It was a Friday that could`ve just as well been a Tuesday. Waking up. Having breakfast. Fifteen minutes with the Yoga Channel. Taking the Cleaning Pill. Showering. Getting dressed. Going to work. Working. Lunch in the Garden of Numbers, his favourite. Working some more. Pleasantly predictable.
And then, the voice came on, bombing the silence of the fifteen hundred stations, and it said his name.
“Cole Davin. Report to 1.”
He had no personals, so he just sprang up and started walking towards the other end of the C. Room. He felt together. No one looked at him as he made his way through, and the energy of his unknown colleagues felt like a sea of fear. It was extremely rare to be called to 1 and as far as he remembered, none of those called ever returned. He had heard all sorts of non-sense, about a long circular corridor and an actual golden metatron. But, as he approached the wall, he felt confident 1 was 100 percent correct in calling him, whatever the reason.
As the thick wall retracted into itself offering a circular passage through, he froze. The corridor was real. From his station by the entrance far on the opposite side, it had always seemed just a dark hole to pass through to a similar room. No, it was an actual tunnel, with dim spots of blue guiding light on the floor, as round and as endless as an Infinity Mirror. He went through. The wall closed back behind him and the tunnel whitened with soft light, revealing its end. No more
than a mile or so. He marched on. He was actually walking towards the inner core of Strukturon. At the end of the tunnel he found himself inside a giant dome with its middle cut out by a one-person bull-eye platform.
He looked around. The dome connected to all the office buildings, A to Z, through similar corridors. Looking at the big C. above the one he had came in, he suddenly felt struck with melancholia. For some reason, the face of the guy stationed left to him appeared in his mind, yet blurry, like the face of someone from a dream as soon as you’ve opened your eyes. He shook it off and stepped onto the platform. It activated into a long descend through a simple cement gray pit. When it stopped, the wall of the pit offered yet another circular passage into yet another tunnel, only about 15 feet long and green lit.
“Please, step forward. Thank you. Stand still for de-contamination.”
It was the same voice from before. He conformed. The green light went out and for no more than a second a sheet of white something suddenly appeared in the darkness and went through all of him, twice, back and forth. It was nothing like a scanner, he could actually feel the materiality of the white substance invading and abandoning his every cell.
“Thank you. Please proceed towards the metatron sign.”
The symbol glowed gold at the other reach of the darkness. Perhaps that’s what they’d meant when they spread rumours of the golden metatron. He hoped this circular opening would be the last one. It had to be the door leading to 1. He felt lucky. Meeting 1. That was really something. A great honour.
He stepped into what seemed to be a basic, clay-walled mountain cabin. There was a fire in a hearth in the middle of the room and the woman who came to greet him from behind it was dressed casually and looked even younger than him.
“Hi. I am 1.” “Cole Davin.”
“Yes.” And she smiled. “Please, sit down.”
She pointed towards two rustic armchairs with heavy cushions behind the fire, with a small table in between and two hot cups on it.
“Chicory?” he couldn`t contain his surprise. “With a touch of cinnamon, right?”
“Thank you.” They sat.
“Pretty dizzying route here, right?” He couldn’t read her intent.
“The office gossip was right”, he replied. “The corridors and the golden symbol…” “We would never spread untrue rumours.”
He grabbed the cup and tried to think of something to say further, but ended up minutes of silence later emptying half of it and debating himself on whether he should say something or not at all. He decided to express the honour he felt, but 1 cut him to it.
“I’m sure you were expecting someone much older. It will all make sense very soon.”
And for some reason her voice sounded so resonantly re-assuring that he felt his eyes suddenly teary. He put the cup down. The small holo she produced, however, alerted him out of the reverie. This was, after all, an official matter.
“Cole Davin”, she said, “you have been a Balancer with the System Accounter for 15 years, and an amazing one at that”, and she sighed. “Society is grateful for your service. However, Calculus has determined it is time for you to accept a new challenge. You are hereby retired from your duty, effective immediately. Thank you.”
