December 27, 2008


Thread: Alpha and Omega,Equation,Game,His Silicon Hands,Mission,Paragon

There is an old shack and outside it sits a man in his late forties. He sits not on a chair but on a ground of dry dust. It is a sunny day. God made it so, thinks Earl. His tears are exhausted and anger has left his insides charred. Nothing churns within. His heart is dead.

From within the shack, a man who wanted to be God emerges behind him. Yet he is not God. He is Green. He came here out of what he considered free will, but recognised the deceit too late. He sits down beside Earl. Green is quiet, still holding the bloody, sharp wire between his hands. The wire vibrates.

Earl wants to hate Green for what he has done, but it was what God had wished. But to swallow tragedy as if it was just a sliver of beer is not something he finds easy to do. That was God’s lot. And that was why God had waited with him for so long, telling him stories.

‘It was the greatest sin,’ says Green, softly. He sounds damaged, missing the violent determination that had propelled him to his defining moment. ‘There was no grace in my work. I had only hoped to match the master… but I was one of his animals. Moving in his word, the final sound of his voice. I have done what I was meant to do. My purpose complete, I am extinguished.’

‘I don’t care for your talk, mister,’ snaps Earl. The sun’s rays are cold. The solitude is unbearable once again. His wife has been stored in a jar for two years. And now God is gone, his parables complete.

The Paragon, the Student and the Psychologist are dead, killed when they turned on their gods of Elvis, Bliss and Morta, allowing Nhil to rise once more. Weldon has done his father proud, saving one final life, defeating Dog in his last game. Alison redeemed herself, saving a planet that had disintegrated into anti-technological fever and anarchic chaos, but sacrificed things she didn’t know she loved to accomplish it. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega’s global pursuit of Morgana came to a disasterous conclusion, as the three of them discovered that all things are terminal; the handle finally turned.

But Earl’s own story has not come to an end. He is still here with the tales he has learnt and no one to share them with.

‘It was his will,’ says Green. ‘I played my part. If I had not done this thing… He would have undone the Project. I carry His blood on my hands, this is my burden. It was His will, Earl.’

‘I know that!’ shouted Earl. ‘I made Him tell me stories for years to keep this from happening! That, mister, was my burden! I kept Him going and now you… you have taken Him away.’

Green stands up. ‘I need to go.’

‘Where to, mister? What’s left for you to break?’

‘The first stranger to cross my path. God returned her to life as part of his blackmail, to force my hand. I want to apologise.’

But Green does not move. Perhaps he is tired, perhaps he is scared. Earl does not know.

Earl says, ‘He was taken from us too soon. He had more stories to tell.’

Green turns slightly, but does not face Earl. Earl is surprised: there is shame hidden on the killer’s face. Green asks Earl, ‘Did He ever tell you about Hammerport?’

‘Hammerport? No, I don’t think so.’

‘It is a story of what men do when they have left their gods behind. He never told you this story because it could only be told once he was gone. It is about how men organise themselves and how this unmakes them.’

Earl looks at the greatest sinner and asks: ‘Would you tell me this tale?’

Green sits down again, careful not to catch Earl’s gaze. He places the bloody wire on the ground before them and stares at his hands.

‘No one remembers the town of Hammerport. Originally it was a small, sleepy town and the people there were neither happy nor unhappy. Little changed between days. This fact was neither resented nor loved by its people. Children were born, grew up, some of them left for bigger places. And then, one day, the shrewd eyes of industry noticed the town…’

The sun holds its position in the sky while the tale is told. Clouds drift overhead in mournful silence. Mountains weep streams into rivers. The human herd sprays signals through the air while the scent of decaying trash floats on a scorched breeze. There are still ashes in the urn but something has changed: a broken watch is ticking again.

These truly are the days of Man, for it was God that made it so.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1413

December 10, 2007

Closed Intervals

Thread: Equation

‘Are you scared of death, Earl?’ asked God.

