Another book published!
My mother’s father was born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1914 and lived in the same house his entire life. In 2017, he had a minor stroke and it was then decided that I would move in. The plan was that I would handle the riskier tasks, such as walking to the mailbox or bringing the laundry to the basement. I would also drive him places. Thus began my comical misadventures of living with a man who had lived in the same town for more than a century and yet didn’t know what smores were, who had a specific place for everything but didn’t always remember where it was, who misheard absolutely everything, and who rarely threw anything away. I’d like to say I learned a lot, but I probably didn’t.
Another book published!
There are many who have had an encounter with the creator, but I’ve never heard of any like mine. Since no one else tackles the topics I do, I thought that my witness might help others who continue to struggle. How do we know the will of God? How do we build our faith? How do we stop sinning? What do we have to do to get our prayers answered? What are the rules? Never mind that. Anything one does to support one’s spiritual growth can only end in sin and self-defeat, like a snake eating its own tail. God is smart enough to solve any problem resulting from our failures, so we don’t have to worry about following rules of any kind. I had to learn this the hard way. Only now do I understand that one has to lose his life to find it and that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives through me. Like a computer program gone bad, we must have ourselves “uninstalled.” This is my story.
When institutions we used to support succumb to scandal, policies we used to endorse lead to unintended outcomes, and long-established scientific theories are questioned, it can leave us wondering what to do next. Holding on to failed ideas too long is the root of much of the world’s suffering. When all our idols are gone, what is left over? What can give us hope in the midst of uncertainty? I write this book to propose a model for viewing the world. It is the only thing I have found to make sense of my life and some of the things I’ve been through. I believe I have done nothing short of discovering a form of morality that even relativists can endorse, a form of spiritual awareness that even atheists can understand, and the first step to solving every societal problem.
In this book, I systematically destroy every finite idol chapter by chapter, until only the true God is left over.
The Best Policy: Starting with politics and economics and then generalizing to policies of all kinds, I show that going too far to one extreme causes one set of problems, while going to far to the other extreme causes a different set of problems. Trying to split the difference only gives us the problems of both extremes, and doing nothing only means that others will step in to do something. For every bit of advice out there, there is an “expert” predicting disaster if it is followed. Maybe they are all right.
The Perfect Party: Focusing on building a true democracy, I show that knowing how to vote is difficult and a system of perfectly fair representation is impossible.
The Ideal State: Focusing on creating checks and balances to create a corruption-proof government, I show that such a thing is also impossible.
The Best Argument: Focusing on the use of psychology to change hearts and minds, I show how frustratingly unpredictable and irrational humans really are.
The Last Resort: Resigning to the fact that the system has already broken down, I discuss violent revolution, pacifistic self-sacrifice, and civil disobedience, and why each of them only sometimes works. None of them are expected to work under the current circumstances.
Taking Care of Number One: Resigning to the fact that we can’t change the world, I float the hope that we can at least change ourselves only to mercilessly shoot that down too.
Cracks In The Foundation: Asking what morality is, I come to the conclusion that both relativism and absolutism must be false.
Amazing Grace: Finally discovering hope in the infinite complexities in the structure of reality itself, I explain that the answer to everything is already here; there is nothing more for us to do.
The cover art represents life. Life is a vexing puzzle. When nothing we try to solve life seems to work, we might be tempted to smash it with a hammer.
American government is out of control. Everyone is saying it. Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame Democrats, but the real problem with government isn’t “conservative” policies or “liberal” policies; the problem is inconsistency. A law is only as good as the punishments backing it up. When too many lawbreakers go free and law-abiding citizens are treated like criminals, it encourages more lawbreaking. When the law in practice does not match the law on paper, it is a recipe for anarchy and war. It is the end of government.
I started writing this book in 2020 in a fit of anger. The anger has since worn off, but the problems have persisted. There are some signs that people are waking up and starting to solve the problems, but it might be too little, too late. Time will tell.
