“Darling, I’m bored,” the woman said, “let me create my own game, my own experiment.”
“No, you may not, I’m satisfied with what we have. Let’s just enjoy what we’ve created and spent the rest of our lives thinking and enjoying the peace,’ the man replied.
“Vivantes, please,” the woman pleaded, “we’ve finished your experiment and it took us a little over four and a half billion years to create this universe. Now I want something to play with. Let’s create another layer. Let me create one. I want to give birth to a lifeform with a consciousness just as we have. You created the elements, you have achieved something wonderful already. Let me play with them and create life.”
“Oh Ustratia,” Vivantes sighed. He had to admit he was a bit bored with Ustratia being the only other companion he had in the universe. However, he should be careful in admitting that to her.
Naturally, Ustratia felt the exact same way. Now that her Vivantes had finished his creation, he had lost his purpose. He was becoming a bitter man.
“Very well, but you are in charge of this experiment. I have my own.”
Vivantes hovered and turned away from his wife to look into the endlessness of his universe. He was enjoying the beauty of her idea. A lifeform. Development. Simple yet elegant, only conceivable by a woman. Although he knew he mustn’t give her too much credit yet. An idea occurred to him as well. He found a purpose again, a way to create. The only thing was, he shouldn’t tell his Ustratia yet. That would spoil the fun.
“Which planet would you like to give me?” Ustratia asked.
“My guess is that Earth would be the most habitable,” Vivantes replied.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, dear. There are already some living things on it. Trees, plants and beasts.”
“What about the other planets?”
“What about them?”
“Well, shouldn’t we give the other planets lifeforms too?”
“We have time, we are time, Ustratia.”
“Your creation lasted four and a half billion years, remember? Mine may take just as long.”
“Don’t be too sure about it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? What are you going to do, Vivantes?” she asked, suddenly suspicious.
“Just raising the bets, darling.”
Ustratia rolled her eyes. “So you want to play? Then, let’s. I have first move.’
And so they played. Ustratia opened the game and created life. She used all the elements created by her husband and connected cells and atoms. She swallowed a concoction of that mixture and gave birth to a lifeform she modeled after some of the beasts already inhabiting planets Earth, which were created by her husband. Now, she would give them much more, Ustratia bestowed the lifeforms with body, soul, and reason.
There would be no game without stakes and something to play for. Together, Ustratia and Vivantes would build a society. They set up some ground rules. After that, they made the rules up by playing, millennium after millennium.
Ustratia wanted her creation to live peacefully among each other and cooperate, grow and prosper. If she managed to do that, she’d win. Vivantes, on the other hand, was curious to see if he would be able to corrupt the minds of Ustratia’s creation and destroy the species. If he succeeded, he would beat his wife.
“Let’s give them love and other wonderful things. I will call them virtues,” Ustratia said. She created love, compassion, respect, honor, courage, honesty, loyalty and grace, among others. Above all, she gave her creation faith and hope.
She provided them with all the virtues she admired in herself and Vivantes. When she was finished, all she could do was wait for them to evolve. It may very well take the beings thousands of years, hundreds of thousands even, but to her, that felt like minutes.
Now it was time to study how the lifeform would cope. Could these lifeforms figure out why they were here?
Would they obey the rules of the game?
Would they find the ultimate purpose?
Would they be able to coexist?
Let the game commence.
Vivantes had to admit he was astonished at the sight of his wife’s gifts. True, he had created the universe, but this was something far more advanced. It was a part of them both, created in their spirit. Individuals who — within reason — could evolve. In fact, he was so mesmerized by Ustratia’s craft, he forgot it was his turn.
“Come on, Vivantes, you’re making it too easy,” his wife teased.
He focused and made his move. He could only guess at all the virtues his wife granted the life form. He had to counter them somehow and make the life form conflicted and weak. Unknown to Ustratia, her husband created opposite emotions to the ones she created, he called them vices.
He shrank himself to their size and landed on planet Earth. By now, the species had turned into a being that didn’t reflect the beasts known as the apes anymore, they were more advanced already. The male and female beings his wife had put onto Earth had bred quickly, for a whole town had already emerged. They looked at Vivantes with curiosity and suddenly he remembered it was his turn.
He gave them all the vices he thought of. Vivantes created hate, cruelty, disdain, dishonor, cowardice, dishonesty, disloyalty, crudeness and many more. Most importantly, he created fear and despair. Vivantes had always understood the universal truth that lay in those emotions. He experienced it once when he found Ustratia. Besides, these vices were part of him and Ustratia too.
When he induced them with fear, he noticed a difference in their behavior. They panicked at his sight and grew violent. Vivantes smiled to himself and was pleased with his move before he joined his wife again.
