I wrote this probably around 1985-1988. Not a terrifically mature bit of writing; I think I beat the poor reader about the neck and shoulders with whatever message about which I thought I was being so clever. However, it is amazing it survives at all. I wrote this on an original Mac (from 1984), using a very early version of Microsoft Word that had *gasp!* styles. And of course I abused them terribly. It has survived the long-since demise of that Mac, and the migration onto a myriad of subsequent media and computers for a quarter-century.
Please forgive. I apologize in advance for any suffering the poor reader endures with this story.
Thompson Peabody MacFee
The Universe as a Glass of Kool-Aid
This document does not follow the normal pattern and structure for a Doctoral thesis. For example, there is no proper abstract because the text is abstract enough on its own.
We begin, children, with the End Of The World, if not The Universe. Obviously we can’t say very much about this event because absolutely everything was wiped out, poof! Just like what happens to powdered Kool-Aid when you add water. The powder is just gone, replaced by sweet colored water.
Of course I know nothing of Kool-Aid. It was a part of That Which Is No More. So strike that whole comment about Kool-Aid from your memories.
Sigh. Where was I? Uhhhhh… oh yeah.
Thank you. That will be all for now.
What? Oh. Okay, okay. You want more. I should have known. Ever since The Last Tick of the Clock everybody has been gnawing at me for information, but why me? You’re just as likely to know what happened before It Happened. You should always begin with the end because that’s the true beginning of everything. Before you got thirsty and took a drink (not of Kool-Aid, I know) you had to cease being satisfied with your non-thirsty state. Right?
So what happened immediately following The Last Moment Before Everything? I mean, right at the precise instant following The Last Tick, even before The Next Tick? Well… think!
Got it? Good. You’re absolutely correct, no matter what you thought about. Class dismissed.
Oh come on! Are you so dense? Look, just this once I’ll expound a little. Only a little, mind you. You’re correct because everything happened just before The Moment After. There. Enough? Are you satisfied? I hope so, because I’m totally exhausted and it’s all your fault. You’d think that by now that your kind would know better than to pester your betters. Sigh.
No, no – It’s okay. I’ll be fine. Leave me now. Go on; you shouldn’t be late for your next class. See you tomorrow. Bye bye.
Little shits! I can’t believe how much I’ve traded away for a little comfort. Hell, I’ll feel a lot better (umph!) just as soon as I (urgh!) get this (oof!) damn thing off me… (errrgghh — Ahhhhh…) That’s better. Whew. Look at this thing. Old face, old hands, sagging belly and sparse, white hair. Yuck. Looks like a sick old baboon. Which would be better than no baboons at all, I suppose.
Little sick baboons. I’m getting really tired of all this crap. If I wasn’t The Only One I’d really kick some shit. I mean it too. I’d smile right now, if I had a face. Yeah, I remember the last time I kicked some ass. Damn near ended up a baboon myself…
The Amazons fired, the brilliant violet flash ending in the shattering death of the last great meteor. I could hear their victorious cries as I hovered among them. Unseen, I moved toward the great tent that served as the Battle Queen’s command post. Skirting around the all-but-invisible field that had drawn so many of my brothers to oblivion, I ached from its pull, but I held my distance. It’s not easy being a demon.
The last-last-last one. Everyone else gave up the ghost. What am I supposed to do? I passed through the tent wall. Weird place. They always kept monkeys in cages and, just as I entered, the obligatory ape swiveled around to look at me. Its pale pink eyes were flinchless and focused. But it remained silent. I don’t really think it could see me, but there was something really strange in its… itself. I don’t know how to put it into words. Its self was strange.
The Battle Queen was gone. Just as well, ‘cuz I had no idea what I was doing. I was damn tired of throwing meteors around, especially since none of them ever did any good. Stupid techno-weapons. It’s not really fair, but then again neither were we/was I. I looked around. Monkey eyes followed me as I moved. I still don’t think it actually saw me.
A device was spouting small noises. Amazons communicate with noise, and while I can understand a lot of it I just don’t see the point. Why not just do it directly? I’ve tried with Amazons (to communicate, that is), but they get dizzy or confused or something. Spooky little soft warm fuzzy things, Amazons. I hardly believe they were alive at all, but I guess they were.
Sigh. Being a demon used to be fun. Then friends started disappearing into the pulling-fields and everything got serious. And now I was the last-last-last one. What was I doing there? I looked around some more and saw a neat pile of armor and personal weapons. I picked up a helmet and turned it around. I had to be careful because it started to melt where I first touched it. Soft things. I put the helmet back, moved to the little noise device. It was saying something about the meteors. No more detected. Long range scan negative. Status downgrade. Other nonsense like that.
