The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Lost Girl

Bernie, Our Hero…


Sweat broke out on his forehead. Bernie knew something was wrong. But what? The tiny single-cell creature in front of him wasn’t anything like the one in his lab manual. It was supposed to be a tube-shaped creature covered with motile cilia, which served as primitive sensory organs and gathered information about the environment.

This organism resembled a blobby amoeba, with a long flapping tail that had no chance of moving its enormous mass. I might as well tie a white flag to its tail and give up, thought Bernie.

What had he done wrong?

Creating lifeforms was, admittedly, difficult. You had to marshal two of your most important godly powers: visualization, and concentration. Bernie thought back through everything he’d done since entering his universe.

He’d gone directly to the red dwarf star, and, from there, to the planet. The star and the planet were identical for each student in his Basic Life Studies Lab. The Business had provided precise replicas for The School, as specified in their contract. For this class, a liquid planet had been chosen, since the teachers agreed it was a good starting platform for the students as they learned to create new life.

Bernie had chosen an equatorial region of the planet, near the surface, where the sun’s energy could reach his lifeform. He began the visualization, carefully picturing in his mind every aspect of the lifeform, until he could see it clearly in front him. It had to be fully three-dimensional, and he had to understand each and every element of the complex chemical and biological processes he wanted present. Clear and precise thinking created strong reproducible DNA chains. Fuzzy thinking produced nothing but simple, poorly constructed entities that would be lucky to survive and had no chance of reproducing.

Looking closely at the tiny creature, Bernie wondered if the living blob with the wagging tail was the result of a visualization failure on his part. Perhaps he hadn’t concentrated long enough to harden the visualization properly. Had anything happened to interfere with the process?

Well, maybe. There was that moment when I was visualizing, and my cloud started tying my hair in knots. I broke off my concentration so I could get that under control. Was that the problem? Could it be that simple?

Was there time to do it over? There was no penalty for multiple attempts — you just blinked out your failures. They didn’t count against you. But, no. There was no time left. There was only time to return to the classroom and face up to his failure.

As instructed, he returned to his classroom and took his seat. Reluctantly, he adjusted the viewing window so his single-cell organism filled the screen. Looking around the room, his teacher had begun making rounds, viewing the organisms that had been created that morning. The first inspection would be cursory; later, the teacher would enter each universe for a closer inspection, including an evaluation of their reproductive abilities. Well, Bernie’s organism was alive, by some definitions, although he knew he would lose points for the creature’s inability to reproduce, which the gods considered important in their definition of life. Hopefully, the wagging tail would get him at least a D-minus.

Bernie knew his failure wouldn’t end with the ringing of the bell. The bell only meant it would be Billy’s turn.

And sure enough…

☼ ☼ ☼

With the laughter of his classmates still ringing in his ears, Bernie tried to get past Billy, but, again, the older boy blocked his way.

“It looked like something made by a child,” continued Billy turning slightly to address his audience. “And the tail was the best part. If it had fifty tails, all waiving in the same direction, Bernie’s Blob wouldn’t have moved a smidge. The only way that thing could move is if you rolled it down a hill.”

As the laughter died down, Billy turned back to Bernie and asked, “Are you sure you’re really the son of the Great Simeon? I’m beginning to think the stork made a mistake somewhere.”

As the laughter faded, a pretty young goddess named Suzie said, “Gosh, Billy, if you still think storks deliver babies, maybe you should have a talk with your dad.”

Although several young gods tried to stifle their mirth, the laughter that followed was more genuine and lasted longer; several young gods covered their mouths trying to hide wide grins.

Anger flashed through Billy’s shimmer revealing the rage he felt at Suzie’s challenge. The horrible scar that ran from his forehead to his cheek was outlined in red.

Bernie was torn between seizing the opportunity to escape and concern over what might happen next. He need not have worried about Suzie. He should have worried about himself.

Billy turned from Suzie and, pointing his finger at Bernie’s chest, demanded, “What makes you think that’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” said Bernie. Be calm, cloud. There’s nothing to worry about. Bernie’s heart pounded, although he tried to remain calm on the outside. Bernie lowered his head as he moved past Billy, grateful that this time, the bully did not block his way.

As Bernie broke free, he caught Suzie’s eye. He mouthed a quick thank you before disappearing down the hall.


*** Next Chapter ***