Saturday, 17 October 2015

Sex, E.T. and Dark Matter

As far as I can determine it was the year 2115 AD that I was unfrozen. I’d been frozen in my era, to be left till a cure was found for what I had, and almost 60 years later an automatic system unfroze me in the hope of better technology.
I was found near my cubicle underground, confused and terrified, and being English, I first asked for a cup of tea. They had no idea what that was but eventually when my explanations became rational, they managed to produce some boiled water with a unidentified leaf expiring in it, and it was by sipping this woody drink that I finally began to perceive my surroundings through the steam rising from my cup. I was in a dingy room with wooden chairs, lamps, like something from the dark ages. Three men stood around my bed, trying to look very patrician and important, all with white hair and beards and wearing tunics. The air smelt of lamp oil and sweat.
‘OK, so how long was I asleep?’ I asked finally.
The taller of the men, spoke in a deep voice – it seemed the others daren’t.
‘It is now 2082 AD in the old way of reckoning, 52 AW, new calendar.’
‘60 years? Well, you must have made a lot of progress in that time, but looking around this must be a backwater. Is there a settlement on Mars yet?’
There was an uneasy pause as the three looked uncertainly at each other:
‘There was a war 52 years ago. Many people died, and many records were destroyed. You survived because you were frozen and in a hospital basement.’
‘Ah. Well, look, I may need some more boiled water..’
Another of the men then spoke with a quick worried glance sideways at the taller one.
‘Not all records were destroyed though.’
‘For example, three books survived.’
‘Only three?’
The taller man then spoke to reassert his dominance.
‘This is our Reverend of Dark Matters. He is responsible for the interpretation of these three great tomes. ET in his wisdom must have made sure that these books came into our hands: they are the basis of all.’
‘All what?’
The absolutism of this sounded a bit ominous to someone who was familiar with Billy Connelly’s famous statement that one ‘should never trust anyone with only one book’. Three books was hardly much better.
‘ET? Alright, which books survived then?’
‘Anne Hooper’s Pocket Sex Guide, William Kotzwinkle’s, ET: the Extra-Terrestrial, and Gravy Zug’s A Guide to Dark Matter.’
Some of the tea spurted out of my nose. At this point, all three men covered their eyes, in a sort of ritual.
‘Are you serious?’
The three men’s frowns deepened as if to show they were indeed serious, in the manner of a kazoo band demanding to be allowed to play in the Royal Albert Hall.
‘These books cover everything we need to know.’
‘What, that lot?’
‘The sex guide tells us how to repopulate the Earth, ET is the source of moral wisdom, and all of science can be derived from the Guide to Dark Matter.’
I considered this
‘Well, I don’t mind the first two, they sound eminently sensible to me, but I was a physicist and I have an uneasy feeling about the third one. What’s this about dark matter explaining everything?’
‘It does, everyone knows it!’
‘Because they read the book?’
‘How else would we know it? It was written by the great Gravy, Gravy Zug.’
Again the three hid their eyes, as if trying to emphasize some connection to darkness, and that was fortunate because I was the victim of an involuntary giggle at this point. I recovered quickly, eager to get out of this underground lunatic asylum.
‘Far be it for me to dispute the great Gravy, whoever he is, was, will be. He must have written his book shortly after my time, but has an experiment been done to prove that dark matter exists yet?’
I was instantly reminded of goldfish in a bowl as all three men opened their mouths in unaccustomed indignation. Oddly enough this argument was not that different to ones I’d had with some physicists in my time. I was on familiar territory.
‘Whatever for? The ancients did all that sort of thing for us.’
‘Oh, you mean they found some dark matter after I was frozen and before the war?’
‘No .. but they proved that the dark matter that is needed to explain galaxy rotation, is too subtle ever to be seen, so they stopped looking and just accepted it.’
‘Well, they were obviously people of great impact, having managed to end the scientific method and then blow up the entire world as an encore in a single decade.’
They looked momentarily pleased by this statement, then puzzled, so I thought I‘d leap in through the window of doubt that appeared to have opened up.
‘Have you considered that maybe dark matter doesn’t exist?’
There was a sharp intake of breath at this and the tallest member of the group clicked his fingers and a guard appeared out of a dark corner of the room. Tallguy approached me, bringing a cloud of sweat with him, and delivered his judgement in a brusque but apologetic manner.
‘I’m sorry, but we have a law that anyone who doubts dark matter be expelled onto the surface, otherwise the forces-that-be, made of dark matter, will destroy us.’
I was quite used to this kind of treatment, and in my time usually it ended with me saying ‘I’ll get my coat’, but they did indeed expel me onto the surface that they all believed was a dangerous environment made ‘foul’ to use their words, by the previous, presumably, nuclear war. They put on dirty sacks to protect themselves, dumped me there in the middle of the cold night and scurried back down underground.
Of course, when the Sun came up, the surface was actually a delightful place, blessed with blue skies, and full of tropical fruits and nuts of a more nutritious kind, and after I’d built a hut and started growing my own food, I had a good time. Even the disease I’d had disappeared, perhaps having been caused by some unsuspected chemical poison endemic in the early 21st Century. There were some other humans up there, wandering around and some of them were even very nice. As a result the only thing I regretted was not reading the Sex Guide which would have come in handy, but as is always said by those in the know, the best way to learn is to do.


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