Raymund Eich

The Imitation of Christ

Ebook

A rich man’s lark becomes serious in this religious science fiction short story.

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In an artificial world whose inhabitants used advanced neurotechnology to implant skills and habits in playing status games, Pavel trumped all his friends by making himself believe in Christianity. But regardless whether true or false, his newly implanted skills and habits wielded a power over Pavel’s mind neither he nor his friends expected….

Sample of “The Imitation of Christ”

The Imitation of Christ

A few minutes after midnight, the partygoers’ attention focused on Pavel. “What’s your resolution for the new year?” Galt asked.

Pavel’s chest swelled, and he grinned. “I’m going to become a Christian!”

A dozen mouths sagged open, and silence filled the mindlink. Perfect! They’d be talking about this for years! For a time, the only noise in the room came from the jaws of the cleaning robots, as they munched the shards of a smashed sculpture. Finally, Helene laughed and clapped. “Pavel Kweisivich, you are brilliant!”

“I try,” he said. Some of the others then parroted Helene. Nella, though, stayed silent; he turned to her. “What do you think, love?”

She frowned, ran her fingers through her platinum blond hair. “You’re serious?”

“It’s only a year,” he said. She glanced away.

Galt stared down his nose, his red van dyke aimed at Pavel. “I thought you were too smart to dabble in superstition.”

“Of course I am.”

Galt sniffed. “That makes your resolution twice as stupid.”

[Across the mindlink burst an image, Galt cloaked in shame for being unsupportive.] Channing, of course; her unvoiced resolution was to communicate without words. [A second image followed: Channing, properly dressed in miniskirt and bodypaint, extending a hand to a Pavel clad in rags and pilgrim sincerity.]

“I think you overstate Pavel’s intentions,” Helene said. [“A brilliant ploy,” she said to him privately. “Galt won’t forgive you for years.”]

[“Yes, well–”]

[Helene laughed. “–no loss, that.”]

“I hope you’re right, Helene,” Nella said. “So what are your intentions, Pavel?”

“Don’t worry, love, I’m not one of those fools who turns terrorist at the chime of the new year. My intentions are the same as yours with multisensory bluegrass, or Galt’s with aleatoric chess; to share an absurd module with my friends and laugh about it next year.”

Galt huffed. “Do you expect me to join you in a visit to a–” he

pulled the word off the mindlink “–church? I refuse to support any superstition.”

“Galt, please,” Helene said.

“I will not violate my principles!”

Helene ignored him. “Have you selected a Christ-module yet, Pavel Kweisivich?”

“Not yet, but I know what I’m looking for.” [Nella withdrew a little; everyone did, like fencers waiting for openings.]

“Perhaps you should have spoken last,” Helene said. “Your resolution is difficult to follow.”

“My eagerness overwhelmed my manners. My apologies, Frau Shareholder, honored friends.”

“Accepted,” Helene said.

The party’s attention moved on to others, but Pavel sensed private conversations about his resolution cross the mindlink. His gaze tracked to the transparent floor. Beneath Helene’s apartment, constellations wheeled by, there Lyra, Sol traveling therewith. [Pavel smiled to himself.] His resolution had trumped everything. They would talk about it for years.

Pavel and Nella left the party around four-twenty. Taxicarts stood in the corridors of First Level, but waited on shareholders, so Pavel and Nella climbed the spiral ramp on foot. Wide enough to pass ten abreast, only a few people still walked the ramp, but many more had passed earlier. Along the base of the wall, dachshund-sized robots chewed cups and discarded pantaloons. Near the entrance to Third, a gaggle of geckos erupted from a dropped burrito and searched in vain for crevices in the yellow plastic wall; someone had resolved to be a thoughtless animal-rights activist.

“I’m worried, Pasha,” Nella said.

“About my resolution?” Pavel asked.

She nodded. “I didn’t want to speak in front of everyone.”

He toyed with the short hair on the back of her neck. “I spoke truly that I wouldn’t choose a terrorist Christ.”

She leaned her head toward him. “It’s not that.”

“Then what? Are you worried I’ll believe it?”

“Of course not, Pasha. It’s just a module. In a year you’ll be as you were–but that’s a year from now. What if the cult you buy your Christ from abjures recreational drugs, or role-playing.… I’ve even heard some cults excoriate sex between couples lacking a formal pair-bond contract. Will that be us? I can’t do that.”

“Is that all? Please, don’t worry. I’m not going to extremes. I don’t want this to get in our way.”

“But.”

“But it has to interfere with something in my life; that’s the point.”

She frowned. “Have you thought that it will interfere with my life, too?”

“I… I guess I haven’t.”

“Pasha!”

“I’m sorry, love, I didn’t see it as a big deal. It didn’t seem any different than me attending your bluegrass gigs.”

They took a few more steps. “Bluegrass will change what I do,” she said. “Your module will change who you are. But I see your point. Please, though, pick a Christ that won’t disrupt our relationship.”

“I promise.”

“Good.” She kissed him. They rounded a bend and saw the gateway to Sixth.

Channing stood there, in front of lime-green streaks on the wall. The streaks were fresh; [Pavel sensed them to be tacky, maybe five minutes old.]

“Channing! Good to see you!” Nella said.

She turned to them and half-smiled. [Pavel received kisses on his cheeks and an indication of distaste aimed at the graffiti behind her.]

Channing wasn’t the artist, then. Who was? Pavel looked closer at the lines of paint. It occurred to him they formed Cyrillic letters, and spelled out a phrase in Swahili that meant HUMAN THOUGHTS BELONG IN HUMAN BRAINS. At the lower right, a symmetry of crinkles had been painted inside a circle–a logo registered with the Cluster’s trademark office four hours earlier, assigned to the Human Thought Strike Force, anonymous address. Pavel thought about the HTSF, but found nothing; a rococo terrorist group resolved out of the new year, then.

“Idiots,” Nella said.

“We’ll never hear from them again,” Pavel said.

[Channing hoped so.]

They took their leave of Channing and walked on. The wall began to shake off the words.

Over 114 million tenants resided in the o’neills and other space habitats owned by Wotan-L5-Cluster GmbH, and of those millions 1.84% were Christian. The huge percentage surprised Pavel, until he recalled the waves of refugees fled from the monoculture states, the People’s Capitalist Anarchy and the Apostolic Meritocracy, that shared their sun, Kapteyn’s Star.

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Ebook

Writer

Raymund Eich

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