The first iteration basked in simplicity.
A subatomic particle no scientist in the entire Virgo Supercluster had ever detected before appeared one day in anybody’s version of a quantum collider. Elusive but still traceable, it travelled through the superconducting magnetic structures faster than the light had ever been. Violating the Heisenberg Principle or any other law of the physics, it was matter and energy at the same time, a wave and a particle, a beginning and an end. A wonder of symmetry plagued by inner instability and still enchanting to look at, it glowed as a rainbow before disappearing in a blaze of pristine light, leaving its many observers in a dismayed puzzlement.
The particle’s omni-powerful Makers decided to up the antes.
The second iteration was a pretty one, something all sentient creatures could admire in its ravishing beauty: a silicon-based organism, strong and graceful, thriving in liquid methane and rare gases pools. Slender in its conception and gorgeously limbed, it rose on its forelegs a few seconds after creation and tottered over the slab’s immaculate surface in a parade of ravishing beauty. Transparent wings to hover and watch, shining blades to kill a prey, the creature selected leaves of luxuriant vert as its favourite dwelling and nested away. It attracted stares of appreciation and smiles of support and was quickly released on a brave new world, to live long and prosper.
Encouraged by their two early successes, the Makers kept working.
Iteration number three was a masterpiece of complexity. It was the most articulated creation the Architects had ever attempted since the Big Bang, and together the least satisfactory; its accuracy didn’t leave any space to improvisation, surprise, or growth. It was not unexpected for them; they already knew the sibling of perfection is death, something that can’t be altered any longer. After having remained in its stunned immobility for millions of years, the astonishing creature was discarded without qualms and forgotten soon after.
The fourth iteration made its creators think of the face of gods.
Essential, compact, and mighty, it crept out of the nourishing pond with the implacable assurance of the conqueror. And when they release it over a life-sustaining planet, the virus-like creature immediately started its colonisation process. Invisible to any other living being and so much powerful than all of them, it began self-replicating at a geometrical pace. It invaded and raged and destroyed, leaving nothing behind but a graveyard of ashes and gnawed-down bones.
Creators are not supposed to destroy their own creations, not even when they turn to be unfit or nasty, but this time the sheer power of the Fourth One made even the Makers waver. They sealed off the ravaged planet, and made sure the dooming agent was never to see the light of another sun.
Saddened and disenchanted, the Makers let go of the experiment. It was only after aeons of time that they decided to have one more try to add something unusual to the universe’s table of creatures.
It had nothing of the complexity, beauty, symmetry, awesomeness or cruel detail of the others. It was per se a mediocre species, with an oversized processing unit and a frail sustaining structure. One glaringly deteriorating over the years, too. But that funny bipedal exemplar had developed something none of others did: the painful awareness of its own shortcomings, the yearning for an unattainable perfection, enough curiosity to sneak a peek at the assembling pad and wonder.
Not every parent is proud of their children, but all do recognise a promising one, no matter how trivial the beginning and how bleak the perspectives. The Architects made no exception. They had no idea whether that clumsy offspring would have ever been able to lift its stare as high as to meet theirs. The universe is a big empty space even when creatures are not tied to an orbiting rock, let alone when they are.
But, somehow, that seemed no longer important.
RUSSELL HEMMELL is a French-Italian transplant in Scotland, passionate about astrophysics, history and speculative fiction. Recent work in Argot Magazine, The Grievous Angel, Star*Line, and others. Find them online at their blog earthianhivemind.net and on Twitter @SPBianchini
Image via Pixabay