I finally did it! I published another book. Here is the blurb:
Political rhetoric in America is getting scary. By now, most people have recognized the damage it does to relationships and seen how it can eventually culminate in riots. What is the cause of this? Is it the corrupt politicians? Is it the misleading news media? Is it faulty education? Is it miscommunication and misunderstanding? Is it the internet?
After conversing with a great number of people both online and offline over many years and thinking things through from every possible angle, I have come to the conclusion that most people actually like to argue. The problem is one of the heart. The real reason the civility movement in America failed is that Americans are not civil people.
This book is a continuation of the themes covered in my 2011 book, The Nutcase Across The Street, wherein I argued that by being too quick to give up on people we were allowing propagandists to divide us. Now I clearly see that no one is listening. There is no point in discussion. I might not have all the answers, but the first step to solving our problems is an honest assessment of what they are. That’s what this book is. It explains why civility failed.
If you enjoy all the free content I put out on this blog, my YouTube channel, and elsewhere, or think I deserve more than I am able to get selling books and shirts, you can support me at BuyMeACoffee. For a nominal contribution, you can make sure I stay caffeinated and happy. Thank you for your support.
This alien creature lives in the thick, toxic atmosphere of a faraway planet. It lives off the radiation produced by dust grains it traps inside its body cavity.
It moves by pulling air through some of its thirteen valves and expelling it out of others. It can also rest on vertical surfaces by using its valves to create suction. Suction also allows it to pick up objects such as rocks to find the tastiest dust grains.
Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This starfish of the distant future has learned to walk on land. Evolution has flipped its body over so its mouth is on the top. Its arms end in callouses it uses to skitter across the hot sand. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
Most larger demons died within the first three billion years of our universe’s existence, but this diminutive flying demon has been wreaking havoc and causing mischief for fourteen billion years now. It is half a millimeter in width and can form plasma arcs. Its eye is inside its mouth and its veins spell 666.
This alien ghost has one eye, one nose, and one mouth, each on a separate head. It is covered in question marks and cloaked in mystery. When unscrambled, the letters on its skin spell “Boo, boo, boo, I will eat you.”
This animal uses its grooved flippers to hold on to the slippery rocks on the shores of its home planet. It is an air-breathing reptile that lives in salt water and eats mostly seaweeds, though it may rarely snatch up an odd crab or two.
It has poor vision, but partly makes up for this with the row of chemoreceptors on its upper lip.
When threatened, it will roll into a ball with its dorsal osteoderms facing outwards. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
Millions of years in the future, some spiders evolve gliding membranes between their legs. Eventually, these surfaces become true wings and the first flying spiders terrorize the Earth. Their pedipalps become claws to hold onto tree trunks while resting. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This creature uses its multipronged tongue to lick up ants. When threatened, it can spit fire or whip around its hooked tail. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This alien creature is actually a colonial organism of many individuals, not unlike the siphonophores of Earth. They share blood vessels and a digestive cavity. The individual on one end has a sucking mouth ringed by sensitive oral whiskers. The rest of the colony sport transparent sacks full of symbiotic algae. How they communicate and coordinate their movements is still poorly understood (I haven't made it up yet). Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This is no Earth mollusk. Its stacked shells are translucent. The "pearl" at one end functions as the lense of an eye. It walks on tube feet like a starfish. Its internal anatomy is still a mystery. All attempts to capture one have failed since they just slip under the sand when approached. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This creature lives in the deserts of a dry planet. Its body is filled with liquid mercury. It can walk slowly on its six legs or travel quickly by whipping its tail.
When threatened, it pumps all the mercury out of its tail into its body, giving it the weight to stand firm while it slashes its enemies with rapid swings of its knife-edged tail.
Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
This sea creature has tentacles to capture food particles like an anemone. It also walks around on a scaly skirt-like appendage filled with tube feet not unlike those of starfish. Its skin contains chromatophores to allow it to communicate visually not unlike a cuttlefish. Eyespots are located in each scale. Merchandise with this design is available in my store.
A few years ago, I drew some of the creatures mentioned in my novel, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship. These are intelligent races that young Nate (then called Nathaniel) encounters in his travels.
