“Why is water dropping down from above?” Plingo asked, pointing at a picture in the pamphletdepicting an autumnal scene, rain falling from a dark and thunderous sky.
“It does that there.”
“But then the communal beds will get wet, won’t they?”
“They don’t sleep outside there.”
“Where do they sleep then?”
“In houses. They are like our beds but with roofs.”
“Just to stop the rain getting in?”
“Mostly, but also to retain heat.”
“Why would they need to retain it?”
A preemptive smile broke out on Reden’s face. He could guess the reaction that would follow his next sentence. “They do not have enough heat. They have only one sun!”
At this point Plingo fell over, that’s how hard he was laughing. You know in cartoons when people laugh so much they are rolling around on the floor and holding their stomachs and actually look a little in pain? Plingo was doing exactly that.
After a few minutes he’d recovered enough to stand up again, panting a little from the exertion. “Whoever heard of a planet with only one sun? We’ve 712 suns. We should give them some of ours.
“You’ve definitely piqued my interest now Tell me more about this curious place!” commanded Plingo, who thought this whole Earth malarkey was providing him some of the biggest laughs he’d had in a long while. “Back to the job, for example. For how long will I have to do the same job?”
“Well you can switch jobs whenever you want, at least in theory, but you need to work somewhere for up to two-thirds of your life.”
“Two-thirds? That’s not very long.”
“Exactly! There you would have up to 30 years for pure recreation, only they call it retirement.”
“Wow, that does sound good. I can take those whenever I like?”
“No, you take them at the end.”
“Only at the end? Why? Won’t I be old then?”
“Yes, that’s the point. That’s why you’ve stopped working.”
“But I’ll be too old to do anything fun, won’t I?”
“No, you can do puzzles, for example, or watch TV!”
“Can’t I have my retirement first and then I can work for a very short now before I die? Since the end sounds pretty dull anyway, to be honest?” Plingo bit his lip. “I don’t really like puzzles.”
“No-o-o-o. Doesn’t really work that way.”
“Oh.” Plingo contemplated this absurdity for a moment longer. “Hey, why did you say up to two-thirds?”
“Because you might die earlier.” Plingo rocked back on his heels in shock.Unexpected death did not occur on Quadrup. Quadrups technically could, at least in the eyes of Earth science, die. But it was not like Earth death. It was rather like a computer game character’s death. If a Quadrup dies they need only to want to continue and they can return as they were. They could do this for the fixed period of a Quadrup life, equivalent to about 50 earth years. Could this really be so different on Earth? How would a fear of death affect life on Quadrup, he mused “But then I could just continue, right?” He asked. Reden looked away.
“No, there are no continues on Earth. If you get hit by a bus, or stabbed in the heart by a stranger who wants your wallet, that’s pretty much it, really.”
“What if that happens one day before my retirement?” Plingo spluttered. “The stabbing, I mean.”
“Then, well, I guess you’ll be an amusing office anecdote.” At Plingo’s crestfallen look, Reden put an arm around his shoulder. “Look at the bright side. People will remember you long after you’re gone.”
Plingo stepped forward a little, enough to free himself from Redens attempted embrace “What do they do for fun on Earth?” he asked, wanting to challenge his assumption that it must be a very sombre place, in which everyone walks round all day covered entirely in bubble wrap, ever afraid of an untimely demise.
“Mostly they put balls in holes. They call this sport. Sometimes they do this together, sometimes they do it alone, sometimes they use bats, rackets, clubs, cues or their hands to aid them in this noble endeavour.”
“What happens once the ball is in the hole?”
“Why, if it’s a team game, people celebrate and then, naturally the ball comes out of the hole,” said Reden,as if this should have been obvious.
“O-kay” mumbled Plingo in a way that suggested it hadn’t been. “… And, then what?”
“Then they try and put it back in again.”
Plingo shook his head vigorously. Why take it out of the hole if you’re only going to put it back in? “What if you don’t enjoy putting a ball in a hole?” he implored.
Reden clapped his hand onto Plingo’s shoulder once more. “No problem at all friend! You can put it in a net!” Plingo gave a half-hearted laugh. Frankly, he didn’t see the difference.
“You don’t personally have to do it. You can also watch other people put balls in holes, on TV or in stadiums. There is plenty of opportunity for that on Earth.” With that he flipped through his pamphlets until he reached a picture of an enraptured stadium audience attending the 1990 Football World Cup final.
“Can’t they just leave the ball in the hole or net or whatever?”
“Not really. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Hum. I see.” Only he didn’t, he’d just decided to let the matter go. “What about the people of Earth then? Are they nice to each other? Nicer than we Quadrups?”
Reden hesitated, choosing his words carefully. “At their core, the people of Earth are very nice. Particularly those of England, know for their hospitality. But a long time ago everyone everywhere forgot this and now they tend to be deeply suspicious of each other.”
“It might be related to them having no continues, so they are a bit more protective of themselves than we Quadrups need to be. It might also be related to their media.”
“What’s wrong their media?”