This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Things are not always what they are, or so some might say. Arag the Touched believes this in much the same way he believes he is not who he thinks he is. Needless to say, Arag is and has always been touched. Still, there might be something to his belief, a belief he believes is not what he believes it to be. He often feels muddled and tends to be uneasy, unsure of his surroundings, his motivations, his thoughts, and even his existence.
I would tell you Arag is our protagonist if it was true. But, then if I told you that there would always be the possibility that I am wrong, an all too likely possibility, given that I have written very few words of this story up until this point. That said, I will say Arag is a great candidate for protagonist of this story, despite the fact that he might be anything but the protagonist. Got it?
Arag is a Neanderthal. I mean that literally. He lives in a long lost age. He is the last of his kind and is about to be attacked by a human. That human, Bok, thinks Arag is an abomination. Bok believes all such abominations should be killed and has killed many of them, including women and children. Bok has a club. Arag has a leaf that he might soon use.
Right about now, Arag is relieving himself behind a large boulder, and Bok is standing on that boulder looking down at Arag.
Arag had been constipated for days. He knew this, but didn’t believe he knew it. Despite that, he squatted down to relieve himself.
Above him, on the boulder, Bok stared down at Arag, ready to jump down and club this abomination to death.
The sun was rising in the east, casting Bok’s shadow down the west side of the boulder, a shadow that Arag could see because he happened to be on the west side of the boulder. Unlike Bok, Arag had some small clue about shadows and what they meant, or not. Arag looked up just in time to see Bok jump down, club in hand.
Arag dodged to the side, swatting at the smaller human and knocking him down. Bok dropped the club as he fell and Arag picked it up. Bok got up and took a few steps back, wondering if the abomination would send him into the darkness of night, the netherworld for humans who died at the hands of abominations, and also that part of any given day that wasn't all that bright.
Arag did not want to kill this human. It was not his way.
Bok, ignorant of the fact that Arag didn’t really want to hurt him, launched at Arag and tried to knock him over, but Arag stepped to the side and threw Bok to the ground yet again.
Bok rose and glared at Arag, displaying his most loathsome glare. He shouted something Arag didn’t understand.
“Go away,” said Arag in modern English, a language he should not have known simply because it didn’t exist at this particular point in time (well, it did exist for Arag. I think you understand.) Of course, Bok didn’t understand English and launched himself at Arag. Again, Arag threw the human to the ground.
“Quit bugging me,” said Arag.
Bok let out a shout, calling for help, but none of his tribe members were within earshot. He got up and lunged at Arag, who swung the club, hitting Bok on the head, thus knocking him out.
“Stupid human,” said Arag. “Or maybe he is not a human. Who knows? I doubt he is not a wooly mammoth.”
In that instant Bok’s body turned into the body of a very large, odiferous, and unconscious wooly mammoth.
“Of course, I doubt this wooly mammoth is not a rock,” said Arag. The wooly mammoth turned into a rock. “Whatever. None of this is real.”
Arag’s particular point of view has a rather interesting effect on reality. It allows him to change things by doubting they aren’t what they might be. So, for instance, if Arag sees the sun and doubts it is the sun, and, in fact, doubts it isn’t nothing at all, the sun will cease to exist. This is an example of a doubt negation modified by a negative doubt instantiation. Fortunately, the sun is very bright and Arag avoids looking at it and thinking about it. Could you imagine what would happen if Arag turned the sun into nothing at all? Unfortunately (not so unfortunately at times), Arag has many doubts about things and ideas and has a tendency to drastically alter reality, and not just for him.
Arag returned to his home, a sprawling modern affair overlooking a lake, another product of doubt, and a rather nice one in Arag’s opinion. He sat on his sofa and turned on the TV, a device he truly enjoyed and generally avoided doubting, except during commercials, which he could not abide. He also avoided doubting his beautiful home, having doubted it once before, turning it into a dark, dank, cold cave with poor ventilation and ravenous rats.
