Bereft a competent secretary, O’Gawd had resorted to calling the security desk and asked them to cancel all his appointments and meetings for the day. “We have already suspended all entries into the Asylum because of the break-in, sir.” The Head of Security informed him.
“Some reporter from The Daily Planet got past one of our guards. We will track her down.”
“Track her wherever, just not in my office. Is that clear?”
“Clear, sir. Have a good day.” He said, and they hung up. “No one should disturb us now.” O’Gawd said. And then his phone started ringing. He answered, and listened for ten-seconds, before barking out his reply, “No, I am not under duress. No reporter has…I will not say the security word. Now leave me alone. And no more calls are to be redirected to my office for rest of the day.” He said and hung up. “Now, no one should disturb us.” And then, there was a knock at his door, and a request to parlay. “Leave us alone, I don’t want distractions today.” O’Gawd shouted.
Emil, astutely sensing a rescue-operation in the soon and the subsequent risk of being mistaken for a girl for the second time that day, diffused the situation by getting up and opening the door and shouting, “No girl! There is no girl here! See?”
“We are very sorry, sir.” The guard said. Emil was glad to be a sir again. He sent the guard off with O’Gawd’s lunch order and sat down again, “Now,” he said, “no one should disturb us.”
“Emil, just how much is Zara paying you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I will pay you ten percent more than whatever you are earning now. You will make a competent secretary.”
Later, as Emil finished telling O’Gawd everything that had happened to Inora and him over the course of the week, the wrong lunch had arrived, got sent back, and come back corrected but soggy and cold. O’Gawd had rescinded his earlier offer.
“You have no idea where she is now?” O’Gawd asked.
Emil shook his head, “No idea. She just upped and disappeared.”
“Oh, Inora, Inora. All these years and she has not changed a bit. She is certainly not lacking in chutzpah, is she?”
“No. Not at all.” Emil replied, “Nothing I told her fazed her even slightly.”
“Just enraged her more?” O’Gawd asked.
“Hah! Just enraged her more.” Emil replied.
Both men playfully shook their heads and thought nostalgically about Inora for a minute. Then, before things got creepier, O’Gawd spoke, “So, let me get this straight,” he said, “You, and Inora, do not wish to see the destruction of Earth and have come here to ask me to suspend the completion of AI?”
Emil nodded his head, “It seems such a waste, in any case. And also a logistical nightmare.”
“Logistics is Zara’s worry, not mine. Answer this, Emil. You spent a long time at Earth. What do you think of what we were trying to do?”
“You first. You shocked a lot of people out there today. Why have you decided to turn away after so long?”
“That’s no secret. I said as much during the press conference. The agencies built in some ornamental quirks into their stories to set them apart from the rest. But the core message was the same for all, I gave it to them. You see the problem? The ornamental quirks ended up becoming the only unique selling points for the campaigns. Focusing on the core message netted you no extra adherents. And they all wanted to win. They had to focus all their attention on the ostentatious yet vacuous parts of your story.”
“Do you think it was a mistake to try them all out together?”
“Dad always said that when making rounds of the wards, you can never be just one O’Gawd. You have to be different O’Gawd with different patients because their needs are all different. A local O’Gawd for every ward, every room. That is what I wanted to see with Earth. If different O’Gawds can co-exist.”
“You have a dad?”
“I certainly wasn’t willed into existence. Your turn now. Why do I sense you are not a fan of the campaigns?”
“They are not real, are they? They were constructed by people such as you and me.”
“The patients would never know that…”
“It would still be a falsehood!”
“But what does it matter? If you believe in something that makes you a better person, great. If that belief system does not tell you harm anyone, even better. And if it makes you help others, that is excellent. Who cares how valid that doctrine is? The campaigns had the potential of being exactly that, applied properly.”
“It is still a falsehood! A deception! You can get a lot more done with the truth!”
“The truth? Do you know the rate of people we actually manage to cure and send home without instances of recidivism?”
“Well you sugarcoat a little bit obviously.”
“That was the plan…the agencies dunked it in a vat of cornstarch-syrup but asked for the blood infidels to open the wrapper.”
“That metaphor fell apart completely the moment you said blood.”
“Should have said wine instead. But tell me, Emil, do you not have any irrational belief of your own that helps you be a better person? Helps you deal with the world when nothing seems to be going right?”
“Absolutely not! I am a rational being.”
“How about your imaginary friend? What did you call him…Blankie, was it not?”
“How do you…”
“We talked about him at great lengths during your short stay at the Asylum, Emil. But you were so young, do you remember any of that?”
“I was never here as a patient.” Emil said.
“I thought you looked familiar, so I searched your name in our database.”
“There are plenty of other Emils.”
“Who knows. I can only tell you what I know already. You had this uncanny ability of losing your pajama-bottoms under blankets overnight. Can you imagine? Go to bed perfectly dressed, and then conspire overnight to become bottomless. I figured this was just your way of acting-out. You were not in a good place in your life back then.
“You were small for your age. Shy, meek. Friendless and bullied. A scared little child that would not make eye-contact, when you came to me. I believe all your stress and inner discords manifested itself on the outside by…how do I put it…what is that earthman saying… rock out with your coc…”
“I am aware of the saying.”
