Saturday, November 11, 2006

Planet Called Rover

This is for October's Blogging For Books contest. We are supposed to write about the weather. Since nothing significant has ever happened to me that was weather-related, I have to resort to fiction.

Many years ago, somewhere in the universe, there was a planet all covered with fur. Of course, it only would look like fur to us; to the planet's tiny inhabitants, it looked like giant pillars and tall trees. At first, the planet did not have a name, but one day, during their prayer meeting, the elders heard a booming voice from the sky. It said: "Rover, come". So, the elders concluded, Rover had to be the planet's real name, given to it by the invisible higher powers.

The planet traveled randomly in space, sometimes stopping, sometimes speeding up in leaps and jumps. The climate was fickle and unpredictable, often killing off scores of its hapless inhabitants. Every few generations, a Great Flood occurred that threatened to drown everyone on the face of the planet. Legend has it that, in the very first Great Flood, only one family survived. A short time before the flood, the family's patriarch was said to have heard a voice from the heavens, saying: "Who's gonna get a bath? Rover's gonna get a bath! Good doggy!" Even though he did not understand the meaning of these words, his intuition told him to start building an ark, immediately. He didn't have much time, and the ark came out only large enough to house himself, his wives and children. The rest of the planet perished in the terrible foamy flood that soon followed. Over time, the elders learned to predict when the flood was going to come, and were able to organize everyone ahead of time to get the arks built.

Other natural disasters characteristic of Rover included hurricanes, earthquakes, and strange clawy objects scratching the planet's surface at random. The people of Rover have learned quickly not to live in the Ball Mountains area, for it was deadly dangerous. Every year or two, a large, wet, pink object swept over the area, again and again, until everyone there was dead. Therefore, the Ball Mountains stood deserted, except for a youth or two climbing them once in a while on a dare.

With weather like this, it is no wonder that the people of Rover spent most of their lives trying to understand the nature of their planet and find ways of survival. Rover was famous for their natural sciences, with universities and research centers all over the planet, studying the ways of Rover. Just as abundantly, dozens of different religions flourished on the planet, praying to the powers that be for mercy, listening for the voice from heavens, and trying to decipher its messages, the most common of those being: "Sit", "Down", "Whozza good doggy?", and the ever-ominous "BAD DOG!!"

One unfortunate day, the people of Rover woke to find their planet surrounded by poisonous gas. They rejoiced at first, for it smelled sweetly and was pleasant to the senses. But, when their babies and children started dropping dead, they realized the sweet smell had been a horrible trap. Chaos ensued.

"People of Rover, this is all our fault. Every living being on the planet is to blame for this," pontificated the scientists. "Your suburban sprawl, your SUVs, your manufacturing plants, your dependency on natural resources, especially dog piss, have all brought us to this. We have long warned you that global warming was going to come and kill us all. Well it seems we had underestimated the danger. Because of your unchecked consumerism, global warming has turned to global poisoning!"

The priests were even more straightforward.

"People of Rover, you will surely die, for you have sinned. You ate too much, you partied too long, you coveted your neighbors' wives and children and mothers-in-law. Now the end of the world is here. You have angered the Power Above, and there is nothing you can do to turn things back. Repent and die."

Listening to all this intently was a lonely teenage boy, called Ilkir. Ilkir had been a bright kid since he was born. He always tried to find out how things worked, and always questioned everything. Even now, as everything around him was falling apart, his thoughts were spinning, trying to figure out, not even what had caused the poison gas, but how to save the people of his planet from dying off like a bunch of fleas.

To the deserted library Ilkir went; to the local university his path led. He read voraciously all the books on natural sciences that he could get his hands on. Having gathered the knowledge he needed, he then traveled to a nearby airplane plant and spent a week on the shop floor, learning how the planes were made. After that, he quietly packed a bookbag and disappeared. No one missed him, not even his family. Everyone was too busy shaking in terror and praying for a quick and painless death. Another month went by.

By then, there were hardly any people left on Rover. Dead bodies were laying in the streets, as the living had no energy to bury them, nor did they see a point. Why bother, when soon all will die? The few survivors have taken to gathering at a local Temple Of The Voice From Above and pray daily, so they could at least die with a clear conscience. It was during one of their prayer meetings that the door flew open and a tall figure walked in.

He was covered in dirt and leaves. His clothes were tattered and ripped. On his face, there was a moustache and beard where no facial hair had been before. But his eyes shone with a light of a true discovery.

"Ilkir!" cried an elder, recognizing the boy. "We thought you were dead! Where have you been?"

"I bring great news," Ilkir rasped, brushing a lock of dirty hair from his forehead. "I know how to save us all. Gather round; I will need your help. Who here knows how to work the airplane plant?"

Until morning, the men (for only one woman had survived the deadly gas, and she was at her house, hiding from the poison) sat around the bonfire in front of the old temple, listening to Ilkir's story.

"I read the old manuscripts. I looked at cave paintings. I traveled far and wide," the boy told them. " People of Rover, take heart - we are not alone. There are millions of planets like ours in the Universe - most of them in the San Francisco galaxy. Some are small, some are enormous; some have ample coverage, some short coverage, some have no coverage at all. Some travel much and some stay in the same place. Some travel in cold galaxies and some in hot. Many are inhabited, but many others are not. We can pick any one, move there, and start over.

"To get there, we will need a spaceship large enough to hold us all and the supplies for the travel. I have made all the blueprints we will need, and made a list of parts that are needed to build the ship. We need all hands at the plant. Once we're done, we will fly the spaceship to the takeoff point, for the valleys of our planet are not suitable for takeoff. We will depart from the highest point of the Ball Mountains."

A murmur went through the crowd, for the Ball Mountains were a haunted and dangerous place and no one had ventured near it in years. But, to save their people, they finally decided they were willing to take even that risk.

Long and hard did the people of Rover toil at the airplane plant, never stopping even to eat, sleep or pass water - they did it all without ever leaving their work. Finally, the spaceship was built and moved to the Ball Mountains as agreed before. Everyone got on board. Captain Ilkir started the countdown.

"Ten, nine, eight..."

Suddenly, they heard a thunder that would have made blood freeze in their veins, if they had veins or blood.

A horrible pink thing, shaped like a shovel but much bigger, was moving towards them. It glistened wetly in the electric light.

One of the elders shrieked.

"We're all going to die!"

"... seven... aw, screw it, two, one, liftoff!" - and Ilkir quickly put the ship into gear. They got out just in time. The dog Rover continued to lick his balls, oblivious to what had just happened. The new flea medication was definitely working; Rover was not itching anymore. He stretched and wagged his tail contentedly.

For many months, captain Ilkir's ship roamed the vast Universe. They landed on several planets. Some were already inhabited, and they had to flee before the natives destroyed the invaders. Others were too small, or moved in space too fast for their liking. Finally, they found a big shaggy planet called Rocky. They settled there, and unanimously elected Ilkir as their new planet's leader. He married a girl he had met on one of the planets they'd been to, and everyone lived happily ever after.

And this is how dogs get fleas. So, next time you hear that your pet has got them, please be more tolerant. Instead of thinking what a pain in the ass it is, and how much it will cost you to get the fleas out, think of the brave boy Ilkir and of his people who only wanted to preserve their race and live in peace.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:52 PM

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