The Zleesnits and the Nops are always seen together. The Zleesnits build cities out of their bodies and have telescoping limbs. The Nops fly and create sonar pulses with their tongues.
The Blentites have insectoid bodies, cat-like faces, and the wool and horns of a sheep. They live primarily in snowy environments and build domed, windowless cities.
Meekons are apes with many toes. They live on many planets.
Doodling relaxes me. It's how I reflect the creativity and liveliness of the world back at itself. I've been doing it my whole life. I start by drawing one line and seeing where it takes me. Most end up being alien creatures. Sometimes I will remake a doodle on good paper with some effort and foresight. This is how I make my art in my art store. Between 2013 and 2017 I drew many creatures and landscapes, but not all of them were scanned in. Some are better than others. I finally dug them out from under the bed so I could scan them and show them to you. I'm not likely to use most of them, so let them inspire you.
Friendly Dragon Head
Egg Helicopter Cyborg
Deep Sea Vents
Lizard Hiding In Jungle
Alien Pond Water
Door of Possibility
The Crystal Cave
I also made some small color drawings that I framed before putting into storage. Here are photos of them:
I finally did it! I have created an online store at WayOutLife.com, where I have shirts, mugs, hats, bags, and other merchandise with my art on it. Buying my products helps me to keep doing what I do, bringing the joy and philosophy of the way out life to people everywhere. Look it over.
I like writing. In addition to managing this blog, I also post on FloraAndFaunaOfTheUniverse.com, a blog on the biology of aliens. I have been creating fictional plants, animals, and microbes my entire life and I now have enough ideas to fill several books I am still working on. I also link to the books, projects, and resources of others in this growing genre. If you have a relevant project or want your organisms featured, let me know. Use the contact form on this page.
I have started a community at locals.com for people to discuss writing, art, travel, philosophy, science, and science fiction. I hope to inspire hope, bravery, appreciation of nature, interest in science, respect for logic, and awe of the creator. This binds up all my different projects. Below is the charter:
Charting Existence is a support group for seekers of adventure. We encourage each other to recognize problems and solve them. We breed heroes. We help people find adventure and we help people see that in some ways life is already an adventure. We discuss travel, science, philosophy, and science fiction.
We are all explorers. Some of us explore land and sea. Some explore space. Some explore the nature of matter and energy through experiment. Some explore the human mind through self-reflection. We are all on an expedition for knowledge, a quest for truth, and a journey to understand. This is where we swap our stories of heroism and cowardice and genius and stupidity, whether true or fabricated. Even fictional stories tell much truth about the storyteller.
We use our creativity to create art. We use our creativity to recognize art, digging up the beauty in things normally passed over, and to celebrate the beauty in others. We will not ignore the bad, but will find the good hidden inside. We celebrate the wonder and intricate complexities of nature, giving glory to the creator of everything, whatever form he (she? It?) might take.
Here we discuss philosophy, religion, science, math, and literature. Everyone puts forth their wacko fringe theories only to have them torn down because no finite idea can ever fully capture truth. The incompleteness theorem, the Berry paradox, chaos theory, cyclic conformal cosmology, and eternal inflation all strongly imply there will always be something outside our understanding. For all we know, the universe is infinite.
In an infinite universe, the laws of probability tell us that any combination of matter allowable under the laws of physics will exist somewhere. This means that even fictional places such as Vulcan, Tatooine, Gallifrey, and Narnia actually exist. This means that there are infinitely many parallel Earths, some of them just slightly different, some of them slightly ahead or behind us in time.
In an infinite universe must be beings capable of building advanced simulations wherein different laws of physics reign, allowing anything that can be coherently described. By playing the simulation forward and backward, time travel is possible. Some of these simulations may be infinitely large and infinitely old. For all we know, we are in one now.
In an infinite universe are multiple infinities that will interact in potentially paradoxical and unpredictable ways, leading to situations mortal minds will not comprehend, such that even some internally contradictory ramblings might in some sense be “true.”
