Personal log of Noel, disciple of Methuselah
Oh, the irony of it.
The Collective fail-safe failed, and in ways that no one had anticipated. Of course, they didn’t. Why would the makers of the god-machine worry at all about what the minor characters in our files eat? After all, we aren’t called to change the appetites of the minor characters, only the main characters’ appetites. That’s why we have their files.
These characters aren’t really characters. They are humans, with souls. But since we are given a file about them and since we are to rewrite their lives for the god-machine, they are no more than characters to us.
And the Collective, the god-machine only concerns itself about what the characters in our file do. Each file comes with a security code for that character. We are to program character corrections into each person. The files tell us what corrections to put into their stories. The security code stops us from adding any correction that isn’t in the file. These inputs change them from bad people to good people. We even tell them what foods they are allowed to like.
We no longer eat. Not in a way that our creations would understand. We make up the tastes we want to experience before we take each bite. We set our intentions and voila! We taste beef or a crust of piping hot bakery bread or one of the bitter-sweet spirits from the worlds in the outer regions of the universe.
But it all looks the same to us. Bland. Gray. Tasteless without our intention. Learning intention requires many years of training. It’s supposed to make us mindful. To create our experience. Then the food changes. Our intentions become the gift we give our food. For only then do we control it. Only then does it have a taste, the one we give it.
“Humans, on the whole, Noel,” my mentor said to me, “are not a mindful group. Yes, there are those among them that pay more attention to their lives, but they exist in the minority.”
So when I program a person’s story into the god-machine, I am to give that person everything. Every apple that’s pulled from the tree has a taste, a scent, a weight. Sometimes, it’s a green apple. Sometimes, it’s a red apple, sweet and juicy and crunchy. And not just that, I am to program how much or how little each person likes or hates these things. Nothing can be left to chance.
Ideally, each person likes each food only just enough. Not too much. Not too little. Gluttony and greed destroyed us all those millennia ago. We can’t like anything too much. We set our intention so that we don’t. And we make sure that the humans in our file don’t.
Never have I disobeyed an order from my mentor. He’s so wise. Living for 900 years will do that. Our people call him Methuselah after the longest-living human in the Bible. That’s not his real name. That’s just what we call him because he has lived as long as his namesake. I don’t know what his real name is.
“That is not for you to know, Noel,” he said to me when I asked him early on in our mentor-disciple training. “Names have power. You are not permitted to know the power of my name.”
And for a time, I didn’t care, either. About what they eat, I mean. Or anything else for that matter. I am given files, with a person’s basic story, information about where the story went wrong. But it’s really a file about what punishments I am to plan for him so that he learns his lessons and becomes a better human.
Not every human has a story in the god-machine. Only those who are destined to be bad.
“Badness comes from out-of-control appetites, Noel,” Methuselah said to me on the first day of my training. That’s why the people we are helping, we correct their appetites. We stop them from destroying themselves.
We stop them from becoming us because, for a time, we were like a cancer in the universe, devouring everything in sight. Not just food. Resources. Trees. Water. Living beings. It was only when we learned to control our appetites that we stopped. We were given the first versions of the Cure-for-all-Sins.
I had been at my post for many years when Anthony Alexander’s file came to me. A poor little rich boy, who according to his file, would kill his best friend, Oliver King, in a fit of jealousy and greed. It had something to do with a business deal they struck in their early twenties.
In all the years I’ve been doing this, I have never learned why people kill each other for money. But that’s what Anthony would do, according to the file I have.
I am to stop this. I failed. At least, I think I did. I haven’t told anyone what I’ve done. That’s the only reason that Anthony’s story is still in play. And the only reason I haven’t been caught. The story must fully play out before we know if it’s a success.
And technically, it was nothing I did to him that changed him. That’s why no one knows what I did. That’s why the god-machine didn’t stop me. If I’m caught, I can also truly say I didn’t disobey my mentor.
Maybe boredom had overcome me. Maybe rebellion. Or maybe I am just bad like my ancestors were. Maybe I want to have an appetite, to know what it’s like to pluck an apple from a tree and taste its sweet fruit. To not have to tell my food how to taste. For once have it tell me how it’s supposed to taste.
But I can’t do that for me. And I couldn’t do it for Anthony. But I could do it for Veronica, the woman he loved. The god-machine stops us from giving the people in our files an overactive appetite. But it doesn’t stop us from giving an appetite to someone they know. Someone they love. The god-machine has no fail-safe for that.
We are prevented from knowing who exists in the universe unless we have files for them. It’s another way we keep our appetites in check. But once we have a person’s files, we know more about other people in his life because every person in our file is surrounded by other people. People who hate him. People who love him. That’s how we know they exist.
I had a file for Anthony. I had no file for Veronica. She didn’t need one, I don’t think. She is so good, people call her St. Veronica.
I found the low-tech backdoor entry into madness.
“Love is even stronger than appetite, Noel,” my mentor said to me as he punched the Cure-for-all-Sins code into the god-machine. “That’s why it’s the Cure-for-all-Sins.”
So Anthony got no out-of-control appetite, but I gave one to Veronica. For the rapunzel plant, of all things. It was such an obscure thing where she lived. I figured she’d never get it, so I was safe in making it the thing she craved most. Kind of my way to be a rebel and not get caught. I don’t have a better reason than that.
His love for her was his undoing. He loved her, so he fed her appetite, and in the process, developed an insatiable appetite for her, for many things, really. He even has an appetite for things that I’ve programmed out of him. Awaken the appetite of someone you love. Awaken your own appetite. It is the glitch in the god-machine.
Love. The Cure-for-all-Sins. Releaser of all appetites. Time will tell if Anthony’s unplanned for appetite becomes the cure for the sins his file says he’ll commit.