Part 2: Origin of the Sylphs
Alexander Gordon Jahans
Michael and Sally appeared sitting in Elizabethan armchairs in the middle of what appeared to be an Edwardian living room, sqwarks and squeaks abound a draft brings with it hot air and the smell of chesnut and oak.
Sally watches Michael, a barely perceptible smile on her face.
Michael stares and gawks and fleetingly wonders “Is this what it feels like to be a pokemon?”
Then a tall man in a tuxedo walks up to them carrying a tray upon which sits two Firefly mugs.
“Your tea madam?”
Sally takes the tea, draws a deep breath and sighs at the pleasurable smells.
The tall man coughs “Your tea, Sir.”
Michael stares at the man “I don't drink tea”
“Try it” says Sally
Michael shrugs and takes the tea, expecting it to be scalding hot even through the mug. It's not. Curious. He tries the tea, a great warmth spreads through him as ginger mint and a kick of something alcoholic goes down his throat. He loses control of his mouth and vocal chords for a moment, so overwhelmed by the perfectness of the tea is he but then he regains his sense and says “Evolution has taught me that all forms of life are possible given the right circumstances. The internet has taught me that there are all sorts of people who will enjoy all sorts of weird and wonderful things but science tells me that suddenly serving the perfect tea at the perfect drinking temperature is impossible so tell me how is this possible?”
Sally sips her own tea and asks wryly “What would you say if I told you reality is an illusion?”
Michael sipped his tea thoughtfully and says “I'd assume you'd watched too many pretensious blockbusters.”
Sally chuckles then leans forward “Everything you see hear, smell and feel is all ultimately electrical impulses in the brain. That tea you are drinking, the tea I am drinking, it's just water.”
Michael leans back and marvels at his tea.
Sally leans back and gestures to the room around them “This place is very real, achieved by convincing reality physics works the way that's convenient but at the little places where altering the laws of physics can't work it alters our perception of reality.”
“You mean besides keeping me happy?” says Sally raising an eyebrow.
“I mean this isn't real, why do it? Why enjoy a world of lies when you can enjoy a world of reality?” asks Michael
Sally nods “Good question.”
“I thought so”
“I could tell you, could explain that I am useful to Ronnikin, that my usefulness depends upon my being happy and relaxed but I think it's better to show you why I am useful. Jeeves, activate protocol 17”
The tall man nods and pulls out a gun, firing at Michael.
Michael wakes up sitting in a metal chair in a minimalist boardroom. A starscape can be sen moving outside a window. “Why does this keep happening to me?”
Then Michael sees that the busty bl;unde officer in the funny looking uniform opposite him is actually Sally. She raises her index finger to her lips then points Michael's attention to her right and the head of the table.
A projector clicks off and the man standing before the projector screen hunches over the meeting table. He is old, grey and serious looking. “As you can see, we are fucked.”
A man off to Michael's right speaks up “Can't we send off an ark ship or at least seed our children throughout the multiverse?”
The old grey man at the head of the table shakes his head sadly “I've done projections of the various outcomes, I've had entire planets dedicated to computing this task. We can't outrun this, we can't hide from it and we sure as shit can't fight it. Gentleman I think we need to accept that our species is doomed.”
A man to Sally's right says “But we can't just give up, there would be chaos. We need something to fight for or we'll just descend to savagery.”
“Not necessarily” says the old grey man “I believe our endeavours are best served ensuring that as many people as possible die happy and painlessly. We mercy kill those we cannot afford to support then give the remaining population the best most comfortable existence before the end.”
A silence hangs over the meeting until somebody asks “But sir, you can't be serious? Just rolling down the blinds, turning out the lights and calling good night on the survival of the species?”
The old grey man flashes with anger and thumps the table so hard it cracks “Dammit! What would you have us do!? Wage a pointless war to make all the upperclasses feel good!? There is NOTHING we can do!!!”
“Not necessarily!” cries a voice from the hallway.
Michael turns to look but the figure is shrouded in darkness “Have you considered the third way?”
The old grey man looks up from his despair, calculations running in his head.
Another person nervously raises a hand and asks “What is the third way sir?”
The old man answers cautiously “It's a legend, a theoretical alternative to the first two ways of life: Domination-”
A Dalek watching over robomen slaves in a desecrated London flashes in Michael's mind.