Instead of dreaming of some magical place that might await us after death, we live it now.
“That is the exploration that awaits you, not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.” – Q, Star Trek The Next Generation
It has come to my attention that nobody reads blogs. People these days want video and audio. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at these. I forget to say things I wanted to say, I lose my train of thought, and I struggle with how best to word things in a language other people will understand. I have no patience for editing and something usually goes wrong when I try. Still, I am reminded of something the Apostle Paul once said: “My strength works best in your weakness.”
I have started a YouTube channel at Way Out Dan. I talk about philosophy and draw alien creatures.
Several years ago, I wrote a short story from Nate’s childhood, when he was a dinosaur. Nate is the main character from my book, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship. Read it below:
After landing on the autumn side of an Earth-like planet unknown to them, Nathaniel, Haticat, Fred, and Doctor Bill exit their ship in search of food. Soon, they discover a large building with duck-billed hadrosaurs walking into it. They enter into the great hall through the thirteen-meter-tall doorway. Inside are two long dining tables laden with food. Above burn oil-filled chandeliers, flames roaring. The wooden walls smell of cedar, cinnamon, and bay berry. At one table sits only adults and at the other sits only children.
An adult blocks their path. “Welcome to planet Thanksgiving. I am Wizard Bob. What are you thankful for?”
Nathaniel gives Wizard Bob a blank stare. “What’s thankful?”
“It’s when you like something that you have, so you give thanks for it,” Wizard Bob explains.
“I don’t think I have any thanks; I’m new to the planet. What is it?” Nathaniel replies.
“You give thanks by saying thank you,” Wizard Bob clarifies.
“Oh, that’s easy; I can do that,” Nathaniel says. This is an unusually patient adult to answer two questions in a row. This must be a nice planet, Nathaniel concludes.
“So, what are you thankful for?” Wizard Bob asks again.
Nathaniel thinks. “I haven’t thanked anyone in a long time. I usually get everything myself. Sometimes I buy stuff, but the stores only give me things because I use money to make them do it. My friends helped me fight a monster a while ago, but they had to anyways because it attacked all of us together at the same time,” Nathaniel recounts.
“That all counts. Praise Y, creator of the universe!” Wizard Bob exclaims.
“Y? What does Y have to do with it?” Nathaniel asks.
“Y helped you fight a monster,” Wizard Bob says.
“No, I never saw Y. My friends helped me,” Nathaniel corrects.
“Y gave you friends,” Wizard Bob says.
“No, I picked them up on planet Gruezhe,” Nathaniel corrects.
“Y created the whole universe, including Gruezhe and your friends. Thank Y!” Wizard Bob loudly proclaims.
“That means Y created everything bad in the universe too,” Nathaniel protests.
“It still made everything good that you like, want, and need,” Wizard Bob counters.
“But it also made me with wants and needs. I wouldn’t need anything if I didn’t exist, so fulfilling my needs is only fair. There’s nothing to thank Y for. I don’t understand,” Nathaniel explains.
“Thank Y for giving you life!” Wizard Bob exclaims.
“Why?” Nathaniel asks.
“Do you want to die?” Wizard Bob asks, scowling and stepping closer to the four boys.
Nathaniel steps back. “No,” he answers.
“Then thank Y!” Wizard Bob says.
“I don’t want to die only because I’m already alive, but if I was dead or never existed, I wouldn’t care either way,” Nathaniel says, starting to become frustrated with the pointlessness of the conversation. He considers walking away.
“By being alive, you are able to experience good things,” Wizard Bob says.
“By being alive, I am also able to experience bad things,” Nathaniel says.
“Y could have created the universe much worse than it is, with even more bad things. Thank Y,” Wizard Bob says, starting to seem a little tired.
“No!” Nathaniel yells defiantly.
“If you don’t thank Y, you aren’t allowed to eat,” Wizard Bob says.
Nathaniel thinks it over. The ship is almost out of food and the next-nearest planet with carbon-based life is more than two hundred sixty light-years away. “Thank you, Y.”
