Carol's first fleeting thought that morning when she woke up was;

My name is Carol Verricker. I have to remember that.

Which in itself was confusing since her name was Lydia Mason.

Lydia rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and got out of bed. For a brief second, the room around her went swimmy and faded around the edges. Her eyes crossed involuntarily. She leaned against the bed post, trying to get her head back in order. When the feeling passed and she could see properly again, she had the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Something about the room was off, and she just couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.

Was the carpet always that color blue? she thought.

After a moment of staring ineffectively at the carpet, she shrugged it off as leftover dream-lag and got ready for school. When she opened her door, a white and brown blur ran into the room and leapt onto her bed.

It's Kimmy, she thought. Such a good kitty.

"Hey, Biscuit," she said to the beagle sitting on the coverlet. "Who's a good boy?"

Biscuit beat his stubbly little tail a few times to show he was happy, but kept his head down to show he was guilty. She knew that look; he was waiting to see if she would kick him off or not.

"Go ahead," she told him. "I guess I'm not feeling like myself today."

Lydia went downstairs, trying to clear her head. Twice she got lost in her own house, turning into a closet where -for some inexplicable reason- she thought there was a bathroom. She had forgotten the stairs completely, and only just managed to catch herself before falling down the steps.

She trudged dazedly into the kitchen and tried to ignore the nagging, not-quite-itching feeling in the back of her head. From the stairwell she could hear her parents chatting while they made breakfast.

But I don't live with my dad, she thought. I see him on Wednesdays and every other weekend.

"Morning Mom. Dad."

Mr. Mason gave a little wave without looking up from the eggs he was working on. Mrs. Mason said 'Mornin'" and returned to her pancake batter.

Lydia had just sat down at the table when she heard footsteps trudging down the stairs.

I'm an only child.

Her little brother Cody came into the kitchen and sat down at the table without unsticking his eyelids. He mumbled something she took to be 'Good morning' and slouched in his chair.

The family ate breakfast in relative silence, which gave Lydia time to think. She had the strangest headache. For a while, it really did feel as though she was two people, or perhaps one person in two bodies.

What was it? she thought suddenly, remembering the weird dream. What was it again? 'My name is Carol'. . . something. Carol something.

Then Cody knocked over her glass of orange juice and all thoughts of Carol Verricker were cast out of her head.

Ah well, she thought. It probably wasn't important anyway.

* * * * *

In a miniature pocket universe two alternate realities down the way there is, in the loosest sense of the word, a building.

It has walls, and from the outside it has a roof, which implies a ceiling. And that may very well be where its connection to physics as we know it ends. When seen from the front, the structure looks to be an elegant Arabian palace that wound up amidst a field of red flowers. From the left it's a space station, floating in space. The right has it as an old fashioned medieval castle, complete with a moat. No one knows how, but the back - originally intended to be underwater- somehow managed to look like something we would equate with an M.C. Escher painting. Doors to nowhere are wrapped around odd angles while pillars that turn at ninety degree angles still inexplicably hold up the overhang, which itself is upside-down.

Nobody goes through the back.

Sitting in a gazebo out in front, two men are playing a board game. It is a complex enough game with the vaguest resemblance to chess, only in this case there are millions of pieces and billions of squares, all of which manage to fit comfortably on a regulation size game board. There is a spinning wheel involved somewhere, and there are several pairs of dice, each for a particular occasion.

One of the men is bent down, retrieving the pencil he'd been using to keep score. When he rises up, he eyes the board suspiciously. Something isn't quite right.

"Did you move any of my pieces?" he says.

"Oh no," says the red player. "I wouldn't do that."

The yellow player is unconvinced. "You switched one of them, didn't you? I could've sworn I had one of mine on that side. One right there."

"Nope. As you can see, it's just mine." The red player gestures to the pieces on that side of the board, all of them his.

The yellow player snorts and picks up a pair of dice. "My turn," he says.

And the games of the gods goes on.


My belief system is structured around the idea that we all exist as something more than the forms we present here in this life. The core of our being exists in a bubble, a relative vacuum I've grown fond of calling a "node," a term often used in describing Indra's Net, which is very similar to my own model in many interpretations. These nodes are all connected to each other, but they only give us the awareness that others such as us exist. The existence of our core is horrific. We are basically completely alone in an environment over which we have complete control, but which contains our core. An all-powerful lonely god wandering around getting into trouble is probably a really bad idea. More likely, it would be impossible for two all-powerful beings to co-exist in such a form. You have major unstoppable force against immovable object problems. At our core we are gods, but we are very lonely gods who are aware of the existence of others but unable to see them, touch them, or communicate with them in any real sense.

