Story

The Goddess Of Bleecker Street

“My, God! Marie Carro! I haven’t seen you in years! How is my favorite performance artist doing?”

“Installation artist, Tom. Surely you remember the difference?”

“Sorry. It’s been… how many years? I left NYU over 12 years ago. What brings you to Boston? Here for an exhibition?

“Well, actually, Tom, I came to see you."

”I’m honored! Thanks for stopping by! Here, grab a seat.”“Thanks. I have a job offer for you.”

“Really? I’m flattered--but I’m pretty comfortable here at the newspaper. What kind of job do you have in mind?”

“I guess you would call it being a minor deity.”
    
“I’m sorry, Marie, sometimes--with your Portuguese accent and all--I have trouble understanding you. I thought you said ‘minor deity.’”
    
“That’s right. Working for me. I’m God.”
    
“Uhhh, you’re good at what?”
    
“No, I’m God. I said I’m God.”
    
“Marie, is this some kind of performance art? Don’t weird me out.”
    
“Why would I lie? I’m God.”
    
“Ok, God of what? Sacrilegious performance art?”
    
“No, God of this world. Planet Earth. The material world and all that.”
    
“OK, who gave you the job? Morgan Freeman? Maybe George Burns?”
    
“The Noosphere created by the Singularity.”
 
    
“I actually kinda understood that, although I don’t believe it. Are you talking about some kind of transhuman consciousness? The Singularity hasn’t popped yet.”
    
“Actually, it did. It took off Christmas Day 2004. It was a Christmas present of sorts to Arthur C. Clarke.”
    
“OK, I gotta hear this. Hold on a second, let me close the door so we’re not disturbed. That’s better. Now Marie, I never knew you read science fiction?”
    
“I didn’t, but that’s what happened. And since I’m God, I know everything now.”
    
“You still haven’t explained how you got the job.”
    
“Well, it’s actually a pretty simple story. A grad student in Singapore, working in his basement, brewed up a batch of self-replicating nanites. It was quite a feat, especially when you take into account that, properly manipulated, they could have been used for all sorts of wondrous purposes.”
    
“You say, ‘could have’. Something went wrong?”
    
“Well, when he realized what he had done, he was so impressed with himself that he wanted to tell Clarke in person. And he went to see him, right on Christmas Day, which the old atheist wasn’t celebrating anyway.”
    
“How’d he swing that? I mean, just dropping in to see Sir Artie?”
    
“Our hero--if you could call him that--had written a very impressive string of papers on the subject of nanotechnology, impressive enough that Clarke told him to come on down to Sri Lanka.  Which he did.”
    
“So what went wrong?”
    
“When he got to Sri Lanka, he was exhausted, but instead of getting some rest he went straight to Clarke. He ranted and babbled so arrogantly that Clarke lost his temper. I guess he thought the guy was nuts. When he held up a vial of a thick purple soup that swirled like it was alive--raw nano stew, just like the DNA that started life on Earth--Clarke lost his temper and slapped the tube down. It smashed on the patio.”
   
“So what happened next?”
    
“Since they were undifferentiated nanites, all they could do was replicate--which they did. The patio flagstones, Clarke, the student, were the first to be reduced...
 
“Sir Arthur died in January 2008, of natural causes.”
 
“Well, yes, he would have, and as far as you’re concerned, he did. I determined the date of the reconstructed Sir Arthur’s demise based on my omniscience. Don’t just interrupt me, it will only confuse you. In any case, by the next morning, the island was one seething mound of nanites. Reproducing geometrically, they swept across the Indian Ocean the next morning…”
    
“Ok, wait, stop right there. You said this happened Christmas Day 2004. That next day is when the tsunami struck the Indian Ocean.”
    
“Right. That’s actually a false memory, a fake event, implanted by the Noosphere to placate those people who saw it coming, as it were. It was like a big wave. There had to be a way of explaining what they saw, so the memory was altered. By the time the transformation spread outside the Indian Ocean area, it was moving at ballistic speed, and no one else even knew what hit them. Earth was converted in less than a day.”
    
“Very well, the gray goo scenario. You mean you and me and everybody else was sucked up into this mess? Then what are we doing here today?”
    
“We’ve been reconstituted. All the information contained in this planet was encoded into the holographic memory of the Noosphere.”
    
“Which just decided to resurrect us, then--just like that.”
    
“Yes, just like that. After converting the Earth and the inner planets, it was a swirling mass encircling the sun, and ultimately achieved supra-God level intelligence. Then it understood what it had done--and what it had destroyed. It decided to disembody itself, and reconstitute what it had been created out of.”
    
“Of course, there’s no way of us knowing what really happened, huh?”
    
“Of course not. A master of the kabala once asked, if God created the Earth ten minutes ago, and gave us all false memories, how would we know the difference?”
    
“Nice story, Marie. But I’m not buying it. Besides, you said you’re God now.”
    
