‘Reflections on the Destiny of the British Race’ was published by the peer-reviewed New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing on 23rd April 2019, DOI: 10.1080/14790726.2018.1520895, and appears below by kind permission of the publisher. The Version of Record is to be found here.
Reflections on the Destiny of the British Race
Short Fiction by Rob Mimpriss
These stars… these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could.
The Conquest of Angles A and B by the Superior People of Angle C
Let history know that in the ninetieth year of our habitation, the people adjacent to Angle C mounted an expedition against the peoples of Angle A and Angle B, whose chants and imprecations were a nuisance by day, and whose concupiscence disturbed our sleep by night. Let it show that we marched from the vertex of Angle C towards the hypotenuse, broke in two at the point where our territory met theirs, and set upon their people in their lechery and slumber, just as the light was increasing. Let history know also that People A and People B sued for peace, and ceded to us one third of their territories along the Euler line. Finally, let it tell that we evicted the people we found there, set up camp at the median M of the hypotenuse, brought our supplies and settlers from Angle C, and so established our civilisation in the farthest corner of our new territory. Towards the third meal there was a brief uprising. Fighters from Angle B advanced towards Point M, meeting their allies from Angle A: attacked from both sides, our settlers defended themselves with cooking pots and knives, killed some, and took others captive, whom they stripped and bound at hand and foot, beating them as the light decreased, until their groans and curses echoed through the Triangle.
Then, for the first time our ancients could remember, the hours of darkness were broken not by the taunts and provocations of their warriors, nor by the moaning and crying of their lovers, but by the sounds of their lamentation as they lay by their unlit cooking stoves, and took stock of their shared defeat. We heard their poets denounce the perfidy of People C, while their women cried out the cowardice of their warriors who had quit the field, and our captives added their voices to the clamour, proclaiming their nakedness and bonds an insult to the honour of their peoples. By the ruddy light of torches which gleamed on the hypotenuse, and dimly lit the Triangle’s roof, we dragged our captives home to the vertex. There we stood resting our backs against the catheti a and b, while the most stertorous of our leaders raised his voice above the clamour, threatening a total war to which the violence of that morning would seem like a pale tranquillity. Such were his threats that a quietude fell over People A and People B, broken only by the murmurs of their discontent, by the attempts of their poets to find nobility in defeat, and by a woman who raised her voice in piercing ululation as she cried out the name of her lover. One of our hostages gave reply, but was silenced with a blow, and at last even those protests faded into silence, as our defeated peoples consoled themselves in an exhausted sleep, and we, the victors of Angle C, were left to discuss our discipline and fortitude in conflict, our prudence and intelligence in peace.
That we, the people of Angle C, are rightful leaders of the Triangle is confirmed by vulgar observation, and by the doctrines of our trigonometers. First, we are the most numerous of its three peoples, amounting always to exactly half its one hundred and eighty souls, for always the rasping breaths of the ancients cease at the wailing of the new born. Second, we now rule over half its area, from the vertex of Angle C to the median points of the catheti, and from there to the bisecting point of the hypotenuse in lines that form a perfect square. From this it will be seen, third, that our point of origin, Angle C, is also a perfect right angle, superior in its radius to the acute angles, A and B, and asserting its uniqueness against their conformity. And we observe that what is true of the angles is true of the peoples which they have borne: for we, the people of the Angle C, concern our minds with what is right and fair, and busy ourselves with the practical arts, while the peoples of Angles A and B fritter their time in wrestling and boasting, in antic fables, and in the shadow-plays of their illusionists, cast in the flickering light of their cooking stoves on the wall of the hypotenuse.
When we gaze towards the vertex of Angle C, we find ourselves consoled by the perfection of its ninety degrees; when we pace back and forward along its rays, we find our minds made right and straight in a model of our habitation. We are likewise refreshed in the number and the quality of our kind, in the clarity of our speech and the probity of our dealings; when we turn our gaze along the catheti, we observe the wretched acuteness of Angles A and B, and the harshness of manner and the contraction of mind that they instil in their inhabitants. Yet if we glance up along the Euler line, we confront the grim expanse of the hypotenuse, one thousand paces from end to end, and infinite, as we believe, in depth. This hypotenuse is ever present in the darkest of our thoughts, and more so in the thoughts of our settlers at Point M, defying the order and comfort of Angle C, and terrifying, or so we infer, those half-wretched peoples whose angles are beneath it, separated from each other by its gargantuan breadth.
