They were exquisite. Molo examined them individually, holding them in padded tweezers under his magnifying glass. They were each so wonderfully detailed, so fully articulated, and so beautifully painted that he couldn’t stop admiring them. They were his best. He had put all of himself into them, he was sure, and no artist could do more than that. He crowed with delight. He almost wept with the pleasure of, so early in life, making things so exactly like his first imagining of them. At last, here were some he wouldn’t have to throw away. These he could keep.
He energized them on the charging plate on which he had awakened all the animals and plants he had crafted, and watched them awake, blinking and stretching. He placed them in the gymnasium-sized room he had constructed for them, the little world he had made for them to inhabit, where they would be protected, and he could observe them develop.
It was a finite world to be sure, but it had the illusion of being limitless. The ceiling was painted as a sky. It shown blue in the light but lit with stars in the dark. There was a moon capable of going through its phases that would cross it on a string. There was a sun that would rise and set, crossing under the ceiling on a string as well. The walls were painted to show the sky coming down to meet the horizons. He had placed mountains, steep and snowcapped, against two walls and oceans against the other two. The tiny people would be a long time coming to grips with such boundaries. He might be dead before they ever conquered them.
There was several streams coming from the mountains, and these met in the plains to form one river, which wound its way in a wide crescent down to the sea. The regions upstream in the foothills would receive rain from sprinklers in the ceiling, and be arable enough, but the plains would be arid except where the river flooded. In time, he hoped, the tiny people would learn agriculture. He’d have to help them along probably.
The dirt he used to make the ground upstream was rich silt. The plains he’d made with less fertile stuff, except where the river carried the silt down stream in the flood season. The river valley would be their best place to settle in the long run, but he’d put them first in the uplands where they could pick fruit off the trees or hunt the herds of gazelle and buffalo.
A day to them was two hours, and they developed swiftly along those lines. His month was their year. One of his years was about twelve of theirs. He sat in the observatories peering in at them with telescopes and cameras and listening through advanced microphones. He observed them progress rapidly, developing a language which he recorded and learned. He watched them come to grips with the world he made for them. It was a gentle enough world. He made it so that it would not likely destroy them but would still challenge them. He watched them struggle physically and intellectually with birthing their children and burying their dead. They did it almost entirely on their own. He rarely intervened, going among them in the form of a tiny robot their size, a traveler, he told them, from another land. The traveler helped them develop tools, fire, and shelters. Molo simply didn’t have the patience or even the time to wait for those things. But all in all, they developed quite rapidly, domesticating foxes, donkeys, cattle, quail, and horses all on their own. They were acknowledging divinities and spirits without any suggestion from the traveler, which pleased him much since that was one of the questions with which the experiment was concerned. To his great satisfaction, they were a multitude living in towns along the river valley before his hair was grey.
Even so, it was a surprise when two of them showed up in an observatory with him one morning, boldly striding across the table. He almost killed the tiny men with his coffee mug, but saw them just in time.
“My God,” said Molo, picking up a magnifying glass, “how did you get in here?” but he said it in English, and they did not understand. He said in their language, “How did you get here?” They were so wonderfully perfect were his tiny men. He hadn’t examined any of them under a magnifying glass in such a long time. How splendidly they had developed. They had clothing made of linen, armor made of leather, spears with wooden shafts and copper points, bows of wood, horn, and ox gut, and arrows tipped with flint. Their features were so wonderfully detailed. He had done a fine, fine job, and it made him beam with pleasure to be so close to them. One of them looked at him quite respectfully, holding his hat in his hand as he spoke. The other looked angry as he shouted at his maker.
It was utter foolishness, of course, for they could not speak loudly enough to be heard. Molo had to get a microphone. Finally, the one with his hat in his hand was able to be heard saying, “There are cracks in the world, and we found our way here through them. We rode on our horses for days until we arrived in this place. We have speculated that you are the Maker. Are you the Maker of the world?”
“Yes, I am. I am Molo, and I made you and your world,” said Molo, feeling rather proud of being able to say that.