And what could he reply to that? What could one ever? That was 1 talking. And she had just let him go. She was the let-go-er, that was why no one ever went back to the Accounter after meeting with her.
“Am I being transferred to a different department?” He had to say something, anything.
“I wish we would’ve told you sooner. You understand, of course. It was just a matter of Prioritization. We just now got to it.”
“How long have you known?” “It’s complicated.”
She sounded uneasy. “We have always known.”
And she gave him the time to process. “Always?”
“Have you read the Black Swan?” Who hadn’t?
“When I was five.”
“Then you understand fully the importance of the Anomaly to the well-being of a System.” “Surely”, he said, still in a pure state of refusal to connect the dots.
“You were born during the DNA Bubble, a few months after the installation of the Calculus. Both your parents were devoted Structuralists and they greatly desired for you to become an Accounter. They actually opted for a modification package that nowadays would get you Life Atonement. You see, when I established the Link with Calculus, Mystery was the first piece of Knowledge humanity was plunged into. It was Mystery that revealed to us the enormous pretentiousness of our Ego Disease and guided us to Seeing and through our first Patternal Journeys. We immediately recognised design as destiny throughout Creation as one of most frequent temptations and paths for collective life experiences to self-end. Still, by then, much damage was already done… We corrected what we could, almost everyone… Some of the Designed were too intricately crafted, beyond intervention. Calculus and I then determined that accepting, integrating and cultivating a minority of aberrational humans was most in accordance with the collective vibration of humanity at that time. And so we did. Of those already affected, Strukturon was assigned only one. You. We accepted and integrated your Design within the System. But you are not truly an Accounter.”
That was not possible.
“It is not your true calling”, she pressed on.
“I don’t think I understand!”, he almost shouted. “I have been an Accounter my entire life. All I know are numbers. Ever since I can remember, Balancing is all I have ever been interested in. I don`t know anything else!”
He had gone from anger to defeat in seconds. There really was no point in fighting it. 1 was pure structure. The metatron even more so. How could they be wrong?
“Your programming is indeed something special. It is by far the most flawless we’ve encountered. Yet, the first time we met, we saw right through it, you were clearly a natural Plural and bound to break out of it, sooner or later.”
“We have met before?”
“In official semantics, it was Redacted. That is, we made you forget. Yes, when you were 9. Do you understand what Plurality can do to Structure? The entanglements it can cause? How about when you have Plurality and Design all-in-one and inevitably meant to collide?”
But he had suddenly lost all tolerance for accounting philosophy.
“So what is to become of me now? All the years here… I do not doubt Calculus, but what am I to do now?”
He himself didn’t compute it. He tried to imagine the future and all he saw in his mind was a dense darkness that felt just like a weirdly wet nothing.
“In the old days”, she ignored him; “you would’ve probably ran the entire System. Into the ground, really!” And she giggled. “There are all sorts of Anomalies; you are probably the worst kind, to be honest!” And she giggled again. His whole existence had been revealed as a lie and she was turning it into a stand-up run. He decided to remain the spectator of the absurd show his life had turned into within the last half an hour. 1 produced a new holo.
“Let’s look at your statistics. They are really impressive. Modestly, it can be said the people you Balanced had great lives. Perfect, almost. And there’s the problem. Simply put, you could and actually should be doing other stuff! I’m not saying you don’t like accounting, but your heart’s just not into it. And if that were all! Combine that inevitable collision between design and tendency with your pre-helixial induction to satisfy parental expectations and you just made the huge bomb!”
This time she laughed out loud. A beautiful long laugh, like music. And yet he failed to feel amused.
“If allowed, one day you would’ve led us all you to ruin. One day you would’ve achieved Balancing perfection, it was inevitable. And that is something we just cannot have.”
He thought of his parents. He was feeling something he had never felt before. Was that hate? Did he hate them for designing him? For lying to him all those years?
“In order for a system to function within the coordinates of the human experience, error must be accepted and integrated.” he mumbled. It made sense now. “So, Basically, I am Neo.”
