An existential tale
11 August 2012
We work too well to be a chimera, a monstrous hybrid of two radically different beasts, half mouse, half God
“Let’s go over it again, shall we?”
Benjy sighed, and leant wearily against the stark white wall. He didn’t want to go over it again. He was tired of going over it again, but then he was equally tired of wandering around this maze, and if he did have to go over it again, he was at least going to have a rest.
Jerry steepled his little fingers. “So. You’re a mouse,” he began.
“I’m not!” Benjy interjected.
Jerry tsked. “You look like a mouse. You look, in fact, like me. And I am a mouse.”
“I don’t know what you are,” Benjy said in a tone that suggested he didn’t much care either. “But I – I am a human brain trapped in the body of a mouse!”
Jerry mulled this over for a moment. “Well, okay. Let’s say you do have a brain that doesn’t belong in a mouse. How do you know it’s a human brain?”
Benjy scratched his left flank. Jerry could be so goddamn methodical. Just like the maze, they’d been down this logic path before, and for him at least, it was a dead end. “I don’t know! I just know! I - I think I heard someone say it, I guess.”
“Heard?” Jerry said with disdain. “Heard who? You’re not claiming to understand the voice of God now, are you?”
“Damn it! I did hear it! ‘A mouse with a fully functioning human brain’, they said...”
“They?” Jerry interrupted. “You’re hearing more than one voice now?”
Benjy lapsed into peevish silence. Jerry continued. “And why would ‘they’ do this? What rational reason would God have to perform such a bizarre experiment?”
Benjy drummed his fingers. “Is it any more bizarre than making us solve mazes for our food?”
“Much more!” Jerry laughed. “That is mere observance of His unspoken commandments. We are rewarded for our faith, for our ability to reconstruct His laws from our experiences. Conversely, we are punished when we fail to live up to His expectations. God’s Maze is not an experiment; it is a way of life – a credo.”
“Even if I don’t believe?” Benjy pointed out.
“Despite having felt the hand of God? Despite seeing His wondrous works with your own eyes? And yet even without belief you too observe His commandments. You watch, you learn, you obey. Perhaps, your doubt is yet another test – a test for me as much as for you.” Jerry nodded to himself, delighted with this new line of thought. “So, how do you think ‘they’ managed to get a human brain into a mouse’s skull?”
Benjy gave his friend a hard stare. “Well, you seem to think they are capable of anything...”
“Dear friend! Since you do not believe in God, you can hardly call upon His infinite wisdom and magnificent powers to explain away the many holes in your theory! Think on it. A mouse skull is simply not big enough for a human brain, not without a miracle, and if you need a miracle to explain your theory then you must perforce believe in God. And yet there lies a deeper problem – if God chose to put Himself into our bodies, then would that not make us Gods as well? And are we Gods? Can we build mazes, wire electronics, produce cheese?”
“That’s just a matter of proportions and opposable thumbs...” Benjy protested under his breath.
“No, we are what we are supposed to be.” Jerry continued. “We work too well to be a chimera, a monstrous hybrid of two radically different beasts, half mouse, half God. And though we may not understand the actions of our God, we must accept His will in these things. Now, we still have corridors to explore. Shall we?”
They wandered off down the maze in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Jerry, as he went, memorised each junction, connecting it in his mind to the other junctions they had passed before. He knew that in a little while, the God-Human would lift them from the maze, and place them back at a different position, putting the cheese in the place they were lifted from. By memorising the junctions, he knew that they could work out where they were and therefore how to reach the cheese in the short time allotted. It was a task they had done many times, each time with a more complicated maze. Soon, he knew, he might need to remember combinations of five or even six junctions to work out their location.
Benjy wasn’t a lot of help in the maze. His flights of fancy kept him too distracted to hold the map in his head. He performed much better at the lights flashing-button pressing-colour matching puzzles. These too had been getting progressively more difficult, and Jerry’s own abilities had been found wanting when God had introduced the prime number tests. So each of them had their own skills, and he valued Benjy’s leaps of intuition and tolerated his scepticism.
“Jerry,” said Benjy suddenly. “Do you think... do you suppose that there might be humans out there, wandering around with mice’s brains?”
Jerry regarded his friend with amusement. “Yes, Benjy. I suppose there might.”
American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.
- Christine O’Donnell, American Republican Party politician – O’Reilly Show, 2007
A version of this story was first read live by the author at StoryTails in London.