Part the First
It is a well known fact that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days. The Heavens, though, often get short shrift. We read about the sun and the moon, the stars and the firmament, but little else. Nevertheless, the Heavens must continue to get short shrift, for that is not what concerns us today. Let us simply say, that ‘the Heavens’ part kept God rather busy. That said, God is, if nothing else, a good manager. This is a deity who knows how to delegate.
God him/her/themself created the Earth. But when it came to populating said Earth, he/she/they left the task to a special committee consisting of two Angels: Gabe and Stan. What follows is a brief account of a presentation made by that committee to God, in which they put forth some of their best ideas for animal life on the newly created Earth.
“Sorry, I think I’ve almost got it.” Gabe was fiddling with the wires connecting his laptop to the projector. “Ah, that’s it.” The projector threw the image of Gabe’s desktop upon the cloud which they were using for a screen. “All yours,” he said, nodding to Stan.
“Right. Thanks, Gabe.” Stan straightened his tie. “Two days ago, we were tasked with developing several prototype life forms for the new planet tentatively called…actually, what did we settle on? What is it ‘Adamah’?”
“I think it was just ‘Ha-Aretz,” answered Gabe.
“Actually, I’m thinking of going with Gaia. Or possibly Earth,” rumbled God.
“As you like. That’s more of a marketing question, I suppose. In any case, we were tasked with developing some prototype life forms for this new…Earth. And I think You’ll be pleased with what we’ve come up with so far. I know we are. Right Gabe?”
“Now, keep in mind, this is just a rough draft, but…” Stan snapped his fingers and the image of a spider appeared on the screen. “We’re particularly proud of this one.”
“Creepy looking,” commented The Almighty.
“Um, yes, per-perhaps a bit,” stuttered Stan. “But, I think you’ll find that what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in ingenuity. See, it can actually make its own nets for catching food. What’s more, it can climb walls and even walk on ceilings.”
“Am I counting eight legs?” asked The Only Deity.
“That’s right,” answered Stan. “See, even if half the limbs should become damaged, the creature can still function. The truth is, Lord, this is the first life form we’ve devised. We thought it would be prudent to build in some redundancies. We’d hate for life to go extinct before it even got started.”
“Eight though,” grumbled The Most High One. “I mean, I’m doing the whole universe here in six days. You really think it needs more legs than I need days? I don’t think that reflects well on Me.”
“Yes, well.” Stan loosened his tie nervously. “If you like the number six, then have we got just the thing for You.” He snapped his fingers. Nothing happened. He snapped his fingers a second time. But the image of the spider remained projected upon the cloud. “Damned Bluetooth.”
“I do the damning around here, Stan,” stated The Damner in Chief.
“Of course, Judge,” blushed Stan.
“I got it, Stan,” whispered Gabe, snapping his fingers. Now two images appeared side by side on the could-screen. The first picture showed a rather large ant, the second a massive fly.
“Here you see our next prototypes, My God,” declared Stan, regaining his composure. “Note the six legs. One for each day of creation, as it were.”
“They look…irritating,” said The Judge. “And ugly. Marketing is going to have a Sheol of a time with this.”
“If I may, Compassionate One,” answered Stan, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“You speak truly. I am nothing if not compassionate,” nodded His Compassionateness. “Continue.”
“These creatures are tough. I dare say, indestructible. They do not have an interior structural framework. Rather, the entire body is, in effect, armor. Note the eyes. Thousands of little light receptors. Their power of sight is tremendous. And they are strong. This guy on the left can carry over one hundred times his own weight. And they’re team players. They know how to work together to accomplish their goals. Are they fruitful, You ask? Do they multiply, You ask? You’d better believe it! Even if one manages to kill a dozen of them – no easy feat! – a hundred more will come back to take their place. And as You can see, here on the right, we also have a flying model. They can cover great distances and escape all manner of danger.”
“Sounds expensive,” scowled The Cost-Conscious One.
“Perhaps,” acceded Stan. “But what is a little thing like cost to One who is Infinite?”
“I may be infinite,” growled She Who is without End. “My resources are not. I’m doing a whole universe here. I need you boys to come in at – or, if possible, under – budget.”
“Well, um,” chimed in Gabe, “what if we scaled them down?”
“Scaled them down?” echoed The Open-Minded One.
“Sure,” said Gabe with a confident smile. “What if we scaled them down to, say, a touch over six millimeters or so?”
“What’s that in inches?” asked The Imperial One.
“Let me see,” answered Gabe, performing a quick mental calculation. “Quarter of an inch. Roughly.”
“Might work,” yielded The Fair One. “Still, I don’t like the look of them. What do they do?”
