Half past one, GMT, earthwise.
The kids would have come home from school now.
She would be having her lunch.
What the hell!
How long are we going to be earthbound? When are we going to realize that we are stranded ? trapped ? on this planet of tall mountains, huge lakes and thick jungles and no sentient life? We will be spending the rest of our lives here, both of us.
I still donít get it. Whatís wrong with thinking and talking about earth--and about our people back there?
But damn it! It seems so useless, so futile.
So do a lot of other things, like us sitting here and tossing pebbles into the lake.
One of these days, I think I am going to toss my watch into the lake.It doesnít seem right, counting the days and nights of this planet in earthly units of time.
Hmm. You are right. It does seem out of place. Donít worry about your watch, though. One of these days itís battery is going to run down and it will stop functioning and you will be saved from the bother of throwing it into the lake.
Do you see those strange, creatures floating on air?
Remind me of manta rays.
Remind me more of the mythical will-o-the-wisps.
Are they predators? Could they harm us?
Why take chances? Let us hide in our cave.
Are you afraid of loneliness?
Yes, yes I am.
So am I.
Why do we fear loneliness?
I have a pet theory about it. When I am lonely - with no ties of companionship with anybody ? then my mind starts working in a strange way. It projects the immenseness of the multidimensional cosmos before me and against this background I find myself, my whole existence, too small, too insignificant, too unimportant. And it is this feeling of insignificance that a person fears.
And what happens when a person is not alone?
Then links and bonds are formed between that person and the companions. With these links and bonds comes strength. With these links and bonds, the existence of the person spreads itself beyond the person remaining insignificant no longer.
I dreamt of her today.
I too dreamt of my wife and kids.
Did your wife and children speak to you in your dream?
As a matter of fact, they did.
She spoke to me today.
What did she say?
She said she loves me, and she smiled and there were tears in her eyes. Did I ever tell you that she gets dimples when she smiles? We were planning to get married this year.
Of what use are dreams?
Dreams are real. They are just a different kind of reality.
Listen. I just had a dreadful thought. What would happen if back there on earth, your girl friend, my wife and kids, our friends, in short all the people who love us all of a sudden stop loving us, stop thinking about us, stop caring for us.
Don?t say it. Don?t even think it. It should not happen. It cannot happen. I will always be remembered.
Yes. I can see you feel about it the same way that I do. But why? In God?s name, why? Why do we feel the way we do? Of what importance to us are thoughts and feelings of people billions of miles away from us? Can you answer me that? Can you?
No. The only thing I know is that this belief that someone somewhere really loves me, this belief is one of those very few things on the basis of which I can say that not all of my life had been a waste.
Yes. Put that way, love seems to be the prime function--or one of the prime functions--of life, doesn?t it?
To love and be loved.
To love and be loved.
Those will-o-the-wisps seem harmless.
And don?t they look beautiful, dancing on the air?
Do you think they are sentient?
Let us forget the woes and count the blessings.
Okay. To begin with, we are alive. We didnít die in the spaceship crash. We were not even hurt much.
This planet is liveable.
Our stores of food will last us for months and by then we should be able to find edible fruits and such on this planet.
And the planet, on the surface, is not a bad looking one. It has some beautiful scenery.
And the books. Donít forget the books we managed to salvage from the wreck. We have the Bible, the Qurían, and those poetry collections.
And we have the sense of wonder, the desire for knowledge, and this planet might--just might--prove interesting.
I have noticed something. I dream more often and more intensely when the will-o-the-wisps are near me.
Strange. Now that you put it into words, of late my dreams seem more and more real to me.
It is strange, isnít it, the way our perspective changes with time? Things always seem different when you look at them in retrospect.
Yes. The sense of values changes. What seemed important then seems trivial now. That which was trivial then appears important now. These days I never even think about who is going to win the next elections back home but I do often think of the way my mother used to kiss me goodbye every morning when I left for school so many years ago.
There is another thing. In retrospect, I have nothing more than a vague memory of the hurts I received in life. Even when put together and taken collectively, these hurts donít seem to amount to much. But when I think of all the hurts that I have dished out to others . . .
I know what you are talking about. Regrets. A whole lot of regrets. That day when I slapped my kid when all he did was ask me to buy him a chocolate icecream.
That day when my mother asked me to get her a book from the library and I refused saying that I couldnít leave my favorite TV program.
How many times have I hurt my wife unreasonably, pig-headedly, just out to prove that I was the boss of the house?
How many times did I simply neglect--and sometimes even crush--the feelings of others.
And they--all of them--were people who loved us.
Loved us and cared for us and . . .
And we . . .
Regrets. And pain. And a soul screaming for a second chance.
You are crying!
Do you mind? No, you would not. You are crying too.
Yes. Let us cry ourselves to sleep.
Life seems so meaningless now.
Do you think the will-o-the-wisps are sentient?
A strange response to my observation about the meaning of life.
I somehow feel that our life will be meaningful again if the will-o-the-wisps are sentient.
What is the meaning of life?
I donít know. Do you?
Most of our problems back on earth . . . they seem so petty now.
So many of concerns misplaced.
So many actions futile.
Now we learn.
Other than home and family and friends, what are the things you miss the most?
Why do you always have to ask these painful questions? Why canít you leave memories well enough alone?
Catharsis man, catharsis.
Catharsis my foot. I think the concept of catharsis is humbug. Another blunder of modern psychology.
Okay, then let us talk about these things to pass our time.
All right then. I will join you. I miss the little things--those things that many good writers wrote about in their books.
The stone benches in the park.
The early morning strollers.
The dim, dark streets of the night.
The children going to and coming back from school.
The tea house and the steam rising up from the tea cups.
The town library with its dimly lit corners where the mysterious smell of old books hung in the air.
And the bees.
Say, my watch has stopped. What about yours?
Hmm? Mine seems to have stopped too. The batteries have run down at last.
So shall we toss them into the lake now?
Again, why bother? Why not just take them off and leave them lying around on this rock?
Yeah. Why not?
Look! Look at the will-o-the-wisps. They seem to be joining together and forming some sort of patterns in the air.
Hey! There is a pattern repeated.
And another one. What are they doing? They never did anything like this before.
D-do you think they are trying to communicate with us?
Huh? Yes. Yes. It means they are sentient. Come. Come. Let us see if we can learn their language-- may be in the next ten years or so.
x x x
I donít know how many times Iíve told a submitter that Anotherealm doesnít publish poetry. This story is as close as youíll get on these pages. Like most poetry, it asks not only for your enjoyment but for your understanding. Will you give it both? Either? Let us know on our BBS. -GM