A man with a wide toothy grin wearing a suit and tie declares before TV “Our three main goals are: Education, education, education” flash forward a few years later “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that is why I believe we must commit pour troops to this endeavour” Michael shudders.
The old grey man says “The third way was always the excuse behind why farming animals is acceptable.”
Michael pictured himself standing in a field before Bessie, a great cow.
“Well you see, they'd say, the cows depend on us eating them for their survival.”
Michael suddenly remembered eating a beef burger at a fair and felt sick.
“We feed them, they'd say.”
Michael saw a farmer pouring slop into a trough that Bessie eagerly guzzled up.
“We clean up after them”
Michael saw a farm hand using a shovel to scoop up cow dung from a field and load it into a wheel barrow.
“We help them reproduce”
Michael saw a farmer pull on latex gloves then reach under a cow, flash forward a month and a vet is reaching his hind up Bessie to pull out her calf.
“Indeed if modern day cows were allowed out into the wild they'd be dead within a week, we keep cattle surviving as a species and the price of their survival is our blood tax”
Michael saw Bessie being led out of a van and into a stark metal stall, her friends went first then it was Bessie's turn, she was led down a narrow metal walkway until a great pair of metal prongs was lowered over her head and she was zapped. As she twitched and started to collapse unseen hands secured her rear up to a gantry crane and she was raised up into the air, her head hanging down. She swung helplessly as she was carried over to a grate where a man in clean overalls with an absurdly sharp blade slit her throat in one clean movement and blood poured into the grate.
Michael watched in his mind's eye as Bessie's corpse was butchered and preserved then packaged and cooked and served up as a burger in McDonalds.
The old grey man said “That third way is not a pleasent way to live but it might just offer us a chance and one that does not involve needless suffering. The Farmer will have more care for his cattle than this thing will for us and the third way does not just extend to cattle, it extends to any that make themselves subservient and disposable for a higher people. Pets, slaves, soldiers, servants. It may be a way.”
Another man spoke up “But how do we do this? We can't just start living lives as cattle.”
“No” said the old grey man thoughtfully “But we could design a biological machine capable of producing drugs that would rewrite our genetic code and make us the perfect travellers of the third way...”
The woman at the other end of the table stands up and says “Syrus when our only other options are needless suffering or speciel suicide, I think the third way is our third option. It'll give us something to do at the very least.”
The old grey man nods “Thank you, my Lady, hope it is.”
The vision of the board room vanishes and Michael and Sally are sat where they were a moment ago in the Elizabethan chairs.
“Okay” says Michael “So that's why Sylphs are... Sylphs, but why are you a sylph? I mean you're human aren't you?”
Sally laughs “I knew you'd ask that question”
Reality distorts around Micharel and Sally as a grand court forms around them. Baroque and neoclassical with gothic arches. Architecture that speaks of power and decadence.
Seven men sit in seven thrones each dressed in distinctive styles of garish wealth displaying styles.
A man with a fauxhawk, guyliner and a stylishly ripped pinstriped suit is brought before the seven thrones in chains, 4 burly guards holding onto his chains. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this meeting my lords?”
The man in the centre throne opposite the prisoner speaks up “Farsh-nuke you stand accused of 7,777,777 counts of kidnapping, 7,777,777 counts of murder and 7,777,777 counts of eating the flesh of thinking peoples.”
The Farsh-nuke grins.
The Farsh-nuke's apparent judge then asks “How do you plead?”
The Farsh-nuke laughs “Well it would be rather satisfying to round all those sevens up to tens”
The judge glares at the Farsh-nuke then adds “Farsh-nuke you began life as a sentient universe, correct?”
The Farsh-nuke nods.
“You thus have great power over reality, being able to control and rewrite logic instinctually?”
The Farsh-nuke chuckles as he nods again.
“And is it not then true that were it not for our own discoveries regarding logic and your choosing to trade off some of your power in favour of corporeality and the passions thereby available that you would be killing us all in the most gruesome ways as we very speak?”
The Farsh-nuke grins “It is a great kindness that I do not let you know just what I would do, your honour.”
“Then I hereby sentence you to death. Goodbye Farsh-nuke and good riddance!”
