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CHAPTER 5: A DIFFERENTIAL PUBLIC DICK IN A PRIVATE UNIVERSE
“I didn’t know peach fuzz could feel so good “, I murmured, as she rubbed her branches through my leaves.
After my “night” out on the “orchard” with Miss Peach, I was feeling pretty dreamy. She
really knew how to put some meaning into my existence!
“I didn’t know my buds could blossom this fast!”, she cooed, as I wrapped my limbs around her
trunk. We sure didn’t need any bees to help us pollinate! My blossoms were still blooming — and so were my nuts!
Actually, there had been no “night”, since the sunlight in the plant universe was always shining. And there was no actual
“orchard” either. “The Orchard” was the name of a restaurant in the Random Arms Hotel Convention Center. We stopped by there for
dinner. We shared a bag of manure and a few Nitro cocktails before going upstairs to her room for an exquisite “night” of pollen mingling.
I always liked fruits and nuts back on Earth too. I like some vegetables too, if they were deep-fat fried and dipped in catsup. But now that I was leaning toward the
sunlight on a regular basis myself, I was seriously reconsidering my menu choices.
When you’re a plant, you figure out pretty quick that one of the best ways to keep from ending up on somebody else’s menu is to make yourself taste bad.
From my new perspective, I was beginning to appreciate that Brussels sprouts and spinach are very clever plants. It’s no longer a mystery to me why tree bark and acorns taste so bad
The only humans who ever ate acorns were some California Indians, and they ate them only when they got tired of eating dried grasshoppers. Squirrels, I suddenly realized, were definitely not as cute as I used to think they were
either. Anyway, right now, (whenever now was) I had bigger problems than worrying about somebody eating my fruit.
Back in my British Epistemology class at A.E.I.O.U., I once had to memorize a passage from a book that I’ll never forget. It was written by some world famous philosopher, but I can’t remember his name. Anyway, he said: “There
is a theory which states that if anybody ever discovers exactly what a universe is for and why it is there, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory Which states that this has already happened.”
Of course I wasn’t sure about that because I have never discovered what a universe is for or why it is there. However, I did know about the disappearance and replacement part — it had already happened to me! So, maybe everything really was just an illusion and none of this plant convention thing really existed? Or maybe nothing really existed at all and everyone is just dreaming. Or worse, if everything really is just part of somebody’s dream, then I was definitely paying too much rent for my office space.
I was beginning to wonder if the reason I had gotten lost in this strange universe had something to do with my own ignorance or carelessness? Frankly, I could care less and I really didn’t want to know. In spite of the delightful Miss Peach, I just wanted to get back into my own body, on my own planet, in my own time, in my own universe.
Casually, I asked Miss Peach a few discreet questions, carefully designed to get her to reveal the secret of how I became a tree and landed in a “Different Universe”, without alerting her to the fact that I wasn’t really a tree. I just looked like a tree and wanted to have sex with a tree. So, I gently prodded her with a few subtle inquiries, assuming that her boss hadn’t told her my secret.
“Just tell me one thing, baby. How the (bleep) did I get into this whole plant convention thing anyway!? And how did you and all these other plants get here? And where the (bleep) is here?” I burst out, no longer able to maintain my usual stoic composure.
She looked at me blankly for a moment and said, “I don’t know.”
“Oh”, I said. “Well, how do you explain all of this?”
“Well, I don’t. I just try to enjoy myself while I’m
here. Don’t you?”
“Yeah, sure, I guess. But, don’t you want to known where you came from and how you got here and what’s the meaning of it all or what’s the purpose of existence?”.
“Not really”, she said.
Typical woman. They only want one thing from a male: to take them shopping and listen to them talk about how fat they feel. They never want to discuss the esoteric, philosophical issues of life. It was a good thing I waited until after we had mingled to ask questions.
“Well, don’t you care about anything?”, I demanded.
“I care a lot about peaches and pollinating. I also care about all the males I’ve mingled with – especially the ones whose names I can still remember. I think that most trees only care about each other because they think they’re going to survive better or longer or more pleasantly with other trees around them. But, most of the time they end up sharing an unfulfilling emptiness with no real goals or purpose. They just grow, pollinate, bear fruit for awhile and wither. I mean, it’s not like we’re ever really going to go anyplace, is it?”.
“I suppose not…but I can’t help feeling there are other places to be”, not mentioning my recent arrival from the Physical Universe. Still, I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I didn’t, in spite of my recent discovery that there is more than one universe.
