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As if we don't have enough to worry about, this intellectual fantasy shows what happens when a cosmic virus attacks the archetypes, or the templates for everything in existence, and the order of the universe begins to collapse. The story comes complete with a number of esoteric literary references, also known as English department in-jokes. But you don't need to be familiar with those references to enjoy the story.


Archetypes Under Attack!

by Ken Sanes

Since the beginning of Time, the archetypes had acted as cosmic models that gave all things in the physical world their form and qualities. It was the archetype for Red, for example, that made it possible for individual things in the world to be red, and the archetype for Space that allowed everything to be laid out for us in three dimensions like a buffet. But even though the archetypes were essential to the physical world, they never deigned to become directly involved in physicality themselves. Immaculate, incorporeal, luminous, and transparent, it was their nature to shape physical existence without activity or exertion from their privileged place in the Ethereal Realm.

It therefore came as something of a shock when the cosmic version of a computer virus insinuated itself into the Ethereal Realm, where it started replicating itself and menacing the archetypes. Suddenly even the primal archetypes for Existence and Reality, and all their retinue, including Number, Accident, Similarity and Relation, were fleeing for their incorporeal lives, first herded into one end of the Ethereal Realm and then, as copies of the virus headed their way, herded into another. If the archetypes had faces (and not even the archetype for The Face had a face), it’s a good bet they would have been displaying Munch-like screams as they were buffeted from one end of their domain to the other.

But the mischief caused by the Dr. No! virus, as it came to be called, didn’t stop with stirring up the archetypes. It seems that a hacker with a malicious sense of humor had programmed the virus to insert itself into the archetypes and divide each one into its constituent parts. Apparently, simply destroying the archetypes -- and the world that depended on them -- wasn’t sufficiently ironic. Instead, the point was to disrupt the mechanics of existence itself, so the world would no longer function properly. If the virus was successful, existence would go insane.

And so, the Dr. No! virus set about slicing and dicing its way through the Ethereal Realm. First, it attacked the geometric archetypes that were in many ways the purest of the pure when it came to transcending physicality. As a result, no geometric figure was safe from the merciless blade of its separating power, not the archetypes for squares and circles, nor the archetypes for rhomboids and other parallelograms. And certainly not the archetype for The Isosceles Triangle, which was unceremoniously stripped of its lines and angles as its inside and outside promiscuously commingled. When the archetype for the isosceles then looked down, it was shocked to discover that it had made a transition from incorporeality to nothing at all. “Where’s my there?” it cried plaintively as the other archetypes looked on in horror.

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the evil the Dr. No! virus wrought upon existence. Having hit the universe hard by going after geometric archetypes, the virus now targeted the all-important archetype for Stories, separating Character, Plot, and Setting. As a result, the characters of fiction suddenly found that they were wandering around a void, without background or incident, as the plot failed to thicken. Oedipus, Iago, Snoopy and the Terminator walked (or skipped) aimlessly, without a way to come to a conclusion. Captain Kirk had a sense that he was supposed to boldly go somewhere no one had gone before, but he wasn’t sure where, while the Proustian cookie called up nothing in the mind of the taster, not the water lilies on the Vivonne, not the parish church, not the whole of Combray. Meanwhile, Molly was separated from the answer she was going to give, and it was a good simple answer, yes it was, yes indeed it was. Oh, yes! And J. Alfred Prufrock was separated from the question he wasn’t going to ask, while Macavity the Mystery Cat was separated from his own absence so that, Macavity, Macavity, no longer a fiend in feline shape or monster of depravity, Macavity was there!

As the attacks escalated, the cries of the victims echoed through the Ethereal Realm while the rest of the archetypes looked on helplessly, knowing any one of them could be next. Up until then, their majesties the archetypes had led a celebrity existence in the most exclusive neighborhood in the universe, deigning by dint of noblesse oblige to give form to the universe. Now they were faced with the loss of public face (metaphorically speaking) and the humiliation of being unable to perform in public.

