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900 Foot Jesus Plus Death Rays by James DiGiovanna

04/19/2006

(My Thanks to Iskander)
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The idea to make the 900 foot Jesus thing came to me the day that I perfected the technique that arrested the development of Blatella germanica (the common cockroach) at the larval stage. Which meant I could make cockroaches that never turn into adults. Permanent baby cockroaches. Big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal, because permanent baby cockroaches also live for, well, just about ever.
  They were as close to immortal as any animal could get. Something about not allowing them to experience the hormonal stresses of adulthood, etc etc. I don’t want to bore you, but anyway, I was in the business of making things live longer.
  So I showed that I could get the Blatella to live for ever, and then I was going to work on mice. Mice are easy, really, they’re basically just big, furry cockroaches. And I had a plan to make them live forever while still allowing them to mature to adulthood. They’d be infertile, but nonetheless, they’d be all grown up.
  Because the real plan was to eliminate aging in humans. I mean, ultimately, humans don’t want their development arrested at a pre-pubescent stage. Some of them do, but I don’t talk to those freaks. I talk to the people who want to live forever and still have pubic hair. And so I’m working with the mice, and what I have to do, in laymen’s terms, is take stem cell samples from mouse blastocysts and reverse engineer the nucleic protein synthesis as a retroviral vector with directed activity. Easy as pie. And that’s when Gwen, who’s head of the lab, comes in and tells me to shut it down.
   “Shut it down,” she says, and she’s wearing a lab coat like she’s a fucking scientist. Guess what? Having a PhD in some bullshit program called “Science and Society” (puke!) does not make you a scientist! It makes you an idiot, and in Gwen’s case an administrator.
  But it turns out that I’m violating some stupid federal regulation by working with mouse stem cells. Or at least that’s what Gwen tells me. And I look in her pale blue eyes (she’s fucking hot, the idiot) and I say, “what?” cause, see, I’m a scientist. I’m not Mister Extremely Verbal Snappy Come Back Guy.
  And she says, “we have to stop this project because it violates federal regulations on stem cell use.” Yeah, see, after Dickweed McButtfuck the 3rd was elected president, it was like every right-wing Christian loony got appointed to the FDA and the NEH and the FBI and even the NEA, god knows why. And who suffers for that? You, me, and everyone else who doesn’t want to die or grow old. These people actually want you to die! That’s their stated goal, ferchrissakes! They refused to allow me to do the research that would save your life!
  But also, and here’s what sets them apart from your minimally intelligent evil people, they thought that Jesus was coming to take them to a special place where they could play tennis and watch Disney movies all day. They called this “The Rapture,” probably because none of them had ever had a really good fuck. Not that I have, but I’m a scientist. Chicks don’t go for us. Whatever, I don’t begrudge other people their action, you know?
  So I’m all mad and Gwen swoops out of the office with her long, blonde hair flowing behind her. Scientists do not have long, blonde hair that flows. Some of us have long, ratty, dishwater hair that clings to our necks, but we’re a little too busy advancing the cause of knowledge itself to spend our afternoons getting our tips done by some gay hairdresser named “Serge.”
  So I get on the phone, and I call Greenway. He’s my pal, and he’s interested in life-expansion as well. Only, Greenway does it differently. We’re in completely different fields, see, because he makes these mechanical replacement organs. He, well not him personally but his lab, which he both works in and owns, has put out retinal replacement (i.e. fake eyes), cochlear replacements (fake ears), olfactory replacements (noses), and prosthetic limbs with tactile-alert surfaces that convey information directly to the brain. Great stuff. You lose a hand, call Greenway. He’ll make you a new one and you’ll still be able to feel the difference between the toilet paper and your ass.
  So I call Greenway, and he answers, and I tell him about the shit that went down. “I’m shut down,” I say. “Fucking Christians. Why don’t they just go be with Jesus and leave those of us who are interested in science and rational thinking alone so we can, I don’t know, cure some fucking diseases and reduce the amount of suffering in the world.” I’m a dick, I know, but I really believe in doing good things for humanity. This is true of most high-level research scientists. You might not want to hang out with us, but we’re painfully concerned with your welfare.
   “Hey,” says Greenway, “great idea. You call Jesus, tell him to speed it up, and I’ll alert the media.” Hardy har har, right? Well, it cheered me up a little. Greenway’s good for that. And then I think about, and I think, yeah, why don’t I do that?
   “Why don’t I do that!?” I say.
   “What?” says Greenway.
   “Why don’t we call up Jesus. I mean, fuck, we’re…I mean, you and I, look what we do. I make living things into other, better living things. You make unliving things into parts of living things. Better parts. Get it?”
  And he did. He totally got me. “You mean,” he said, and I said, “Yeah!”