‘No, sir, I am a believer in Heaven. I’m scared of pain, y’know, that sort of thing, that’s all. Death? No, sir.’

‘Really.’ God paused, pensive. ‘You should be scared, Earl. You should be.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2300

July 1, 2007

The Identity Operator

Thread: Equation

‘Hmm, something is a-bothering me now, buzzin’ around in my head like a hornet’s nest.’ Earl stood up. ‘So off you go and make, well, everything… but you tie your hands like you say, promising not to get involved. Things are set in motion because that’s all they needed, like, a gentle push.’

He hesitated; he didn’t like to challenge God, but God seemed to be doing his best to actively encourage this sort of behaviour. ‘And so, well, there ain’t no evidence of your existence. That rule you mentioned – Occam’s razor – it then says you don’t exist.’

God was unperturbed. ‘Occam’s razor is a logical device, Earl. It means don’t assume any more than you have to. I don’t need to explain the choices of your life with an assumption that the number of cookies you’ve consumed since birth totals 732, but it’s true, nonetheless. Occam’s razor doesn’t dispute truth. It keeps things simple, melts things down to the bare necessities.’

‘Will you stop with the cookies?’ Earl was tired of the cookie metaphor, but couldn’t ignore the count. ‘732 cookies? Are you sure? Can I demand a recount?’ He pinched his side, checking for fat. There was plenty there.

‘Fact and logic never disagree,’ God replied, ‘but sometimes they won’t see eye to eye. Anyway, you should ask yourself the real hard question, here, Earl. Why would I bother putting in obvious evidence of my existence before you good people have reached your peak? That, pardon my language, would pretty much screw things up.’

The hornets were in a frenzy. Earl was moments away from the question, the one that had been sizzling away like a barbecue steak ever since God had made his first appearance. ‘So you’re no believer of divine intervention?’

‘Absolutely not. Intervention would be an almighty mistake. And the Almighty does not make mistakes. Did you ever see the end of Quantum Leap? Dean Stockwell was really good in that show like he always is. Spoiler alert, Earl. It was revealed that Sam was leaping around in time fixing God’s mistakes. Can you believe that? Holy son of moley, I make mistakes?’

‘Well, sir, pardon me for saying, but what we have right here in this shed is intervention.’

God pulled down his NY Mets cap, as if about to catch a little shuteye. ‘You’re catching on fast, kid.’

The question came out, reckless and uninhibited. ‘Why, sir, are you here talkin’ to me?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1944

January 1, 2007

Latus Rectum

Thread: Equation

“He did have a tendency to stick his head so far up on his own rectum that he’d get lost.”

Earl stopped picking at the beer bottle’s label. He looked up to meet the eyes of the slouching teenager sitting opposite, who had removed His LA Dodgers cap to rummage around His short afro. Earl wondered what God was looking for, but said, “Plato?”

“Plato had this theory of ideas.” God put the cap back on, dissatisfied with something. “He was bothered by how people could recognise common ideas or forms. For example, no two cookies are identical, but they are all recognised as cookies. They seem to have a cookie thing about them that everyone can see. How come everyone recognises completely different objects as the same thing?”

“Cookies? You remind me of that doctor woman up at the university.”

“She’s a nice girl, Earl, and I won’t hear a bad word said about her. Although, truth be told, she doesn’t yet realise her life is nothing but limitation. Back to the topic, didn’t you ever wonder about that? How come everyone agrees what this is?” God sketched out a square in mid-air with a finger. “A rectangle, right? How do you know this freehand shape is a rectangle? Every ‘rectangle’ is different.”

“I thought it looked kinda like a square.”

“Work with me here, Earl, I’m making a point.”

Here we go again, he thought. God had a habit of leading him into some logical dilemma and then making him feel stupid for not coming up with the right answer. God probably knew what he was thinking anyway and apologised mentally. Sorry. If, on the other hand, He hadn’t bothered listening to Earl’s thoughts, he offered, “Sir, your beer, I think, is gettin’ warm.”