Fortunately, by this time, the universe was beginning to formulate a counter-attack. It began to mobilize when the archetype for The Ruling Class was divided up, so the element of The Rich was separated from Its Money. That was when it was realized something had to be done. So an astral anti-virus program, dubbed Dr. Yes!, was written and it began systematically traveling through the Ethereal Realm, breaking copies of the Dr. No! virus into pieces and hoovering them up with an armamentarium of metaphysical vacuum cleaners. It was now a race against time to see what would be destroyed first –- the order of the universe or the Dr. No! virus.

But, even while progress was being made, the war effort was thrown off course by a very messy business involving the archetype for Ellipsis, the famous dot dot dot that people like putting in sentences. It started when the Dr. No! virus divided the archetype for Ellipsis into three unconnected dots. Two of the dots each attempted to continue on as the archetype for The Period, despite the fact that the job was already taken. This led to some unpleasantness since, with so many archetypes for The Period around, people in the physical universe were forced to communicate in short choppy sentences. Among the many unintended results, old tapes of William F. Buckley Jr. speaking extemporaneously had to be severely edited, and a sentence by Hegel had to be divided up into one hundred and thirty seven shorter sentences.

Then one of the separated dots from Ellipsis climbed on the back of one of the other separated dots, and they announced that they were now the archetype for The Colon (the punctuation mark, not the body part). But the original archetype for The Colon took offence and before long there was a chicken fight between punctuation marks in the Ethereal Realm. Soon The Colon’s arch-rival, the archetype for The Semicolon, sided with the two stray dots; the Question Mark then came in on the side of The Colon, and it was like World War One in there. All of which led The Exclamation Point to hold a press conference and announce that, if she was divided up, she intended to become a 1 and “my dot be damned!” -- which drew the already stressed archetypes for numbers into the fight.

Then there was the unpleasantness involving the third stray dot that had been part of the archetype for Ellipsis. Denuded of its connection with the other two, the third dot stretched itself out and began masquerading as the archetype for The Comma. That would have aroused the ire of the real archetype for The Comma, but the renegade dot was unable to maintain a believable tail and was soon exposed as not a comma.

“Punctuation Consternation,” one headline read, as the press informed a bewildered humanity about what was taking place. “Parentheses are facing the wrong way and ampersands are pleading for patience from the public, as the realm of punctuation is hit by a malicious virus, which is now said to be causing chaos in the Ethereal Realm,” the lead paragraph said.

The good news was that, by the time the press figured out what was going on, the Dr. Yes! anti-virus was engaged in mopping up operations against copies of the Dr. No! virus. And now it was the copies of the Dr. No! virus who were themselves on the run, fleeing like the cowardly copies they were, for their fragmentary lives.

Then, just as it looked like the Dr. Yes! anti-virus was nearing the completion of its task, the Dr. No! virus mutated and started taking material from one archetype and inserting it into another, creating new hybridized monstrosities that had never been seen before. As a result, the archetype for North was infected with material from the Super-Ego, and now every time people turned north they suffered from self-reproaches and started to cry. In addition, insect mating dances became even more self-referential, and onomatopoeia kept trying to bark muffins.

As confusion mounted, it became obvious the universe was going to need a more extensive rescue operation. There were even suggestions that existence might have to be rebooted, Ethereal Realm and all, and perhaps a cosmic System Restore might even need to be done, although noted experts said it was unlikely that would be necessary, as they reassured the public that this was just a temporary glitch in existence and not the apocalypse.

Then, as the confusion caused by the mixing of the archetypes got worse, day and night were reshuffled; June started to come before March at 3 PM in the morning, and Thursday was a long weekend. Monday, it seems, became an interest-bearing account that was insured by the FDIC up to its sophomore year. Bars did a thriving business but found it difficult to schedule deliveries.

So it seemed the Dr. No! virus once again -- if only temporarily -- had the upper hand. Fortunately, this brings us almost up to date. Unfortunately, I’ve just been informed that a copy of the virus is now heading straight for Odd Intellectual Satire and What in Heck Is This Guy Talking About?, which are the archetypes that make this description of events possible. So it seems we’re going to have to cut this account short. For all further questions I would refer the interested reader to the book by Miss Jessie L. Weston on the grail legend: From Ritual to Romance and ….whoaaaaa….


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