The Pulse: Alberta & Fallar Ultima
When he was 11 years old, Antonio was lectured by his father beneath the Old Apple Tree. While the bombs were falling on the rice paddies of Vietnam and Cambodia, the old preacher dropped these heavy words onto the frail shoulders of his progeny: Son, the world is like the fruit of this tree, full of Good and Evil. The skin of the apple must never be touched. But the seed lies within the flesh, and must be passed on to future generations. The preacher then bit into the apple that lay firmly in his right hand. A juicy bit of flesh flew up into the air and splattered onto the invisible surface of Antonio's third eye.
Antonio was condemned to spend each summer picking the barely ripened fruit of the Okanagan Valley. Labouring under the hot sun, he asked himself, How to extract the seeds and sweet juices without rupturing the skin? In high school, and later at the University of British Columbia, he pursued this question relentlessly. By his second year he realized that he would never find the answer in Biology or in any other science that pretended to answer the basic questions about life. Science attempted to find means, not motives. And any lawyer knew that motives cut deeper than means.
So Antonio switched to the Dark Arts, eventually completing degrees in Literature and Law. He reasoned that these Arts were the source of the arguments that defined the problem of existence in the first place.
Antonio was unlike the other students at university. He didn’t believe in anything his instructors said, yet he wanted to learn everything they taught. The source of his rebellious infatuation with knowledge went deeper than his hatred of the politically correct educational system or the moral rectitude of his father. Beneath his angry thoughts was a dark impulse throbbing with revolt. This impulse urged him to study Law in order to break it, discover Beauty to possess it, and find Religion to destroy it.
In the deep galactic trenches of Fallar Ultima, life was a hazardous affair. Furthest from the law and order of Fallar Prime, beings morphed into monsters, and monsters sprouted wings. In the trenches of Fallar Discordia the alleys were so dark that citizens had to touch or stab one another to get where they were going.
Fallarians loved being in the dark. This wasn’t just a physical thing. They also preferred to be in the dark about what was happening in the world around them. Otherwise, where was the fun? Parents never told their children what to do, lawyers never told their clients what to say, and no one dared tell you what to be.
Fallarians laughed at the crude infractions and indoctrinations of the primitive races. The humans called it child rearing, as if children were cattle. The Baulians were even worse: they poured chemicals into the nervous systems of their offspring until they became exactly what their rulers wanted them to be. But the absolute worst were the Vicinese — unless of course one wanted to be a boot-licking goody-two-shoes.
In the Fallar Dominion citizens had the freedom to become whatever they wanted. They could grow into what circumstance offered, or they could grow out of it. They could, if they felt like it, decide to go against all custom and become something completely different. This was summed up in the Fallarian couplet,
Better to become than merely to be;
Better to revolt than bow to a puffed-up flea.
Fallarians certainly didn’t believe in a Creator who determined everything in advance, and then pretended that people had free will.
Slowly and subtly, Fallarian children began to suspect that they were children of their own nature. The knowledge wasn’t immediate or clear. It wasn’t thrust upon them, as in the Baulian process of infraction — a process which appeared crude and tyrannical to the Fallarians. Instead, the awareness of Fallarian identity first appeared as if buried deep inside them, like a dream.
From the ages of ten to twelve, they sensed that a tantalizing world lay inside their cobalt-blue blood, yet all they could do was guess and extrapolate. They were sometimes terrified by the gaps and abysses they found within themselves. At other times they were delighted by the manner in which their desires aligned with information that magically appeared as if to help them fulfill their desires. Everything was at their finger tips, everything was within them.
When Fallarian adolescents learned to fall within themselves without the desire to land, they stopped thinking If I were____ and started thinking When I become____ . In brief, they learned to fly.
By the age of 13, all but the dullest among them realized that this fundamental freedom meant that they were in fact Fallarian — and not some grounded slave species. By 15, they could activate at will any number of infracted parameters. Enacting the age-old ritual of passage, they spat on their parents doorstep and took to the open road.
By this point the Fallarian youth had developed the supreme arrogance which made their species masters of the trillion galaxies of The Black Pulse.
Because young Fallarians weren’t forced to know agreed-upon things, they didn’t see the process of growing up as coercive or tyrannical. They didn’t call it an infraction, because the infractions were what they learned and not what made them learn. They had the option of selecting what seemed natural for them to select. They called this process natural selection.
After selection, the process of self-discovery continued: slowly and subtly, they determined what their free will meant.
The Brothers from Göttingen
Slowly, subtly, Antonio realized that he wanted to become the Prince of Darkness. He was taught by his English teachers that this Prince was merely a myth, a human construction, but he found the myth irresistible. Or perhaps it wasn’t a myth. Perhaps he was the Prince — in a new body but with the same old Rebel deep down inside. He would find out. The realization of Fallarian identity was an ongoing process, and no one from that universe ever knew for sure exactly who they were.
