Chapter, Line, and Universe

I fear that this may be one of those satires that Michael was talking about a few days ago ;). In any case it's a new Pliny story so you are warned

Cardinal Landrew was desperately short of time. If he didn’t act fast, the heretic sect would reach critical mass. His own flock was too close to the epicenter of the reimagining to have time to break off into another bubble. They would be consumed along with 2000 years of painstaking reality constructs that defined this region of the Multiverse. As Censor Bulla for the Roman Catholic Church it was his job to stop this from happening. It wasn’t charitable but he couldn’t help think, “Damn them all to my particular version of hell!” Why couldn’t they have taken precautions to trigger the event in one of the previously ravaged regions! He knew the answer of course. That wasn’t how it was done. Never. Birth was always traumatic. Particularly on a cosmic scale. Considering what they thought of the one true faith, Landrew was sure these heretics would be disinclined to make any special allowances for its preservation in any case.

New sect memes arose almost constantly. Most were not conducive or finely tuned enough to reach the levels needed to trigger a full on reimagining. This one was. The problem was that unlike most altmemes this one didn’t spread by conventional proselytization. If it had, steps could have, and would have, been taken to eradicate it like most of the others. The Censor Bulla remained a powerful body since the stakes were so high. It was true that they no longer had such effective means as the Inquisition and Crusades at their disposal but the Church spared little else in their support.

This movement had spread silently since the mental defect had originally been linked with a guilt meme and a self-preservation meme that had prevented the afflicted from sharing their particular good news with anyone. But during countless generations the guilt meme was no longer linked. And foolish relaxations of canonical law, induced by minor reimagining events, had reduced the influence of the self-preservation meme to a point where it no longer seemed to matter. That particular genie was out of the bottle.

Occasional memes had defied the usual measures and broken free. Sometimes the memes were compatible enough that only local disruptions occurred. But it was often a cataclysmic event. As an elder of the faith, Landrew knew of at least 3 such Class I events in the history of his own Altverse. Not including the one that had created it in the first place. In each, millions perished in the fires of re-creation. Those that remained were not completely spared since the residual effects of the schism left permanent changes. After all, some type of explanation was needed when a cosmic bubble expanded in your back yard tearing at the fabric of what had preceded it. No one knew how many other Altverses had sprung up in this way but scientists posited that the number was beyond comprehension.

Landrew didn’t care about those 10 to the 500th power apostaverses. His was the true one. He knew that chapter, line, and universe.

Most of these altverses weren’t particularly stable over time. That was a common problem with all the theoverses: Since they started in the mind of one heretic, only certain factors were altered in the re-imaging. The heretics were ignorant of the complete set of parameters needed to define a universe, too in awe of their own unique insight or too lazy to be bothered with the details, so they tended to simply cut and paste the myriad details needed to run a universe into the new bubble. If not the bubble fizzled rather quickly. That inattention to detail, of course, sewed the seed that often destroyed the new verse at some time in the future. Eventually, there would be enough mutations of the various memes present in the verse that someone would pick up on the inconsistencies.

It had happened in this Verse. Yes, according to the specification of this Verse, Adam had indeed lived 6000 years ago at the moment of creation, but since the architects of this reimagining (which the faithful referred to as ‘The Imagining’) had simply co-opted much of the Judeoverse, itself a construct of a previous reality, a great many nagging inconsistencies were present. The dinosaur bones were something that a lot of previous architects had overlooked. The Ark story meme considering their fate wasn’t a particularly compelling one for anyone over the age of 9. Emergency meme patches kept whole departments of the Church busy night and day. Closing minds to alternate verses was a tireless job but nothing was more important to preserving the fabric of reality. Much of the work seemed to involve a canonical shell game where some rules were reimagined as metaphors and metaphors were reimagined back into the literal. Working in the Holy Agency for Metaphorical Realignment tended to age one.

Landrew longed for the wrathful angel of God to descend upon the unfaithful but that had been a victim of the reimagining of this verse. That kind of divine firepower had been left behind in the Judeoverse. The marginally kinder and gentler gods of this verse used human avatars in robes to do their dirty work who also co-opted the myriad natural catastrophes and labeled them as one of God’s mysteries. That had been effective enough for centuries. He could invoke the Holy Spirit but that couldn’t penetrate the reimagined brains of the heretics. The individual’s brain became a small but separate Verse anytime they reimagined their own stars. As such it was immune to the specific rules of the parent Verse. That was why it was so important to control the education of the public and shield them from independent thought that could lead to cosmic upheaval. These intercranial Verses weren't completely immune to the basic rules of the parent Verse such as a body's need for oxygen and blood flow to their brains which could be interrupted without invoking the Holy Spirit. Landrew imagined a verse where that wasn’t a limitation but that would trigger the same kind of upheaval that was brewing even now.

