Wednesday, June 01, 2005


      The Dining Hall, as it turned out, carried all the charm of the Throne Room, with its own addition. Spanning the center of the floor lay a long wooden board, festooned with gobs and gobs of chewed bubble gum.
      "Awggh!" exclaimed Josef. Douglas shrugged.
      "One time I looked under a cafeteria table."
      They followed the Cockroach King to the far end of the board and sat down. Soon the Hall was filled with cockroaches and the festive sound of cockroaches eating gum.
      "You do not eat!" the King said to Douglas, "What troubles you, O Great Destroyer?"
      "That, actually," replied Douglas, and was quickly struck on the cheek by a bit of gum.
      "Oh, excuse me, Great Destroyer," apologized Josef, "Sometimes I'm not very careful with my mouth."
      "That's okay," Douglas smiled, "Let me help you." He held a mouse-sized gob inches above Josef.
      "Not the fur! Not the -"
      The King clicked with laughter.
      "Earth must be a very strange place."
      "Some days," nodded Douglas, resisting the impulse to look around.
      "What did you mean before?"
      "Well..." Douglas decided the struggling pile of goo next to him was right, and chose his words more carefully. "It's just... I haven't even destroyed anything yet."
      "A-ha!" cried the King, "The Urge Hacer!"
      "The what?"
      "The Urge Hacer!"
      Douglas hit the side of his head.
      "I'm sorry, I think there's something wrong with my Babel fish. It's translating the word hacer in another Earth language."
      "What does the word mean?"
      "I don't know. Some kids in my class speak Spanish, but I don't know that much."
      "Think deep. Most of what we know hides under the refrigerator."
      "I think it means to do - but also to make."
      "Ah-ha!" repeated the Cockroach King, "Your language has no word for both! Grave dearth. Does not everything we do make a new Universe?"
      "Oh," said Douglas, "I guess, a little."
      "And that is what you are feeling, Douglas Dent! All aware lifeforms feel it - the urge to make the world better in some way. The urge to earn the life you've been given."
      "Yeah! That makes sense. What do I do about it?"
      "Anyone who would answer that question for you would be a terrible liar. You must make your own passage - I can only provide counsel."
      Douglas spent a few moments in thought. He knew what he wanted to ask, but wasn't quite sure how to ask it.
      "Is there any way to avoid passages which end badly?"
      "What a reflective question! Many suppose that they will be satisfied with something outside themselves. A job, family, friends. Not so. Everything out here, around us, is luck. Have I earned my way because I was born a King? Not so. Life is lottery. The only thing you can really earn is who you are inside." The King tilted his head, and looked thoughtfully at Douglas. "I know it's hard to believe, but even something grand like destroying the Universe may not be as rewarding as you think."
      "Let's hope not," sighed Douglas.
      The King nodded and finished eating.
      "I've enjoyed meeting you, Douglas Dent. And your friends." He addressed them all, "You are welcome to Ootheca for as long as you wish. However, there is a surface hatch just out that door and to the left. Aloha."
      The Cockroach King turned and disappeared into a crevice. Douglas turned to his friends.
      "Are we finished?"
      "Thoroughly," answered Josef, who had managed to free himself from most of the gum, "Assuming someone will unstick me."
      "I'm done," said 1, "but I don't know about Isis..."
      What had once seemed a sweet, well-read girl robot, now appeared a fast, stringy blur of pre-chewed bubble gum. She ate voraciously, and only paused to find out why Douglas and 1 were staring.
      "What?" she asked, then saw Josef trying to free his paws, "Oh! I'll help."
      "Oh -" was all Josef got a chance to say before being yet again swept into a sea of pink goo.
      "You're lucky, Josef, to have so much help," smiled 1.
      "Indeed," frowned the gum-covered mouse, "If only help weren't quite so sticky."