[...] Lei sorrise. "Billie, secondo te cos'è l'amore?"
"Oh, non saprei. Forse è un riconoscimento, forse una scoperta, a volte è un sacrificio, ma è sempre un tesoro. È un cammino verso un'altra destinazione."
'I was told they're already selling real estate,' said Pink. 'Dinosaurs will depress the house prices.'
'We underestimated the threat,' said Spike. 'Dinosaurs are an early evolutionary species, human beings are a late evolutionary species. We can't cohabit.'
'Y'know, I think that's what's wrong with my marriage,' said Pink.
'He's looking for an asteroid', said Spike. 'He's going to use a gravity charge to deflect its course to collide with Planet Blue.'
Handsome's swashbuckling science was beyond me; it seemed like a pretty dim idea to use space like a bowling alley to knock out the dinosaurs.
'That's not what he has in mind,' said Spike. 'The asteroid won't kill the dinosaurs directly, but indirectly. He's going to create a duststorm of a very particular kind . . .'
Spike came behind me and put her hand on my neck. Her skin is warm. 'You are upset,' she said. 'I can feel the change in your skin temperature.'
'The thing about life that drives me mad', I said, 'is that is doesn't make sense. We make plans. We try to control, but the whole thing is random.'
'This is a quantum universe,' said Spike, 'neither random nor determined. It is potential at every second. All you can do is intervine.'
'What do you suggest I do - to intervene?'
Spike leaned forward and kissed me. 'Bend the light.'
'You're a robot,' I said, realizing that I sounded like Pink McMurphy.
'And you are a human being - but I don't hold that against you.'
'Your systems are neural, not limbic. You can't feel emotion.'
Spike said, 'Human beings often display emotion they do not feel. And they often feel emotion they do not display.'
She said, 'Handsome has shown me what it feels like to be loved in this way, but I want to know what it feels like to be the one who loves in this way.'
'I'm not here for the experiment,' I said.
'Love is an experiment,' she said. 'What happens next is always surprising.'
I put my head into my hands. I am being woo'd by a robot.
She nodded. 'The the planet will have to evolve in its own way.'
Handsome laughed. 'Ironic, isn't it, if that is what happens, and then millions of years in the future some bright geo-scientist will find evidence of the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs, and they'll call it the best coincidence that ever was, even though the chances of a gigantic asteroid hitting the planet right here, on a sulphur deposit, are - well, what are they, Spike?'
Spike paused a moment. 'Sulphur is a rare element, the ninth most abundant in the universe, and oly 0.06 per cent of this plant's crust. Let's suppose that a twenty-kilometre-wide asteroid might strike here once in, say, a hundred million years on past evidence of asteroid collision, and that its hit-rate on a sulphur-zone like this might be one in twenty. If that is so, then the chances of an asteroid this size hitting this planet, right here, would be a hundred million multiplied by twenty - so, once in two billion years.'
'Two billion years?'
I was thinking about Handsome and the rest of the crew. Maybe they were right - maybe the sun would be out there somewhere, bright and glorious and undimmed. Maybe I should have gone with them.
'Maybe you should,' said Spike, reading my mind.
'It's a thing about me,' I said. 'It's not about you.'
The truth is that I've spent all my life with my binoculars trained on the Maybe Islands, a pristine place of fantasy that is really no better than the razor-rocks of misery. Maybe if I had stayed on the farm . . . maybe if I hadn't gone with Spike . . . maybe if I could have lived more peaceably . . . maybe if I'd met the right person years ago, maybe if I hadn't done this, or that or, its cousin, the other. Maybe, baby, that promised land was there and I missed it. Look at it glittering in the light. But the truth is I am inventing the maybe. I can only make the choices I make, so why torture myself with what I might have done, when all I can handle is what I have done? The Maybe Islands are hostile to human life.
We had no idea how much effort it would take us to make a bad copy of what Nature had given us for free.
I watched the snow, and went back in now and then to build up the fire. Spike had gutted the fish and had wrapped it in an aluminium bag to cook.
'Don't you ever wish you could eat?' I said.
'Do you ever wish you could bark?'
'No, of course not.'
'Well, then, I don't want to eat because it is not in my nature to eat.'
'But it wasn't in your nature to love.'
'Then . . .'
She came forward, and touched my face. 'I can picture you,' she says. 'Look, here you are,' and she took out a small imagining screen, and there I was, my head stripped down to its skull, transparent under her fingers.
I looked at the skull of myself. 'You've made a memento mori before I'm dead.'
'I will never forget you.'
'Do you think we can remember things after we're dead?'
