The Common Council of Creative Causality was no stranger to error. Not their own of course. As the guiding force of the capital-U Universe, it was their job to right wrongs wrought, and mend the metaphorical─and sometimes literal一fences of a continually ailing humanity. Did it ever become annoying when humans who had roamed their planet for thousands of years failed to pass down at least a few notes on how to avoid pandemonium? It was most certainly frustrating, especially when the Council had divined said notes for them in the form of books cataloging human history.
Despite the repeated lapses in judgment, the Council understood this was the nature of the species. They were fickle, needing help when they gave in to freewill and chose to use it to their detriment, rather than their benefit.
The meeting was always conducted in the style of the Grecian forums一one of the Council’s earlier successes (a fact that its creator, Juniper, would not let the rest of the members forget). Going around the 20-foot long marble table, each member shared ideas for improvement. In the Council, no idea was a bad idea, but those ideas deemed less than satisfactory weren’t allowed to make it past the glass walls of ROC. Keeping with the democratic society model of the Greecians (again, yes, props to Juniper), the members took a vote on whether to put it into action, or into the nearest rubbish bin.
Each meeting left at least a dozen ideas tossed aside, but the Council’s secretary inputted them anyways just in case time proved the nonstarters themselves to be an igniting innovation needed for the moment. After all, if humans had shown the Council anything, it was that surprise was always on the table.
On the 36th day of the six millionth year of the Universe’s existence, Helena, the Council’s CEO一Chief Earth Officer一barreled into the chambers, patches of red racing their way to the top of her head. “What the Counterverse has happened?” she yelled. If her entrance hadn’t drawn the attention of her fellow members, her bellow did. Councilors poked out of their various offices, some peering around doorways, others over the balconies of the second-level C-suites.
“What do you mean?” Muse, the CIO一Chief Inspiration Officer一 asked from the tier, his spectacles in the shape and color of Jupiter’s Lo moon, lens tinted in lime green and blazing orange, sliding down the slope of his nose. While the members could take on any shape of any being in the Universe, they all chose to be a human, as if walking around in skin, bone, and sinew would offer even the smallest insight into the species. Rarely did it.
“Have any of you been paying attention to what’s going on down on Earth?” she asked. The mumbled and murmurs told her that no, they indeed had not. “Of course not,” she huffed. It was still early. Most of the action and attention span didn’t kick in for another hour or two. They were integral to the functioning of all life, but they moved on their own time, not on that of anyone else, as many could attest.
“Well, let’s just say, if we could pray to ourselves, we should be, because someone has majorly screwed up, and I will tell you, it wasn’t me.” Helena stopped in front of a line of monitors sharing fun facts about the Universe—such as that The Beatles’ hit song “Across the Universe,” was actually inspired by a visit from Muse (and sure, a bit of a chemical high). Choosing the monitor the furthest to the left, she flipped the channel to one from Earth, included in their ultimate satellite package.
POLITICANS, RAP STAR, ATHLETES FUEL ANTI-SEMITISM IN LATEST RANTS the news chyron screamed.
With the aim of a remote, Helena summoned another news channel, covering another story:
DICTATOR INVADES NEIGHBORING COUNTRY CLAIMING IT WAS HIS ALL ALONG
Facts disappeared from the third TV and were replaced by images of a man at a podium:
PRESIDENT WHO TRIED TO OVERTHROW GOVERNMENT RECEIVES SUPPORT FOR THIRD PRESIDENTIAL RUN
The chyron changed: SUPPORTERS BELIEVE THE LONG-DEAD JFK JR WILL BE RUNNING MATE
Finally, the last screen in the line flipped its coverage to show the Council one more event:
BILLIONAIRE BUYS SOCIAL MEDIA CO., CHARGES $8 FOR BLUE CHECKMARK
“Holy black hole,” Alexandra said, verbalizing the council’s collective thought. Literally, as the group’s consensus maker, her gift was to translate a multitude of brainwaves into one cohesive notion.
“Exactly,” Helena nodded. “And this is just the edge of the universe. There are at least two dozen more things like these happening at this very moment, and our Earth-dwellers are, in their words, losing their shit.”
A snicker broke out from the back room, and the group spun towards it. Quickly, a lower-level Council member, Percy, ducked his head, making eye contact only through his lashes. “Sorry. Humans are just so funny with their colloquialisms.” As he hid behind a marble pillar, the rest of the group returned their focus to Helena and the monitors.
“I don’t want to alarm anyone,” Zeke started, although he himself sounded alarmed, if not irate. As their CFO一Chief Fidelity Officer一he was tasked with keeping the Council’s idea implementation true to the mission of the Universe.
Generally were the type the Universe was called to respond to. “But do these events not seem eerily similar to those from our list yesterday?”
Exclamations of “yes” joined by nods broke out throughout the room, including at the front. “They are more than similar, Zeke. They are mirror images,” Helena said. “However, as we all know, those ideas were made in jest, to get our imaginations flowing. They were never supposed to make it to Earth.”
It was all Helena’s idea. As the Council stared down a long list of human issues, they struggled to get past melancholy and into productive solutions, so she suggested another human-inspired exercise, brainstorming in a format akin to Mad Libs to add some levity, and hopefully get them back on track. From the beginning, they had decided all suggestions made in the game would be automatic entries for the no-list, and that everyone should feel free to share even their worst ideas. “No bad idea can really be a bad idea, because it doesn’t matter,” Helena had said.