“That’s okay, Earl. I’m not going to chastise you on what you’re thinking. So, Plato’s theory of ideas?” God started to drink his beer.

Earl glanced out the window and observed the sun descending, melting the sky into gold. He wondered how long God was going stick around like this. He still wondered why He was here in the first place. Maybe God would hear that thought and decide to answer. “You’re not going to answer that one, are you, sir?”

God put down his beer after finishing it in one great gulp and said, “Drinking beer takes concentration, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now stop evading my point, I’m not trying to catch you out or anything. Rectangles, Earl, rectangles.” He clapped his hands twice like a teacher requesting attention and focus.

“No, sir, can’t say I ever did think about that,” Earl said. “But if I had given the matter some particular thought…” He paused, trying to come up with an answer that would please God. He decided to be honest. “I wouldn’t really care for it. I’m sure there’s something complex in the head that can explain that sort of thing. The brain probably compares things and says, that’s the same and that’s the same, and picks out what’s the same a lot and, uh, what’s the word…”


“What? That wasn’t the word I was looking for. I don’t even know what that means, sir. Generalizes is what I was reaching for.”

“That’s excellent, Earl. Plato, bless his beard, came up with this kooky scheme. He said all souls had access to common knowledge. All the forms in the physical world were actually sourced from perfect originals. So all cookies are approximations of the perfect cookie, that is in ‘heaven’ with me.”

Earl laughed. “Is the beer doin’ the talkin’ for you today?”

“No lie, my friend. So you can imagine this, can’t you? Plato has lumbered me with not just the Perfect Cookie, but the Perfect Chair, the Perfect Cigar, the Perfect Microwave Oven, the Perfect Martini (Shaken, Not Stirred) and even the Perfect President of the Uganda. I, apparently, have enough space to store all of this. I mean, the cheek of the man, philosophers think they can tell me what to do.”

“Wow, so this Plato was a’couple sandwiches shy of a picnic?”

“No, he had all the bases covered. Plato was kind enough to give me the Perfect Closet to put everything in.”

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1907

September 10, 2006

Mere Conjecture

Thread: Equation

God thanked Earl for the handkerchief and padded at the bloody cuts on his face. Removing his Chicago Cubs baseball cap, he reached up to his hair and probed around with cautious fingers for dampness.

“Whoa, you’re gonna bruise up pretty good,” Earl said. “As much as I believe in turnin’ the other cheek, I still don’t think I could be as cool-headed about it. Like a cucumber, sir, that’s what you are.”

Finding a painful laceration at the back of his head, God folded the handkerchief and pressed it against the gash. Slouching, God looked up at Earl and said, “Earl, when you are close enough to enjoy the beauty of the river, you can’t be offended when the spray catches your eye. It’s not discipline, it is what it is.”

“Well, sir, I know you’re God an’ all, but I’m not exactly sure I’d be able to call it a bit of spray in the eye. Don’t you have any sorta regrets? Something you feel you shoulda done but you didn’t?”

Although Earl felt stupid for asking the question as soon as the words broke loose from his mouth, they extracted neither derision nor laughter from his companion. They provoked an atmosphere of troubled gloom. A tense silence seemed to expand and fill every nook and cranny of the old shed. The superficial injuries that God had sustained no longer seemed so superficial; Earl thought they now looked painful and inflamed. Not for the first time, Earl wanted to know what was going on inside the mind of God. Respect stayed his tongue.

Eventually, the gloom was broken and God smiled. Instead of a genuine answer to Earl’s question, God offered a flippant response with a wicked glint in his eye, still holding the handkerchief against the back of his head. “I regret,” he said, sniffing with divine comic timing, “not having a baby girl.”

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1734

April 21, 2006

An Axiom Short of a Six-Pack (2 of 2)

Thread: Equation

“Excuse me, ma’am,” a deep, male voice intoned.

Diane looked up from the abstract she had been working on, her mouth packed with cookie. She saw the usual tower of paper directly in front of her, on her guest’s chair that no guest could actually make use of, with a pair of arms spilling out unnaturally from either side. Diane flinched instinctively but then peered more closely.

