Please allow me to introduce myself, as Mick sings in that lovely Rolling Stones song of yours; Iím your fondest dream, and your worst nightmare. And Iíve been around a long, long time. No, not a devil, you poor, sad little spirit! Why does it always have to be about you and your eternal rewards? Iíll tell you a secret. We donít know anything more than you do about your heaven, your hell, your green pastures of endless joy, or your ever-burning cell in hopeless damnation...
See, there youíve done it again! You people! There are times you get to every single one of us, you with your oh so very big and special dreams stuck in your miserable little mayfly lives. In that way, you are incredible! So much hope, so much ambition, all wrapped up in such a brief little fireball! Itís enough to take my breath away, that is, if I relied on air and the suction of it was a matter of any significance.
Who am I? Or, better said, who are we? From your point of view, we are gods. True enough, with that caveat, from your point of view. Closer to the nut: from the little you can see, we are like demigods, at least. But then, with your limited senses, you canít see all that much of the wonder, anyway. Okay then, how can I best fill in the relevant blanks? Okay, sketch the beast, as they say: There arenít a lot of us, a few thousand, more or less. We really need room to roam, and we donít like each other all that much, so before the Great Adhesive Treaty we went about killing each other off with a distressing degree of regularity. Not anymore. We have rules against it. You live by rules; we live by rules. You can understand that.
What else? Well, relative to you, given our natural span, we live a long, long time. I know a few of us who have seen the dinosaurs roam. Yes, actual Tyrannosaurus Rex, stupid beasts thundering about, top of the food chain and not a care in the world. Youíd know something about that, wouldnít you?
For all practical purposes in our relationship, yours and ours, such as it is, you might say weíre eternal.
Okay, just a little more sketching and then weíll begin: We have all those powers you marvel at but can only begin to understand. Legendary powers. Comic book stuff. Red eyes on demand, of course. You want it, youíve got it. There may be only a few thousand of us spread across the splendor, and yet weíve inspired the image of some of your best gods. You really have good imaginations-though nothing beats the real thing, baby, as your high-voiced maidens sing over and over in the selling jingles.
That said, there are actually a few important similarities between us. On certain levels, our brain patterns are somewhat alike; that means we often think in similar ways, though weíre far less governed by our emotions, if we actually have any at all. This very question is debated by our greatest theologians, and, believe me, over the eons they havenít gotten very far with it. Do we really feel or do we just think we feel? Oh, go figure that one.
What are we like? Iím not allowed to say very much, but I can tell you this: Living the relatively long spans we do, our lives are often boring. Oh, letís take another spin out to Orion; Oh, letís go sun-spume surfing; Hum-hum, letís see if that species is evolving in the sum-sume quad, yadda yadda.
What do we like? We like intoxication of any kind, including making love to earthlings. (Though supposedly itís forbidden, Iíve never heard of anyone vaporized for it). And we love anything that goes fast relative to its surroundings. We enjoy lectures and books on cosmology, country-western ballads and rock-and-roll music, and gambling.
Gambling? Whatís that all about, then? Why gambling? None of us really knows, but hereís why, as best I can figure it out: Events and happenings like the expansion of the universe, the orbital swing of comets, the birth and death of stars, the suck of a black hole-these things are all so goddamn predictable. You humans introduce the rare element of chance into our sometimes drab and dreary lives. We love you for it, actually-or, at least, are, in our own way, fond of you.
I can tell you with a great deal of precision and detail when, where and how any two galaxies are going to collide. But whether Jane is going to kill Jim with that shiny little nickel-plated revolver she bought at the sporting goods store because he fooled around with Joan or Joy...well, weíd have to bet on that. And because weíll pretty much bet on anything, weíve had to come up with rules, mostly so we donít interfere too much with the outcomes. We call it The Game, and, believe me, the most interesting stories in our known universe come from your participation. Who would have thought?-an insignificant race of semi-sentient beings whose lives are nothing more than brief comet flashes against the backdrop of the eternal wonder! And yet, you say and do amazing things! We never know whatís going to happen next!
Iíll tell you one weíve got running now. Iím known as somewhat of a storyteller, and Iíve always wanted to be an author, and thereís no rule against it, so, if youíve got the time (a little joke there) here goes. Itís about a human person a very few of you know as "The Man With The Scar". Heís alive now, running around the little mud ball, as one might say. It seems that, about forty of your earth spins ago, as a very young person, The Man With The Scar was dissatisfied with his very ordinary life. We really, really like people like that...you know, "be careful what you ask for"...He caught the attention of one of our recruiters, and we agreed he could trade that ordinary life of his in for a more interesting one.
Whatís the bet? Well, he doesnít know the specifics, but, straight up, itís simply how long he can survive. So far heís outlived anybodyís expectations; fortunes have been won and lost, and heís become something of a legend in our circles. Heís even earned a little extension or two (though I was against it, being against the entire idea of extensions as an obvious intrusion, and will vote against it, if and when it comes up again). By way of the perfect example of why extensions are entirely bogus, The Man With The Scar now suspects that, in that long-ago fly-wisp of time when he signed up for his new life, it wasnít a hallucination or a wild, drunken dream. And heís even got it at the back of his mind to change his path. Good luck with that one.
That would be impossible. Nothing he does can really change his deal with us, or affect us in any way, no more than your dog or cat pooping on the floor is going to change your life, your job, your marriage, who you are or what you do. But it is interesting. We endlessly debate what heís going to do next-and, of course, we bet on it.
Why do you even try, oh foolish mortal man? The heart of desire is an ever-opening blossom that can be neither sated nor consumed.
- Immortal Samajani Kapek, Lessons 13:33