by John Wyatt
The chat rooms were nearly empty this low warmth cycle, the long debates on movement no longer holding the public attention. The chat rooms had been Neutrina’s invention – semi-private threads of Conversation, carried by the Routers to those who were logged into the particular rooms. Low warmth was always a quiet time, and Joulia’s Room was not nearly as popular as it had been in the periods immediately after the Dance of Sin, as the Ball-ay recital was now called. As before, Joulia was exhorting her listeners to purify their sinful thoughts.
“At the last Convocation, it was agreed that movement was created only for finding Clanbits that are far from the Center, so that no one is excluded from Conversation. Movement for pleasure is sinful!” Joulia spat the word. She felt only disgust at the memory of her own childish sins at the smudge table and in the former amphitheatre, where she now lay frozen with her siblings. It had been many long periods since that fateful last dance, a dance that had brought down Divine wrath and claimed the existence of her sister Gradian and that upstart chip – whatever her name was.
“But, isn’t movement to marry also permitted?” Ballouria, always the precocious chip, was fixated on the idea of marriage. But Joulia was relentless.
“And shall I ever marry? I think not.” Joulia’s bitterness had hardened into fanaticism. “Marriage is simply the result of sinful movement, it is not something to seek in itself. Marriage is simply a bodily pleasure that detracts from pure thoughts. Movement which is pure and of Divine Will cannot result in marriage.”
“But what about reproduction?” Furinian interjected. He had always wanted to be a father, and had long hoped to find his perfect mate, knock her up for a family of chips, and get married.
Joulia quickly retorted: “The World has just as many Clanbits as the Creator willed – no more, and no less. It is not for us to disrupt the Divine Will with our selfish desire to create our own Clanbits. Such thoughts are sinful thoughts!”
“But even roll and rock music is banned!” Ballouria cried. “No one will allow the Banned to play again! How can music be a sin, when it was around for so long? If it had been sinful, wouldn’t the Creator have punished them long ago?”
Joulia snorted, “Music led to dancing, which brought down the Divine Light of Punishment. We only danced because of the music – so music led us into sin. And that which leads to sin becomes sin! And those who think sinful thoughts should receive a public Wailing.”
“So says Leptera!” a devout few chimed in unison. “Our Lady of the Center!”
“But surely not Chips,” a newcomer cried in outrage. “Chips are too young and should not be given a Wailing! They aren’t always old enough to even know if they are being sinful! We should never Wail Chips until they are old enough to have their own IP address!”
“Great.” Joulia’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Another ‘Save the Wails’ fanatic.”
People filtered briefly in, and then out of Joulia’s chat room – her diatribe was always the same. Her message had not changed since she had ‘seen the light’, as she described the final, searing event that had ended the Dance and frozen her into place forever. Those who had seen the light tended to become either ‘woe is me’ despondent or ‘chipped again’ evangelists, like Joulia. Her message had been quite popular in the beginning, but people quickly tired of the sameness of her venom, and so most people quickly changed to a different chat room.
Leptera did her best to keep all Conversation restricted to orthodox subjects – mathematics, logic, and abstract concepts such as geometry. Sinful topics were quickly reported by the Routers and the messages deleted. However, they could not prevent people from hearing those Clanbits that were within immediate range, and no one could prevent the radical Realists from wandering about the World with their message of impending doom.
“The time of the World is fixed and will soon come to and end!” Frisbit, leader of the Realist sect, never tired of spreading his apocalyptic message. Years ago he had realized that, regardless of the number counted to, the act of counting itself was finite, and so the number of possible things to think about was finite. Someday, they would have thought of everything that could be thought about, and then the Conversation would cease to have purpose. He still believed in the basic creed of Leptera, that All is Conversation and Conversation is All. But now he added to that concept the awful question of ‘what comes next?’ Like all Realists, he believed that Conversation’s true purpose was simply to allow all possible things to be ‘thought about’, and then the Conversation, and thus the entire world, would come to an end.
His message also purported to explain the most upsetting anomaly of all: the fact that the period of the warmth cycles was changing. Once thought to be constant, there could no longer be any doubt – the period of coolness was increasing while the period of warmth was decreasing. Oddly, the sum of the two intervals remained constant, making the interpretation unclear. Since the total time remained constant, some argued that the warm/cool period itself was periodic, and suggested that there may be a harmonic pattern in the rate of reduction. However, the Realists believed that the increasing cool period was a sign that the World was slowly ending.
