What Doctor Gottlieb Saw

What Doctor Gottlieb Saw by Ian Tregillis Read Free Book Online

Book: What Doctor Gottlieb Saw by Ian Tregillis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ian Tregillis
“Do you suppose it’s possible to murder God?”
    Gretel was Gottlieb’s most troubling patient. She was clairvoyant. She was also, he feared, quite mad.
    He paused in the midst of jotting a note in her file. Capping his fountain pen and setting it on the desk, alongside the blotter, gained his scattered thoughts a few seconds to catch up with her. “I beg your pardon?”
    â€œIf He is omniscient and infallible, then surely He would see the moment and manner of His own passing. Knowing this, and being infallible, He could prevent it. Yet to do so would imply His prescience was imperfect. While not doing so would mean He is not eternal.” She sighed.
    Gottlieb said, “The death of God is a metaphor. It isn’t meant as a literal, corporeal death. It represents the overthrow of God through modern man’s diminished need for external sources of wisdom.”
    Nietzsche was required reading at the farm. But only the approved works, of course.
    Gretel frowned and turned her gaze to the open window. The wool of her peasant dress rasped across the wires draped over her shoulder. The wires emerged from rivets in her skull, spiraling down through her raven-black locks to dangle at her waist. Sunlight glinted on the copper connectors; like the other subjects, she wore a battery only during tests. Her hair had grown thick and lustrous since Dr. von Westarp finalized the locations of the electrodes in her brain, and thus suspended the surgeries.
    It was the last day of May and the first sunny day in a week. A breeze fluttered swastika banners atop the farmhouse. Moments later it ruffled the papers on Gottlieb’s desk, filling his office with the loamy smell of rain-damp earth. Birdsong twittered through the forest surrounding the former orphanage, punctuated by steady hammering from a nearby construction project. If Gottlieb strained, he could just make out the rhythmic crunch of shovels and picks from the Schutzstaffel squad trying to recover Oskar’s body.
    Gretel said, “But for the sake of argument.”
    â€œVery well,” said Gottlieb. He leaned back, crossed his arms. “There is no paradox if He chooses to die.”
    Gretel shook her head. “I’m not talking about Jesus Christ. And changing the question from murder to suicide doesn’t avoid the problem. If He is omnipotent and infallible, He can end anything permanently, including His eternal life. But if He is in fact eternal, He cannot die.”
    â€œIn that case, I suppose He would choose to be permanently mortal.”
    â€œNobody can know the mind of God, Doctor.”
    Gottlieb saw a way to turn the conversation back to the topic at hand. He said, “You’ve developed an interesting preoccupation, in light of yesterday.” But she didn’t take his opening, so he forged ahead: “Did you have foreknowledge of the accident, Gretel? Did you foresee Oskar’s death?”
    â€œI couldn’t see anything after the power went out.”
    The power surge had shorted out Gottlieb’s desk lamp. It had been a gift from his father; the base was Meissen porcelain, from the works near Dresden. But the farm had electrical engineers on staff. Perhaps they could fix—
    Gretel had changed the subject again. She was good at that. Which was consistent with his diagnosis.
    He started to confront her deflection, but stopped to listen: Plop. Drip. Plop.
    Gottlieb peered over the desk. Mud caked the soles of her bare feet and the spaces where it had squelched between her toes. And now clumps of it plopped to Gottlieb’s office rug as her feet dried. Morning dew had wicked into the hem of Gretel’s dress, darkening the pale blue wool. She’d been to the meadow again.
    Gottlieb pointed to the sprig of lavender tucked behind her ear. “I see you’ve gone back to picking wildflowers.”
    â€œYes.”
    â€œYou were hunting mushrooms yesterday, as I

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