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Report from Sector Z of Planet Gaia by Probe No. 369

by Andreas Mann

I know it's been 40 cycles since my last report. I want to apologize and also to complain at the same time. I can't accept all the blame. A good part must fall to the diligence of those at our Halfway Zone, who did such a good job of preparing me to blend into the population on Sector Z that I completely forgot the central edict, message 001: if all else fails, try to send back news of life on the planet, preferably in clear code 1, but failing that in anecdotal form. Well, anyway, not having been schooled long enough in the alternate codes by our Halfway Zone hosts, anecdote will have to do. After 40 cycles here I can't access clear code 1.

It all began with a sort of brainwashing on the way down here. I've been told it's the same for everyone. Sort of a clean start. The only problem is that one is induced to forget everything, and then seduced to forget that one has forgotten! Now that doesn't help at all. Newcomers are left to accept life on the planet at face value. Here on Sector Z that would be madness. The blind leading the blind. The transition staff at Halfway Zone have been overzealous. Almost everyone I've met here has completely forgotten that Central exists at all. I would like to suggest that we stop the double forgetting. It's unfair and leads to terrifying fragmentation. Starting from a double negative makes it almost impossible to arrive at a pure zero state.

Anyway, back to this long overdue report: It's not at all like the geographic survey down here. I don't care how good the telescopes or how many infra-red satellite pictures subcentral has taken, it doesn't look and feel anything like we thought. Once I re-membered, however vaguely, what my directive was when I was originally sent down here, I set about interviewing a wide cross sampling of the population to ascertain their understanding of the central edict. Immediately something struck me as very wrong. It was as if I were trying to have sane conversation with amnesiacs. No one knew what I was talking about. At one point they were even close to having me committed to one of their sanatariums, where they assured me I would get better! By that they mean't that I would be induced into forgetting again, and stop disturbing their twisted sense of peace.

Anyway, it became increasigly obvious that the local population having forgotten the central edict, and not even suspecting the existence of 1, had become deeply involved in splitting numbers to a degree almost unprecedented in our solar system. I have interviewed some of the best mathematicians, and even they cannot get is all to add up to the central number. There's something going on here that makes it impossible to calculate and predict the real outcome of events. Despite the best efforts of all their scientists they still can't tell when it is going to rain and how much rain will fall.

It's a terrifying situation for me personally, as well as for some others who suspect that all is not as it appears down here. As soon as I began to re-member and once more feel the imperative of the central edict, I began to see that there are some influences down here, whether in atmosphere, electromagnetic forces, the pull of the moon, I don't know, which cause just about everyone to get thoroughly lost in the apparent excitement of the ephemeral. What makes it worse is that these transient events are then used to prognosticate the future. Since they weren't anything but disparate fragments in the first place there's never any real hope of arriving at an exact understanding. And one thing leads to another and on and on it goes. Like trying to walk in a straight line in the desert, you end up turning in an ever diminishing circle. That could be cause for hope itself - arriving at center from circumference. Unfortunately, other more dramatic events often occur that set everyone off on another tangent. And so it goes.

That's all I have time for in this transmission. I hope things are not as skewed at Central. Give my best wishes to All. Probe 369 out.

P.S. Suggest you read Doris Lessing's "Prisons We Choose to Live In"


originally published in OzONE - a map of alternate realities, Philadelphia, USA, 1992


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