The Farsh-nuke is dragged off laughing.
Michael says “I don't get it, a mad god was sentenced to death, what does that have to do with you?”
Sally laughs “Spoilers!”
Reality warps around them and they find a 15 year old boy in a tattered suit dancing around the interior of a strange ship. “Haha, you fuckers, my plan worked! Your killing me only made me stronger, I am the Great Farsh-nuke! The first to realise his potential! The first to exploit his knowledge for the greater good. A million Farsh-nukes will come after me but I shall be the Farsh-nuke that founds the empire of the Logicios, an army loyal to us!”
Reality warps again and they find three men eating food in a gastropub, one is short, the other has a beard and the third wears glasses.
The short guy asks “So how are we going to find these Farsh-nukes then? I mean the great Farsh-nuke wants an army of his selves from other universes.”
The guy with the beard says “It certainly is a pickle isn't it? I mean we don't just need to find the Farsh-nukes but contain them.”
The guy with the glasses says “Well apparently Professor Logicity, the guy that saved the Farsh-nuke's soul and helped him pull off this plan, apparently he left a back door in the Farsh-nuke's soul, a kind of morality subroutine that will kick in if the Farsh-nukes remember who they are instead of merely deducing it like the Great Farsh-nuke did. If we can somehow make them remember they are the Farsh-nuke then suddenly the chaotic elder god of lust and greed can be controlled like any superhero, through their morality chain.”
The guy with the beard says “If we could find a way to do that then I know the perfect morality chain. Gallalucia, Empress of the first world like universe, she died and her soul ended up in the multiverse because it was kind of glitchy back then. Anyway the Farsh-nuke mercy killed her and that began his decent into humanity, she's been haunting him ever since. I bet we can extract a record her soul from him and seed it throughout any universe we suspect contains a Farsh-nuke. The Farsh-nuke won't want to see her die again.”
The short guy says “Well if that's the way we're going then I know the perfect way to remind him of his past and make his morality pet more easily manipulatable. Sylph pills.”
The beardy guy says “Yes we seed the world with sylphs”
The guy with spectacles finishes “And let him decide what to do with the situation.”
Reality shifts again to show a version of Sally leaving a club, sweaty, bedraggled and very drunk.
There's a sound like a stammering “Sh!” and Sally goes rigid “We need to go down this ally”
Iris, a dark skinned woman dressed in jeans, a tanktop and leather jacket, groans “Sally the tardis does not exist, it's probably just some slut fucking a pervert”
Jessica, slathered in fake tan, wearing clothes meant for supermodels despite her average build, perks up “Fucking? Lets go watch some fucking?”
Nathaniel, tall, skinny wearing trackies and a tshirt with curly hair and glasses, says “Really, you want to run off down a dark ally when you're drunk as a skunk? Have you not watched horror movies?”
Sally shakes her head “Go if you like but I am heading down there.”
Iris groans “Sally, this is stupid.”
Jessica says “There's 4 of us, if it is a rapist we can tackle him.”
Nathaniel groans “We really can't let you go alone.”
Iris stares at Nathaniel “Mate, she's already gone”
“Fuck” says Nathaniel as he takes after her at a run.
Sally is running down the ally when she sees a familiar rickety wooden shed, a tall muscley man in a miss matched suit opens the door. “Well Sally you wanted to know who I am and what I do? My name is William Dickson Wright, I am 35 and I come from Woking but my name is also the Farsh-nuke I am trillions of times older than this universe and I travel about the universe helping people but I have one vice, one addiction I cannot quit.”
“What is it?” asks Sally
“Love” answers the Farsh-nuke.
“So what do you say? Fancy a gap year travelling the multiverse?”
Sally runs forwards and hugs him.
Nathaniel sprints into view and cries “I'm coming too!” before sliding on a used condom and collapsing.
Iris runs up and starts seeing to Nathaniel “Christ mate, what have you done?”
“If you're taking her, then you're taking me too” says Jessica
Iris stands up, reassured that Nathaniel is okay and glares at the Farsh-nuke “Answer me this honestly, if I were to try and knock you out would I stand a chance?”
The Farsh-nuke laughs “Sorry I have eaten Hitler, arrested Jack the Ripper, survived being eaten whole and thwarted an invasion of weresharks.”
