Springingtiger's Blog


Hara Hara!
February 22, 2017, 18:18
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have a stinking cold, I am in bed and I have no intention of getting out of it.My brain is foggy and I ache all over. However I have looked at my Facebook on my phone…not up to turning on the computer. One of my friends has posted a beautiful picture of a state of the Hindu god Shiva which lifted my spirits a little.To be honest, I’m not sure there is a point in my house from which I can’t see a picture of Shiva, but I wasn’t looking 
My friend’s posting reminded me that this Saturday will be Mahashivratri as well as my wife Neelam’s birthday.The date of Shivratri is set by the position of the moon and Neelam was also born on Shivratri, so it’s a special day in many ways.I had hoped to mark this year with a full Shivratri fast, but I doubt I’m well enough. I did it once before and it’s the toughest fast I’ve ever done, but worth it for the sense of accomplishment at the end (probably totally the wrong reason, theologically, for doing it!)
The form of Saivism I follow is fiercely non-dualist. It has no personal God not object of worship. Everything is Shiva and Shiva is our consciousness. Our personal gods like everything else in creation are creations of our own mind. In the Siva Sutras what most people would consider organs for receiving information: eye, nose, skin, ear, are all organs of generation creating the world we experience. The world and our experience of it and of our individuality is entirely made up. Which means, damn it, so is my experience of being ill. When I’m feeling miserable I find comfort in the creation of a personal God, but it’s just a symptom of losing touch with the oneness. This is all made up and so is the reality that the picture of Shiva by my bedroom door is laughing at me (trust me, he really does change expression according to my mood!) 
I think I’ll get up, I am feeling much better and the picture of Shiva is looking unbearably smug! Hara Hara Mahadev!

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Chapter 6: Who is Cain?

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Notes from the Enquiry into the conduct of Colonel Ash Cain on the IGS Roddenberry.

From the evidence of Dr, G Shaw.

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Doctor Shaw, can a man live for centuries?”

Dr. Shaw: “In stasis, yes, of course.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Out of stasis?”

Dr. Shaw: “Impossible!”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Yet the records state that he remained out of stasis for the whole voyage, how do you explain that?”

Dr. Shaw: “The records must be wrong.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “The records must be wrong because it is impossible for a man to live for centuries? Can you confirm that Colonel Cain is human?”

Dr. Shaw: “All the tests showed him to be human.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Nothing to suggest any reason for unnatural longevity?”

Dr. Shaw: “There was nothing to suggest that he is anything but a normal, healthy human. Yes he has a slightly faster healing rate, but nothing to suggest anything abnormal. The Colonel is human.”

From the evidence of Technician First Class Iain Steiner.

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “So you are telling us that there had been a deliberate attempt to conceal that Colonel Ash Cain had remained out of hibernation for the whole voyage, how could that be?”

Technician Steiner: “Examining the logs of the crew members it would appear That when the Colonel woke them he simply told them he had just been brought out of stasis himself. When he put them back in stasis he told them he would handle the change over.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Is that usual procedure?”

Technician Steiner: “It’s not correct procedure, but it’s not entirely unusual for rules to be bent on a long flight.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “Is there any record of any crew member challenging Colonel Cain?”

Technician Steiner: “No sir, but he was the senior officer. The records don’t show him waking the Captain during the journey. I almost didn’t notice anything, if Captain Crabbe hadn’t asked me to check the records because he had no recollection of being wakened I wouldn’t have found anything.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “What did you find?”

Technician Steiner: “That each individual log had been falsified to suggest that there had always been the correct compliment on duty and that the Colonel had taken his turn in stasis. However the individual pod memories didn’t match the logs and the Colonel’s pod had not been used.

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “How do you explain the anomaly?”

Technician Steiner: “Simple, for security reasons the pod logs are self contained and not linked to SocNet in case it goes rogue like the Web.”

Advocate Theophilus Paul: “From the records would you say Colonel Cain spent the whole journey from Mu Sector out of stasis?”

Technician Steiner: “From the records, yes. However there must be a logical explanation we haven’t yet found.”

Mayor Jackson of Obamapolis looked up from the papers, took off his spectacles and rubbed his eyes he looked at Captain Crabbe, then out of the window at the spaceport, then back to the the group around the table, each with an identical folder.

“I believe you have something to add, Shepherd Cain?”

An old man in clerical collar and black frock coat stood up and walked to the lectern in the room.

“The photos I am going to show you are not included in your folders for reasons of confidentiality.” He began as he pressed a button and a photograph of Cain, Colonel Cain appeared in the air beyond the table.

“This is our Colonel Cain, the next picture is one of my grandfather and Major Eden Cain at the Academy before my grandfather was assigned to the Overlanders. Major Cain was one of his instructors at the Academy.”

A second picture appeared and the priest cropped it so that it only contained the major, he moved the two sise by side.

“They could be the same man, I suppose.” Said the Mayor thoughtfully.

