She stood above one of the city’s many canals – and watched the water run into the distance, narrower and narrower. She held in front of her a few sheets of stapled paper.
The sun was setting and the sky was in a splendid array of rays and clouds. Hopefully she looked at her arm, which had a black sleek, smooth sleeve, with a speaker and flexible, holograph producing screen upon it.
“Simple,” she said, Simple was the name of the system, and awoke it:
“Yes, Una,” said the system.
She held her arm up to the paper. “Is this begotten?”
Simple spent several minutes scanning the story.
“1:9,” said Simple in a smooth, pleasant voice. “Exactly 133,517 years ago, this existed with the exact same words.”
Una dropped her head.
She ripped up the story and threw it in the canal.
“Even the way it flows is known, has happened before,” she whispered.
Her younger brother, thirteen years old, sat on the floor watching a holographic show from nearly 10,000 years ago.
“How many times have you watched that?” said Una.
“What’s it matter?”
She shook her head. “Does it not get old?”
“So what, it’s fun to me.” She looked at him; she had never seen her brother laugh. He simply stared blankly at the holographs all day long.
“Did you try to write another story?” he asked, without taking his eyes off the images.
“I thought I had a new idea.”
“When will you give up Una. Everything is 1:9. It’s over.”
“No,” said Una, “I do not believe that. I will not believe that.”
“When was the last time something new was created?”
Una was silent.
“I’ll tell you,” said her brother, “it was three hundred years ago, mostly. And then about ten things sixty years ago or so.”
“There is always hope.”
“No, Una, there isn’t. Why not just enjoy this life. There is too much to ever go through anyway. So what if there is no more. It feels new to me when I find it.”
“You don’t understand! All you can do is find the old. I must create something new and meaningful.”
“Play with the noise then,” said her brother, “there is a chance there.”
“The noise is false creation, no one cares about the noise really.”
Her brother shrugged his shoulders.
Una walked out of the living room, and slammed the door to the bathroom. She undressed and turned on the shower. Before entering though, she stood before a mirror and stared at her face. She reached into the drawer below the sink and took out a pair of scissors. She looked at them. She then took all of her hair and chopped chunks of it off, in haphazard patterns. After she was done, surrounded by hair on the floor, she asked Simple, “Simple, what about this? Is this begotten?”
Simple scanned the image of her in the mirror: “1:9. 1,177,345 years ago in a Parallel an image was found with your exact face with this exact cut. Thank you.”
Her first day at University began the following morning. Una sat as her professor spoke about the beauty of 1:9.
“In 1:9, everything is echo. Everything is ditto. What we have is what we have and we have all. There is no pressure. We have solved. At this university, in fact, the last piece of music was made. The very last. Sixty six years ago.”
One student raised his hand. “Weren’t you involved in that?”
“I played a very small role,” said the Professor.
Una sat up. She had no idea her professor had been one of the Final Begetters.
“I went through, personally, over four hundred thousand sounds. Everything was 1:9. But then, one day, I happened to find a piece of sound that had never been heard, and others found a few more pieces to make a few seconds that had meaning.”
“What did it sound like?” asked Una, leaning forward.
“Would you like me to play it for you?”
The entire class said yes. It was extremely exciting – not because of the piece of music, but because they were near one of the rare beings who had Begot!
“Simple,” said the Professor to his sleeve, “play Sound #161831466263242211134543454353452999999999999990008776545.”
There was a pause, and then from the speakers around the room came this ripping, scratchy, hissing, clunking, clattering screechy sound.
“Ow!” said Una as she covered her ears, and watched as most of her classmates did the same. The sound went on for fifteen seconds. The Professor stood peacefully at the front as if listening to one of the true symphonies.
Una looked at him envious in a way she had not known she could feel. She felt tiny, small, insignificant, impotent.
“That’s it!” said the Professor. “Won the last prizes for that, I did.”
“Professor,” asked Una raising her hand, “Is there anything else to Beget? What did it feel like to Beget?”
The Professor stared at her very peculiarly, the class giggled.
“No there is nothing left, it’s all been tried, all stored. But I can tell you the feeling of creation was orgasmic, was…” He paused and his eyes watered. “It was… sublime.”
Una shrank into her seat.
Each morning Una awoke and wrote something, a poem or a short story or even a combination of sentences, sometimes even a drawing or painting. Afterward everyday, she’d walk to the canals, let Simple read it. Each day Simple said, “1:9.” And each day, Una would rip up her work and throw it into the river.
“What is the point of life?” She asked one day as she watched the paper flow down the stream.
She had not noticed a young man was behind her until he laughed a little.
She turned and looked at him. His hair was chopped off, and came out in weird spirals and curls. Partly shaven.
She laughed at him.
“It doesn’t work,” she said, “cutting hair.”
