in any human language, so we rolled the dice to decide what to use, and it decided on “he”. Was that really a random decision? Does randomness really exist? You may well ask. But back to Fate and Gamma …)

After a considerable pause, to savour the after-burn of the great new nectar, Gamma brought himself back, with an effort, to the matter in hand. Whatever that was. He felt not quite in precision-think mode.

“He hasn’t had any yet, I’m keeping it to soften him up about what I’d like to do next, something I really want to do, but he’ll probably say it can’t be done.”

“Most things can be done,” said Fate, “so long as it isn’t against a law of nature, you couldn’t cancel Gravity, for instance. What are you wanting to do? By the way, I have a rather fine store of biscuits and cheese over in that cupboard, maybe there’d be something that would go with this frog, would you have a rummage and see what you can find?”

After a bit of a rummage Gamma returned bearing a packet of oatcakes and a cheese platter sporting brie, stilton, manchego, camembert and wensleydale. They tucked in wordlessly for a while, before Gamma summoned up his nerve and outlined his near-unthinkable proposal, hesitantly at first.

“What I’d like to do, it’s maybe impossible, but what I really really want to do, is be a human for a while. For ages I’ve watched them finding ways to do things that seemed impossible, living in desert or snow-and-ice, inventing different languages, sailing, flying, climbing to a height where they can’t breathe; they take huge risks, and they’re so brave, even when they’re frightened a lot of the time. I’ve watched this and I want to know what it feels like to do it, to do something that could destroy me, make me not exist, it’s beyond imagining. I want to know what being mortal feelsh like. Hic! feelslike.” He hesitated, watching to see if Fate was shocked, but Fate was concentrating on a rather crumbly oatcake loaded with camembert, so he seized the wensleydale and went on.

“I made mishtakesh, and now Terra is a messh. If I had really undershtood what it wash like to be a human, I might of avoided the mishtakes. Hic! And I might be able to put shome of it right.”

A silence fell, broken only by the sound of intermittent munch and glug, and presently by shriek and hiss as word got round the local seagulls that a free lunch was developing.

Presently a small, tentative clearing of the throat came through the mix of crumb, laphroaig and wensleydale. “Er, ish it too shilly to even think about, hic!?”

“No, no-no-no-no. I’m thinking what an admirable and well-meaning young thing you are. And of course wondering where to get a whole crate of this frog which is making thinking so painless as to be easy and sharp – very, very sharp and to the point, ha-hah,” and Fate swayed, ever so slightly.

“Thing ish,” he went on, “thing is, how to do it. “We can turn you into a human, no big problem, but you couldn’t shurvive, survive a week, you don’t know how to do anything, you don’t undershtand money, you couldn’t pick up a fish’n’chipsh and take it home and watch telly and have a beer and a chat, you couldn’t be ordinary, not shtraight  off, you’d need practish, practice …”

^Oh. Yesh. I shee, see the problem. But…” (pause, munch, pause, glug) “… but hic! shposhe, shuppose I wash born human and learnt bit by bit, like what a baby doesh? Baby doeshn’t need money for fish’n’chipsh … “ and with this brilliant suggestion, Godlet Gamma keeled over quite slowly and lay among the oatcake crumbs and bits of wensleydale, mumbling blurrily de-de-de-DUM, de-de-de-DUM. de-de-de- …

Fate rested his head on his upper legs for a while. Then with an effort he picked up Godlet Gamma in his beak, spread his great leathery wings and floated off. Gamma’s de-de-de-DUM grew ever fainter and soon the shrieks of the seagulls drowned it out entirely.
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