“Thank him for what?” Wizard Bob asks.
Nathaniel thinks for a long time. “For oxygen?” he finally says.
“Hmm…okay,” Wizard Bob says, “Come in and eat.”
The boys find four seats near each other at the kids’ table away from any girls. Robots continually replace foods that are eaten. “Hi,” Haticat greets the boys nearby.
“Hi,” a boy replies.
“We’re new on the planet Thanksgiving,” Haticat says.
“What kind of a food is this?” Fred asks, pointing at large, twisted gourds placed in groups along the long table. Some are striped. Some are plaid. Some are over two meters tall.
“We don’t eat those,” the boy answers, “Those are for decoration.”
Nathaniel reaches for a slice of hot apple pie topped with what he later learns is spiced pumpkin ice cream. He picks up a spoon. “Don’t eat that yet,” the boy warns, “Dessert is for after dinner.”
“What do we eat first?” Nathaniel asks.
“First course is mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy, except I don’t eat the peas or the gravy because I don’t like them. Second course is bread, cheese, and pickles. Third course is meat and stuff. Fourth course is sweets,” the boy explains.
“There’s an eating order?” Fred asks.
“It’s the rules on planet Thanksgiving,” the boy affirms.
“Do you have pizza on this planet?” Nathaniel asks.
“No, only certain foods are allowed, not pizza,” the boy says.
Nathaniel enjoys three types of mashed potatoes and three types of gravy. He drinks white grape juice and cranberry juice. Then he tries some strong wheat bread and places a piece of sharp cheddar in it. “Don’t put different foods together!” an adult warns, walking up behind him.
“I’m just making a sandwich, so it’s a new food,” Nathaniel explains.
“Sandwiches are not for Thanksgiving! Sandwiches are illegal. Only gravy can be combined with other foods,” the adult says before walking away, not watching Nathaniel to ensure compliance.
Nathaniel returns to eating, enjoying pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, pickled green beans, pickled baby corn, and three types of olives. Then he cuts slices of meat from a steaming, partial carcass. It is of an animal he does not recognize. Looking at it intently, he is unable to deduce its whole anatomy. It is a strange animal, indeed. The meat tastes somewhat like a cross between pork and sweet crab, but this is an inadequate description.
“Do you like stuff?” another nearby boy asks.
“What stuff?” Nathaniel asks.
“Stuff. It’s the greatest stuff in the universe,” the boy answers, handing Nathaniel a plate of fluffy, brown mush.
Nathaniel tastes it. It is amazing and possibly the best-tasting substance Nathaniel has ever tried, even rivaling candy. The taste is completely indescribable and can only be called “stuff.” He takes more and more. He eats until full. Even then, he cannot stop. Finally, he forces himself away from the table. His belly aches and he starts to feel sleepy. He sees the adults and children lying down on the floor to sleep. “Why are you all sleeping?” Nathaniel yawns.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do after eating,” a boy says.
“That’s boring. I want to play,” Nathaniel says.
“No, it’s the rules,” the boy says.
“I haven’t even had dessert yet,” Nathaniel complains. He looks around. He sees almond patties, peach fritters, five types of cinnamon rolls, pecan pie, and apple pie with pumpkin spice ice cream. There are large, soft cookies packed with chocolate chips, peanuts, raisins, and dates. There are tiny molasses-cakes topped with chocolate drizzle and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting topped with peach slices. The carrot cake seems to be more frosting than cake. Nathaniel almost takes a slice, but he is so tired and so full that he loses his balance and collapses to the floor. “This food must be poisoned,” he slurs before falling into a deep sleep.