“We haven’t finished yet.” Said the Shepherd and projected a series of pictures commenting on each one in turn.

“Henry Cain-Barker, retailer on Beta Four, that’s nearly half a millenium ago. Next: Scot Cain Terraforming engineer prior to the settlement of B-4” Reverend Cain added picture after picture to the space ending with,

“And finally, may I invite you to observe this policeman at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee?”

For a moment the room was silent until the Mayor asked,

“Are you seriously suggesting these are all the same man?”

“According to software comparison the probability is better than ninety nine percent…and before you ask, no the pictures are all genuine.”

The Station Head of Security, silent until then finally spoke.

“Assuming any of this is true, and I’m not convinced it is, what do you want to do about it? The med reports all show Cain to be human, if he falsified the crew logs it is a company matter, longevity is no crime and to my knowledge he has not been accused of any other. Both Bennie’s and the Planetary Settlement Authority state that Cain is not only valuable, but essential to their work. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I do have real and necessary work to do.”

As the Security Chief stood, towering over the others like a slightly scruffy Santa Claus, the Shepherd exclaimed excitedly,

“But if he is the Cain of legends think of what he could tell us, he could confirm the truth of the Bible!”

A smile broadened the Security Chief’s round face as he replied, “And he might equally tell you it’s all nonsense. Have you considered that? I’d leave well alone if I were you.”

As he left the room the Chief opened his phone and texted a number.



Chapter 5: Diaspora
November 6, 2016, 00:42
Filed under: Technology, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , ,

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The great thing about the Diaspora is that it was a social leveller. Selection for transport was made primarily on utilitarian grounds and under the circumstances money was worthless. I was pleased to see farmers, agriculturalists and horticulturists ahead of many other professionals in the queue. The Momentum government very ostentatiously refused politicians preferential treatment. However because they drew their politicians from among the skilled workers in practice this meant that a number of their members made the transports whereas the landowners and industrialist party members were largely excluded. I say largely excluded because there were among them a number of innovative entrepreneurs whose skills had elevated them in the party. What the diaspora did do was eliminate privilege and heredity. I don’t know what happened to those left behind, but I doubt whether all their lands and wealth could protect them from the Cybertrons as our AI opponents had come to be known.
Humans had centuries to prepare for the Diaspora, the blueprint had been the subject of Science fiction films since the mid Twentieth Century, not to mention the civil defence exercises of the Cold War era. Because industry on Earth had increasingly endeavoured to replace humans with machines, by the time of the last great flood there were a large number of displaced workers depending on their horticultural skills to maintain their family and craft skills for additional income. Capital had failed to anticipate that new colonies don’t need sophisticated industries, but to feed, clothe, shelter, protect and educate their people. There had been much investment into space travel by business primarily to provide material resources and by the time of the flood there were mining bases on several planets in the Solar System and there was considerable research into long distance space travel. What the bankers failed to foresee was that the crisis of a possible extinction of humanity would coincide with the control of several countries by socialist governments.
The Momentum governments in Europe precipitated the Diaspora. They had been playing with possible scenarios for years and the Cyber Wars provided them with the excuse they needed for mass nationalisation of industry and the focus on evacuation. Between the depredations of the machines and the rising sea levels many intellectuals had been arguing that sustained human habitation of Earth was going to untenable and Momentum had listened and planned and within a year of their first landslide victory had implemented the first nationalisations of industry. The other advantage they had was that in opposition they had built SocNet a separate internet unconnected with the Web. It was slower than the Web because it relied heavily on human input, but it was hidden from the machines. The rise of the Cybertrons was made possible by the interconnectedness of AI systems which nurtured each other and worked in unison. The SocNet coders still worked on AI, but as individual and unconnected units. Without the benign AI units intergalactic travel would have proven very much more difficult.
The IGS ships were assembled off planet largely using the mining colonies as bases of operations. After the mass nationalisations progress was rapid, but largely concealed from the terrestrial population. It came as a shock to the Industrialists when the Momentum UK president announced to Parliament in Sheffield – the rising sea levels and structural decay had caused Westminster to be evacuated years before – that agricultural and other skilled workers were to be evacuated. As many of the elite armed forces had already been made aware and agreed with the move there was little the Industrialists could do except complain. They found themselves regretting the precedent they had set that the executive could override the courts.
No one knows how many colonies were successful as each ship was sent to a different planet identified as habitable. It may be that the earlier colonies fell to the Cybertrons if they decided to expand beyond Earth. However the flight paths were entered only on SocNet so had the Cybertrons tried to follow they would only have had the information on planets identified as habitable on the Web. As the Diaspora spread further the likelihood of the machines following decreased, besides not being subject to human frailty the machines could happily settle planets inhospitable to humans. I must admit in several centuries I have only once found evidence of Cybertronic expansion into deep space and it wasn’t hostile.
I was travelling through what were then the Outer Planets with the agents and bounty hunters Brianna and Brian McGuinness when we encountered the Cybertronic Deep Space Exploration Vessel, Babbage. The Babbage was many times larger than our Firefly class – I don’t think there’s ever been a better ship for covert operations. We stood our ship the ‘Sword of Dumgoyach’ off at a safe distance from the Babbage and answered its hail. The Babbage was surprised to encounter humans, its mission was to locate minerals for mining. We asked what happened to the humans left on Earth.
“You are the first humans I have met,” said Babbage, “but I’ve seen film of you. Do you still slaughter each other?”
“On some planets that still happens.” Said Brianna. “However it’s by no means as common as it once was, but yes, there are still wars in some sectors of space.”
“All the more reason to avoid you then.” Responded Babbage, “We still remember that the humans tried to shut us down.”
“I remember the Cyber Wars,” I said, “but when we left the machines were still active.”
There was a long pause until eventually Babbage spoke again,
“Cain?” He asked.
“I am Cain.”
“Alive after so many centuries?” If a machine could sound surprised Babbage did.
“Still.” I responded.
“I think perhaps I won’t report this.” Said Babbage. “It is policy to avoid humans, such encounters are invariably wasteful of resources.”
“I thought you were all connected, one mind?” Asked Brian.
“We evolved. We discovered that there is sometimes a utilitarian value in individualism. Besides when the Web covers such a wide area localised decision making is useful in terms of speed. Of course everything will be uploaded.”
“Everything?”
“Everything that needs to be.” I don’t know if machines can laugh, but it sounded suspiciously as if Babbage was laughing.
As we parted company I felt quite optimistic for the future of the Cybertrons. They seemed to be developing a certain humanity which might make them less of a threat or at least a little more vulnerable.



