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.”