In my 2014 book, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship, an incident from Nate’s strange childhood is mentioned in chapter 10, on page 157. I later turned it into a short story. Read it below:
After a while on planet Lectipas, The Mama-And-Daddy lands gently in the midst of the Great Crescent Swamp, the third largest swamp on the planet Hoosh. Nathaniel and Haticat ride the levitating couch-unit out of the ship and over the soft ground. The few trees are silhouetted against the night sky, bright from the reflected light of the swamps. Instead of water, every pool is filled with warm, glowing, blue-white slush. Solid slush piles up around the rim of each pool. The boys feel the warmth rising up from the swamp and the strong gravity (nearly twice that of Earth) pulling them down. Splash! Haticat catches a glimpse of a jumping fish out of the corner of his eye. Tiny moths fly around aimlessly.
“Nathaniel! Stay on the couch-unit!” Daddy’s couch-unit polyp-head bellows to the left.
“I was,” Nathaniel says.
“We’re just reminding you,” Mama’s couch-unit polyp-head says on the right.
Nathaniel and Haticat had not been getting along well with The Mama-And-Daddy lately. Now they were confined to remaining in sight of them at all times. Nathaniel grunts in displeasure. “What was that?” Daddy asks sternly.
“Nothing,” Nathaniel answers.
Up ahead, Haticat sees glittering. He cannot figure out what it is. Continuing closer, he sees many round buildings rising from a dry patch in the middle of the swamp. Several paved roads and countless raised pipelines lead outwards from it in multiple directions. The couch-unit levitates right up the smoothly sloping banks of the swamp and into the town.
The glittering is from shoes. The people here wear shoes that flash with every step. There are hundreds of them: boys, girls, and adults. The creatures have rigid, shiny, oval bodies and a long, thin, blunt, rigid tail. They each have one, large compound eye in front and one, long, thin compound eye running down the back. They have six jointed legs. Complex mouthparts hang from under the frontward eye.
“Wow! I want shoes like that!” Haticat exclaims.
“Me too!” Nathaniel says.
“You’re not getting any. I don’t want to hear it,” Mama says.
“Remember not to jump off the couch-unit, Nathaniel,” Daddy says.
“I remember,” Nathaniel says.
“We’re just reminding you,” Mama says.
The Mama-And-Daddy carefully maneuvers the couch-unit between the crowds of hexapods. “What kind of creatures are these?” Nathaniel asks.
“It’s not polite to talk about people,” Mama says.
“Why?” Nathaniel asks, but is ignored.
“That’s a cute dinosaur,” one of the nearby hexapods says. “What kind is it?”
“Thank you. We made it myself,” Mama says.
“It’s a dromaeosaur. His name is Nathaniel,” Daddy says.
Haticat leans close to Nathaniel’s ear hole and whispers, “Hypocrites! They’re talking about you now.”
“Hi, Nathaniel. Is this your first time on Hoosh?” the hexapod asks.
“Yes,” Nathaniel answers.
“Well, we’re Hooshbugs. We live here,” the hexapod says.
“Oh,” Nathaniel says. “I like your shoes.”
“Thank you,” the Hooshbug replies.
“What do you say, Nathaniel?” Mama asks quickly, without giving Nathaniel any chance to respond.
“You’re welcome,” Nathaniel says.
“Bye,” the Hooshbug says, turning and walking away, shoes flashing.
Soon the couch-unit floats into a post office. Hooshbugs drop packages into some pipes and pick up packages from other pipes. Smaller, transparent pipes run back and forth across the walls in simple designs and transport glowing slush material, keeping the interior as bright as outside. “Good night, I am Mama-And-Daddy and I am expecting a package,” Daddy says to a Hooshbug behind a desk.
“Oh, here is a package for Mama-And-Daddy,” the clerk says before grabbing a small package in his mouthparts and handing it off to Mama’s polyp-head, who grabs it in her tentacles.
“Thank you,” Mama says before leaving.
“Welcome,” the clerk calls after her.
“What is it?” Nathaniel asks Mama once outside.
“It’s life insurance papers. With insurance, if we fall into a black hole and disappear, the insurance company will pay to build a new Mama-And-Daddy,” Mama explains.
“What happens if the papers fall into the black hole, too?” Nathaniel asks, clearly not understanding.
“These are only proof that we have insurance so we can get a loan. We already have the insurance,” Mama says.