Arag put his bare feet up on the coffee table, and then doubted he was dressed as a Neanderthal, opting for a pair of khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
Through his twenty-foot by twelve-foot window he saw a group of humans approaching his house. This caused him no concern since his property was surrounded by an invisible force field that if touched would disintegrate the one who touched it. He watched as one of the humans walked into the force field and turned to dust. Two more humans died before they got wise.
Feeling generous, Arag doubted that the humans had died and doubted that they had come near his house, thus returning the dead ones to life and sending the whole group far away where they scratched their heads and grunted to one another, their primary form of communication.
The humans rarely approached Arag’s home, ever fearful. Humans feared everything. Perhaps that was why they had killed off all of the Neanderthals. Arag assumed the humans were there to stay and that one day they would dominate this planet, a planet he was tempted to doubt did not exist, but did not. Further, he was not, oddly enough, tempted to doubt that humans would one day be the dominant life form on this planet, perhaps because he didn’t see the point in doubting the inevitable, however illogical the inevitable might be.
Of course, he could have doubted the humans out of existence. He could have doubted that the Neanderthals had been hunted down and killed by the humans. He could have done just that, but he didn’t. Again, we have to return to Arag’s acceptance of the inevitable, the ever illogical inevitable.
Arag sighed, abandoning these thoughts and then doubted that he wasn’t holding a hotdog in a bun that had plenty of ketchup. He happily ate the hot dog then let out a large burp. Hot dogs always gave him gas. He was tempted to doubt the existence of gas, but thought it might serve some purpose. Anyway, it was entertaining in some crude way.
“I’m bored,” said Arag, getting up from the sofa. “Maybe I’ll go somewhere. Maybe there is a tropical paradise in the universe, the best tropical paradise in the universe and maybe there is a bar there that serves green tea.” Of course, Arag, at that moment in time didn’t know about Uthio Minor, the ultimate paradise. He doubted it existed and that he was not there sitting at the bar and in a billionth of a second he was sitting at the bar on Uthio Minor.
The bartender, an insect like creature named Brok, said something Arag didn’t understand, so Arag doubted that he couldn’t understand anything anyone said.
“What can I get you?” said Brok.
“Green tea, please,” said Arag.
Moments later, Brok placed a large glass of green tea in front of Arag. Arag examined his surroundings, noticing the beautiful beach and the hundred foot tall palm trees. Down the beach he saw a house and wondered whose house it was and wondered if it wasn’t his, but he dismissed that thought when a human emerged from the house, came up the beach to the bar and sat across from him.
“Hey, Kev,” said Brok.
“Hi,” said Kev. “Do I know you?”
Brok laughed and said, “Lost your memories again have you?”
“I guess,” said Kev.
Arag seriously doubted this Kev fellow had lost all of his memories.
“Wait a second,” said Kev.
“What?” said Brok.
“I remember now. I remember everything. Holy crap. Have you seen Clive?”
“Yeah, he was here about an hour ago,” said Brok.
“Did he say where he was going?”
“I think he said Gamma Alpha Gamma,” said Brok.
Kev disappeared and Arag doubted that he had disappeared, thus bringing Kev right back to where he was before he disappeared. “What the?” said Kev. Kev disappeared. Arag brought him right back, wondering if maybe he was wrong that Kev did not disappear. However, he did not doubt that Kev did not disappear.
Kev sat down and ordered a green tea. Arag remembered his green tea and took a sip. He heard children laughing and then a voice.
“Welcome to The God is Sitting Right in Front of You Experience, brought to you by Kev, of course,” said a woman’s voice.
“What’s this?” said Arag out loud.
“Don’t worry pal,” said the bartender. “Enjoy the ride.”
Arag ignored the bartender, focused now on a show of sorts that detailed the birth of all creation, an act of God. When the show finished, Arag witnessed a group of humans killing a tribe of Neanderthals. The show ended and Arag said, “You’re God, huh?” to Kev.
“Um, yes. Why?” said Kev.
“You don’t look like God,” said Arag.
“What should God look like?” said Kev.
“Not like you,” said Arag, holding off on doubting this was God.
