Aphelion Issue 289, Volume 27
November 2023
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A Cleaned Clock

by Jonathan Lowe

"It's about time," Carmen said, and snatched the story from my outstretched hand. "Okay, now when was the Day of Enlightenment again? I can't remember."

He scanned the glassine paper, and then, not waiting for my response, got bored and threw a stale hunk of pastry over the plastic partitions while ogling the hooker in the corner. Weebrum told Carmen to can it, but kept giggling anyway.

"Six years before the Voice," I told him. "Makes it seven."


I stood up for a peek at the guy we were waiting to give the story to. Sectioned off as we were, it was hard to tell what any of those efficient wimps were up to at their sensurround computer terminals. Most wore VR eye plugs because it was against some law for us to see, and it made them look like the mechanicals you see at the government checkouts. But at least they had jobs, which was more than we could say. If we figured finding the story bought us special consideration, we were wrong.

"You'll have to wait," we were told at last.

So we did, along with all the other Outsiders. And while waiting, I took the story back from Carmen, and read it again -- slowly -- to myself.


I have been asked to write this last story of the world, so that it may stand as a testament to the Day of Enlightenment. I call it a story -- meaning fiction -- only because I have changed my name in it to retain my anonymity. Of course the author of this story does not matter because there are no more "authors" anymore, just as there are no more actors or artists, only people of the newly freed world. As for me, when the willful breach into our world of God Consciousness came, I was one of those attending a Nam Jam concert at Reid Park in Tucson, Arizona. When the sky darkened and time stopped, I was one of those who looked up at the sky, and was forever changed, although none of us really thought that the sky was the place to look.

Call me Phillip Smith, homeless for one year prior to that day. Like all other members of the human race who wandered without direction or purpose, I occasionally rode the rails from Texas to northern California, and often looked up at the stars on clear, cold nights. Like many, I imagined God to be out there somewhere, but who among us really understood that God existed beyond space and time until the Day of Enlightenment? If I once imagined that I understood who God was, I later imagined that God did not exist. All around me, people were substituting science for God, or saying that God was in everything and everyone. But now, of course, we know that the supernatural world exists beyond science, and that it cannot be detected by science or by the mind, just as the verse in the Bible says, "that which is seen is temporal, and that which is not seen is eternal." Now we know that we were God's experiment in free will, and that when our spiritual evolution did not progress as did our other attributes, God had to step back in and cause it, just as He had in the evolution of other species in the past, perhaps even on other worlds or in other universes. Whoever or Whatever God is, at last we know that He does exist now, and that He is more real than our physical reality.

For eons man has ignored the present, and has chosen to create an identity out of his ego, to identify himself with his thinking mind, which played like an endless loop from which he could not escape. He imagined that he was his mind, and so his ego took over, and it felt threatened and afraid. His ego thought of itself as separate and distinct, and therefore vulnerable, and it lashed out in defense of itself. It fed on the past, too, to stay alive, and sought resolution and salvation only in the future. And so it did not see the present, which is the only point at which God can enter because it is the only real point of No Time, or eternity. The willful blindness of man might be called "sin," and it was this blindness which became only worse as mankind evolved in other ways less important. Man was then technically adept but spiritually bankrupt, and even in his fantasies of the future he remained so. So what could God do but to intervene on man's behalf once again?

This "story" is going into a vault inside the abandoned Titan missile base near Green Valley, Arizona, along with all the other stories of the past world, whose number is so vast they must be stored on silicon rather than paper. It is being sealed along with the records of all past civilizations, all man's past record of violence and fantasies of domination. We have no need of the past anymore, for we have been evolved spiritually into knowledge of the present. That which has been retained is technical in nature, for we have no need anymore of bookstores or libraries or art museums or anything either displaying or evoking the unenlightened mind. If our bodies had evolved before the Day, and our sciences had evolved, it is only now that our consciousness has evolved as well. As for me, in an instant, in the "twinkling of an eye," I knew who I was. I became aware. Call it the Second Coming, if you wish, although I believe this has happened many times in the past, and not just on our world, the Earth. God did not want us to destroy His creation, and this was His way of protecting it, while protecting us from ourselves. I say "His" way, but I do not mean to imply He or She, or even where or when. Time itself is an illusion, just as the physical universe is only a shadow of the true reality, which must exist beyond our limited view. Many have suspected this in the past, and they were right. We all know it now, beyond question. This is the gift of the Day of Enlightenment. Stepping back into time, God has now opened man's eyes to the eternal Now from which all true identity or being flows. He stopped the madness from which man could not evolve on his own, and which had man locked in a struggle of competition over possessions, with obsessions for sports, drugs, fame, wealth, and vicarious fantasies. No longer do we merely label things and then imagine the labels are those things. We see Being -- which does not age -- behind physical appearance at last, and all our values have changed. Mirrors have been broken, racism has ended, and no longer do we war in an attempt to get to a future that will never exist, and therefore which can never satisfy. So the past is gone too, because we have no need to identify with it. We know who we are at last, and by knowing have become alive.