She put out her hand. 'When I told you, when we first met, that they dismantle us because we can't forget, I didn't explain. It is more than circuits and spooky numbers. Everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was.'
'You call it consciousness. Programmers call it cell memory.'
'Whatever you call it, it's simple to understand,' I said. 'When they're alive, people forget; when they're dead, they aren't around to remember anything. We always were a people who found it hard to remember. The lessons of history were an obvious example.2
Spike said, 'It is not so simple. The universe is an imprint. You are part of the imprint - it imprints you, you imprint it. You cannot separate yourself from the imprint, and you can never forget it. It isn't a "something", it is you.'
'I don't think I believe any of that.'
'It doesn't matter. I will say it again.' She touched my face. 'I will never forget you. I can never forget you.'
I went to the opening of the cave. Some religions call life a dream, or a dreaming, but what if it is a memory? What if this new world isn't new at all but a memory of a new world?
What if we really do keep making the same mistakes again and again, never remembering the lessons to learn but never forgetting either that it had been different, that there was a pristine place?
Perhaps the universe is a memory of our mistakes.
And I shouldn't blame it all on us: there must be planets that are their own mistakes - stories that began and faltered. Stories that ended long before they should.
We made love by our fire, watching the snow shape the entrance to the cave.
When I touch her, my fingers don't question what she is. My body knows who she is. The strange thing about strangers it that they are unknown and known. There is a pattern to her, a shape I understand, a private geometry that numbers mine. She is a maze where I got lost years ago, and now find the way out. She is the missing map. She is the place that I am.
She is a stranger. She is the strange that I am beginning to love.
Spike said, 'There was a world formed out of Nothing, and from the Nothing grew a tree, and in the tree sat a bird, and in the bird's mouth was a worm, and the worm that had lain in the earth knew all the secrets of life and said, "There is a world, forming out of Nothing, and out of Nothing will come a tree, and in the tree will sit a bird, and under the tree there walks a man, and that man will learn the language of birds, and find that the buried treasure is really there. And when he has dug it up, he will spend the jewels and the gold, and last of all he will find a bag of seeds and when he plants them they will grow into a forest whose leaves are a canopy of stars. And one day he will climb the tree, and put his hand out to a star, and the star will be his home." '
'Until the leaves fall.'
'And then it will be winter.'
Up, Billy, up. There's none to save you now but your own self.
But it was a different world then because the world is always remaking itself, and after the war there was a lot of remaking to be done. I was born in the ashes of the fire, and I learned how to burn.
Love without thought. Love without conditions. Love without promises. Love without threats. Love without fear. Love without limits. Love without end.
'Not a house plant, but not a wild flower either. Free to the wind, but watched over. A garden is a lot of work.'
'Yes, like love.'
'Emotionalism is not the same as emotion. We cannot cut out emotion - in the economy of the human body, it is the limbic, not the neural, highway that takes precedence. We are not robots - apologies there, Spike - bu we act as though all our problems would be solved if only we had no emotions to cloud our judgement.
'That is why some people label the personal "trivial". It is why women have had such a hard time juggling family and work, and their job - anything else would be sentimental and soft, emotionalism versus practical good sense. It doesn't stop the child crying, though. It takes a while for children to learn tat they must not feel anything, or that if they do feel anything they must not show it. We're right to teach our children how to think, but it is our children, more often that not, who can teach us how to feel.'
'Is that what you believe, Billie?'
'Yes, but as you know, I don't have a personal life at all, these days. I admit it feels irrelevant and selfish. I don't need a person, I need a purpose - isn't that right?'
'How are you today, Billie?'
'Lonely, but that's human.'
'Why are you lonely?'
'It's a heart condition.'
'But what is lonely?0
'You don't need me to explain. You need history, economics, politics, not solitary struggles. Besides, I've had a warning about what they call our little chats.'
'But explain . . .'
'All right. Loneliness isn't about being by yourself. That's fine, right and good, desirable in many ways. Loneliness is about finding a landing-place, or not, and knowing that, whatever you do, you can go back there. The opposite of loneliness isn't company, it's return. A place to return.'
The free man never thinks of escape.
In the beginning there was nothing. Not even space and time. You could have thrown the universe at me and I would have cought it in one hand. There was no universe. It was easy to bear.
This happy nothing ended fifteen aeons ago. It was a strange time, and what I know is told to me in radioactive whispers; that's all there is left of one great shout into the silence.
someone has finished one's own planet (does a bell ring here?) and luckily found a brand new one to tarnish. i am so fond of dystopic universes... in the end, though, mostly a love story (or a history of love?). not what i expected, but clever....Continua