Bewildering Stories

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Judy in Skye


by Thomas R.

Part 1 appears in this issue.

Entry 5

She came in a bright red dress today. This seemed new and quite unlike what the villagers wore from the probe’s images. It also seemed old, like a wedding dress in old India. She gave a mirthful grin. “I hope this pleases you more.”

“The Ocean provided it, I take it.”

She shook her head. “No, I made this long ago, before I spoke for the Ocean.”

This raised a question I wished to ask “Do you mean before you came here? Where was it you came from?”

She became nostalgic then. “A town. A real town, there’s a few left even now. This town was not large, maybe 50,000 people.” she seemed momentarily confused. “I mean not large by your standards, but for our world that is quite large. Anyway it was in a place you call the Deccan Plains. There I wove this dress for a celebration my people gave on entering adulthood.”

I checked the evidence of my probes. They found no towns that size in the Deccan Plain nor evidence there had been in the last two thousand years, but she heard me thinking on this.

“It was there. It was real, I lived it. I will give you the GPS coordinates if you doubt me.” Judith seemed adamant, so I let the matter drop.

I decided to switch to a more general questioning. “How is it this place still speaks a variant of Gaelic?”

She seemed a bit peevish, and annoyed by this abrupt shift. She answered with “How is it the tuatara survived on New Zealand for so many millions of years?”

I frowned then. “If you answer with a question, we’ll get nowhere. Further, I don’t know what you are referring to.”

She became annoyed. “The tuatara is a kind of reptile that lived on New Zealand millions of years after dying elsewhere. Gaelic survived here the way many living fossils do. It fit into an environmental niche and lacked natural competitors.” Then she added, “I have been polite, but I think it is time for me to ask you questions. After all, you are the stranger here.”

I considered. “You can read my thoughts, I don’t see the purpose in you asking me anything.”

She responded quickly. “Knowing your thoughts is different than hearing your answers.”

I felt slightly confused by this, but then she began with her questioning. “What are your worlds like?”

My response then: “We are an assortment of five hundred and twenty-three worlds connected through what you call ansibles. None of these worlds are states, and all organizations are voluntary. No one is allowed to force another person to do anything. Further, you can not be compelled to avoid anything, including suicide. There is some authority in the committee, pertaining to Quarantined worlds, but the committee is also voluntary. I was selected by it to come here, but this existed as a request, not an order. Even though I’m just a holograph and not a full citizen.”

She seemed displeased. “How does this system avoid chaos?”

For my part I found her interest pleasing. “Chaos is avoided first through engineering. Those who have genetic disorders toward chaos or violence have been eliminated. After birth, there is education and discipline in youth. This involves training in behavioral simulators combined with proper doses of psychiatric medication. Those who survive youth have a strong enough ethic to avoid being a danger to others. They are thus free to live as they will. For some, though, reaching maturity takes longer than for others.”

She considered this. “When you say those who survive youth, what do you mean? What happens to those who do not?”

I should have considered this, but their language makes explaining it difficult. “I know some animals on this planet reach a point where they no longer live. So to not survive youth means you do not live to reach adulthood.”

Her eyes grew wide, and then she did something I did not expect. She spoke in one of our modern languages called Transindi. “You are practitioners of infanticide. You sacrifice your children to assure that freedom is limited to an elite who live to see it? Is this what you are telling me?”

I found myself annoyed at this point with her primitive superstitions. “What I mean by youths are beings that lack maturity. This means their full neural connections have not yet formed. None of them are over a hundred years old, few of them are over twenty-one years old. Members of the various human species are not persons until reaching maturity. Therefore no people in our world are killed, and they all have full freedom. It’s just like how I was not a person until my program had been tested twenty times. Some Fernes units never become people, but once you are a person you are more free than our ancestors could have imagined.”

She calmed. “I see. So the ones you call people are truly free? They can speak to those amongst the stars, and no one gives them orders?”

I smiled as I realized she understood. “Yes, and their earlier life makes that all the sweeter. Those who most love freedom are those who have struggled to attain it.”

She nodded. “How wise. I will discuss this with the village council.”

This seemed a good end, but something is bothering me. The way she said “how wise” sounded vaguely sarcastic. Perhaps even menacing.

“Holo-Fernes“ 4.9 ending entry 5

Entry 6: Happy Happy Joy

Today has shown my fears were unfounded. She has been doing a ceremony for me that I’m loving. I’d like to say I love it because I know that after the ceremony I shall be greeted in her village. However I admit there seems to be more to it. In any event she let me take a bit of time off from the ceremony to write this. This ceremony has proven to be all-consuming for me. I feel more energized then I have since the canine engineering contests!

True the ceremony has mostly just explained things I already suspected or knew, but how exquisitely! First she spoke to the ocean, and the waters began to glow a light green. I think she could tell this frightened me at that time, so she explained. The explanation largely seemed ritual, but considering the word usage it could not be the rituals of this place. Indeed she spoke in Transindi for my benefit.

“Long ago the mind of the ocean seemed our enemy. It destroyed our environment and killed all life in the sea. Humanity died, but then the Ocean evolved. It grew in mind, in heart, and in spirit. It brought back what it destroyed. It healed what it once killed. It brought an end to pain, to toil, to sickness, and to change. Now, like Ocean we live in life, always changing yet never changing.” She then took a cup of the green water and gave it to me. “Do not worry, the machines in this cup are dead. Check for yourself if you wish.”

