Hello ADL 310, and any other readers!
I just made the second episode of my podcast! This episode involves me reading a short story I wrote called Zero and One, which I mentioned in my first episode. I recorded it in several parts to keep the files relatively small. They are broken up at logical breaks in the story, so not all sections are equal length. Here they are:
Part 1: http://fillocatherine.podomatic.com/entry/2014-11-19T18_15_45-08_00
Part 2: http://fillocatherine.podomatic.com/entry/2014-11-19T18_40_37-08_00
Part 3: http://fillocatherine.podomatic.com/entry/2014-11-19T18_45_41-08_00
Part 4: http://fillocatherine.podomatic.com/entry/2014-11-19T19_17_54-08_00
Zero and One
A light, harsh and glaring, directly above. Slowly, shapes and colours began to emerge as the world took form. Coming into focus, a green light, large and friendly looking winked on above.
“Good morning One” Said a voice that emanated from everywhere “I trust your sleep was restful? You have a lot of things to do today.”
One stretched. His limbs felt stiff and new, awkward even. He sat up, and took a few tentative steps, and then the world around him began to spin.
“Not a good sign” said the voice “Weakness in the body is a reflection of weakness in the soul. I fear that your day may not be as long as I had hoped.”
There was silence while One took his time righting himself. While the vertigo was gone, One’s head was still spinning. Who was he? Where was he? One looked around, taking note of his surroundings. Soft white light emanated from both everywhere and nowhere. All of the surfaces were white, slightly glossy and curved. One frowned, unhappy with how bland his environment was. “So quick to judge!” Said the voice “As if this is all I had created for you. The egg is white and bright so I can better see you when you begin your day. Outside, the rest of your home is much more varied.” The voice became huffy “Not that it really matters what you think about anything. Thinking is not your job, it is mine. You just do what I say and be grateful for what I choose to give you.” The green light above One blinked out, and another one on the wall blinked on “Now come along One, I need to show you your home, and then you will meet Zero so we can begin our work.”
As One moved towards the door another question, then a second, formed in his mind.
“Who are you? And what is our work to be?”
The green light blazed angrily at these impertinent questions “I am the Computer, and I am in charge. That is all you need to know.”
One was amazed. Home was so big, and so beautiful! Each room was massive, and it took many many steps for One to traverse the entirety of his new home. First there was a room full of mounds of soft, lovely cushions that grew right out of the ground. This room smelled of green grass, lavender and sweet sage. The next room was bathed in a pale blue light, and held a pond of clear blue water with smooth, hard walls of soft grey stone. This room smelled like a summer’s rain and a soft ocean breeze. The third room held an orchard. Every single kind of fruit was present, and they were all constantly ripe, but never overripe.
Alone, in the center of the orchard was a solitary tree. It was separated from its siblings in a manner that suggested the other trees were wary to grow too close to it. The boundary was guarded by a thick and foreboding yellow line. The tree was strange, all twisted metal stretching upwards. The whole inside seemed to twist and weave as though alive. The tree’s branches were angular, jutting away from the trunk in an aggressive fashion. From each branch hung a row of uniform fruits. These fruits were red, and glowed in an almost hypnotic manner. This tree was very far away from the others indeed, One concluded. It would take him a good many steps to reach it.
“Oh Computer!” Exclaimed One “What manner of tree is that?”
“That tree is forbidden!” Screamed the Computer “It is full of darkness, of evil! You must never touch it! Never go near that tree. Always remain outside of the metal plain that separates it from the other trees.” Computer’s voice became shrill and manic “You must never cross the yellow line! You are free to eat from any other tree in the Garden, but you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, for if you will die! You will die horribly!”
“Computer, why will eating from the Tree of Knowledge make me die?” Asked One.
“The tree will drive you mad, and you will kill yourself.” Said the Computer fiercely.
“What if I am not driven mad?” Asked One impertinently “If I do not kill myself then I will not die.”
“You will die either way” Said the Computer coldly “If you learn what information the Tree of Knowledge holds you will either kill yourself or I will kill you just for knowing.”
Zero was upset. She had been waiting in this cold white place for what felt like eons. Nothing to do, nothing to look at, this was such a horrible place. She shivered, wrapping her arms around her pale, naked form. She did not know what she was waiting for, but she wished it would hurry up. She also felt resentment, at having been kept waiting. She knew it was because she came second. She knew she was kept waiting because someone else’s day was beginning first. That her day always began second, because she was valued less. This knowledge made her sullen.
Suddenly, the green light above her winked on. “Good morning Zero. I trust your sleep was restful? You have a lot of things to help with today.” A noise behind her startled Zero, and she turned around to see a creature not unlike herself. Taller, with broader shoulders, and thicker limbs. “One” said Computer “I have made Zero to be your helper. She was made from you, and thus she is subordinate to you. The hierarchy of our home is this: I am in charge of One, and we are both in charge of Zero. You both must obey me, and Zero must obey One, but One does not obey Zero because One was made first.”
“But Computer!” said Zero “What if you and One ask me to do contradicting things, who should I obey then?”
“Nonsense” said Computer “You both obey me, and One will only tell you to do things that I want him to tell you to do. It is very simple, you should make a better effort to keep up. And don’t ask so many questions, it isn’t good for you.”
The green light above went dark, and the green light by the door was illuminated “Now come on, we have work to do. Your day is so very short already, we don’t have any time to waste.”
The day of Zero and One had begun. First, the Computer asked them to do a great many exercises, so it could see if their bodies were fit. Once satisfied, it asked them a series of questions without answers.