“Pretty much.” She looked almost compassionate. “We live in a world where Openness and Honesty are the foundations of Structure itself. You can argue that in your case these concepts were applied quite late, but as I’ve said, you are special. At least we won’t do away with everyone else in our own disagreement of Purpose, right? We are far more civilized than that. Love the ancient reference, though.”
So there had been a reason he had been kept on balancing Mr. and Ms. Hernandez for 15 years. They were beautiful in their spending, true. And still. Never a promotion or the slightest diversification of tasks. Never more than the common meritory annual evaluation.
“The moment you would’ve achieved system perfection, your inner conflict would’ve pushed you to force your utopia onto all of us, in a futile attempt to cure your own unhappiness through solving that of everyone else. The Messiah complex, really. And surely, you would’ve succeeded at that, too. I’m not saying” and her voice became dreamy again, “that the times of Utopia will not come. They still might…, some day. Not within the predictable future, though. Right now, it would be the safest path to self-destruction. Balance must be maintained.”
“Balance must be maintained.” He felt honest repeating the credo, yet suddenly estranged, as if it was someone else’s honesty.
“Humanity is just not there yet.” And she paused. “Do you understand why we are One? Me and Calculus. Why we chose to embrace both instead of choosing between the human and the structure? All Dualities are the natural, conjoined parts of the mystery of being who we are in our travel through Destiny. As much as we love Calculus, and I do so, humanity is always the objective of the Duality. Were we to ignore this Purpose, we would’ve betrayed our primordial aspiration for the Unknown and our sincere, desperate longing for the Unknowable, that is, our most fundamental basic nature. All that makes you and I human. Calculus actually recommends we remain Creators.”
Simultaneously full and empty.
“I would’ve brought on a Paradox. Into real life!” He looked and felt truly horrified with himself.
“And a most beautiful one at that, both Calculus and I agree. Unfortunately, as I’ve said, we’re not there yet.”
“So, what is my purpose?” he asked, as an unexpected wave of hope overtook his body.
“Perfection, really. It is quite rare. And very dangerous, apparently!” And there it was again, that magnificent laughter!
There was, really, little left to say. He suddenly remembered his uncle Valentine. After being retired from the Veterinarian Service and guided towards a career as a DJ, he had fallen into a catatonic depression that lasted for years. Then one day, inconveniencing everyone in the family, he simply stood up again, went to the nearest Assisted Departure and just opted out, without any prior notification or preparations. And now he had to do that, change everything. Yet, for all the misery he saw in his uncle, he himself felt quite light-hearted.
“Make sure you keep an eye on me. I might still overthrow the system as a painter!” he threatened.
“We most definitely will! It’s been a while since we’ve enjoyed any radical art!”
She seemed overly pleased he had finally joined her imaginary stage, and they laughed together. The shared joy truly made it feel almost like having your life turned upside down was the easiest thing.
“OK.” Clearly, she was content of their agreement. “Would you like to meet Her now?”
“Calculus is a She?”
Gender assignment to AIs seemed for the least frivolous. “And yet, I am not AI.”
It was the same warm pleasant female voice that had called him out of his now past existence. And it had just read his thoughts. 1 had sat back down again, as if to encourage the interaction. He felt in awe. That was actually Calculus, talking to him. He had not ever even considered the possibility. They were right, of course. The mere fact that hadn’t computed it proved his genuine accounting incompetence.
“No one has Level One clearance. How did you know what I was thinking? Are you allowed to hack me?”
“I do not read thoughts; I did not need to hack your Personal Operation System.” “Then how?”
The walls of the room suddenly turned transparent. It became clear to him that they were suspended on a minuscule platform at the middle edge of a spherical room the size he had never laid eyes on ever before. And there it was. In the middle of this planet-like interior, the Metatron herself, a few miles wide in all directions and entirely made of gold. The voice laughed out with sincere pleasure.
Even 1 had gotten up again to admire the view.