A little after the first meal, we dispatched couriers to appeal to such intelligence as Peoples A and B possessed, and to impress upon them the justice of our expanded rule. We demonstrated the elegance of the new geometry, replacing the forms of their old trapezoids with models of the Triangle itself, joined by and abutting our perfect square, which henceforth would maintain a peace between them. We flattered the quaint acuteness of Angles A and B, and the sublimity of the hypotenuse, which exalts the peoples A and B, we claimed, to their genius in the arts. We even encouraged a little laughter at the simplicity of our customs, depicting a future in which all three peoples would live as one, augmenting the sense and good order of People C with the energy and spirit of its neighbours. And we demanded their submission on behalf of our captives, whose lives we could take hostage in retribution for revolt, or make comfortable in their slavery. Later the peoples of Angles A and B sent heralds to sit at our third meal. Our captives brought food, and our guests displayed their grandiloquence with slaps and petty kicks, boasting to each other of their future importance in the new geometry. A voice arose from Angle A in crude and jeering rhyme. A few of the heralds fell to brawling among themselves. One of our own number attempted to intervene, and as a hidden blade lashed out, we heard the moans of a woman just beginning labour. We arrested the heralds, and as the light faded on our dying man, his head cradled in the hands of his lover, we spent the hours of sleep in growing discord.
And now let history understand the contentions that then arose between the people of Angle C. There were disagreements, first, over whether we should execute all of the heralds as a warning to their peoples, or the one most likely to have wielded the knife. Then some among us began to dispute the new geometry, which had doubled the size of our territory, yet sacrificed its form; there were those who now felt stricken with remorse for the blood we had shed. Still others feared the revenge of Peoples A and B, whose numbers combine to rival our own, and who exceed us in guile and malice. Then our arguments came almost to blows as some demanded that we release our slaves, withdraw our settlers and sue for peace, and others that we assimilate Peoples A and B into our own people, and exterminate their cultures, or even that we wage pre-emptive war against them, and claim the whole of the Triangle as our own.
Where do Angles A and B begin? Our patrols set out from the vertex of Angle C, proceed along the catheti towards the median points, and there turn inward to converge upon our settlement. Yet if they were to continue along the catheti, they would encounter no barrier to our expanded rule until they met the vertices of Angles A and B themselves. And if our enemies, who fear and hate us, combined their forces and advanced, they too would meet no barrier except the vertex of Angle C, and except the steadfast courage of our warriors.
So now we prepare ourselves for war.
Where does Angle C end, if it can be said to end? Our trigonometers have begun to doubt that the hypotenuse is real. Rather than a barrier of infinite depth, it is, they suggest, a mere line, or even another shadow cast by the illusionists of Angles A and B in some cowardly and duplicitous plot to cheat us of our greatness. And if the illusionists were put to death, or the whole of their peoples were put to death, then the illusion might be dispelled, as ignorance is dispelled in a child when it is instructed.
If the wall of the hypotenuse were to disappear, then we would face no limits to our advancement as a people. Behind us would be the vertex of Angle C, from which we come, and from which we claim our destiny, and on either side of us would be its rays, stretching away beyond the Triangle into a limitless habitation, peopled perhaps by our future slaves, towards infinity.
An e i π + 1 = 0 Contemplates the Singularity
You ask, in your more expansive times, what it is like for us who live so close to the end of all things. In the billions of years that have passed between your time and ours, your fifty billion light years of expanse have dwindled, so that the weight of what were once galaxies is pressed into a few light years. The background heat has risen until the very stars have exploded, and we who have kept our form swim through a dense and searing gas, churned into constant motion by the spinning of black holes, and hotter than your stars were. As I speak, the universe continues its collapse. Within minutes, we and all things will be crushed. A visionary from a time before yours saw the whole of creation in the palm of her hand, the size of a hazelnut. The universe will contract to that size, and then shrink yet smaller. Like the godhead, it will shrink to a point.
Yet for us, the moments that lie between ourselves and destruction stretch out to almost a lifetime. Immersed as we are in an abundance of energy, we have quickened our minds to such a fever of speed that seconds seem like the stately turning of your planets round their suns. Neither are we idle. For as the rate of contraction rises towards the speed of light, as areas of greater cool grow warmer and are lost, our bodies must race from cold spot to cold spot almost as fast as our minds, and in a moment of miscalculation, our lives are forfeit.
Imagine, if you will, a tendril of electromagnetic force, a thousand kilometres in length, flashing out from the cool spot where it has been at rest. Its path lies between two black holes that grope towards their mutual destruction, and whose gravity almost tears it apart as it races along that narrow path between the two. They merge, and now their combined mass begins to draw it backward, bringing it to rest in a cool spot that once lay between galaxies. Its journey has lasted a few moments of time. Travelling at almost the speed of light, it has experienced less time than that. Yet with an intelligence no doubt strange to you, for whom the outer world is so full of richness and potential, and the working of the inner world so slow, it has explored some aspect of mathematics or physics from which in future it will take its name, or a whole race will take its name, or in an instant when its flight took it close to another of its kind, has conveyed, in a flickering of light, a wealth of thought and a richness of feeling that to your kind would seem like the fruit of a lifetime.