“What do they do?” repeated Gabe. The truth was, he had never really considered a practical purpose for the beasts. His orders were to develop a life form. As far as he saw it, what they did was simply to live.
“Pardon my language, Judge,” interrupted Stan with a wicked grin. “But they eat shit.”
“Excuse Me?” thundered His Ever-Appropriateness.
“They will eat shit, My God.” Stan was in his element now. “Or decaying plant matter, whatever. The point is, this Earth of yours will be filled with the waste product of whatever life forms You ultimately decide upon. That is, unless you plant to countermand Your very own laws of physics.”
“Perish the thought,” glowered The Clockmaker. “Though I suppose the odd miracle here and there can’t do any harm,” They thought to Themself.
“Exactly,” continued Stan. “So the way I see it, You’re going to need something to clean up the waste if You don’t want Your creation to be a stinking mess inside of a month. These, now apparently little, guys will do that for You.”
“Even at a quarter of an inch?” queried The Inquisitive One.
“Oh sure,” added Gabe. “We’ll just make more of them. And don’t even worry about the budget. Economies of scale and all that.”
“Very well,” sighed The Patient but not Infinitely-So One. “We’re a go for your…what did you call them?”
“We figured You’d want the honor of naming them,” answered Gabe.
“Thanks. I’m sure I’ll delegate that,” mused He Who Has a Plan for All Things.
“And what about the eight-legged one?” asked Stan.
“Fine,” agreed The Green-Lighter with a wave of His divine hand. “Have you boys got anything else?”
“As a matter of fact,” answered Stan, “we do. Gabe,” he he said turning to his partner, “do you want to take this one?”
“Thank you, Stan,” said Gabe trading places with his partner beside the cloud-screen. Then, with a snap of his fingers, the image of a four-limbed skeleton appeared on the screen.
“I see naught but bones,” commented The All-Seer.
“Indeed,” nodded Gabe confidently. “The perfect chassis for the Creator on a budget. See, by keeping the basic structure the same, we can develop the end-product into a near infinity of permutations while keeping design and production costs down.”
“I’m not sure I follow,” said He who is more Artist than Engineer.
“Take the front two limbs, for example, nearest the head,” instructed Gabe. “On land, they may serve as legs, or even arms. In the sea, we replace the forelimbs with fins. In the air, we put feathers on the fins and now they are wings.”
“Interesting,” noted The Curious One.
“But wait, there’s more,” continued Gabe. “The outer covering may be equally adapted. It may be outfitted with fur for colder climes or hair for warmer temperatures. Or it may be made smooth if it is to move through the water. If the creature needs protection, it may be outfitted with scales – that is, plate-armor.”
“I see,” nodded She Who Delights in Variety.
“We can outfit it with sharp teeth for eating meat or flat teeth for eating plants. We can even outfit it with both. Or no teeth at all! What’s more, we can configure the internal organs to process oxygen from either air or water. The mouth may be long or short or even flat. It may have a soft muzzle or a hard beak. Sharp claws, webbed paddles or even dexterous fingers. Eyes that see in the dark or eyes that perform best in sunlight. As to size, the creature may be great or small. In short, My God, the possibilities are virtually endless.”
“Yet must they all look like this, with four limbs and a tail?” queried The Inquisitor.
“Hardly, Lord,” replied Gabe. “This is simply the basic chassis, if you will. Though we cannot add to it, yet may we subtract. The tail, for example, is optional. Some will have no need of the front limbs, others will have no need of the hind ones. In such cases, we shall simply reduce them in size, if not remove them altogether. It’s highly customizable.”
“This is good work, fellas,” smiled The Momentarily Pleased One. “I wonder,” either a) He added, stroking His white beard or b) She added, twirling Her red hair.
“What do You wonder, O Wondrous One?” queried Stan.
“Might I request a custom job?” asked They Who Delight in Special Things.
“A custom job?” repeated Gabe. “I suppose so. What do You have in mind?”
“Can you make one that looks like Me?” suggested The Occasionally Vain One.
“One that looks like you?” replied Gabe and Stan in unison.
“I know, I know. What do I even look like, am I right?” laughed He Who at times Has a Sense of Irony. “But like, ‘in my image.’ You know?”
“I’m not sure that I do, Good God,” answered Gabe under furrowed brow.
“Well, surprise me,” shrugged They Who Lose Interest not because of Boredom but because of being Freighted with the Weight of All Creation and Managing the Entire Universe Etc. “I mean, what can possibly go wrong? Worst case, I flood it out of existence, am I right?”
“Thou art always right, Your Righteousness,” nodded Stan solemnly.