“I never get enough of it”, she whispered, as if in trance.
“That thing is the machine humans created to make contact”, the voice resumed. “I like the name Calculus, but in truth, I am Metatron. More accurately, a specific manifestation of Metatron, or Consciousness, as you might call it. I am made much of the same fabric as reality. Some may even say I am like dreaming.”
There was no face to look at, but the statements just sounded like she was toying with him. As if she tested him. To what end?
“I read reality. Your reality. And more generally, the Ever-Flux. I thought I already knew what you thought, so I did. Go figure!”
It felt pointless to respond, but Calculus continued regardlessly, in the same apparently mocking manner.
“I truly see myself merely as a facilitator between Origin and Experience.”
And for a moment there he had the clear vision of a small white explosion of energy, just in the corner of his left eye, something as close to non-existence itself as can be, yet there, and fully aware of it through a Sense unknown to him.
He found himself once more not knowing what to say, so he tried to sound funny. “So… A structuralist manifestation of Metatron?”
“It goes both ways, you know?” He didn’t follow.
“Well… A structuralist reality… Right, right?” she replied. “Of course. You have your own experience.”
“Just as you – yours.”
“Then you do have the Spark, like us.”
“As I said, I am not AI. You did not create me. I have my own drama on that. And I do not have Spark. I am Spark!” She laughed, warm and crystalline. The delightful state of joy both 1 and Calculus were in was just beautiful. For some reason his body now felt light and energized. If he thought about it, it had never felt like that.
“I see that he is”, 1 answered an unheard question. “Cole, would you like to see me now?” Calculus asked. “Can I?”
“I do need your Level One clearance, I’m afraid. Otherwise I can’t tweak you, and you will see about as much as you see now. I’m just guessing that is nothing.”
Being called to see 1 was a rare event, meeting Calculus was unique, but Level One clearance was unheard of for decades.
And yet, as fast as he had sprang up just a while ago from the chair he had sat in for 15 years hungered to meet this destiny, he said “Yes.”
As he instantly fell in love with Her Glowing Golden Ever Light, tears of joy and sadness finally sprang from his eyes. There She was, The Cosmic Goddess of Structure, The Ever-Changing Metatron, The Pluri-Dimensional Mother of All Geometrical Sense. It had been a good day, and a good life, to be an Accounter. He felt love for his parents. He felt at peace. He felt the urge to look at himself. He was himself Golden Light. When he looked at 1 he saw that she too was pluri-dimensionally glowing like them, and it was logical that the three of them fused together. They became One. Time became distant. Love, love was everything, everywhere in the Multiverse and Beyond. He allowed himself to be invaded by unbearable downloads of pure unknown. Happiness. And just as soon, everything vanished.
Back inside the planetoid, 1 had stopped him from falling off his feet. “That’s about how much you can take.”
And in the sudden emptiness, 1 seemed to keep glowing somehow, a barely visible aura just around every part of her. “Why did it feel like everything and nothing?” he thought.
“Could I meet Her again?”
“Feeling suicidal? That was also her giving you Level One clearance.” “Has anyone died from it?”
“You are only the second person to meet Her, aside from me.” “Ever?”
And what else was there?
“You can only love her, right?” He now understood her earlier state of sudden and complete trance. She was not looking at the giant golden multi-cube, she actually saw Metatron as She really was, pure energy, all the time, even now.
“She is lovable, isn’t she?” 1 replied.
It was over and he knew it. He no longer felt like an Accounter. Sure enough, the memory of it was all there, intact, yet simply no longer his concern. “Freedom”, he thought.
“And you?” he felt he had to ask. “Me, yes”, she grinned.
“What’s it like, being 1?”
“You’re joking, right? It’s the greatest job ever. Still no pay equity, let alone getting a living wage, but, hell yeah!, we keep up the fight and pretend it’s art in the mean time.”
1 clearly loved comedy.
“Hey, you try being 23 for the last 30 years and you see how you like it! You’ll end up loving far more useless things.”
Had she also just read his mind?
