Adjustments, within limits, are always possible. Certain conditions must be met, and there are few locations from which changes can be made, but with the right tools and knowledge the fabric of the universe can be warped. Any alteration is only temporary, of course. The universe really dislikes being bent out of shape, and will snap back to its original form quickly. Still, The Gardener thought, there should be enough time to sneak something through from the realms of the afterlife to the living universe. She began to map the positions she would have to move each beehive to.
When The Gardener hit yet another thorny hive-placement issue, she paused and bent closer to the map pinned neatly to her portable chart table. With a sigh of annoyance she reached for an eraser, rubbed out the plot she had just drawn, and wondered, again, whether she should have gone with the frog option. You can get better results with frogs, but they are notoriously difficult to work with. No, bees – while complicated – are more reliable; best to stick with them.
“I don’t understand,” said a confused voice from just behind where The Gardener stood in a posture of deep calculation. It was the voice of Azeal Braithwaite, one time pen-name, and current ‘Special Status Being’. “What is it you you want me to do again? And why do we need to use bees? I think I’m allergic.”
“You’re not allergic,” The Gardener replied matter of factly. She grabbed a set of calipers, checked their gap against the scale bar, and began to replot that which she had just erased. This was going to be tricky.
“How do you know?”
“Were you allergic before?”
“Then,” The Gardener turned to Azeal and give him an indulgent look, “you’re hardly likely to be allergic to them now, are you? Anyway, nobody is allergic to anything here. It’s one of the benefits of being both dead and extinct.”
“Right, I suppose that makes sense.”
The Gardener flicked Azeal a reassuring smile, and turned back to her map. It still didn’t feel right. Didn’t look quite right, either. She consulted her notes on the blossom patterns for the orchard she was going to use to get the job done. Looked good on paper. She squinted down at the orchard below the hill she and Azeal were on; she needed to see if the paper might not be lying. Paper would do that sometimes. She could just make out a burst of color at the orchard’s eastern edge. Surely that couldn’t mean what she thought? Frantically she searched for her binoculars – easy to find, since they were tinted rescue-orange – and peered through them at the offending area of trees. Yep. Blossoms, but in the wrong place. She’d have to begin the whole charting process again.
Still, The Gardener mused, this was only an inconvenience. One, she realized, she could have avoided if she’d remembered that things were operating under slightly accelerated conditions now. All she really had to do, was rework the algorithm to take account of the acceleration. Then, she would be able replot according to that recalculation. A task that would be much easier because of the scroll prepared by Persephone. Truly, thought The Gardener, Persephone was one of the greatest minds the Historian-Philosophers had ever produced. Odd that she hadn’t disappeared from this afterlife yet, however. Almost all of the great minds from the various extinct species had. Perhaps it had something to do with her friendship with Ajax? Ajax was definitely not one of the greatest minds the Historian-Philosophers had ever produced. He wasn’t stupid, just more in the ‘above average’ range. Nice guy, though.
“And my other question?” It was Azeal again.
“About what it is that you need me to do.”
“Haven’t we already discussed that? I was sure that we had.”
“Well,” said Azeal, with some embarrassment, “we did… but I’m still a little unclear as to what you mean by: ‘write a story’. It’s also not clear to me what it has to do with bees.”
“Do you have something against bees?”
“Not really, just that I can’t see what they have to do with me writing a story. Is the story supposed to be about bees, or something?”
“Do you want it to be about bees?”
“Not really. Not that I don’t like bees, you understand.”
“That’s fine, you don’t have to mention bees in your story, it won’t make any difference.”
“But, I still don–.”
“Please, just forget about the bees. The bees are my concern. You just have to write a story. It need not have insects of any kind in it. The only things you need to worry about, at this point, are that the story’s main character is called ‘Mamma Universe’, and that the whole thing takes place on Earth.”
“Right, right. So you said.” Azeal grew a thoughtful, yet disappointed, look. “It has to be Earth? I can’t, you know, invent a planet?”
The Gardener exhaled exasperation to stop it creeping into her voice. “It has to be Earth.”
“Okay. Shame, though. I had this really cool story idea about a race of hermaphrodite beings that suddenly become immortal. Thought maybe I could have one of them – I was going to call it Quinzel – execute Mamma Universe at the end of the story.”
“Well, you can’t.”
“Fair enough. Perhaps I could write a sort of murder mystery/thriller? Yes, that sounds good.” Azeal’s eyes brightened. “Yeah, that seems promising. In it I’ll have my publisher brutally murdered, and Mamma Universe can be a detective – emotionally damaged, and edgy – who has to solve the crime.”
“Oh, it will be.”
“Perhaps,” suggested The Gardener, helpfully, “you could quietly make some notes?”
“That is an excellent idea.”
“I think so. There’s some notebooks and pens in the picnic basket over there. Maybe you could stretch a blanket out under a tree?”
“That sounds wonderful. Yes, I’ll do that, thanks! You know, I have good feeling about this story.” Azeal’s face darkened. “You’re sure, though? All I have to do is write the story? It just seems too easy. You are sure I don’t have to do anything more than that?”
“Quite sure,” said The Gardener, even though it wasn’t true. But she wasn’t going to tell Azeal that. Not because it was against the rules, just because she didn’t think he would be too happy about the other thing that would be required of him.
“Great! I can hardly wait to see how it all comes out.”
The Gardener turned back to her calculations. She couldn’t wait to see how it turned out, either. She wondered if Ajax and Persephone were having as much luck trying to convince Mamma Universe to play along.
END OF PART FOURTEEN