Illusions and Delusions
Illusions and Delusions
An advanced and older civilisation is worried about a universe it created fourteen billion years ago. They send a God to investigate but he finds more than he bargained for. Angels and Devils and infinity0
Fantasy / Sci-fi
Colin Davy (United Kingdom)
We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories one after another to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made that footprint. And lo! It is our own. Arthur Eddington.
A jolt of electricity surged through his brain. A signal from a more senior God!
“Prepare to receive a thought transmission from Warne3.”
Regis47 closed his Pleasure Centre and tried to hide the guilty reaction. Its overuse by Gods would cause raised eyebrows, even if eyebrows had fallen out of favour long ago. And a call from a Three worried him.
He stood to face the white wall opposite. “Prepared.”
“Good,” came the reply.
The vision that leapt into Regis’ mind disconcerted him. Over two metres high with a garish violet skin that flickered and changed with every movement or emotion, the senior God knew how to make an entrance. And one Regis couldn’t avoid, as the signal enclosed and probed his mind, and while the eyes remained bleak, they saw right through him.
“Regis47,” the vision transmitted. “We’ve selected you for an important mission.”
He flinched in alarm. “Me?” he radiated back. Surely a mistake? Lowly 47s are never selected for important missions.
“Yes, indeed.” When Warne’s violet skin flickered into overdrive and changed to a violent purple, Regis prepared for the worst. Although he tried to hide his discomfort, no one activated chromophores in the 445 nm region unless they had exceedingly bad taste or defective eyesight. Why couldn’t they stick to pastel colours like he did; his pale green skin was so much easier on the eye. But senior Gods must be above such aesthetic considerations.
“We’ve a problem with Universe13,” Warne said.
“Universe13?” Regis replied. “You mean puppet-land? I know that one, I studied-”
“Yes,” Warne interrupted. “We know you do, and we know you did. Your mission is a matter of life or death for that world.” His by-now purple skin glowed brighter.
Regis tried to shield his anxiety. “I’m only a 47,” he transmitted.
“I know, but your youth and deficiencies make you ideal.” Warne swayed and his skin colour eased to a calmer shade. “We’ve looked at your studies on the psychology of the puppets during the nineteen fifties and sixties. Something to do with cartoons.” When Warne paused, the purple intensified. “Mostly nonsense, of course,” he continued. “As is all psychology, but you do have an affinity with this world.”
Regis decided to take it as a compliment. “That was a while ago,” he transmitted. “Things will have changed.”
Warne rubbed a hand over his hairless scalp and his eyes narrowed. Strangely enough, the chromophores in his iris were pale, somewhere around 490 nm, halfway between blue and green. “In fifty of their years? Hardly.” He radiated disdain and he did it well. “Their science struggles to go from baby to toddler.” When he hesitated, the purple skin faded a little. “You call that change? These people are basically the same as ever.”
Regis hoped he’d hidden his doubts “Perhaps?”
“You doubt me?”
Perhaps his shielding wasn’t proof against a Three. “Only a little,” he said.
“Don’t be silly, Regis,” Warne began with a hint of impatience. “Fifty of their years is only point zero, zero, zero, zero … and quite a few more zeros of an eon. Nobody changes much in the blink of an eye.” As his skin’s purple hue became more violent, Regis was tempted to blink, although that wouldn’t block it out completely.
Time to make amends. “I apologise,” Regis said. “I was thinking of minor psychological changes, possibly epigenetic rather than true DNA and protein coding changes. Obviously a major change would take an eon, your Excellence. About seven billion of their years, to occur.” That should be grovelly enough.
When a short non-transmission period followed, he wondered if the grovelling had been too obvious. “As you know,” he continued quickly. “Their world is but two eons old, and sentient for only a fraction of that, so they have changed a great deal in a relatively short time.”
The wave of amusement from Warne almost blew out Regis’ receptors. “They’re puppets, Regis” he transmitted. “Sentient puppets, a courtesy of our science, but puppets all the same. Controlled by strings of emotion.”
“As we were once. “
“Perhaps,” he said. “But so many eons ago, Regis, before we matured, and before we made the puppets. You’re surely not comparing Gods with their creators?”
