“What kind of a question is that? Of course I love it. It is my home and, so, automatically worthy of a love that is above questioning and logical reason!”
“Then you would consider it entirely reasonable that certain people might need to make sacrifices for the greater Quadrup good, so to speak?”
“Sure. Makes sense, I guess. A king can only be a king if others agree to be his subjects, after all.” This is a well known Quadrupian idiom.
“How would you”, began Reden, pointing his finger at Plingo’s chest and causing Plingo to step back slightly, “feel about making a sacrifice for the greater Quadrup good?”
“Not all that peachy, to be honest. Why, what are you proposing?”
“Have you heard of the planet called Earth?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“We, the people at QPMP, have secured exciting opportunities for your soul to be relocated to this distant planet!” said Reden in a way that was supposed to convey such excitement, but which actually fell a little flat.
“Uh-huh. How would that work exactly?” Plingo had never heard of soul relocation before.
“Simple. In order to alleviate overcrowding here, your soul would be planted in the body of a baby to be born there. Then, you would no longer be here.”
Reden reached out to place his hand on Plingo’s shoulder. “Your great sacrifice would live on long in the hearts of Quadrups everywhere.”
Plingo pushed the springs on his head up and down a few times, mulling it over. “Is that actually true, though?”
Reden shrugged. “Not really. You’d be helping, but you probably wouldn’t get much credit for it. It would kind of have to come from within you. You’d have to give yourself credit. Remind yourself what a great thing you’d done from time to time and just kind of pat yourself on the back for it.”
“Doesn’t sound that fair to me.”
“It is for us here on Quadrup, who will benefit from more space.”
“Can I at least come back to Quadrup though? At some point?”
“Unfortunately not. The people of Earth aren’t likely to become sophisticated enough to invent space travel in your life time.”
“Couldn’t someone come by and pick me up?”
“Well, as you can well, uh, imagine, that would sort of…umm…undermine that whole QPMP population reduction program that had sort of put you there in the first place, wouldn’t it?” stuttered Reden, suspecting he was starting to losing Plingo.
Plingo considered this , glancing for a moment at a passing female Quadrup, before returning to meet Reden’s steely gaze.
“I see your point. Would I be better off there? Is life on Earth better than here?”
“That’s a question of perspective, I guess. It depends what you value.”You may recognise this conversational offering as being what we Earthlings call a cop out. A way of saying no, without, you know, saying no. Reden had studied our Earth ways well.
“So I would be miniaturised again?” “Yes”, said Reden, unfolding a pamphlet on pregnancy and presenting it proudly, as if it were a silver platter of cheeses. First he pointed at the top picture of a white liquid. “At first you would be semen, which is a kind of white vinegar. Then you would enter a vagina, slowly developing there for nine Earth months, before exiting once again through the vagina.”
Plingo’s face scrunched as if consuming a bitter lemon. He pushed the pamphlet dismissively away with the back of his hand. Plingo knew about vaginas. They had them on several other planets and he’d seen a documentary about them that did not present them in an all too positive light.
“How long is nine months? Is it the same amount of time it takes for a baby to gestate here?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, it’s like that. Only much longer. Hundreds of times longer.”
“Hundreds of times longer I’d need to live in a stinky vagina!” he yelped in disbelief, “No way!”
“Well” backtracked Reden, “not really in a vagina, you would develop slowly in a womb.”
“Is that still like a vagina, though?”
“A bit like it, yes, but bigger”, conceded Reden. “We hear it’s very relaxing in there. Like a silence retreat occuring in a very small box.”
“And I have to exit back out of the vagina again even though that’s how I went in? That doesn’t make any sense.” Plingo shook his springy head in disbelief. “How do I get out? Vaginas are small, right?”
“With difficulty!” chuckled Reden. “But I assure you this is how humans have given birth for thousands of years. It’ll be fine, if slightly uncomfortable for you. A lot more uncomfortable for the mother I can assure you.”
“So then, there is no elevator or exit hatch?”
“Just a vagina and pushing.”
“Well, that sucks.”
“Not really, more the opposite in fact”, said Reden, laughing and punching Plingo playfully on the arm. Plingo did not laugh.
“To be honest you’re not really selling Earth to me. Thank you, but I must be off.” With that, Plingo began to downroot himself again.
Showing deft agility, Reden reached out with his left leg to block the path of escape. “Please wait, I haven’t told you the best bits yet.”
Plingo halted, looking around restlessly, awaiting a winner from the wrestling match of his intrigue to learn more and his reluctance to spend further time discussing a relocation he knew he would not make.. His intrigue won out, just. After all, time was relative on Quadrup. As long as he told himself he had more, he had more. It was a flexible place like that.
Reden raced ahead in his pitch to the more compelling post relocation benefits. “After you’re born there, you’ll have a mother and a father and they’ll look after you and teach you things.”
Plingo scratched his head. “Will I not already know most things? For how long will they look after me?” Then, he brightened. “Will they make me breakfast? I don’t like making breakfast.”
“They will assist you for around your first 25 years. Unlike here, on Earth you’re born as a bit of a blank canvas. You’ll have only basic skills such as producing waste matter, ingesting future waste matter and converting future waste matter into energy. Oh, and to answer your other question, they will make you breakfast for many years.”
This lifted Plingo’s mood no end. Although being a rather glass half empty individual, only until he’d bumped into the next potential problem “What if I don’t like my parents? Can I swap them?”
Reden shook his head. “No, not really. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Not even if mine turn out to be rather inadequate and I see there are much nicer ones around who will act as my mother and father and perhaps make me better breakfasts?”
“No, not really. As I said, it doesn’t work like that.”
“Oh.” Plingo wondered how this could really be the best parts of life on Earth.
“Your best bet”, said Reden, stroking his chin contemplatively, “would be learning quickly and then you can leave your parents, possibly as soon as your late teens.”
“Well, like here, you’ll take a job. There it depends on who you know. If you know people in a position to give out good jobs, you’ll get a good job. If you only know poor people without influence you’ll most likely get a crappy job. However, there are workarounds. If your parents have the money so that you can study for qualifications or if you are reasonably attractive or good with words, you’ll end up in the middle. You’ll have the sort of job people with a good job would call a crappy job, but the sort that people with crappy jobs would call a good job.”
“What will I call it?”
“You can call it whatever you like. It won’t answer”, joked Reden. Plingo stared at him.
“That work system doesn’t sound all that fair.”
“It is for those who get the good jobs.”
“How long do I have to do the job for? Until I get tired?”
“No, on Earth they operate a five days on, two days off system.” Reden briefly explained the relationship between a Quadrup’s now and an Earthling’s day.
“Five days on versus only two days off? Who agreed to that?” asked Plingo in disbelief. This system sounded much worse to him than the Quadrup way, which was just to work until tired, then rest until reenergised. Plingo was young, so he recovered quickly from his physical job, yet he knew as he aged he’d require longer to rest, giving him vastly more free time to spend with friends or bounce many hopalongs exercising the Quadrup equivalent of a pet dog.
“No-one can remember”, responded Reden tersely, as if Plingo had inferred it were he who had created such a seemingly unfair system. “The people who have the power to change it don’t work five days on, two days off. So their motivation to change it is rather small.”
“How often do those people work?”
“They work a zero days on, seven days off system.”
“That doesn’t sound very fair.”
“It is for the people working zero days on, seven days off.”
Plingo shook his head. “This Earth sounds like a funny old place.”
“It is. But it has its charms.” In an attempt to further illustrate this Reden got out another of his Earth pamphlets and handed it to Plingo. The pamphlets depicted many interesting Earth curiosities such as lampposts, umbrellas and chimneys.