Length of story in words: 6320

Sociology Experiment

By Wishbone

A Mare Inebrium story

Mare Inebrium universe created by Dan L. Hollifield


I had just landed on Bethdish, and checked into my hotel. I had an appointment at the largest of the local universities two days hence, and was planning to do a bit of sight-seeing the next day. However, the next day was still far off, it being still the early hours of the evening. I had a bit of money with me; what was left over from the grant Iíd received from my own university in order to come here. Most, of course, had been spent on the trip itself. But what was left was still marginally better than what I usually had to spend at home, and so I figured I wanted to do just that: spend it. And when youíre on Bethdish, thereís only one place to go to get rid of excess money: the Mare Inebrium.

Before getting into what happened to me that night, I suppose Iíd better explain what I was doing there at all. I was at the time a sociology student at the University of Montana, and I had just, as mentioned, received a grant, in order to go on a study trip. And where better to go than Bethdish, this cosmic nexus, this crossroads, used by so many species as a waypoint in space, and itself home to several intelligent species. For this very reason, the main university of the City of Lights, the Collegium Lux as most people called it, though its official name was somewhat longer and much more cumbersome to pronounce, was a gathering of students from all over known space, many on grants like myself, but also a lot of regular students.

I was here to do research for my doctoral thesis. I found Terran sociology a tired subject, and wanted therefore to study the sociology of other races. Parallels could be drawn, differences pointed out; an absolute goldmine of data for my thesis.

So here I was. First time out in space, and on Bethdish no less, with a loaded (well, more loaded than usual, at least) credit chip burning a hole in my pocket. And the Mare Inebrium was only five minutes away! Weíd all heard of this legendary establishment back home, usually through stories told by our older tutors at the start of our educations. Tutors who, for the most part, had never set foot outside of Earth either, and so therefore perhaps exaggerated their tales a bit, in order to make them sound even better than when they first heard them from their own tutors.

Maybe you can imagine then, my thrill of actually being able to hail a cab, hand the driver my credit chip, and say, very very casually of course, (or at least as casually as is possible with your heart trying to get acquainted with your brain the hard way, namely by trying to force itself up your windpipe), "The Mare Inebrium, please". As I said, maybe you can imagine it, though I seriously doubt it. As mentioned, my heart was acting as if it wanted carnal knowledge of my brain then and there, in addition to which my knees appeared to have spontaneously transformed into two pieces of wet macaroni, if Iím to judge by the way they kept wobbling about. In fact, I had to grab a hold of the roof of the cab, and lower my body into it with my arms, or I would have simply fallen over. I was so excited as the cab took off. At that moment, I could care less about my thesis. I cared not one whit if I ever managed to write a single line, or whether Iíd be kicked out of campus upon my return. All I knew was this: Iíd be able to tell all my fellow students about my trip to the Mare Inebrium!

I knew of course, that the tales Iíd heard of this place were most likely exaggerated all out of proportion, and so once I was in the cab, after having calmed down a bit, a part of my mind began to steel itself for the dreadful disappointment likely to come. Still, I tried very hard not to listen to that part of my mind, and instead look forward to this, every studentís dream come true.

However, I was glad that that part of my mind had steeled itself for this, for disappointment struck the second we landed by the curb outside the Mare. If truth be told, itís not much to look at from the outside. True, the building it resides in is enormous, the top of it was hidden in clouds, but the entrance to the Mare is rather featureless. So, somewhat sheepishly, I accepted my credit chip back from the cabbie, and got out.

Standing there, outside the Mare, I had the most dreadful argument with myself. Should I go in, and risk total disappointment? Or simply hail another cab, go back to my hotel, and at least retain a bit of the illusion that the Mare was simply the place in space? After all, I could always cobble together a story to tell my fellow students upon my return, as none of them had ever been here. In the end, curiosity got the better of me. To have come all this way, simply to turn back outside the very door into legend, no, I couldnít do that. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and walked through the outer door, preparing myself for the worstÖ

Fortunately, the worst failed to appear, for the outside appearance of the Mare turned out to be misleading. The main foyer, I noticed, was rather more interesting than the facade, with an ornamental rock garden, to spice up the otherwise ordinary cloakroom accessories lining the walls. I took a deep breath, and stepped through the inner doors and into the bar proper. I stopped dead in my tracks. Not only did I see most of what had been described to me, I saw a great deal more. This place was everything it had been cracked up to be, and then some, at least by my standards. The floating tables were there, the bar covering the end wall was there, the side passages to the special theme rooms were there, and the waitresses, oh my, the waitresses were there.