Antonio did know, however, that it would be easy to pass for a character from an ancient religious story. Humans were so mesmerized by these narratives that they believed almost anything people said about them. They didn’t understand the most basic infractions, yet they believed Moses parted a sea, Elijah raised the dead, and Jesus walked on water. The only way any of that could have happened of course was if some Baulian — or perhaps a Vicinese — messed with their Ancient World. Yet neither the Baulians nor the Vicinese had started their activities on Earth before 1500, that is, before humans had reached their Age of Science. It was strictly forbidden in their constitutions and vast legal codes, and the Baulians and the Vicinese were slaves to their own principles.
Two things suggested to Antonio that humans would believe him to be a great Magus, perhaps even the Devil himself: 1. humans were spellbound by the supernatural, and 2. humans were so technologically backward that even the simplest of Fallarian defractions would seem like Black Magic.
Antonio first needed to establish his credentials. He did this by completing a Ph.D. and publishing a book on the Grimm Brothers. The book was a joy to write, since nothing captured the Fallarian ethos of anarchy and natural selection better than the Grimm Brothers from Göttingen.
In his Ph.D. thesis Antonio argued that while Disney made everything turn out alright in the end, the Grimm Brothers didn’t indulge in this sugary vicinese type of happy ending. Antonio mocked the storybook morality of what humans called philanthropy and altruism. In a highly satirical style — which nevertheless contained all the scholarly paraphernalia and four-line sentences academia required — he argued that the Grimm Brothers had made an invaluable contribution to world culture by unleashing the metaphysical terrors hidden beneath the hypocrisy of manners, philanthropy, and anti-trust laws.
He began by noting that previous to the Grimm Era — which Antonio placed between the Age of Collapsing Reason and the Age of Deep Romantic Chasms — life was a simple affair. The human ego was not yet unacquainted with the full power of the id. In this early period, women were forced to wear iron chastity belts, and boys and girls still slept soundly with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. This was a precarious situation, for it left the women without a key to their own depravity, and it left the little ones vulnerable to the marauding spirits drifting in the subatomic wasteland around them. In this perilous world, djinns from The Frozen Skiff rose up from the earth in a swirl of icy dust. As quickly as it took for the mothers to be distracted by the biceps of a construction worker, the frozen djinns swept the children off their teeter-totters and into an intergalactic slave caravan.
Antonio argued that the Grimm Brothers were merely warning the youth of the nation to be streetwise about these things. At the very least, they ought to carry some sort of weapon (at least a knife) into the dark and dangerous forest of the playground. As for the mothers, Antonio suggested that they buy a pair of metal cutters and plead the Fifth Amendment.
Antonio also argued that the Grimm Brothers were the happy products of their environment: their native town of Göttingen was less than 50 miles north of Frankfurt, where in 1587 the first Faustus legend was published. As a result, they were influenced by the finest strain of philosophy that Germany had to offer: the bargaining of one’s worthless soul — that didn’t weigh so much as a pea! — for all sorts of power and glory.
The Germans were to be admired because they weren’t constrained by conventional notions of morality. They were more than willing to strike bargains with the Devil. Faust, Nietzsche, Hitler — all masters of negotiation! The Grimm Brothers merely put this into a form that the wunderkind could appreciate.
The Grimm parables instilled in the little ones a deep and abiding respect for what Antonio called The Ten Sacred Principles of Terror: 1) Fear is not a psychological state, but a real thing; don’t fool yourself, it’s out there; 2) Horror can be measured most effectively on a coordinate grid, starting with the suspicion that your parents are feeding you exact laboratory doses of pablum; 3) Increments of terror are all the more effective when they can be neither felt nor measured by forensic experts; 4) Psychotic episodes are twice as unnerving when alternated with moments when your parents seem to exhibit genuine affection; 5) The impact of a ghost story is magnified by campfire or the sulphurous glow of a burning Barbie; 6) The ghost of an evil grandmother can be invoked without the help of vampire bats or Ouija boards; 7) All nightmares correspond to real dimensions to be experienced after death; 8) God and the Devil are in a dual that isn’t just happening in the fifth dimension; 9) The universe is a big game of dice; 10) The Devil has them loaded.
By the time Antonio was hired as a full professor at The University of Calgarium in 1996 he had figured out a way to get back at the old man in the apple orchard. The same tyrant who bit into the apple and then forbade everybody else to take a bite.
Half a century after his father lectured him in the apple orchard, the words still echoed in Antonio’s ears. He heard that dry preacher’s voice repeating its onerous commandments, coming down to him as if from on high. It drove him on, whipped at his soul, as he drove his Ferrari over Route 533 into the small town of Vulcan, amid the wheat fields of southern Alberta. It was here that he came to avenge himself on his father by worming his way into the heart of the most beautiful girl on the planet.
It would be an understatement to say that Beatrice Oneirica was no ordinary farm girl, no run-of-the-mill miller’s daughter. While she fit that bill in some ways — she was full-breasted and had skin smooth and white as Devon cream — she was also a girl of deep poetic sensibility. Instead of kneading dough, she let her fingers roll over the edges of the roses that circled their homestead. She breathed in their deep perfume, and imagined she was somewhere else.
Beatrice had never learned a word of Italian, yet she yearned to wander the marble piazzas of Italy. She longed to see the wonders of Europe — the broad avenues of Paris and the great masterpieces of Florentine art. At night in her bed, her perfect skin stretching against her soft nightdress, she dreamed of the day her prince would come.