(urth) Short Story 60: Forelesen part 1

Gwern Branwen gwern at gwern.net
Sun Sep 14 12:04:16 PDT 2014

On Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM, Marc Aramini <marcaramini at gmail.com> wrote:
> The red book’s cover shows people surrounding a winged being. The left side
> is printed in scarlet in a language he doesn’t understand, though he does
> not believe the translations match up very well. The black print describes
> the twelve natures of Death and the Dead:
>> Those who become new gods, for whom new universes are born. Second those who
>> praise. Third those who fight as soldiers in the unending war with evil.
>> Fourth those who amuse themselves among flowers and sweet streams with
>> sports. Fifth those who dwell in gardens of bliss, or are tortured. Sixth
>> those who continue as in life. Seventh those who turn the wheel of the
>> universe. Eighth those who find in their graves their mother’s wombs and in
>> one life circle forever. Ninth ghosts. Tenth those born again as men in
>> their grandson’s time. Eleventh those who return as beasts or trees. And
>> last those who sleep.
> ... Forlesen picks up a hitchhiker named Abraham Beale dressed in a very old fashioned manner and leaves Forlesen with the impression of a cricket. He says Forlesen is awake while so many of the other drivers are asleep.
> ...He meets a woman who looks like Miss Fawn whose voice he recognizes from his car – Miss Fedd used to work in traffic. Forlesen says he is afraid to read the ending of the brown book, and she says it is the red book he should fear: “It's the opposite of a mystery – everyone stops before the revelations.”

Thoughts on this classification? Going through them:

1. new gods: no, Forlesen is powerless and the universe is old
2. praisers: no
3. soldiers: no
4. sportsmen in paradise: no
5. paradise or hell: no the former, maybe the latter
6. 'those who continue as in life': maybe, but there's a similar later category
7. turning the wheel of the universe: maybe
8. eternal returners: no, no wombs or natural life is involved,
especially not if this is Frick
9. ghosts: no, Forlesen seems pretty physical
10. reincarnation as animals or plants: no
11. eternal sleepers: no, although Beale implies a lot of the other
people are sleepers

That leaves:

- in hell

    I don't like this one because hell is being opposed to 'gardens of
bliss'; there would be no ambiguity about being in a garden of bliss,
so likewise there should be no ambiguity about being in hell. One
suffers horribly being tortured. If Forlesen's life is Hell, then it's
a rather refined and existentialist sort of hell...
- turning the wheel of the universe

    I have no idea what this might mean.
- 'those who continue as in life'

    This fits best.

Fawn says it's the opposite of a mystery. In a mystery, you have a
question for which you lack an answer (who/how/why dunnit) and you
reach the answer at the end (it was the butler with the knife because
his pay was cut). So here we must have an answer (here are the 12
kinds of dead), and lack the question.

The obvious question here is 'what am I?' If Forlesen wanted to know
who and what he is, why doesn't he read the books to the end,
especially after her comments? Perhaps he doesn't want to know.


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