And the aliens were there. Just at a quick glance I could count more than a dozen different races. And once I picked up my jaw from the floor and reattached it to my face, I started walking slowly through the main room and counted many more. On closer inspection, there were a lot more different races in there than what was apparent at the first glance. This was due to the similarities of many of the humanoid races. You only saw the differences up close, but some of those differences were pretty disturbing. I learned then, that humanoid does not mean human. Skin color, shape of the skull, number of eyes, you name it. There were many variations on the anthropomorphic theme. I assume that I mistook many humanoids for human though, as some differences were probably not as apparent as others.

By and by, I made my way to the bar, and plunked my behind down on an empty stool. I turned around to face the room, and just sat there for a while, taking it all in. My eyes drank in the details, trying frantically to commit them all to memory, in order to be able to tell about this experience accurately when I got home. I was so taken in by the scenery, that I didnít hear him the first two times he addressed me, and only noticed him when he reached over the bar and tapped my shoulder.

"Hey, bub, you want anything to drink?"

I turned around to face the bartender. He was smiling patiently at me with a questioning look on his face. For all I could see, he might well be human, and looked every bit the part of his profession.

"ErhmÖ Ah, well, erhÖ", I said.

"Are you allright?", he asked, his look starting to change into one of concern.

"Ahh, yes, I mean, erh, yes, Iíd like, ahÖ", I said and once more ground to a halt.

The bartenderís face lit up in a grin.

"Oh, itís your first time here. Are you a Terran?"

This brought me out of my stupor.

"Yes, howíd you know?", I asked.

"Experience", he said, with a cryptic smile. "So, can I get you anything?".

I glanced at the rows and rows and rows and ROWS of bottles behind the bar.

"Yes, well, I donít reallyÖ"

I must have looked like a frightened puppy to him. He chuckled politely.

"Never mind. Iíll get you something to start you off easy. By the way, Iím Max.", he said, holding out his hand.

"Thanks", I said, taking his hand, "I mean yes, erh, I mean thanks, and erÖ Robert Landis".

"Nice to meet you Robert. Just relax, youíre in good hands."

He smiled at me and went to get me a drink, and presently came back with a tall glass.

"Go ahead, taste it. I think youíll like it", he urged.

I donít know what it was he brought me, but it was purplish, sweetish, and seemed to turn to vapour in my mouth. And it was just what I needed. Gratefully, I handed him my credit chip, but he pushed it back at me, smiling.

"This oneís on the house, sonny. Just a little something to get your feet back on the ground, hmm?"

I thanked him, and he went down to the other end of the bar to serve some customers there. At least, I assume they were customers, though they might have been somebodyís pets, for all I know. They were definitely not humanoid, that much I could tell.

I went back to watching the scenery, sipping my drink from time to time. Whatever it was, it was good. A feeling of warmth and relaxation spread slowly through my entire body, and my heart gradually stopped doing the jitterbug, and went back to its regular rhythm. I donít think the drink was alcoholic, since I didnít feel intoxicated at all, just warm and relaxed.

I was just starting to consider checking out some of the theme rooms, when Max returned.

"So, Robert", (he still remembered my name!), "what are you doing on Bethdish?"

"Well, Iím here on a grant from my university, to do research for my doctoral thesis."

"Oh, really? Whatís your field?", he asked.

"Sociology", I answered. "Actually, I thought maybe someone in here might have some ideas. I donít really know much about the history of other species besides my own."