“We have been watching you for several days,” said the other tiny man. “This one,” he indicated the first one, “wanted to fall down and worship you at once, but I talked him out of it, for you seem to me no better or wiser than us, only larger.”
Molo blinked, blushed, and said, “I’m considered a very learned man by my own kind, if that means anything to you. I mean, really, are you good and wise enough to make a whole world?”
The one who had spoken first said, “We can both see that you know far more than we do, and that you are very powerful. Even so, we have seen you watching us and making memories of us as one who is learning about something does.” He hesitated, thinking or waiting, while Molo digested what he had said.
The other broke in, “What my slow companion is trying to ask you is this, if you are the Maker, then why don’t you know everything about us, already?”
“Well, I’m the maker, it’s true, but…”
“Did you make all this?” asked the first one, gesturing around them at the observatory.
“Well, no, I didn’t.”
“But you made the world?”
“I made your world, yes,” said Molo, realizing that he wasn’t really prepared to explain it all to them. How to begin?
“Why did you make us?” asked the second one.
“Yes, why?” chimed in the first.
“Really, I made you to learn about me, about my own kind. There are so many theories about how civilization began, but I wanted to test it in a laboratory and see for myself.”
“You don’t even know about you?” asked the second one, and it seemed to Molo that the tiny man was not just astounded, but perhaps scornful.
“Now see here, I know plenty about me,” he told them.
The tiny men folded their arms across their chests and shook their heads doubtfully.
“I do,” he said, “I know my father and mother, my whole, personal history, my own likes and dislikes, my blood type, my genetic predispositions, lots of things you can’t even comprehend.”
The second one asked searchingly, “Who made you?”
“My parents made me. They’re Darla and Fred…”
“No, no,” broke in the first one, “We guessed that you have parents like us. Who made your kind? Who is your maker?”
“Well, that’s a very deep, philosophical question that I’m not really prepared to answer just yet. I was hoping in a way to learn about the origins of religion from you, and I have to a certain extent.”
The second one turned to the first one and said, “See, I told you it was all nonsense.”
“I don’t see why,” said the first.
The second said, “There’s no real Maker. The world just happens to be. Ours is only a subset of this one. He fabricated our world out of his, and he doesn’t know how his was made. There’s no answer except that it just happens to be.”
“Now look here,” said the first, “Just because he doesn’t know it, or even if his whole kind doesn’t know it, that doesn’t mean there’s no answer.”
“You’re fooling yourself,” said the second, “Let me ask you this,” he said, looking up at Molo again, “Why do you only watch us? As powerful as you are, why don’t you lend a hand from time to time? You obviously weren’t smart enough to make a world that didn’t include all kinds of pain and death, but you could at least help us by keeping the flood from wiping out whole towns and peoples every few years.”
“It would ruin the experiment to do that,” explained Molo.
“I don’t understand,” said the first one.
“It isn’t us he cares about,” said the second one.
“Now, you must understand,” said Molo, “you weren’t ever supposed to know about me.”
“You still exist regardless,” said the first, “so the question stands. Why don’t you help out?”
“I didn’t want you equating me with a divinity,” said Molo, “I wanted to see if you came up with such ideas independent of me. I wanted to see what you could achieve without my help.”
“You are cruel,” said the second one.
The first one shook his head sadly.
“It’s all a load of dog crap,” said the second, “Let’s go back and tell the others. The whole world is a fraud.”
“A fraud!” said Molo, “I’m deeply offended by that. I made a very realistic and complex world for you. It’s challenging, but it won’t kill you off.” This was irritating.
“We’ve looked out your windows at the real world, Molo,” said the second tiny man, “your world has real horizons. Ours does not. Your world doesn’t end with walls. Ours does. However, in one respect they are the same. Yours has no Maker, and really, since ours is just part of yours, neither does ours. So, this belief in a Maker is a fraud, and I intend to expose it.”
