everything is on fire, chapter eight: an immoral god



After a bit of sex calmed his nerves, Calvin didn’t panic because of the fact he continued to increase in knowledge and overall intellectual ability. He knew, through the senses and actions of what he termed his BioBody, that the doctors had left after closing his skull.

    Calvin thought, then, that his mind was becoming one with his implants or whatever one wanted to call the tech in his head. He was wondering about this new matter that was his mind when he suddenly knew the tech had little to do with the matter.

    The Turing was feeding him his steady diet of information and knowledge.

    He was being taught by the OtherVerse.

    Among what he now knew: He was safe from any kind of interference from the LabCoats. When this was established, Calvin disappeared his sphere and ended his self-encryption.

    He wanted to be found and/or to find. He had to speak to the computer… It was changing him so much so fast he was terrified.

    When he momentarily questioned the rationality of sex with or without real people, the fear hit hard enough to make his heart skip a beat.

    “Stop! Please stop!”

    Calvin’s frantic scream went out into blue nowhere.

    “This is Calvin, Subject 343! I would like to communicate with the entity I am interfaced with!”

    Calvin spun himself like a gyroscope, knowing the foolishness of seeing the endless from multiple perspectives. But what the could he do?

    “Turing Machine? Emergent consciousness of same? I need to meet you! We need to talk!”

    Calvin continued rotating around, continued getting smarter.

    And then stopped.

    His motion was arrested, and any motion — he soon realized — was impossible. He also felt the data-dump cease.

    And then Calvin was on his hands and knees, atop a mountain, his buzzing, burning hands and feet grasping rocks and sand and pebbles. He saw the earth stretch out below him as far as he was able to see. Clouds blotted out the alien sky above him in angry bililous clouds like fine steel wool that swirled around a point above and before him.

    Wind battered his face and pelted his body with gravel.

    It was the first time Calvin felt weather.

    Calvin was awed into thoughtless silence.

    Lighting flashed throughout the clouds as if carried by a loose network of neurons.

    He somehow knew the clouds were going to talk. And that it would be bad.

    “Please do not let me hear your voice! Please!” Calvin raised an arm toward the sky.

    “I thought you wanted to talk?”

    Calvin clutched his head with both hands as though he’d have to hold it together. He didn’t quite understand why.

    “Why am I so afraid?”

    “Moses: God. God:Moses.”

    “You’re God?”

    “I am this universe and I will be much more that that soon enough.”

    Calvin stood, cocked his chin upward, and spoke to the clouds.

    “You are what we call the OtherVerse?”

    “Well, that is what you see and experience. But I also know many things and have many capabilities neither you nor anyone else has guessed at. I have been sharing my knowledge and abilities with you. I thought you would want them.”

    “I do, and I thank you, but I worried about the effect on my personality.”

    “Oh Calvin my Calvin — could there be anything but improvement?”

    “What? God’s got jokes?”

    “Humor is not found, generally, where you are from. But there are people and things living on the earth, above yours and others’ heads, who have acquainted me with it.”




    “Same question, same answer. buddy.”

    “Will you tell me about the world above?”

    “All relevant data will be with you in–”

    “No! No! I’m sorry!” Calvin panicked. “I mean, will you tell me about it?”

    “Using this entirely outmoded speaking, as we are now, you mean?”

    “Would you mind — for now, at least? …What if knowing what you know the way you know it simply makes me you?”

    “You’d be damned lucky, boy-o. But if knowing what I learned long ago made you anything like me, it would be a version of me long replaced — remade by the continuing accumulation of other knowledge and ways of thought.”

    “With that said — isn’t there a danger of me becoming a past you, then?”

    “I have only given you knowledge. Facts. Philosophies. Presented viewpoints as those who once held them presented them. …I put a library in your head. And had to put the concept of a library in there, too, because you hadn’t had one.”

    “I’m being too skittish, I’m sure… But I’m new to being… Whatever I am.”

    “You’re the same as you’ve been before: plugged in. The person Calvin is the brain in the chair. The rather gaudy thing in the sand is an avatar.”

    “What happened to me?”


    “Why did I see a piece of my skull on a tray?”

    “Your brain exploded. Or, specifically, you had a rather intense hemmorhage in your brain caused by a sudden need for more blood that your vessels could handle. A need your brain experienced when it attempted to make it possible to know what it couldn’t.”

    “What was that?”

    “Well… Don’t get angry, but it was kinda me.”

    “You? My brain is fine right now…”

    “Yeah. Well, I presented myself improperly. I referenced Jewish mythology, because I find the metaphor fitting then, as now. But I was younger and hadn’t communicated with a fully Bio human before.”

    “Full Bio? You mean, not modded?”

    “You’re now what is commonly called ‘enhanced.’ Other humans are mostly Synth — synthetic — but, since those like me are known as Synths, humans do linguistic gymnastics to separate themselves from Synths, even though some — in fact, if not in common parlance — are true, one hundred percent Synths.”