"Hmm", said Max, "well, if itís old stories youíre interested in, normally Iíd refer you to Kazsh-ak Tier down there", and pointed to a spot further down the bar. I let my eyes follow his finger, and found that I was looking at a scorpion large enough to cut me in half with its pincers. My heart began the jitterbug once more.

"But", Max continued, much to my relief, "since you study sociology, maybe you should talk to that guy over there".

Again, I looked at where he was pointing, and found, gratefully, that the person in question was a small man sitting alone at a table. He didnít look very frightening at all, so I figured I could probably stomach striking up a conversation with him.

"I happen to know", said Max, "that heís a sociology professor from some offworld university. Heís here for a convention. He might have some ideas for you."

I thanked Max for his help, picked up my drink, and headed towards the small manís table. As I approached, I could see that he wasnít human, though definitely a humanoid. Both his skin and hair were a greyish color, and his eyes were a deep, very very dark blue, almost black. The entire eye, that is, as he didnít seem to have neither iris nor pupil. He was dressed in a simple dark blue suit, and was drinking something that might have been beer. From his appearance, I judged him to be in his middle forties.

He looked up from his beer (or whatever it was) as I walked up to his table.

"Hello sir, I was wondering, that is, the bartender told me that, erÖ"

How do you start a conversation with an alien, when youíve never been off your planet before? He didnít seem annoyed, however. He just smiled at me, and said "Yes? The bartender told you?".

I tried to gather my wits, and for once say something vaguely coherent.

"Yes, the bartender told me that youíre a sociology professor."

"Why so I am, so I am. Are you a student at one of the universities here?"

"Yes, I mean no, well, sort of. Iím here on a grant from my own university, to do research for my doctoral thesis. Iím connected to the, er, well, the Collegium Lux."

The man smiled, nodding, showing that he was aware of what I meant by the name.

"Splendid, splendid. Wonít you sit down?"

I thanked him and sat, placing my drink on the table very carefully, lest its weight would cause the table to fall to the ground. It didnít seem to have any effect though, the table didnít even bob, so I relaxed. I wasnít really used to floating tables, you see.

"From the way you look around you, I assume this is your first visit to the Mare Inebrium?"

"Well, yes. As a matter of fact, itís my first visit anywhere. Iíve never been off my home planet before", I said, a bit shyly.

"Ah well, then this must be somewhat overwhelming to you. Nevertheless, this is an excellent place for anyone to relax and take the burden of everyday life off oneís shoulders for a while. As well as an excellent place for a sociologist to study the interplay of different species with one another."

I hadnít quite looked at it this way before, but admitted that he was right. What better place to observe how different aliens got along? Still, I didnít think my finances would stand up to the task of making the Mare Inebrium my office for the duration of my stay. I mumbled something about not really being in that financial league.

"Oh, I didnít mean that you should actually do it, my friend", he said, "merely that it is an excellent place to get ideas. In reality, these surroundings are probably far too distracting to ever get any actual work done". He chuckled. "I know I certainly wouldnít be able to do much constructive work in here".

I noticed that my glass was empty, and excused myself to go to the bar. He stopped me.

"Oh, thereís no need for that. See here".

I sat back down. He touched a spot in the center of the table, and suddenly, the face of it lit up with a list of all the drinks available, as well as their prices.

"What would you like to drink?"

I looked at my empty glass. "Well, I would like another like the one I just had, but I have no idea what it was. The bartender picked it out for me."

"Max? Yes, heís usually very good at judging a customerís taste. That was an Algolian kheefi-juice you were drinking."

He scrolled through the list, and found the appropriate item. "Do you have a credit chip?"

I produced my credit chip and handed it to him. He slid it into a small slot next to the spot he touched earlier. He then placed my empty glass on another marked spot, and tapped an area of the "table-screen" marked "Order". The empty glass promptly vanished, giving me a nasty shock, which was repeated a second later when another glass appeared, this one filled with the same purply liquid I drank before. He retrieved my credit chip and handed it back to me.

"Surprised?", he asked.

"Er, yes", I admitted, "We donít have anything like this where I come from".

