The Mother Of Everything walked slowly into the
observation room and lowered herself onto the platform in the center.
“Ohhh,” she grumbled, sliding off her sandals. “What’s the good of being a
goddess if you can’t keep your feet from hurting?”
Gabriel stood nearby, fanning her softly with his wings. “Have you tried
disembodiment?” he suggested.
“Many times,” Her Motherness replied. “But it never works — as soon as I
lose the pain, I lose all other sensations as well. And observation
entirely by mental power just doesn’t work.”
She massaged the ball of one foot as she peered through the
floor-to-ceiling windows in front of her. As her eyes became accustomed to
the darkness outside, she began to relax.
“Oh, there’s Cassiopeia,” she exclaimed, pointing to a W-shaped cluster of
stars. “I always like to see her, whirling around proudly in her celestial
chair. And look how beautiful the Horsehead Nebula is tonight, silhouetted
against its bright red cloud of dust. But where’s my pet, where’s little
She turned slightly, and frowned.
“What’s this? What happened to it?”
Gabriel leaned forward, following the line of her pointing finger. He saw
a crinkled sphere, a brownish-gray lump, wobbling in a lopsided circle
around a brightly shining star.
“What happened to the green continents?” asked the Maternal One. “What
happened to the bright blue oceans surrounding them?”
“My apologies, Great Mother,” Gabriel said with a bow. “I was so busy
watching the birth of the new solar system in Quadrant 74 that I didn’t
notice. Planet 3 appears to have been extinguished.”
The Great Mother gasped. “You don’t mean… did they finally blow themselves
“Nothing so dramatic, I’m sure,” answered the tall soft-spoken angel. “It
was probably more like extinction by inattention. I don’t know if Your
Motherliness remembers, but some time ago one of Planet 3’s subdivisions
decided to deliver democracy to another part of the globe. The planet’s
usual delivery procedures were put into effect, with rockets and missiles
followed by well-armed human invaders in large vehicles. Because this
particular venture was regarded as particularly important for the future
of the entire planet, extreme measures were instituted, and the
inhabitants were bombarded with horrifying visual images that heightened
“Wait a moment,” interrupted Our Mama. “You keep using the passive voice.
Someone must have been responsible.”
“That was one of the problems. Each side pointed out the reputed villains
on the other, but no one stepped forward to claim credit for the pain that
was being inflicted. Nevertheless, even though it took no credit for the
escalation, the seemingly Ubiquitous Side, the one with the large vehicles
everywhere, soon found that its part in the enterprise had become more
expensive than anticipated. The US requested more financial support, and
then more, and more again. As you may recall, O Mater Nostra, a substance
called money makes Planet 3 go ’round. But unlike your wisdom, the supply
of money is not infinite.”
Our Mother grimaced. “I’m in no mood for your flattery tonight, Gabriel.
Please finish your explanation.”
Gabriel said, “The US began to call back the money it had promised to
other projects. This meant that budgets everywhere had to tighten, and
problems that had been kept under control by infusions of cash started to
grow. In a tiny subdivision called Afghanistan, the once-dangerous opium
poppy again took root, crowding out wheat and other less lucrative crops.
In the US itself, thousands of low-income people tossed and turned with
nightmares, imagining they were living on the streets because their
housing allowance had been cut. And on, and on.”
“But these problems had come and gone before. Surely, they couldn’t kill
an entire planet.”
“No, you’re right. Doom came from a half-forgotten source. You see, many
orbits ago, a disease had emerged, a kind of plague that affected the
immune system of the people on Planet 3. This disease was given the clunky
name “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” and was usually known by the
convenient acronym AIDS.”
The Mother Of Everything nodded, remembering the leaked memos she had seen
where she herself was referred to as MOE, or simply ME.
“When the disease first came to the attention of this little world,”
Gabriel went on, “it incited great horror, especially after it cut short
some extraordinarily creative lives. But time defuses tragedies. And soon
it became obvious that the disease was not spreading indiscriminately,
that much of it centered in communities of homosexuals or drug-users —
communities that many USans considered marginal — or in far-off places
that they considered of little value. Interest waned. And as the war to
deliver democracy become more expensive, contributions to AIDS-related
organizations, which were spotty at best, declined.”