So far, discovering the meaning of life was an unsolved case. It was always just around the next corner. It was the only case I hadn’t solved yet – except for the one I was working on, of course. Miss Peach was right — I felt alone. Yet, at the same time, I felt like I was being driven by outside forces — survival impulses, fate, the forces of the universes, some unseen entity – whatever.
“I’ve never really been interested in playing the usual ‘tree games’. You know, like territorial conquest, water rights, root depth, trunk size, how smooth my bark is, shading power, seed production — that kind of thing”, said Miss Peach, arousing me from my momentary musing. “Those games are based on what other trees think about you. Mainly, I just want to be happy with what I think about myself”, she said.
“The best games I ever played were simply having somebody around to play with — to keep from being bored. But, most of the time, playing games is just a temporary distraction from my perpetual preoccupation with the primordial purposelessness of existence”, I said.
“Who knows? Maybe playing is the purpose of existence”, replied Miss Peach.
“I came, I saw, I played”, to paraphrase a dead Roman emperor, although I don’t think he did it in that order” I said, forgetting where I was momentarily.
“Sounds good to me! Let’s play ‘mingle and tingle’…”, said Miss Peach, gently jiggling her fruit toward me. Anyone who thinks trees are just unfeeling vegetables, has never been mingled and tingled by Miss Peach!
I don’t know how long I slept, but when I woke up the next “morning”, or the same day or whenever it was, Miss Peach was gone. She hadn’t left me a note or anything. I figured she must have gone to work. I went down stairs to continue my investigation. I still didn’t have any more clues about how to get back to Earth than the “rulebook” I got from “Mr. Personality” in Plant Land Security.
When I got downstairs the convention hall was empty. Just a few trampled signs and banners and leaflets strewn on the floor. Just a few trees sweeping up. I went over to the Plant Land Security office to see if Miss Peach was here. I started to knock on the door, but found it slightly ajar, so I pushed it open and went in. The office was completely vacant except for Mr. Cactus who was just putting some papers into a box.
“Where’s Miss Peach?”, I inquired.
“Not here. She left to go back to the home office. The convention’s over buddy, or didn’t you notice?”
“Oh, well how do I get in touch with her?”
“I’m not her babysitter, pal. You can go see her whenever you want.” he said.
“Well, would you mind telling me the address of your home office so I can contact her?” I asked as politely as possible.
“Listen, Mr. Peaches, or whatever your name is, I gave you a copy of the “rules” when you were here last time. Can’t you read? Just follow the rules. Anyway, I’m out of here. Goodbye” said Mr. Cactus, who unceremoniously picked up his box and shuffled out of the office.
“But…but, I don’t know…”, I said, trying to follow him. By the time I got through the door and out into the convention hall, Mr. Cactus was gone. The entire hall was empty and still.
“Well, (bleep)!”, I fumed. My voice echoed in the hall. Another voice answered me from the other side of the hall. “What’s the matter, buddy? Do you need help?” It was Peter the Potted Plant.
“Peter! Am I glad to see you! Where did everybody go? I was trying to find Miss Peach and she’s one and I don’t know where she went or how to get there. Can you help me, please?” I grabbed him round his skinny little trunk and shook him gently, with growing desperation o get some answers.
“Hey, take it easy pal! Look, it’s easy. Just go out to the hotel lobby and ask them o give you a copy of the “rules”. Then just follow the “rules” and you’ll be fine. Anyway, listen, I gotta run. I just ran back in to pick up my tie. I left it in the dressing room back stage. Hey, see ya’ buddy! Don’t let the aphids get you”. Peter disappeared behind the stage curtain and was gone.
I hurriedly shuffled my roots out to the lobby of the Hotel Random Arms. I rushed up to the registration desk and rang the bell on the counter. A sleepy looking Tomato Plant came out fromthe back office to the desk. “May I be of assistance, sir?”
“Yes! Yes! Peter the Potted Plant told me to ask you for a copy of the “rules” so I could find out how to get in touch with Miss Peach”, I babbled, without trying to hide my anxiety.
“Very good, sir. We are always pleased to be of assistance to our guests at the Random Arms”, he said, reaching beneath the desk and handing me a single sheet of instructions. I eagerly glanced down the list. It was the same exact sheet of Rules to a Different Universe that Mr. Cactus had given to Miss Peach to copy for me. I still had my original copy stuck in my branches.