The past seems strange to me now that we have seen a glimpse into the mind of God. And so this is the end of the story of time, or rather its beginning. What was past is gone, and what is future will never be as it was imagined. Now I am happy. There is no more war, no more hunger, and even the growth of population has been leveled. If I once imagined this would happen through technology, I was wrong. We could not do it alone. God knew this, and came to our rescue again. For without us, God would know loneliness.


"What's loneliness?" Weebrum asked me, reading over my shoulder.

I wasn't sure, but I did know what frustration was. We'd waited all day as usual, but since no assignments had been made that week, some of us Outsiders had become hostile. Of course loitering near government buildings was prohibited when the Regulars could see us, and they only made exceptions for us on the hazardous jobs roster. So here we were killing time by lounging around waiting for our numbers to come up on the big board, drinking the goo they shipped in from some warehouse in DC, and planning how to survive the night again. Weebrum once claimed to have been a lawyer before the courts were abolished seven years ago. Carmen, pre-Day and post-Voice, had run a janitorial service back when private enterprises stood a chance against looters. Me, I'd worked for the United Way before everyone got God's second Message.

Near dusk closing time we were all surprised when one of the wimps -- a raisin just in front of his terminating hairline -- leaned over the partition and whispered something like a code, in digits. Carmen, Weebrum, and I recognized our ID numbers and sidled over, trying to appear disinterested.

"47289, 47641, 47888?" this civil drivel read us from the card he held.

"That's us," I confirmed.

The wimp looked up at us with his yellow teeth and yellow eye plug eyes and stammered: "You're in luck today, boys. Got an extra three-quota just in from Central Justice and Leisure. How about the Hole?"


When we got there the stench was pretty rank. But the exciting thing was, we'd get to "compete," and if we won, well, we'd get to be Regulars and live in Government condos with holovision and everything. Hell -- no one ever turns down the chance. It's almost a cinch for an Outsider to win. It's those beer bellies the Regs got.

The Hole is stainless steel and has this big concave floor with a drain at the bottom. Along the top walls are sprayers to wash everything down periodically. Leftovers are burned and go into that drain. Ashes to ashes. I think they use jet fuel -- they have underground storage tankers full of it, and don't use much for jets anymore.

Weebrum went first. They squared him off against some red-haired Reg who worked for a security firm but got caught dipping into some Federal slush fund left over after they zeroed all those pension funds and T-bills back in ‘08.

Weebrum selected from box fourteen and got a big electric knife ran on batteries. We all laughed, seeing that. But we laughed even harder when the Reg drew from box ten, and got a air stapler and a Swiss Army knife. Oh yeah. Weebrum just went right up to the fat ass Reg, took a couple staples in his forearm, and then sliced into the guy's neck.

Game over.

When it was my turn, I picked from box seven, drew an ancient ballpein hammer and a filament hacksaw. The hammer was splintered, but it had heft. No doubt about its seeing a lot of use in the past. No doubt at all.

My opponent wasn't superstitious, but he shoulda been. He picked box thirteen and got a brick, ha ha. And one of those antique straight razors that come with a sharpening strap. Of course these sharp things weren't really weapons, just tools, since the object was to decapitate your opponent and toss his head through the hoop suspended over the hole in the center of the room. Like that game they used to play before the Day of Enlightenment.

Lots of Regs were watching, I imagined. The holovision announcer said this guy Albert was forty-three and failed the IRS polygraph. Plus he had sex on an expired license. What a crude.

"Anything for entertainment," I told Carmen as I pushed open the steel door and stepped down.

Albert had a flabby stomach. As I said, all the Regs do. He moved slowly round the hole, eyes wide. Behind the glare above us I could already hear the camera lenses zoom in.

Naturally I smiled.

Albert watched me smiling for a while, as if sizing me up. He even tried a sick grin of his own, like you do when you eat meat that's been been dead too long. Or when you're looking out your hardened view plate at the slime that has to eat that meat. But panic took most of the bite out of his smile, and sure enough it wasn't long before he yelled and rushed me. Too bad he slipped on a streak of blood, because that made his hands go out instead of up, and it gave me a chance to bounce my hammer off his skull. Some cheers went up, up there beyond the lights. Maybe it was a record time, who knows. I do know I never lost my nerve. Regs can be pretty fun, and I've killed my share of those stupid enough to wander outside their protected buildings. It was almost too damn easy. And with Al it was 'please, God. . .' when I had to finish him off? What a mute. God was gone now, everybody knew that.

After such success I wasn't prepared to witness what happened next. And so fast, too. Barely down into the Hole, Carmen's Regular made a quick and damn chancy underhand throw of one of her three iron bearings and caught him right in the teeth. Unbelievable! Carmen looked over at us with the strangest kind of resignation then, too. Blood gushed from his mouth, and he muttering through shattered teeth. Not ‘please God,' or some such idiocy, but something else. Something about there being no beer today. While smiling. Too bad. He never got a chance to use his acid pistol. I shook my head as the Reg shook his, and then we watched as she tossed it up and into the hoop.