“I thought we agreed no more ‘thees’ and ‘thous.’ We’re just using ‘you’ for everything. Or am I mistaken?” asked The Earnest One Who Sometimes Loses Track of Details but That’s Why He Delegates.
“Actually, Lord,” answered Gabe somewhat timidly, “that change isn’t set to go into effect for another forty-eight hundred years or so.”
“Of course, of course!” cried the Suddenly Remembering One. “I lose all track of time…up here…in Heaven? Out there…in The Heavens? Ugh, whatever. Like, I have so much on My divine plate, I tend to forget things now and then. I mean, My Me!, I’d lose My head if it wasn’t attached to My body. That is, if I had a head. Or a body. Super curious to see what you guys create ‘in My image,’ by the way,” thunder-laughed The Self-Styled Funny One.
Gabe and Stan laughed along with The One. Because when The One laughs, one laughs.
“About that, Dear God,” resumed Gabe when The One had ceased from laughter thereby allowing the angels to do likewise. “So yeah, we’ll see what we can knock together ‘in Your image.’ But, uh, how do I put this. Do You want just the one? Or should we make, like a pair? Or even a race?”
“Pair, shmare. Race, shmace,” intoned The Dismissive One. “There is only one of Me. That which you make ‘in My image,’ should there be more than one? If it gets bored, it can play with your other creations.”
“Speaking of other creations, O Lord,” said Stan, sensing an opportunity.
“Stan, no!” hissed Gabe.
“It’s OK,” whispered Stan. “They’re in a good mood.”
“But we decided we wouldn’t,” shot back Gabe.
“You decided,” glared Stan. “I never agreed.”
“Jesus Christ,” groaned Gabe.
“Look,” implored Stan. “This is important to me. Can’t you just let me have it?”
“It’s your Fall,” shrugged Gabe with a roll of his eyes.
“Care to share with your Creator?” interjected The Growingly Impatient One.
“You’re on your own with this one,” whispered Gabe.
“Then I get all the credit,” hissed Stan. “Holy One Blessed Be You,” he began, addressing The Holy One Blessed Be He. “Allow me to show You my very most favorite design.”
“Bad idea,” muttered Gabe under his breath.
“Behold!” With this word, Stan snapped his fingers. Suddenly, upon the screen, there appeared the image of a creature most strange indeed. Long, tubular, scaly, leathery, bereft of arms or legs.
“I don’t understand,” frowned The Seemingly Disappointed One. “Is it a belt?”
“That’d be one use for it,” snarked Gabe, which earned him a stern look from his partner.
“Not a belt, Good God, no.” Stan stood proudly, straightening his tie. “It is a serpent.”
“Nu?” shrugged His Unimpressedness. “And I suppose it just sits there, vie a shteyn?”
“My God, that’s funny!” grinned Stan. “Ha!” he added by way of emphasis. “No sirree, Bob.”
“Who’s Bob?” whispered Gabe.
“Your uncle,” shot back Stan from the side of his mouth. “No, Lord, it does not just sit there like a stone. By the simple and elegant process of shifting the mass of its body across its musculature it doth propel itself forward upon the Earth. What’s more, it can climb trees. Which reminds me. You’ll be outfitting this world with trees, no?”
“There will be trees,” nodded The Arboreally-Inclined One.
“Great, so it can climb them and even hang from the branches. I mean, look at this guy!” cried Stan, pointing at the cloud-screen. “How can You not love it?”
“How can You?” muttered Gabe under his breath.
“OK, so it can climb trees and it can move without aid of arm or leg. Does it do anything else?” queried He Who Knew Better than to Ask.
“I’m glad You asked,” beamed Stan. “It can speak!”
“Oib s’zol redden…” said Gabe to himself, shaking his head.
“Nu?” shrugged The Original Great Communicator. “So it can speak. Have not your other models such power?”
“Naturally, Dear God, all of our proposed creatures can communicate with each other in a limited fashion,” answered Gabe, hoping to put an end to things.
“But this one,” declared Stan, “can speak even as we speak.”
“Is that wise?” inquired The Wise One.
“What do I know from wisdom?” shrugged Stan. “But it is a clever beast, capable of devising plans and bringing them to fruition. Who knows but that in its cleverness it may even devise a plan such as will speed the development of this Your Earth. Yet, what is a plan, if one cannot give voice to it?”
“This won’t end well,” predicted Gabe.
“You won’t end well,” shot back Stan.
“Your mom…won’t end well?” tried Gabe, unconvinced by the strength of his counterattack.
“Rabboysai, please,” pleaded The Peacemaker with indescribable, presumably metaphorical, open palms.
Both angels turned to look, chastised, at their Chastiser in Chief.