The arms were wearing the sleeves of a blue denim shirt, terminating with slightly podgy brown-skinned hands. One hand was adorned with a thin, gold wedding ring.

Reality re-asserted itself and she realised there was someone standing behind the tower. Diane swallowed the rest of the cookie before it was good and ready, and barked out at the denim arms, “Yeah, what do you want?”

“Hello, ma’am. My name is Earl,” the response came.

“Well, god darn it Earl, why don’t you stop hidin’ behind this paper here?” she hollered. Having cursed spontaneously she chastised herself aloud, “Shit, girl, gotta quit that sorta talk.” Following that, she made a mental note to put two dollars into the cookie repository.

Earl stepped into visibility. He was a bald man of average height and average build, with an average denim shirt and an average pair of denim jeans. Diane was desperate to identify something unique about him but had to be satisfied with his hands, which were a bit too swollen for the rest of his average body. He was actually more identifiable as a pair of arms than he was as a complete human being. She did not think of him as African-American, because that just was not PC, and she wanted to be clear that she was definitely a member of the liberal and tolerant community that would shout down, harass and hound out of town any British professor that used the word blackboard. Particularly British professors that were overweight and unsightly. Look, she wanted to say to Earl, I have a whiteboard.

Although she also found Earl unattractive, another one of her snap judgements that would be set in stone for the rest of her days, his face was well meaning. It was graced with a pair of gentle, innocent eyes that seemed as if they would not even harm a pair of gentle, innocent flies.

“That’s a whole lot better,” she said to the stranger now out in the limelight. “Howdy.”

“Morning, ma’am. A friend of mine told me to look up something called Gödel’s Incompleteness Theory.”

Diane felt that this man had never studied in his life and maybe never even read a book. She was intrigued and said, “It’s a theorem, Earl, but I’ll let you off easy for now. Go on.”

“Well, ma’am, I’ve had a fair look around your library downstairs and I can’t make neither head nor tail. In all my years since school, I’ve only read one book, the good book, you know.”

Diane was pleased that she was almost dang perfect with her guess about the book reading. “Earl, I sure am surprised you came all the way to our library to answer a question if you’re not much of reader.”

Earl looked down at his shoes suddenly, searching carefully for something that could not be found. He scratched his shiny scalp for a moment and then replied, “A good friend mentioned it, ma’am. I’d like to know what He meant by it. Would you please give me a bit of your time and explain the theory to me?”

Diane said, “Earl, buddy, it’s not some god darn theory, it’s a theorem.” Three dollars. “That’s to say, you see, it’s more like a fact. The last thing I need is someone in my office telling me mathematical proofs are just theories like evolution. I already had my gullet of those people.”

“Sorry, ma’am, meant no offence.”

She wondered if she really did look like a ma’am. “That’s okay, it’s nice that someone is taking an interest other than some freshman coming in here begging for more time on his assignment. I’m sorry, they say, I got to drinkin’ Diane, I clean forgot about it. I tell them they’re not going to sweet talk me out of a demerit, flashing their beautiful white smiles at me.

“Anyways, you see, there are actually two theorems but I think I’ll just get right to the point. What Gödel showed was that there are things in mathematics that can’t be proved but are true. That’s to say, truth ain’t the same as provable. Like I can’t prove that the British professor down the hall, Professor Jane his name is, is a racist but that doesn’t make it any less true.”


“You bet your bottom dollar it’s true. And it’s provable.”

Earl spoke the next sentence slowly just in case he was not crystal clearly understood. “You can prove… that there are things you can’t prove?”

“You bet your bottom dollar.”

Earl mulled this over, adopting a pose reminiscent of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, and then came to his conclusion. “I have a question, ma’am.”

“Shoot.” Diane was actually enjoying talking to one of the lay people.

“Are you sure this ain’t a theory like evolution?”

