By A. A. Roberts
Harry Putterman just knew there was something he was forgetting. His mother once complained that he was born with numerous black holes for neurons. The barb hurt at the time, but Harry had overcome his deficiency of recall with an uncommon ability to manage numbers. Harry was a CPA extraordinaire.
His peers were absolutely stupefied with his deft handling of the most voluminous quantity of figures. No amount, not even a penny, was shielded from Harry's analytical skills. His coworkers used spreadsheets. Harry was a spreadsheet.
Harry wasn't particularly handsome, but he was not hard to look at either. He was thin, but not too thin. His features brought to mind a cute little dormouse always on the look out for cheese. Harry's only affectation was a pencil thin mustache that was so perfect it almost looked as if it were drawn on his upper lip with black ink.
The gray at Harry's temples betrayed the fact that he had gracefully slipped into his forties. Harry's middle age did not bother him as much as it did his few friends of similar age. He was quite content with his life. He had a very high position at on of the big national accounting firms in Hartford. He had a wonderful little house in the woods at the base of Avon Mountain and he had an exquisite garden that he had nurtured over the course of fifteen years. Life was good.
Everyday he could anticipate a pleasant, sunny ride home over the mountain. Today was no exception, but a little more special for today he had done his bit for science. He was a big fan of science. He loved the current state of the world and was visibly moved by the grand technological achievements that had taken human society out of the dark ages. He read and studied science the way some worshipped and obsessed on football (except there were no trading cards).
He flipped through the pages of the retrospect edition of "The Journal of Science". His vehicle accelerated as it moved out onto route 44. Just ten years ago he would have had to put his beloved magazine down and drive himself. That was before the Blue World wireless technology enabled the automation of automobiles and so much more.
He thumbed through his magazine and mused on hydrogen fuel cells and the end of reliance on fossil fuels, quantum computers, the completion of the first permanent human habitation on Mars, the drilling for water at the lunar ice poles, and so much more. What a century!
And today HE had done his bit for science. Trinity College was doing a comparative study on the number of neurons contained within the human brain. They had put him in a big chrome scanner with lots of colored LED's and holographic readouts. The scanner also produced a peculiar but soothing hum. He'd spent all of five minutes in the device when they popped him out and gave him two slips of paper.
One slip of paper had a with a very large number on it. He studied the number and smiled at its extensive value. It probably wasn't much larger or smaller than anyone else's (except that idiot Randolph's in purchasing), but it still made him feel just a little bit superior.
The other slip of paper was neural map that depicted a tiny sampling of the larger neural clusters in his brain. It looked awfully familiar to him but he shrugged and folded up the two pieces of paper. Harry put the slips of paper in a shirt pocket and left the laboratory feeling very satisfied with himself.
His vehicle jolted and Harry frowned at the vehicle in front of him. It swerved and raced ahead breaking the rhythm of the automated line of traffic.
"There's always one who's too impatient," he thought to himself. There were legislators crafting laws to forbid touching the steering wheel except in the case of emergencies. Harry was all for that. Accidents were very rare now and when they did happen it was always because some idiot had decided to interfere with the automated systems of their vehicle. It was very annoying.
Harry put his magazine down. He leaned back to stare out the tinted glass of his sunroof. A few brilliantly white billowy clouds attempted to hide the afternoon sun. What was it he had forgotten!?
He sighed at the lost thought and decided not to worry about it. Soon he would be in his beloved garden tending to his roses, irises, lilies, tulips and other flowering plants that gave him so much joy. His garden was the ying to the yang of his workday. Numbers and logic ruled from eight to four. Organic form and color ruled his afternoons and weekends.
After a bit of puttering around he'd pour himself a nice cup of tea at the wrought iron cafe table that was placed in the very center of his garden. From there he'd watch the koi and carp in his artificial pond and of course the squirrels.
"Nigli! Nigli! Nigli!", he tittered to himself. He caught himself chuckling out loud. He often did this when thinking of the squirrels.
Squirrels had a special place in his heart ever since he had the fever dream about Nigli. It had been a year ago when he got a dreadful case of the flu. He'd all ready been out of work for three days when his temperature began to vacillate from a low of 95 to a high of 103. What little strength he had was spent tearing the covers off or pulling them on.
It was the afternoon of the fourth day when his temperature peaked. He lay on the leather sofa in his living room staring up through the skylight. Sweat rolled off him in rivulets, which in turn caused him to shiver violently. It seemed as every watt of energy had been sucked from his being.
That's when a squirrel with a head the size of a hot air balloon leaned over the skylight and said to Harry, "I am Nigli! God as Squirrel!"
"How do you do. I'm Harry Putterman."
The squirrel frowned, "Of course! I know that. I'm all-knowing."
Harry was most embarrassed at his faux paus, "My apologies, Lord God as squirrel. Would you care from some tea?"
The squirrel's attitude visibly changed, "Would there be crackers with that?"
Harry smiled, "Most assuredly crackers and cheese."
Harry was never really sure if he dreamed it or if he actually went into the garden and had tea with some invisible squirrel. He remembered though it was as real any experience as any he had ever had.
