4 Jul

There’s nothing quite like crumbling stones and walls falling into dust,” sighed Ugward as he surveyed the bleak and battered landscape in front of him. They’d come a long way to visit what may have been an inhabited planet, and he was already feeling homesick. “Our home planet will probably go the same way, Slivvik. It seems to be the norm once life-forms get bright enough to make catastrophic bangs.”

Slivvik sighed. Here was Ugward on his favourite topic when all she wanted to do was lie down with him on the piles of dry dust and make glorious love half a dozen times. Or more. Half a dozen wasn’t many when you thought of the enormity of the Universe, and that was something she did quite often.

It’s all you think of,” she murmured, trying to look as seductive as she could, and she was good at looking seductive. She was the best in her group, and that said a lot because her group was probably the best on all of Croesus where the female population took a pride in the almost continual seduction of males.

I have to,” he retorted. Being a typical male he was almost totally indifferent to the charms of Croesian females and had to really be persuaded to satisfy their seemingly endless appetite for love-making and childbirth. At the moment he was convinced that nothing anywhere would make him deviate from his present course of observation and theorising.

Before you could say Pingawinga Croesus itself could end up like this,” he continued, “ … and become a world that to all intents and purposes is dead. Look at that wall over there, and the others joined to it at what was probably once a right-angle. And the remnants of roofing materials lying in a higgledy piggledy heap. Once these would have been cosy homes, places where the natives lived and … if you like, loved.”

I most certainly like!” she giggled. “But look: the place is dead! There’s no life here and probably hasn’t been for a thousand of its planet’s years, or more. If you want my opinion, they didn’t love enough. It’s love that brings folks together, not nuclear explosions!”

They probably didn’t love at all,” he sighed, “Just because you females are constantly on the pull doesn’t mean other species on other worlds are! It’s not that loving and stuff like it is the be all and end all of creation! But just look, Slivvik, try to imagine…”

I can see what you can see and imagine what you can imagine,” she sniffed, “and what I see is a dreary backdrop to a story that lost it’s punch-line so long ago it doesn’t bear thinking about! The place is extinct, Ugward, and that’s all there is to it! Just look around at all the dreariness and dirt!”

It’s far from all,” he remonstrated. “Just think about it, Slivvik, dear lady. Once upon a time, before the bricks and stones crumbled to dust, before whatever it was that destroyed the place exploded in a terrifying end to life, there were people in these buildings, for buildings they were. There were children running around on their three little legs….”

They might have had four…”

That’s not the point! Three or four…”

Or even two?”

Now that’s silly! Whoever heard of a life-form with only two legs? But I’ll take it on if it keeps you quiet for a moment. There were, then, children running around, laughing and joking and playing tag and kicking spheroids about in fun. Before the bricks turned to dust and the skies boiled. Before the world as good as ended.”

It didn’t end, though! We’re standing on it, the air’s good to breathe and the sun’s bright in its sky. The world didn’t die. Maybe it’s just the people who died. Maybe they all got ill. Maybe there was no explosion.”

When I checked up before we landed the meters suggested radiation, so I’d say there was some gigantic leak of radiation, and that probably means bombs. Explosions. Conflict. Extermination that way. It hasn’t been the first such planet I’ve visited, and it won’t be the last. Maybe even Croesus will go that way sooner or later, with different factions arising and trying to convert the rest to some illogical belief like they seem to do far too often.”

Like gods?” asked Slivvik. “There are always gods in the air, escaping from old stories to give us all hope that there’s more to the Universe than what we can see and touch. It seems some folks aren’t happy unless they’ve got a gigantic being somewhere in the skies to believe in. You’d think Croesians would have worked out what’s real and what isn’t by now, but quite a lot of us haven’t.”

You’re right,” he nodded, “but if you want I’ll be cynical and say it’s all down to money. The preachers need wealth and there are those who give it to them quite willingly even though what they’re preaching is arrant nonsense. Encouraging intelligent beings to believe in something irrational to the point they feel they’ve got to continue believing or feel stupid encourages them to hand over big slabs of their wealth to the preachers or whatever you want to call them when they get their begging bowls out. I reckon they’re all con men, plain and simple, each and every one of them. It’s always been true on Croesus that gods rear their ugly heads, and it’s the same on half the rest of the civilisations we’ve visited, too. The other half have blown themselves up quarrelling about which deity is real and which isn’t. Which is probably what happened here.”

I used to think there might be something in it,” murmured Slivvik. “You know, we live our span of time and grow old, and then die. I used to think that maybe there’s somewhere else, some other dimension, some father to look after us when we die….”

You never did!”

I did, and so what! I can believe in what I want to believe in and it’s nothing to do with you! Belief is personal, surely? Anyway, you were telling me about beings walking on two legs, as if that was possible.”

There have been programs designed to prove that it’s possible, and one or two groups of students have build models,” suggested Ugward, “though nobody takes it at all seriously. Can you imagine making love when you’ve only got two legs?”

Don’t start talking dirty or I’ll get the wriggles inside me and spread my id all over you, and you don’t like having a female’s id anywhere near you!”

I can take it!” he joked, then he paused. “Shush a moment! What was that?”

Slivvik cut her reply short and listened.

From not far away, in one of the more intact crumbling buildings came the most unusual of sounds. What was it? They didn’t know, but it rose and fell like a Croesian on heat. And despite the fact that it was made of the sort of sound none of their people could possibly make however they contorted their vocal chords, in a spooky way they almost understood it.

It’s singing…” whispered Slivvik, “in a language I don’t understand, but it’s singing.”

Look!” gasped Ugward, pointing his hoof towards the building, “what in the name of goodness is that?”

Two … it’s got two legs…” stammered Slivvik.

And hair. Hair all over it. I’d love a head of hair like that…” breathed Ugward, “I’ve always wanted hair.”

They stared at the apparition as it teetered towards them. Then it paused and adjusted the collar that ran round what must have been its neck.

Welcome brothers,” it said, though neither Ugward nor Slivvik could possibly properly understand a single syllable of its uncouth speech, “Welcome to Earth! Now let is pray….”

© Peter Rogerson 04.07.17


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