“Well, to be honest, I can’t prove it,” said Kev. “I mean, Clive told me I was God yesterday. I don’t know if I believe him.”
“Who is Clive?” said Arag, starting to feel some doubt, but suppressing it.
“Clive is Satan,” said Kev.
“Who is Satan?”
“I created him. He is a really great guy. You should meet him.”
Arag thought it over and decided he was not going to doubt that Kev was God, and further that he would not doubt the existence of Clive or Satan or whomever. “What’s it like being God?” he said.
“I don’t know. It’s okay, I guess, but I would sure like to understand what is going on,” said Kev.
“You have all your memories back, so why don’t you know what’s going on?” said Arag, wondering if he didn’t have the right doubt when he doubted Kev didn’t have his memories.
“You’d think that, wouldn’t you? I mean, right now, I have all of the memories of all of the living things that have ever existed in all of the universes that have ever existed and I still don’t really know what is going on. Further, I don’t know that I’m God, so somebody might be playing a trick on me.”
Arag doubted that Kev did not know he was God and said, “Do you know now?”
Kev smiled, an ancient smile. He walked around the bar and gave Arag a hug. “That’s some trick, Arag. You should be careful what you doubt though. You could cause a lot of trouble. Kev disappeared. Arag did not doubt that Kev had disappeared and did not doubt Kev was God. That was perhaps the first time in his life that he had not been tempted to doubt something.
Kev popped back into existence beside Arag and said, “You know what? Clive, the girl, Bri, the Proth Sphere, and Jesus and I are playing this game. Maybe you’d like to play with us.”
“What game?” said Arag.
“Well, I don’t want to give anything away, but if you agree to play you might just find out,” said Kev.
“What if I doubt that I don’t know what the game is?” said Arag, feeling not in the least bit tempted to do that.
“I know you won’t do that, Arag. Come on. It will be fun.”
“Sure, I’ll play,” said Arag. Kev disappeared. Arag doubted he didn’t know where Kev went then doubted he wasn’t where Kev was, the house just down the beach on Uthio Minor.
Arag looked at the people in the room, a beautiful young woman, a large, brown man with a silly grin on his face, a young boy with blonde hair, a man with long brown hair, a beard and a mustache, and Kev. Off to the side he saw a floating yellow sphere.
“We’re all here,” said Kev. “Everyone, this is Arag. Arag, meet the girl, Clive, Bri and Jesus. The yellow sphere is the Proth Sphere.”
Clive came over to Arag and shook his hand. “You are in for the ride of your life, man.”
“I’ll warn you, Arag. This is a dangerous game. Anything can happen and we can all get hurt, but none of us, including you can die. So, if you don’t want to play we understand.”
“I’ll play,” said Arag, wondering if he should doubt he would get hurt.
Kev is going to lay out the rules and goals of the game, and I’m not going to tell you the rules or the goals of the game. Kev is then going to send each person or thing(the Proth Sphere) to a different place and time in the universe and wipe out their memories and wipe out his own memories as well. At that point, the game will begin.
Kev looked in the mirror, a mirror he had never seen before. He looked at the likewise unfamiliar face in the mirror and wondered why he didn’t remember himself. He left the bathroom and walked out into the family room of a house that might or might not be his. Sitting on the couch in this family room, he saw a large, brown skinned man. The brown skinned man had a bowl of cereal in his large brown hand. He turned to look at Kev.
“Who are you?” said the man.
“I don’t know. Who are you?” said Kev.
“No clue. You want a bowl of cereal?”
“Nah. Whose house is this?”
“Not sure. All I know is that I’m sitting here eating a bowl of cereal that I didn’t get from the kitchen, if there is a kitchen.”
“Well, you know, maybe there are clues in this house that will tell us who we are. Actually, check your pockets,” said Kev.
Kev checked his pockets and found a wallet. Inside the wallet he found a driver’s license. His name was Kev Pryce. What kind of name was Kev? Kev thought it was a stupid name, a silly abbreviation. He would have much preferred the name Jeremy.