When Harry met the God Squirrel at the cafe table, Nigli had shrunk down to a normal man-sized mammal (normal for a fever dream that is). Harry brought a pot of Earl Gray on a tray over to their table. The tray was stacked with various cheeses and crackers. He sat down across from the furry gray one and poured them both a nice cup of tea.
Nigli politely waited until Harry was done and then went right for the crackers. Harry noticed he didn't have much use for the cheese even though he had set out a lovely smoked provolone, light havarti and creamy Brie.
"You have a very lovely garden, Harry," the gray one observed.
"Why thank you very much, Nigli. May I call you Nigli? I don't mean to be disrespectful."
The squirrel waved him off, "Oh certainly. I don't stand on pretension. It gives one sore paws." The squirrel tittered at his own joke and Harry joined in.
Harry nibbled at a cracker and then asked, "So are you the God of all squirrels or are you God period?"
The squirrel looked long and hard at Harry before replying, "All squirrels are Nigli."
"Oh," Harry replied not really sure if that answered his question, "Well, you'll notice I've been very kind to squirrels my entire life."
The squirrel grinned, "Of course. Besides being omnipotent I'm also all knowing and as I said before all squirrels are Nigli... I should like to comment that we squirrels have been very appreciative for your courtesy over the years. We have a very hard lot... being at the bottom of the food chain and all and any kindness is greatly appreciated."
The squirrel sighed, "We didn't plan things to happen this way. Being Nigli you'd think we could have managed the universe a little more to our favor."
"I should think that being omnipotent would enable you to resolve any issue."
The squirrel frowned and leaned a little menacingly toward Harry, "Well, even omnipotency has its limits you know? There's a part of Nigli that would just as soon start over."
An uncomfortable Harry decided it was time to change the course of this conversation since Nigli was getting rather intense, "Of course... how did the winter go for you? It was awfully cold."
"Oh it wasn't bad at all. I have very nice nest located in a rather large and comfortable oak. Being Nigli I knew it was going to be a bad winter so I stored up lots of acorns, beechnuts and the like."
Harry sipped from his tea, "How do you ever keep track of all those nuts. I watch you bury them all over the place and can't imagine-," Harry popped his forehead with an open hand, "Oh! Of course, you're all-knowing."
The squirrel smiled, "Actually it's a keen sense of smell, something you humans lack. It's really too bad. You don't know what you're missing."
Harry smiled politely, but he did not agree. The image of his Aunt Rebecca popped into his mind. She was a sweet old lady, but failed to bathe, as often as she should and thus Harry was happy for his lack of keen olfactory. Of course he didn't point this out to Nigli. He didn't wish to dispute the word of God.
The squirrel leaned over the table in a most profound fashion, "You know why I'm here don't you Harry?"
The squirrel leaned back with a frown, "No not for the crackers, although they are quite good. No I'm here to tell you your destiny."
"Really! Oh this is quite exciting. Most men don't get to find out their destiny until they've already lived it. What is my destiny?"
Nigli drew himself up to his full man-sized height and proclaimed solemnly, "You are the keeper of the Template."
Actually Harry was hoping to hear about early retirement and didn't quite know what to make of the squirrel's proclamation, "What Template would that be?"
The squirrel tapped his furry gray temple and said with a queer smile, "The one up here, Harry, the one up here."
Of course this did nothing to enlighten Harry's confusion. Harry looked down into his teacup and silently wondered if the answer would be contained in his tealeaves. When he looked up Nigli was gone.
Harry chuckled to himself and turned his attention back to the road. That dream always raised a smile whenever its memory drifted back to him. Anyone meandering through his garden today would notice several new squirrel feeders posted about the place.
His vehicle turned off route 44 onto Nod road and Harry looked up at the mountains to his right. Actually they were glorified hills, but Harry loved them never the less. They were forested from foot to crown and fairly glowed green. Life seemed to emanate from the woods around him and he opened the sunroof to listen to the bird song.
That missing feeling came back to him again and nagged him like that first grade school teacher who he hated so much as a child. What was he forgetting? It had something to do with science. He was sure of it. He looked down at the magazine in the passenger's seat next to him.
He popped his head with an open palm. Of course! Two years ago the combined terrestrial and orbital observatories of the earth moon and mars had collated all of their data into one central repository. With that information the world's greatest astrophysicists were able to determine the exact number galaxies in the entire universe. He’d never forgotten the one page map of the universe that mapped out the larger galaxies and their basic shape.
Harry's jaw dropped into his lap. He fumbled for the slips of paper in his shirt pocket. Sure enough the number on the slip of paper, the number of neurons in his brain, was exactly the same as the number of galaxies the astrophysicist had determined were in the universe.
Harry unfolded the neural map he got from the college scientists and gasped. It was an exact match to the universal map the astrophysicists had plotted out. There was no denying that his brain map looked like a template for the entire universe!
Harry looked up and screamed. A gray squirrel bounded into the road in front of him. He dived on the automated steering wheel and cut too hard to the right. A large oak refused to yield to his excessive speed. There was a big bang as Harry slammed into the tree and the universe ceased to exist.
Nigli pondered the dark infinity before him and mused on whether to start anew with a mighty oak or a towering hemlock…