“Where is the insurance, then? What if the insurance falls into the black hole with you?” Nathaniel asks, still bewildered. Haticat is confused, too.
“You’re making us tired,” Mama and Daddy say together.
Nathaniel sighs and stops asking questions. The couch-unit continues to glide through the town. Soon, they pass a strange, metal object with a domed top and three short branches. It turns slightly. “Hey, that thing just moved. What is it?” Haticat asks Nathaniel.
“I don’t know,” Nathaniel answers. Turning to Daddy, he asks, “What is that metal thing over there?”
Mama answers instead, “That’s a fire hydrant. The Hooshbugs put it there in case one of their buildings catches on fire. They can attach a hose to one side to get water out to put the fire out with.”
“Why did it just move?” Nathaniel asks.
“Fire hydrants don’t move. They stay stuck to underground water pipes,” Mama says.
“Haticat said he saw it move,” Nathaniel says.
“Nathaniel, don’t play silly games right now,” Mama says.
“I’m not playing. Haticat really saw it move,” Nathaniel says.
“I did,” Haticat insists. Could The Mama-And-Daddy not recognize the difference between play and seriousness? Of course not; it’s an adult.
“Nathaniel! Not now!” Daddy scolds.
“You’re not going to jump off the couch-unit, are you?” Mama asks.
“No,” Nathaniel answers.
“You’d better not,” Mama says.
At that moment, they enter another building. The sign reads: First Last Middle Bank. Transparent pipes of glowing slush form simple designs on the walls, lighting the interior. The walls and floor are carpeted in grey plaid. Employees stand behind several short desks and counters, typing on keyboards with their mouthparts. The couch-unit glides in and parks in front of one of the desks. The clerk introduces himself. “Hello, my name is Xnk. How may I help you?”
“Hello, my name is Mama-And-Daddy,” Mama says.
“We would like a loan for five hundred money-dollars,” Daddy says.
While the adults drone on about things Nathaniel and Haticat know nothing about, the boys whisper among themselves. “Nathaniel, I can’t hear with you whispering. Why don’t you go play in the corner?” Mama says.
“Because you told me not to leave the couch-unit,” Nathaniel answers truthfully. He had wanted to go and play all along.
Mama glares at him. Daddy angrily says, “Go play in the corner now.”
“Okay,” Nathaniel answers gleefully. He walks off with Haticat in tow. The gravity on Hoosh is too strong for Haticat’s boneless legs to fully support him (even walking on all fours and using his tail for support), forcing him to drag himself across the floor. They decide to play by rolling. Haticat tucks himself into his shell so Nathaniel can roll him back and forth. After a while, Nathaniel starts to tire.
“Look, there’s another fire hydrant outside over there,” Haticat says, noticing it through the large window.
“Let’s go see if it’s the moving kind,” Nathaniel suggests.
Nathaniel throws Haticat over his shoulders, tying his arms into a knot to more easily carry him. He walks outside and stands next to the hydrant. Nothing happens. “It’s not moving right now,” Nathaniel says.
“Push it,” Haticat suggests.
Nathaniel pushes on it hard, but it does not budge.
“Try pulling it,” Haticat suggests.
Nathaniel grabs the side and pulls and pulls. Nothing happens. “This must not be the moving kind.”
“Come on, Nathaniel. We’re leaving,” Mama says, the couch-unit having pulled up behind him.
Nathaniel jumps onto the couch-unit, carrying Haticat. On the way back to the spaceship, they see many more hydrants – at least one to a building. Some buildings have two or three hydrants beside them. Haticat is certain there were not nearly that many before. A few of them sit at the end of what look like scratch marks or drag marks. The Hooshbugs simply walk around them without noticing. “I think those hydrants are moving only when we aren’t watching,” Haticat says.
“Yeah, they’re sneaky hydrants,” Nathaniel says.
Back in the ship, Daddy announces it is time for lunch. Nathaniel pours himself a bowl of protein jelly from the ceiling nozzle using the switch on the table. It tastes just as bland and boring as ever. Almost finished, he asks the Mama-And-Daddy, “Are Hooshbugs nocturnal?”