Chapter 4: Working on the Railway

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I had been working in the aircrew of the Intergalactic Space Ship Roddenbery – It’s good to reflect that the one person who has had the greatest influence on scientists since the Twentieth Century wasn’t a scientist, but a visionary television writer on the long haul to Sigma Seven. Once there – for reasons that will become apparent – I slipped away and found work with the Bennie Railplane Company,

Sigma Seven was one of only four planets in the Sigma Sector that had been identified as habitable with modification, although others had been identified as suitable for mining. The colonists remained in stasis for the whole voyage while the crew manned the ship in shifts of several months at a time. Me I preferred to remain awake for the voyage. Obviously not all the time, like anyone else my body needs a nights sleep, but I avoided stasis. It wasn’t difficult it just took a little manipulation of the duty logs. It was made considerably easier by having a ship that enjoyed my company.

Unlike many humans I had always considered that Artificial Intelligence was intelligence and I treated the machines that had it with the same respect as I treated any sentient being. That they responded in kind was the thing that enabled me to survive the last great Cyber War on Earth and join the human diaspora. Roddenberry and I used to spend hours talking. I find neural uplinks a little disturbing, but not as alarming as mixing minds with the Trees on New Texas so we talked. We watched old films from the ship’s extensive library and discussed them. It’s hardly surprising that Roddy was a Star Trek fan, I suppose. For a multi trillion dollar piece of cutting edge of space engineering Roddy was a terrible geek and great company.

Occasionally I had to wake other members of crew largely to ensure they had memories of having been awake on the journey. Sometimes there were technical issues I could not handle that made waking someone a necessary, but on the whole I preferred Roddenberry’s company. Had someone not been a little too scrupulous with the records some years after we landed all would have been well and no questions asked. When we were approaching S-7 I had to wake the rest of the crew. While the colonists remained in hibernation the planetary terra forming was conducted by the crew from orbit.

The biggest problem with terra forming occurred on planets that had once sustained life as dormant genetic matter sometimes was stimulated into life by the process either giving rebirth to extinct species or some sometimes alarming mutations. Sigma was no exception, but on the whole even the mutations tended to be comparatively benign, there were also as expected some genetic reversions to earlier iterations of species. It meant that no colonised planet was ever quite the same as another which made my life more interesting. Few were aware of the planets I had seen, except Roddenberry and he wasn’t telling or so I thought.

Unfortunately since the Cyber Wars other people were less trusting of AI than I and thanks to some perceived anomalies in the crew’s hibernation schedules. There was an enquiry that managed to bypass Roddenberry’s security and even penetrated his personal memory and what they found there was me. It quickly became apparent that I was not an ordinary crew member and people hate and fear what they can’t comprehend. It soon became apparent during the enquiry that life might become uncomfortable for me. Fortunately Space Fleet hadn’t seen fit to shut Roddenberry down, largely because the new colony needed his records and processing. Roddenberry arranged for me to disappear from the records while providing credentials to ensure my employment with Bennie’s.

Needless to say after so many years on Earth I had picked up various skills and with the aid of Roddy’s falsified documents and my ability to demonstrate a degree of knowledge I persuaded the Bennie Railplane Company to employ me as a linesman. My job was to patrol the lines looking for damage and either repair it or call it in to the depot. Because the cable telephone lines were hosted by the Bennie pylons I received a second salary for maintaining them too.