  So we meet for lunch and draw up plans. It turns out that it’s mostly going to be Greenway’s job. My stuff isn’t ready for primetime. But Greenway, he brings in some friends of his, one guy who’s a really great guy even though he works as a make-up designer in the movie business, and this other guy who does some robotics work, and some radio-tech people. It’s my idea, but I quickly lose control of the project. But you know what? I don’t care. This is what separates the scientist from someone who works in the humanities. If you start to write a novel and someone else takes over and finishes it better than you could, you’re all “fuck, that dude stole my novel, whine whine whine blah blah cry.” Poor fucking baby.
  But if you start to save humanity, and someone comes in and takes over the project and does it better than you could and saves humanity, you’re all like, “I had a hand in saving humanity!” And even if they don’t use any of your work and you have no real hand in it, you’re still all “Fuck yeah! Humanity got saved! Awesome.” That’s why scientists are less likely than novelists to become alcoholics or to try to prove themselves by fucking everything that moves. Or not just novelists, but humanities types in general. Go to a conference of the leading literary critics and you’re basically at a hump-a-thon where Professor Bullshit Von Madeuptheory is only presenting a paper so he can get into the pants of Professor Nonempirical Gendercrap. Go to a conference on recombinant genetics and you run a very real risk of learning something of vital value. Your pick, you decide.
  Ok, so Greenway and his buddies start to roll the plan into action. Luckily, he has his own lab so they can do the work there. And they start making these huge arms, beautifully muscled, and this gorgeous face. That’s what we brought the make-up guy in for. He made the face unbearably beautiful, for a man’s face. I’m not a gay, I just know what women look for, and this face was it.
  And then I get a great idea and find a guy who can help us mount this on a super-quiet floating platform, which we hide under a flowing white robe, and boom! We have Jesus. He’s awesome. But is he awesome enough?
  We test drive him, he looks great, but he’s only about 20 feet tall. Not quite it. I fear that the upper crust Christians will see through this. So we go back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, we make a few dozen of these Jesus Mark 1 models, even though they’re only 20 feet tall, because they’re going to be our angels. Never throw away what you can recycle!
  And then we make the big breakthrough.
  And here it’s all me. Well, partly me. I figure out that we can genetically engineer a freaking enormous puffer fish that self-inflates with digestive hydrogen, and we can sculpt it into whatever shape we like by pair-splicing the morphic genes, and with a little whale stem cell action (fuck you, Gwen!) and, yes, some leftover human “fetuses” (blastocysts, really) I get this thing to work. I mean, it takes some time and some work, but in the end: pow! Inflatable 900 foot Jesus. This thing is the bomb. Literally!
  See, it’s filled with hydrogen. Well, it can fill itself with hydrogen which it produces as a natural by-product of digestion. So it’s incredibly explosive. But that’s not what makes it great. Hydrogen is about 13 times lighter than air, so the puffer fish flies.. Or floats. We fix it so it can fly, too, with some cool add-ons. It’s like a living blimp. I mean it’s huge, it’s alive, it can fly. This, again, is what separates science from the humanities: have you ever seen an expert in Renaissance figure painting produce a 900 foot flying puffer fish? Still, I must say, the art history people I’ve met are snappy dressers. I envy them that. But they aren’t exactly saving the world, either. If every art historian dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow it wouldn’t even be reported on CNN, because no one would realize it for like a month. Try that with every nuclear physicist. That, my friends, would be news.
  Anyway, I get the giant, flying puffer fish, gene-sculpt him to look like an attractive man of Norwegian descent (this is the standard American image of God, you know) and then we add the coup de grace. For this we see a friend of mine, Armin, who’s a weapons dealer. I met him when he asked me about creating a gene-bomb. There’s no such thing, but he heard about my research, and he wanted something that targeted specific groups of people, and he came to me. No way I’d make such a thing. What’s the point? He wanted variant bombs: anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, anti-Swedish, whatever. Seriously, a bomb that only killed Swedes. But I got to know him because he was buying drinks and strippers that night, and we’ve sort of stayed in touch.
  And we tell him what we’re up to, and he’s not exactly into it, but he is really into the cash that Greenway’s willing to pay him, and next thing you know, we’ve got these awesome pulse lasers in our 900 foot Jesus’s eyes, and in the angel-robots’ too.
  And we’re set. First, we send our Angels to various U.S. cities to blow horns and announce the Rapture. These gets people real worked up: 20 foot tall, classically beautiful flying men arrive, blow a horn, and say “hey, Jesus is coming in, like, a week, and so you better assemble in the plains of Kansas” and we give GPS coordinates, etc. By the way, that’s not exactly what the angel-robots said. We had someone who was good with words write their shit up. But it was roughly that. So the robots make this announcement, and get everyone all worked up, and then mysteriously vanish (thank you, Google Maps, for charting every subway entrance, cave, and sinkhole in the United States!)
