The Selfbegotten
The Selfbegotten

This is the story of how the Great Constructor Trurl, with the aid of an ordinary jug, created a local fluctuation, and what came of it.

In the constellations of the Wringer there was a Spiral Galaxy, and in this Galaxy there was a Black Nebula, and in this Nebula were five sixth-order clusters, and in the fifth cluster, a lilac sun, very old and very dim, and around this sun revolved seven planets, and the third planet had two moons, and in all these suns and stars and planets and moons a variety of events, various and varying, took place, falling into a statistical distribution that was perfectly normal, and on the second moon of the third planet of the lilac sun of the fifth cluster of the Black Nebula in the Spiral Galaxy in the Constellation of the Wringer was a garbage dump, the kind of garbage dump one might find on any planet or moon, absolutely average, in other words full of garbage; it had come into existence because the Glauberical Aberracleaans once wage a war, a war of the fission-and-fusion type, against the Albumenid Ifts, with the natural result that their bridges, roads, homes, and palaces, and of course they them selves, were reduced to ashes and shards, which the solar winds blew to the place whereof we speak.

Now for many, many centuries positively nothing took place in this garbage dump but garbage, though an earthquake did occur and shifted the garbage on the bottom to the top, and the garbage on the top to the bottom, which in itself had no particular signifaicancce, and yet this paved the way for a most unusual phenomenon.

It so happened that Trurl, the Fabulous Constructor, while flying in the vicinity, was blinded by a certain comet with a garish tail.

He fled its path, frantically jettisoning out the spaceship window whatever lay in reach - chess pieces, the hollow kind, which he'd filled with liquor for the trip, some barrels the Ubbiduds of Chlorelei employed for the purpose of compelling their opponents to yield, as well as assorted utensils, and among these, an old earthenware jug with a crack down the middle.

This jug, accelerating in accordance with the laws of gravity and boosted by the comet's tail, crashed into a mountainside above the dump, fell, clattered down a slope of junk toward a puddle, skittered across some mud, and finally smacked into an old tin can; this impact bent the metal around a copper wire, also knocked some pieces of mica between the edges, and that made a condenser, while the wire, twisted by the can, formed the beginnings of a solenoid; and a stone, set in motion by the jug, moved in turn a hunk of rusty iron, which happened to be a magnet, and this gave rise to a current, and that current passed through sixteen other cans and snips of wire, releasing a number of sulfides and chlorides, whose atoms linked with other atoms, and the ensuing molecules latched onto other molecules, until, in the very center of the dump, there came into being a Logic Circuit, and five more, and another eighteen in the spot where the jug finally shattered into bits.

That evening, something emerged at the edge of the dump, not far from the puddle which had by now dried up, and this something, a creature of pure accident, was Mymosh the Selfbegotten, who had neither mother nor father, but was son unto himself, for his father was Coincidence, and his Mother --Entropy.

And Mymosh rose up from the garbage dump, totally oblivious of the fact that he had about one chance in a hundred billion jillion raised to the zillionth power of ever existing, and he took a step, and walked until he came to the next puddle, which had not as yet dried up, so that, kneeling over it, he could easily see himself.

And he saw, in the surface of the water, his purely accidental head, with ears like muffins, the left one crushed and the right a trifle underdone, and he saw his purely accidental body, a potpourri of pots and pegs and flotsam, and somewhat barrel- chested, in that his chest was a barrel, though narrower in the middle, like a waist, for in crawling out from under the garbage, he had scraped against a stone right there; and he gazed upon his littery limbs, and counted them, and as luck would have it, there were two arms, two legs and, fortuitously enough, two eyes too, and Mymosh the Selfbegotten took great delight in his person, and sighed with admiration at the narrowness of the waist, the symmetrical arrangement of the limbs, the roundness of the head, and was moved to exclaim: --Truly, I am beautiful, nay, perfect, which clearly implies the Perfection of All Created Things!! Ah, and how good must be the One Who fashioned me! And he hobbled on, dropping loose screws along the way (since no one had tightened them properly), humming hymns in praise of the Everlasting Harmony of Providence, but on the seventh step he tripped and went headlong back down into the garbage, after which he did nothing but rust, corrode and slowly disintegrate for the next three hundred and fourteen thousand years, for he had fallen on his head and shorted out, and was no more.

And at the end of this time it came to pass that a certain merchant, carrying a shipment of sea anemones from the planet Medulsa to the Thrycian Stomatopods, quarreled with his assistant as they neared the lilac sun, and hurled his shoes at him, and one of these broke the porthole window and flew out into space, where its subsequent orbit subsequently experienced perturbation, due to the circumstance that that very same comet, which had ages past blinded Trurl, now found itself in the very same locality, and so the shoe, turning slowly, hurtled towards the moon, was singed a little by the atmospheric friction, bounced off the mountainside above the dump, fell, and booted Mymosh the Selfbegotten, lying there, with just the right resultant impulse and at just the right angle of incidence to create just the right torsions, torques, centrifugal forces and angular momenta needed to reactivate the accidental brain of that accidental being--and in this way: Mymosh, thus booted, went flying into the nearby puddle, where his chlorides and iodides mingled with the water, and electrolyte seeped into his head and, bubbling, set up a current there, which traveled around and about, till Mymosh sat up in the mud and thought the following thought: --Apparently, I am! That, however, was all he was able to think for the next sixteen centuries, and the rain beat down upon him, and the hail pommeled him, and all the while his entropy increased and grew, but after another thousand five hundred and twenty years, a certain bird, flapping its way over the terrain, was attacked by some swooping predator, and relieved itself out of fright and also to increase its speed, and the droppings dropped and hit Mymosh square on the forehead, whereupon he sneezed and said: --Yes, I am! And there's no apparently about it! Yes the question remains, who is it who says that I am? Or, in other words, who am I? Now, how may this be answered? H'm! If only there was something else besides me, any sort of something at all, with which I might juxtapose and compare myself--that would be half the battle.

