There had not been enough rain. The fields of grain, which only months before stood proud and straight, now hung wilted and limp. The wind could hardly move the stalks, as if too did not have the will to live. There was the faint smell of smoke in the air. The wind brought it from the night side, it seemed someone was cooking dinner early. John laid on his back just out side the field of grain staring at the stars. As he often did he questioned his Choice. His society was strict in the things that they allowed, in the life style they demanded. certain leniencies were given to those that had not made their choice. certain crimes forgiven. but once you made the choice to stay you stayed with the full knowledge of what that would mean, what you would be missing. Everyone was given the advice to at least set food off world to see what the outside was like.
As he lay there the images and smells rolled over him again. such filth and beauty contained with in the same space. He could remember the ride though space. His first steps unto the way station, a small planetoid converted to a living mass. such sins he saw. such waste. And yet when he could look past them he saw beauty, opportunity, love, and most of all technology. it is what drew him, his only issue before he made his choice. The world he was used to was bricks and tile, grass and dirt. But when he went outside he saw what it could be; gleaming bright, streamlined machines and computers, spaceships, nano-devices that could hold his family's entire two thousand year history in a device no bigger than a grain of sand. He let a man hook him up to the Net, and gained access to the library and for the first time in his life felt small.
On the farm the pigs needed to be fed and cows milked and goats put to pasture. The water must be hauled and the clothes washed. Everyday has 30 more minutes of work than can be done. And as the bible said in genesis: God said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground"
John had always felt the hand of god guiding him in his actions. Always felt that he was in control of the fish and birds, and beasts. Only when he was in the Net did he first truly question his fate. It made him feel small as if god had abandoned him to madness and for awhile he roamed randomly, every item he could see every ounce of information had hundreds of references, thousands. Even trying to find something familiar to latch onto, his home world, he was over whelmed. The history of his world was laid before him actions reactions, political, weather, trade, lives. he followed his family to the thousand year gap. And then he went back, and back, and back it seemed thousands of years his family had lived the places they lived on whole worlds destroyed, whole stars, and star systems. Wars of incredible power, the deaths measured is such big numbers that he could simply not accept that that many had died. And then he looked for God. for as many wars as there were, there were religions, and in many cases they were related. Hundreds of thousands of profits, testimonies of heavy and hell, millions of articles, doctrines of faith.
When he finally stumbled away from the booth that had submerged him into the net he found out that days had passed. He barley made it to the sleeping chamber that was provided for him. IT took him a full day to recover. He came home after 2 years. There was a proscribed time of three years that you could be outside before you made your choice, but those that came back did so mostly in the first three months, and almost none returned after a year. When he came home he swore the oaths and was forgiven of all his sins. Given over to god he could start his life in God's service.
He did not regret his choice, but sometimes he found him self thinking about the net and the vast knowledge it contained. The only media source permitted by his faith was the screen on the food keeper. It was linked with the global computers and satellites, and to the great library itself. The shiny black circles that were all over were the eyes and ears of the library recording always. Always a reminder of the other path he could have chosen. HE had first learned about the gap from his father when he was still very young. In his room he had covered the black circle with a shirt and for three days nothing happened. then his father came in and removed it, and sat him down to have a talk. The black circles were what protected them he said. Not from evil, god protected them from that, but from men. As long as the library could see and hear what happened, no crime would go unseen. Those committing the crimes might go unpunished, as there was a thousand year gap in the information recorded. meaning that all the information recorded could not be access for a thousand years, long enough that all secrets could be disclosed without fear of returning to do damage later. It was said that even in war those building that housed library equipment were spared from bombings or the eyes from being covered. For even the greatest army could be destroyed by a library ship. whole worlds destroyed for destroying an upload building housing the library’s equipment. Entire bloodlines wiped out. Yet the library was completely neutral, it would not step in if the planet was infected by plague or radiation or war. IT stepped in for genocide though. The library was shrouded in secrets like the night in shadows. IT was the closest thing to God and yet so far away in so many ways. It had no mercy and yet most societies and most people put there faith in it. It had no life, just motive. In the end, after two years, he realized that for all the pretty lights and wealth of knowledge the outsiders had, they lacked the one thing he sought: God. Most of the people he encountered were looking as well, but he realized he had had it all along. His people his world his farm, the animals and grain, fish and birds. He ruled there under god, and so he returned, shedding his brief faith in technology for that of dirt and water.
He was thinking of the Net its vastness seeming larger than the stars themselves when the first drops of rain fell, splashing onto his face.
It wasn't a long run to his home, but he moved quickly anyway. Although his home, like every other, was equipped with emergency water purifiers they were not allowed by his religion except in extreme emergencies. He arrived home soon after the rain started to fall. His rain barrels were covered with rough slabs of wood to keep the water clean. He removed the rough slabs of wood to allow the barrels to fill. He finished just in time, as he headed towards the house the rain started to come down hard. He did not hurry towards the house he was already soaked from the jog home, and he enjoyed rain in this warm weather.
He let the words of the lord wash over him. Like all of his people the walls of his study were full of books, from the bible to the writings of the profit Adam, of the Sumerset isles, one of the roughest planets ever terraformed. It was up to each reader to meet God. His touch and guidance was there in life with no need to seek it. But to meet him to know him, to have his light fill you, that required study, determination, thought. Any rat placed in a maze could be manipulated to its goal, but for the rat to understand its journey, its purpose, that required attention. He could not have guessed the number of hours he had spent of his life reading, sometimes a fever would come over him. After those periods he would wake in odd positions, having fallen asleep in a chair, on the sofa, or once on the table itself. He would find books open to various pages, notes hastily written in the margins.
He always felt closer to god after those long information sessions, but he also felt as if something was missing. The books he had on Zen Buddhism, Taoism, the water way, etc. all told of the beauty of life. Those Deep connections that you could feel to anything alive it you took the time to feel it. But they also dismissed the idea of God, of a God that interacted anyway. Many philosophies on life considered God to be outside of life. He may have created life, the universe, but he no longer took any actions, the small miracles could be explained away. And some people gave over to god everything, the way of the leaf spoke of accepting what was to come. Leaves did not fight, or cry when it was there turn to fall, they just fell. Those people would live on a planet where storms would rage every forty years almost completely killing off the population of the planet, and after the storm the survivors would rebuild. They buried the dead and went on trusting to god to stop the storms if he saw fit. Suggestions to impose their will on the weather, a semi easy feat, were met with utter shock as if the idea had never occurred to them. Sometimes John would sink into deep periods of thought, considering his readings, the beliefs of so many all centering around the same general ideals, and yet when you looked closer, so different that to truly understand ALL the differences you would need more than one life. John's father told him when he was younger that eventually everyman leaves the solitary homes, to come back to the cities. Like Jesus returning from the desert they are wiser, having passed their trials. They marry and have a family, experience the miracle of life first hand watching their first child being born. Raise their children and one day die. That was the normal path, but John felt he had a more important mission in life, unlike the rats he could feel the floor tilting guiding him slowly towards a certain path, but like the rat he could not see what lay beyond the first corner.