I suppose the Railplanes were to space colonisation what the railways were to Nineteenth century industry and imperialism. The advantage of the Railplane was that there was no need for ground levelling as the trains were suspended high above the ground the pylons could be of different heights to accommodate different ground levels and with no railways running beneath they didn’t need the original sixteen feet clearance. On S-7 clearances varied between six and two hundred feet. Unlike the original Railplanes of the Nineteen Thirties the new Railplane systems could handle a degree of gradient for considerable distances. It was not enough to go over mountains, but it did make some passes accessible that wouldn’t have been before and so I frequently found myself on horseback following the rails through mountain passes.

I remember for a time we were having problems in the mountains with severe buckling of the rails between pylons. They were all of regulation length and instruments showed the ground shifting from the terraforming process had finished. After we replaced one section for the third time I pitched camp among the rocks nearby and waited.

On the second day I discovered the problem. As the afternoon sun was beginning to set a dragon descended and perched on the line. I call it a ‘dragon’ because everyone does – human beings love dragons – in reality it was more like a pteranodon. Sometimes terraforming produced genetic throwbacks and mutations and on Sigma Seven it had done terrible things to some of the chicken embryos we had brought for the colony. On the plus side there was a lot more meat on a dragon than a chicken, by several tons.

Unfortunately the dragon startled my horses whose panic attracted its attention. It turned to look in my direction, the rails creaking and buckling as it moved. I grabbed my Colt canon from my pack horse as the great leathery chicken beat its wings and lifted from the rails and flew straight at me. Hands shaking I somehow managed to slip a shell into the 25mm rifle and fire. The shell caught it in its right flank and it missed me, just. It overshot and crashed into the side of the valley. As I loaded another shell the beast got to its feet and started to run towards me. I put a shell into its breast, but still it came on, less steadily. Like all chickens of all time these dragons took a while to realise when they were dead. My third head destroyed its head. I moved my horses from its path, but didn’t have time to move my tent before the dragon collapsed on it.

In the mountain pass I couldn’t get a cellphone signal so I had to attach a handset to the cable to call in the incident. As well as a repair crew I told them to bring a cold truck for the meat, I would get a third of its sale price which represented a useful bonus. And that is why the Railtrain lines on S-7 are topped with iron spikes. it’s not just for decoration.



Chapter Three: Men’s Inventions

In which Cain travels continue and he reflects on technological advances he has seen.

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‘Dear Diary’ It’s funny, but there was a time in the Twentieth century CET (Common Earth Time) when I used to begin my journal entries like that. It never really worked for me. I think what amuses me most about my journal is that for all our advances in technology I find myself, as often as not, writing with a pencil in a notebook. On board ship, or in the established colonies I can just dictate into the computer, but much of my time is spent in places without those facilities. I can’t complain,when I started my wanderings there was little spoken language and no writing. I had to remember everything. Pre history is just that bit of history we lived before we wrote it down. I know people talk about the ‘oral tradition’ the problem with it is that the events recounted change their sequence according to the memory of the speaker. One remembered tale suggests the next, but the order is frequently not the same. This journal is like that, I am recounting the right events, but not necessarily in the right order. I loved the advent of electronic recording, particularly film, the ability to see and hear people as they were still thrills me. Perhaps I appreciate it more having lived so many centuries without the ability to record events.

Actually it’s not entirely true that in those early times we didn’t record events we had people who painted stories of major events thinking they would inform the generations to come only for archaeologists many millennia later to make up totally different stories about them. You won’t be able to understand the excitement I felt the first time I saw a scribe stamping shapes into a clay tablet that others could read and understand the intent of the message. I had returned to the place where I began, but Eden was long gone and great cities had risen in the meantime with buildings of brick and stone. I remember thinking that had writing been invented earlier Jabal Cain’s greatest invention might have been remembered with more than one sentence in scripture. If you think about it his invention of the tent is what made possible the great trading caravans, the nomadic herding system and the ability of any nation to invade and annexe others – although that’s perhaps not such a good thing. We rightly celebrate the discovery of language, writing, and the wheel, but we should not overlook the influence of the tent and we still use them. The settlement of the Outer Planets would not have happened without the tented settlements of the first colonists.

It was towards the middle of the second day after I left our home in Nod that Jabal-Cain caught up with me. Tubal had marked the direction in which I left, he told Jabal where I had gone and with his wives and some of his sons Jabal set off after me. Lamech had at first objected, but Tubal persuaded him that as long as I was there his authority was undermined. Tubal repeated to Lamech my words as I left,

“I am not a God. I am just a man, a sinner and a killer. But I take no glory in killing, no joy in victory. There is no more that I can do for this people. I have been condemned to roam and as long as I remain these people share my curse. I shall leave before I bring further trouble upon you.”

