Once upon a time two gods made a wager.
It was a wager with fairly high stakes – the continued existence of the universe.
One of the gods was old and weary, but with the wisdom and treachery of untold aeons of existence. The other was young and brash, but filled with energy and drive.
From all over the multiverses the other gods came to witness the contest. Those with legs crawled, those with wings flew, those who had fins swam, and those who had none of these just came. And they gathered round to watch.
The younger god pulled together energy out of the fabric of time and space, and fashioned it into a new universe. “I wager,” he said, “that perfection cannot last. It will inevitably degenerate.”
The older god just smiled. “You mean” he replied. “that things have a natural tendency to decay away from perfection towards imperfection.”
“That is what I mean,” the younger god said. He moulded the universe and breathed life into it, so that it spread through the billions of galaxies, seeking out homes for itself among a myriad of stars. “There you are,” he said. “We have merely to observe.”
But the older god merely smiled again. “What will you do if it does degenerate?”
“I shall destroy it. And you shall admit I have won.”
“And if it does not collapse into imperfection?”
“I shall destroy it anyway, because it will have served its purpose.”
“Very well,” the older god said. “As you wish, so shall it be.”
In a breath of time, untold ages passed.
And, on a little planet around an ordinary star on an outer arm of an unexceptional spiral galaxy, a primate stood on its hind legs and looked up at the sky.
The day Korola turned sixteen, her mother dressed her in white clothes and took her to meet the priest, to be blessed.
“I don’t want to go,” Korola said. “The priest is old and the way he looks at me makes me uncomfortable.”
“You still have to go,” her mother said firmly. “It is the tradition.”
“I am not interested in tradition,” she replied mutinously. “There is no point to tradition.”
“But unless you go, you won’t be declared a woman, and you’ll never be able to get married and have children of your own.”
“I don’t want to get married or have children.”
Her mother sighed. “Just come along, all right?”
So Korola had to go to the temple, where the priest looked her over with his lecherous eyes as he sprinkled her with powders and declared her, officially, a woman. Then she was allowed to go back home.
“I hope you understand this means nothing,” she told her mother. “I’ll never get married or have children.”
“Then what do you plan to do?” her mother asked.
“I will seek the mysteries of the universe,” Korola said firmly. “Tomorrow, I shall leave on a journey, to all the parts of the world. I will seek them and understand them, and only then will I be content.”
So it was that Korola left home, despite her mother’s tears and pleading, and by and by came to a city in a far off land which boasted of a great university. There she asked questions of all those who came thirsting for knowledge, or dispensed it; but nobody could tell her of the secrets of the universe.
Then she went away, by herself, and after years of wandering came to a strange and desolate valley, where only the winds blew with the voices of the desert.
Korola listened to the voices, and they told her things. And as the months passed she began to understand the things they told her.
That was how she became aware of the terrible danger.
Then Korola went back to the great cities, and preached her message – which was that the universe was the result of a mere wager, a whim of a young god, and that they were doomed to destruction if the perfection of the universe degenerated.
But the people laughed at her. “What is perfection?” they asked. “How can something which does not exist degenerate?”
Then Korola went back to her valley and thought some more. And this time she did not go back to the cities again.
Instead, she sought an audience with the gods.
“You must admit,” the younger god said, “that I win. Imperfection is creeping into the universe wherever we look. We might as well destroy it and waste no further time.”
The older god shook his head. “Let us see what this young woman has to tell us,” he said.
So they summoned Korola into their presence. A breath later, she stood before them, unafraid.
“You can’t destroy the universe,” she told them both, the old god and the young god.
“And why not?” The young god held up the universe in his hands. It twisted and coiled like smoke. “Do you suggest it is perfect?”
“It is very far from it,” Korola replied. “Nothing is perfect in it, for it is changing constantly, and perfection cannot change.”
“There, you see,” the younger god said triumphantly. “I can destroy this right now.”
“But...” the older god prompted. “What else were you about to say?”
“Your wager,” Korola asked, “depends on the idea that the universe was created perfect. Is that not so?”
The old god glanced at the younger. “That is true, yes,” he said.
“But,” Korola said, “if it is to be created perfect, then the creator of it must also be perfect?”
The old god grinned. “Absolutely.”
“But if you created it on a whim, as a pride-fuelled dispute, then how can you be perfect?”
The old god eyed the younger. “Well? What do you think?”
Korola did not pause. “If you are not perfect, if you did not create perfection, then you have no right to destroy something for being imperfect. Do you see?”
“You know,” the old god said gently, “that as imperfection increases, it will reach a level that the universe will die of it anyway?”
“Perhaps,” Korola replied. “Perhaps not. Imperfection can itself lead in unexpected directions. How, not being perfect, can you tell?”
Korola shook her head. “I am as far from perfect as it is possible to be,” she said. “I cry, I laugh, I burn with anger and desire, I hurt with the pain of hopes and fears, I grow older as the years pass, but no wiser. How can I be perfect?”
“So all that you have told us is also imperfect? Which means you could be wrong?”
“Of course I could be. And so could you.”
The gods looked at each other. And the old god smiled.
“Put that down,” he said.
Nobody ever saw Korola again. Not even the gods.
In the end, time and space spun on.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2014