Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Book of Lemmings

Once there was a lemming who wrote a book about Things Which Do Not Exist.

It was not well-received.

Soon he was executed.



One day a bored lemming found this book of Things Which Do Not Exist and fell in love with the adjectives in it. He didn't really care for the nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections or other parts of speech.

But he cared so very much for the adjectives that he translated the book into a different lemming tongue.

This too was not well-received.

Some public officials drizzled a few small comments on it over lunch.

Soon after, the lemming translator was chagrined to find himself executed.

He was executed by a firing squad of translators.



Another lemming who happened to teach at a lemming university later found this translation of the book of Things Which Do Not Exist and--because he taught a class on Things Which Do Not Exist--decided to include this serendipitous find in his class syllabus.

He was soon put to death.

He was drawn-and-quincunxed by that same university.

One of his students had complained about one of the adverbs in the book of Things Which Do Not Exist.

And this had led to the teacher's death being built like a snowman.

All existing copies of the book of Things Which Do Not Exist were immediately confiscated by official-looking lemmings. And burned.



But they missed one.

And the one they missed ended up in a library in a different country of lemmings who were very tolerant lemmings.

This country only executed approximately 2.3% of their lemming population.

This copy of the book of Things Which Do Not Exist began to dream that it was only a translation of another book.

It wasn't sure.

It had already forgotten, as all books do.

But it had an inkling.

That it might have had a parent or parents.

Sometimes the book suffered from the delusion that it was a parrot.

Sometimes the book woke up screaming in the library, in a cold sweat.

Sometimes the book would shake for no apparent reason.



The book of Things Which Do Not Exist was more afraid of the light than it was the dark of the library where it mostly slept the days away.

Occasionally, the book would try to start up conversations with other books on shelving around it, but most of these books were very arrogant.

Mostly they just hissed at the book or shushed it with strange noises.

Some of the crazier books would talk to it briefly.

But these conversations usually ended in muttering and promises to exchange indexes--a thing which never truly happened.

Eventually, the book began to talk mostly to itself.

The book, however, considered the fact that it still talked at all--even if only to itself--a triumph.

Since it hadn't stopped talking altogether as many of the other books had done just because they were shunned.

It wasn't really such a great loss.

Some of the other books enjoyed only one thing and that was shouting out their name, their reference number in the library cataloguing system or both.

It was a rather disturbing form of mental cheerleading.

The book told itself repeatedly that at least it wasn't a cheerleader.

But sometimes it felt bad for thinking of this defense mechanism.

Because the book couldn't deny that this stance was cheerleaderphobia.



One day a lemming came into the library and read the book of Things Which Do Not Exist and read the book completely wrong.

This led to other lemmings looking at the book because they too liked to misunderstand things.

The book watched in puzzlement.



The book of Things Which Do Not Exist began to become popular with some lemmings.

It was particularly popular among lemmings who suffered from the strange delusion that they did not exist.

Some of them considered this book a manual on how to continue not to exist.

And so they took the book to heart.

Because they liked the feeling of hemorrhaging existence which the book gave them.



Some time passed and the book of Things Which Do Not Exist began to polarize first one lemming culture, then another.

Lemmings took to the airwaves to mount their attacks or, contrarily, rally their defensive forces of lemming intellect.



The book felt itself multiplied into thousands and then tens of thousand of copies.

Finally into the millions.

The book of Things Which Do Not Exist found itself--paradoxically-- existing.



The book sometimes felt as though it were being stretched so thin by the millions of interpretations of it that it began to fear all its atomic bonds would break and it would spill out into the universe in the form of a molecular gaseous nothingness and ultimately dissolve.



The book was prescribed anti-depressants in the form of literary criticism.

This helped the book cope with the day to day, but it still found the hour to hour a challenge.

It began to find parts of itself missing and realized some lemmings were actually stealing the book's internal organs and selling them on the black market.



The book of Things Which Do Not Exist began to be compared in certain circles to a book called The Universe's Ironic Sandbox.

The Universe's Ironic Sandbox had been written seven hundred years before the book of Things Which Do Not Exist.

The book of Things Which Do Not Exist took umbrage at being compared to a book which had been written by Ancient Lemmings.

These were lemmings which had believed and done primitive and savage things but had somehow managed to remain reasonably attractive while doing so.



One day the book of Things Which Do Not Exist learned its content had been used to justify a massacre of millions of lemmings.

The book felt terrible but what could it do.

It was just a book.



In one country, the book of Things Which Do Not Exist would be a best-seller.

In another country, it would find itself demonized and feel millions of extensions of itself being burned or drowned or ripped to shreds.

In one country, this book was the salvation of peasants.

In another, it was the elitist mental sport of aristocrats.



The book of Things Which Do Not Exist began appearing in myriad forms, strange editions.

There was a pop-up version of the book which the lemming reader could physically enter.

After numerous deaths inside the pop-up edition of the book, it was banned in all lemming countries by international accord.



It began to happen that in certain cultures very effusive lemmings began to believe the book of Things Which Do Not Exist couldn't possibly have been written by a lemming or even many lemmings in the period in which it had ostensibly been written.

It had to have been written by other lemmings.

Alien lemmings.

Lemmings from Another World.



The anonymous lemming author had, of course, been long-forgotten by that point in time.

Even if lemmings had gone looking for this lemming's bones, they would have been sorely disappointed.

This lemming had been burned and nothing remained of it except for its good and not-so-good intentions, which lay too well-hidden in the book of Things Which Do Not Exist to ever be found.

For example, a passage in the book which was about a Great Unrequited Love this lemming had experienced in its lifetime was almost always interpreted as a parable about the dangers of being a vicissitudinous lemming in the marketplace of lemming ideas.

