In some circles, they called the man square. There are points, then lines – rotate the line around the point and you get a circle. Rotate the circle around the line and you get a sphere. Rotate the sphere around the circle and you get Bill Witcher, three-time convict and failure at math and home economics.
It is the fifteenth century and boarwine lays thick on the second floor of a mudhouse built by aboriginal artisans. But good Bill, a programmer, lives in torpid squalor above all this. He watches the subjects as the dials whir and click and go bzoom. His observation deck is invisible to the naked eye and contains the latest in humane anti-bird sonic repellants – otherwise there would be a massacre.
He watches these apes and ponders his days as a thief and a beggar on a another world far away from this one. It’s Christmas back home, but to Bill, the only holiday that mattered in the whole history of time was Saturnalia and the reversal of roles. Slaves taking over for a day, the bent straightened, the crook reformed, the greedy bastard begging in the mess of his pants. Solstice commandeered for the greater good. Meaning supplanted by myth, and consumerism under the table with expectations and Christmas cards.
A siren wails, the lights flash. Bill’s console is ignited with alarm as the carefully constructed equilibrium of the synthetic universe below him trips off the cliff into the gonzo realms of old pulp science fiction mags.
One of the aboriginals mutates and grows larger than the house he’s constructed. Bone machetes out through flesh like knives through dough and his skin becomes leathery. The rest of his comrades bolt from the scene screaming – they beg for the forgiveness of their gods and flee the demonic hellbeast that evil has sent to devour their souls.
Bill stifles a chuckle, but the laugh catches in his throat as the mutant collapses to the ground, hugging its knees. Drama takes the stage over fear and Bill swallows as he sees the mutant jerk with sobs.
Bill hesitates only a second before clicking the termination switch that will end the life of the universe’s mistake. That’s why he is here. Those that govern this experiment in the sphere surrounding this miniature universe assume that a convict has no conscience – as if no sin is greater than the next. As if his miniature transgression of utopia’s rigid law, no matter how temporary and small, proves to the world beyond that he is evil. They believe he can click that termination switch without a moment of empathy – without a nanosecond of remorse.
Bill knows that what they are really looking for no longer exists. They would have been better off with hunters or used speeder salesmen, lawyers and tailors and front men for lazy cover bands. Bill knows that those that govern this project from their pretty little sphere don’t really care whether he feels, or hates, or collapses into balls of grief every moment he is forced to watch another failed species descend into mutation and death – or loneliness as today’s experiment goes.
The mutation blinks out, leaving only a tiny wisp of molecular waste gas hovering in the air.
Bill sighs and writes out his report. After a few moments of agitation attempting to send the report through the patchy intersphere comm unit, he returns to his post and wipes the planet clean of all life.
On the diamond coast of the western sea, yellow glider-like herbivores turn to dust in the sky. At the pinnacle of a rose red mountain in the northern highlands, a gorgeously beautiful predator cat is vaporized in mid-pounce. In the vast forests of the eastern reaches, the highly evolved forest apes celebrate the winter solstice by sharing their appreciation for the simple things, food, shelter, beverages, and stories told by fireside. The poorest of them are afforded the luxury of the most fortunate for a day before returning to their strife, and their hopes that one day they too will help to elevate those less fortunate, if only for a day.
It disappears, and all that is left is an invisible observation deck, littered with old pulp science fiction magazines and ration pack wrappers.
Bill makes his way slowly to the cryo-chamber and removes a starter kit from cold storage. He pretends not to notice the tears that have frozen on his cheeks.
He carefully descends the ladder from his home to the surface of the synthetic world and walks across the wasteland he has created. At about the spot where the mutant ended the experiment by existing, Bill opens the starter kit and dumps the primordial ooze into the dust of a nothing world and starts the experiment anew.
“And a Happy Saturnalia to all,” Bill says to no one but the universe.