“I figured that out about two months ago, you should have seen it before it grew out some.”
Una chuckled and turned away back to the water.
“So you are one of us? The Triers.”
“I am a Trier,” said the boy. “I see you come here every day,” he went on, “I watch you from that window over there.” He pointed up to a window in a tall building, but Una did not turn to look. “What are you throwing away?”
“Why do you care?” she snapped.
He walked up beside her now, and looked down into the water with her.
“I look at the water everyday too. Often after you leave. And I watch all the eddies, and swirls, and I ask Simple, has the river ever flowed this way before. Everyday I ask. I know what she’ll say: it’s happened in the Parallels, and the Simulators have found it.”
She looked at him. He had deep-set eyes. He was wearing a mishmash of clothes also.
“What do you do?” Una asked. “A student?”
“I am an inventor.”
Even Una laughed at this. “Why?”
“There has to be something,” he said, “I thought you were like me. Aren’t you like me? I never meet anyone like me. A real Trier, not a fake.”
She stopped laughing and looked at him, and said, “You know what I tried to write last month? My own life story. With all its details up to this point in time. 1:9.”
“Why is that funny?” asked Una.
The young man looked up into the sky for several moments.
“Because it all makes sense now.”
“What makes sense.”
“All of this. It is how I know what to do and say.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Una.
“I want to show you something. Will you follow me?”
“I knew you’d say that, and I also know you are going to follow me.”
Una made her way into an attic at the top of an old building. The room was covered with various sketches. Like her stories, the young man had found the same fate: each of his would-be designs had a 1:9 scribbled angrily on to it.
In the middle of the table was a sheet of paper with a fantastic diagram on it, laid out like a blueprint, there were reams of paragraphs. This caught her eye and she walked over to it. There were lots of details, and charts, and circles and lines connecting different parts of the sheet to the others.
Una was squinting at it. And then said: “Wait.”
She scanned the paper once more. “There is no 1-9 on this.”
“What!” she said.
She looked at him skeptically for several seconds. “If this is a joke…”
He said nothing.
“Simple,” Una said nervously.
“Is this begotten?”
Simple scanned the sheet for nearly thirty minutes. “Unbegotten” said Simple.
Una felt tears in her eyes, and a hollowness in her stomach.
“Oh my god. Oh my god,” she said. “You found something! How do you feel? You have to go tell someone. You will be famous! The most famous and rich too. Why did you tell me and not the authorities? What is wrong with you?”
“Look more closely at the diagram and read the paragraphs,” he said. “Look at it!”
“Who cares what it is? It is begotten by you!”
“Just look at it.”
“Hold on,” Una said, “you mean to say it isn’t just mostly gibberish? It means something too?”
He stared at her.
Una bent over it, as she looked at it, her eyes widened. She spent seven hours reading it. Over and over again, she only said, “My God.”
And then finally, saying, “What a story? And it’s never happened before.”
“It is not just a story,” he said, “it is life, it is real, it is what must be.”
“No,” said Una laughing, “No it is not. It is fiction.”
“It is real, there is nothing like it.”
She sat down on a couch and put a pillow over her stomach.
“I won’t do it if that’s what you are thinking.” She paused, and then added, “Can just two people do it anyway?”
“Only two people can do it, only the two of us,” he said. “If I change anything, it’s Begotten. That is what is to be done.”
Una shook and he came and held her.
“At the end,” she whispered, “will I be able to…”
He nodded, “Quite possibly. And if not us, those who come after, yes.”
“I’m still not sure,” she said and broke away from him.
Una went home that night. She looked at her brother who was watching that same holograph show he always watched.
It would mean him too, thought Una, everyone.
But, several moments later she thought, if it must come to this, it must come to this.
She stopped at his door the next morning, and read the number on it: 2P310:
She nearly turned away, but then knocked.
Everything I do from this moment on, seems to be a Begotten act. She was nervous and excited at the thought that every emotion too was likely begotten as well.
The door opened.
“I’ll do it. But first, tell me your name?”
“I am Peter.”
They quickly got to work. “You have been preparing for a while now? When did you discover this?”
“Well, I knew I was near. But it wasn’t until I saw you, and added you to the process that it became real, that it passed Simple’s test.”
“Are you scared?” Una asked.
“No,” he said.
“Is it wrong to do this?”
“It is destiny. When it comes to destiny, there is no morality. Acts must be fulfilled.”
Una stared at him. “I agree,” she said.
“Is there enough here to do it?”
“Far more than enough.”
“Shall we wait for night?” asked Una.
“We must, we must. For many reasons.”
As night came, they set out. Una carried her rucksack with great strain. Peter was wobbling a bit as he walked as well from the bulky load.
