Scene: 60, 000 years in the future. No need for speculation regarding physical evolution of the human race. We know it will have adjusted—good or bad—to environmental pressures but our concern is historical, not biological. Over 60,000 years we've traveled down this rabbit hole of multicultural meat grinding. Thousands of pandemics and environmental crises. Millions of technological advancements. Hundreds of wars—some so bloody, they might defy description, others so bloodless and comic, they might resemble our modern day professional sports. Most of the old religions die, new ones pop up. 60, 000 years of human activity shaped by space and time. As is our proclivity, we grow a database of contemporary information—threatened many times by the sway of human politics and cultural pressures—into history. Even with our best efforts, information is always lost or so grossly manipulated, only scant data of certain events may actually survive.
An archeological dig in what might have been North America. All the imaginary scientific apparatus populate some rugged mountain side or maybe the violent, ethereal fabric of some arctic blizzard. An artifact is removed from a deep cave and returned to a lab. After some examination and discussion, the artifact is physically dated, the appropriate digital protocols introduced and the data contained in the artifact is extracted. The researchers are shocked to discover a secret history of an ancient war between the superpowers of the day. The tale of Inglorious Basterds changes everything humanity knows about WWII. The name of the war for a start. At this time, the 20th and 21st centuries are a mystery for several irrelevant reasons. The era does appear on timelines. So do the consequences of this mystery moment, intermittently tracked along the jagged drip of known history. Yet the details have remained murky. Until now. Until the discovery of Inglorious Basterds. The Jew Bear and Donny killed The Fuhrer in Shoshanna’s cinema. Aldo required Nazi scalps from his soldiers, a practice traced through wars in the 19th and 18th century, might have been a religious dictate. The Basterds, in a tale like nothing ever heard in this future, saved the world from villainy. There is nothing to dispute it. There are no true contemporary artifacts with opposing views. This feels like history.
Roughly 2000 years after the discovery of Inglorious Basterds.
Over these thousands of years, humanity has unearthed other 20th and 21st century artifacts and by technological chance, the rate of discoveries increases exponentially. Slowly, the evidence sparks doubt in the historicity of one the world’s most prized artifacts. Mind you, the evidence is still scant, most of it derived from the same type of artifact which contained Inglorious Basterds. Small discs, pocked with simple binary code. Maybe two of them relate directly to the WWII. A partial series of bland yet detailed histories of the beginning of the war and a cartoon of an extinct bird beating The Fuehrer (in this story referred to as Hitler) senseless in a variety of comic traditions. Many of the other discs provide tales containing absolutely no reference to the events of WWII, yet overflow with rich details of life in the 20th and 21st centuries. During these many years of examination and comparison, an idea emerges. These are similar hero tales, a genre of entertainment, their parts and themes repeated many times, constructed of popular and compelling details. We see Shoshanna’s vengeance for her murdered family reflected in other discoveries like The Outlaw Josie Whales, Batman Begins, Death Wish. The few against many trope in the Basterds story is used in other discs such as The Magnificent Seven, Heat, and Gunga Din. These and many other parallels seem obvious once the tales are objectively studied.
The new idea has some strong opposition. Most of it directly related to the scalps taken by the Basterds. In our future, the practice of scalping the dead has become a religious thing. The Basterds is no longer simply the name of Aldo Raine’s squadron of Jews but is the name of the adherants to revived Judaism, now appropriately called Basterdism. Yet this Basterdism is just as unrecognizable to Jews of the 21st century as 21st Judaism is to the pre-exilic Israelites. Exalted by its defenders, Inglorious Basterds' divinity is rationalized and theologized with its unique treatment of a unique time, not to mention Inglorious Basterds has been history for 2000 years. Any comparison to ancient fairy-tales of cowboys and bat people is considered preposterous. Aldo Raine required his Basterds to bring him scalps and generations of Basterds since have provided those scalps. We are all Nazis in the eyes of the eternal soul of Cpt. Aldo Raine and when you die the only way to salvation is your scalp. There will be exceptions and denominational arguments over other practices, such as swastika carvings in foreheads, requiring female Basterds to always wear red with black veils in remembrance of Shoshanna’s sacrifice, the act of shooting women in the legs for the bullet that tore through the leg of Bridget von Hammersmark, mercy killing by strangulation ala Hans Landa and genital mutilation ala Hicox, Stiglitz and Hellstrom but scalping (and the alternate spelling of the word Basterds from the contemporary bastards) proves the anchor for every Basterd’s belief in the divinity and historicity of the data.
This disagreement rages for another 2000 years until finally enough data and other archeological research tell the true story of WWII. Inglorious Basterds is finally deciphered as simple comic book style entertainment based on very few actual details of the historical time it depicts. With Inglorious Basterds accepted as fiction, over the next thousand years, Basterdism declines.
Here in the beginning of the 21st century, the origins of the three major religions on the planet parallel the rise of Basterdism in this hypothetical future. Dying and rising gods littered the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa, the very region where the majority of evidence suggests we dropped from the trees and planted crops. The precursor to the Yahweh of the Tora and the Old Testament appears as a lesser deity in several ancient pantheons that predate Abraham. Yahweh eventually adopts the agricultural and seasonal tales of other gods like El and Baal who fought great beasts and died, only to rise again to rebuild the world from the monsters’ remains. In Yahweh’s case, Leviathan, a sea beast, devoured him and crops did not grow again until Yahweh rose from the dead to re-create the world. The religion of the Israelites (just another metaphorical street gang in the metaphorical streets of Canaan) succumbed to the flow of time and the dominance of the cult of Yahweh. Then came the mysterious sect of Judaism called Christianity. They revived the dying and rising theme in their own way yet held tightly to some basic details of other similar religious icons, such as: dying and rising, certain astronomical dates, a virgin birth, performance of miracles, a band of followers—many times 12 in number. Most of the stories pilfered by Christianity occurred in a different realm, a heavenly realm like the stories of Osirus and Inana. In the world of early Christianity, many of the cult’s followers believed that Jesus too lived his life and suffered his passion in the sky far above the world of men but this sort of mysticism created political problems for certain leaders or denominations and so Jesus became a real person who lived and died and rose again on Earth, wielding a promise to not only rebuild a better world but to save the souls of his followers. Again the genre of the story betrays any claim to historicity. Then came Mohammad and the story changes slightly again, the theology decried as different and superior but the themes are all there, tweaked to serve the purposes of those who tweaked them. The origins Christian and Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are now just as murky as our future cult of Basterdism.
But not forever.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.