All the organisations and characters, whether living, dead or immortal, mentioned in this story are figments of the author’s imagination and bear no resemblance to anything or anyone in the real world.

The Management

His lap top announced the arrival of an e mail with its usual irritating beep. He sighed and clicked on the inbox to see what was going on. “Why is it that you feel obligated to open an e mail when it seems perfectly ok to ignore the pleas of millions of people?” he thought. It was from the heavenly management secretary – HMS, as he was known.

“This message is to inform you that there will be a management meeting in the Valhalla room at 1200 HST on Monday 23rd January in the Year of the Dog.” He looked in his diary to convert Heavenly Standard Time to Asgard local.

He materialised in Valhalla in good time for a coffee and a chat with Odin before the meeting started but then had to return to collect his hammer. ‘I’m Thor,’ he announced to the newbie gods.

‘Perhaps you should get a new thaddle then,’ suggested the elephant in the room, with a giggle, he never forgot an old bad joke.

‘Thank you for your contribution Ganesh, I just hope you will help us make a success of this meeting. What’s it all about anyway?’ Thor wasn’t keen on zoomorphic deities, if he wanted to see animals he could go to a zoo. Luckily he had remembered his pocket Civet Bang air freshener.

‘Zeus wanted us to get together to review the tsunami project and see if we can improve the process as the last one in Japan didn’t go very well,’ said the fat one sitting cross legged in the corner.

‘Good idea ,’ said Thor sarcastically who was a little jealous of the Greek. He had suspected him of nicking his hammer the last couple of times it had gone missing, forgetting that he had often stolen Zeus’s thunder. ‘Whose turn is it to chair this meeting and where are the copies of the agenda?’

‘I think it is my turn,’ said the Buddha mildly, who was partly hidden behind the table as he was sitting cross legged on a prayer mat, on the floor. ‘By the way, I published the agenda in the Daily Llama, didn’t you see it?’

‘I don’t read every local rag in the universe,’ ranted Thor who was not known for his academic qualifications, in fact some of his colleagues suspected he couldn’t read at all. He got angry very quickly. The project to convert him to the calm acceptance of Buddhism a few millenia ago had failed dismally after he had changed his mantra from “Om Mani Padme Hum” to “Oh Manny Packme Haversack”, stood up and left his first meditation session after ten minutes.

‘Shall we start?’ enquired the Gautama quietly, having noticed that most of the terragods had now arrived. Shall we do the apologies first, anyone missing?’

‘Jesus said he would be late as he was going to hang with some hos, teach some guys to fish and then he had an appointment with some actuaries about saving tax on his pension contributions, in the temple I think.’ said Yahweh.

‘That is really annoying, he said he would be here for the first meeting and now he can’t even be bothered to turn up for the second coming. Oh well, we’ll just press on without him.

The purpose of this meeting is to try and work out why our different strategies have not really worked and then to come up with some new ideas. Let’s go round the table and ask each of you why your project didn’t work. You first, Zeus. What happened at Sanatorium?’

‘It’s Santorini actually,’ said Zeus, indignantly.

‘OK, sorry, get down off your tall Minotaur’ apologised Siddhārtha, ‘please continue.’

‘I made the dormant volcano at Thira erupt explosively and nearly destroy the island and what was left was covered in a layer of volcanic ash that was hundreds of feet thick. It was a double whammy in that it destroyed Atlantis and indirectly led to the destruction of the Minoan civilisation,’ said Zeus proudly.

‘OK, thank god.  Allah, salaam alaikum. What about your trials in Indonesia?’

‘Well, it went quite well really, I activated the subduction zone where the India tectonic plate slides under the Burma plate. I had stopped the movement for some years to allow the strain to build up and then when it did give way, there was a satisfying earthquake followed by a tsunami which killed around 230,000 humans. I was pleased with this approach so I repeated the exercise near Japan with a big earthquake which also produced a tsunami but was less effective in reducing the human population because of the Japanese building regulations which meant that many city buildings survived. It did destroy a lot of their nuclear generating capacity so that might slow them down a little’

‘Yahweh, what have you been up to?’

