Monday, May 30, 2005


      Douglas tried desperately to figure out what he was looking at. It was flat and large and seemed to be quite painful. He had to push himself away before he recognized the floor. Everything else in the room came at about the same speed. A sofa. A lamp. A small table. Two people he may or may not have known. It seemed a fairly nice place if someone would have just turned off all that blinding light. Then again, something did seem to be missing.
      "Where's Josef?"
      "We don't know," answered 1, "We just woke up too."
      "Yes, but where's Josef?" Douglas insisted, trying to get up. "I feel kinda..."
      He stood and dizzily stumbled to the wall.
      "Kinda stumbly."
      "That's normal," said 1, "You've never been stunned before."
      "Sure I was!" argued Douglas, "When I saw my report card!" He laughed loudly, but it sounded even louder than that. And more like a girl. "Oh," said Douglas, because Isis was laughing too. That same lovely laugh, both beautiful and peaceful. So beautiful and so peaceful, in fact, that he decided to lose consciousness again, right there against the wall.
      When he rewoke, things seemed clearer. He felt a bit pleased, actually, that the strangest thing he had to deal with at the moment was a finely furnished living room. Sadly, however, the more comfortable things got, the more something else began to gnaw on his brain.
      "Oh no," he said.
      "What is it?" 1 asked.
      "I feel better now," winced Douglas, "I think. But I can hear Josef in my head - like in my dreams." 1 came over and examined Douglas's eyes.
      "What is he saying?"
      "I'm not sure. It's mumbled. Something like 'Your stop signs are not red.'"
      1 put his ear on the wall and waited.
      "Yup, I hear it too. Sounds like 'You're stinky, but not dead.'"
      "Your candy is for Ted."
      "You're sleeping in my bed?"
      Isis screamed and ran behind the arm of the sofa. Douglas and 1 were both alarmed. She poked her head out.
      "Right?" she asked, smiling, "The three little bears."
      "Oh!" said 1, "Bravo, Isis. But I don't think that's what he's saying. Could you run it through some filters?"
      Isis joined them at the wall and closed her eyes. Douglas watched her closely. After a few moments she stepped back and opened her mouth.
      "You're standing on my head!" came Josef's voice.
      "You're standing on my head?" wondered 1, "What does that mean?"
      Slowly, they all looked down at Douglas's foot, pressed firmly against the wall. He lifted it.
      "Oh!" cried Isis, and went to rescue the lab mouse, who had nibbled a hole through the wall. "Poor thing! Did he squish you with his big, mean shoe?"
      "I..." protested Douglas, but when she looked at him, she smiled.
      "Where have you been?" continued Isis.
      "Cockroaches." answered Josef, exhausted, "Wretched things didn't even notice me, so I stowed away when they brought you back."
      "Back?" asked 1.
      "Here, to their planet Ootheca, which I'm fairly certain -"
      "Stop!" interrupted Douglas, "Just... stop. Aren't there any alien creatures in outer space? The turkeys I could accept. They looked mostly not like turkeys, after all, and there was a logical explanation as to how they might spread across the galaxy. But now, cockroaches? I mean, why did we even bother to leave Earth?"
      "This is Earth," said Josef, "of course. The rogue Earth."
      "Oh. Oh, well, that's all right, then."
      "And for the record, these are some of the strangest creatures I've ever seen. However, if what they did to the Hyperborean is any indication, now is not the time for a study in sentient entomology."
      "Cockroaches must have been the only animals to survive 3's experiment..." Douglas thought out loud.
      "Do they know 3?" asked 1.
      "They believe 3 is God and say he lives on the Column of Unseen Fear, but I have no idea where, or if, such a place exists."
      "...And then they evolved..." continued Douglas.
      "I'm fascinated," replied Josef snidely, "right in the hindlimb. But we need to get you out of here." There was a thud at the door. "I'll do what I can!" blurted the lab mouse as he disappeared back into the wall. The cell door opened.
      Douglas suddenly realized he'd never taken the time to really look at a cockroach. He simultaneously realized that there are some things you never have to try to know they'll end up ick.
      Each had six hairy limbs, which sprouted from their shiny, burnt-orange middles. Below was a round, layered abdomen that ended in dangerous looking horns. Above, their heads were black with short proboscises dangling from their cheeks and ridiculously long antennae coming out of their eyes.
      "I hate coming in here, Franz. The bright light, the fresh furniture. Place gives me the creeps."
      "All right, prisoners, let's go. Time for your trial."
      Douglas marched right up to Ryan, whom he only recognized by voice.
      "Why did you destroy the Hyperborean?" he demanded.
      "Same reason you blew up that perfectly good mouse ship," replied Ryan.
      "That was an accident!"
      "Oh," said Ryan, "Well, no, we do it on purpose. It's cockroach nature. Well, except for Franz. He had an unhappy childhood."
      Franz did something with his face which might have been grinning. It might not have been.