“While we are on the topic of other planets, please allow yourself to drift off mentally to another planet – not terribly far distant in terms of space and time, but very distant in terms of reality. Place yourself on a war-torn field. A field of churned-up mud, debris, and dead bodies. See a series of trenches facing one another. See two armies facing one another across the churned up field. See the young men, huddled in a troglodyte world of mud and fear. See the mist and smoke rolling across the deserted landscape. Can you feel it?” asked Blaze Raygun.
“Is this an intentionally undertaken cloquey-overdose?” asked Grogan, opening one eye.
“It is often times the setting for an intentionally undertaken cloquey-overdose, but we are not using it like that right now.”
(Author's note: the Bezeldan word “cloquey” means, literally, “a confusion”. When extra-dimensional travelers would find themselves depressed from having landed in a real heck of a cloquey, they would travel through the ether of time and space and take in a little bit of opening day on the Battle of the Somme. It was cloquey-overdose on a grand scale, and they always felt a little better about whatever it was that they had previously witnessed. This whole issue is addressed in another story of mine – Yerba Maté – that you should probably go and read. Right now. Please report back to this paragraph when you have done so. Thank you.)
“You might see some soldiers huddled together in groups, talking in low voices, and lighting cigarettes in their cupped hands. You can see the look in their eyes, and maybe you can even feel how uncomfortable they are in their woolen uniforms. Wool, encrusted in mud and maybe even some blood here and there. To top it off, there are bugs. Lice. Little vermin that crawl around and bite the soldiers, just to add a little bit of discomfort to everything else. If you look further, there are also rats. Not as numerous as the lice, but probably more visible. The rats are sometimes feeding on the dead, and the soldiers know this. In fact, they know that some of the bodies of men who had been their friends – men just like them with bodies just like theirs – those are some of the bodies that the rats are nibbling on. Worst of all, the soldiers know that their own bodies might be next – they might become the next body that the rats nibble on. It's just awful.”
“Aside from the rats and the lice, there is not a lot of wildlife painted into this picture. No starlings. No bletcher-birds. No bluejays. No redjays. No anykindjays. The soldiers huddle on both sides of the trenches, all speaking their respective languages in hushed tones, smoking cigarettes from their home countries. And one of the things that the soldiers do on either side of the trenches – something they do no matter what language they speak or what uniform they wear – is bond with each other. The men sometimes have nothing else to keep them going but each other. They become almost closer than brothers.”
“Okay. I want you now to depart this field of horror and death, and come with me to another place.”
“Gladly,” said Grogan, wiping sweat from his brow.
“Come with me to a Frosty-Chill on a warm summer night in a small town near the northern pole. Look at the teenagers gathered around the counter, ordering Frosty-Chill cones and cylinders and wheaty-milks. Look at the hormones coursing through their systems. Well, you can't really see the hormones, but you know they are there, don't you? Don't answer that. Look at the boy and the girl sitting at that little table off to the side. Look at their eyes, and they way they hold each other's hand. In another time, and in another place there were those who called this 'puppy-love' but we mostly think of it as the affection that two young people have for one another when their systems and their brains are not quite developed yet, and they don't really know what they are feeling. You can almost feel the sugary, sappy, warm, and wonderful emotions that they have going on right now, can't you? Again, don't answer that.”
“Look inside that young boy's heart. Can you? Of course not, but maybe you can feel it just a little bit. If you can tell how much he never wants this moment to end, and how in just 30 or 40 short years into the future he will wish that he could feel that same feeling once again, you might get a sense of what I'm talking about. Likewise with the young girl. She might be looking back in 30 or 40 years and thinking that there was once a perfect summer evening outside the Frosty-Chill, and that there was a time when she felt so good and so young and so blissfully ignorant of what was really going on.”
“This is very different from the last place we were. Nobody is dying here, at least not actively, and there is a lot less fear, a lot less mud, and certainly fewer rats. There might be some lice, but we won't even bring that into the equation, if you don't mind.”
Grogan and Rosalyn shook their heads without saying a word.