‘Mine has been a longer term project, I decreed that all my priests must be celibate and I spread a general disapproval of sex so that should have kept the population growth down but, unfortunately my terra representative also banned contraception which had the opposite effect. An oversight on my part. Luckily a breakaway group protested and dumped this idea recently. I have to say in my foreman’s defence, that this policy worked well across most of Africa, it spread the aids virus around a treat.’

‘So you are not really infallible then?

The door to the meeting room banged open and Jesus walked in. He was reprimanded by the Gautama for being late and badly dressed, he was wearing sandals, with socks, with holes in the toes. He was allowed to present his project and the progress so far.

‘I have been working with a company called Aapple in California. We have developed an App for the new Aapple i phone eleven.’

‘Wow’ said Zeus. ‘That is incredible progress. You have had over two thousand years and all you have come up with is an App? I know school boys in garages who have developed an App in a couple of years.’

‘Yes, that’s true.’ said Jesus calmly. ‘The difference is that this one has every chance of decimating the human race.’

“Is this what you mean by “managing our expectations”,’ asked Zeus, who had been practising his sarcasm in front of the bathroom mirror. ‘Go on, then clever clogs, er sandals, tell us all about it.’

“ We pre loaded the App onto the i phone eleven and then sold the phone at a very special price into the test areas in Africa. When the App is used, it sends a virus into the user’s brain through the ear. The virus then develops as it enters the bloodstream and sets the disease on its way. It is also very transmittable through contact with bodily fluids and has a very high fatality rate.’

‘And what do you call this magical infection?’ asked a sceptical Zeus.

‘We call it i bolar.’ said Jesus, who then sat down and crossed his legs; to save on nails.

‘Thank you, Jesus. Who is representing the ninety, or so, Chinese gods?’

‘I am,’ said Zhu Rong, the Chinese god of fire. ‘I worked through the human political process. The famines under Mao killed many millions of people and then the one child policy reduced the potential birth rate dramatically.’

‘Thank you gods for those reports. I know there are many other gods who have not had a chance to speak but I would now like to summarise our present situation.

‘We had a complaint from Gaia a couple of centuries ago, soon after the last management meeting, that the experimental human species we agreed to put on Earth was getting to be too successful for its own good. First they had invented farming and cooking so they had enough to eat, then they found out about disease so cleaned up their act and invented medicine. Their population is now increasing out of control causing a lot of damage to the Earth, partly from pollution but also from cutting down forests to farm more land and digging girt big holes in the ground to extract minerals to feed their industries. These industries are polluting the atmosphere and upsetting the atmospheric gas balance that we spent so much time getting right all those eons ago.’

‘As we have heard today, some of you have been mildly successful in either culling some of the humans or preventing them from breeding but it clearly not enough. We need some suggestions that will reduce the human population back to what it was a few hundred years ago. Has anyone got some ideas?’

‘What about talking to Heavenly Resources to see if we can recruit some scientists from the human race who will work out what can be done?’ suggested Ganesh, always focused on success. ‘Sort of turning poachers into gamekeepers.’

‘You must be joking Nelly,’ said Zeus. ‘For a start the HR department don’t know its Arne from its Elgar and no decent scientists believe we exist anyway so why would any of them want to work for a bunch of imaginary deities?’

‘Sorry to confuse you Zeus, lad, you must have left some of your marbles up on that hill you live on,’ murmured Ganesh, who didn’t like being called Nelly.

‘It is a mountain, not a hill and it is called Olympus,’ roared an angry Zeus, readying his quiver of thunderbolts.

‘As I was going on to say before being so rudely interrupted’, said Ganesh sweetly, he was quite pachydermic, ‘why don’t we set up a human project on earth and get the scientists to work there. That way they won’t have to know that they are working for us.’

‘I think that is an excellent idea,’ said Zhu Rong. ‘I would like to run this project and I’ll report back to you in a couple of thousand years time, say at the next meeting but one?’

The gods took a vote in democratic heaven, and agreed that Zhu Rong should go ahead and report back.

‘OK, I’ll get some of my lads on the case, we all babel the same language that should save any confusionism.’

***

The ninety or so Chinese gods started work, no one was really sure how many of them there were as the Greek accountant had been using his a bacchus which only went up to thirty and then it got him drunk and the grapes started falling off the 100’s rail.

