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Googol the Great

Googol the Great cover

“Goolgol the Great” is a Robinson Crusoe of space adventure.

Stranded on a planet with no other visible civilization, Googol is under duress to return to his own kind before his exoskeleton dissolves. Trouble is he is not alone after all, and maybe that’s not a good thing.

an excerpt from this Science Fiction novel …


Googol the Great wrapped arms around knees and rested his princely head. He contemplated the sadness of his fate. Beneath the hillock on which he sat, a miniature industrial society belched its excesses.

Threads of exhaust and smoke from a variety of refining and mining processes wafted into the atmosphere and obscured his vision as he gazed into the valley below. He knew the particles would eventually fall back to earth, but in the mean time the pollutants hung in aerial suspension which gave the horizon a dirty yellow cast as if he were looking through gauze or a shadowy veil.

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The entire valley floor was covered with layers of the stuff that had fallen back to earth over time and formed a dingy, gritty crust which crackled when walked upon.

Thousands of smoke stacks responsible for despoiling the climate sprouted from row upon row of neatly aligned warehouses and commercial buildings spread out at his feet. The structures were tiny and barely discernible from his perch, but he knew exactly what they were and why they were there. Through the haze, Googol amused himself with the idea the buildings were innocent enough and the landscape appeared in no worse shape than a newly plowed field ready for planting rather than what it was: a desolate moonscape destroyed by a well-oiled machine furiously at work.

Googol’s gaze traveled up the industrial complex to a gently flowing river which ran parallel to the structures for a considerable distance. Googol knew from personal experience the river originated in the east at the mouth of the valley, but it was too far away and the air too thick to be visible from this vantage point. There crystal clear water cascaded down a series of breathtakingly beautiful falls carved from the cliffs of a steep mountain range. Once a landmark on the horizon, the mountains were now only noticeable on rare clean air days.

Idly, Googol’s eyes traversed the river’s course as it wove a snaking path through the canyon it had created during eons of unbridled flow. What once had been a torrent was now reduced to a trickle. Not too many kilometers from where it gushed into the valley Googol was able to pick out an artificial structure straddling the waterway from bank to bank. This was the dam which now provided a regulated flow and hydroelectric power for the riverside enterprises.

As the blue stream neared the industrial site it was systematically diverted to a variety of locations. There it was utilized in the many manufacturing processes that took place below him before it was expelled down stream along with a multitude of pollutants. By the time the water found its way to the western gorge and drifted out of the valley, the river was no longer clear, the effluent having turned odiferous and a murky gray. As a result, on both sides of the watercourse and continuing almost its entire length between the valley walls the terrain was brown, dead or dying.

Some of the florae remained alive far from the offending waterway’s banks, but there they choked on both air and soil. The plants were barely able to breathe or absorb nutrients. Only the hardiest retained a hint of their former vitality with here and there patches of green sprouting like wild flowers in a wasteland. Most had perished months ago and even those remaining would eventually wither away unless somehow able to mutate and accommodate themselves to these tough new environmental standards.

The surrounding landscape had initially been a lush marshland dotted with indigenous ground hugging plants. But in addition to the asphyxiating air, the aquifer had been drained by a myriad of wells to slack the thirst of hundreds of thousands of laborers. As a result, the water table lowered to the point where it was difficult if not impossible for shallow roots to take sustenance.

Some water remained near the surface, but it was corrupted by industrial waste combined with manufacturing by-products. These were flushed back into the ecosystem through a series of drainage pipes or simply piled up at numerous dumping grounds surrounding the industrialized area. Seepage from these sites leeched into the ground and turned to poison any remaining liquid.

The faunae also felt the burden of this slow strangulation, but they were mobile. Most had fled long ago.

This was a blighted land, a fact that did not escape Googol the Penitent’s multi-faceted eyes. Yet the air hummed with a background drone that lent solace to his otherwise troubled soul. The sound indicated production at a pace equal to that of an advanced industrial age and it made him feel somewhat proud. He listened to the satisfying hum the mills generated and knew the unusual tools they forged, the dies cast in shapes he could never understand the use of, the production lines in full swing which never stopped bringing raw materials in or turning out finished products throughout the day, day in and day out, were working because he had made it so. All of this had been set in motion to benefit Googol the Needy.