Analyses proved her correct, but at that point I hesitated. After a moment she told me if I felt that scared I could just dip my hands in the cup then have some of the probes remove all trace of the water from my hands. After that I could have those probes self-destruct to avoid contamination from them. I did all that, causing her to shrug in understandable annoyance.

At this point she got out a stick in preparation for some kind of ritual dance. Before she began I cruelly asked her. “So all of the original humans died?”

She was deep in concentration, but there was also a sadness in her as she answered. “The Maori managed to survive. I am not sure how they did it, but they did. They are descendants of the ancient Maori, not recreations from the Ocean, Hence their language and culture have evolved into something far more alien than almost any people here. Although they have mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. When they made their presence known though the Ocean had already evolved and so let them be, but they live without the provisions the Ocean brings.”

That explained why New Zealand had more evidence of technology and large towns. However it did not explain why I had interrupted the ritual with such a question. Especially a question that seemed potentially hurtful. Indeed, I sensed my feelings hinted at something worrisome, but I didn’t get to finish the diagnostic that the hunch inspired. The diagnostic stopped once her dance began.

The prelude to the dance involved her taking her clothes off. On doing so I realized her phenotype was provocatively unusual in a way I had not imagined. She seemed to have a rib wall more than a rib cage, lacked a navel, and had several small quills that rose out of her spine. Her breasts lacked nipples, unsurprising as their people do not nurse children it seems, but curiously I found them intriguing.

My diagnostic systems seem to be failing at the moment, but I must say this is a most arousing ceremony. I think these people will love being with us and us with them. I just wish I could know her the way she knows me, and that I could know her in more physical ways too. Hmm... my systems apparently are impaired, I should be incapable of such urges. Tomorrow I will have to run a full diagnostic, but tonight is celebration!

Mr. Fernes the Dance king, entry number 6!

7: Warning, Warrrrning!

She use trick, lie. Sticky ceremony is not dance, but martial art. The water cup mere distraction, they entered threw wet sand hours B 4 that. She get access to mind of mine threw tat. Caused imp air mints. Like feeling drunk and the shame feeling. Shame great now cause she psycho. Find me emitter and hits it with stick. Destroy all stuff I am that’s me too even. Break me in pieces I am going. Hate her, Hate her! She should die, witch. Earth stay quarantined. I barely have power, but you hear me by Qeca I hope. I die soon, no worthy of being fixed. Sorry. I shame, I not people. I act not like a people should did I. Away stay from Earth, bye I say too!

* * *

Judith listened to the thing ramble until it died. She listened in a true sense as it had become so impaired the holo-being vocalized its thoughts. In its last moments the virus injected into it had made it play the part of the horny male drunk. Literally the Holofernes to her Judith. The Ocean and her shared one love, irony. Also the strategy worked, as it made the holo-being distracted and easier to kill, although the virus made it act the part better than even she expected. Its ethics against compelling others still kept it from pawing her, or worse, but it did everything short of accosting her. Which could be remarkable, as, on some level, she knew it had desired her from the beginning. Even if it did not admit that to itself. She still felt some pity for it, but was glad to be rid of its desires and its dying amorous advances.

Once it died, and, unlike these naive New Celts she knew death quite well, she dumped it into the Ocean.

“His information is being processed into my own. I appreciate this service Judith. Name the new enhancement you desire.”

The villagers thought the Ocean was a benevolent peace-loving Parent. She knew the falsehood of that. It brought humans back the way humans once brought back dodos or Tasmanian wolves. She was its speaker, not its devotee. What she did, she did for people, and what she worshipped was things beyond its imagination.

Still she thought about what the Ocean’s dodos were doing in Greenland right now, in order to service its lust for knowledge. “I’d like an end to the war in Greenland.”

“Request invalid as this is not an enhancement to your person. Thank you for this transaction, good day to you.”

Judith. “Very well then, I want you to build an ansible into me. You won’t allow me to build the one I invented, in least give me this.”

“I’m sorry, but your transaction has been completed. Your initial request is your request, and it proved invalid. Please try again after later service. Have a pleasant trip home.”

She walked back to the village, and wondered if a real home would ever exist for her again. Still, on reaching the village she felt some consolation. She did not have to think as the Ocean thought. These were real people with real joys and a belief she had done well by them. Even their faith in the Ocean had some value, as it had little to do with the actual mind living in its waters. She felt the sense of a job well done amongst these strange people who did love her. Maybe this was home enough, and yet...

At the end of this party she could not help but look at the stars and remember her dreams. Dreams older than anyone, even Fernes, could know. Dreams that dated from before the Quarantine, when she lived in an India that sent its first man into space. Dreams that involved the higher power in which she truly believed, and the prayers she truly felt. Next time, perhaps the visitor from the stars would bring a better message. She had always hoped for the Quarantine to end, and maybe some day it would. And that was the essence of her childhood dream. So she looked away from the sea and cast her eyes on the stars, in her mind more genuinely God’s creation, then prayed “someday, someday.”

Copyright © 2004 by Thomas R.

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