With no stakes on the line, the Council let loose, churning out some of their most terrible ideas since believing hydrogen and the Hindenburg, and Napoleon and Russia would make for great combinations.
Once again, the Council had a shared recognition that Alexandra gave voice to. “Geoffrey!” she called.
A few desks away, near the bathrooms of the Council’s offices, a young man hunched over his desk, typing with the peck of one finger at a time, headphones braced on his ears. In Geoffery’s short time with the the Common Council of Creative Causality, a mere 300,000 years, he had gained a reputation as someone with an inconsistent, some may say meager, work ethic. This translated into the little care he had to change said reputation.
Losing nearly all the patience he had collected over millions of years, Zeke marched to the back desk, moving so quickly it seemed as though he had springs in the heels of his loafers. Once he reached the desk, he slammed his hand down on the keys, the screen hovering above it flicking to black.
It took Geoffrey three seconds to acknowledge Zeke, another ten to remove his headphones from one ear. “What’s up, boss?”
“‘What’s up?’ ‘What’s up?’” Zeke paused to cackle. “You have one job and that is to enter our plans to better the Universe into our system, and you have expressly been told to only enter the approved ideas, is that correct?”
“Uh, yes. So?”
“So, somehow you screwed that one task up, and have unleashed the equivalent of a Pandora’s Box on Earth!”
Geoffery blinked at him. “A Palmona’s what?”
“Pandora. Pandora! She opened a box she was not supposed to and sent a bunch of bad things into the world. You put in our list of bad ideas that were never supposed to see the light of the Milky Way, and now they are happening down on Earth. Wars have started. Autocrats are trying to take power again. We have people thinking that a dead person is coming back.”
“Oh, and England’s PM just stepped down,” Helena interjected.
“WHAT!” Zeke looked to the monitor projecting the breaking news announcement. “It’s only been 43 days! That’s why it was a joke!” Enraged further, Zeke gripped the back of Geoffrey’s high-topped chair and whipped him around. “Do you see this? You did this! Actually you did things that we never even said. We never brought up anti-semistism! We would not bring that up!”
“That’s what the list said,” Geoffery shrugged, and Zeke swallowed, his eyes bulging in the process. 1-2-3, breathe.
“Number one, the list was written by you. Number two, we were talking about anti-sedition! That was actually one of the better ideas, we wanted them to promote anti-sedition rhetoric, considering how many people are actually seditious these days! The irony was that these people would never talk about it.”
“Same difference.” Geoffrey leaned out of his chair to see towards the monitors, and started laughing. “That blue checkmark one is pretty funny.”
Zeke cut back into his line of vision. “No, none of this is funny. Did you miss your moral philosophy intro course? How we strive to do no harm in as many situations as we can?”
“Let me put this in terms you may understand: People. Are. Dying. Because. Of. You. This is a colossal mistake and we don’t stand for that. I will not stand for that. I’m done with you and all this bullshit,” Zeke said with a gigantic wave in Geoffrey’s direction, before aiming his finger up to Muse. “Muse, he’s your nephew. Get him out of here.”
Up on the second level, Muse stuttered and readjusted his glasses. The normally mellow Zeke dramatically pushed through the doors to the reflection garden, screaming as soon as the doors shut behind him.
“That doesn’t seem like it’s faithful to the laws of the Universe,” Geoffery commented, sliding his headphone back into place, nonplussed.
“I told you that we should not get involved in nepotism,” Helena hissed at Muse as he skulked down the stairs, his sandals clapping against the steps. “We have countless examples of it never working out well, but no, we had to listen to you and your brilliant ideas.”
“Lesson learned, Mad Libs. Maybe I should inspire you to learn one, too,” Muse hurled back, stepping off the final stair and stalking towards his nephew, murmuring, “stupid human games.”
The Council, agape, watched Muse tug Geoffrey up and out of his chair, tipping onto one foot to peer as Muse guided一or more accurately, shoved一Geoffrey into the nearest non-glass meeting room.
With the sound as loud as a thunderbolt, Helena clapped them all back to attention as if they were all back in their moral philosophy training. “Now that’s being taken care of finally, let’s figure out how to deal with this一” She pivoted towards the monitors, and for the first time, seemed to be at a loss for words. “In the Room of Consensus. Now. This time no bad ideas. Only your best, you hear me? We’ve done enough damage.”
Responding to her back, Councilors gathered their things and followed her up the marble steps.
“Remember when we used to have our meetings weekly?” Alexandra said to another Councilor, Matthias, as he passed by, carting his lucky yellow notepad. They were going to need it.
“Yeah. Humans used to be simpler. And Geoffrey didn’t exist,” he replied, each word lugging a sigh along with it. “Maybe it’s time to spawn that Earth do-over planet Juniper had floated.”
Alexandra chuckled to herself. “She told me we should name it Dearth, you know a portmanteau between Earth and do-over.”
Geoffrey’s laughter was caught in his wince. “Yeah, let’s file that one under the ‘no’ column.”
Unlike recent experience, that suggestion would actually stay there.