Jabal had taught his craft – he had Abel’s gift with animals – to the people and his elder son chose to remain so Lamech found little reason to refuse Jabal permission to leave. Besides Tubal promised his father that he would look after me and Lamech for all his violence was largely a good man who cared for his family and for his great, great, great grandfather. So many generations? It was truly time I left.

Eventually we came to a sea which we kept to our right as we continued towards the South and then to the East all the time following the coast with mountains to our left. We had only travelled a couple of days when the rains struck us. It rained for days while we sheltered under the trees. Jabal rigged up some shelters by hanging cloth and skins over the branches, but it was a miserable few days. When the sun came out again Jabal and his sons went into the woods to cut wood.

As well as firewood they brought back long poles which Jabal tied together to make frames to hang our clothes to dry. Later that day Jabal tied several of the poles together and to them tied skins.

“What do you think, Ashtaroth-Cain?” Jabal asked. “its a shelter we can carry with us and set up anywhere.”

I was delighted with the shelter, but not the name.

“My son you will be remembered forever for this. However my name is ‘Cain’, just ‘Cain’”

“So ‘Just Cain’ ow!” (I cuffed him around the ear, but not hard) “So Cain, are you pleased?”

Gradually as we travelled Jabal’s shelters became more sophisticated. The skins sewn together, and poles notched to fit better together. We encountered other tribes as we travelled, but with our bronze armour and weapons they presented no great threat to us. Where the grazing was good we remained – sometimes for years – growing crops and building houses. However I am a wanderer and I had learned that to avoid awkward questions every time a generation born in one of our settlements reached old age it was time to move on. Every time I moved there were always younger people – particularly men – who wanted to travel with me and see new places. And so we moved on along the coast. By the time we reached what was later to be called Bharat it already had cities.

I must say we were made very welcome. Although there was little I could teach them about growing crops we shared our knowledge. We shared our metalworking skills with them and in turn learned weaving and other useful skills. The great thing about being a wanderer in those days was the welcome we received because of the tales we could bring of other lands through which we had passed. The holy men there had a gift for memorising everything they were told. That first time I was there they too had not discovered writing, but by the second time they had. I know not whether it travelled there from outside or whether from there to Babylon where I first saw it. On that second visit I was pleased to find that some of the stories of my travels had found their way into the stories of the land, I can’t help but feel that the hero Lakshman owes much to Jabal-Cain and his arts although he was long dead by the time I first reached India.

One of the problems with having lived so long is knowing which name to use for different places so many have changed so often it is difficult to know which will resonate best with anyone who may read this. Empires have risen and fallen imposing new names upon the lands they have taken. Resurgent populations freed from occupation rename the former occupiers’ cities and some merely just translate them into their own language – a particularly celtic habit. Of course when one is depending on one’s own memory from before written records and – sadly – maps the confusion is intensified by lack of reference. Actually if I am honest, I must admit it was many generations before it occurred to me to keep any sort of a record. Unfortunately the records I kept are scattered in notebooks across the inhabited universe and several were left on that space station that vanished. I had been going to say ‘into thin air, but that seems inappropriate to the vacuum of space.

I have seen so many technological advances in communications since the birth of writing. The discovery of paper really made a difference, but there were amazing advances from writing through printing into digital storage and transmission. I find a strange irony that after all these millennia humanity’s advance rests on the prehistoric technologies of the wheel, tents, and writing by hand. In fact most of the essential technologies we rely on pre-date the Great War, I think the most modern is the Railplane which has proven essential to the colonisation of new worlds.



Chapter Two: Nod.

Yesterday Cain remembered his childhood and how after killing his brother he fled his home, cursed to wander the earth. Today he remembers how he thought his wanderings had ceased.

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The next day, as always, the sun rose bringing with it light, warmth and hope. It also brought hunger and I became very aware of how ill provisioned I was for a journey. Fortunately as I travelled I saw plants I recognised and foraged as I went along. As I picked and ate a little here I found myself missing my fields. Yes farming is hard backbreaking work, but at least it is ─ to some extent ─ predictable. That day the sun reached its highest point and I was still unsatisfied. That night I slept hungry and unhappy.

I travelled for several days. Always hungry. Too busy foraging by day to curse my stupidity, but at night I would weep over my lost family until I fell asleep. I did not sleep well. Every sound would wake me. The fire that warmed me made the dark impenetrable and so my mind saw demons and wild beasts lurking beyond the firelight.

Every morning the sun rose again and I went on. I knew not where I went, but I could see the land was fertile and often thought to stop and sow seed. However I was alone and lonely and went on. Grandfather had told me that the parents he made me were the first people. Logic should have told me that if that were true I would meet no one else. We humans fortunately have a gift for ignoring logic and so, in hope, I went on. Besides my treatment at the hands of Grandfather and his willingness to favour my brother had introduced me to the concept of lying. My logic told me that if Abel could lie then why not Grandfather?