Of course after that, Weebrum and me, we didn't feel much like sticking around, so we got in line behind some others waiting assignment as Regular maintenance or clerical staff. Weebrum guessed right when he said there'd be twenty or so in line, and no point in waiting to see the bodies pile up in the Hole. We'd get to see it on the holovision pretty soon, anyway. And what other programs would there be? I wondered. Hundred channels, they said. Classic old comedies about how people thought it would turn out in the 21st when censorship was gone… paranoid stuff like SOYLENT GREEN and CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Funny how nobody ever guessed their Mamas mighta been right about that Second Coming stuff. Well, partly right, anyway. And then only six years after the Day of Enlightenment, we got the Message. The Voice. Call it the Third Coming. And then it was too-da-loo, see ya later. Big Mama, way out there beyond any science we knew about, was off to create another universe and to hell with Her experiment with ours. She could do it any way She wanted, too, with a Science of Her own that She could twist to suit Her. ‘Course now that She, He, or It's gone, we can barely remember the enlightenment stuff got taken away with Her. All we know for sure is that giving us enlightenment in the first place wasn't very satisfying to Her because it eliminated free will and all that faith crap.

Well, I'm not worried about it. I'm not gonna end up gibbering nuts in some alley somewhere, eating fried rat or joining some cannibal gang out there in the poisonous hundred thirty degree temps. Now that I'm gonna be a Reg, mostly I'm wondering what to avoid that might put me in the Hole quick as the snap of some governor's fingers. Here's my main concern, because I figure with beer and holovision, I'm gonna have my own beer belly before long.

We drew Complex 101, Block C, Level 3, Rooms 241 and 242, with an adjoining door. The magnetic locks opened like magic to the numbers encoded into our hands. The doors themselves were heavy plastic, hard as steel. Not bars like they used to have when these were prisons. The rooms had foam plastic bunks, and sinks with spigots for water and two other beverages. There was a charging device activated by placing your hand against it so it could read your magnetic numbers. Weebrum and I did it, pushed the digits for beer and then lapped at the golden stream in celebration. What luck that we were both assigned to waste disposal -- that we'd be riding those protected rigs out into the desert to dump all kinds of government crap into the bottoms of dry lakes and abandoned copper mines. The rigs were air conditioned too, and had laser players with everything from New Age to Acid -- hell -- even to Elvis! Imagine playing "Love Me Tender" as you run over those suckers out there, or wheel around and dead bang 'em with air guns! Just like the guys who almost got us out at the old Titan missile base.

Before our first assignment Weebrum turned on the holovision, and flipped through the channels in anticipation. About twenty triple X orgy channels. And some pretty tame kiddie porn crap too. He was getting round to the mutilation programming when I waved my hand at him to hold it. There was this guy, a fat-ass minister of sorts, floating in the air above us. Reminded me of the preacher I used to watch back before the Day of Enlightenment -- last time I seen anything, come to think of it. This guy, though, he was asking for donations to stay alive. You could see he was standing on this plastic sheet and glancing at someone off camera. He was in the middle of saying his building's governor was gonna snuff him and his family unless the donations topped two thousand credits by the end of the fifteen minute segment. It was then that a dart hit and stuck in his skull.

Even the camera people were laughing now. Hell, he didn't have a prayer of raising a demicredit. Not with this kind of entertainment, and not when you can't make a beer commercial without snuffing at least three or four Third Worlders.

"The Bible claimed God could do anything, I know, and so He's gone now," the preacher was saying. "I know He's gone to create some other universe. But the Bible says God is a Trinity. What if part of him is still aware here? How do we know? Listen. . . maybe part of Him can even hear us, or is curious. You remember when the Voice came? It was. . . it was goodbye. . . but with something about a new Eden. Remember? And after that, what happened? No more babies were conceived. Not even the ones in the sperm banks would impregnate a womb. And now the planets are slowly coming out of alignment, they say. And the sun, it's starting to oscillate, get hotter. Maybe there'll be a nova within months, they're saying. See, I know about goodbyes, but didn't we see the truth once? Didn't we have the sense of right and wrong even before the Day? I know we did! And what if we can get it back? What if God could still hear our prayers now, and return a fourth time? Listen to me! Listen... please! You must keep my ministry on the air. You must help me to -- "

Suddenly Weebrum cut to the next channel. "It's a rerun," he told me. "Saw it at the employment office. He survived the darts, and in the end they sent him to the Hole with a Bible and a hacksaw."

I nodded reluctantly. "Box six sixty-six?" Weebrum laughed.

We looked up at the baby floating above us then. It wasn't the Hole, but I saw that the circle of men around it were all smiling. Just like I had smiled.

Just like I'm smiling now.

"You reckon there's a toilet in this place?" Weebrum asked me and stood, blocking my view.

I looked at him in shock. "God," I said, momentarily distracted. "God -- I hope so."


© 2007 Jonathan Lowe

Bio: Jonathan Lowe is author of four novels, the last being GEEZER, a medical thriller in hardcover from Five Star Mysteries. His story Ochre appeared in the June 2007 edition of Aphelion.

E-mail: Jonathan Lowe

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