“I think my name is Clive,” said Clive, holding up his driver’s license.
“Give me a second,” said Kev. Kev searched the house, finding two bedrooms, a workshop with some large black cube and a computer, and another room, a study of some sort. Kev went to the computer and looked at the screen. One of the open windows had a list of messages.
“Feeling lonely? Want a little intercopulation? Respond to this message and I will be right over — Ruby,” read the first.
“Want to travel through time? Plans attached,” read another. It had an attachment that Kev opened. The device in the designs had two parts, a black cube with a circular hole and a cylindrical insert that went into the hole. The insert had a button on it. Kev wondered where you could get the parts, so he responded to the message asking for the parts. He received a response a few seconds later. “Don’t know. If you find them, tell me.”
“Kev, what’s going on?” read yet another. “I’m on Gamma War hanging out with Bok Choy. You should come here — Flot.” Kev responded, “Where is Gamma War?” Flot wrote back, “Lost your memories again, huh? Go to Surth Beta and find the brain in a vat. It has your memories.”
The next message read, “I’ve figured it out and I’m going to win the game, dummy — the girl.” Kev wrote “What game?” Her response read, “There is no way I’m going to tell you, loser.”
The last message read, “I doubt you’re not reading this, so don’t answer the door.”
The doorbell rang. Kev went out into the family room and seeing Clive approaching the door, said, “Wait. Maybe we shouldn’t answer the door.”
“Why?” said Clive.
“I don’t know. Might not be a good idea.”
“I’m going to take my chances,” said Clive.
Clive answered the door, now confronted with a pale blue, lipless alien carrying a briefcase.
“Oh, you’re both here,” said the alien, walking into the house. The alien sat on the couch and opened the briefcase, pulling out two blue cubes, placing them on the table in front of the couch. “Any questions?”
“What are those?” said Kev.
“Things,” said the alien.
“What are they for?” said Clive.
“They do things,” said the alien.
“What things?” said Clive.
“Look, I don’t have all day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date that I’m late for.” The alien left the house.
“You know, Clive, I think that was an alien,” said Kev.
“I was just thinking the same thing. Do you think this is a dream?”
“What do you think they are?”
Clive and Kev each picked up a blue cube.
“Someone is talking to me,” said Kev.
“Me too,” said Clive.
“Says his name is B24ME,” said Kev.
“Same here,” said Clive.
“He says I have to go to some place called Forg Off and defeat a Forgian Bludgeoner. What do you think that is?” said Kev.
“He just told me the same thing,” said Clive.
“You know, I don’t think this is a good thing,” said Kev.
The blue cubes teleported Clive and Kev to an arena of sorts on Forg Off. In front of them stood a ten-foot tall bipedal nightmare holding a stone club.
“Not good,” said Clive.
“Not good at all,” said Kev.
Riding on a wave of jubilation, the girl teleported to her home on Uthio Minor. She knew. She remembered who she was and what she wanted to do more than anything. The only problem was she didn’t know how to do it. Still, she was pretty certain she had a head start. All she had to do was find Arag. But, where was he? Actually, when was he? He could be anywhere in space-time.
She knew Kev had no clue what was going on, and suspected Kev was with Clive. Hopefully, Clive was equally clueless. Bri was probably out in his blue-sky dimension with the Sphere. Kev had a tendency to put them there. She wondered what team they were on. Jesus could be anywhere, but she was willing to bet he would end up in ancient Israel. He seemed to like it there.
Where to? She had no clue where Kev might have put Arag. Knowing that Arag was a Neanderthal, she wondered if Kev would have placed him back in his era. Where had the Neanderthals lived? Europe, she thought. But, when? There was no way to know.
She needed the black cube, the cube that would give her infinite knowledge. Did that exist in this universe? Did Kev have it? Perhaps it was in his house in Vermont. However, he might be in his house in Vermont right now. If he saw her would he remember her? Would he remember everything? If so, she might lose the advantage. But Kev’s memory in all of the infinite games preceding this game had been so terminally impaired that even when he did remember, he couldn’t really keep those memories or process them effectively. That decided it.
