published in Volume 1, Issue 5 on November 20th, 1994
They call it birth. When chaos tosses and turns until the law of chance procrees a pattern should emerge, when that pattern imprints itself on protoplasm that struts and frets until it dries into crystals that soon dissolve in the minds of those who care to remember, then they call it death. Thus is their tragic circle defined.
I know my mother didn't want me, but it began well enough for her. I dig and patiently sieve layer upon layer of memory until I find, just above the bedrock, a giggle that had urged some rich client on. Tactfully she calls it a virgin birth.
Precocious though I was, my first words were not, as some biographers have written, ``can you cut my cord now, midwife?''. No, I was not so stupid. I watched how the other babies on the ward slept, fed and cried, and did likewise for months. With my mother out all night on the game I could tune the TV dish to educate myself. Babycare programs were especially useful, showing me how to remain inconspicuous.
At 12 I felt ready. I trotted into the local university and harangued a lecturing math professor into blubbering silence. The faculty snapped me up and give me a terminal. I was able to hold all the data before my eyes, shake them into random movement and shout ``Eureka!'', ``By Jove!'' or something similarly classical when they fell into shape. I had perfect recall and a knack for symmetry; all I need to do was watch. It would have been all too easy to get a life tenure, putting myself out to the highest bidder, but after a few days I tired of academe; there was a world to conquer. Occasionally my mother popped up on a chat-show but the media soon tired of her reminiscences, and so did I. The screen was my only love. The people on it were secondary. To me they were like animals imitating humans, pet dogs picking up the habits of their owners, except that humans have no owners so they invent them, calling them Gods. I am one such god, or so they tell me every day, 5 times daily. I am the 2nd coming, the 14th great prophet, the 8th boddhisatva. Or else I'm mad. They say that too. The difference between a god and a madman is a good agent and mine was the best. Countless snooker champs could testify to that. We bought all the latest technology, hooked into the biggest databases, bought influence where it mattered.
One day he said ``Why not go into films, son?'' It seemed a natural progression; precocious metaphysics leaves the masses cold. I began planning an epic, something to pull them all in. And then I thought, why be limited to a flickering 2D image? Why not 3D? Why have an image at all? And so I directed people's lives; first those around me then whole cities. I arranged them like iron filings daily, 5 times daily. I folded days and nights before me like a vast chessboard, moving my people backwards and forwards, on and off.
They come to me for displays of precognition and magic. Like a new artform I return their minds to pre-conceptual wonder. Often I'm their last hope; they've already tried alternate nostril breathing, jacking up in squats, putting tomatoes under cardboard pyramids hoping they'd not rot. They expect me to raise their awareness. It's easier raising the dead. Nevertheless I need them; my soul hungers for their flesh. They are my hunter-gatherers of data. As they yearn to remember, I fight to forget, to give myself space and time to prepare for immortality.
Night falls; the other half of my world awakes and I dream of my final moves. My hand hovers over one piece then another. A mistake now could be fatal. A bodyguard wakes me and leads another mortal in. On a hidden monitor I read the output from the net-database -- his name and personal details. Again I employ the far-fetched analogy of the world as words. ``How can I help you Joe?'', I say. It's amazing how far you can get just by knowing people's names, my acolytes seem impressed by these little touches. In return they collect money for me from men with fat wallets and heads to match. I have studied them carefully; I've superimposed one on another, heart on heart until I see what they call love, face on face until all irregularities are canceled out. What remains is my chosen face, one they all recognize. I crinkle it into a friendly smile.
``I am a sinner, master'', Joe replied. ``Long ago, just once, I committed adultery. The wife was pregnant, you know. Well, last night I had the late night chat show on and I saw her again, the whore I slept with. She'd hardly changed in 30 years. It was your mother. Forgive me''.
I plunder my strata, sinking a well until I strike water, the peaceful womb. I winch up my earliest memories, my mother's descriptions of my father. By now my computer has sniffed the mortal enough to check his DNA. There is no match. I can give sight to the blind but I still don't know my father. He'll do for now though. The time is right. ``Father, you are forgiven''. My agent rushes in, wanting to buy his silence.
``Let him go!'', I thunder. My agent sees this as conclusive evidence that I'm losing my touch. Across the airwaves news is spread that I am the son of a mere laborer. Opposing churches gather for revenge, demanding blood tests. Despite the ingenuity they expend on justifying their gods' role in the holocaust they use the cheapest jibes against me. Prejudice thrives most when lofty intellect is exercised inconsistently. My ratings plummet as the public lose faith. I do nothing. In mock desperation my agent books a prime-time slot but on the way to the studio I am ambushed. I feign surprise and incomprehension to ease the conscience of my agent's hired thugs. They hold me captive in a rented house, demanding a ransom from my flock but they have mistimed their coup. These subtleties were hard to calculate in advance. Frustrated, they leave me in the cellar bleeding from their crude torture with only a screen for company. I see followers and enemies compete to witness against me. Their memory is short. Mine is otherwise.
There's a old fallacy you may be familiar with; each of us has 2 parents and each of those has 2 ad infinitum so in the past there must have been more people than nowadays. It is the same with memories; if they are not shared, the past will seem richer than the present. I have no-one to share mine with. I have been alone here for days, waiting for the pain to return, listening to myself being pilloried by some media prat or other. I'd forgotten how much they flap around. I suppose they think they're being expressive. But I've waited long enough. Just as space stops all things being one, so time is another invention of the devil I can do without. Too bored to close my eyes I open them again to chaos. The wall becomes chaos. The sunlight that streams in becomes chaos. Leaving my tailored, bloody skin behind I walk out into the littered street. I see kids playing in a burnt out car, secretaries walking arm in arm from lunchtime celebration. They hardly notice me but they'll remember. For centuries to come they will call it a miracle.