They decided to use climate change as the human culling process because they knew that the ninety six countries around the world would never agree to a joint plan to mitigate the greenhouse gases being belched into the atmosphere. They approached several atmospheric scientists from around the world and asked if they would be interested in working for the IPCC – The International Panel on Climate and Conferencing. They  explained to them that they would, unfortunately, have to travel around the world, stay in the best hotels and occasionally give presentations on their work. For this they would be paid amazingly well. They did not have much trouble finding enough scientists for their purpose, they found that they were just as corruptible as politicians, or estate agents, or journalists; or any humans come to think of it. These pesky humans were getting as bad as the gods themselves.

After five years work, Professor Hugh Macanerny came up with an idea. He had been working on X-Ray crystalography, specialising in water ice, when he came across a way of shortening the bonds between the individual water molecules in the ice crystal lattice. He could only achieve a shortening of 6.37% but this was enough to change the properties of ice such that it no longer floated on water but now was denser so it sunk. Poor Hugh was a typical scientist in that he was brilliant at focussing on one particular thing but couldn’t see the wider implications.

This was similar to the people who developed nuclear fission but were then surprised and indignant when ‘their’ process was used to make bombs to kill people. Children playing with fire really.

Hugh pressed on with developing his process – he called it the ‘Prometheus Project’, not sure why but I guess he thought it sounded impressive. He didn’t realise that Zhu Rong and his lads were smoothing his path so that difficulties just melted away – unlike his ‘heavy ice.’ Because of this, he had it all worked out very quickly and turned any heavy ice molecule he produced into a fast breeder which converted any water or ice molecule it came into contact with, an icy non nuclear chain reaction – cold fusion again.

The first field trial took place on the Greenland ice cap. The test piece of heavy ice was dropped into a shaft drilled one kilometre into the ice and then filled with water which quickly froze. The ice started converting to heavy ice and the rate speeded up as there was more surface area in contact so the rate went exponential. The whole of the ice cap was converted after two weeks. This had major implications. Because of the increase in mass, the spreading forces increased. The extra mass of the heavy ice resulted in compression melting at the base of the ice cap which lubricated the ice / rock interface. These two effects speeded up the glaciers to more than twice their previous rate. No icebergs were produced, however as the ice just crawled along the bottom of the ocean. The ‘ice cancer’ rapidly spread across the globe, converting water to heavy water and ice to heavy ice. All this water and ice spread down to the depths of the oceans. All the snow that fell on Greenland converted to heavy ice and joined the ice at the bottom of the sea.

After two thousand years, the ocean basins were full of ice, the ice caps had disappeared and all rain had stopped because there was no more evaporation from the seas to form clouds. All the continents turned to deserts, food crops failed, the increased insolation, because of no cloud cover, increased the Earth’s temperature.

Famine stalked the land.

People died in their billions until even the rich ones, who had moved underground to escape the heat, exhausted their stores of food and water and the last human died.

***

The chair of the meeting this time was Yahweh.

‘OK lads,’ he started, ‘we are here today to hear Zhu Rong’s report on his project using the humans against themselves. Right, over to you Rong.’

‘My fellow gods, I can reveal to you today that my project has been completely successful. As from fifty earth years ago, there is not one human left alive.’ There was a round of applause, banging of the table in approval and much stamping of feet.

Yahweh then went on to tell the whole story as they listened intently.

Ganesh, as always was thinking ahead. ‘How soon can we reverse this effect and get back to a normal Earth, just without any humans?’ he asked.

‘The problem is that the effect is mono directional, it is the second law of thermodynamics in operation, entropy always wins. We are stuck with a hot dry Earth which is unable to support life. This is why there is no coffee today and, in fact we  have only enough ambrosia in the heavenly warehouse to keep us going for another couple of thousand years and then we will all starve to death.’

‘I don’t like rice pudding anyway,’ said Allah, who had always looked on the bright side  since he saw that film about Brian.

There was silence around the table as the reality sunk in.

‘We’re stuffed aren’t we,’ said Thor, hammering it home.

‘We certainly are,’agreed Ganesh, scratching his ear with his trunk.

‘I guess we will just have to move to another universe and start again,’ suggested Odin, ‘bit tough on the humans though, wasn’t it?’

‘It was all their own fault, they shouldn’t have invented us gods in the first place should they?’ said Zhu Rong with unarguable Confusionistic logic.

Eorðdraca

©Richard Kefford 2016

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