Like we said before, a new Verse always started the same way in the past. It was created within the mind of a single individual from neurochemical imbalances, personal perceptions or for nefarious and self serving purposes. If caught at that point it was an easy thing to take care of. Eventually it would either peter out or start to gain dominion over other intercranial Verses and start to congeal. Combine enough with enough variability from the baseline parent Verse and a new Bubble might form. Sometimes the variations were mild enough that they kind of just rolled over the current verse like a gentle breeze altering some things but not disrupting too much. That had been the case with the Scientologists. Though odd and nonsensical the beliefs weren’t so far from the parent Verse to trigger a big bubble. After all, thetans and Catholic guilt weren’t all that dissimilar. Eventually they had all flown off in those cosmic DC-8’s searching for Xenu so things settled back down. The so called Reformation had been even less disruptive. Some effects had been obvious such as a general proscription against having any fun at all, drabber ceremonies and the ability of the priesthood to wed. Some were more subtle and long acting like Martin Luther’s last dig - a timed event that caused large numbers of pedophiles to enter the priesthood. It was unfortunate but the Church reckoned that the reimagined fix was too likely to trigger at least a class 2 reimagining event. Preservation of a universe required that the Church sometimes make sacrifices no matter how it pained them to do it.

That’s part of what made this event so much more dangerous. It hadn’t started in the usual way. No charismatic or insane person had single-handedly triggered this cascade. No, this one had seemed to spring forth from many locations at once. This meme was different. Landrew still thought of it in the traditional way. That might end up being the Church’s fatal mistake. They viewed the movement as the emergence of a new meme just like all the ones before. The difference was that this wasn’t the emergence of a new meme but the simple loss of one. That was why it prospered in so many different places. The affected individuals were very different but the end effect was the same. Once the meme in question had been lost, they all behaved in a similar fashion and began to reimagine the verse in a whole new way. They were many and close to reaching the threshold that would define a new Verse. In fact their numbers were far larger than needed to create a new bubble. They just hadn’t connected in enough numbers to accomplish it yet. But the damnable Internet was making that seem more likely with each passing hour.

No living person had actually experienced a true Class I reimagining. The last such event was centuries past and had left a large part of this world a desert where once lush lands had existed. Truth be told, a lot of that damage had been inflicted by an earlier event that had created The Imagining. But the histories were frightening. The emergence of a cosmic bubble around a nexus of reimagined reality could completely consume the parent if it didn’t pull away to an alternate dimension soon enough. Even in the best of circumstances, there would be residual contamination, often quite severe such as was the case of the last great bubble from the Middle East. Considering the trouble the mere residual created in The Imagining, Landrew could only imagine how vile the actual Altverse actually was (He had no way of knowing it but that Verse had recently been consumed in a hell fire of rebirth when 100 women had met in secret to discuss whether men were responsible for controlling their own longings.) If there was enough warning a new bubble could be created to escape the consumption. It was last resort and only a few of the faithful would be saved (around 110,000 at most). Landrew had been instrumental in getting the Church to commit to the slight reimagining (fortunately only an earthquake in an already godless region had resulted) that had allowed the True Church to adopt this useful escape clause from one of the minor perturbations that continued to fester from Luther’s first.

Even that option was off the table because of what essentially was a interruption of service attack. There were few seats in this cosmic lifeboat. Only the true faithful would be saved in this fashion. But so many people imagined themselves to be among that elite cadre, that the process ground to a halt.

These new heretics also seemed to be very adept at exploiting the recurrent fabric of The Imagining. Even more than the priesthood. It was a truly heretical concept but some had theorized that this Verse shared common ancestry with many such Verses all springing from a random eruption of energy. What nonsense. The priests had gotten a big bang out of it when first proposed by a long forgotten apostate. Archbishop Hoyle had been particularly amused.

But the abilities of the Greater Nonaligned Union, as they favored to call themselves, to make sense of the parts of the Verse that just didn’t conveniently fit with the rules of the Church, was truly disconcerting. Fortunately most believers had found sanctuary (or been steered to it) in the position of the advertising arm of the faith that claimed that they were just heretics, not the seekers of basic truth that they claimed to be. The apologists informed the masses that these were just competing ways of knowing - one was right of course and the other wrong. Not hard to pick which was which.

The Church was beneficent of course. The efforts to identify the particular cerebral defect that caused the troubles once they determined the level of the threat were substantial. For a long time no one believed it was possible. How could such a thing happen? How could such a creature continue to exist and reproduce? How could they have not called attention to themselves through violent and immoral behaviors lacking any overlords to keep them civilized? Every sentient creature believed in something, even if they were completely wrong in that belief of course. But these mutants believed in - NOTHING. No animism, no polytheism, no spiritualism, no one true deity. Nothing. Empty of anything save biting sarcasm and a seemingly endless list of so called transgressions and inconsistencies from the cosmic background structure of the Verse. Try as the Church might they could not get any theological memes to stick in the void within the minds of these creatures. They were so closed minded.

And they were threatening to ruin everything. Smarmy and cocky they were becoming ever bolder. At any moment, space itself could be torn asunder while they made one of their silly jokes and laughed about the fact that there was a gnu sheriff in town...


Michael Lockridge said...

And you say you don't believe in magic.

pboyfloyd said...

I think Michael likes it.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I'm not sure - Mike are you saying it's about magic or that it's magical writing ;)