“Then I guess I volunteer as well” says Iris
“Perfect” says the Farsh-nuke
Michael turns to the Sally sitting beside him, showing him this and baulks “You joined him, you and your friends joined a man who terrorized the multiverse.”
Sally nodded “I mean he did reform a lot and is genuinely a hero but he turned me and my friends into sylphs without our consent. Here's how I got out...”
Reality shifts and a version of Ronnikin sits before the version of the Farsh-nuke that kidnapped Sally and her friends. They are playing Blackjack in a casino. The Farsh-nuke has a flass of white port. Ronnikin has a scotch.
“So Mr Farsh-nuke to what do I owe the pleasure? I want your genuine answer this time please?” says Ronnikin
The Farsh-nuke looks at his cards, an ace and a 7, he asks for one more card and sticks “There are... rumours. Rumours that the Septagonoids are working with the Roboliquefiers.”
Ronnikin looks at his hand: the ace of spades and the jack of hearts. A flicker of a smile spreads across his face “I have heard these rumours.”
The Farsh-nuke nods “I thought you might.”
Ronnikin smiles as the concierge asks them to show their cards.
The concierge declares “Well done Monsieur Skyweasel, will you remain in the game?”
Ronnikin smiles at the Farsh-nuke “The fun is only just beginning, why would I leave when it is only beginning?”
“And you Monsieur Dickson Wright?”
“Oh I play to win and I clearly haven't done that.” says the Farsh-nuke with a toothy grin.
“Alright Monsieurs, new round.” says the concierge as cards are collected back in.
The Farsh-nuke checks his hand, a ten and a five.
Ronnikin asks “Tell me Mr Farsh-nuke what are you prepared to risk losing in order to win?”
“Anything” says the Farsh-nuke and he gets a new card, the ace of spades.
Ronnikin nods “I have heard the tales but I thought you had mellowed, that there were things even you would not risk.”
The Farsh-nuke gets a 2 of hearts. “That's not true, I still have some tricks up my sleeve to let me be sure of my risks.” He gets another card, the two of clubs.
Ronnikin smiles, sure of his hand “Then would you grant me your lady sylph in return for the information?”
The Farsh-nuke takes a gulp of port and looks to where Sally is playing poker with the head of Microsoft, Apple and Valve, then he stares off into space and reality distorts to show what he's thinking about. Iris and Nathaniel researching possible leads with the ships computer. Jessica interrogating a Roboliquefier.
“If she goes willingly” says the Farsh-nuke sticking.
Ronnikin nods “It's been a pleasure doing business with you.”
The concierge has them show their cards “Monsieur Dickson Wright has twenty but Monsieur Skyweasel has Blackjack again.”
“Thank you” says Ronnikin “It's been a good game but I best leave before I upset anyone. Mr Farsh-nuke thank you for your kind offer, I know nothing. I am a merchant and a smuggler, I do not work with anybody who wants to end the multiverse, except... perhaps, you?”
Ronnikin goes over to talk to Sally.
The Farsh-nuke downs his port and stalks after Ronnikin, he taps him on the shoulder and whispers “You cheated me, what makes you think I won't kill you where you stand.”
Ronnikin turns “You are the fool who played to win. I just wanted fun and maybe a little reward for putting up with you being such an asshole. It is true that you could kill me right now but then I would be dead and free from pain and your darling lady friend would see what a monster you truly are and the most powerful individuals in the multiverse would know you are a madman who is not to be trusted. Aren't games fun? Now if you'll excuse me I am going to claim my prize.”
Ronnikin turns to Sally “My Lady, I am an anthropomorphic cat. I know what it is like to be patronised and mistreated because of your race. I will be frank, cultural courtesy means that if you agree to go with me I am technically purchasing you from your owner but I need a sylph to aid me in my endeavours and if you help me I will help you. I will get you whatever you want and treat you however you want, hell I'll give you the cure after a certain amount of service if you wish and you will be paid for your work, what do you say?”
Reality shifts back to Michael and Sally sitting in Elizabethan chairs.
“And you said yes?”
“I said yes”
“So what about him? What made him the man capable of outwitting the Farsh-nuke?”