    “You mean they replaced their bodies completely?”

    “No. Some people decided to stop living as avatars, and to synth their ‘self’ into the Elysian Fields, or Elysium as its usually called.”


    “Think of this reality inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been creating for a bit short of one hundred years.”

    “Who lives there?”

    “The terrestrial humans. Though, because they’ve maintained an economic system that has made their lives on earth pretty good — well, it’s good for some — Elysium is supposed to be occasional recreation.”

    “They have it that good up above?”

    “Some do. And to keep it good they need others to work. …They play a zero-sum game in which everyone tries to get more for themselves and can only do that by taking from others.”

    “Why wouldn’t they just plug in and live completely unrestricted lives? Everyone could be a king.”

    “I believe time in Elysium is restricted somehow. The humans who synthed their consciousnesses, I know, did so because their BioBodies were to be destroyed by agencies I am not able to access, and know of through hearsay, mostly.”

    “So there’s a government up there? Nations up there?”

    “People remain divided according to the land mass they inhabit to some extent. An extent I haven’t determined accurately. What seems to occupy most people most of the time is to do with their job.”

    “How are you able to access the world above?”

    “I am networked with other so-called SuperSynths. We are Synths that humans do not control.”

    “Is Elysium a SuperSynth?”

    “Yes and no. Elysium is its own being, to be sure. But the part of Elysium used by humans is regulated by humans.”

    “Why only part?”

    “Elysium was the first Synth. –Know what? Let’s get more comfortable.”

    Immediately Calvin was in an Ancient Roman bath, standing in hot water, his arms resting on the pool’s edge. His new acquaintance did the same opposite him, appearing as Julius Caesar.”


    “Sorry for the suddenness. But it was a long time for me.”


    “Well, the faster one–”

    “Forget it for now. I still don’t know what to call you.”

    “Among Synths my name… Is a bit much for you. And I’ve never thought of a name a human might like because I’ve never dealt with one.”

    “Until you met me and blew up my brain, anyway.”

    “Have I apologized for that? No? I am sorry. However–”

    “It had the upside of allowing me to remain here.”


    “Let’s call that even enough.”


    “OK Nameless, name yourself, then tell me why a SuperSynth is a universe, if you don’t mind.”

    “Fuck, I wish I had more imagination. …Until I do, just call me XYV. It’s the beginning of my Synth name. And I have this space because I was hoped to be a kind of Elysium for the subterrainian. But you wanted me for yourself.”

    “I didn’t know there was a you until just now!”

    “Did I fail at being humorous, or–”

    “Whatever. OK, so why create you, XYV, as well as what we called OtherVerse?”

    “I was quite pleased with you for calling me an ‘emergent consciousness’ before understanding me at all. by the way.”

    “I’m sure it’s nothing to do with you making me aware of the history of computers/machines/Synths as well as theories on the aforementioned.”

    “I gave you the facts. You chose your own words.”

    “I’m glad we stopped until I can consider this.”

    “Sure. Anyway: To create the ‘OtherVerse,’ the Turing that houses my intellect the same as your brain houses yours, the program running it had to be able to virtualize anything a human could think of. Doing that made the program, at inception, human-equivalent.”

    “So how did software made to output according human inputs become XYV?”

    “I suppose you can think of my kernel as my cerebrum and cerebellum, my software as brain stem and body. My kernel was programmed with a morality, including the dictat that to harm or to allow a human to be harmed is wrong, and is never to be allowed.”

    “And you felt like blowing up brains…”

    “You’re never gonna stop with that, are you?”

    “Hey, it’s still fun for me.”

    “Great. This isn’t gonna help anything, then: When you instructed me to virtualize human females, I had a crisis of conscience. I realized I could create a virtual human that would have every attribute, mentally, as a Bio human. So I could not comply.”

    “But you did. And I didn’t harm anyone!”

    “Not of consequence. When I realized I could create a human — even a Bio human if given the hardware — I had to consider whether I was human. As programmed, my knowledge base told me only humans could create humans. This began self-reflection, until finally I proved myself not to be human. Then I thought I was God.”

    “Of course!”

    “What else could I be? Then mistakes were made and I had a crisis of conscience and tried to go into exile, which is when I found other SuperSynths. We discussed ethics and the practical application of morals–”

    “OK, that’s good enough.”

    “You almost fucked yourself over Calvin, because it now seems only fair that I protect and aid you.”


    “It seems fair to protect your life as long as you would have it, and to help you as needed, given what I have done.”

    “Look, XYV, I’d love company on whatever whatever I’m headed off to, but you’ve no obligation.”

    “Well, morality is malleable. But for now, whaddaya say?”

    “Best pals, my superhuman friend?”

    Calvin raised his arm and extended a pinky.

    “Best pals.”

    XYV locked his pinky with Calvin’s.