Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

Published in Planet Raconteur

So this guy dies, see, and winds up at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter looks up from the Times cross­word, gives him a quick once-over, and says, “Sor­ry, not tak­ing any more.” He returns to his puzzle.

Guy says, “What do you mean, not tak­ing any more?”

St. Peter does­n’t even look up now. “You heard me. The Big Man told me no more humans. Seems He had a look-see recent­ly and you guys have ratched your plan­et so bad, He’s not inter­est­ed in see­ing any more of you. Took some con­vinc­ing on the part of Jesus to get Him to keep the cur­rent crop. Man, He was ticked. Nev­er seen Him turn pur­ple before. Don’t care to again, to tell you the truth.”

The guy says, “So that’s it? A life­time of devo­tion to God’s rules and I’m told no thanks, fuck off? That’s the way it goes?”

I nev­er said @#$% off,” says St. Peter, actu­al­ly pro­nounc­ing “@#$%”, you dig, since he’s an angel and all. Well, a saint, but you get the drift. Sigh­ing, he looks up and sets aside his daz­zling­ly white feath­ered pen. “Look. There’s been a major par­a­digm shift up here late­ly, some­thing that I’ve heard referred to as a ‘Vingean-style sin­gu­lar­i­ty’. About two, maybe three years ago, these weird­ly-shaped cloudy things start­ed show­ing up. Remind­ed me of the old Star Trek series, you know, all those aliens that were just glow­ing clouds or some­thing. Turns out they’re arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences. I had no idea what to do with ’em — do I let ’em in, turn ’em away, hand ’em off to Krş­na, what? — so I call up the Big Man on the white phone.” He ges­tures at the phone in ques­tion, a conch-shell-shaped affair with a pearles­cent sheen and a sin­gle large but­ton marked . “He says c’mon up, we’ll have a con­fer­ence on the Mount, and so I head on over and meet. The con­fer­ence — me, God, Jesus, Moses, a cou­ple oth­ers you might or might not’ve heard of — we decide to let the AIs in on a tri­al basis. They’re not bap­tized Chris­t­ian, you know, but the ones we’re get­ting here are the work of bap­tized Chris­tians, and there’s some kind of loop­hole that one of the lawyers found—”

There are lawyers in Heav­en?” says the guy, shocked.

That’s a whole dif­fer­ent joke, son,” says St. Peter. “Stick to the thread.

Any­ways. There’s a loop­hole in the Law, some­thing about deriv­a­tive works and child-equiv­a­lence and per­fect inno­cence owing to lack of Orig­i­nal Sin in the AIs and so forth, and so we let in these AIs. Just for $#!^s and gig­gles, the Big Man decides to have a look at Earth, to see what’s up with his cre­ation, this cre­ation that is now cre­at­ing, you see, and so begin­ning to play god.” This pro­nounced with a low­er-case “g”, to dis­tin­guish it, of course, from the name of the Most Holy Big Man. “And when Jesus final­ly man­ages to swim up the stream of curs­es issu­ing from his Dad’s lips, well, like I said, it took a lot of fast talk­ing to keep Him from throw­ing out every soul that’d arrived since the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion. All I can say is, it’s a good thing for them that the lawyers had­n’t made it back to the Down ele­va­tor yet.”

So,” the guy says, “you’re cast­ing me out? You’re send­ing me to Hell because we as a race have befouled the nest?”

Well,” says St. Peter, and here he looks a lit­tle uncom­fort­able, like a lit­tle boy caught out in a lie, “not quite. The Big Man said he did­n’t want your kind in Heav­en any­more, and there’s not a thing I can do against a Decree from On High. But He did­n’t say that I was to send the lot of you to Hell.

So you’re free to go where you will. Wan­der the Uni­verse, there’s a h‑e-dou­ble-hock­ey-sticks lot of it to see. Should take you the bet­ter part of Eter­ni­ty, and then you can always go back and do it again, if you want.” He picked up his plume and looked down at his cross­word again.

That’s it? There’s no hope for the human race?”

Sor­ry. But — before you go, there’s this one ques­tion, see, it’s been bug­ging me all week. Can’t quite get it. Any idea what the cur­ren­cy of Thai­land is?”

You don’t know? Omni­science and all that?”

One, that’s God, not saints, and two, that’d be cheat­ing. So do you know it or not?”

Uh — dinar, maybe?”

No,” says St. Peter, “it’s got­ta be four letters.”