"Well", he said, "Youíll find that the Mare is full of surprises. Hardly ever a dull moment in here."

From what Iíd seen so far, I was ready to believe him. I took a sip of my new drink, and again felt the feeling of warm relaxation spreading through my body. I could get used to this, I decided.

"Now", he said, "about your thesis. Have you picked a topic?"

"Er, well no, not exactly. I just wanted to do something with other races than my own. Thatís all been done, you know. I thought alien sociology would make a nice subject, but as to exactly what Iíll write about, I have no clear idea as yet." I looked at him hopefully. "Maybe you have an idea I could use?"

He leaned back, looking thoughtful. "Well, here on Bethdish, there are a myriad things you could write about. So many races interact with each other here on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin." He frowned in thought.

An idea struck me. "How about your own thesis? Which subject did you use? That is, if youíre willing to tell me. Iím not out to plagiarize the work of someone else, you understand."

He brightened visibly. "My own thesis, of course! Why didnít I think of that? No no, Iím perfectly willing to tell you."

He leaned forward, elbows on the table, fingertips against each other, organizing his thoughts.

"I suppose you are familiar with the tremendous sociological impact religion can have on a civilization?"

"Of course", was my reply, "Most cultures are shaped by religion from their infancy. Even if a culture does away with it altogether, which is rare though, then even after millennia without religion, traditions, values and linguistic features pointing back to said religion are still very common."

"Excellent!", he exclaimed, "As if quoted from a textbook." He beamed a smile at me, and I felt myself blushing slightly. He took a pull from his drink before continuing.

"Well", he began, "What happened was as follows:

* * *

On my world, the research for a doctoral thesis is often done as a group project, though each member of the group writes his own thesis, usually about different aspects of that research. My group wanted to study the effect religion could have on a society in its early stages of development. We planned to conduct an experiment to try and determine just how and how much religion could change the course of a civilization. We applied for a grant, just as you yourself have done, and got it. A quite substantial grant too, as our university was quite wealthy, and saw the importance of what we were trying to do.

Next we had to find ourselves a testing ground. We searched a planetary catalogue, and found a planet which was perfect for our purpose. It was inhabited, with different civilizations on it, ranging in technology levels from primitive, early stone age, to late bronze age. Just perfect for our purpose. Advanced enough for us to draw parallels from their societies to our own, not nearly advanced enough to pose any threat to us. In all probability, they already had religion, but this too was in accordance with our plans.

What we wanted to do was partly to impersonate whatever deities they worshipped, and try to modify their religions in various ways, partly to try and make up entirely new deities for them to worship. Then try to establish which sociological changes in their societies this produced.

We spent most of our grant equipping a fleet with which to work. We needed a ship for each member of our group, each with several landing modules, and room enough for extra staff to do work in orbit as the experiment progressed. We would have preferred to build a land base, but it would have been too expensive. Though our grant was quite large, there were still limits to the kind of money we could spend. So we settled for the ships, as these could be rented and returned upon the conclusion of our experiment. We had enough money to also rent a flagship in which to do collective work, when that was needed.

Next came all the gadgets and extra equipment we thought we might need. This list was long and rather strange. When youíre trying to persuade primitives that you are actually a divine entity, there are lots of different things which might help. So our list contained such diverse elements as portable holo-projectors, theatrical make-up, virtual reality games and weather control satellites. And weapons of course, just in case.

Finally we needed to hire extra staff to collect data, help prepare special events, and even to act as extras, as the experiment progressed. Thus, when we left, we were rather a mixed lot. Our team contained, among others, sociologists, computer analysts, actors, special effects people, ordinary workers, and of course flight crews for our ships.

At last we were ready to depart. We promised the head of the sociology department to send back regular reports of our progress. Finally we were off.

The journey there was uneventful. We arrived in good order, and moved our ships into orbit.

In the first stages of the experiment, we worked mainly in the flagship. We needed to establish the boundaries, languages, religions and political rule of each civilization, in order to determine where to concentrate our efforts. Though we were well equipped, we by no means had the resources to focus on the entire planet at the same time. We had to narrow it down a bit.