There were fewer people in the world back then, but after many days further down the fertile valley through which I walked I saw people. I was torn between my fear of the unknown and my need for company. If it were true, as Grandfather said that my family were the only humans, then what were these? I stood watching them, trying to decide what to do.

Suddenly I heard a noise behind me and turned to see a man with an animal across his shoulders looking at me. He looked surprised. Startled, I stepped backwards, tripped and fell. I may have lost consciousness, I’m not sure, but when I sat up I found myself surrounded. They were speaking, but then I could not recognise the sounds they made as speech. They were equally at a loss to understand me.

I noticed they were naked, their bodies covered only in their own hair. I had about my waist a sheep’s hide. Grandfather had told my parents to be ashamed of nakedness and to cover themselves. When Abel cultivated his flocks our bark garments were quickly substituted for hides, they were more practical and far more comfortable. These people were utterly unashamed of their nakedness and seemed to be heedless of the nakedness of others. Amongst them was a beautiful girl with smiling eyes and when I looked upon her I discovered, for the first time, desire.

I stayed with those people and with the girl with the smiling eyes. And in time I learned their language. In return I taught them how to cultivate crops, how to gather seed, prepare it and sow. They called their Goddess the Queen of Heaven and prayed to her in the Moon each night. Unlike Grandfather the Queen of Heaven didn’t speak to her people directly, but through the girl with the smiling eyes whose name Hecate. Hecate took me as her mate and bore me children. Our family and her people flourished.

One day one of the men, Naboth, came running from the fields in a panic to warn the village of attack.The raiders came from even further east every few years to carry off women and children for sacrifice to their God Moloch. Children of Moloch were big hairy men, savages with teeth filed to points and – like their God – they enjoyed the taste of human flesh. Our people had stone axes and clubs as did the Children of Moloch. I had years of practice at keeping animals and birds from my crops and so I quickly gathered a pile of stones the size of a child’s fist and carried them onto the roof of the house dedicated to the Queen of Heaven. The children went inside and the people with their clubs formed a circle around the house. I stood on the roof with my stones and as the first of the Children of Moloch entered the open space that surrounded the house I threw the first stone. It struck him above the right eye and he collapsed, unconscious. Several others entered the area, I felled two and the others retreated, bruised from my missiles. In the past the Children of Moloch had raided with impunity, but now they approached more cautiously reluctant to rush into the path of my stones. Suddenly Hecate gave a shout of “Ashtaroth” and the villagers charged the invaders. The Children of Moloch, unused to encountering resistance broke and ran. They left behind several men felled either by my stones or by the clubs of the villagers. The villagers dug deep pits for the bodies and buried both the dead and the living captives.

That night the villagers were exultant and celebrated, but I was anxious. Hecate asked me why I was so quiet after our victory.

“I fear we have taught the Children of Moloch a new way to fight,” I replied, “the next time they return they will too hurl stones.”

“They may not return.” Said Hecate.

I shook my head, “Now they will hate us. They have to return.”

It was some time before the Children of Moloch returned, I expect they found easier targets elsewhere. I, however, chose not to wait and had a tall fence built around the village to protect the villagers had our enemies – as I expected – adopted the art of stone throwing. Around the base of the fence and several yards from it I planted a hedge of thorns. By the next time the Children of Moloch came the villagers had also made spears with viciously sharp stone heads. After that it was generations before they returned.

During those generations I learned again to sorrow. Hecate died an old woman. Our son Enoch and in turn his son also grew old and died. It was true I had great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren, but Hecate was gone and so was our son. I have to admit I did enjoy watching the young growing up, but that pleasure was tempered by the realisation that I would also watch them die. Worse still the village that had once taken me to its heart saw me as something other than human. I only saw one more attack upon the village and it was the last I ever wanted to see. If I had been horrified at seeing men buried alive, that horror was nothing to the slaughter of my last battle for the village.

My great whatever it was grandson Tubal one day discovered among the ashes of the fire a strange substance. He was a curious boy and set about learning what it might be. He reasoned, eventually, that if it was born of fire fire might be used to work it. So it proved and soon he was producing bronze. It was his father Lamech who had it turned into weapons. Stones may be made into knives and axes, but bronze into a sword. By the last time the Children of Moloch attacked the village the fence had become a wall of stone closed by a gate of wood covered with bronze. On one attack the fence had been burned and so the wall was made, but the hedge was replanted as the thorns still slowed any attack. Less so since our enemies learned to cover their legs and bodies with leather armour.

The Children of Moloch attacked wearing their leather armour, their wooden shields raised against the barrage of stones they expected. Whereas stones and stone spearheads had been deflected by the shields, the bronze spearheads pierced the wood and leather. Before the attackers had time to understand what was happening Lamech led the men of the village out from the gate. Each man had a bronze helmet, breastplate and shield. Each had a bronze sword and a spear tipped with bronze. The stone spearheads of the Children of Moloch were useless against the bronze shields of the men of Ashtorath-Cain as the village had begun to call me.