It was late afternoon and as the sun sank Googol looked directly at the orange globe in the sky and sighed. He did not need to protect his eyes from its rays, the haze did that. He thought he could actually see the powdery soot drift down upon the landscape and come to rest on the elements of industry as well as the work force and his own thin skin.

“Not my fault,” Googol the Innocent said aloud as his glance fell once more upon the dying land at water’s edge. “Of course not. Your hands are clean,” replied the Conscience of Googol which he had quite forgotten he possessed. “You merely reap the benefits,” it added.

Googol the Defensive began to reply to the silent accusation, but stayed the words. He caught himself in time and considered the fact he was talking to himself. Not a good sign.

Some of what transpired below was good, Googol the Indignant retorted when again he picked up the interior monologue. Industry was new to this planet. It was fresh and vital and unique. And although this part of the world might never recover, there were plenty of other unspoiled places on the planet. Besides, all this was necessary for the continued well being of Googol the Needy, the Pragmatic Googol within him concluded.

Indeed, this minor industrial revolution was necessary for his very survival even though that still remained problematic. For it was true that every morsel of this community effort, every product of each factory worker’s labors, all the fruits derived from the mixture of capital, raw materials, and entrepreneurship were being delivered up to Googol the Indigent.

Calmly he studied the terrain, idly cast his eyes toward the base of the mountain range. In the far distance he noted shimmering air waves which, again from past experience, he knew was but the shadowy illusion of what really took place there. He was too far away to actually see the convoys but knew he was observing the results of a disturbance which occurred when there was a huge amount of activity.

The illusion was a shimmering lake-like mirage created where tiny dust trails rose into the air at the western end of the valley. That was where the mountain range flattened out to meet the once verdant ravine and there the filthy river flowed out into the rest of the world. It was through this arroyo that a procession of transport vehicles ran constantly back and forth from distant quarries on the other side of the mountains and created the rising dust which contributed to the optical illusion.

Indistinguishable from the effluvium belched from the smoke stacks, these dust trails added their part to fouling the air as did the multitude of dwarf internal combustion engines. They represented hundreds of vehicles moving in formation, each hauling perhaps a thimbleful of plunder from mines located many kilometers distant. It had taken uncounted thousands of laborers moving mountains of earth in their frantic search for precious minerals to fill the trucks and satisfy the incredible needs of Googol the Insatiable.

A twinge of angst, just a smattering of remorse, trickled up his carapace and settled in the upper thorax of Googol the Greedy. He coughed gently into the palm of one hand.

He followed the road with his eyes. It lead directly to the refining smelters where the imported rock was crushed and the slag cleaned. Fresh water was poured over the raw materials and became a selenium-laden venom before being re-deposited in the river.

It made Googol the Environmentally Conscious feel no better to know that even if he could not actually see the wheels of industry in motion, he could certainly hear them grinding noisily, smell their noxious exhaust, and see the results of their toxic work which was all being done for one purpose: to fill the empty bowels of Googol the Voracious.

Foodstuffs as well as raw materials were trundled in from the countryside. Although much of this would go to feed the great mass of assembled workers who had long ago outstripped the local area’s ability to satisfy their needs, only a fraction of the total went directly to the worshipful proletariat. The lion’s share of selected delicacies were carried up in offerings to Googol the Hungry.

In addition, infinitesimally small fabrics weaved on looms too tiny for him to see were accumulated by the truckload and carried up to become part of the Wardrobe of Googol. And despite what he admitted was a frivolous nod toward interior design, the artistic creations of many ages had been assembled into one large work which now adorned the otherwise plain walls inside the Domicile of Googol.

But the most important fruits of these labors were the purified silicates and hair-thin strands of silver which traveled on miniature carts mounted upon exquisitely tiny rails that lead directly into the scientific laboratories deep within the Fiefdom of Googol.

Few were the needs unfulfilled by the minions who worked solely for the well-being of Googol the Momentarily Morose.

