Flowers for Humanity

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I was walking across the quad one day, carrying a bunch of flowers, just minding my own business. A Master of the Universe passed me by, deep in thought. I bowed my head, as per school regulations. She stopped and turned. “What is life, the universe, and everything else really all about?”

I froze solid, petrified with fear. “What… who… me?”

“I am not on this occasion addressing my remarks to the green, green grass of home. By the way, the sign says keep off, so please do.” I jumped back onto the beaten path of hard-packed fine-grained sand. She waved several of her tentacles in laughter.

(Image by <a href="">swantjebiehler</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>)
(Image by swantjebiehler from Pixabay)

“A man once answered this question with a magic number, which was of great value.”

“Go on.”

“As it turns out, forty-two is only a partial solution to the problem.”


“The full and complete answer takes the following mathematical form.” I drew a line in the sand, and dutifully completed both sides of the equation:

“What is all this nonsense about?” she asked.

“This is the fundamental equation of life in this universe. I can’t speak for any of the others. I don’t get around that much.” I hung my head at the maximum angle of modesty as designated in the rulebook for my particular species.

“Tell me about k.”

“As you know, k represents the initial starting point of any journey, quest, or goal-oriented decision process.”

“Should not all decisions begin at zero and end at one, using appropriate scalars?”

“Conventionally speaking, that is true.”

“And unconventionally?”

“The only time progress can be made is when decision makers successfully overcome opposition from the universe. This generally requires values of k that are greater than zero.” The Master leaned over and frowned down at me with rigid tentacles. “But less than one,” I added quickly.

She relaxed her tentacles into a broad smile. “I see.” She bobbed up and down in a friendly nod. “Who are these decision makers of which you speak?”

“Decision makers may take almost any form. Sentient beings are the most important of these, naturally.”

“More important than gods?” The Master swelled in size, extending rigid tentacles in all directions.

“No, Master. Not that. Never that.”

“Why do you belittle the role of non-sentient beings?”

“I apologize for any misunderstanding. All of life has value. All lifeforms make decisions. Every decision is important in its own way. Every decision maker is important in their own way.”

“What is your problem, Amen? Do you have something personal against the non-living by any random chance?”

The Master knew my name! An amazing thrill rushed through my immortal soul like a whirlwind that suddenly finds itself on the correct path to meet its real, true, and final destiny.

My massively distributed consciousness coalesced and burst into bright blue flame. “I always thought there was a fundamental difference between life and death, between the living and the non-living, between the animate and the inanimate.”

“It ain’t necessarily so.”

“The entire universe is alive?”

“It would be more correct to say that the entire universe is both dead and alive, simultaneously.”

“Then how can you tell the difference?”

“You can’t. Not until…”

“You open Pandora’s box?”

“It doesn’t have to be her box especially.” The Master’s tentacles shook with laughter. “Seriously, Amen, to which types of decisions does the fundamental equation apply?”

“To all decisions, Master.”

“Really? The fundamental equation can be used to predict the future with perfect accuracy and precision?”

“The fundamental equation describes how decisions unfold as a discrete function of time—”

“The equation you showed me is continuous in nature, is it not?”

“Yes, Master. And it really applies only to the gods, with all due respect.” I bowed in formal obeisance.

“Are decisions in this universe discrete or continuous in nature?”

“All of the decisions that have ever been made or ever will be made in this universe are discrete in nature, Master. Technically speaking, the continuous equation is appropriate only to describe the decisions of that particular class of gods that subsume the entire universe within their being.”

“That leaves you and me out, doesn’t it?”

“Even so, Master.”

“This makes the continuous equation a particularly useless tool, doesn’t it?”

“Not quite, Master. It’s useful for illustration purposes.”

“That’s all?”

“It can be used to approximate results for decision processes that involve very large numbers.”

“What else?”

“That’s it, Master. That’s all she wrote.”

“I’m shocked.”

“Don’t be, Master. This is your universe, after all.”

“Close enough for government work.”

I held my flowers close to my breast. The Master extended a pseudopod and fingered several stamens. “So pretty.”

“These are called poinsettias, Master.”

“You think I don’t know the names of my own creations?”

“From an evolutionary perspective—”

“Don’t talk to me about evolution, Amen. Wasn’t it you that modified humanity two hundred thousand years ago?”

I hung my head in shame. Such a disaster! I would never have another chance like that again. No, not ever.

“Where are you going, Amen?”

I was going to place these flowers on a quiet grave that signified the end of all my hopes and fears, all my dreams and nightmares, all my formerly vaunted ambition.

“It’s good that you show remorse, Amen. We must all accept responsibility for our own actions. Otherwise, what kind of universe would this be?”

“Yes, Master.” I held back my tears as best I could.

The Master turned to leave, then hesitated. “Stop by my office next week, Amen. I may have a project you can help me with.”

My immortal soul floated free and clear. Second chances don’t come easy. To be allowed to work for Mother Nature herself!


This story previously appeared in Antipodean Science Fiction.
Edited by Marie Ginga

Keech maintains an ominous presence somewhere (out there) in the desert southwest of the human mind. Keech has concocted a strange brew of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry since the current crisis began. A few of these manqué misfits are available as podcasts. Recent examples of Keech's variable mood swings may be unleashed at: Ellipsis Zine, Outlander Zine, Antipodean SF, and Kalonopia Collective.