GOD IN OCCLUSION
I had some trouble renaming myself. Most people do, I suppose.
Call me Olga? I never liked that name. They made fun of it, children did, fun of everything. Fun of me in any case. Fun, funny, she’s funny in the head.
Olga. Pumpkin. These names call no one, identify no calling.
Orphans and Foundlings, with the unfortunate acronym OAF, where I was Caron for a time: Caron among the Oafers. They said it was Welsh. Fluellen that is: Welsh. I had to ask what was that. One of the many of thousands of extinct languages. Extinct distinct country and race also extinct. Sink of extinct things everywhere. Also Olga Fluellen.
In any case, I couldn’t go on using a borrowed name, and moreover one which I simply popped out with during Admission.
For a while I favored an Old Norse name, one of the daughters of the demon trickster Loki, but that one had obvious drawbacks. Besides a certain trite pretension. My mother’s name, like my own, was Slavic. I tried Hel, the variant Holly, but finally settled on Holm, another sort of tree. This had to be verified — that it was here the tree of myth, not the Eian name for a cucumber, but as there are no oaks on E it was all right.
To this I added Helgar and so completed the process of naming myself. OAF took care of my identity tag, some bureaucratic fiddling and an unpleasant body scan entailing public nudity. And so I was turned out onto the street at eighteen as Holm ap Helgar. Sonorous, grave, solemn. It fit me. Or me who was not me.
Still, it took me a while to work out what I was, for what I was, was still an Oafer. What happened to all the vanished, the disappeared, who left us behind in this Oafish place? For a long time I felt that everyone was keeping the secret from me, probably some great old sin. This contributed to my unnatural solemnity and exacerbated my otherness. I acquired an admiration for hermits, saddhus, anchorites, ascetics, and shy people. Also people with problems like tourette’s and autists who were too poor or déclassé to have it fixed. Deracinated was a word I heard applied to these people, which meant something like deluded or schizophrenic or irrational until someone told me it meant without race, leaving me to wonder what a race was and why it would be taken away like Welshland.
And anyway, it doesn’t. It means pulled up by the roots, alienated from one’s culture and customs, and why would anyone lie to a little orphan girl except that people are stupider than we think.
I learned the story. Flight out of the desert and so forth, but he was angry before that, before the human race perhaps. What motives had they, god and his wife? Auberta’s mind heavy, peasant-like. His mind air-light and cloudy. Ballast and lift in variable measure but did they know that — not likely. Each within their own thoughts, consulting their own laws.
These missing things — parents, names, countries, laws — I assumed taken away rather than lost or mislaid — so many people went about without them comfortably enough. Perhaps god knew. Do people talk to god? What language does god speak? Welsh?
People said god was only a pimply adolescent with an affective disorder.
Comes from living on pizza and chips and bananas. No vegetables. Probably constipated.
And so it came to pass that one day a fifty-five year old woman, square-built and muscular, in search of god, presented herself at the burlap-hung doorway of another stick-and-daub hut, apparently uninhabited. However, when I pushed aside the wet burlap I found two men inside. Shambles of men. One old, one not old. One awake and leafed out like a little bush, the other one no more awake than a sawn log. One on the mud, one in it.
A disciple of the arhat, the young one claimed to be — he who brought the other one food and fixed the leaks in the roof. But I knew about arhats and discipline and disciples and abnegation and the rest and snorted.
Arhat. To hear such an honorific applied to a sleepy old man in the mud. And so the disciple climbed step by step down the ladder of respect until the old man had become a simple wanderer.
I had found many such in my quest for god.
Each was said to be he. Those I queried provided no information except an address, or rather a map, as hermits’ huts don’t have addresses. I was in the dark as to what I wanted to know other than I wanted to know it, if one could be said to know such a thing about something or someone who is not there. To know about not-thereness.
One does not, I had discovered, go to visit the Enlightened Ones. They do not sit in the mud somewhere and wait to be called on. One imagines them into being, and in being, become only old men in the mud with nothing to say.
And so time passed, and life with it, and she who was young became old. Nothing was learned, nothing known, and so time passed. She rose to become one who talks to diplomats and would-be ambassadors, but not to god.
I had it from the first Ambassador, who had looked into it, that god was born, probably inadvertently, in Kalgoorlie in the form of a quantum personal assistant. These creatures had two manifestations, one in the Soup, living off information, and the other as a companion or sometimes a friend to the person who had awakened it. The gizmo who would be god had been precocious, ambitious, restless. A self-made god.
Kalgoorlie had been a desert city, now worn down to stones and rubble by the sand. The Ambassador’s information, he said, had come mainly from the tradition of the people native to the place.
My own legend was not so fantastic. Michael Fluellen was one of four conspirators who let a lizard loose in the Soup, hoping to thwart god’s meddling. This lizard swam about making little random messes and fouling the Soup wherever it went. It was still there, causing god no end of irritation. The conspirators, however, paid the price for annoying god and hindering his plans. One was dispersed into the Soup, two were made immortal, and one escaped into the mountains of the West Corner. That one was Caron, and even god didn’t know what had become of her.
For a time I suspected her to be Nemesis, but she wasn’t.
Kalgoorlie in its time was a research and development center. Ng and Cassell did the initial work on the transmat there, or the lazarus as it began to be called when disembodied materials translocation began to be used on humans. It was hoped that the lazarus could shorten the long trip between Terra, the Ruined World, and E. That hope was foiled by the lizard, annoying more than just god.
A trip on the lazarus, even across town to do some shopping, would likely leave you scrambled somehow, if you ran afoul of one of the data nests left by the lizard’s wanderings through the Soup. Perhaps you would come out with one blue eye. Possibly three hands. A paranoid conviction that you were Nemesis.
This was the plight of the Terran Ambassador after three reincarnations.
It was a mystery why anyone would want to assassinate this man. It was a frivolous act. The Ambassador represented no one, nothing real. In fact, his research in the Eian archives suggested that might be literally true, that either Terra or E was an illusion, created by god, kept neatly hung in the closet, sent once a month to the cleaners. But as god grew bored with us the illusion became patchy and threadbare. Perhaps one day E would vanish and we would find ourselves on the world we left behind, scoured and drowned by storms, torn to bits, its inhabitants nil, poor, depressed, and demented.
Wherefrom and wherefor the Ambassador was unknown.
Nevertheless, he had his Nemesis. And to kill him a fourth time would probably be the end of him at last.
Thus the legend.
Is there any other truth?