Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from a novel in progress — the first sequel to Real Dragons Don’t Cry. Working title: The Way of the Banana.
The good thing about freezing to death in the snow in a walrus suit is that after a certain point, it doesn’t hurt. You just get really sleepy. And stupid. I should have acted before I drifted off completely. But I couldn’t move and what were the odds of someone rescuing me anyway? It seemed easier to just fade away and let them find my frozen remains after the next ice-age. Some future archeologist was sure going to be surprised to dig up a dead alien in a walrus outfit.
I recalled the words of my Master. “Remember you are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too.”
A beautiful sentiment but it seemed a little over-optimistic to me as I lay there, actually alone and helpless.
Another possible outcome occurred to me. I pictured an early rising vulture spying my body from afar in the spring melt, swooping down eagerly, then hopping closer in that hideous crooked way vultures hop, trying to look as though the last thing on its mind is to peck at somebody’s dead flesh.
It was the image of the vulture that finally broke my spirit. Up until now I’d clung to a strand, albeit thin, of hope, but vultures depress me. I had to face the fact: the game was up. No more larking about challenging dragons and diving amidst the ruins of ancient kingdoms. I’d spectacularly failed in my mission and had no-one to share my disappointment.
I drifted in and out of a semi dream state, getting colder as the power drained from the heating unit in my suit.
* * *
“Hey, Rumplestiltskin! Wake up!”
I woke with a start. Who had spoken?
“Stop dozing. There’s work to be done. Planets to rescue — get with the program.”
The voice was very familiar, as was the tone. But how did the Master get here?
“Is that you Master?”
“Of course, Plant Brain. I’m over here — on the snow above your right shoulder.”
I looked up and saw an insect. The Master had turned himself into an insect? I’d never heard of him doing that before.
I tried to bow, but it was quite impossible in my walrus suit. “Oh Master, I’m so glad you’re here. But, you’ve become an insect!”
“Not that, moron. I’ve simply taken over this insect’s body for a moment. Not easy at a distance of 37 light years, I can tell you. I can’t stay for long so listen up. The first thing you must do is get out of that hole in the snow.”
“But Master, I have so much to ask you.”
“No time for that. Ditch that ridiculous walrus suit and get moving. When Nefarious discovers that you’ve stolen the microvita seed he’ll come back for you and all will be lost.”
The insect became silent.
“Master?” I said.
The creature stared at me blankly. “Master who?” My Master was gone.
The tiny bug introduced herself as Asifotita. She flew up off the snow. “Whoa — you’re really big. How did a fat fellow like you get up here into the Himalayas?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I just might. Until very recently I didn’t believe in talking walruses.”
I decided not raise the issue of talking insects. “Well, the short version is that I’m from Zondgraz, and I’ve come to save your planet.
The insect stared at me, puzzled. “I am just an insect with little experience of such grand matters, but exactly how is lying in a hole in the snow going to save our planet?”
“I have no idea. Look, I wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you just fly up out of this hole and take a look around and tell me if you see anything interesting nearby, like a nice hotel? Nothing trashy, mind you. Four star at least. Or even better, an airport.”
“OK,” said the insect and flitted up into the air. She disappeared over the edge of the circle of blue that was my entire picture of the world beyond. She was back in a few seconds.
“Not much to report. All I could see was six pine trees, six big black rocks, and six dead goats.”
This was very odd. How come there was six of everything? Then a bizarre possibility occurred to me.
“You wouldn’t by any chance have compound eyes would you?
“Of course. I’m an insect.”
“And you always see six of everything?’
The insect laughed. “Naturally. I’m not blind. There is six of everything. And sometimes more — take my thirty six legs for example.”
I was fascinated, but I thought it was time to burst this creatures bubble.
“Boy, do I have news for you. Don’t you realise, your compound eyes create the illusion that there is six of everything, but in reality there is only one of everything.”
“No way! That’s hard to believe.” said the insect. “Prove it to me.”
“Look at my flipper,” I said. “Now when I move it, do all the six flippers of all six walruses you are seeing move as well, in exactly the same way?”
“Gosh.” The insect thought deeply for a moment. “I believe you’re right. This is going to take some getting used to. Talk about a paradigm shift. But now I have a problem. Your revelation has messed up my meditation. All my life I’ve been reciting this mantra, ‘All is Six, All is Six.’ Now my philosophy of life doesn’t make any sense.”
“Perhaps I can help. How about trying this new mantra: ‘All is One’?
“All is One! Wow, that’s brilliant! This is amazing.” Asifotita paused, and grinned with mischief. “When I tell this to all my insect friends, it’s going to blow their minds!”