There Is Nothing in the Universe That Is Not Me
A feminist take on the story of Buddha, as told through video games.
Art by Koren Shadmi
It is the future and everything is terrible. Bombed out buildings, fascist governments, endless war and not enough food. I am pretty much myself, only sixteen years old and thinner. Hero #1 is older but not too much older. He is tough and strong, but also with a sensitive side. He will be reluctant at first, but eventually he will decide to help me with whatever it is I need to do, no matter how dangerous.
I have decided that what I need to do is acquire some thing. This thing, whatever it is, is very special. It will be located in a place that superficially resembles England in the Middle Ages, only with magic and non-human races of sentient, talking beings.
The thing I need is some sort of crystal shard or portal-opening key or sword forged in blood fire. Hero #2 also wants that thing for his own purposes, whatever those are.
Hero #2 is pretty much the opposite of Hero #1, especially because Hero #1 has brown hair and Hero #2 has blond hair. The one thing they have in common is that they are both in love with me. I did not expect this because even though I am pretty, I am not pretty like other girls who are pretty.
It is the present day, only with vampires. Not all vampires are evil, but some are. Hero #1 is a totally different kind of vampire from Hero #2. Also, their clans are at war. They say I have to choose one or the other. They are wrong.
To put off choosing, I travel through space. I keep forgetting and then remembering about that Very Special Object. What was it again? Was it a cryogenically frozen alien embryo from a long extinct race? Was it a microchip containing three distinct multiverses? It was something like those things, or better.
The object is on some planet, inhabited by a non-human alien race that is pretty much human. I am captain of the spaceship that will get us there and Hero #1 is my second-in-command. He says not to trust Hero #2, who is president of the planet where the thing is located.
Hero #2's ex-girlfriend is also the Queen of the planet's underworld. She is either evil or misunderstood. She might be both.
She shoots me with a raygun during diplomatic negotiations. The ray gun transports me to somewhere weird. One second I am staring into President Hero #2's soulful blue eyes, the next I am trapped in some dungeon tower.
The Queen says only true love will set me free.
"No!" I say. "It will not!!"
"Why not?!" she asks.
"Because all desire leads to suffering!!" I say.
"That is true!!" she says. Then she gives me a pony and my freedom.
I ride around the Underworld, finding myself in the Goblin Kingdom. It is actually nice here, if a bit swampy.
I decide to become a farmer. I will only grow one thing and that one thing will be the Tree of Life. But first I need the seed.
The seed is somewhere in some bank deposit box. I'm not sure where, so I rob bank after bank. My heist crew consists of eccentric rogues. Every heist seems like it will fail at one point but then succeeds after many twists and turns. There is always either a double cross or a triple cross.
Hero #1 leads the heist crew. Hero #2 is the lead investigator charged with tracking us down.
Except it gets really boring to always be doing the same thing over and over again. All of life's dilemmas involve choosing between some thing that is familiar and some other thing that is new or strange. The third way of not choosing is also getting boring, even though that is my path.
Because I am having so much trouble locating the seed, I decide to create one in my laboratory. It will be easy for me because I am both a scientist and a genius. Hero #1 is a talking lab rat that I created in an earlier experiment. Hero #2 is the night shift janitor. He heckles me that I am playing God as he mops the floors.
I was unable to engineer the seed in my laboratory, so now I am back to stealing. I am an accomplished litigator who dabbles in both fashion modeling and corporate espionage. I have to go undercover in order to get the formula to make the seed. The recipe is surprisingly simple, once you have the right ingredients. The right ingredients are a box of brownie mix and a bottle of bourbon.
The seed, once I make it, is beautiful. It is green and heart-shaped and faceted like a gem, almost too pretty to stick in the dirt.
Hero #1 is the CEO of the company that I stole from. He wants to know if I am going to dump him now that I got what I needed. I don't have to answer. My path was always non-attachment. I told him that right after our meet-cute.
My farm is perfectly situated between Ancient Egypt and Neanderthal Valley. I plant the perfect seed in the ground and wait, but soon the waiting gets boring. In the meantime, I decide to raise dinosaurs for milk and slaughter.
While I wait, Hero #1 proposes with a giant diamond ring, because he knows how important that is.
While I wait, Hero #2 proposes with a pair of expensive designer shoes because he knows how culturally significant those are.
A woman can never have enough diamonds or shoes or men courting her. She can never have enough high-status jobs or luxurious vacations or exciting adventures. A woman who walks the path of ceaseless wanting will always be hungry. The more you want, the more you want.
One day, I accidentally wander into a slum. It reminds me of the dystopia I grew up in.
I had totally forgotten about the suffering of low-status individuals! Seeing all those bummed-out beggars reminds me what a lie my life has become. When I return home, the tree has sprouted. It is fully grown and taller than all the nearby pyramids.
I sit under it and began to meditate. I don't ask their opinion or permission, but my husbands think I am crazy, for sure.
It doesn't matter at this point, because there is only one dilemma left in my life.
Buddha? Or Boddhisatva?
I look over at my sad and handsome husbands. In life, I was smart and scrappy. I was an underdog. I was sometimes shy and sometimes brave, but always greedy. Sometimes I panicked and had to be rescued, other times it was me that did the rescuing. I was mostly a hero and only occasionally a villain. I had wry and occasionally witty observations about my surroundings. If there was a lesson to be learned, I would learn it and forget it. If there was some new thing I needed to be, I would become that. And then I would change back again.
It was time to do something different now. It was time to make the choice that would end all choices. It was time to make the change that could not be undone. It was time to learn all the lessons, all at once. I became one with the universe. I ceased to exist at all.
This dispatch is part of Terraform, our online home for future fiction.