(tea-time of the gods, part 3)
(tea-time of the gods, part 3)
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Topgod and Fate sit side by side on rocks at the top of a pointy mountain, a place chosen for its panoramic view of an absence of humans, for although the cries and ringing hammer-blows of the climbers working their way up the rocks form a melodious reminder of the human presence, few come to the actual summit; if any do, they tend to shy off, for they feel the presence of the supernatural even though they are unable to see it.
Fate has just relayed to Topgod the shocking request of Godlet Gamma that he should become a human, to share the human experience, especially the knowledge of his own mortality; and his even more insane motive – a wish to undo some of the harm he has wrought during his time as overseer of Terra
Somewhere below, Godlet Gamma himself is reclining halfway up Easy Ridge, from which he can watch the action on Impossible Wall, clearly no longer impossible for there are two hard men hammering in pitons, slowly ascending what looks to be a totally smooth section of vertical rock; over to their right two teenagers are following a faintly worried geography teacher up a rather less smooth and vertical section, amid a tangled mess of rope; the geographer (whom his parents, the Doolittles, had twenty-six years previously named Will, to the later sniggers of his pupils) is right to be worried, for his pupils are far more interested in a riveting piece of information about deviant sexual practices recently revealed to them than in staying alive. Their merry voices float across: “and he shoves this light-bulb so far up his mumble mumble snigger…”
The godlet longs to join them, for he is entranced by the sheer music of it all: the rhythmic ringing of the hammers, the ostinato of the mumble-snigger, the occasional tenor call of Mr Doolittle “For-god-sake pay at-TEN-tion, Godfrey” are simultaneously a pleasure to the hearing and an apparent call to his very own self: they cannot possibly know that he is there, but it is as if they somehow feel his presence, as if he is a kind of torch illuminating the murk of their …
But these musings are cut short by a summons from above, and Godlet Gamma swiftly rises to the summit, suddenly aware that perhaps his future has now been decided.
Fate has brought oatcakes and manchego and a bottle of Glenmorangie, and offers Gamma refreshment. “I couldn’t find any of that frog you brought last time, but this is nearly as good, and easier to pronounce.”
“Or” chips in Topgod “you might want to stick to just nectar and ambrosia and keep a clear head till you’ve decided.”
Godlet Gamma is struck immediately by the change in Topgod’s speech-patterns: he has given up capitals and “thou”. What can this mean? a significant change in his thinking? Is there hope?
And then another thing strikes him: “till you’ve decided” is what Topgod said. So it is to be his, Gamma’s, decision. Yes! He’ll be human, he’ll be mortal, he’ll have an experience no other entity has ever known! He will be Unique.
But they are gazing at him with – could it be pity? surely not?
“So, Gamma, I believe you want to be human? To experience death and fear? This is not just some obscure godlet joke?” Topgod sniffed the Glenmorangie fumes with a little grunt of pleasure. “Remind me of your reasons, leaving out the bit about undoing harm – you know fine that harm can’t be undone – let’s have the real reason.”
Gamma is taken aback. He had hoped that undoing harm would cut some ice, win approval for his project. Surely it is at least arguable (and shows him in a good light)?
“But for example I could organise a disease that would wipe out, say, 90% of humans, and the overpopulation problem would go away.”
Topgod sighs and tries to remain patient. “You did that a while back, with the help of our good friend Rat, and how well did that work, long-term? You could try it again. there’s no need to be mortal to do that. Come on, cut out the faff, tell us what you really want.”
“Um …” Gamma searches for the words that will convey his longing. “You see, I’ve watched and listened, maybe more than I was supposed to.” Pause.
Glug, crunch, mmm was all the comment he heard.
“And I see how nasty their lives are a lot of the time, and what a lot of suffering they have to put up with, but then I see that there are times when they experience pleasure and satisfaction that seems to go way beyond anything that I’ve ever felt – like these guys here fumbling about on this little piece of rock, see how hard they have to work to do something that a goat or cat or beetle would have no trouble with, if it wanted to, but look what enjoyment they get from doing this totally useless thing.” He pauses to collect his thoughts.
“And then,” he goes on, hesitatingly, sensing neither approval nor dissent from his listeners (are they actually listening?), “then there is the music. Ah, the music, I can’t get it out of my head, I need more. Just the other day, deedle-deedle-pom-pom, deedle-deedle-pompitty, magnificent, makes me want to dance!” He does a little dance and croaks out a little song to illustrate the splendour of the human achievement.
Down there on Impossible Wall Godfrey asks Mr Doolittle “Hey, Doolittle, that croaking noise, is that you (snigger)?” and Mr Doolittle replies, with well-concealed hatred in his heart, “Oh, that’s just the raven, it has a nest in the next gully to the west, it’s always floating about here, watching.”
Fate and Topgod look at each other, questions in their eyes. Fate says, “So is that it, Gamma, pleasure, song, dance – is that the lot?”