Yet the most wondrous thing of all, the thought which still boggled the mind of Googol, was that the entire gross domestic product of this part of the planet was being given up freely, willingly, and without coercion to Googol the Divine. For He had come to dwell among the Glyss who were His chosen people, and in so doing had given their small lives purpose and meaning. Their incredible generosity was without reticence or reserve because they were grateful, eager even, to please Him who brought them from their dark and empty Past into this fresh, lively Present. And, perhaps most important of all, their offerings were being made to appease The One who promised them a Future.

The Glyss asked no greater service than to give themselves wholly and completely to their First Cause, their very own personal Eternal Being. These worshipful creatures cared not that by their standards of weight and measure every generation forfeited enough to feed and clothe hordes, legions of their people. But because He really was in desperate need, because He truly would expire without their willing sacrifices, and because He honestly did require their uncompromising assistance, Googol the Great made no attempt to dispel one iota of their faith. If anything, He did what He could to promote the myth.

Yet Googol the Guilty found little joy in his subterfuge. By his reckoning, Googol the Statistician determined how positively remarkable this was. Thanks to the Glyss and their surprisingly inventive procreation practices and an attendant high birth rate, the incredible proliferation of the species meant that, in spite of his ability to absorb almost 99 percent of the product of their enterprise and considering the relatively short period of time during which he had known them, Googol had been worshiped by the greatest quantity of creatures ever to have offered obeisance to a single venerated entity anywhere in the galaxy no matter how long a period of time one chose in which to frame the concept.

As he sat resting his mandibles enjoying this caprice, this small personal conceit, Googol the Curious wondered when and if he would ever be delivered of his flock. Googol the Thoughtful realized he had no greater wish than to be just plain old Googol again.

He mused upon the Glyss. It could be said that so many of them had come and gone and loved and believed or doubted and denied or tortured others or scourged themselves in the name of His existence that if that sort of thing meant anything at all, then Googol the Lonely should not be in the fix in which he found himself.

Furthermore, thought Googol the Nutritionist, he was losing weight. No matter how large the quantities they provided, it was never enough. Although he had been living on reduced rations which had begun to take their toll, there was more to his predicament. His timetable, which had grown to within an almost intolerably thin margin, merely guaranteed he would be alive when he reached the Frontier. It did not say he would be fat.

The real problem lay in the fact that quantity meant nothing at all to Googol the Insatiable Consumer, although he had only recently been made aware of this. Until yesterday, all he knew was that the more he ate, the thinner he got and the longer he stayed upon this lost dot on a star map, the more his body complained.

With one finger he poked his chest experimentally and decided the dent was exaggerated far beyond the depth it should have been. This simple analysis was correct, but it was not until he had been told the facts that he had a clue as to why this might be the case. What he learned just the other day was that in order for him to fully metabolize the otherwise nutritional foodstuffs being brought to him, he needed one additional element in his diet which was completely unavailable on the planet.

He had not planned this extended vacation. If he had, perhaps then he would have brought along a large supply of this rare earth element, Ytterbium. But it was news to him the planet was bereft of it or even that his species required it in order to survive. Googol the Hopeful looked forward to the day when he had plenty of Ytterbium and nothing more than a few unpleasant memories of ever having been stranded among the worshipful Glyss.

Ruefully, he reconsidered how he learned about this new problem. For weeks he wondered if it was his imagination or was his exo-skeleton really thinning? He had no idea the food his followers brought and laid at his feet which he consumed in such vast amounts contained about as much nourishment as a vitamin supplement. And, until recently, he had not known that the small amount of the element he had brought with him was under careful conservation or that it was being strictly rationed.

Even if he had known, it wouldn’t have changed anything much, mused Googol the Realist. Rationing would still have been required. But it now seemed to him that Ship had kept the secret a little too long, should have been a little more forthcoming with the information, whether or not the results turned out the same. Nevertheless, if he did not soon replenish this missing particle, this molecular strand necessary for his body’s durability, all the strength and ductility of his chitinous outer shell would fade. Without a new supply his cuticula would soften, his body structure weaken and he would quite literally melt.