The girl teleported to Kev’s house in Vermont, the year 2016. He was not there. Nor was Clive. Perhaps they had been tricked into getting on The Show, an unpleasant thought.
In Kev’s workroom, she found the communications device. On the computer attached to the device she found the plans for the black cube. The plans were less than helpful. Where would she find the parts? She remembered that Kev had used his blue cube from The Show to go to the workroom to retrieve the parts. In fact, this was the only way at the outset of the game to get the black cube. But, if you touched the blue cube, you would be on The Show. Did The Show exist in this universe? Almost definitely. Kev had a masochistic streak of universal proportions. Of course The Show would exist in this universe, and of course, B24ME would be the host.
She had never been on The Show, but knew quite a bit about it and about B24ME. She knew if she became a contestant, she would likely suffer greatly. However, she would have the blue cube and would likely be given an opportunity to retrieve the black cube. She had to get on The Show.
She looked at Kev’s computer and had a thought. Kev’s communication device broadcasted messages immediately to every point in the universe. She could just send a message out and B24ME, wherever he was, would likely get it. She wrote, “Interested in being on The Show. On Earth right now in 2014 at 37 Old Brook Lane, Hoover, Vermont, USA. I’ll be waiting.” She hit send.
A response came in. “We will be right there. Don’t go anywhere.”
The girl went out into the family room and sat on the couch. She knew that being on The Show would be exceptionally challenging and quite painful, but desperately wanted to win the game. It would be her first win, something she had wanted for some time.
The doorbell rang and she got up and opened the door, seeing a pale blue, lipless alien with a cigarette dangling from its mouth. The alien held out a little blue cube. The girl took the cube, and the alien left without a word.
Moments later, she heard B24ME’s voice. He welcomed her to the show, told her the rules and then sent her to Par Four where she had to evade a Hulk death ball, driven by a Hulk Pro. B24ME failed to mention how long she would have to evade the death ball and then failed to answer her when she asked. She would figure it out. She might have to die a few times, but that was a small price to pay for victory.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” said the Proth Sphere.
“What about?” said Bri.
“Who I am,” said the sphere.
“Who are you?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“Yeah, I don’t know who I am either.”
“What’s your worst nightmare ever?” said the sphere.
“I don’t know. Maybe the end of all creation,” said Bri.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if that nightmare came true?”
“I don’t want it to come true.”
“You know, right about now, I have a strong desire to connect with your mind. Isn’t that odd?”
“How would you do that?”
“I’m not sure. Do you want to give it a go?”
“Sure, why not?” said Bri.
The Proth Sphere and Bri connected, and when they did, all creation came to a sudden and terrible end. A billionth of a billionth of a second later, Kev recreated all creation(it’s just a simulation, you know) so the game could proceed.
“Strange,” said the sphere. “You know, you have some bad nightmares.”
“Yeah, I know. But, I also have great dreams, don’t you think?”
“You know, I think we just ended all creation together. And you know, I think someone re-created it. Unfortunately, I still don’t know who I am.”
“Yeah, me either,” said Bri.
“I think I’m going to go find someone to connect with,” said the sphere.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to find some company too. Not that I don’t like your company. I just want to meet some new people.”
“We’re on the same page,” said the sphere right before it teleported to Europe, 37,000 BC, a nice, random place to meet new and interesting people.
Jesus looked around, seeing nothing but enormous, windowless and doorless, drab green buildings, some with signs that read, “Work Now,” “Get to Work,” and “Don’t get Recycled.” Around him he saw purposefully striding aliens going here and there, always moving, never pausing, and in fact passing through one another whenever their paths intersected. On the ground he noticed a small, unmarked, red cube. He picked it up, wondering what it was. He also wondered who he was and why he had a strong urge to go to an ancient world and bring peace and love to all who needed that sort of thing. Jesus made a wish, and that wish came true.