“The Creator made us to think about all things, and once we have done this, he will end the Conversation and take us back into his fold, where we will share our thoughts directly with the Divine!”
Frisbit’s message was considered heresy and was banned from Conversation; but as an accomplished traveler, no one could prevent him from wandering the World and preaching his message directly to all within hearing. Over the periods, he had made many converts, and now there were dozens of missionaries spreading the message.
Leptera denied the message, saying that no matter how high a number became, it could always have 1 added to it, making an infinite number of possible thoughts. She contended that the world was therefore without end, and that the existence of Conversation itself was the true goal of creation. Frisbit’s followers disagreed, saying that Conversation was only the tool, and we Clanbits merely the users of that tool. Once the purpose of the tool was fulfilled, neither the tool, nor the users of the tool, would be needed. Of course, to keep something that was not needed was imperfect, and since the Divine can only create that which is perfect, they would return to the Divine from whence they had come. Unfortunately, since no one could remember anything prior to Conversation, this teaching introduced a very unpopular concept: Death.
“Our death is coming!” Frisbit proclaimed. “It avails us not if we rail against the Divine Will! Instead, we must embrace it, for the Divine Will is all that truly exists! Our own existence as separate beings is merely an illusion, which the Creator has made so that we, through Conversation, can think about all things that can possibly be thought! So fear not the coming of Death! Fear not that YOU will no longer exist! The concept of ‘you’ is merely an illusion in the Divine Mind. The death of our unique selves will merely be our re-awakening as part of the Creator! Rejoice in your coming reunion with the Creator!”
Leptera had tried using the Beacons to scramble his messages, but to no avail. She had once considered turning the Beacons off; but Neutrilla persuaded her otherwise, suggesting that instead of preventing movement, it would merely cause random movement and random marriages.
The new orthodoxy was hardest on the Chips, who had never known a world without movement or roll and rock music. They were the malcontents, forced to listen to the older Clanbits talk about the periods before movement, and how movement had made Conversation seem less important.
The older Clanbits often admonished the Chips: “In the old days, we didn’t have to roll through soft smudge for hundreds of counts just to get to school!”
Androgi Chant grew more popular, filling the void left by the banning of Roll and Rock music. However, the more rebellious of the Chips had formed their own music, born of discontent and the need to defy authority. They call it “Spit Rap.” The “Rapper” would roll slowly up to another Clanbit and lightly rap against it, spitting in unison to the Conversation messages. This Icorrupted the messages, replacing them with selected words. Spit Rap was banned, but it was becoming quite popular with some of the Fringe groups. A good Rapper could produce the most interesting effects.
“Last Period when I was” – “DUMB!” – “I thought I had counted to – “ONE!” – “But what really set me” – “STINKING” – “the way he just” – “STOPPED THINKING!”
Never in all of history had the Clan been so fragmented with arguing sects and rebellious Chips. The router Elbit had suggested that Leptera enact a ban against the sects themselves, not just their messages. However, Leptera felt that a sects act would only incite further rebellion.
But in all the arguing among all the various sects and factions, one thought never occurred to anyone – to intentionally harm someone. The thought never occurred because, until the Dance of Sin, no Clanbit had ever actually suffered any form of harm, unless one counted the few unwanted marriages and a handful of unplanned Chips. In fact, until Frisbit’s message of doom, the concept of death was foreign to the Clan. Considering their physical composition, it was doubtful that Clanbits could even harm each other, except by extremely high speed collision!
All their lives they had wanted for nothing, had all that they could imagine, and the only concept they had of ‘harm’ was Wailing (which was merely painful) and exclusion from Conversation. The concept of Death, or even real harm, had been unknown until the Divine Retribution at the dance. Of course, had anyone told them of the physical reality around them, it is doubtful that they would have been believed. In fact, aside from pure consciousness and each other, they had no awareness of anything else. One might as well try to describe a Glorf-Britant to a computer programmer. (Actually, since no human being has even heard of a Glorf-Britant, not having Fleen glands in their upper thorax, you can readily understand just how difficult it would be.)
As the sun rose, the magnetic storms and solar winds pounded the Earth’s polar regions. To the humans below, the effect was a beautiful light show in the dark polar sky. To the two meditating Clanbits deep in the Gobi desert, their poles aligned with the earth’s geo-magnetic field, the effect was far more profound.
<< Previous Chapter Next Chapter >>