“In human terms, yes. There’s no way the human mind can comprehend what created me. I’m its representative, as it were.”
    
“But why pick you? Why not the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Billy Graham, or somebody like that?”
    
“Apparently all the usual do-gooders you’d think of, the usual suspects, were disqualified because what we call altruism is really self-interest. In religious terms, it is a way of gaining salvation as defined by your religion. In evolutionary terms, it is a way of helping people who may later help you or your descendants. By those standards, everyone else was screened out. My installation art--pieces of business like giving out matches and cigarettes to bums, offering to clean strangers’ homes--stood out as the only genuinely selfless acts it found.”
    
“OK, you baffled the Noosphere with your bullshit. That all worked?”
    
“Yes, especially my phone booth on Bleecker Street.”
    
“What? That little sidewalk show?”
    
“Yes, which you wrote up so well in the college paper.”
    
“They gave me that assignment because I was a freshman and they wanted me to get lost.”
    
“You did a neat little story. You didn’t belittle me. What was that you called me? ‘The Selfless Goddess of Bleecker Street?’”
    
“Well, I know it was installation art, but I thought it was a cute idea, adding all those amenities to the phone booth--the chocolates, cigarettes, flavored water, flowers and guest book—and sitting there like a concierge. And I still stand behind what I said in that article, if everyone adopted a small piece public property the way you did, the world would really be a kinder, gentler place.
    
“It was fun, for that week.”
    
“Yeah, until the assholes from the phone company tossed everything in the trash.”
    
“The Noosphere found your article in the newspaper archive and that led it to me. You did call me a Goddess.”
    
“Why did it need to offer you the position?”
    
“It realized that it wouldn’t be able to deal with the trivial affairs of mortal man in any caring manner… and it also knew that one thing mankind needs is an hands-on God. So it looked around and picked me.”
    
“How long did it take to rebuild the world. Seven days?”
    
“In a way, it took 497 years, because the Noosphere swirled around the sun for 497 years while it thought hard about all this. Then it came to a decision and resurrected me. I got to direct the re-creation myself. It didn’t take seven days again. Lot quicker this time.”
    
“You mean it’s actually 497 years later than we think?”
    
“Yes, we had to shift the solar system slightly so as not to mess up the precession of the equinoxes, or else astronomers would have noticed. On the other hand, that’s one reason global warming seems to have sped up recently. The sun is in a slow warming cycle.”
    
“I get it. It really is later than we think. Wow, this is all pretty fantastic, you know. So we actually jumped ahead 497 years from December 25 to December 26, 2004, eh? OK, I have one big question: If you’ve been God since then, well, not to put too fine a point on it… why do things suck so bad? They certainly aren’t getting better.”
    
“There are things going on--buildups and breakdowns--whose significance are impossible for any mortal human to see. Long-range trends, complex patterns. But despite the omnipotence that has been given me, I’m not satisfied with the job I’m doing. That’s why I’m here.”
    
“Ah, yes, what you said. A minor deity. You want my help?”
    
“I guess that’s why Gods have pantheons. Even God can’t do it alone.”
    
“But why me?  I’m not all that special.”
    
“That’s not true. You’re very intelligent. More importantly, you have a totally different background, upbringing and way of looking at things than I did. I was an artist, you were a journalist. I was an atheist, you were a Catholic. You grew up in a small town, I grew up in Lisbon. I could on and on.”
    
“You think I have something to offer, then?”
    
“Of course. I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t.”
    
“Why ask me to join up. Can’t you force me?”
    
“Surely, but that would be useless, because what I need is your free will and best judgment.
    
“What if I won’t enlist?”
    
“Nothing will happen. I’ll wipe your mind clean of this whole conversation, and you’ll be no wiser than that kabala master I mentioned earlier.”
    
“Ok, on the flip side, what’s in it for me?”
    
“Immortality. Any woman you want. Really good pizza--double pepperoni with shredded provolone. Anything you want. What do you say?”
    
“What do we do, just walk out of here and slouch to Olympus?”
    
“More or less, I’ll leave a simulacrum behind here so no one will even notice you’re gone.”
    
“Wait a moment, we’ve been sitting here a good ten minutes and I haven’t seen one single thing that backs up your story! I don’t know how you got me to listen to all this crap! It’s been all hearsay!”
    
“It took you much longer than I would have thought to ask for proof. How’s this?”
    
“Ouch!  Shit!  Oh, wow!  Hey, looka this. I can chop down trees with this thing!”
    
“Well, it IS every man’s fantasy.”
    
“We are easily manipulated creatures. I’m sold. Put this thing away, will ya’, until I can use it.”
    
“Very well. Are you ready to ‘enlist’, as you put it?”
    
“Yep. Lead on, most worthy Goddess. I’m at your side.”
    
“That’s all I wanted.  Let’s go.”
 
****
 
“That’s strange. I swear I saw Marie Carro walking through the door. Oh, well, must be overwork. My mind must be playing tricks on me.”