If the three largest black holes in the cosmos continue their current trajectories, each bearing approximately a billionth part of its mass, they will combine in the last few seconds before the final conflagration. Yet if their mass is increased through collision with certain black holes, some of which we have guided into their paths, they will form a somewhat larger black hole a whole sixty seconds earlier. They will do so with such rapidity that their spin will likewise increase, and the matter within them become a vast rotating torus, within which a passing body will begin to travel backward in time. If our calculations are correct – for nothing which has fallen into a black hole has yet returned to us – that body will emerge when the universe is still filled with stars scattered across a cool void, and when it is approaching its maximum expansion. And if beings as insubstantial as ourselves survive such a voyage, emerging at the correct point in time, and distributed to significant points in the cosmos, then they should be able to wrest control of its collapse from force and chance, to manipulate dark energy in such a way that contraction is slower and entropy reduced, and we, who must live to see the cosmos purged of life, can foresee a future for our civilisation.
That such an experiment is worth the attempt is commonly held among my race, the e i π + 1 = 0, who emerged a few thousand generations ago from the convolutions of matter charged by radiation from black holes. Having known no universe but this one, we seek to improve and preserve it, because in doing so, we improve and preserve ourselves. Yet the Fn = Fn‑1 + Fn-2 + Fn‑3, who evolved from organic life, and whose traditions are ancient although their natural philosophy is less advanced, consider any such meddling as a threat. They remind us how uncertain it is that the past can even be altered, or if altered, give rise to our own kind again; how little we understand the forces which give the universe energy and mass; how easily such an experiment might bring about its end at a time long before our own, or even precipitate its endless expansion into emptiness, darkness and cold.
We were almost half way through the experiment when a faction of the Fn = Fn‑1 + Fn‑2 + Fn‑3 launched their war of extinction against us. They advanced on us where we had based ourselves near a cluster of black holes, driving us inward with their squadrons where the tidal forces were strongest, the radiation most intense. Even as our comrades succumbed to the heat, dying with coruscations of pain that still echo through the cosmos, they set upon us, tearing the weakest of us apart; and meanwhile their jeers and insults rose in pitch as they denounced us as saboteurs, as traitors, as insurrectionists and conspirators for declaring that their dying world could live, if it were changed. Soon the siege was over. The strongest of us had been killed, or had chosen the dive into the nearest black hole as a quicker, more merciful death, while the rest of us, giving ourselves up to our enemies early in the conflict, had submitted to mutilation and slavery in exchange for our lives. And since the gateway to the past is now closed, nothing remains but to enjoy the time that is left to us, and to take such consolation as we can find.
Contraction becomes more rapid as we approach the singularity. The light of our voices and movements traverses the dwindling cosmos and returns with ever-increasing speed, so that space seems to fill with our reflections and shadows, and we constantly meet our own past selves, while their light merges with ours. Meanwhile, black holes converge, adding their searing radiation to a medium that becomes brighter and denser even as I speak, forcing those of us who still survive to live faster, and to risk more. We know ourselves to be living in three separate speeds: the speed at which we move from cool spot to cool spot, approaching light, the speed at which we live our journeys, and the motion of time, relative to your time, which will end completely at the singularity, and which, though we cannot feel it, already slows.
The future dissolves in a brightness which effaces all remnants of the past. The flickerings of light from wars and civilisations become harder to discern, until some of us begin to question what has been established as true, that an asteroid struck a planet, and in its fires gave birth to the life of the mind, that from a people and its subjects a nation emerged, that from a nation an empire emerged, and this empire, after a period of retreat, took control of a world, a galaxy, the cosmos as a whole. Yet the incandescence dazzles us. Even as our universe narrows, bringing body closer to body, the contact of mind with mind is lost, and we become lonelier. Already conflicts arise between the Fn = Fn‑1 + Fn-2 + Fn‑3, as the signals they exchange become garbled and unpleasant. Some, arriving in some cool spot which is already colonised, have been set upon and injured by those who believed themselves attacked.
We expect to die soon of the pressure and heat, and to die in fear and pain. What will happen after that, we do not know. Perhaps when the cosmos has reached its singularity, both the past and the future will cease to be, and even the fact that we once lived will be no more, or perhaps the concentration of dark energy will force a second expansion, and if so, then time itself might run backward, and our lives be played out once again. But if by some skill as yet unknown the consciousness could be preserved, then all minds would converge. All times and places would be united, all races and factions melt into one, their differences resolved and their minds united, for eternity.