In the Game of God
by Marya Moryevna Wolfman
|part 2 of 3|
Reddy nuzzled his head into Jack’s lap again. Jack petted the dog’s head vigorously. “Sorry, old boy, you’re going back where you came from. I promise to bring you back though.” He held one hand on the egg and pictured Reddy curling up, shrinking and returning into the smooth egg.
Jack didn’t see it actually happen, but when he chanced to glance away and back again, the dog was gone.
Hey! It worked! I wonder if I can make him appear again. He sat at the table and held the shiny egg-shaped egg with both hands. The familiar warm feeling was reassuring. He gently caressed the egg. Reddy, he thought. Here boy! He pictured the sleek furry canine bounding across a meadow towards him, a retrieved duck in his mouth.
It was more difficult this time. Perhaps he shouldn’t have added the duck. Jack focused his thoughts on the image of the dog. Nothing happened. He opened the door, walked outside and called for the dog, but there was no response. He went inside again.
He thought he glimpsed the setter re-appearing, but it faded away. He glanced over at the psi-gon egg, then back at the rug. Reddy was standing in front of him with a limp Mallard duck hanging from his jaws. The dog deposited his booty on the rug in front of his master and whined and wagged his tail until Jack stroked and praised him again.
Jack picked up the game bird and examined it. There were wounds and blood on the green neck feathers where a shotgun had sprayed it. Jack carried it to the sink and washed away the blood. It disappeared as rapidly as real blood would have. How real is this thing? he wondered. He pulled the feathers out, and placed the bird on the cutting board. He cleaned and dressed the carcass and chopped off a piece of thigh for Reddy, who had been begging noisily for some. The dog gulped it down and sat, thumping his tail on the floor.
Jack tried to roast the duck in the oven, but the heat had no effect on it. When he checked the bird, it was still raw. He left it on the counter.
Jack was wiped out. The effort of creating a virtual dog twice in one day had exhausted him. Too tired to make supper, he fell into bed, barely aware of Reddy occupying the foot of the bed as if it were familiar territory. Jack slept soundly until morning.
* * *
When Jack woke the dog was not in the bedroom. “Here Reddy, here boy,” Jack called. No response. He checked the kitchen. The duck was gone. He hurried downstairs to the studio. Was the whole thing a hallucination? Was there really any psi-gon egg, any dog, any duck?
Reddy was not in the studio. Jack was about to give up when he noticed the smooth metal ovoid on the computer table where he had left it. Yes, I still have the psi-gon egg, thought Jack. That’s the important part. I can bring Reddy back any time I want. I could create any kind of object. I might even be able to create people.
I could create an entire world with beautiful absurd landscapes, silly box-like cities, tall animated plant life, ridiculous animals and totally outrageous people. Mix them all together, and see how it comes out. If I don’t like one batch I could cook up another. Then I’ll have a gigantic show. The World of Jack. In Yankee Stadium. I’ll shine!
But there’s a limitation, he thought. Reddy dematerialized when I went to sleep. Could be that’s Rule Number One of Psi Life: a psi object exists only while its creator is awake and aware. How am I going to keep my creations alive? They’ll disappear every time I go to sleep.
I’ve got to find a way to save these creatures in the computer’s memory, he thought. “Computer, create directory ‘PSI-GON,” he said, spelling it out.
“Directory ‘PSI-GON’ already exists,” was the written response.
“Already exists?” Jack said, puzzled. “I didn’t create it.” But there it was, ‘PSI-GON’. He scanned the files in the directory. “Here’s a file called ‘Reddy.dog’ with yesterday’s date. Did I create this?” He rubbed the shiny egg and pictured Reddy. The dog appeared.
“Okay, boy, let’s see how this works.” He sat at the computer and manipulated the controls. “That should do it. In you go again.” Reddy was completely compliant; he disappeared without a murmur. The file was now dated today. It looks as if I’m saving data about Reddy every time I return him to the egg, he thought. He’s not lost, just stored away. This must be Rule Two: A psi object may be saved on digital media.
He tried accessing Reddy without using the psi-gon egg. Detaching the psi-gon egg, he placed it upstairs in the bedroom out of range. In the studio, he directed the computer to access the file. When he looked around, he saw a holo of a dog, but it was not Reddy. Just to be sure, Jack slapped his thigh, “Here boy!” The dog didn’t move. Jack walked over to the holo and put his hand out. His hand pierced right through the transparent image.
It didn’t work, he thought. The file in the computer lacks the crucial ingredient for creating a psi image. What that ingredient is, I don’t know. This must be Rule Three: A psi object requires a psi-gon egg in order to exist. It needs the psi-gon egg, the computer and me.
As the days went by Jack created several new animals with the psi-gon egg: a rabbit, a cat and a raccoon. He saved them in the egg each night and released them each morning. Unfortunately, the animals were demonstrating unusual behavior. The cat and raccoon both tortured the rabbit until it died, then turned on each other.
Jack banished these sick creatures to their birthplace in the egg, hoping to be rid of them, but they only reappeared the next day, more vicious than before. He tried to kill them, using a knife, an axe, and a gun, but nothing had any effect.
Damn! thought Jack. I can make the damn things, but I can’t kill them off. This must be Rule Number Four of Psi Life: A psi object cannot be killed by a human.
I need to talk to Davenport, the lonely artist thought. He understands the psi-gon egg. He could explain its powers to me, and how to control it.
* * *
At the end of two weeks, Davenport had not phoned. For the next few days, Jack was in a funk. He phoned Directory Information and asked for PsychoWorks, but they were not listed. There was no number for John Davenport. He would have to wait for the salesman to phone him. Another two weeks went by, and Davenport still didn’t call. The salesman would never call.