From this model comes the idea that the lonely gods sought to find a way to interact with each other and they found they could create what are, well, basically meat puppets within a communal environment that other lonely gods could also project their "representative" to. In order to do this, they needed to give their representative flaws and limitations. So, basically we're in a giant MMO. The question now becomes one of the purpose of this giant game we all created together and then surrendered control over. Some find themselves driven to accumulate fame and fortune, and maybe this was the adventure they sought when they projected themselves here. Your avatar here has only the faintest memory of its origin, which it connects with in dreams and through other methods while usually not realizing what they are doing. We came here with a purpose and we are guided toward fulfillment of that purpose. This is why simply doing what others expect of you and following in the footsteps of your predecessors can feel so empty. Who would choose such an adventure? Someone seeking a simple color-by-numbers adventure?

In this model, everyone's purpose here is different, but I believe the lonely gods established rules. The primary rule established was respect for each other. This is the convergent point in all mythology and religion. Love thy neighbor and the like runs like a river through all of them. Less prominent themes follow in sharing your talents and doing what you can to help others along in their life's journey. Most people would not just keep walking past if a stranger fell down a flight of stairs in front of them and stopped moving after he hit the landing. With no one else around, most people are not going to just step over this person and keep going, they'll stop and try to help. Why? It is part of our coding here, based on the primary rule established by the lonely gods.

We know this does not mean that everyone follows that coding. In any game with many players, some are just going to say "fuck the rules, I'm in this for myself," and go on to manipulate and use people for person gain and turn their noses up at the idea of doing something for someone else unless there is something to be gained by doing so. A larger number operates not without conscience, but with a thirst for personal gain stronger than their desire to be of value to others. They'd stop and call for help after seeing the stranger fall down the stairs, but they wouldn't pull over to help a stranger whose car had broken down on the side of the road. They will often sacrifice family, friends, and their principles to advance career goals and the accumulation of wealth and influence. That is the game they chose to play, and now they have to follow the rules of that game and keep climbing and continue to amass power and riches. That game considers you a loser if you don't keep building and rising. Whether it is the boardroom or the entertainment industry, you have to keep burning bright. Someone who made three hit movies in the 1970s and hasn't been in anything of note since is mocked because their career in Hollywood faded out. And yet they had a brighter time in the sun than most of the people laughing at the "one-hit wonder."

There are many variations of the game you can choose to play within the same environment. Conflict arises when two individuals playing two different games, each with their own set of rules. One cheats the other, scams the other, or in some way purposely causes the other harm. A yellow card comes up, somewhat similar to the concept of karma, and the person who suffers the offense feels they have been violated. How they react depends on how the character of their avatar has developed. The person causing the offense knows they violated another, and at the unconscious level knows they violated the primary rule, and how they react depends on how the character of their avatar has developed. This is the application of the morality overlay, in which the core beliefs of the individual automatically evaluate what has been done and produces a "fix" for the "error." The core sees the offense as an error that needs to be corrected. However, the avatar has developed independently of the core within the environment of the life they have been living here, and so the avatar is not always going to seek the same correction as someone else would. It may or may not experience regret and a desire to do right by the person they wronged, and the person who suffered the offense isn't always going to seek to forgive their transgressor nor are they always going to go out seeking revenge. Each will react differently to convince the core it has corrected the error, because only after the core believes the error to be corrected will the core stop sending out warning messages. So, you can fool it if you are clever, and if that is part of the character you developed here. The Catholics had no idea of the real power they created with the confessional and instilling the belief in adherents that by confessing their sins and doing a penance they would be unburdened.

In the belief that this is not our only life, the only time we'll play a game, we make mistakes in every game we play. When we play the game again, whether in a different setting or one very similar, it is in our programming to correct those past mistakes. You come to a stream and each time you try to jump it, you fall into the stream and fail to make it across. Each time you play the game you seek out the stream and try to jump it again. This is in the core programming. The stream can be anything, it is a metaphor. Hopeless romantics who spend their lives seeking out their perfect mate may, in fact, be here playing just that game. They lost someone in a previous game and they are playing the game again and again to try to find them again. They aren't wrong. Neither are the Catholics. No one is wrong. People are playing different games here, and that can often be a bitch to reconcile. You are seeking to make your town a better place and you've got someone in town playing a different game where they want to build a fortune and they've decided to do it by building railroads and your town in right in their path. In theory, you could create the actual world of a favorite movie and find yourself in it the next time you play the game, but you'll not remember it was a movie. People with a genuine belief in some kind of heaven following this life are very likely going to construct just such a game and insert themselves into it. The reason religions seek converts is they need to populate their afterlife games or they fail to live up to the promotional packaging.

This world is indeed the plaything of the gods, but we have made ourselves forget that we are those gods.

Play your game, follow your path, and do all you can not to violate the primary rule: Give everything you can to everyone you know.

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