“What did you do, Vivantes?” Ustratia frowned.
“Let’s see how this plays out darling, your turn.”
“Let’s give them an end goal for this game, something to win.”
“To find out the meaning of life.”
“Is there one?” Vivantes asked with glinting eyes.
“You tell me.”
Vivantes didn’t respond.
Ustratia had an idea, she fueled the beings with ingenuity. Immediately, the pace of their evolution increased. They started fires, build more advanced weaponry, cooked their meat and invented valuable possessions made of metals. But the seed planted by her husband was equally fast in its course to corrupt their souls.
With a nudge from Vivantes, they turned on each other using their inventions. Fire to burn down houses, weapons to kill and valuables to steal.
“You’re tearing them apart. The poor beings.” It was Ustratia’s turn again. She used her hands to pull on Earth and with a hint of strength, she pushed around the tectonic plates. Lands moved closer. The beings mingled.
“Original, I must say,” Vivantes said in amusement, “but I can undo that with a snap of my fingers. And so he did. Life on Earth met nature’s wrath. Completely oblivious of the one pulling the strings. Slowly, the beings drifted apart.
“If you keep up like this, this will be a very short game. The beings — ”
“Just name them already.”
Ustratia thought for a while. She was buying herself and her creatures some time to roam safely, sparing them from the conniving moves made by her husband. “Homo Erectus,” she decided.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I view them as mankind, in the image of you, of us. I based them on the apes, but the apes walk on all fours, these creatures can stand on two feet.”
“Are you seeing that? They are multiplying by stars. Gracious, good woman, how many are there now?”
Ustratia looked down on the planet and was shocked to see her husband was right. They needed some form of organization. Leaders to take care of the herd. That would be her move.
“Interesting, but what’s the purpose?” Vivantes asked.
“To prevent chaos and diminish the innate urges you’ve bestowed upon them. I mean the poor things could wipe themselves out just as easily as they’ve been multiplying.”
“You shouldn’t have said that. I can work with that,” Vivantes smiled as he lifted Homo Erectus’s greed and need for power.
The two of them stared at Earth. They saw kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. Prosperity made way for destruction.
Ustratia liked the game. Her husband was a good match, but she was spurred by her creativity and had an idea. They needed good storytelling, perhaps some people to look up to with messages of hope. Scattered across the world she appointed some men to accept her inspiration and become spiritual leaders.
Vivantes looked at how his wife’s move unfolded on the playing field. They were dancing and Earth was their dancefloor. He could see that the beings had become more beautiful with time. More distinct and sophisticated. The art of stories and something to believe in had lifted their spirits and reduced their misery. However, he knew that those spiritual men needed adversaries. Vivantes appointed powerful men to claim the lives of the spiritual leaders and he would use storytelling to his own advantage. Vivantes whispered lies into the minds of many men and women to taint the legacy of the spiritual leaders. One by one these leaders were corrupted or killed. Ustratia had made a small win nonetheless because their stories of sacrifice and hope would remain a source of hope forever.
Ustratia looked at the universe and its majesty. The colors, the movement, the lights, it was magical. She had noticed that the men and women on Earth had created beautiful art in moments of bliss and wonder. She thought it would be a good idea to spark their curiosity, to let the people explore other lands and other cultures even more. To create more and share it. Expeditions were born. Art was shared and people mingled once more.
The population started to grow exponentially and Vivantes did not like that. The more of them there were, the higher the chance his wife would win. So he created the most deadly disease Earth had ever encountered.
People grew weak with fever and shock. Their skin turned black. Contagion spread and a black mist decimated the population.
Ustratia got up in horror. “Vivantes, you can’t!”
“I already have,” he replied as they both watched people fall en masse.
Ustratia panicked, she had no idea how to counter her husband’s move. People died by thousands at a time. She needed to act quickly or she and her creation would lose the game. She couldn’t grant her husband that satisfaction. She planted seeds of insight in the people’s minds. Through inventiveness and cooperation, the humans managed to quarantine themselves and slowly the dust of the burned bodies settled.
Vivantes hit her with more power struggles, famine, and war. She deflected his attacks with creativity, resilience, and enlightenment. Art found its way through the ranks of warfare and into the heart of the struggling species. Words and teachings spread through books and more and more people connected. Works of hope and useful inventions came to existence. Songs, paintings, and plays entertained the people, inciting hope and faith into their minds.
Vivantes was briefly unsettled for he was once again astonished at his wife’s skill and the development of mankind.
“I’ll call them humans now. As in the ‘Man of Earth’,” she said.
