43.21THz Walker Jr., or just 43 as his few friends called him, spent most of his time absorbing the recommended frequency and radiation levels for his unit mass. Though in general he abided by the old wisdom about radiation, he was secretly skeptical about some claims, and he occasionally tested minor variations to check the validity of the sacred graphs. For the most part they checked out, but he noticed unexpected deviations in bands near the spectrum of lies.
The old wisdom said that the frequency ranges from high-wrongness to ultra-high-wrongness were unknown and unknowable, because within those frequencies lived demonic beings of pure raymatter that held all radiation feeding life in such contempt, that they would slowly starve anyone who dared try to feed on it. Though no one had ever seen such a being, it couldn’t be just superstition because it was demonstrably true that beings that tried to feed on radiation within the spectrum of lies would suffer a strange illness that made them unable to feed.
The old wisdom said that the spectrum of lies was unknowable because the light beings could deceive and camouflage themselves as other light. The demons would cloak themselves in halos and reflections of other frequencies to fool observers, both living and mechanical. Even attempting to understand it only played into the hands of the demons, for they could make their spectrum appear as they wished for whatever ends they desired.
43 had always been unique in that he saw this as a pretty rational reaction by the radiation demons. After all, 43 hid from or attacked anything that tried to consume him, starving them seemed a bit extreme, but maybe that’s their only defense. If anything it raised the question of why other bands didn’t mind being consumed. 43 did not fear the demons among the waves, in fact, he was quite curious about them.
He wanted to know them, and maybe why they were so different from the radiation that didn’t seem to mind being consumed.
But the ancients had decreed long ago that this spectrum would be banished from their culture forever, it was taboo to even mention its existence outside of warnings. To seek to study or understand it was an unforgivable thought. The prime rule of 43’s world was if the daily radiation spectrum has lies in it, stay underground.
But 43 just didn’t care. 43 didn’t really like being 43 in 43’s world all that much, so he figured the worst that could happen is that would stop being the case. And since everyone else was underground when the spectrum of lies shined, it was pretty easy for 43 to conduct his research once he invented the parasol to protect himself from accidentally trying to consume a demon.
So 43 built things, filters, reflectors, detectors, emitters, all sorts of wondrous and dangerous mechanisms to create and measure radiation. After countless cycles of lone, diligent study, 43 found the demons he sought.
They weren’t demons at all, and not directly related to the frequencies in the spectrum of lies. The cause of the dangerous effects were polarizations that happened to appear more frequently on days that coincided with the spectrum of lies. These polarizations confused the complex molecular switching apparatus that beings of 43’s species used to maximize reception of available radiative energy. So anyone exposed to these polarizations would feel overly sated on radiative energy, but they could then absorb no more nutrition and would die of starvation. It was the most important discovery ever made in the history of 43’s world, but 43 was the only one who understood any of it.
There are a few alternate endings to this story. In one 43 tells other people about his findings and they kill him immediately for blasphemy. I think that’s the more realistic ending.
In another ending 43 uses the power of his discovery to dominate others, but they figure out the technology and kill him, but now they’ve all got energy demon weapons and run around killing each other because that’s what happens.
And in the tragic secret alternate ending 43 is smart enough to know the inevitability of the first two endings, so he recruits a small team of trusted friends to learn the secret and share it slowly. But then he’s betrayed by his best friend and the first and second endings happen with 43 executed and the friend going mad with power.
My favorite ending is that 43 is satisfied with his journey to knowledge, and he knows his world well enough to realize he cannot share his secret because there is no critical mass of people capable of receiving it. It would be like trying to teach calculus to potatoes before they’d even evolved eyes. So he wanders his world alone, but with the power to be alone on his own terms since he can walk in light that no one else dares. He has overcome the lure of vanity and doesn’t care to be known for what he knows. Though he came into the universe in a foolish and hypocritical world that he could not change, he rose above it all and found a life of peace and contentment by making the universe his own.
I really like that ending, but it’s definitely the least realistic. If there’s any constant in consciousness I’m guessing its vanity, so there’s no way 43 could just know something world changing without at least trying to change the world.
I guess the real ending is that the stupidest possible combination of 1-3 happens, then a while later people figure out he was right and the old wisdom about the spectrum of lies changes, but not really, only just enough to take advantage of the new information without conceding how stupid the error or why it remained in error for so long, or that the really important thing about the story was that 43 was curious and checked things.
But in any case the moral of the story is- demons are liars, you cannot trust demons.
Also ignorance is bliss, it’s really mean to try to take people’s bliss from them so just shut the hell up about how ignorant they are and maybe make an anti-demon parasol and take a long walk, that’s about all you can do.