Others insisted this section of the book was about lemming kleptomania.



Sometimes the actual spirit of the Dead Original Lemming Author would appear to living lemmings, terrifying them into fomenting great lemming Social Change.

Often, the lemming appeared in the midst of flames.

Or speaking inside a gorgeous tube of wave while putting on a shade of lipstick or tragedy.

Other times, lemmings just went crazy and talked to the Dead Original Lemming Author while walking down a meadow and terrifying any nearby lemmings with their disturbedness.

These disturbed lemmings were treated the way aboriginal lemmings are always treated.

You can imagine.



By the time the book of Things Which Do Not Exist had been translated into 568 lemming tongues, it found itself beginning to hate lemmings.

It didn't know why it felt his way.

It knew that--being a book written for lemmings--it should remain neutral at least with regards to its feelings about lemmings.

It knew it was supposed to consider itself as part of the ways in which lemmings dream themselves into the world.

But it didn't give a shit.

It just hated all lemmings by then.



So the book started a few devastating lemming wars.

This trend didn't last very long.

Only a few centuries.



One day, lemming science advanced to the point where lemming technology could begin scanning down levels of the book, skinning the book as it were.

Lemming scientists and lemming linguists worked hard on this, as if they were removing skins from an onion that possessed a nearly infinite number of them.

Other books surrendered their kernel or pith after a fair or decent or respectable number of skins had been sliced back--say, ten or fifty-seven or three hundred and eighteen.

But the book of Things Which Did Not Exist had had its onion skinned about 3 million times and no end in sight.

Some lemmings began to wonder if it was the literary equivalent of pi.



The strange thing about the book was that the different levels were found to be respectively hostile to lemming existence, salubrious to lemming existence, indifferent to lemming existence, hysterically excited by lemming existence, puzzled by lemming existence, sexually aroused by lemming existence, omniscient about lemming existence, and so on...

It was, all lemmings agreed, creepy.



All lemming cultures began to reach a critical Malthusian lemming mass in the same century, the 480th.

At that time, the majority of lemmings alive on the planet began to believe that the book of Things Which Do Not Exist contained hidden within it a secret message which held the means by which lemmings could transform themselves into a new species.

This was really great news for the planet, which was clearly insane and loving every minute of it.



All the lemmings had to do to achieve their Species Transformation was to swallow living stars.

If they could introduce the supercooled plasma of stars into their lemming bodies, they would cease to be lemmings and become radiant beings capable of that superintelligence almost never pursued without the desire for lemming sex or lemming glory.

This became known as the Lemming Angel Project.



Many lemmings died over the course of a century in experiments gone horribly wrong in L.A.P.

Many lemmings were vaporized and a great monument to the vaporized lemmings was created.

It was called The Monument to the Vaporized Lemmings.



In the 481st Lemming century, the vision of a spiritually and materially transformed lemming foretold by the book of Things Which Do Not Exist came to pass.

The star-child lemming bore the name "Glenn."

Everywhere he went, lemmings young and old begged to touch Glenn's glowing body.



And then, of course, the predictable happened.

Glenn began destroying the lemming world with his superpowers.

Nobody could stop Glenn.

Soon Glenn ruled the entire lemming world.



Glenn had the book of Things Which Do Not Exist rewritten as the Book of Things Glenn Did.

Glennists were everywhere.

Lemmings began to forgive Glenn for destroying the world when they realized it was for their own good.

In fact, this was the motto Glenn had inscribed on all lemming coins, along with his cameo: "I Did Everything."



And then, because Glenn had turned back the hands on the clock of lemming science about 228 centuries, a meteorite hit the planet of lemmings.

Nobody had even been looking.

And the lemmings went extinct in the span of 78 days.

The last lemming alive saw a cloud that looked like Glenn floating over the burning landscape.

That lemming smiled.



The book of Things Which Do Not Exist could not figure out how it still existed after the complete annihilation of every living lemming.

But it found itself still there. Wherever "there" was.

The book found all mention of Glenn began slowly dissolving from its pages.

It found itself being restored to its original text.

This felt like a huge, magical relief to the book--even though it knew it no longer mattered.

It mattered to the book.




Sometimes the book would dream of lemmings as it hovered in the Void.

Sometimes it could almost conjure up the way lemming speech had sounded. When there were still lemmings.

It could still hear the echoes of cries of "Lemming, Leeward!" or "Lemming Ho!

The book wondered what it was supposed to do with "the rest of its time."



The book wished it could understand what loneliness was.

But it never managed to feel lonely.

Though it tried and tried.

Not even after the first million years passed.

Not even after the first billion years passed.



Eventually the book realized its only purpose was to exist as a repository for non-existence. It also realized that it must somehow be more worthy of existence than even the lemmings which had created and fostered it, since lemmings had ceased to exist and the universe had allowed this to happen, but the universe had not forgotten the book.

And so the book began to non-exist Happily Ever After.



The book couldn't properly speaking be called a memory, since there was no one there to remember it.

"But how can something exist that is not a memory?" the book asked itself a few billion times every now and then.



Then it simply gave up talking and turned into something like a smile without a face.



And it found it could touch every lemming which had ever existed and had ceased to exist by feeling backwards through interpretations to the beings which had created the particular being doing this interpretation.

It was the universe's magic phone tree.




And then the book floated through space forever like a giant Telephone Book.

It floated through space like a giant Telephone Book that no one would have ever taken the time to read, even if they had had an infinity of time to do so.



The the book spent the rest of its time wondering what the word giant means.



That did the trick.