“Deedle-deedle-pompitty – sorry! No, one other thing. I feel that a lot of the pleasure and music is because they know that one day they won’t be alive any longer. These guys here, for instance, they could fall off any minute and be killed, there’s something there that I want, no, I need to feel. So I need to be mortal.”
Gamma thinks he’s probably just messed up, they won’t understand, how can they? a while back, he wouldn’t have had any idea … until he’d heard de-de-de-DUM … but Topgod is standing up Usually that means he’s decided.
“Thank you for a most interesting explanation, Gamma,” begins Topgod, approval in his stance (on one leg, scratching his ear, good sign). “Fate and I have discussed it thoroughly.”
And terribly quickly! thinks Gamma, and wonders if they’ve even listened … but of course Time is different for entities of that grade.
“And we think it best to give you a choice.”
Ah, success! deedle-deedle …
“Becoming mortal yourself is unfortunately not an option at present,” awww! “because we are not made of stuff, and can’t be transferred across to things made of stuff, at least not yet; there may come a time when it can be done, there are entities working on it, so don’t lose hope.” ahhh!
“Here’s what we can offer: either you can live here with the humans permanently, but you will remain invisible to them, and you will have no power to alter things, no power at all. And of course you cannot die, but the day may come when transfer to being mortal becomes possible, and you would be first on the list.”
A pause, while Gamma digests this idea. Down below, Godfrey is getting bored, he has run out of sexual-deviance stories and is thirsty, for the day is warm. “Eh, Doolittle, you got any Irn-Bru?” “No, it’s down in the car.” “Fuxek, what good is it there?” Not for the first time Will Doolittle reflects how much he would like to clip Godfrey round the earhole and how swiftly he would be out of a job … but at least they are near the top.
“Or you could do another job,” continues Topgod, “while you wait for the transfer technology to become workable. There’s a planet in Alpha Centauri where life forms have emerged that are beginning to need overseeing. And we feel that with your intense experience on Terra, you are exactly the right entity to do this. A timely forward push for them, a new opportunity for you to use your skills. What do you think?”
Will Doolittle brings Godfrey and Jeremy to the top, unties himself from the rope and says, “We need to go to the summit, we want to tick it off in our Munro list.”
“Nah,” says Godfrey “fuk the summit, we’ll wait here.” “Right, sort out the rope, back in a minute,” and off strides Doolittle, sped on a wave of relief. “Hey, Jezzer, got any fags on ya?” “Aye, Gozzer, mebbe somewhere,” Jeremy pats his pockets.
Gamma is torn between despair and hope: on the one hand … on the other … so many questions. “How much time can I have to think about it?”
“All the time you want, no hurry,“ says Fate, but I think we should go elsewhere now, for I see some humans are finished their climb, and one of them is heading this way. Pack the food and drink away, would you, Gamma?”
Will Doolittle is racing across the ground, so glad to be away from Godfrey and Jeremy that he notices nothing until he bumps into … something, SOME THING, nothing he can see or touch, but a huge energy and power that fills him with a terror that unhinges his brain and brings the taste of ash to his mouth; he turns and runs, blindly, seeing nothing … straight over the edge and down into the gully where the raven wheels and croaks.
“Oh dear, I wonder why he was going so fast, what a pity, I must write it up”, says Fate, as they shimmer off on their huge leathery wings.
“That was our fault, I feel guilty, what a pity,” moans Godlet Gamma.
“Nobody’s fault. Stuff happens,” says Topgod. “Come on, Gamma, find us some more of that great cheese …”
“Fuxek,” Godfrey mutters through a cloud of fragrant smoke, “what got into old Doolittle? What’re we supposed to do now?”
“Climb down, I suppose, down’s got to be easier than up, and we’re roped together, we’ll be fine. The Irn-Bru’s down there in the car. C’mon, Gozzer, you go first, I’ll hold the rope.” On the way up he hadn’t noticed the bit about getting tied on to something that wouldn’t give way.
Godfrey, whose athletic dexterity far outshines his verbal ability, is nearly at the end of the rope before one foot slides off a little round knob at the moment when he is feeling around for something to hold on to. Quite gracefully, he peels off, and Jeremy, who is standing at the edge trying to see down, and who has not tied himself to anything, is plucked over the edge.
Down they whirr, and a faint Fuxek! floats up the gully mingling musically with the raven’s croak.
The hard men barely need discussion: swiftly they decide that this is not a day for doing difficult when easy is available, swiftly they traverse to the right where a series of big safe holds takes them to the top, where they share a calming fag.
Drifting away, Fate asks Topgod, very quietly, “This life form on the Alpha Centauri planet, what sort of a thing is it?”
“Oh, it’s like a huge sea-slug. Most fascinating, lots of varieties, great colours. No music as yet, but probably Gamma’ll sort something out before long.”
Faintly from far, far off, comes a croaking that could be the call of another raven but is in fact the song of Godlet Gamma in victory mode: deedle-deedle-pom-pom, deedle-deedle-pompitty, de-de-de-DUM! DUM! DUM!
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