  So a week passes, and this stuff is on the news, and we’ve got all these televangelists going on about it and preparing to go to Kansas and stuff, and beseeching the President to joint them, because it’s the word of God and all. And then, a few days later, as planned, in the middle of Kansas our Jesus appears.
  It’s pretty cool what we did: we take our puffer fish up in a helicopter in a deflated state, and release him, account for prevailing winds, and let him inflate on the way to Kansas. It’s not hard to do this if you got better than 1400 on your SATs, really. Plus we’ve got little electric prods in him to help steer him the right way, and we’ve rigged a cool sort of exhaust system in his ass that actually propels him as needed.
  Anyway, he descends in a ray of light (this was just dumb luck and the benefits of the cloud formation that day), his beautiful body undulating in waves of heavenly bliss, and there are people lined up for miles. And the leading Christians in Congress and the Senate, and the President, they’re all there. They have to be, because their whole thing is that they’re good Christians like the idiots who voted for them, so when the angels said “show up in Kansas,” well, they knew it would cost a lot of votes to not appear.
  Now let me add something: people always say to me, “you hate Republicans.” Not true. I hate idiots. A lot of the congresspersons who showed up were Democrats, and we treated them with exactly the same degree of consideration and forethought that we showed to their rivals across the aisle. But, to be fair, most of them were from the sort of states where it’s easier to get a gun than an abortion, which leads me to think that they would prefer a world where, if you want an abortion, your best bet is to go out at night and try to get shot in the stomach.
  So anyway, Jesus descends upon the Kansas plains and says (actually the voice is Greenway’s. We sent it through a great high-frequency relay system. Totally untraceable because it rides the same waves as cell phones, so it’s super noise-concealed and then we encrypt the fuck out of it) “Come to me, my children, that I may bring you to the promised land.” And people start to walk forward, with a little trepidation. And Greenway/Jesus says, “who will be the first to ascend?” and me, I’m planted in the audience, and I’m very near the front and I’m shouting, “Me! Me!” and the Jesus thing points its billowy arm at me and I float out of my clothes and into the air, naked as carrot. Cool, eh? I won’t even tell you how we did that. Then like a dozen more of our compatriots, all near the front, start floating, and suddenly there’s this tremendous rush towards the front. It’s like that Who concert in Cincinnati in the late 70s . And then…well, honestly, I’m not as proud of this as I thought I’d be, but we let the Angels and Jesus go nuts with the pulse lasers. Just obliterating people left and right. And there’s our big Jesus voice bellowing, “come into the light! Come into the light!” Then we have these haunting, echoey recording of hundreds of the freshly saved shouting to those “left behind,” saying “I’m truly saved! Go into the light! Go into the light!”
  People are crying and screaming, but in a good way. It’s the happiest moment of their lives! They’re running into the laser beams, joyfully shouting, “save ME! Save ME!” We are kind, in our plans, you see. Give ‘em what they want, you know? That’s my general motto. If I was in charge of the world there’d be 24 hour porn TV and all the churches you could want and free heroin. If you’re stupid enough to get roped into that shit, be my guest. At least it keeps you off the street.
  So we herd them towards big Jesus, and then, yes! We explode him. He’s full of hydrogen, remember? He goes up like a powder keg. The angels rapidly pulse-laser anyone who wasn’t instantly killed by the blast, and the whole thing is cleaned up in a few minutes.
  Ok, so after that, guess what? The left behind, as we like to call ourselves, we get to work real quick, and we solve the whole immortality problem. I wasn’t the one who made the biggest breakthrough, though my work was foundational, but that’s how we created the immortality virus, which, thank you Dr.’s Ferdinand, Maduri, Prababhanda, Yokoma, Johnson and Gaspers, works no matter how old you already are.
  With a little more work and time, we find ways to reverse the aging on those who got the immortality bug when they were already advanced in years (you can still tell, because their skin has an odd hang and color to it, but they’re as fit as a pair of designer jeans.) And happy happy ending, right?
  Well, yes. Happy ending. Now we all sit around enjoying the newly climate-controlled planet, eating steaks that were grown from cell samples in our laboratories (no more guilt over eating a veal chop, thank you very much!) and swimming in our floating pools on this now-paradisical planet. O sure, there’s still a bunch of fuckwads in the Middle East trying to stop all learning, freedom and pleasure, as fuckwads are wont to do, and there’s the vestiges of the Catholic Church plotting to return death and disease to mankind through some sort of guilt-based superstition, but whatever.
  We’ll get to them.

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James DiGiovanna is the award winning film reviewer for the Tucson Weekly, co-writer and
co-director of the award winning feature film A Forked World, and he makes pictures of
robots. You can find his robots at spoonbot.com.

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