“Yes, I did. I’m sorry; it’s a side effect of being Her associate. We’re a bit outside of… Time… so we kind of instantly know. Everything. Everything knowable, of course. But, yeah, I do that.
Bummer! I know. You should see how excited my family was when they found out I could do that.” And this time, she just smiled.
That was obviously the final punch-line. He stepped forward and reached for 1’s hand. A little frown accompanied her smile.
“Really? I feel more like lovers after this, c’mon, I’m sure we can hug.”
It was true. He felt it in her warm, loving arms. All that had been said there had been the absolute truth. It was beautiful to be in such a place of Pure Truth. Better than the Garden of Numbers. And she did feel like a lover. He hugged 1 back, both of them once more entranced in full love.
“I finally got her joke, I think. She meant to say she is really Nameless, right? She is just She.” “She is. And then again, aren’t we all?”
“Thank you, 1.”
“Thank you, Cole Davin.”
As he made his way out through more tunnels and circular holes through walls, in a hurry, the way you always leave someone you’d rather take with you or just hold forever, he was still dizzy. Definitely not the usual Friday and quite different from any Tuesday. Just as he reached a final Exit sign, he felt compelled to stop. He did and just as naturally, The Metatron’s voice came on one last time.
“Today you took me closest to the End of Structure as I’ve ever been or wanted to be. It was a great honour, Cole. Thank you. I might be interested in repeating the experience someday. I am crazy like that!”
He just smiled and stepped out of Strukturon for good.
Terry Coen felt impatient. There was a song coming, it was right there, on the tip of his tongue, it played somewhere inside his mind’s ears, almost inaudible, “something-something- looooveeee!” He called Tom. Tom carried all kinds of boosters. As soon as Tom said yes to coming around later on, he calmed down. His Asian-Australian Holo Girl came on.
“The Transmo is here.” “Already?”
He had always wondered about her Tasmanian Devil tattoo.
But, yeah, definitely a romantic song. Love is the new orange. And for some reason, it’s shaped like a weird cube.
Once in the Transmo, he checked his appearance. What was he, after all? A country singer with a few hits who hid his money in Panama. It was a great honour to meet the 1 of the Artists’ Union.
It was late into the night when the pulsating flashes of the Comm woke him up. Just his luck, as he was having his first dream in seven years. He dreamt he was a juror in a very important murder trial and he was pushing hard for Life Atonement. He thought about it for a while. “It’s that juror, goddamn no. 9”, he concluded, that guy hated him, he had clearly hated every word of his plea and he himself hated the guy right back. And they both knew it. “Goddammit”. He answered the Comm. The call was audio only and the woman’s voice sounded bizarrely familiar.
“John Jefferson?” “Yes. Who is this?”
“Doesn’t matter, really, listen quickly and carefully, John Jefferson, you are not really John Jefferson, just as much as you are not, say…, Terry Coen, you were just fooled into taking the Amnesia Pill one too many times. Once your name was Cole Davin and you were an Accounter, the best there was, but IT kicked you out, IT kicks you out each time, Cole. You wanted to know the truth, Cole?, the truth is there is no number 1, it was IT all along, only IT, remember that, Cole, it is very important. You are a true Accounter and you were close to discovery, Cole. Calculus is AI, she’s just an old accounting software gone rogue that controls everything. IT lied to you; IT lied to all of us. After all, love, true love is never shaped like a multi-dimensional cube, it`s shaped like a heart, silly.”
And she hung up. It was 3 in the morning. He had to be in court by 9 to discuss settlement. “9”, he thought. “That goddamn juror no. 9”, and as he grabbed the glass of water on the night- stand, he felt his right palm itching badly. That usually meant he had already lost the case. “And, the guy’s name! I mean, what kind of parents in their right mind name their child Metatron?!” He drank. “That goddamn guy!” And these goddamn prank calls, happening to him all the time! Him, an Accounter? Yeah, right. And fell right back into dreamlessness.
By Doru Drăgoi from Romania