I stayed there a while, looking at this and that. There was a thick carpet on the ground, worked with battle scenes depicting Amazons busting the crap out of all kinds of monsters. Then the Battle Queen and her assistants returned. One of them was carrying a small, flat black box with a light and a meter on it. The light flashed, the needle twitched and the Amazon looked startled. She stammered out something I didn’t catch, and the Battle Queen leapt to a box that was crudely attached to one of the tent’s thick supports. She pounded a red button. Just as the pulling-field came on I figured out what the Amazon had said: “Demon!”
I could see the Amazons in the tent clutching their heads in frantic pain. So that’s why they didn’t just cover the whole place with a big pulling-field: It hurt them, too. I’m glad, because it sure as hell pounded my ass.
The world spun on about eighteen different axes at once, and I crashed straight into ol’ pale-eyes. And I stuck right in there. I mean, here I was, looking out through monkey eyes. Strange thing, to see only in one direction.Then, all of a sudden, someone else kicked me in the pants! There was already somebody in there! That’s how I found out what the fields were for, and why the Amazons liked keeping the caged monkeys. The fields grabbed demons (like me) and stuck them in the nearest baboon. I guess they couldn’t get more than one demon in there, and I guess this field was For Emergencies Only.
And that’s how I escaped. I got evicted by the present tenant, poor soul. Kicked me hard enough to send me straight out of the field. And you can bet I kept on going, and for a long time, too. Amazons: bleeech. You can keep ‘em.
But better than no baboons at all, I suppose. Hmmm. What time is it anyway? No clocks around here at all. How do they expect me to keep track of things since The Next Tick? Maybe it’s lunch time. I’d be thirsty if I had a mouth, but all the Kool-Aid’s long gone, and the whole bloody place is just a glass of sweet colored water.
If I had any time at all it’d be enough. Then again, when there’s no time anywhere you can’t run out of it. Try to explain that to these little shits and they just kind of stare at you. Yeah, that dumb blank stare, like you used to get from those little machines. Real fun, if you’re a moron. And if you’re not, you will be!
No time for this. When’s the next load of little shits due? Two million ticks? Three?
There’s nothing like a large dose of slack-jawed, blank-eyed, yes-SIR happiness. You can’t be really happy until you don’t care about nothing. Literally.
The operator stepped up the power to the pyramid. It glowed a little brighter, and the unwavering light beam emitting from its point grew more solid. Hurvy felt the slight weight of the pyramid on his chest. Above the pyramid, the beam was split and shattered by the randomly spinning crystals hanging from the ceiling. Through the lenses of his happy-glasses, the flashing patterns merged and flowed as the movement of his breathing contributed to the changing images.
“I’ll bet yer feelin’ a lot better, huh?” commented the operator. Hurvy grunted noncommittally, which the operator took for agreement.
“Yeah,” continued the operator, “I know I feel a lot better once I get in there.”
Some operators were chatty like this one. Most just did their jobs. Hurvy’s mind wandered a bit. The patterns could be interesting for a short while, but by now they were just boring. For the trillionth time he wondered if everyone just pretended to be so happy after their sessions with the happy-glasses. Maybe, but when he’d hinted that he was less than joyous with the daily regimen he’d gotten some very odd looks.
Hurvy concentrated and looked at the room around him. The operator was looking fixedly forward, his own happy-glasses pulsing flashes of yellow light. On one wall was a sign reading “FOR YOUR PROTECTION OPERATORS ARE RANDOMLY MONITORED.” Hurvy shifted uncomfortably and endured. After a time he heard a buzz and the operator sluggishly pushed the blue button. The light faded from the pyramid on his chest, the happy-glasses ceased their pulsing. The operator took the pyramid and stowed it under the pallet Hurvy was lying on. He unstrapped Hurvy’s happy-glasses and hung them on a hook.
The operator gave Hurvy a stupid smile, and Hurvy got up and hurriedly put on his jacket and cap, and left the room. He punched out at the front desk, then went out to the street. Happy happy people. Hurvy looked around before heading to the tram stop. For no reason he suddenly looked back to his right and was surprised to see a decidedly unhappy looking fellow watching him from a distance. Their eyes locked, and an instant later the unhappy fellow coughed and turned away, pulling the brim of his over-large hat down and stepping off the stairway where he’d been perched.
