I'm working on something. Really. This is the furthest one along, mostly because I don't have to plan it out as much as some of my more sci-fi ideas.
Not that anyone visits anymore, but what the heck.
By the way, the art contest is canceled. No entries. What a shock.
They went by dozens of names in the universe, two beings of limitless power, ageless and enduring, last of their kind. On this particular blue planet, they answered to God and Lucifer. Or was it Allah and Shai’tan? Even for two near-omniscient gods, Earth’s many faiths could get confusing. Suffice it to say one represented “good,” and the other “evil.” On Earth, at any rate. To a Klingon or, say, a Romulan, it usually went the other way around.
This week Evil wore a female form. It had taken a shine to that gender, given all the frailties of male human morality. Lilith, Delilah, Helen of Troy, Marie Antoinette, and so many others occupied places of infamy all due to the alien’s prodding. It was merely an affectation; the two gods’ species had long since transcended the need for physical procreation. If you could call their true form anything, it would have been neutral (if you could comprehend their existence at all).
As usual, Good took no form at all, save a large ball of light and a voice loud enough to fracture eardrums. Too many Cecil DeMille movie nights, Evil thought. The sooner this “yearly checkup” of Earth civilization was over, the faster its “ears” would be rid of that horrid, horrid thundering bass.
“Darling,” it said in its best Zsa Zsa Gabor imitation, “this is getting quite tiresome. We’ve been watching over this little Podunk planet for how long now? A few million years or so? I’m satisfied. It’s a rotten hellhole destined to choke itself to death in its own poisons, if the little monkeys don’t blow each other into atoms first. I win. Let’s leave them to their own devices and find another race to uplift. A challenging one this time, like, say, dolphins. I’ve never corrupted a dolphin before.”
Good was not about to concede so easily. Admirable quality, but annoying as hell.
“I NEVER SAID YOU HAD WON.”
“My point stays the same. It’s been too bloody long in the same bloody place. It only took us six thousand years to sort out whether the Wookiees were going to be good or evil-worshippers!”
“WE DID NOT UPLIFT THEM AS HIGH. AS I RECALL, SOMEONE SLACKED OFF WHILE GIVING THEM VOCAL CORDS.”
“You don’t need a fancy language to be an asshole. I thought I proved that with orcs. As long as they can tell each other to loot, plunder, kill, burn, and debase everything in sight, it works.”
Good was not to be denied.
“I HAVE NOT LOST. THERE IS STILL GOOD IN THE WORLD, DESPITE YOUR BEST EFFORTS.”
“My best efforts?” Evil resisted the temptation to laugh. Good tended to start tossing lightning bolts around if disrespected, and Evil’s one-of-a-kind collection of Lascivious Moments figurines was too close for comfort. “I haven’t had to lift a finger in centuries. After I set the Americans on the natives, I went on vacation. That business with the tiny-moustached idiots in Europe and the towers in New York was all the doing of humans. I tell you, they’re starting to give me ideas now. My work is done.”
“SO YOU WILL NOT OBJECT IF I DO SOME WORK OF MY OWN?”
“The hell I won’t. I told you already, I’m done with this place. The minute some worm hiding in a cave thinks he can outdo me at evil is the minute this world’s gotten too uppity to watch over. And if I’m going, so are you. I refuse to let you ruin another world alone like you did with those sappy little bears and their rainbows. If I had teeth, they’d all need fillings.”
“THEN YOU OBVIOUSLY MUST HAVE SOMETHING IN MIND.”
Evil changed genders, taking on the form of the most obnoxious human salesman of all time, a Sixteenth-century lute peddler with a tin ear and a beer gut to put the Happy Buddha to shame.
“I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!”
The salesman’s favorite piece of music, a badly tuned harp/flute/lute/drum quartet, began to play in the background as spotlights flicked on.
“What defines a human? What defines any species’ morality? It’s very simple, even for someone as hidebound as you, to understand! What do they do when they think nobody’s watching?”
“I DON’T KNOW, BUT I ASSUME YOU’RE ABOUT TO TELL ME.”
“Very simple, very simple. They regress.”
“MALE BONDING RETREATS ARE NOT GENETIC REGRESSION.”
Evil wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. Good had been hanging around priests way too long.