Time was running out for the all too mortal Googol the Great who had, without realizing it, been testing the limits of his species’ actuarial tables. He had already spent nearly two years on this mud ball and, at the very outside, had maybe another six months within which to reach some civilized world, to somehow locate an alternate source of Ytterbium, or face the prospect of becoming a desiccated shell similar to the landscape he surveyed.

Not a pretty picture.

At the moment, however, Googol the Thinker was concerned more with the question of when he would leave rather than what would happen if he did not. Besides, the information about his debilitating problem had been withheld from him for so long it seemed pointless to worry about it.

He tried to get his mind off the problem and began to marvel at how well the Glyss had done under his tutelage. He felt certain the momentum he set in motion would continue and their progress would not slow. Ship was making equally good time repairing itself. But although it appeared likely they would, indeed, depart soon, that day had not yet dawned.

However, of late a dark thought began to trouble Googol the Ruminate. It had come to him and done battle several nights these last few weeks just as he drifted off to sleep. It was a new foe with which he wrestled throughout the hours of unconsciousness, a tough antagonist that did not depart until Googol the Weary woke in his bunk an undefeated but worn combatant.

It occurred to him that the faithful at his feet might become quite unfaithful. And without the help of the unwitting Glyss, Googol the Frightened freely admitted he did not stand a microbe’s chance on a Bunsen burner of leaping out of this petri dish alive.

He suddenly wearied of these painful thoughts, stood, and began his amble down from the mount. He moved deferentially toward the laboring Glyss and the cathedral that housed his healing but still grounded spacecraft. The cathedral was really nothing more than a wall with a door in it but it stood as an astonishing monument. Its construction not too many months prior marked a turning point in the civilization that labored at his feet. In some ways, Googol the Philosopher opined, it delineated the end of puberty, the beginning of adolescence for The Chosen as they began calling themselves some time during the last hundred or so generations.

Upon completion, the structure marked the first time his people (he affectionately thought of the Glyss as “his” and “people” with greater ease these days) took their own path without guidance from either Googol or Ship.

Googol the Peregrinator reached the bottom of the small hill and approached the central area of operations where the Glyss ran their factories and the river was at its most foul. As usual, upon his moving to within a specific distance, an overwhelming silence fell upon the valley floor.

Individual Glyss were usually invisible to Googol. Their normal rate of living was so incredibly rapid that Googol the Myopic never really saw them except occasionally as blurs of motion just outside his range of vision. And then it was only if the Glyss really, really wanted him to see that much.

The only times Googol could actually gaze upon his people and view them going about their business was when Ship showed recordings of their activity to him. He could only view them at a greatly reduced rate of animation which bore no relation whatsoever to how they truly lived and acted. Yet that was the method by which the motile cilia which covered their bodies stopped frantically waving, their plump bodies solidified and he could make out individual features.

Not that there were many. They all looked about the same to Googol . The Glyss were small and round with no particular individual characteristics he could observe other than a slight change in color. Googol could never quite decide whether they were slightly red or slightly brown although there were shades of green and yellow and a few who were blue among their number.

Even magnified ten times, they looked like miniature Koosh balls. Yet despite spending almost all his time outdoors among them and even after they had done so much for him, the Glyss remained a mystery to Googol.

Ship was able to differentiate them one from another and appeared comfortable, even pleased at times, to have landed in their presence. Googol sighed as he took a familiar path and marched around to the base of another hill atop which Ship lay frozen. He relied a great deal on Ship, perhaps too much. The irony was not that Ship remained his only link between his subjects and himself, it was also his only hope of getting away from them.

It was possible for Googol to see the Glyss for a brief instant in real time if they consciously stopped all movement, totally and completely. In order for this to occur, however, his subjects had to literally stand at attention for long periods of (their) time which mean all work stopped. Furthermore, this performance required a tremendous effort on the part of an individual Glyss.

Unfortunately for Googol the Taskmaster, they did this every time they saw him coming. If it had been within his power to eliminate the practice, he would have done so long ago.