From the tram stop, Hurvy watched the man shamble away until he rounded the corner. That guy looked downright grouchy! Hurvy had learned how to look happy, but this fellow wasn’t even trying. Incomprehensible. Surely the fellow had no friends whatsoever. The tram arrived and Hurvy boarded it, and as he walked to his seat he felt no comfort at all from the contented faces turned his way.
At his stop Hurvy got off and walked to the building where he worked. As the elevator took him up, he wondered what cares could be weighing on him. Why wasn’t he as happy as everyone else? He wasn’t really worried about anything – except not being so happy. He had no pressing problems or needs, just like almost everybody. The two other people in the elevator looked carefree and ready for work.
Hurvy got through work that day.
Hurvy took the tram home.
Before sleeping, Hurvy watched the Scorbutt Happy Hour on the visi. Merky Monty was SOOOoooo happy to see him! A very happy actress talked about her new senso-visi, and halfway through the program there was a public service announcement reminding one to “Stay Happy!” and to have a “Happy Happy Session!” tomorrow morning.
Hurvy dreamed. He was in a senso show, watching an unhappy girl wearing a too-big hat. It hid her features. He chased her, asking her why she wasn’t happy, but he never caught her. She ran around a corner and when Hurvy turned he ran straight into the Happy Session room. The operator’s happy-glasses were blinking wildly as he gestured Hurvy to lie down. Hurvy struggled with him and woke up with a thump as he slid to the floor.
Hurvy oriented himself. Something was wrong. A slight shuffling noise. There’s someone else here!
Suddenly he was too scared to move. He tried to say “Who’s there?”, but he couldn’t make his voice work – it came out as less than a whisper. There was a presence: menacing, black evil. The Dark. All the suppressed unhappiness of a world. All the grief and grievances, pain, fear and anger. And then there were eyes. Hurvy saw it looking at him like Famine itself. It was a presence that could not exist, that needed only a Happy Session with a pleasant operator. Hurvy madly thought this, knew he lied, and knew that it knew.
There was a rasping sound. A voice.
“You are so afraid.” It sounded impossibly sad, as though all the breaking hearts through time gathered together in one place and moment. Hurvy was struck with the sound of it, and fell back heavily, thudding his back against the shadowed wall. The eyes were moist, dark and blinkless.
“Why do you deny me? You have no need of sorrow,” it scraped. The sound of it wrenched splinters from the air, and reached Hurvy with uncanny impact. Hurvy’s less-than-whisper replied.
“I don’t know.”
Soundless and airless words, but it heard. Suddenly it seemed to loom over him, and a hard cold hand, smooth like chrome, held his face by the chin in a grip both absolute and absolutely gentle. Soft black lidless eyes poised above his own.
“You need care for nothing. Be Happy,” it commanded. Hurvy’s own eyes overflowed with tears. I can’t! I want to, and I can’t!
It held him, an instant longer, and then the grip was gone. The eyes rose soundlessly, its body a darkness in the unlit room. It seemed to float back to the opposite wall and study him.
“You don’t want to be happy,” it said. Through the endless grief of its voice, Hurvy would remember the confusion, question and wonder of that final statement
And it was gone. The curtains hung motionless where it had stood a moment before. Hurvy felt his heart pounding for the first time. He found he could get up, and shakily turned on a light. His bedclothes were creased and disorderly. Across the room there was a small chair and desk. He stared.
A large-brimmed, slightly crumpled black hat rested lightly on the desk.
His hands shaking, Hurvy started giggling. This turned into a halting laugh, so unfamiliar to him. He sat heavily on the bed, bouncing, and slapped his knee. He guffawed. He got up and went noisily to the bathroom, passing the desk with its memento. Returning, he looked in silence at the hat, then chuckled and picked it up. He walked back to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He put the hat on. It fit him perfectly.
Nobody takes me seriously! But I have no time for any of this. Who does? I’d sigh if I had lungs. It can be so comforting to sigh. Thank goodness it’s finally after The End. All that crapola that went on when things could still happen. And boy oh boy. Things certainly did happen!
If it wasn’t so completely thoroughly utterly irrevocably all-consumingly non-transferably no-trace-at-all-left DONE, I might remember just when it was so comforting to sigh. Probably right after downing a nice cold, too-sweet glass of Kool-Aid.
I heard a joke that I can’t remember. It goes like this: “Why is there time? Because that’s Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” Har har har. Except it did all happen at once, didn’t it? Try it some time. Pour the powder into the cup. Dump in the water. See??? No powder. None at all. But look closely. Closer! What’s that little white/pink speck, right on the edge of the glass? You guessed it!!! Give the baboon a cigar!
Now for the big question: How do I keep from getting wet?
It’s not fair. Why always me?