“Bullcrap.” Four dollars. “The word you’re looking for, Mr. Earl, is conjecture. This ain’t no conjecture. It’s the honest God’s truth, which has been proved.”

The man returned to his puzzled pose, pensive, almost constipated. After the puzzled phase, he moved into the tortured phase. After the tortured phase passed, which lasted a good twenty seconds, he switched to despair. The man’s face, Diane thought, was a rainbow of expression. How cute.

“Wouldya like a cookie, Earl? I got these home-baked specialities from one of my students. He said they were organic, nice and tasty they are.” Diane proffered the cookie jar that was full of cookies and not the one that was full of cookie dollars.

Earl did not seem to notice the offer. “I get what you’re sayin’ an’ all, what I don’t understand is… sweet aces, why would He do such a thing?”

She made a mental note of the phrase “sweet aces” thinking that it was a wonderful phrase that would not cost her one cursing dollar per use. However, she had to ask, “Sorry, you lost me there, Earl. Who do what?”

“God. Why would He do such a thing? It’s like He put a spanner deliberately in the cogs of science.”

“Earl, buddy, it’s stuff like this that makes the universe interesting! I’m no believer, no real scientist can believe in any of that religious hokum you know, but if I was then I’d probably say he’s made plenty sure we can’t work everything out.”

Earl seemed even more despairing after she said that. “Ma’am,” he said, “I don’t believe that. That’s not what it means, that’s not what it means at all.” He shook his head several dozen times, which Diane believed was either vehement disapproval or an attempt to unscrew his head from his shoulders.

“Shit, Earl, I thought you religious types were keen on belief. So, then, what do you think it means?” Sweet aces, five dollars down!

Earl responded to Diane’s question by entering into a baffling dialogue with himself. “He said… He said He had already seen to that… already seen to what?

Diane was not sure if she wanted to know what Earl was talking about. Perhaps Earl was about to start speaking in tongues or get out the Good Book and start making proclamations based on Psalm 743 Verse 912 that Yea We Shall Walk Into the Valley of the Shadow of Death And We Shalt Fear No Shit.

“My hat!” he cried out suddenly.

Diane may have been an incredibly sharp mathematician capable of making startling logical connections between even the most distant of theoretical concepts but found herself at a loss. She asked, “What in Sam Peckinpah has Gödel and God got to do with your hat?” She considered that a hat would have added a much-needed quirk to Earl’s average appearence. Then she imagined the paper tower wearing a hat. A bowler hat. A British bowler hat.

“Sorry ma’am, I think I left my hat downstairs! My wife got it for me, I couldn’t even think of losing it – I have to go get it!” Earl disappeared behind the paper tower again and never came back.

Diane took out another cookie and started munching on it. They were pretty good cookies, although they smelt a little funny, and had a knack of making Diane feel mellow. She cursed less when under the influence of the cookies and that was how she convinced herself she was not addicted to them.

Why would he do such a thing?

She wondered if Earl had found his hat and whether Earl had found the thing he had come to her to find. Maybe he was looking for a truth or a belief. Or proof of something. You could spend all day asking questions that did not have answers. There was a word for that: procrastination.

Then again…

Diane placed five dollars in the cursing cookie jar and reflected on the problem that you could never know which questions did not have answers. She had seen smarter colleagues devote years of intense effort to the inconclusive and illusory. No-one could write papers on “Some Shit I Labored On For Seven God Damn Years But Nothing Came Out Of Except This Inconsequential Lemma, Sorry”. Failed insight could lead many a decent scientist down the longest and darkest blind alleys, to the smelliest and dirtiest of red herrings, along the zaniest and craziest of wild goose chases. Scientific faith and religious faith; she found the comparison unpalatable but there it was, like dog crap on the sidewalk.

Diane wondered if the organisation of her insubordinate paperwork was a problem without a solution. There was only one way to find out.


Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2323

April 12, 2006

An Axiom Short of a Six-Pack (1 of 2)

Thread: Equation

Diane put a dollar in the jar, cursed herself for cursing, and then put another dollar in the jar for the second offence.