“Yes, well, every time you went to sleep, your subconscious took over and it seemed like it was trying to rock its way through life…with your coc…”
“Yes, yes. I get that.”
“You may remember that that was also when your parents were getting divorced, and let’s say that they were stressed enough already. They did not have any particular inclinations to try and ease the trauma of their separation for you. If I read into the situation correctly, they were both of them taking their frustrations out on you. Which only made your condition worse.
“This one time, they told me, you dozed off while waiting for an interview with the principal of a highly prestigious kindergarten they were trying to get you into, and when you woke up, you had you c…”
“Oh God just stop saying that!”
“My bad.” O’Gawd put his hand up, “I know this is traumatic for you. I want you feel safe in this office and know that you can say anything you wish to say. We do not belittle each other here. If you need to cry…”
“Stop shrinking me!”
“Suit yourself. This is why I never do any pro-bono work. Well, as the story goes, facing the scorn of your bullies, the wrath of your parents, and your personal demons was too much for such a young boy. You began to blame yourself for their separation; or rather, blame your exhibitionism as the cause for…”
“I am not an exhibitionist!”
“No, no. of course not. We cured you up good in this place. But when you arrived to us for the first time, you were living in mortal fear of some monster, some unknown, supernatural entity that prowled around the beds of children at night, feasting on their discarded pieces of clothing.
“You started refusing to sleep and your parents, whichever one you were living with, abandoned you to your own devices. When you fell asleep anyway no matter how much you tried not to, you decided to just go without pants, and then they abandoned you to my institution. Do you remember all this?”
“Now I do.”
“Good, very good. You had not repressed anything. That is very healthy.”
“I actually had repressed all the details until you began speaking about it.”
“Any who, I personally worked on you for weeks and still failed to get to the bottom of things. Heh, hehehe, bottom of things. Get it Emil? Since you were bottomless, there was no getting to the bottom of things. Oh haha. I tried my best, Emil. You have to believe me. But whatever was bothering you was beyond me. When I realized I could do nothing to help you, I tried to circumnavigate your problem altogether.
“I managed to convince you that the monster you were so afraid of was actually a loving, caring friend who only visited you on nights you needed him the most.
“That worked miracles, Emil. Every night that ‘Blankie showed up’, you would sit in bed the next morning, trying to figure out what had gone wrong the previous day. You were finally focusing on yourself. You started showering regularly. You began to stand up for yourself. Once you left us, your grades improved. You made new friends. All because you believed in a magic-being who loved you and wanted to see you do your best and was always there for you when you needed him.”
“You fed me lies? You son of a bitch!”
“Actually, I am the son of a…”
“You were my doctor and you fed me lies!”
“Only to help you, my boy. I did the same thing to Inora’s grandfather.”
“Your anxieties stemmed from the world around you. So I gave you something nice about the world – a benevolent being of immense power. Imam’s anxieties were internal; he had shaky nerves and no faith himself. So I got him to believe that he was extremely important. I gave him self-worth by telling him his existence is not without a reason, that he was key to the grand plan. You do the best that you can for your patients.”
“Someone should report you to the Ethics Committee.”
“And as the head of the Ethics Committee, I can already tell you what our decision is going to be.”
“But wait,” Emil suddenly exclaimed, “whatever did happen to all my pajama-bottoms?”
“I don’t know, Emil. That’s not the important part.”
“You never even tried to figure it out?”
“I had many patients, Emil, and no time to go sniffing around for a patient’s used pajama-bottoms.”
“But figuring that out may be the key to everything!”
“I had this other patient, Emil. Every night, he would dream that he was eating a giant marshmallow.”
“And every morning, he would find that his pillow had disappeared.”
“I resent you for what you are insinuating.”
“Ahh, the burden of faith.”
“Perhaps Blankie is real!”
“Oh come on! Grow up already. When did he pay you his last ‘visit’ anyway? Towards the end of your grade school? Or did he stop much before that? I always meant to find out when you finally threw off the crutches.”
“Not important. If we could get back to the topic of Earth again. Where exactly did we settle on that, because that is why I am here. The Earth.”
“Ah yes. Look, Emil, your information is outdated.”
“What do you mean?”
“When Earth was constructed, we were sure we would get the answer very quickly; within a year at most. And once that came to pass, we were going to do-away with Earth and herd everyone back to the Asylum. But it took long; much too long. You do not expect me to squeeze seven billion people into my institution, do you?”
“What do you mean?”
“The problem with my asylum was over-crowding. Ever since we shipped the excess ones off, that problem has all but disappeared. We are going to keep it that way. And if over-crowding ever becomes a problem again, we are going to dump the most notorious ones on Earth again. That is the plan.”
“You mean to say that…”
“Zara-Decimators is not going to destroy your precious Earth. They will extract all the campaign materials and leave. The Earth will be left alone, to govern itself. Earth without religion…that is like you without Blankie, is it not? How well do you suppose you would have fared without him? But see? You have out-grown him, right? That tells me that perhaps the Earthians have grown up too. They had better, because they are on their own from next week. Now let us go find Inora. I have not seen her in almost two decades. How tall is she now?”