From behind its immaculate mask of black metal, the Judge intoned its verdict. I was almost too fascinated by the reflections from its face to pay much attention, but I heard.
And then the stasis field snapped on.
And then the stasis field snapped off.
I should have had time to give it thought, but in stasis you have no time at all. First, two thousand years of stasis. A long time ago (a really long time, now) they’d realized that stasis alone was no punishment. After all, you go in, you come out the same. Sure, they don’t have to deal with you when you come out, but you’re the same as when you went in.
So, two thousand years of stasis, followed by eternity in nowhen. They figured it out like this: (1) You are too antisocial to be allowed around people; (2) You have touched the lives of a lot of people. Probably not to their benefit; (3) You can’t really die; (4) You are a jerk, and there is no conceivable time the future when you won’t be one; (5) Thus, put you into stasis for a long enough time that everyone you knew has forgotten about you. This is the punishment. You know your effects have been nullifi8ed by time. And finally, (6) stick you off in Universe X where you are the only person there. Period. Have a nice forever.
So here I am, looking around what is clearly an uninhabited planet. No air, and intense blue and orange scenery that makes me queasy. My natural impulse is to explore, but I sag when I think: why bother? All you’ll find is more rock.
When you’re at the beginning of an eternity, you may have a little bit more drive than, say, five hundred billion years lager. Anyway, I got bored and finally started to explore. Who knows? Maybe I’d find a footprint on the beach. Ha ha ha.
The first hundres thousand years go by in a flash. You know, when you’re having fun…? It begins to sink in: I am alone. Mother!
But Mother is long gone gone gone. Oh yeah. And Daddy and Baby Jane and everyone else. By now they’ve gone through a couple hundred cycles of their own. But not me. Nope. I’m the only faithful one. The Keeper of the Worthless Memories. That’s me. Yup.
What the hell am I, anyway? Well, I guess you’d call me a wraith. I wanted desperately to feel myself again in flesh, but there was none. Just me and the rocks. Orange and blue, blue and orange. For a few frantic years I tried to live in a rock. I just couldn’t keep that up. You have to be so serious to be a rock! ACHTUNG! NO SCHMILINK!
I never said I was smart. It took me all that time to think a bit. There must be other planets! Maybe each one has its own inmate. Maybe it isn’t really separate universes. So I had to find a way into space. No real big deal when have eternity to work on it. I did just that , for the next hundred thousand years. It took a long time to figure out how to move objects around, but I finally did. I even managed to build a few machines to do some of the work. I made a lot of mistakes. For a couple hundred years, all I did was blow things up. I started over a lot.
I know what I’d think if I were you: Why didn’t you just build one of those stasis thingies, or whatever you needed to get back to your universe? Good question.
I managed to get a rocket out of the planet’s gravity well. And then it happened! (The suspense mounts.) My main rocket-tracking device blew up. Well, what can I say? I needed to know where my rocket was. I HAD TO KNOW!
And. I. Knew.
In fact, I was there. And down below was the planet. And over there was the rocket. And dammit if I wasn’t just floating along beside it. Something pops in me wee wraith mind, and I say, “oh”. What do I need rockets for?
So, I go off for the next planet. I just know where it is. It doesn’t hardly take any time to get there, and this one is totally different from my planet. Heavy, steamy and dank. Practically liquid atmosphere, and much warmer. I hang around it for twenty thousand years or so. I practice moving things and making things and stuff like that. There’s a lot more to work with on this planet. Once, I banged together a whole bunch of stuff, and did all kinds of things, and afterwards there were these tiny little black things that wriggled off into the mud. I lost them.
I learned something new while I was there. Sometimes I could make lightning. When the weather conditions were just so, I could really flame it on! I didn’t practice it enough to be sure, but I thought maybe I could do it without ideal weather. Before I could really perfect it, I had to leave.
You see, I got a message.
It was weird, too. A sort of pulling thing that said, “help me!” I followed it. I guess it was real old, and real slow, because it took a long time to get back to the source. I must have traced it for another seventy thousand years. But it was from somebody! I had them beat! I wasn’t alone, and so much for eternity! For seventy thousand years I dreamed and planned and made millions of decisions to be good, to be bad, to get even, to help, to demand payment, etc. Maybe I could be a god!
Oh yes, I schemed and plotted. I would use my new abilities to help the poor creatures from whatever their minor plight might be. I would accept their recognition of me as their supreme ruler. I would wear flesh again! For seventy thousand years I eagerly, doggedly followed. I never flinched. I was faithful.
And then there was the field of rocks. And beyond that the message sputtered and ended. I looked back at the rocks. It wasn’t fair.