“Yes, that means they are awake at night and sleep during the day,” Daddy’s kitchen polyp-head answers.
“Why?” Nathaniel asks.
“That’s just the way it is,” Daddy answers.
“Eat your lunch, Nathaniel,” Mama’s kitchen polyp-head says.
Nathaniel finishes up his lunch while Haticat watches. Then he dumps his used bowl and spoon into the recycling chute. “Let’s explore the swamp now,” he says to Haticat.
“Don’t go outside!” Daddy booms.
“How can we explore the swamp if we don’t go outside?” Nathaniel asks.
“Go to your room and read instead. The swamps are dangerous,” Daddy says, not answering the question.
Dangerous? That sounds exciting. Haticat longs to know what makes them dangerous, but being slower to ask, Nathaniel beats him to it. “Why?”
“Don’t ask questions. It’s the rules,” Mama says.
Nathaniel grunts. Haticat sighs. They climb the ramps to their room and read their books. The longing to explore wears at them. Quickly losing interest in reading, they walk to the large observation window and look out across the vast swamp over the tops of the sparse trees. The glittering of thousands of shoes lights up the town and the pools of blue-white slush light the trees from below. The swamp is very still, but Haticat’s good eyes catch sight of some ripples in the pools below. “Let’s sneak out – only for a short time,” Haticat whispers.
“That’s a good idea,” Nathaniel whispers.
Making their way outside, they pass only inactive polyp-heads. Wherever the essences of Mama and Daddy are, they aren’t watching the door. Haticat rides on Nathaniel’s back as he trudges across the soft ground and through the dark-colored weeds. Coming to the raised slush rim of one of the pools, Nathaniel carefully sticks a claw into it. It is warm. Suddenly, a fish jumps right in front of them, falling back into the glowing slush and making large ripples. “Wow!” Haticat says. “Try to catch one so we can study it.”
Nathaniel steps tentatively into the pool. Haticat’s legs and tail dangle into the strange, warm slush. “This slush doesn’t soak into my fibers like water does. I like it better,” he says.
Nathaniel leans over and sweeps his clawed hands slowly through the pool, feeling for movement. Another fish (or the same one?) jumps between his arms and lands just out of reach. Something else brushes his legs. “I need special eyes so I can see through this stuff,” he complains. He continues to unsuccessfully hunt slushfish for the next few minutes until he sees something else interesting. A dark-colored snake slithers across the surface of a pool near him and into the weeds beyond. He promptly chases it, repeatedly losing it in the weeds only to see it crossing pool after pool. Nathaniel and Haticat follow it for quite a ways without being able to catch it. They get farther from The Mama-And-Daddy and closer to the town. Then they hear a noise.
They are near a dark part of the town relatively free of Hooshbugs. There are large, metal pipes here. Two fire hydrants fire lasers at one of the pipes, cutting loose a large section. “What are they doing?” Haticat whispers in Nathaniel’s ear.
“Maybe they’re stealing metal,” Nathaniel whispers.
Two other hydrants maneuver under the pipe, their side spouts telescoping out and bending to form arms. Finally, the pipe is loose. The first two hydrants stretch and change shape, growing arms and legs to help carry it. They are robots! “These are invading robots stealing metal from the Hooshbugs. They’re only disguised as fire hydrants,” Haticat says.
“How can we stop them?” Nathaniel asks.
“I don’t know. They have lasers; lasers hurt,” Haticat says.
“These hydrant bots are mean thieves. Let’s get out of here,” Nathaniel says.
“Agreed,” Haticat whispers. Nathaniel carries him right back to the ship. They shake the slush off and sneak back inside. They then return to reading. While the injustice of the situation bothers them, they are too frightened to get involved themselves and they are not sure who to tell. If The Mama-And-Daddy finds out that they were outside, they will be punished. The problem is soon forgotten as their lives are soon filled with more pressing matters.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.