But alas, there's not a thing, for I can plainly see that I see nothing whatsoever! Therefore there's only I that am, and I am everything that is and may be, for I can think in any way I like, but am I then--an empty space for thought, and nothing more? In point of fact he no longer possessed any senses; they had decayed and crumbled to dust over the centuries, since Entropy, the bride of Chaos, is a cruel and implacable mistress.

Consequently Mymosh could not see his mother-puddle, nor his brother-mud, nor the whole, wide world, and had no recollection of what had happened to him before, and generally was now capable of nothing but thought.

This alone could he do, and so devoted himself wholeheartedly to it.

--First I ought-he told himself- to fill this void that is I, and thereby dispel its insufferable monotony.

So let us think of something, for when we think, behold, there is thought, and nought but thought has existence.

--From this one could see he was becoming somewhat presumptuous, for already he referred to himself in the first person plural.

--But wait - he then said - might not something still exist outside myself? We must, if only for a moment, consider this possibility, though it sound preposterous and even a little insane.

Let us call this outsideness the Gozmos.

Now, if there is a Gozmos, then I must be a part and portion of it! Here he stopped, pondered the matter awhile, and finally rejected that hypothesis as wholly without basis or foundation.

Really, there was not a shred of evidence in its favor, not a single, solid argument to support it, and so, ashamed he had indulged in such wild, untutored speculation, he said to himself: --Of that which lies beyond me, if anything indeed there lie, I have no knowledge.

But of that which is within, I do, or rather shall, as soon as I think something into thought, for who can know what I think, by thunder, better than myself!--And he thought and thought, and thought of the Gozmos again, but this time thought of it inside himself, which seemed to him a far more sensible and respectable solution, well within the bounds of reason and propriety.

And he began to fill his Gozmos with various and sundry thoughts.

First, because he was still new at it and lacked skill, he thought out the Beadlies, who grambled whenever they got the chance; and the Pratlings, who rejoiced in filicorts.

Immediately the Pratlings battled the Beadlies for the supremacy of filicortions over gramblement, and all Mymosh got for his world-creating pains was an awful headache.

In his next attempts at thought creation, he proceeded with greater caution, first thinking up elements, like Brutonium, a noble gas, and elementary particles, like the cogiton, the quantum of intellect, and he created beings, and these were fruitful and multiplied.

From time to time he did make mistakes, but after a century or two he grew quite proficient, and his very own Gozmos, sound and stable, took shape in his mind's eye, and it teemed with a multitude of entities, things, beings, civilizations and phenomena, and existence was most pleasurable there, for he had made the laws of the Gozmos highly liberal, having no fondness for strict, inflexible rules, the sort of prison discipline that Mother Nature imposes (though of course he'd never heard of Mother Nature).

Thus the world of Selfbegotten was a place of caprice and miracle; in it something might occur one way once, and at another time be altogether different--and without any special rhyme or reason.

If, for example, an individual was supposed to die, there were always ways of getting around it, for Mymosh had firmly decided against irreversible events.

And in his thoughts the Zigrots, Calsonians, Flimmeroons, Jups, Arligynes and Wallamachinoids all prospered and flourished, generation after generation. During this time the haphazard arms and legs of Mymosh fell off, returning to the garbage from which they'd come, and the puddle rusted through the narrow waist, and his body slowly sank into the stagnant mire.

But he had just put up some brand-new constellations, arranging them with loving care in the eternal darkness of his consciousness, which was his Gozmos, and did his level best to keep an accurate memory of everything that he had thought into existence, even though his head hurt from the effort, for he felt responsible for his Gozmos, deeply obligated, and needed.

Meanwhile rust ate deeper and deeper into his cranial plates, which of course he had no way of knowing, and a fragment from Trurl's jug, the selfsame jug that thousands of years ago had called him into being, came floating on the puddle's surface, closer and closer to his unfortunate head, for only that now remained above the water.

And at the very moment when Mymosh was imagining the gentle, crystal Baucis and her faithful Ondragor, and as they journeyed hand in hand among the dark suns of his mind, and all the people of the Gozmos looked on in rapt silence, including the Beadlies, and as the pair softly called to one another--the rust-eaten skull cracked open at the touch of the earthenware shard, pushed by a puff of air, and the murky water rushed in over the copper coils and extinguished the current in the logic circuits, and the Gozmos of Mymosh the Selfbegotten attained the perfection, the ultimate perfection that comes with nothingness. And those who unwittingly had brought him into the world never learned of his passing.

Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad