Reincarnation, Tim Johnson and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. The Vizzard Art Collection.


Maintain radio silence.

There is a Rat.

While the rest of us have been waiting for this.

Entropy in decaying forms made the mission, well this mission, urgent.

From a parallel world.

Everything became possible. To be in two places at once. To travel in the blink of an eye, as the old expression went.

The meta-intelligences metastasised. Millions, ultimately billions of calculations, everyday, all day.

So long in the making, this conjunction of circumstance.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

“Everybody hated this guy.” He heard the government operatives say it, think it, time and again. Almost always in the past tense.

The psychological battering those assholes delivered was beyond anything he had ever endured, outside the norm of human consciousness. A battering in which they reveled, these sod awful bastards. They lay in the lowlife and the reeds, school bullies and strutting idiots, gronks stirring up hatred, encouraging their targets to suicide. Outside all normal judicial processes, meddling with vigilante groups and fringe elements of neighbourhood policing, these extra-judicial killings took place in front of everybody’s eyes.

They were disguised

This was a government frightened of ideas. Now they were targeting journalists.

He had seen it before; the way these low ranked slobs threw their victims to the wolves, made ribald jokes with their mates, sniveled into their own armpits, went home to their dreary wives and ungrateful children. Lived their dismal routine lives as if they were King Shit, on their barely average salaries.

The nobility of labour.

Such fancy ideas flew a mile over their heads.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri — Kate Owen Gallery

Basically they were just assholes.

Pitched to make a journalist’s life as miserable as possible.

And paid by the taxpayer to do it.

Their problem was: he knew too much. He knew just how dishonest they were. He knew how far they would creep to stay in good with their bosses.

And Old Alex knew how truly rank their bosses were.

He knew what they had done.

How he knew?

None of their goddamn business.

It didn’t matter anymore in any case.

Time and evolution had already left them behind, genetic debris.

“Be gentle with him. He might shoot himself.”

They’d like that. These loyal lieutenants who resented anyone who was different.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri — Cooee Art Gallery

Scrape the mud off your shoe. Keep the guns tight in the cupboard. Bide your time. Wear the humiliation. Sneer at the poofters.

The official government message was a prattle on diversity. Yet the government operatives and military gronks they loved to employ were far more conformist, far less tolerant than the general population. The same lowlife gronks. The same malicious intent. The same dim, barely human consciousness.

The military operatives could not understand why the civilian population would not comply.

They had no understanding of life outside their barracks.

Charged with protecting the institutions of the country, instead they destroyed them by destroying the people’s faith in their own governing bodies.

Trust Not Want Not

And then, one fine and glorious generation, the invisible girdle of psychics and mystics and sensates, empaths and incarnates, the bodied and the disembodied and the truly gifted who circled the globe vanquished evil in an instant.

“Game changer” became the phrase of the moment.

“We should help this guy,” one of the more cluey of the operatives monitoring him said one day. “And we should protect him.”

And that was where he got his cue, in a large stone house on the edge of a canyon in the middle of winter.

That they weren’t all enemies. That they weren’t all stupid. That in the higher and even more secretive echelons of the organisation some of the most brilliant philosophical and analytical minds had come together to research the darkness, the spiritual stain that was settling on the planet, and find ways to overcome it.

He Learnt They Learnt

In the end, they kept their side of the bargain.

The longer he had hidden, the longer he stayed hiding in the ordinary, the less he liked himself or the world at large. And the more depressed he had become. It had been the coward’s way out. Never step out. Remain in hiding. Die a drunk in the back of a caravan park, wreathed in failure, shouting at invisible torturers, at the injustices which infested his interior timeline.

Injustices perpetrated by people long dead. Who should have been forgiven long ago.

With all their considerable access to power and intelligence, multiple intelligences, the government operatives could be as helpful or as dangerous as they chose to be.

But just as the most senior members of the clan, the keepers of mysteries, had always known, as Shakespeare had so famously written, there are more things in heaven and on earth than can be found in your philosophy.

What does the Minister say?

For we are obedient. We must always comply. We must please the hierarchy.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri — Cooee Art Gallery

The main fear being that whoever was the hapless alleged miscreant of the day, having defied whatever cant or regulation of the moment, who had breached procedures or standards or regulations only haphazardly imposed, would become jobless, lose status, be thrown on the scrapheap of their own and the nation’s history, unable to support themselves or their children or their lifestyles. Living out of piles of rubbish, dirty blankets and paper bags.

And never make it back to that glorious place: a home of their own, prestige, a smart car, a wage. A comfortable life.

Whether they were destroying the country in the process or not was none of their business.

They were just doing their jobs

They had no higher or lower motive.

It had always been the same.

For much of the race, for much of history, it had been simply a matter of survival.

The Minister has ordered a rethink. An internal inquiry. A change of strategy.

They loved their internal inquiries.

There were always new generations of bureaucrats strutting their stuff and spreading fear through institutional corridors and open plan offices.

While the Minister concerned bided his time before it would be his turn to be top dog.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

And maybe, just maybe, make a difference before the country plunged straight off the cliff’s edge.

As for the ministers of the church, the Universal Church, or whichever belief structure they were clinging to this week, the local minister, frightened, already knew the old gods had failed, but clung to ritual and instructed his flock nonetheless. They must never know how weak was the case. The mystery that passeth all understanding had been delimited to a string of rituals, incense, holy smoke, the turning of pages of an oft reprinted book, the voices of the prophets and a desperate clutching at something they had no hope of comprehending, or proving, a benevolent god.

As elusive as the search for benevolent AI had once proved.

But what other solution was there?

One estimate put the number of followers of the Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, at 3.6 billion.

“I think it’s time humanity transcended the Abrahamic gods,” Old Alex said in a flash of somnolent elegance, legs crossed, gazing down a long line of wintry white sand, a cluster of trainee lifesavers in wetsuits looking more like a herd of black shorthorn cattle from a distance.

“That won’t happen any time soon,” his friend replied.

They cling to the Abrahamic gods, or singular god as they liked to think, but it was simply an explanation of something far more complex.

I am a jealous god. You shall have no other god but me.

Um, why would that be?

Power. It was always about power.


John Stapleton worked as an Australian journalist and general news reporter for much of his life. A collection of his journalism is being constructed here.