“But I don’t understand, Gabriel. If this disease was confined to a few
irrelevant groups, how could it cause a major planet-wide disaster?”
“Your Maternalness missed my meaning. What the USans considered marginal
was actually part of the mainstream. By the end of Earth Year 2003, more
than 40 million of the people on Planet 3 were living with AIDS or its
precursor, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus; nearly a million of these
infected people lived in the US. Some 5 million people on Planet 3 had
acquired HIV in the previous year. And during that year, 3 million other
“But still, weren’t most of these poor souls in what you call marginal
communities? Their situation was sad, Gabe, but not likely to destroy an
“In a tiny place like Planet 3, boundaries blur easily. The disease
emerged first mainly among adult men, but by Earth Year 2002 most of the
new cases were either women or adolescents. Two years later, a planet-wide
group known as the World Health Organization announced that AIDS had
become “the leading cause of death and lost years of productive life for
adults aged 15 to 59 years worldwide.”
“But wasn’t that a clear warning of imminent danger? You don’t mean to
tell me that the US let the losses continue?”
“I do indeed, Mamma Mia. In fact, at the very same time that the WHO was
releasing its report, the US was reducing funds for AIDS patients in its
own cities and obstructing the supply of inexpensive generic medicines
overseas. The US government, which had proclaimed itself the world’s
greatest warrior against the disease from the very beginning, now
announced a limit on the number of scientists it was willing to send to
international AIDS conferences, on the grounds that the conferences did
not pay enough to the prevention programs of faith-based organizations.”
“Faith-based organizations? That’s us, Gabriel. Did they ask us if we
wanted to withdraw?”
“It makes me so angry when someone puts words in my mouth! Where’s my
“It’s a little late for that, Mother Of Us All. Planet 3 did the job for
you. Orbits ago, the disease spread halfway around the world, traveling by
ship and airplane. Later on, if it held sway in even one location, there
was no way to prevent it from continuing its journey. And so it traveled.
It crossed state lines and national borders. Medical cocktails for the
wealthy slowed its progress. But for the poor — and for the children of
the poor — there was no such respite. Eventually, yes, the US gave up its
military ambitions, for there was no use bringing democracy to a dying
place. But by then, it was too late.”
The goddess stared out the window. Slowly, a tear rolled down her cheek.
She wiped it away with the back of her hand.
Once more, she looked up, staring not out the window but at it.
“There’s a large smudge on the glass, Gabriel,” she said. “Please wipe it
off so I can see more clearly.”
The angel took the edge of his left wing in his right hand and gently
cleaned the offending spot.
The Mother Of Everything looked out again.
“Why, I was wrong! I can see the green continents of Planet 3, and the
blue oceans surrounding them. There’s still life on that little orb. Were
you spinning yarns, Gabe?
"You mean there's still hope?"
She glared at him. “Don’t you know it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature?”
<> <> <>
The San Francisco AIDS Candlelight
Vigil, taking place Sunday, May 16th at Castro & Market streets at
8pm, is the local observance of the International AIDS Candlelight
Memorial held in over 3,000 communities in 85 countries.
As in the past, the candlelight procession will leave the intersection of
Market and Castro Streets at 8pm, followed by a short program of speeches,
music, performance art, and remembrances in the Civic Center.
The vigil began in San Francisco and New York in 1983 and was led and
organized by people with AIDS to publicly empower themselves and honor
those who had died. It was the world's first public demonstration of
solidarity for people whose illness made them the target of fear and
Since then, the vigil has become the world's oldest & largest annual
Thousands look to this grassroots event each year to acknowledge the toll
that AIDS has taken on all our lives, rekindle the hope against this
disease, and empower more voices to arise against an indifferent
government. AIDS is now a national economic threat as well as a security
threat. In April 2000, the Clinton administration declared AIDS a national
and global security threat, saying it has the potential to destabilize