“Of course not. That would be silly.”
“Indeed.” Behind Warne, a flat wall displayed a rainbow pattern that dazzled if looked at directly. Bad taste must be his call sign.
“Of course,” Regis agreed. “But they remain the sole survivors from the gazillions of worlds we created, and oddly enough, the ones with physical constants most similar to ours.”
“We created a gazillion worlds because they were there.” Warne paused as if in contemplation. “Or rather, because they weren’t.”
“I used to wonder.” Regis began, “If only worlds like ours were viable, why didn’t we create a gazillion identical universes for our studies rather than the gazillions doomed to failure.”
“That’s hindsight,” Warne transmitted. “And Universe172 has interesting slime growths.”
“Is there such a thing as interesting slime growths?”
“Well, Universe413 did hatch a bacterium.”
“A bacterium which was silicon-based and died out rapidly.”
Warne hesitated before replying. “Not everything was perfect,” he transmitted. “And to be honest, by the time we realised the problem, we’d rather lost interest in world creation.”
“Such a pity.”
“Oh, I don’t know, we have deeper and worthier things to focus on now.”
“What are these things? I’ve heard a lot about them but nothing has emerged.”
Warne rubbed a hand over an ear slit that retained a vestigial flap, and a flicker of anger radiated from him. “Serious things,” he transmitted. “Concerning the nature of the dynamic sense of the flow of time. Way above the understanding of a 47 like you.”
He decided to stop arguing.
“Anyway, where was I?” Warne continued. “Oh, yes, there’s a big problem with Universe13.”
“Is there? Exactly where?”
“On Earth. I believe that’s the only inhabited planet. Isn’t that where you interfered?”
Regis resented the implication. “I undertook observation only.”
“Indeed. And you’ve maintained an interest in that planet since then.”
“Yes, we’ve checked the inputs.”
Regis wasn’t surprised at their knowledge; it was vaguely reassuring. “I do look in from time to time,” he admitted. “Purely for recreation.”
“Indeed. And as you appear to be our expert with recent and relevant knowledge, you’ve been selected”
“To do what?”
“Patience,” Warne said, displaying none himself. “I’ll explain the problem first.”
Regis glanced round his room, trying to look patient. Having to stand was an inconvenience but slouching on his cushions would be an unforgivable impertinence. Outside, the drifting desert sands he’d created gave a familiar feeling of serenity. And the matt-white colours a welcome relief from Warne’s liking for explosions in paint factories.
“Universe13 have discovered that ninety-five percent of their world is made up of something they never knew existed,” Warne began. “We hoped they’d play with their strings for a while but they’re finding it’s a dead end.”
“What about quantum loop gravity?”
“Same there, I’m afraid.”
“Oh.” He must be out of date.
“They’re still struggling with quantum weirdness but they’ll crack that soon. Possibly within two hundred of their years?”
“Probably quicker,” Regis suggested.
“Hmm … that will certainly be a problem. Dark matter and energy will keep then engrossed for a while, but I hear they’re fretting about two dimensional boundaries now.”
“Yes, I believe they’re all over singularities and boundary conditions at the moment.”
“Oh?” Warne radiated slight boredom.
“Yes,” Regis transmitted. “Sort of down and dirty with the pixels.”
“Hmm … that is a little worrying.” His purple colour faded a little. “Baby steps, but it leads to chaos. Once they realise they’re all puppets, there’ll be serious instability. We may need to close it down.”
Regis thought quickly. “Perhaps they’ll never realise the truth. As you say, they’re still primitive.”
“No,” Warne transmitted with unusual certainty. “Once they get past a certain point, knowledge accelerates, faster and faster, just like ours did.”
“Discovering fission was inevitable,” Warne continued. “So fusion was bound to follow. They could always do the closing down job for us. Personally, I hope they do.”
“But even worse, having advanced so quickly, they could get ideas above themselves.”
“Just as we …” Regis paused. “They’ll see the truth,” he finished.
“A worrying conundrum.”
Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1
Attention to mechanics
- The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
- Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
- Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
- Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
- Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
- The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
- Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
- The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The first page should introduce some intrigue, something that causes the reader to turn the page. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
- When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
- The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
- Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
- A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
- The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
- Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!