“Great! Now I’m right back in the same (bleeping) place I started from!!”, I shouted.
I guess the sheer volume of my own totally exasperated shouting must have snapped me out of it — whatever “it” was. I was lying in my sofa at my office. I don’t know how I got here. The last thing I remembered before the Plant Convention was lying in the acupuncture office, with needles stuck in my butt…. I felt my behind. There were no needles, but I had a butt!
“I have a butt!! I have a butt! I have a butt!”, I shouted. “Wow! This is great!
I have a butt!”, I shouted some more. I was never so happy to have a butt in my whole (bleeping) life. I will never take having a butt for granted ever again.
I was pretty sure I was back in my own universe again. Or maybe I had never really left it. Or maybe I just needed a couple stiff shots of “Old Nitro”. Wait a minute…minutes? That was something that had been in short supply in A Different Universe. Now that it was available to me once again, that’s all I really needed: some real, honest-to-goodness time to figure all this out.
I looked at the clock. I ran down the hall and got a newspaper out of the vending machine. It was still the day of my appointment with Dr. Alice. And the same time. As far as I could tell, no time had passed since I was laying on the table at Dr. Alice’s place. I’ve heard it said that time is relative, but all this was making me feel relatively insane.
Dr. Mellingerer was my old professor of Eschatological Rhetoric back at A.E.I.O.U.. He once said something very profound to our class. He said, “an ignorant man is one who doesn’t know what he has discovered“. I didn’t know what that meant, and I really didn’t feel like figuring it out either. I was tired. I needed a nap. I felt like I had been awake for days. Nevertheless, in some vague way, Dr. Mellingerer’s observation seemed to apply to my situation.
The next morning I woke up in my sofa again, still in my office, with my own clock which stared at me rudely from my very own desk. I was very happy to be back in a universe that actually had time in it. The clock said 7:37. Actually it didn’t “say” 7:37, but it did have a big hand pointing in the general direction of the “7” on the clock face and the small hand pointed to the 7th little tick mark to the left of the bottom, center tick mark.
Since the sun was shining in my eyes through my office window, I assumed that would indicate the antemeridian rendition of 7:37, as in past mid-night and before mid-day, thereby confirmed by my perception that photon particles and/or waves from the star nearest our planet where striking and illuminating the atmosphere in the vicinity nearest my current location relative to the interminable rotation of said planet on its axis, during a phase in which that rotation, which recurred at 24 hour intervals, as measured by said clock, variably modified by the inclination of the Northern Hemisphere toward or away from said star, mitigated, of course, by the precession of the planetary axis, was situated in juxtaposition to said star with regard to it’s roughly elliptical orbit through the solar system, at a precise point in one of 365 such intervals, to which planet I was affixed by the resultant gravitational forces generated by the coincidental interaction and various cyclical rotations of the aforementioned stellar bodies, which are located approximately on the very outermost edge of the so-called Milky Way galaxy, which I assumed must belong, nominally, to some larger, intergalactic political confederation, of which Earth, or whatever designation might be given by such an organization to this infinitesimally minute and obscure planet, to which no one from any other planet seemed to want to make themselves known, inasmuch as “alien entities” seemed to consistently avoid obvious communication with the creatures of our planet, as witness their conspicuous absence from Earth which, by deductive reasoning, led me to conclude that “aliens” either 1) don’t exist, for which probability the mathematical odds are nearly infinitely impossible — besides which, I’d already been abducted by them myself at least once that I can remember — or 2) such beings would rather be caught dead than associate with homo sapiens, which, judging by the usual headlines in the daily newspaper, would indicate a reasonably advanced intelligence on their part, or at least a reasonable distaste for stupidity, greed, murder, mayhem, war, general chaos and charred cow flesh consumed together with deep-fat fried vegetables dipped in tomato catsup.
Obviously, my adventures at the plant convention had left me somewhat confused about the nature of reality, which I was already confused about. I recalled that the list of “rules” I had been given in “a Different Universe” mentioned something about reality being whatever you can create that can be perceived. My instructor in “Conjunctive Perspectives of Perception” class back at AEIOU once made an astute observation about the essence of reality.
“Reality is really, probably, nothing more, perhaps, than a hunch that many people have, sometimes, which they fairly often agreed upon as being not-too-far-fetched, depending on how recently they have either eaten or been
eaten or have had sex, which in many cases may be very similar, depending on one’s individual tastes“, he observed.
