God had been away from earth awhile.
Not long. A hundred megayears
or so. Just long enough to launch
his second project - further earths,
more humans running them,
a chain of Edens stretched across
the universe on likely planets
brought to his attention
by some drinking friends of his.
"What's happened here?" he cried,
on looking out first morning back.
First to answer was his P.P.A.
"difficult to say," my Lord.
"Nothing we could put our fingers on.
We kept a watchful eye. Things seemed
to go on down there much as always...
except perhaps for this: it seems
they were too burdened by a goodness excess;
too many good ideas, religions, saints and cultures -
and all of them in competition with each other.
And then again: no father figure in your absence, Lord.
That seemed to be a major influence.
You know how kids behave
when they are sure they've got it right
and so are out to please."
"I do," said God. "a fractious, independent lot,
far too competitive - combative even -
selfish, greedy, kudos-driven..."
"How did the project go, my lord?"
asked angel 137, to divert him from
his negative direction.
"Well! Really well, I think,"
I've axed the tree of knowledge this time round.
Give that a whirl, I thought. See how it goes."
"Good move, my lord!" That from the P.P.A.
"I'm not so sure," a quiet voice said, doubtfully -
the head of heaven's civil service joining in.
"Knowledge and revolt are part of growing up.
Without them they will live in innocence for ever."
"We shall have to see," said God.
"I've kept my options open - might throw down
an apple tree or two if things get stuck."
"And what of all the flora and the fauna?"
a trainee angel asked his lord. "Will that
be as it was on earth for your Phase 1?"
"Indeed," said god "the tried and tested will be there.
All my old models that have proved their worth,
plus one or two new prototypes, a neohorse,
for instance. That should take the humans down
a peg or two. I'd love to beat them at their silly game!
"What game is that?" asked the chief clerk.
"Their G.M. game. To hear them talk you'd guess
they were the first to think of it! - Oh, and then
there's X.V.4/3.7 don't forget."
"X.V.4/3.7!" the cry went up. "You've populated that?
"Indeed," said God. "Why not?"
"Well, how?" they asked. "It's anti-life!"
"Oh, don't you start!" said god,
"That's why. I'm tired of humans
looking everywhere for life on other planets,
saying with great relish:'No,
it can't be here... or here... or there. Not at all
like earth. Too hot. The atmosphere could not
support life as we know it.' - As we know it,
their own words, but still the cliche doesn't drop
for them. And so I've set up planet X.V.4/3.7.
There's life sans oxygen, sans water, sans the lot -
sans everything they think that life must have.
Too hot, I've made it. Too much pressure there.
Let's see what they make of it!"
"What sort of life then has it, god?" the trainee asked.
"One based on silicon..." - the angels nodded wisely -
"and nicotine and arsenic," he finished with
a flourish that was quite out of character for him.
They were not nodding now. There was a silence,
deep and most profound. Such a silence
as heaven had not known before. Not one sound
from anywhere. They all just stared at god. Gobsmacked.