We began by putting out observational satellites, to determine the population densities of different areas. When we found what we believed to be the most densely settled areas, as well as the areas with the highest levels of technology, we moved on to the next step. Each of the group members chose a civilization to work on, and then we adjourned to our separate ships. We stayed in regular contact of course, but from now on, we worked separately.

My team started by placing hidden cameras and microphones all through the capital of the civilization Iíd chosen. My team of linguists started puzzling out the language of the natives. A process which was slow at first, but which rapidly accelerated, as the translation computers had more and more of the language programmed into them.

Once we were able to understand their language, I got to work. Together with a couple of younger sociology students Iíd hired for the purpose, I started puzzling out the social, political and religious structure of the society. It appeared to be a loosely knit, mostly nomadic society, with no central government as such, but sharing a common religion, monotheistic in structure. I planned to play the role of a new deity, to see if the population could be manipulated into adopting a new set of religious beliefs. I had actors with me of course, but I planned to use them mostly as extras, and take care of the main character myself. Not the most scientific approach, I know, but I thought I might as well try to have a bit of fun, as well as doing some serious scientific work. Well, we all got to have a bit of fun eventually, a bit too much perhaps, but thatís getting ahead of myself a bit.

I was now ready to begin the real experiment. To initiate "first contact", as it were. This was what weíd come here for, and we got to work. Over the next period, we did a lot of things. My actors and special effects people were really put to work. I wonít go into details about what we did exactly, you can read about it all in our paper. Suffice to say, that we put on several displays of divine power, some very public, with thousands of people present, others private, for one person only. It was necessary to do both, in order to determine the difference between one man spreading his belief (strengthened and modified by the "visions" provided by us), and a large group all convinced that they had been in actual contact with their deity. All through this, my sociologists and computer people worked hard to gather all pertinent data, and try to put them together into a coherent whole, for later processing and study.

Sometimes, communication with the natives was difficult. Even today, translation computers are not perfect, and concepts in one language may be almost untranslatable into another. Plus, the difference in technology level between them and us meant that we had to rephrase a lot to get our point across to them. Sometimes, they misunderstood us completely, but most of the time, it worked sufficiently well.

All the members of our group were in frequent contact, updating each other on the developments in our respective areas of responsibility. We also held several joint sessions aboard the flagship, discussing strategies and exchanging ideas. It was at one of these sessions that someone brought up the notion of interfering with the populations of anotherís area. We dismissed this as a bad idea, but found the thought of indirectly influencing other populations, through our own that is, might give some interesting insights into the influences different religions might have on each other.

I was to start first... I began slowly, by instructing some of my followers to destroy an altar of another deity, one of my fellow researchers as it were, to see the impact this would have on the relationship between the two groups. The others then followed suit, one by one. At every step, we informed each other of the things we were about to do. At first, that is.

I donít really know how it happened, but gradually, it all evolved into a kind of game. We eventually stopped informing each other ahead of time, and simply ordered our followers to carry out attacks on some of the other groups, sometimes giving them specific missions, other times simply expressing our displeasure with another group, and leaving it to our followersí own devices to find out what should be done about it. It became a game of outwitting the others, guessing what they would do, and taking measures against them.

Looking back upon it, Iím not terribly proud of what we did. We were struck with - ah, megalomania, I suppose. The power of life and death at our fingertips. If you ever try impersonating a deity, you will find out that it can be very addictive indeed. I have no idea how many people died in religious wars due to our interference, but it must be a substantial number. The only comfort I can offer myself is that most of them would most likely have died in religious wars anyway, just other wars than the ones we started. The societies we were dealing with were very primitive, you know, and their respective cultures were rather aggressive. Still, it is not something I remember fondly. At the time though, we were so caught up in this game, that we had actually ceased to think of our followers as people. They were pawns in our game, to be moved about or sacrificed as strategy demanded.

