The Universe Builders
by Steve LeBel
The Town (backstory)
The air is warm as it always is, because their world has no seasons. The clouds crawl slowly toward the east as they do every day. There are few changes here.
The plateau itself is surrounded by forest in every direction. The forest is broken in certain areas by water in the form of rivers and lakes. Only in the north does the panoramic view change. There the land is full of mist that hugs the ground. In the center of the mist is a mountain, standing taller than anything else on the horizon. The mountain is blue-green in color, and there are no trees growing on the mountain. Some people might be curious about such a place and why it is different from its surroundings. But no one has ever bothered to travel there and examine the mystery. There are too many interesting mysteries in The Town.
The Town was built by a race of gods. These gods built their town on the plateau so long ago, there are no records of the original gods. No one knows where they came from or why they chose to come here. The Town they made is self-sustaining in every way.
Maybe that is why no god has ever left The Town. No explorer has returned to tell them if their world is round or flat. Are there oceans or continents on their world? If there are, no god has ever seen them. They don’t even know if other creatures share their world. One could argue the gods don’t need to care about anything beyond their Town. They have everything they need right there. And if they need something more, well, there are lots of other worlds where they can get whatever they want. And if they can’t find it on one of those worlds, well, they can just make a new world that does have it. Yes, everything you could possibly need is right here in Town.
At least that is what the Chamber of Commerce says.
If you want to understand the design of The Town, you have to understand the water. In the center of town the original builders found a deep artesian well gushing forth an unending supply of cool, clear water. The early gods loved water almost as much as they loved the sun. They put water everywhere, which is why you see fountains, streams, and ponds throughout The Town. This is also the reason you see bridges everywhere. The more common bridges will take you across the water in just a few steps. The uncommon bridges will take you across town with the same number of steps.
There are no maps of The Town. Nothing two-dimensional could explain how to get around anyway. And even if you had a three-dimensional map showing all the shortcuts, it would be outdated by the next Town Council meeting. One of the Council’s favorite pass-times is “enhancing the surface infrastructure”, which is god-talk for moving the streets around. So if you have to go anywhere, you usually leave a few minutes early in case something has changed overnight and your old route won’t get you there anymore. As long as you looked for the tall City Council Building, it didn’t take long to get re-oriented. The reason no one objected to these changes, of course, was it kept the Council busy, which in turn kept them from engaging in a lot of the less popular pass-times that politicians everywhere are want to do.
The first impression of The Town would be a massive culture shock. The gods do have a distinct culture of their own. But it is often hard to see because of the non-indigenous flora and fauna everywhere. Walking through The Town is like being at the zoo with the sounds of strange beasts piercing the air, or the sound of unknown creatures as they move not-so-silently behind you. Truly the only thing the gods love more than their creations is the chance to show them off. Most of these creatures are free to wander the streets, swim in the rivers, climb the trees, or fly in the air. No two of them are alike, except when the creator decided they were more fun as a pair or as a group. The only thing these creatures have in common is breathing the same air, and, in many cases, that was a last-minute modification.
As you walk down the street, you see gardens everywhere. You can’t help but smell the sweet aroma of exotic flowers because many of the flowers bend forward to let you smell them. A curious vine may reach down from the overhead branches to touch you as you walk by. At another turn, a small furry creature reaches up to hold your hand as you walk together for a block or two, and then he disappears just as silently as he came. As you watch the other gods on the street, you get a sense of satisfaction that comes from living in a small town. That is because walking down the street is an experience. It cannot be hurried.
The Town Council had rules for what you could bring into The Town. The size of the creatures was not a problem. No god could bring back large objects from other worlds. The largest so far was just over the size of small horse. It had something to do with the limited power of the gods in their own world. The Council established its Domestication Doctrine, which allows most plants and animals as long as they are non-violent and don’t damage property, including other plants and animals. If you want to keep them inside your own house as house pets, then the rules are more flexible. Everyone was expected to tag their creatures with an ownership mark so if there was a problem they knew who to contact.
These rules didn’t do much for the refugee problem, however. Sometimes pets get lost or take to life on the streets. More often, however, the god who brought them back just got tired of them. The Town Council established a Refugee Roundup Squad to locate homeless creatures and return them to their creators for proper disposition. But when you think of the number of creatures wandering the streets, you understand why the task is a daunting one. Many of the refugees found their way to the outskirts of town where they found the woods more to their liking. Over countless ages, the woods outside of town became a place of great diversity. But, it was often a dangerous place for the new refugees who wanted to make it their home.
Now, all populations grow, and the population of The Town does too, although very slowly by all standards. Different races and different cultures respond to the need to accommodate new populations in different ways. The most common way is to build out horizontally and occupy adjacent land for your new population. Another popular method is to build up with multi-story complexes and sky scrapers. Some cultures build deeper into the ground and increase the number of tunnels and chambers to hold their growing population. The gods chose to build inward. This means the inside of a building is invariably larger than the outside. The Town Council sometimes adjusts the outside sizes of the building as necessary for street widening or narrowing or re-routing, but the inside of the building is not changed. The advantage is building in this way is everything is within easy walking distance.
If we consider why the gods chose to build this way, it may offer insight into their cultural and societal values. For years beyond counting, they have created cultures with different ways of doing things. Some of the technological achievements of these cultures could offer a life of ease and comfort if the gods had adopted the technology. They weren’t interested. They wanted the feel of living in a small town and knowing everyone in their town. They liked being able to walk anywhere they wanted to go.
They believe their lives are better because they’ve worked hard to keep them simple.
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