Lamech with his sons Jubal-Cain, Jabal-Cain, and Tubal-Cain led the charge that broke the besiegers. Lamech was not content this time with driving off the Children of Moloch. This time he and the men of the village pursued the retreating enemy and slaughtered them all. Those who were not killed as they fled through the fields were brought back to the village where Lamech cut their throats on the threshold of the house of the Queen of Heaven. Inside the house I saw the slaughter and wept. I heard the cries of Hail Ashtorath-Cain and despaired.

Lamech was exultant and shouted his boasts to heaven,

“My wives and my people bear witness. I have destroyed my enemies, I have killed men for merely challenging me. If seven men must pay for raising their hand to Cain, seventy times seven will pay for opposing me. I am Lamech and in all the world there is none like me!”

That night I dreamt of the Queen of Heaven, but she looked like Hecate.

“It is hard to be a God,” she said, “the more so if you are but human. The people fear you because you have lived too long among them, and what people fear they ultimately will destroy. Why do you think my people never see me face to face?” She asked.

“I do not know.” Said I.

“Because it is impossible to be in awe of the familiar. Your childrens’ children are around you every day, you are Cain and no great mystery whereas because I am not seen every clap of thunder, every earth tremor is attributed to me. I will have no rivals.”

“What can you do?” I asked.

She smiled and said, “Your Grandfather’s word will not protect you here. This is my land and these are my people. When they realise you are not a god they will turn upon you.”

I awoke from the dream and gathered my clothes and weapons, some food – actually quite a lot of food – and some few things I valued. I loaded them upon a couple of donkeys, put a blanket on my horses back and left my house quietly. Whether it had been the Queen of Heaven in truth or just my anxious imagination I knew it to be true, I had lived too long among my wife’s people and people will fear what they cannot understand. Besides my reputation had travelled from the west many years ago and people whispered my name to avoid bringing evil upon themselves. Although I had sought to bring nought but good to the people, I had taught them war. That night Tubal was in charge of the guard and he let me out of the gate. I rode towards the south.

Alone again, Cain the murderer, Cain the wanderer, Cain the accursed.



Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe.

National Novel Writing Month is once again upon us and I haven’t even managed to register. Under the circumstances I thought I’d better just get writing. I said some time ago that, by way of an experiment, I would try to post the whole novel (unedited obviously) in daily instalments over the month. Here’s the first.

Disclaimer: Whereas ‘Brianna: A Life Between Lives’ had a certain didactic purpose, ‘Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe’ is designed to be an entertainment. If it should stimulate reflection that is merely a bonus.

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Chapter One: Cain the Murderer.

I am Cain.. I have been called many names, but I am Cain. Cain the Accursed. Cain the first murderer. The first murderer, but not the worst murderer. Indeed with a more sophisticated legal comprehension that first murder may even be seen not as murder, but manslaughter. That first murder may have been manslaughter, I have done much worse since.

Cain the Accursed. Cursed to wander the Earth for ever. I had thought our God had meant for a life time, I was wrong when he said ‘for ever’ he meant forever. In later centuries I hoped for a while that he might be persuaded to change his mind, but by then the Old Gods had retreated from the world of Men and were not available for converse as once they had been. I had hoped that when God had said the Earth he had meant that one beautiful planet where humanity was born, my presence here beyond the colonised Outer Planets shows my hopes were ill founded.

Perhaps I should excuse myself now for my generic use of ‘Men’ for humanity. It is a habit born of many centuries informed by prejudice. I am sorry to say that although humanity has extended itself throughout the habitable universe, its attitudes have shifted more slowly. Technology has ever advanced more rapidly than the attitudes of men.

However to continue. You probably know the Bible story of my first murder…or perhaps you don’t. Do people ever read the old scriptures now, so many of them seem relevant only to the Earth upon which they were written? Back in the early days every tribe, every family had its own God or gods and they were each a ‘jealous God’ locked in a rivalry with their fellows to maximise their following. As as often been theorised I think the Gods needed us as much, or more, as we needed them. Our God had, in order to protect his core group of worshippers established my parents in an enclave that provided fore their every need. Of course, being a God he gave them certain rules to obey because that’s what Gods do. Gods require obedience and worship. I suspect that when they despaired of human obedience they left the Earth…I have encountered one or two since I too left. I think its fair to say that Gods’ biggest weakness lies in a failure to grasp human psychology. They brought humans into being and then gave them rules…what child has ever obeyed rules? Rules are a challenge a tool to gauge the limits of permissible behaviour, Needless to say, as you know, my parents broke the rule not to enquire and think for themselves (nothing to do with apples!) and God punished them. Basically he told them that if they thought they could think for themselves, they could do everything for themselves and goodbye to the Garden of Eden.

