Story 7: Science Project

Dear Vishnu,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Ever since we finished school and moved away to different parts of Megha Kash, we haven’t really been keeping in touch like we promised each other we would. But that’s okay, I guess life can and does get too busy for the little things sometimes. I’ve taken to assuaging myself by thinking the silence from you is an indication that everything is all right. I hope I am right. How is Lakshmi?

Where are you, by the way? I tried pulsing you on our old frequency and got no answer. So I am recording this in a capsule and sealing it with your membrane-print. Old-fashioned and slow, I know, but the method works, right?

No, don’t be worried. I am not writing to you now because something has gone wrong. No, nothing has gone wrong, but something did occur a few days ago that took me back to the old times, and it is that incident that wouldn’t let me rest until I’ve written to you.

Remember the science project we took up at school – you, me and Shiv? We made a miniature universe with ridiculously outlandish variables. Remember? It was nothing like Megha Kash – for instance, it was largely made of ‘nothingness’, as we called it. Nothing, we said, not even air. Contrast that with the gaseous selenium that permeates our universe.

Maybe it was the claustrophobic feel of our own universe that made us want to create an infinite one. Remember how we made light travel along a bent line along the exterior plasma wall to make it seem like the universe was infinite? How I wish Megha Kash had the same properties. Here we flash a beam of light in any direction and it comes back to us in a day. How quaint!

 Four stars, nine planets and some debris were all we constructed – much like our own. But flash a ray of light from anywhere within the membrane and you get a feeling of an expansive and infinite universe. I think it was Shiv, wasn’t it, who figured out how to fragment light at just the right angles so that the debris would look like different things at different times and places? I remember he spent two whole rest-cycles trying to make it work, and boy, was it grand when he did!

Sure, it was just an illusion, but here on Megha Kash we don’t even have that, do we?

Remember that strange compound you made in our chemistry class? Nobody believed you when you said two atoms of hydrogen could ever combine with oxygen. Our teacher (what was his name again? Mr Brihaspati?) sneered at the idea, as I recall, and said there simply wasn’t enough energy to make it happen. It’s true of Megha Kash, of course, but Vishnu, in what abundance it occurred on that third planet! Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen – who knew anything but selenium could be so stable?

We got bored of it very soon, and fair enough too; it was a fairly boring thing to watch after a while. It was interesting at first when the planets were balls of liquid, and parts of them broke off to form mini-planets, but once they solidified, hardly anything ever happened. The planets went about their own orbits tirelessly, over and over again. We waited, if you remember, for something to happen, but nothing ever did.

Well, you could only take a science project so seriously. Real life soon took over. All three of us moved on to other things. We finished school, went to college, got jobs, got married – you know, the usual story. But you know what? All this time we were going about our business, our little world has been sitting in the corner of my sleeping cell, and over the years it has snuck under a pile of ectoplasmic goo that Saraswati ordered me to tidy up only last week.

You would not believe it, Vishnu, but there is life on that third planet! I don’t know what it is that we did; I don’t know how such randomly selected variables could ever produce anything as complex as life, and that too without selenium! The organisms are carbon-based. Can you believe it? Carbon!

Remember our arguments about whether other forms of life were possible? I have to agree with you now that they are. I am sorry I had to see it to believe it, but that compound of yours – I will call it OH2 for now – is simply magical. All forms of life on the planet need it to survive. Imagine a virtual impossibility on our world sustaining life on another.

But that’s not all. There are different types of life on this planet. Does that make sense to you? No, it didn’t to me either. There is some driving force behind the creation of life on this planet – it seems to have started off with very simple organisms which grew steadily more and more complex. What is driving that change? I don’t know. I was hoping you would be able to tell me. It feels like – I know this sounds hopelessly romantic, but here goes – the planet is alive. The sheer amount of variety in life forms here has to be seen to be believed.

One species of life lords over everything else on this planet, and they seem to have appeared on the scene quite recently. They’re intelligent, and they’re both instinctive and deeply deliberate in equal measures. They have fairly well-developed means of communication, and they prefer to form large social groups – not stick to themselves like Kashians do. And for some reason they have an innate drive to explore. They’re always looking out to the stars and trying to devise strategies to reach them. They’ve already started traversing the nothingness to reach their mini-planet, and they’re looking further.

Why do you think that is? Maybe it is the illusion of infinity that makes them so. Look at us – we know there is nothing to explore, so we don’t have the drive. I wonder if we would have been different if our universe looked infinite to us. What do you think?

Nothing to fear, though. Their life-spans are not long enough, and if you remember, we slowed down the speed of light considerably, which means they simply cannot travel much further than their star in one lifetime, even if they ever do reach the speed of light, which in itself is doubtful.

One other interesting aspect of this race is that they reside within hard shells that have a definite shape. They cannot assume whatever shape they want like our plasma membranes allow us to do, and they have organs that enable them to directly manipulate their environment; they don’t have to use psionic pulses for it like we do. I am telling you, Vishnu, this is a whole new world. I have literally been glued to the microscope all of last week.

There is also an eerie edge to their nature, Vishnu. Being the all-powerful race on their planet, they enjoy imprisoning lower animals, be it for experimentation or for pleasure. They’re also just knocking on the door beyond which lies the secret of creating life – albeit life as they know it. Our own race stumbled upon that stone a few eons ago, remember? And look where that got us.

You’ve always been the pragmatic one among us, so you will probably scoff at this, but do you see the parallel? We created life, and life is creating itself. Is it possible, then, that we ourselves were created by someone else? We are someone’s science project, perhaps?

I know you will say our race came into being on its own – and interestingly enough this race believes that they came into being from perfectly ‘natural’ processes too – but if that is true, where are all the other life forms like there are on this planet? Why are we alone? Why don’t we have the means to reach the ends of our universe even though we know it is finite? I don’t know why, Vishnu, but I think we’re being watched. Maybe somebody is out there laughing at us and spying on us right now, just as I am spying on this race of – human beings, they call themselves.

I can never describe in full the complexity of their species, Vishnu. If this letter interests you enough, come over for a visit and you can see for yourself. It is fascinating. And maybe while you’re here, we can have a chat about my little theory. I know what you would say, but I miss arguing with you. Bring Lakshmi along as well.



P.S. Do you know of Shiv’s whereabouts? I know he is a recluse, but this is a bit much even for him. I heard a rumour he fell in love and got married. How true is it? Shiv and love – imagine!

Anyway, if you do know where he is, make sure you bring him and his lady along. Will be good to catch up.

* * *

Dear Vishnu,

I am writing this in haste so as to reach you before you leave. Yesterday, Saraswati took the liberty of cleaning my room without asking me. (I’ve told her not to do so many, many times, but you know what they’re like.) She recycled the whole heap of junk that has been lying around ever since I was young – and yes, she recycled our universe too.

I was very angry at her, of course, but you know how it is – it never pays to get angry at them. To be fair to her, all she wanted to do was keep the cell clean. I suppose it is my fault for not having told her how important the container was. At least she thinks it is my fault, and that’s all matters.

I am taking her out moulding tonight as an apology for the harsh words. It’s after all just a science project. The three of us should get together and have another go at it some time. But I doubt we will remember the exact combination of variables. I don’t think any of us were smart enough to write it down. Oh, well. We can at least use that as an excuse to get together and have a chat about old times.

One final thought, Vishnu. If we’re indeed someone’s science project, I hope he doesn’t have a wife like mine.



P.S. Say hello to Shiv.