As they crossed a bridge over the canals, Una asked, “Do you know where the term 1:9 comes from?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I am curious about many things, I haven’t looked it up – I don’t want to know.”
“Well, yes I do,” he said, “It is from those called the Gatherers. The first to see that, in the end, there was to be nothing left. They gathered everything together and then found all the Parallels.”
“What of the 1:9?”
“It stands for letters,” said Peter. “But I’m scared to learn more.”
They walked on until they came to a great conical spiral that rose over one thousand feet in the air, and turned slowly in revolutions. This was one of many such spirals about the city, built very, very near to each other.
“How many are in there?”
“How many what?” asked Peter.
“I don’t know, one hundred thousand or so. It matters not.”
They snuck into the building through a door just as someone walked through it. They came to the center of the tower. She watched as Peter looked at his diagram, and found the exact spot.
“Come,” he said, “place everything here.”
She was trembling. She knelt beside him, her hands nearly convulsing.
“Careful with those,” whispered Peter with a smile, and took the explosives from her.
“Listen,” he said, “this is liberation, this is what is meant to be.”
All was set. And they quickly snuck out into the night air, and then began to run.
As they ran Una could hear behind her, and then feel the heat, and then feel the windy blast as the Spiral fell and then tumbled into the rest of the Spirals, creating a domino effect, destroying the entire city.
She did not look back. She no longer felt anxiety or fear, but exhilaration.
For the next seven days and seven nights, they bombed every Spiral throughout the land, for the Spirals contained all records.
On the eighth night, they stood over a big water basin.
“But isn’t that enough?” asked Una. “The Spirals are gone.”
“But the people know, we cannot have that. They will tell their children, and so on. It will not be new, they will know that what they made is not original. We would do this to ourselves, but we must repopulate.”
Una nodded at him, “Okay.”
“This water basin leads to every house in the nation. And it is contagion,” Peter said as he held a vial. “It lasts eight months before it dies out, but we will be safe in the attic. We cannot come out for anything at all. We have enough food and water to last.”
“Let me do it,” said Una. “Let me do it.”
Peter handed her the vial. She looked into the water.
“1:9 is done. Man may beget again,” he said.
She uncorked the vial and dumped it into the water.
Peter put her arm around her waist and watched it flow away.
For eight months, they lived in the attic. They heard the moans of the dying. They peeked out and saw the mounds of bodies grow each day. But they did not venture out once, and soon the world became very quiet.
One morning, Peter woke Una. “Today is the day.”
Una rose and dressed.
The two of them went outside. The sun was shining beautifully. A soft breeze blew. It had an awful stench on it, but it still smelled good to Una.
“So that is it?” We are all that’s left.” She rubbed her belly and felt a few gentle kicks.
“What shall we name him?”
“Genesis, of course.”
“Do you think I can begin writing now?”
“Yes,” said Peter. “Yes.”
“What are you going to do?”
“What I must do for now. I must now go and destroy all the Simples – their local databases are still there; the Spirals were back-ups. And that is all I know, it is where my original ends. Everything beside that should be unbegotten, new. I have a pulse gun that should scramble thousands at a time, but it means I have to walk around make sure I do so for the entire nation, and then, our children must do so, and their children throughout the world. This will be our sacred task for many generations.”
Peter thus went about every day searching and destroying all the Simples on the dead bodies. This meant digging through the mass graves for them. It would not be safe to leave even a single Simple around.
For the next year Una wrote each morning as she used to do. She decided to write the story of her life, of what her and Peter had done, up until this very moment with all the Simples being destroyed. She felt as if she were writing fiction, it seemed not real. She wrote of how they met, how they killed, all of the beginning echoing Peter’s original. But now, she was adding what was not a part of his. The words she was writing, her act now had never been written before in the history of all Parallels. Her skin tingled.
“This will be the first book of the new world. The people will think it is fiction so I am not revealing too much to the future. They will not know.”
One day, two years after she had begun the book, she had finished it. She took a pen and decided to title it 1:9.
As Genesis cried in his crib, he was kicking his feet. He had been rocking himself back and forth by tapping on an old box on a shelf. Una smiled at him. She stood up to walk toward him and as she did the box fell off the shelf. She went to pick it up and noticed that, underneath some papers and clothes, was her old black sleeve.
She reached for it, smiling. She put it on.
“Funny, we never thought to destroy this one.”
She laughed as she looked at it on her arm. She then had an idea.
She walked over to her story on the table.
“Simple,” she said, feeling excitement.
This will be the first creation of the new world, she again thought.
“Is this begotten?”
Simple scanned the story for several minutes, as Una turned the story page by page, smiling broader and broader.
Simple stopped scanning and was processing the story. Una excitedly waited to hear the words she had always wanted to hear.
There was a pause as Simple then said, in a smooth, pleasant voice: “1:9.”