What should I do? Jack thought one morning as he sat in his studio staring at the psi-gon egg. The condition of the animals is unstable. Davenport could have fixed that. Now it’s up to me. Perhaps if I proceed to the next level of psi replication, that might help. I’ll make people! I’ll make them the same way I did the animals. The people can control the animals.
He held the psi-gon egg in his hands and lightly rubbed it. “Think of something you’d like to see,” Davenport had said.
I’d like to see the kids, Dolly and Paul, Jack thought. I’ve been so busy since I began this project that I haven’t had time to visit my family. I could phone, but the holo images on the vidphone aren’t nearly as realistic as the psi images. He projected their images into the egg. “Dolly and Paul, Paul and Dolly. Could you come here, please? I’d like to see you. I have some nice surprises to show you,” he said.
I’ll start out with children first. Later I can make adults.
It took a long time. Jack sat there imagining Dolly and Paul’s images into the egg for so long he began to feel foolish. He was glad no one was around to see him staring into an egg-shaped object repeating the names of his niece and nephew. After about an hour, he was ready to give up. He released the psi-gon egg and stood up.
“Jackie, Uncle Jackie,” he heard two high-pitched voices.
“What? Who?” He looked around the room and saw no one.
“Here, Uncle Jackie. Right here.” The voices were definitely nearby. “Don’t you see us?”
“Dolly? Paul? No, I don’t see you. Where are you?”
“We’re right here in the egg, Uncle Jack. If you want to see us, you’ll have to try harder.”
“Try harder? All right, here goes!” He directed his concentration into the ovoid, picturing his niece and nephew more clearly than ever.
“That’s better. We made it!” they said. In fact, he turned and saw their dear forms standing on the rug before him. Their pert smiling faces and small bodies were just as he remembered. They were dressed in colorful pants and shirts with buttons on the sleeves. Dolly held her favorite doll and Paul his inseparable teddy bear, gifts from Jack.
“Dolly, Paul, is it really you?” Jack asked, still not believing his eyes. He bent down and hugged them both heartily.
“Of course it’s us, Uncle Jack. Who else would it be?” Dolly spoke for them both, being the elder.
“This is too good to be true. How did you get here?” He noticed that her doll had a dark red stain across the mouth and lower face. Has she been playing with lipstick? he wondered.
“You wished for us, and here we are,” she said. He looked over at Paul, who was clutching his teddy bear, thumb in mouth. The bear had red stains on its body.
“What’s that red stuff on your toys?” he asked.
“Blood,” said Paul, straight-faced.
“We’re pretending it’s blood,” said Dolly, poking her brother.
“As long as you’re just pretending,” said Jack, smiling. He wiped both toys with a towel, then sniffed it. It smelled like blood to him.
“I shouldn’t have brought you here,” he told the children. “It’s after midnight. Your mother’ll be frantic if she discovers you missing.”
“We’re not missing,” the small boy said without removing the thumb from his mouth. “We’re right here with you.”
“Besides,” said his sister, “we’re entirely separate from those two stupid kids in Yonkers. They’re not missing. They’re at home in bed right now.” She assumed a pose of superiority.
“If you’re not my niece and nephew, who are you?” Jack was mystified.
“We are your niece and nephew, only we’re better than those flesh and blood dummies. We’re separate, special. We’re part of your imagination. You made us up in the psi-gon egg.”
“I did hope to see you, but somehow I never believed you’d come. Now that you’re here, what am I going to do with you?” Jack quickly scooped up piles of papers scattered on the floor.
“We want you to play with us.” They sat down on the rug.
“What should we play?” he asked, crossing his legs and sitting on the floor.
“Let’s play GOD!” Paul yelled, shaking his fists at Jack.
“God? How do you play that?” his uncle asked.
“Yes, God, that’s a good game!” Dolly said. “All you do is make things, and all we do is break things. Then we watch to see whose things win out.” Jack thought he detected an evil glint in her eyes.
“Do you have any cards?” demanded his niece, looking around the studio.
“I might have some around here,” said Jack, unstretching his long legs and rummaging about. “Yep, here’s a deck. Looks like it’s full.” He handed it to the girl.
“Are there any rules?” Jack asked hesitantly.
“For you, the rules are:
You can see it, you can save it, you can make it, but you CAN’T kill it.
she intoned, as if challenging him to a duel.
Different rules for different players? That’s peculiar, thought Jack. “And what are your rules?” he asked the small people.
Little Paul piped up in a singsong voice, “For us, the rules are: “
We can see it, we can save it, we can make it, and we CAN kill it.
“So there!” he taunted.
“I’d say you have a slight advantage over me.” Paul commented wryly. “But I suppose even gods have to follow some sort of rules. And since I’m larger and older, it makes sense that I would have a handicap.”
Paul dealt four cards to each player, and placed the deck face down in the middle. “Does anyone have a three?” asked Dolly.
“No, go make it.”
Dolly reached for the stack, drew a card, and showed it. It was a three of spades. “Just what I wanted!” she said, inserting it into her card hand.
Jack asked, “Does anyone have a five?”
“No, go make it.”
Jack drew from the deck. What he saw on the card horrified him! There were five bloody dismembered human heads dancing around on the card. As he watched, the human heads jumped off the card onto the floor, dripping blood. “Uncle Jackie got a good card!” Dolly and Paul jumped around ecstatically.
Copyright © 2010 by Marya Moryevna Wolfman