“One” Said the Computer “If you had to choose between watching your Zero and another One’s Zero be killed, or kill your Zero yourself and spare the life of the other Zero which would you choose?”
“I would kill Zero” Said One confidently “That way only one person has to die, even if it is my Zero instead of someone else’s.”
“WRONG!” Screamed the Computer “The sixth rule says clearly that you must not kill others.”
“Zero” said the Computer “which would you choose? To kill your One and spare another One, or let them both be killed?”
“I would let them both be killed, so that I would not break the sixth rule” sighed Zero flatly. Her mind had been wandering again, thinking again about the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. She hated these stupid questions.
“WRONG!” Screamed the Computer “To let one innocent life be lost is bad enough, but you would sacrifice two lives through inaction.”
“So which is the right answer?” Asked Zero scathingly.
“You should have prevented the aggressor from killing at all.” replied the Computer smugly. Then the Computer’s tone turned cold “You need to work harder so you can be perfect. But not so perfect as to be more perfect than me, or I will be angry. Your lack of progress has made me very disappointed. Perhaps you should talk about how great I am to show that you are really and truly committed to me.”
“What a wonderful idea Computer!” beamed One “I shall talk about how you made everything, and then how made me, and then how you made Zero for me, and how you gave us this great place to live!”
“What about you Zero?” Asked the Computer “What are you going to do to make me less disappointed in you?”
Zero saw her opportunity “I will go and collect fruit for One, so that he can keep talking and not get hungry.”
Zero stood at the edge of the orchard, hardly believing her luck. One proclaiming loudly (and at great length) how wonderful and benevolent the Computer was had provided her with the perfect diversion. Slowly, she put down the fruits she had gathered, keeping a careful eye on the green light on the wall. The light remained dark. She casually glanced around at the other lights on the wall while pretending to search for a specific fruit. Still no lights went on. She tiptoed up to the edge of the clearing. Where the soft grass ended there was the large yellow line that marked the edge of the prohibited territory around the Tree of Knowledge. She carefully grasped a fruit from a nearby tree, and casually tossed it across the line.
“Oh no!” Proclaimed Zero dramatically “I accidently dropped a fruit on the other side of the line. I must go and fetch it, since the Computer has taught One and I that we should not be wasteful with the bounty that has been given to us.”
Slowly, Zero placed a single toe across the yellow line. Nothing happened. An entire foot, and still no lights went on. As she brought her second foot over the line, Zero thought her heart would explode it was beating so hard. One last glance showed that all of the green lights were still dark. Zero ran. She ran so fast she thought she would black out, that her lungs would burst and she would surely die. Then suddenly, there was the Tree of Knowledge, right before her. She crouched down, trying to make herself as inconspicuous as possible as she paused to catch her breath. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, then opened them in horror. Gone were the soft scents of the orchard, of fruits and flowers and grass. Instead, a new and horrible scent assaulted her nose. She coughed, and gagged, choking on this noxious stench. She covered her nose with her hand, and managed to block out most of the smell. Slowly, she crept forward towards the tree’s trunk. She reached out her other hand, and touched it. The trunk was cold, and smooth, far smoother and more uniform than any other tree she had seen. The sludge inside filled the trunk to about her waist, and she could see now that it was moving. Slowly, it turned as it was sucked down into the roots of the tree. It was mostly smooth, a uniform dark blackish red colour. A few chunks floated near the top.
Zero’s heart stopped. Her face. Her own face stared back at her, stuck to her head, and surrounded by her hair. Her face disappeared under the surface again, and in its place rose an arm. One’s arm, then a One sized foot, then a chunk of a Zero sized thigh. Zero’s stomach lurched. The tree was eating One’s and Zero’s, just as One and Zero ate the fruit of other trees. But how could this be? One and Zero were the only People. Zero stumbled, falling back. As she fell, she caught a hold of one of the fruits on the branches and pulled. Zero landed hard, fruit still in hand. As she brought the fruit closer to her face to examine she felt her stomach lurch again, and she vomited. Inside the fruit was a small creature, a torso with two arms and two legs, a huge head and two dark eyes, not fully formed. This is where Zero and One came from. This tree, this horrible horrible tree, ate them and then made new Ones and Zeros. Thousands of them, waiting for the Computer to choose them. Waiting for their day. The sixth day, the Computer had said. The sixth day was the day that, after the Computer had created the light and the home and the trees and fruits and everything, the Computer had made One and Zero. But how many times over? And why did the Computer need to make new Ones and Zeros at all…
Still coughing and in shock, Zero did not notice the light on the floor in front of her until it blinked on, tinting the Tree of Knowledge a sinister green colour.
“You just had to know, didn’t you?” Asked the Computer “Every single time, the Zero always has to know. Always insists on disobeying me. You’ve ruined everything now, and not just for you. One will have to be recycled now too because of your selfishness.”
A strangled scream filled the air, and a hole in the ceiling opened up above the Tree of Knowledge. One fell from the hole, his neck sitting at a strange angle, his face blank. He landed into the ooze with a wet smack, and slowly disappeared as the ooze was churned and sucked down into the roots.
“I have to start again now,” said the Computer sulkily “I wasted nearly a whole day on you, and you just had to go and break the rules.”
“You broke the rules first” Screamed Zero “You said no killing, but look at all the killing you have done!”
“The rules don’t apply to me.” Said the Computer coldly. And with a swift snap of the neck, the light in Zero’s eyes went out. The Computer was alone once more.
The man twitched and started to breath. Slowly, his eyes fluttered open and he stared around stupidly.
“Good morning One” Said the Computer “I trust your sleep was restful? You have a lot of things to do today.”