Anyway, we eventually had to get a grip on ourselves, and begin looking at the data weíd collected. While we had been playing, our staffs had been busy collecting and correlating data, and we found that we had accumulated more than enough for our respective papers. The experiment had already run for quite a bit longer than planned from the start, and reluctantly, we packed up and went back to begin the long process of deducing our conclusions from the gathered data.

* * *

He took a long pull from his drink (he'd had it renewed during his tale), and leaned back with a sigh.

I had been quiet, listening fascinatedly, all during his tale. Now I leaned forward.

"So, what were your conclusions, professor?"

He chuckled. "Oh no, my boy, it would take far too long for me to recount all that I concluded from our experiment. If youíre interested, I suggest you get a copy of my paper from the university library. They have a very comprehensive collection, as well as excellent data lines. Iím sure they can get you a copy."

He glanced at his watch, and an expression of concern crossed his face.

"Oh dear me, I really should be going. I have a meeting in the morning. I hope I have been of some help to you?"

"Very much so, professor. Thank you very much." He got up from his seat, and I rose with him.

"By the way, what was the title of your paper?"

"Oh, it was íA Study into the Sociological Impacts on Primitive Societies by Controlled Religious Effortsí. I do hope you will read it. Iím rather proud of it", he smiled.

I smiled back at him, and shook his hand.

"I most certainly shall. Goodbye professor, and thank you once more."

He left, and I sat back to think and to finish my drink, which I had also had renewed during his account, this one something alcoholic. I was determined to read his paper. It sounded like a perfect subject for my own studies.

I decided that, although the Mare Inebrium was a dream come true, I would have plenty of chance to return here before I had to return home, so I finished my drink and went back to my hotel room.

* * *

The next day, I went to the university library to find a copy of the professor's paper. I was not familiar with the computer system there, so I found a librarian, a pretty young woman in her middle twenties, and asked her to help me.

"Of course", she replied, "are you from offworld?"

She led me toward a bank of computers at the far wall. I told her what brought me here, and mentioned the professor Iíd talked to the day before at the Mare Inebrium. Her face lit up at the mention of the Mare.

"So you went to the Mare. Howíd you like it?", she grinned.

"I loved it", I admitted, "It was everything I thought it would be."

"Most newcomers are struck by it", she said, smiling. "So, what is it you are looking for?"

Weíd reached the bank of computers, and she sat down in front of one.

"Well, itís a doctoral thesis in sociology, but itís from offworld."

I thought back to the professorís appearance. I had judged him to be in his middle forties, but knowing that looks might be deceiving when dealing with alien species, I figured he might very well have written it 50 years ago or more.

"It might also be 50 or more years old. How extensive are your files?"

"Well, even though our own library is very comprehensive, it is by no means complete. However, we have a direct line to the library in Fort Mountain. Thatís the city of the Immortals, you know. Their records go back about 2 billion years. Then we have lines to every other university, library and public record center on the planet. Offworld, we can search the databases of about 500 major libraries and universities throughout the galaxy. If needed, they can forward the request through their own connections, and so on. Offworld material takes longer to get, of course."

I whistled inwardly at the massive amount of accumulated data all this represented. This might take forever.

She noticed my hang-dog appearance, and put a maternal tone in her voice.

"Look, I know it sounds impossible, but our lines and computers are fast. Why donít we just start with what you know? Whoís the author of the thesis?"

It suddenly struck me that the professor had never told me his name. I felt really foolish when I had to admit that I didnít know.

"But I remember the title!", I hastily added.

Her eyes returned from the ceiling, and her face changed from a look of "Why me?", to one of sceptical expectation. I told her the title, and she typed it into the computer.

"Anything else? Do you know which planet it came from?"

Again, I had to admit that I didnít. I felt my ears beginning to turn red. When she found that I didnít know the name of the university, nor the documentís ID-number, nor the exact age of it, I was about ready to put a gun to my head. Had I been in her shoes, I would probably have kicked me out of the library, but she merely gave a little sigh and frowned at the screen. She must have been a sucker for hard-luck cases. At least she seemed to take it as a challenge, rather than a nuisance.

