THE SALVATION COMPLICATION
So this beanpole walks into the bar, says “I’m the buyer, I just bought the Earth and I’m checking it out.” And I say “So how do you like it so far?” Remember, and I’m saying this to you and not to the guy, remember I’ve had a few, well more than a few I’ve had a lot, but that’s the way it is when you’ve been subjected to the kind of day I had. But enough about me, we were talking about this guy.
“It’s kind of a fixer-upper,” he says, “from under the crust on down it’s solid, well not solid but you know what I mean. The atmosphere, though,” and here he waves his hand in front of his face in a whew what a smell way. “That’s just going to have to go, but I think I can save the water and a representative sampling of the life, you know, enough breeding pairs to keep most species going, well at least most of the megafauna. But the rest,” he makes a bulldozer blade hand shape and runs it along the bar, swoosh, “just flatten it all and turn it into a big park.”
“A park,” I say, “is there a lot of money in that?” “Naw,” he says, “it’s a government thing, there’s got to be a park every so many cubic parsecs, and somebody’s got to buy up the land and clear it.”
“Who’d you buy it from?” I say, and he says, “From this guy,” and gestures vaguely outside, “and what does it take to get a drink around here?” This last one is to the bartender, who brings him a Bud and a Bushmills. “So,” he says, “I’m looking for a few guys to help me out, could be a box in the org chart with your name on it. Whaddayasay?”
Now see, up to here it’s just a story. Could be legit, could be phony. But see, I read too many philosophy books. Maybe that’s got a lot to do with me having the kinda day I was having, but let’s put a pin in that for now.
Do you believe in God? Say you do and he exists, yay, big win for you. He doesn’t exist, no big, you just die. Say you don’t believe and he exists, uh-oh, you’re doomed. He doesn’t exist, oh well, at least you weren’t fooled.
So the guy’s looking at me. Do I want a job? Do I want to be saved if his story is true? I hold up my glass and tink it against his. “I’m your man,” I say.
Food for Thought
This story’s launch pad was the classic Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal (1623-62), in his Pensées, encouraged the belief in god as almost a zero sum game. If God exists, then you’re Heaven bound if you believe and headed for Hell if you don’t. If he doesn’t exist, then the downside of you believing is that you presumably might not have as much fun during life, and if you don’t believe then there’s no cosmic justice waiting to smite you. As many a philosopher has pointed out since, the multiplicity of religions makes belief far from simple, while a particularly perspicacious god might decide that your even participating in the wager makes your belief suspect.
About the Author
Edd Vick, the son of a pirate, is a recovering Texan now living in Seattle. He is a bookseller whose library is a stuffed three-car garage. His stories have appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Year’s Best SF, and about thirty other magazines and anthologies.