“Very funny. I laugh. Now let me finish, would you? Without society to judge them or morality to punish them, humans regress to their basic nature. They do what they truly want, to get what they truly want. No rules and no consequences! With that much freedom, can you blame them for doing it?”
Good wasn’t buying it, but Evil did have a point about moving on. Damned if he was going to have to explain for the umpteenth time to those idiots that celibacy included boys.
“WE’VE ESTABLISHED YOU HAVE SOMETHING PLANNED. JUST SPIT IT OUT. I HAVE A BLASPHEMER TO SMITE.”
“Oh, don’t be a curmudgeon. Save it for the fundamentalists. I’ve got something very nice planned. A little wager, in fact.”
Good, already in a bad mood from having to meet Evil in its “home,” got surly.
“YOU KNOW WHAT I THINK ABOUT GAMBLING.”
“Darling, just because I corrupted your little pet project humans with a harmless snake and an apple is no reason to be a sore loser.”
The words were innocent, the tone smug. Evil couldn’t help it. Good owed it one anyway, just for making those self-corrupting Jedi Knights. Took all the challenge out of twisting them to its side, really.
“JUST GET ON WITH IT BEFORE I REALLY START TO REGRET THIS.”
A blackboard appeared next to Evil, another spotlight trained on its blank slate. The lute salesman waved a hand and diagrams began to appear on the blackboard.
“It’ll take some convincing, and a smooth tongue, but I can convince a human that he or she is, in fact, free to act without any moral consequences. Once I’ve done that, we watch the little monkey for, oh, say a year, and see what it does. At the end of the year, we tally everything up. If it’s done more to help you, you win. The monkeys are good at heart. If it goes the other way, I win. The monkeys are a bunch of savages at their core. Either way, it’s decided and we can go uplift some dolphins. Or maybe penguins. Something sickeningly cute, for a challenge.”
Good had to admit, it was intriguing. Not wise for Evil to be trusted with setting it up alone, though.
“VERY WELL. DO NOT THINK YOU CAN ARRANGE ALL OF THIS BY YOURSELF. CHEATING WILL INVALIDATE THE WAGER.”
“I can be fair too. I’ll even let you pick the human – but I’ve got the right to refuse a bad choice. You’ve stacked the deck more than once yourself in the past, let’s not forget.”
Good was very skilled at sounding indignant and self-righteous.
“NAME ONE EXAMPLE.”
“David and Goliath. No way little shepherd boy hits the exact spot he needs to kill the big bad Philistine without divine intervention.”
“I SUPPOSE LUCK AND PRACTICE COUNT FOR NOTHING TO YOU.”
“Okay, then what about that boy of yours? He didn’t exactly bring himself back to life.”
“HE GOT THE WILL TO LIVE FROM HIS MOTHER, NOT ME.”
“Very nice. By the way, you really outdid yourself with Job. Seriously, what did you promise him on the side where the Bible-scribes couldn’t hear? An actual 72 virgins in Heaven? Free manna for life? Pain-free bris? What?”
“I PROMISED HIM NOTHING THAT HIS FAITH DID NOT ALREADY PROVIDE.”
“Oh, the mafia angle! Why didn’t you say so?”
“ARE WE GOING TO ARRANGE THIS WAGER OR ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP WASTING MY TIME?”
“I already told you to pick a human. The ball’s in your court. I’m simply letting you know what will and what won’t work.”
Good pondered that limitation. It was relatively confident it could find a suitable human. The problem was getting it past Evil. The other being would probably be on its guard; best to start with someone who’d automatically be rejected. Opening a window to view the Earth, it pointed to a human female walking down a busy urban street.
Evil, now back to its female form, examined the other woman before shaking its head.
“Feh. Volunteer at the local homeless shelter, an actually dedicated social worker who follows up all her cases on time, donates to half the charities in the phonebook and she has a sponsor child in darkest Africa. How stupid do you think I am?”
“THAT ONE,” Good said, pointing to a male this time, out on a ranch or farm somewhere.
“Nice try. Runs a summer camp for autistic children, has never touched any of them inappropriately and cries at sunsets. Next.”
Evil rejected the next one as well.
“The one who created Barney? Even I don’t claim that thing as my work. Next!”