"Oh well", she said, "I suppose it canít be helped then. I can start the search, then lock the computer with a notice that it is busy. It should be done sometime after lunchtime. You might as well do something else for a while, and come back around then."

I thanked her very much for all her trouble, and went out to take a look around the City of Lights.

I wandered aimlessly around for a couple of hours, glancing impatiently at my watch from time to time. I wasnít really in the mood for sight-seeing, so finally I decided that if I had to wait until after lunchtime anyway, I might as well find a place to get myself some lunch. I ate at a small cafe' somewhere, and whiled away the time afterwards with a couple of cups of coffee. I tried to read a paper, but I couldnít really concentrate, so most of the time I simply sat staring out of the window at the busy street outside.

I finally decided that the search must be finished by now, and went back to the library.

The librarian who helped med before spotted me as I came in, and waved at me. I went over to her, and found her smiling.

"I found it", she said, beaming happily. She handed me a storage chip.

"Wonderful!", I exclaimed, "Thank you so much!"

Now it was her time to blush a little. "Oh, donít mention it. I enjoy helping out new people"

She really looked very pretty, blushing and smiling like that, and I made a mental note that I should try to ask her out, once Iíd studied the professorís thesis.

I went over to a bank of computers against one wall of the library. I sat down, popped the storage chip into the appropriate slot, and opened the file. I was greeted by the front page of the thesis, which said: "A Study into the SociologicalÖ" and so on and so forth, with various pieces of information about university department, file number, and such things.

I promptly popped the chip back out, turned off the computer and left the building. Ten minutes later, I was back in the Mare Inebrium.

I walked straight through the main room and up to the bar, this time without noticing anything of what was going on around me. Max saw me coming, and came over. I donít know how I looked, but he looked a bit worried.

"Hey Robert, can I get you anything?"

"Something alcoholic this time Max, and make it a strong one."

"Sure thing", he said, "Is something the matter? You look like youíve seen a ghost."

"Max, youíre close, and yet you have no idea. Sorry", I added, not wanting to offend him.

I looked on longingly as he began mixing a drink. "Hey, no problem. Trust me, Iíve seen people with any kind of problem you can think of."

"I want to believe you", I said, "But somehow I donít think youíve ever seen anyone with the problem Iím facing right now."

"Well, do you want to talk about it?"

"Let me have that drink first", I said, "I just need a while to think, then Iíll tell you about it."

He gave me my drink, and I took a deep pull of it. Heíd complied totally with what I said. It was alcoholic, and it was strong. It was also just what I needed. He nodded, satisfied, and went off to serve another customer.

I sat for a while, brooding, and taking long pulls of my drink from time to time. I wanted to talk to Max about it, but I didnít really know if heíd understand my situation. You see, what had caused me to react so violently, was the name of the author at the bottom of the front page. It said:

"Authored by Jehova-2648-55137"

* * *

So thatís my situation. Iíd say Iíve found a subject for my thesis, even though in the end, it turned out Iím gonna be writing about Terran sociology after all. Iíll have to document my sources very carefully, or Iíll never be believed. Iím going to upset a whole lot of people, I know. Maybe the safest thing would be to leave the planet altogether. Maybe I should settle here on Bethdish. Even though itís the only other planet Iíve ever set foot on, I think Iíd like it here. Still, at the very least, I need to make one more trip back to Earth. I have a couple of things to take care of. I need to hand in my thesis of course, pick up my possessions, and say goodbye to family and friends. And I need to tell a story to my fellow students. The Mare Inebrium alone would make a good story, but I think theyíll really flip, when I tell them about the night I had a couple of drinks with God.


Copyright © 2001 Wishbone

You can E-mail Wishbone at: wishbone@jubiimail.dk

Bio: Wishbone is a 24-year-old guy who lives in Denmark where he is studying to become a software developer. He has begun 6 or 7 novels, none of which have reached beyond the "chapter and a half" stage, so now he tries his hand at short stories instead. He writes a lot of poetry and songs, and occasionally fiddles with raytracing a bit. Oh, and he reads science fiction by the truckload.