I sat there, and I felt the sum total of pure loneliness. You have never felt it, because I am the only one who ever got out of Universe X. Pure loneliness means lonely, plus a large dash of lonely, and some lonely on the side for color. It means loneliness and only loneliness, with nothing else. You become loneliness. It’s a drag. I even lost track of time.
But I’m a compulsive individual. That’s what the psychopaedics told me. From out of nowhere, I decided to go home. I decided. Click your heels together three times and all that.
You know what happened, right? Right. I was home, some three hundred or so thousand years after I’d left it. It wasn’t in such shape. In fact, it wasn’t there at all. I recognized a landmark, but it was just a field of grass now. In fact, it was all rolling hills of grass, dotted with isolated trees.
It didn’t take me long to realize the place was deserted. After my last trek, I was really fed up with the false hope stuff. I began to get angry. I sat and stewed and got madder. I got madder.
I got madder some more.
Oh boy, did I get mad. I opened my wraith-mouth and screamed wraith obscenities. I tore up the hills and threw around the trees. I blew up a couple mountains. I tossed a whole lot of rocks and trees off the planet. Wasn’t someone going to stop me, or was I supposed to wreck the whole place? Nobody stopped me. That was the final straw! In one big snarl, I smashed the planet with a wraith fist, and left it, bleeding and dying, my own anger only the worse.
I’m going to find them, and when I do… well. When I do, they’d better stop me. Or else it’s their fault, whatever happens. Yeah, the little shits.
I’d have welcomed a baboon. I’d shake its hand right now, if I had one. Or I’d hand it a shake (chocolate) if it preferred. Of course a really wise baboon would rather have a nice cold Kool-Aid (strawberry). Then again, I don’t suppose there any wise baboons. For the lack of a wise Kool-Aid drinking baboon, a kingdom was lost.
I look around, but everything is black. And darker still. Black within pitch within less-than-nothing. Oh sure, there are the usual planes of lights, the usual flows of time and distances of space. But wherever I look there is darkness. Feh! I hate having a bad attitude, but what can I do about it? I’m screwed. So that’s that.
Loathing ever quantum of motion, I flow (slither, really) along, my form bulging and spreading and gathering like some oily, reeking amoeba. And I hate and hate hate hate. I just hate, without bothering to garget any particular things for my purest antipathy. If I make any sound, surely it would be a wailing to bring physical pain to the listener.
And somewhere, I know there is a listener. Oh yes, they listen, but they don’t hear. I look to where a light glimmers to my side, but when I face it, it is black. That’s fine. I know they’re listening there. That’s right. I’ll just go there and give them something they can really sink their ears into.
Hating the act of moving, hating the blackness and the lights I can never really see, and especially hating them because they are listening and I know they hate me; I arrive there. I have to look away to know it, but I arrive. My physical self snarls, all of it at once. They hate me and they deserve it. The blackness that is me moves in for the kill.
Dark! Dark! Waves of dark! Yes, this is what I live for! It feels so good!
Now I’m through it, and where there was light it is now darkness. I actually feel happy, and I hate that. I can silence their listening. I can stop their ears from hearing me.
Hmmm. Silence. Except for one thing.
I know you’ve been watching, listening. I know you think you are safe as you read this, and that my evil that brings a wet chill icing and sliding along your spine is just imagination. But it’s not. I can flood from the page in an instant, bringing my black black hate straight to your core. Yes, I can.
Stop listening now, before it is too late. You’ve had a warning. They didn’t. Right now I feel good, even though I still despise.
You’re still listening. No, you’re actually WATCHING ME!
That tears it. You’re blackness, buddy.
I stream through the particles that are the page…
… And …
… I …
I have to. Suddenly everything is weird. My blackness is green, the lights are grey and space is red. All at once I don’t feel like hate hate hate anymore. I don’t know what I feel. Everything spins. The sky and stars spin in opposite directions. I feel like nobody can see me, but the eyes stare and stare, and maybe they can see me. Why don’t I recognize those eyes!!? Of course! It’s those damned glasses – their lights confused me. Now I can see his eyes from behind the cage bars.
He’s going to tell me something important, but the light reflecting from his mask confuses me. And it’s gone. Just like that. The whole place and everybody, just gone.
But it missed me! And even if this is The End, I still remember it all, and because of that, there can be something after The End. But I need somebody to talk to, somebody to listen.
Yes. That would be good.
But there’s no time for this now. I think (oof!) that I’d better (ergghh!) get ready for my next (uuuunngghh!!!) class. The little shits.