A group of humans had Arag surrounded, humans with clubs and spears. Arag knew something awful would probably happen and probably happen in the very near future. One of the humans, the leader of this pack of murdering fiends threw a spear at Arag, impaling him and sending him to his death. Arag’s vision went dark. He saw a flash of light and then found himself standing on the plains surrounded by humans, no longer impaled by the spear, which now lay on the ground at his feet. The humans all gasped and muttered, taking a few steps back.
Arag shouted out something in Neanderthal, a language the humans did not understand. However, the humans had some sensitivity to intonation and knew full well that Arag’s utterance contained a rather hostile message. The humans dispersed, traveling at great speed, away from Arag.
In that moment, Arag had one thought, “Who am I?” He did not know.
Of course, Arag knows nothing of his quite special talent. Otherwise he would probably doubt that he does not know who he is. He is also wondering what his purpose is, a natural enough thing to wonder, and would also like to know why that spear didn’t kill him. Of course, it did kill him, but he came back to life. If I were Arag, I would desperately doubt that I didn’t know absolutely everything and that I wasn’t God.
Just as Arag prepared to wonder something else, a yellow sphere of energy appeared in front of him.
“Hey, friend,” said the sphere in Neanderthal.
In that instant, Arag doubted the sphere existed, and the sphere ceased to exist.
Well, I guess the Proth Sphere is out of the game.
Bored and tired, Arag set off to find some place to rest, hoping there might be a cave somewhere nearby, or bushes he could hide in to avoid predators, predators he wished had never existed.
Eventually, he found a cluster of tall bushes with a cozy bare patch of dirt in the middle. He lay down and tried to sleep, doubting he would get any rest at all. Sure enough, sleep wouldn’t come and he left the bushes with a muttered curse, now contemplating finding food.
He wondered if he had a home, and what it must be like, but then doubted that he didn’t have a home, something large and warm, made of stone with openings in the walls that let light in but didn’t allow wind to come in, a home that had ample seating, and a nice soft bed, with plenty of food and a more proper place to relieve himself. He doubted that didn’t exist at all and also doubted he wasn’t in it right at that moment.
Arag appeared in his brand new, spacious, granite home. It’s actually a model. He explored the home, finding all of the things he had doubted did not exist. Was it real? One of the rooms in this home had a metal box with a door of some sort. Arag opened the door and inside the box found fruits and vegetables and other boxes and strange transparent bottles that might have contained liquids of some sort. There were markings on these containers, markings he didn’t understand.
He grabbed a round, red object that looked like it might be food and bit into it. It was sweet and tart at the same time. This was, perhaps, the best thing he had ever eaten. Arag closed the door and walked out into the main room of the house, sitting on a soft seat. Ahead of him he saw an opening in the wall that looked out onto a lake. A black rectangle on a wooden block stood in front of the window, partially obscuring his view.
On the seat next to him he found a small rectangular object that had little bumps on it. Each of the bumps had markings. He picked up the object and started pressing the bumps, starting with the bright red bump. In front of him, the black rectangle came to life, and on its surface he saw images he did not understand. The images moved, and he heard sounds, voices, coming from the rectangle. He saw humans, wearing strange clothes.
Arag stared at the moving pictures, unable to comprehend anything. He watched for a while then pressed another button on the small rectangle. The pictures changed and he saw something he understood even less than the pictures of humans. He saw stars, and then a gray spearhead-like object coming into the picture. Green lines shot out of the spearhead-like object and raced off the screen. He heard a strange noise when they appeared, a noise he had never heard before. He pressed another button and the sound went away, so he pressed it again and the sound came back. Another button made the rectangle turn blue with black symbols covering its surface. Not as entertaining as the moving pictures, so he pressed another button, which took him back to the spearhead and strange sounds.
Arag took another bite of the delicious red, irregular sphere in his hand, his focus entirely on the moving images on the strange rectangle in front of him. Several hours passed and the sky grew dark. Arag, now bored and tired, found a room with a bed, a soft bed with white blankets and cushiony things that you could rest your head on. He lay down and this time did not doubt he would sleep.
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