But the ritual was so ingrained in the fabric of Glyss culture that, after many hundreds of generations, it seemed destined to remain. At Googol’s insistence, even Ship’s serious attempts to transmit cease and desist instructions from on high failed. Ship eventually warned Googol to give up any attempt to alter this display of worship and added that it was probably a good idea to keep his meddling hands out of any further interference in the culture.

The quietude that fell on the valley was familiar to Googol the Listener because it occurred so often. First in the early morning when he went with his instruments to scour the surrounding countryside. Trekking as far as he felt his weakening legs could carry him was one of Googol the Geologist’s only tasks these days. He continued to do all the prospecting for the grateful Glyss. And for a second time each day on his return in the afternoon he heard the factories fall silent.

Production, transportation, training and education: literally every activity came to a screeching halt when the Glyss saw Googol trudge slowly toward them or coming and going from his sanctuary upon the hill. But what to the Glyss was a gradual slowdown, a tapering off of labor during their ritual observation of God’s Useful Works, and what to them was merely a welcome lunch break in their workday regime as the pious lined up and took their places in His presence, was to Googol an almost instant tranquility.

He dreaded the work stoppage and it was this which caused Googol the Pessimist to wonder: what would happen if they lost their faith? Would they, afterward, still return to work in the factories? Would He still benefit or would that be the end of their offerings? These thoughts recurred each night, began to haunt his dreams and snap him awake. Twice a day when he heard the telltale calm come crashing down upon the valley he feared that would be the final quiet before a storm of blasphemy broke out.

Googol the Paranoid did not feel any more secure knowing the Glyss appeared content to continue salaaming in his presence. But since the life of a Glyss was captive to the daily rotation of the planet, alive only for little more than one entire revolution around their sun, one complete diurnal period at once their darkness and their light for a lifetime, he took solace knowing this afternoon cessation was for most of his people a second and, in all likelihood, final opportunity to affirm their faith.

It was some small consolation to Googol the Theologian to know that even the most hardened heretic among his followers would be dead by this time tomorrow.

Googol the Magnanimous reminded himself he was, after all, giving them each a rare gift. They were able to actually twice be in the presence of their Lord. How few true believers of any faith had such an opportunity and could claim such incredible munificence?

But as Googol passed near them on his way to his palace, he knew the agony of an Olympian. This pain translated itself increasingly into a need for therapeutic remedy. It had been easy to begin the charade but now he was filled with doubt and each passing day made it more difficult to believe it himself. Perhaps, he thought, this was due to his peculiar form of malnutrition, although the cause for concern was probably much less organic in nature. Whatever the reason, he felt a tremendous burden weighing on his shoulders.

Googol the Great had come to realize he did not know how to act in front of his children.

The Glyss saw their Lord move incredibly slowly toward them. He was aware of this and quickened his pace in order to hasten his passing their revue, but it was a great effort of will on his part. His painfully creaking leg joints seemed to hurt more and more each day. He drew no consolation from the knowledge that it was an equal effort on the part of every Glyss to remain unmoved for as long as it took him to cross in front of them

The silent factories disturbed Googol the Foreman. It was wasted effort, wasted time, wasted adoration. If only they would not idle everything upon his visitations and at least keep a few of the more important tasks operating.

As he neared, several Glyss fainted from the effort of standing at attention for so long. Googol the Shortsighted, of course, could not tell an unconscious Glyss from a conscious one. Patiently, Ship had explained to him how this frequently occurred and added that a Glyss so visited, once revived, was revered and pronounced by its brethren to have been touched by divine sign.

Googol was unimpressed. He moved faster.

“Ship,” Googol the Loud called from in front of the iron doorway that had at one time represented the zenith of Glyss civilization and architectural prowess. The sound of his voice deafened many of Googol’s followers as they picked up their tools and returned to their noisy, odoriferous tasks. “Ship, I’m home.”

With the slow roll of thunder that always accompanied the door’s opening, the rest of the valley’s inhabitants again raised their collective voice in timbre and intensity until once more they achieved the pitch Googol the Symphonist so delighted in hearing.

The Glyss had gone back to work. Googol the Gloomy his domain entered.

This novel is 200 pages long
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