“I have to disagree,” said the first, “He made a world in imitation of something. His world is just as rational, maybe more so than ours. Maybe ours is a fraud, but the real world, the world he inhabits but did not make, is real. It’s rational, and nothing rational can just happen by accident. It has to have a Maker. Just because he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to tell us doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”
“Well that’s a very interesting discussion that men have been trying to resolve for all of history,” said Molo, “and I’m glad to hear you having it.”
He looked at them for several moments, considering. Finally he said, “I have another lab I can put you in, for safekeeping.”
“Oh, no,” said the second one, “We’re going back and telling the others that you’re a fraud. Neither of us is such a fool as to disagree on that.”
“Get off it,” said Molo, “I can’t have you going back, now that you’ve seen me and talked to me.”
“Please let us go back,” said the first, “We knew there was Maker before we entered the cracks.”
“You thought so,” said the second, “But even you should see now that it was a foolish hope.” He looked up at Molo and said, “We’re going back.”
“I’m afraid not,” said Molo, laughing ruefully, “You’d ruin the experiment. I can’t have that. If I start over, I might not live see the end result.”
The second one laughed derisively, “See, he’s not immortal either. He’s not all-knowing, all-powerful, or even immortal. He’s a fraud. There is no real Maker.”
Molo felt his face grow red and hot, “I’m real enough. I really did make you, you mites. I expect some sort of gratitude for that.” He was frankly getting pissed off.
“Run,” said the first one. They did. They dashed off across the table on their tiny legs in different directions.”
“Now see here,” said Molo, trying to track them both with the same magnifying glass. “It’s no good. You can’t get away, even if you try.”
But as he lost track of one, and realized that he had no means of picking them up safely, because his padded tweezers were in another room, he felt a real fear of the experiment being ruined.
“Stop!” he roared at them. They didn’t though. They kept running.
“Don’t make me do this,” he threatened. As he swept the table with the magnifying glass, he lost track of both of them. Perspiration broke out on his forehead. His breath quickened, and his hand shook. Wait, there was the first tiny man, hiding on the other side of a box of Chinese delivery.
The microphone picked up the second tiny man’s voice saying, “See, if there were a real Maker, wouldn’t he be kind and wise, and not inflict pain? No, he means to hurt us, because we know him and know that he’s a fraud.”
That did it. Molo aimed his thumb at the first one.
“May the real Maker take care of my wife and children,” prayed the tiny man as Molo brought his thumb down and squished him onto the table with it. He didn’t feel it, but when he lifted his finger there was tiny spot of red on it. Good, one down, one to go. He searched with the magnifying glass for the second and found him in the middle of the table, about a foot from where he’d started out.
“You stay right there until I get back or I swear I’ll squish you too,” he said.
But the tiny man ran, making for the cover of a paper napkin.
“Oh, fine then,” said Molo, bringing his thumb down. The second one rolled onto his back and pointed his tiny spear up. Molo didn’t feel that either. There was just another, tiny, red spot beside the first. He rubbed his thumb on the napkin and sighed, feeling his pulse slowing. He’d had a real rush of adrenaline. It wasn’t often that laboratory science did that for him.
“Screw up my experiment will you?” he asked, then he mused, wiping his glasses on his shirt, “Where could those cracks be? Gotta find them and seal them off.”
He settled into his chair and found his drink, the root beer that had come with his Chinese delivery. His pulse slowed more and began to return to normal. The soda tasted good, even if it was a bit watered down. He savored it a moment and said aloud, musing, “Can’t have ants or roaches getting in. I’m not prepared to deal with that. Can’t have any more of them getting out, either. They need to proceed on their own lines without knowledge of or interference from me.” His heart was still beating hard. He needed a stiff drink and moment’s rest, and he took both. There was bottle whisky in one of his cabinets, and he added to it to the root beer. That made it even better.After several minutes, he looked back into the telescope he’d trained on one of the towns along the river earlier that day. There was some kind of major activity going on, the sort he thought to be indicative of a more highly organized society than before. They were well into an agricultural revolution, and several generations into urbanization, so it was about time. They were building a tower of some kind, maybe a step pyramid temple. He zoomed the telescope in closer and marveled at the exquisite detail he was picking up of the temple and the little people building it in their exquisite, little world.