The Sisters and the Simulation | E. Christopher Clark

The Sisters and the Simulation

“The Sisters and the Simulation” is a popular legend in dwarven society. Together with “The Myth of Mother’s Rock,” it is one of the foundational myths of the dwarven religion commonly known as The Old Faith.


A dwarven wise man, driven out of his village for his eccentric ideas about determinism and the “falsehood of free will,” stumbles through the wilderness. For twelve days, he wanders and ponders. For twelve nights, he ponders and wanders. But just as the sun is about to rise on a thirteenth day, the man comes upon a strange pub sitting all by its lonesome in the middle of a clearing.


A river runs behind the place, and the wise man—his pockets near empty—cups his hands and drinks his fill before going inside.


Inside, the wise man asks the barkeep if he has any work for traveler who is down on his luck. And for the first time in a good long while, luck is on his side.


“Our janitor just quit,” said the Barkeep. “You start tomorrow.”


The next day, having spent the money in his pocket on room and board for the night, the wise man begins his day by taking out the evening’s trash and sweeping the alley out back. And it is while he is out there, tending to his work and minding his business, that a strange orange glow fills the air all around him.


Presently, a woman steps out of a crack in the very air and introduces herself as a descendant of his—a time traveler who has used Veil of the World to come back here, to the most ancient of her ancestors she’s yet heard tell of, to say “Hello.”


Intrigued, the wise man asks how this so-called Veil works. Already his mind is thinking about how he might use the thing to prove his hypothesis: that his universe, and everything in it, is the creation of some being or beings from a universe all their own.


“You can go anywhere,” says the woman, “and anywhen, so long as your blood has been there, or will be someday.”  


After he’s been show how to open the veil by his descendant, and after she’s run off on her next adventure, the wise man begins using every second he’s not working for the barkeep to explore.


Eventually, having heard tell that he is descended from one of the men at the center of “The Myth of Mother’s Rock,” the wise man makes his way to the summit of the holy mountain. There he finds the scholar of that earlier tale, still sitting in the snow and shivering in the cold. And though the scholar is too traumatized to converse with, he hold in his hands a prize which the wise man could never have expected—a relic not mentioned in any version of “The Myth” that the wise man has ever heard.


It is a scrap of linen from the bed the scholar shared with one of the goddesses, and it is stained with her blood.


Back inside the pub, the wise man asks the Barkeep if there is any way to use the veil to travel where someone else’s blood has been—if one had a sample of said blood, that is.


“No,” says the Barkeep, but then he pulls a vial of liquid from an icebox behind the bar. “But if you put the blood in this and drink it,” he said, and then he nodded.


Taking the vial from the Barkeep, the wise man asked what was inside of it.


“An old recipe,” said the Barkeep, “and that’s the last I have of it for now, so use it well.”


Inside his room that night, the wise man unstoppers the vial and shoves the scrap of linen inside it—hoping that dried blood will still do the trick, or that some other secretion of the goddess on the scrap, something less visible, will aid the cause. Then, after a few minutes of watching the potion hiss and fizz, he swallows it in one gulp.


Then he falls back into the pillows of his bed and falls through sleep and into some deeper state.


When he wakes, he finds himself inside a room filled with paintings which appear to be moving—hundreds and hundreds of them lining the walls and desks of the place. And then he hears voices, two of them—both feminine, if his ears can be trusted.


In a flash, they are standing above him: two women, clad in jumpsuits which remind him of the uniforms his brothers wore each day to the mines. One of the women has red hair, the other black, but the features on their faces are so similar that the wise man has no doubt they are related.


Perhaps, he thinks, as they stare down at him, these are the goddesses of The Myth.


“Who shall have him first?” asks the brunette.


“What if he won’t have either of us?” asks the redhead.


“Where am—?” the wise man begins to ask, but they are arguing with each other now and paying him no mind.


“He’ll have us both,” said the brunette. “We’re the only real things he’ll ever have in his pathetic, artificial life.”


At the word artificial, the wise man is suddenly aware that he is not in his own body—nor the body of some other man—but is in fact occupying the form of some automaton or another. The whirring of gears inside his arms and legs, and inside his head, tell him that.


“Why not let him choose?” asks the redhead. “Here, where he actually can?”


The brunette laughs. “You think we have free will? Who’s to say we’re not living in a simulation, too?"


And now, at the word “simulation,” the wise man wakes in his bed back in the real world—back in his world, that is.


Because what is real anyway? And who decides what is and isn’t?


“Not us,” says the wise man to himself, alone in that room but haunted now by the vision of two bickering deities. “Certainly not us.”

Date of Setting
95 BCE
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