Good was patient, but not very.
“THEN YOU PICK ONE. I WILL NOT SPEND VALUABLE TIME ON THIS UNTIL I GET A BETTER IDEA OF WHAT YOU WANT.”
Evil’s grin was positively, well, evil.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I don’t want to hear any shocked gasps or wailing.”
“JUST GET ON WITH IT.”
Evil waved a lazy hand at a human female sitting on a divan.
“One of my personal faves; a real cutie.”
“I DOUBT HER HUSBAND FINDS THE CUCKOLDING, THE BALL GAGS AND THE LEATHER BUSTIERS CUTE. NEXT.”
“To each their own, Darling. Your loss.”
Evil shifted the window view. Good arched an eyebrow at the grave, serious man in a judge’s robes now in the picture.
“YOU DO KNOW THAT I AM AWARE OF HIS…HOBBIES?”
“What’s wrong with cinema?”
“IT IS CALLED VOYEURISM, AND THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, UPSKIRT FILMS ARE NOT STORED FOR POSTERITY IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.”
Evil shook its head, resignation on its face.
“And they’re the worse off for it! Well, okay, let’s drop the perverts. They bore me after the first act of debauchery anyway. How about this one?”
Good had to admit, its counterpart going more neutral was a very tricky move.
“A VICTIMLESS CRIME IS STILL A CRIME. IF NOBODY ELSE KNOWS IT IS HAPPENING, I WOULD STILL KNOW.”
“So he smokes a bit of pot now and then. Big deal! Next you’ll be telling me drinking booze is evil too.”
“SIX ‘BLUNTS’ A DAY IS WELL MORE THAN ‘A BIT.’ HE IS CONSTANTLY LATE TO WORK, ASSIGNMENTS NEVER GET DONE, AND IF HE HAD NOT SOBERED UP JUST IN TIME TO ALTER THE RECORDS, HE WOULD HAVE TAKEN THE BLAME FOR THAT OIL TANKER CRASH OFF THE SPANISH COAST SIX YEARS AGO. NEVER MIND THE DAMAGE ALL THAT SMOKING IS DOING TO HIS HEALTH.”
“What happened to freedom to enjoy life to the fullest?”
“WHEN IT HARMS OTHERS OR CAUSES A PUBLIC HARM, IT STOPS BEING ABOUT PERSONAL FREEDOM.”
Insulting it was, but there was no force behind Evil’s retort. All part of figuring out what Good would and would not accept.
“All right, enough with the chess games. I won’t let you pick a saint, and you’re not keen on the scum of the earth. We both knew that. So let’s just split the difference. Pick somebody neutral; the monkey can have a little good in it, but it better have flaws.”
Why in blazes was Good giving off happy vibes?
“I HAVE JUST THE CANDIDATE.”
“You must really think I’m a dope,” Evil snorted, looking through the file Good had given it.
“WHY IS THAT?”
Evil hefted the thickest section of the human’s profile and waved it in the air.
“He’s a social dunce! Completely useless with women! And if he were gay, he’d stink with men too! No initiative, no drive, and if he could get it up more than once a night, I’d say you were behind it. This nebbish wouldn’t have the cojones to buck your authority if I pumped him full to the eyes with testosterone! He’s got about as much chance of going evil as I do of wearing a halo and prancing around singing psalms.”
“AND YET,” Good said, “HE IS ONLY BARELY ON MY SIDE. THERE MUST BE A REASON FOR IT.”
Evil threw up its hands.
“Of course there is! He hasn’t got the will or the guts to do good or evil! What’s your plan, to bore me to death, declare it a tie and keep us here another million years?”
“YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THIS IS MY BASELINE CHOICE. ANYONE ELSE AFTER THIS WILL BE OF FAR BETTER MORAL PEDIGREE.”
Good never bluffed. It never felt the need to, and Evil knew it.
“I had to go and give you an opening.”
“YOU SAID IT YOURSELF. THOMAS RAMSEY LACKS THE WILL TO MOVE FULLY TO EITHER OF OUR SIDES. HE IS THE FAIREST POSSIBLE CHOICE OF ALL LIVING HUMAN BEINGS.”
Fairest, Good groused to itself, as long as Evil doesn’t get his hands on him first.