The cookie jar still smouldered of the smell of ancient cookies. Every dollar that was lost in its depths was seemingly exchanged for a cookie-scented dollar, which retained the same value in everyday commerce, but was regarded with suspicion by recipient merchants. A store owner once asked if she did drugs because her cookie dollars smelt funny. After that, Diane tried exchanging the cookie dollars at the foreign exchange for ordinary dollars and the teller regarded her with suspicion and called for the manager. The manager called up the regional manager. The regional manager called up the national manager. The exchange was refused because the regional manager was fired by the national manager for being bothered in a meeting with the CEO. Diane thought that it was now also possible she was on potential terrorist money-laundering blacklist somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pentagon.

The jar was the least of her worries. She had cursed yet again because she had made little progress in the new offensive against the battalions of reports and abstracts and doodles that defined her office. The use of a trash can had been suggested by Tyler, her favourite protégé, a handsome boy blessed with beautiful teeth so brilliant that they seemed to be bio-luminescent. Diane thought his torch-like teeth would have been useful in the dark closet at home when searching for her tennis shoes or perhaps her bedroom at night searching for something under the sheets.

Diane considered herself a plain sort of individual, a body that was thin and bony to the point of suspected anorexia. Her skin had a snow-white sheen that was oddly complemented by rigidly straight auburn hair that reached beyond her shoulder blades. She had no time for style and the cream pants and cream blouse with no button left undone that she wore today perfectly satisfied this lack of expectation. She had been told once that she was verging on the potential of being attractive, but she had put this down as a vile, disparaging rumour. Being single was a statement, a choice, she would argue with herself in the bathroom mirror occasionally.

Paperwork came with the territory. No mathematician she knew had a foolproof algorithm for marshalling the legions of paper that were part and parcel of the work. She had experimented recklessly with a filing cabinet once, which had only taken three forms to acquire from the office equipment/furnishings deployment/repo department. She had expected at least five, considering the hassle she had gone through to replace her chalkboard with a whiteboard. The whiteboard incident had marked her out as a maverick amongst the deadwood of her own department. She recalled the stimulating conversation she had had with that stuffy British professor in the overtly ostentatious anteroom of his office, a man who insisted on causing all sorts of uproar by using inflammatory words of the Queen’s English such as blackboard. He had said that he simply deplored the gratuitous invasion by these unbecoming whiteboards because the inky mist gets into one’s lungs and does all sorts of untold damage that medical science has barely even begun to inquire into. It does concern one, does it not, eh what what what.

Diane still had the filing cabinet in the room although she could not recall its colour as it was currently besieged by several platoons of books and freshman projects; she particularly feared the reports as they had turned wild and unruly, threatening to murder their would-be shepherd, killing the cabinet in a violent and bloody manner if given half a chance.

The time had come to divide and conquer, take back the territory that she had surrendered to the triple armies of document, journal and note through a series of well-meaning yet conceding compromises that had been brokered between Diane and their negotiators. The time had come. She had to deal with this disaster in her sliver of an office otherwise… well, she could get another fright. Since one of the paper towers on her desk sprouted arms and opened a conversation with her the previous day, she had been jitterier than a paranoid conspiracy theorist on speed.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1301

January 16, 2006

Reductio Ad Absurdum (2 of 2)

Thread: Equation

Earl furrowed his brow, merging the beads of sweat which had been forming there, and took another swig of his now-tepid beer. Conversing with himself out loud he muttered, “Sweet A, that can’t be right, now. I have to believe in evolution for that to make some goddarned sense.”

“Bingo,” smirked God.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2222

January 11, 2006

Reductio Ad Absurdum (1 of 2)

Thread: Equation

“And there’s proof of that?” pressed Earl.

God insisted, tapping the table rather forcefully, “The history of the planet Earth itself is proof that you only need a finite amount of monkeys and a finite amount of time to come up with the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 0134