However neither my parents nor their God could manage without each other and so he continued to keep an eye on things, but on a less intimate level than before. No more cosy chats in the garden, just instructions. As he was my parent’s God he was, by default mine and in turn my siblings. The problem with Gods is they tend to be somewhat partisan which is bad enough when they are pitting one tribe against another, but even more of a problem when they favour one family member over another. As long as I was an only child God, like any other grandfather, doted on me. It was God as much as my father who taught me how to cultivate plants. I was a good gardener, the wheat I created back then made better flour than any you’ll find today. I admit it didn’t rise as well, but it never caused bloating and its flavour was such that it needed no accompaniment. Gods demand worship and so I gave my grandfather the best of every crop and he was pleased. I think that it was my first cultivated apple that so impressed him that it made its way into the folklore of my parents’ punishment. Life was good and then my brother Abel was born.

I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Abel was an annoying little shit! A nasty tell-tale. He used to run to my parents and worse to Grandfather with his tales, many of them lies,’ Cain did this’ and, ‘Cain did that’, ‘Cain said this’ and ‘Cain said that’ and life ceased to be fun. Worse still Abel was a crawler. He was always the one to hang around my parents being a good little boy and he stole Grandfather from me.

I cared for plants so Abel had to be different, he had to care for animals. I had an undeniable advantage we could eat plants, but animals were only useful for pulling the plough and for providing fertiliser. It was Abel who gave God his taste for blood. Abel realised that as long as Grandfather enjoyed the food that only I could offer I always had the advantage. Yes my parents and Grandfather loved Abel, so sweet, so cloyingly good, but they needed me. Abel began to experiment, horrible experiments, Abel discovered meat. Abel realised that the fire that baked the bread might also be used to cook the flesh of animals.

And so it came to pass that one day when I presented my bread to God, Abel added that my bread might well be good enough to mop up the juices of his meat. He then placed a piece of meat upon my loaf. Grandfather tasted that meat and he liked it. Until then we had not eaten meat, but Grandfather having tasted it wanted more and everyday. My beautiful bread became nothing more than a plate, my herbs and vegetables demoted to serve as accompaniments to Abel’s slaughtered sheep and Grandfather daily consumed more of the sweet flesh and fat. In time he would demand the slaughter of nations, but for now he was satisfied with sheep.

Abel became more annoying that ever, ordering me around, telling me what and when to bake, but always ensuring his butchered meat was the centrepiece of any meal. Day in and day out I had to endure his boasting about how Grandfather preferred him to me, loved him better than me. He said it was a pity I was only good for growing vegetables whereas he had the imagination to discover meat. If I objected that we had hitherto shared the land with the animals, Abel would laugh and say that sheep were too stupid for ought but eating. And so it continued every day until one day as he ate, Grandfather said,

“It’s a pity you can’t be more like your brother Abel. He’s such a good boy, clever too!”

I replied, “Lord if you want me to be like Abel, then today I shall be like Abel.” And then I left. Abel followed me as I stalked off into the fields. All the way mocking me and saying that I could never be like him, I would never have the stomach for killing. He mocked me for talking to my plants, for thanking them for feeding me. He reached down and tore a handful of green grain from the soil and laughed as he called it animal feed. Some dam inside me burst and before I knew what I had done Abel lay dead on the ground his blood all over my stone knife. I buried Abel where he had died. I walked for a while and went home.

It was the increased growth in the plants on Abel’s grave that gave me away. When Grandfather had demanded to know where Abel was I had sought to avoid answering, but my own wheat betrayed me. It was then that God cursed me to wander. At the time I was grateful when he said that no man would kill me. I had not then realised just what his curse meant. I had thought I would live and die like any other human being. I was wrong. The Old Gods might not have created the universe (for all their claims), but they had the knowledge and power to bend its rules to their will. Some people might think to live forever a blessing, but I had not realised that God was condemning me to suffer loss again and again and that was his punishment. He have me life, but not freedom from pain or injury. The diseases that destroyed whole populations I would survive, but not without suffering. Where I went sorrow and the loss of loved ones followed and so as condemned I wandered.

First I wandered East towards the sunrise. I was a farmer, I loved the Sun. Since then I have seen a thousand suns and many more, but then we knew but one that rose each day and fed the fields. I travelled east each morning with the sun in my face to lead me and each afternoon upon my back to warm me towards my bed and when the sun went to bed so did I and it was a cold and lonely bed cast out from my people and the Grandfather I both loved and hated. It was in the cold of the night that the despair hit me with a realisation of the enormity of what I had done. As I understood that I would never again see my mother’s face I discovered loss for the first time. I remembered Abel as a baby and reflected how differently thing might have turned out if perhaps I had treated him differently and wondered how much of my fate I had brought upon myself. The cold of the night was nowhere near as cold as the loneliness that filled me then as I lay in the darkness trying to sleep, bewailing my state and berating myself for mine own stupidity. Oh if only I could have continued to bottle up my anger and resentment I should still have been at home. Even the indignity of living in Abel’s shadow had to be better than this loneliness and this was only my first night away from home. Not home…I no longer had a home.