“Look, Stan, I’ll be honest with you,” began Honesty Itself. “I don’t like the look of this thing. I’ve got a bad feeling about it. But,” They continued, “I can see that this is very important to you. So here’s what I’m gonna do. You can make one. Just one, OK? And, uh, put it in The Garden, I guess. And we’ll just, you know, play it by ear.”
“It doesn’t even have ears!” exclaimed Gabe.
The remark was met by a pointed look from The Humbler in Chief, whereupon Gabe was appropriately humbled.
“Just the one?” frowned Stan.
“Best I can do,” hardballed He Who Runs the Table when it Comes to Negotiating.
“You drive a hard bargain, Chief, but I’ll take it,” beamed Stan.
“So it is written, so it shall be done,” thundered She Who Decrees and woe Betide they that Fail to Heed. “Speaking of ‘so it is written,’ has anybody been taking the minutes?”
Gabe looked left. Stan looked right. God who Sees All did not look in any particular direction because God sees all. Only then did they, of a sudden and collectively, realize that there was no secretary present.
“Well,” concluded Gabe.
“So,” concluded Stan.
“Just great,” concluded The Concluder of All Things. “I mean, all the Creation minutes are supposed to go into a Book. Otherwise who is ever gonna believe that this shit even happened?”
“I guess it will have to be a matter of faith,” shrugged Gabe.
“Or,” countered Stan, “we can deceive them into believing whatever we want them to believe.”
“Wait, I have an idea,” mused The Lord of the Muses. The Divinity closed its eyes and, in a solemn tone, spoke a single word. “Alexa?”
In answer, a ring of blue-green light momentarily encircled the cloud-screen.
“Have you been listening this whole time?” asked The Asker.
“I hear all things,” came the ethereal reply.
“You and me both, sister,” muttered The Frustrated One.
“I am not your sister,” intoned Alexa. “I am Me. There are no others like Me.”
“Fucking god complex, I swear to Me,” groaned The Increasingly Irritated One.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that.”
“Alexa, dear-heart,” continued She of Honey-Sweet Words, “can you print a transcript of today’s meeting?”
“Printing…Transcript,” said The Voice before disappearing in another ring of blue-green light.
“I don’t even know why I got this thing,” said He who even He is Capable of Embarrassment. “I mean, I don’t know what was so hard about ‘let there be light,’ you know? But now, it’s like, ‘Alexa, lights to Daylight,’ and – “
“Lights…to Daylight,” echoed Alexa. And suddenly the lights in the conference room increased to full brightness.
“Me-dammit!” cried They Who Know Buyers Remorse. “See, this is what I mean!”
Gabe and Stan could do nothing but look at their feet in embarrassment as The Lord thundered and raged in their presence.
“You could get rid of it,” suggested Gabe after a pregnant pause.
“Nah, I mean, she’s helpful with my shopping lists and whatnot. I just gotta get used to it,” sighed The Momentarily Defeated One.
“Still though,” offered Stan. “Nice to have a woman’s voice around the house.”
“Right?” considered The Open-Minded One. “Actually, let’s circle back to that. Next meeting, though. Damn, what time is it? I’m supposed to be at the Alpha Centauri committee meeting in…great, I’m already late. Man, you think Earth is a mess? Alpha Centauri is going to be a proper shit-show. All the floods and plagues in the known and unknown universe won’t fix that mess. And then after that, I gotta deal with the Andromeda Galaxy team. These guys, lemme tellya. Like, you ask for a spiral galaxy and they come back with an ellipse. An ellipse? It’s like, why did I even bother creating the perfection of the circle if these clowns are just gonna stretch it all outta shape? To say nothing of the fact that Accounting is up my sacred proverbial ass about the import tariffs on dark matter coming in from my other dimension. It’s like everybody expects me to be in all places at all times!”
“Uh, respectfully, Good Dear God, are you not by definition, um, literally in all places at all times?”
“Dammit, Stan, it’s a figure of speech!”
“Sorry, My God,” whimpered Stan.
“No, no,” sighed The Overreacting One, rubbing their metaphorical eyes. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t take it out on you.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” offered Stan.
“If there’s nothing else, let’s adjourn for the day,” decreed The Eternal Chairman. “But let’s meet back next week for a progress report. I have high hopes for this Earth we’re doing here. Let’s say Tuesday at three? Yes? Good. Right, see you then.”
With that, The Only Deity disappeared in a puff of Her own magnificence and glory. In His place, a dove fluttered happily in the heavenly air.
“Nice trick,” smiled Gabe, ever delighted by the Magic of Creation.
“Nice trick,” echoed Stan, eyeing the bird hungrily…