“As you wish,” Vivantes replied while coming up with a new idea. He would turn one of the humans’ strengths into their biggest weakness. Their urge to develop could be speeded up by giving them more of an incentive to grow: the accumulation of wealth. New political structures erected, causing the humans to bicker and seek fortune. Inequality took yet another dive. The same creativity granted by his wife helped humans develop guns and other weaponry in the face of fear, power and wealth.
Ustratia thought her husband had made a mistake with his move, but she would only realize the brilliance of it when the game would finish. She further fueled the human’s need for growth and the age of invention and progress had begun.
Vivantes laughed without showing his wife. His plan was slowly folding out in front of them. He’d used the human spirits to destroy themselves, for when they caused their own demise, he would win the game. If mankind would prosper, however, and coexist in peace amongst each other, his wife would win.
He made another move. He stretched his hands and twisted his fingers as if he was pulling invisible strings. Vivantes cut the cords of unison and stirred further hate in the heart of man.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Making my move, dear.” Cut. Cut. Cut. Vivantes had another surge of inspiration, funnily enough, it was one of his wife’s greatest gifts to humanity. He toyed with the people’s emotions. Unrest, envy, intolerance, and disagreement were all given a more prominent stage in the minds of man.
“Darling, you’re creating madness. I see what you’re doing. How could I’ve been so blind! You don’t seek to beat me, you seek for them to destroy each other. Either way, you’d win.”
“Yes, it seems I’m growing rather fond of this game.” Vivantes smiled.
Ustratia felt anger rise up in her stomach. Planet Earth roared and rampaged. Inadvertently, she was hurting her own creation.
“Make it stop, Vivantes!” she cried.
“This is your doing, love. Make your move.”
Ustratia tried to pull herself together. She wove the threads of human connection, but the damage done by her husband had been too destructive. She tried stimulating love and compassion in order to create a union, but it cost her too much of her strength.
“You’ve poisoned them with vices and fear. You’ve fueled greed and envy. You’ve corrupted their minds!” Ustratia spat.
“What’s to say you haven’t done the same with your virtues? Don’t you think we’ve created a beautiful duality?”
“Is that what it is to you, this game? Your idea of fooling your wife? Why did you mess with those humans’ heads? They’ve evolved too much towards self-actualization, Vivantes. It’s gotten out of hand. They lost touch with their source.”
“There’s no fun in making this game too easy. It shouldn’t be, for how could anything have meaning if it were easy? You and me. Plus and minus. Yin and yang. Push and pull. You create, I destroy. No life without death, no love without hate.”
Ustratia turned away from her husband and watched the other planets. She’d been too naïve. She shouldn’t have started this game. Why couldn’t she just be content with her husband’s creation of the universe and study it or think? Now they were just occupying themselves to pass the time, but it only caused her heartache and pain.
She turned back to face planet Earth and she looked at what was becoming of her creation. Things had spiraled out of control and became more complex with every millennium. Genocides, totalitarianism, terrorism, unrest, diversions, lies, rising intolerance, alienation, the rise of empires and dictators. On top of that, they had stretched the capacity of Earth, causing the planet to unsettle.
Ustratia looked at what she and Vivantes had done. Because of her need to do good and her selfish desire to win, Vivantes was inclined to do the same. Her species now stood at the threshold of self-destruction. The only way they could be saved was to help them go back to their origin. The origin she created. The humans needed to recognize each other’s humanity. The problem was, she could flare the hope in humankind and even fuel gratitude and love, but all minds had already been corrupted with fear induced by Vivantes. It was all she could do for now. They could only act out of their own free will. That’s where her husband had created his opportunity to win.
Vivantes watched as mankind was on their quest to enlightenment. He enjoyed their struggle. His last move would be to speed up the planet’s deterioration. This, he argued, created fear beyond the people’s control. Unfortunately, he was right.
Ustratia felt tears burning. She was unable to stop the planet from destroying itself. Her last move aided the humans in finding their reason for existence. Every move she’d made had been part of that process and invited humans to join each other on the path for spiritual growth.
“What’s happening with them?” Vivantes asked in surprise. “Why are they suddenly not scared anymore of what’s coming?”
“They’re coming to terms with their fate, Vivantes,” she replied calmly.
“Well, then what’s the meaning of it all?”
“It’s not just one thing, Vivantes.”
“Oh, to hell with it then!” he replied with anger. Vivantes took the Earth in his hands and threw it up into the universe. He was a sore loser. And with that, all the pieces of the game of reason were catapulted into the endlessness of the universe.
“Now you’ll never know, dear,” Ustratia said.
“They were all being fooled anyway,” Vivantes replied as he sat back to enjoy his own creation.
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