Until now, I had never run across another definition that was any better. Anyway, I didn’t have time to waste on wild speculations about reality. Besides, as I had recently discovered, reality is relative to the universe you’re in at the moment, or not.
It was time to get back to work on the case I was getting paid to solve so I could afford to pay for some ground up, charbroiled flesh of a dead cow which had, during it’s brief life, consumed several tons of my former plant acquaintances, a small portion of the resulting flesh being placed between two slabs of ground up, denatured grain which had been incinerated at 350 degrees for approximately one hour and topped with more dead vegetables, each of whom had given their lives, without apparent resistance, so that I, being more “intelligent” than they, or at least mean enough to condone their premeditated murder, could sustain the carbon/oxygen burning flesh engine, currently operating at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which I myself inhabited, the chemical-based incendiary devise, or stomach, of which was making rather obnoxious gurgling sounds at the moment.
My cheeseburger and fries sat, uneaten, on the table in front of me at a local burger joint, while I perused the newspaper to check out what I might have missed while I was “away”. I was still looking for clues about the disappearance of Carmel Wormwood.
Carmel told the Admiral that her maiden name, or alias, had been “Carmel Cortez”. So far, I found out that she lied about that too. There was no such person in any public record I had checked. I was beginning to suspect that the Admiral had been lured into a premeditated scam by this Carmel person, whoever she was.
Nevertheless, I casually thumbed through to the obituary listings and personal ads, just in case I might turn up anything. I stopped on page 16, bottom left-hand column. There was a small headline that took my breath away!
Mass-Suicide of Amazon Rain Forest Logging Crew
Caused by Self Inflicted Suffocation!
Entire World In Shock!
I read through the short article with breathless excitement:
“…a logging crew of 74 men were found dead in their work camp located in an isolated region of the Amazon rain forest. All had died of asphyxiation. The police investigating the scene concluded that the deaths were the result of a bizarre self-inflicted mass suicide cult ritual popular among the local Indians. A leader of the local Indians told reporters that the deaths were caused by what a native translator loosely interpreted to mean ‘angry spirit of the trees”. Local police dismissed the statement as the hallucinations of a ignorant barbarian caused by chewing leaves of the dung-dung tree.”
I stuffed the newspaper in the back pocket of my jeans, ran out of the joint without even eating my burger and jumped on my Harley. Back at my office I waited impatiently for my dial-up Internet connection to pull up a search
engine. I had to find out more about the rain forest incident! I used every key word I could think of, but couldn’t find many more details about the Amazon deaths. After clicking through several dozen links, I finally found an environmentalist news website with more information about the incident:
“…the Pope declared an international day of mourning in response to orders from the World Bank Foundation and the Mega Oil Corporation, who jointly funded the clear-cut deforestation project in the area of the Amazon rain forest where the apparent suffocation suicide deaths of 74 loggers occurred. A massive strip mining operation was to be undertaken to clear the deforested land of unsightly semi-precious metals, after which plans had been made to create grazing land for cattle and oil drilling operations on the barren landscape in what a Vatican spokesman described as a “humanitarian effort to create REAL jobs as oil rig workers and meat packers for displaced native Indians”.
A spokesman for the local Indawood-Weepoo Indians issued a statement in a press conference held at their refugee camp: “Our people survived very well in our rain forest for the last 7,000 years, along with 27,374 other indigenous species of plants, insects and animals, nearly all of whom are now extinct because of the logging, mining and oil drilling. The cows brought here by the oil company men are eating the few blades of grass that are left of our homeland!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out any more about the suffocation part of the incident. The local police closed the area off to outsiders and closed the investigation because they had “solved the case”. So far, I had two dead end investigations in one day: Carmel and the Amazon.
I slumped down in my chair in front of the computer and stuffed my hands in to the pockets of my jeans while I thought about my next logical move. There was one common thread between both mysteries — Dr. Alice Nettles.
As far as I knew, she had been one of the last people to see Carmel before she disappeared into thin air and I was the last person to see her before I disappeared into the A Different Universe.
I jumped up out of my chair, heading for the door on my way out to see Dr. Alice. I pulled my motorcycle keys out of my pocket. A neatly folded piece of paper fell out onto the floor. I picked it up and unfolded it. At the top of the page it read, “RULES TO A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE”.
Dr. Alice and I needed to talk! Now!