Note: For those who are bothered by the constant bathroom references, let me say this. Everyone goes to the bathroom. I'm not some weird pervert who obsesses over people going, I just think it's perfectly natural to describe someone doing their business. We all ready have writers who vividly describe sexual activities, vomiting, and other things that some find disgusting. So if you're bothered by something as natural as numbers 1 and 2, I'm sorry, but it's up to you to keep reading.
The Vogon guard stood in the doorway for a second. He was humanoid in appearance, but about seven feet tall, and with more hard pumped muscles than could be reasonably found on a human being.
"Keeplart hangu weldk!" He bellowed.
Prot spoke to the creature in its own language, flashing the pad in his hand. I just sat there terrified, clutching the Guide to my chest like a child clutching a teddy bear. I was ashamed by my own demeanor, wondering how prot expected a weak, jittery thing like myself to save our planet. Put me in MPI or in a quiz show devoted entirely to opera and I'm on top of everything. I've dealt with the most violent psychotics and cured the most difficult cases in MPI. But let's face it. This is the world I've worked so hard to convince others didn't exist, and I had no way of knowing how to handle it. The creature stood there, scratching its head when prot was finished.
"Wh-what are you saying?" I asked, looking from prot to the Vogon.
"He's been instructed to bring us to the captain," prot translated. "But I've shown him the order and now he's deciding whether or not he wants to yell some more or still take us to see the captain."
Evidently he wanted to do both.
"Neemar kauli togun! Blotch tu!" The guard advanced on us. Prot held up his arms and said something else in Vogonese. (What else could I call it?) The Vogon seemed to consider me for a second and then he did something resembling a shrug and picked prot up, tucking him under one arm.
"Prot!" I jumped to my feet and rushed to his aide.
"Gene, it's all right!" prot said as he was carried out the door. "I convinced him to let you stay here so you should be fine. It'll make my discussion with the captain much easier. Just sit tight and I'll come back for you in a little while."
The door slid shut and I was left a nervous wreck, pacing back and forth around the room. Now that I think about it, it was the first time I'd really looked around the room. The bed I found myself in was a flat and made of some soft yet stiff material. It looked like it could be marble or steel, and yet it wasn't as hard as either of the two substances. There were a few chairs, a kind of writing desk and near a porthole was a large gray basin with a drain. There was an inscription engraved into a beige plate above the basin, like the caution signs on transit buses and airports telling you not to throw trash into the toilet. Just to keep my mind on something, I flipped out the Guide and tried to find something on the Vogon language. I found a dictionary of sorts and tried to match the symbols on the inscription with the ones in the book.
"Do not…throw…anything…living…into the drain…" I read, looking back and forth several times as I read. "As it tends to struggle and destroy the platinum pluming."
Nice they're so concerned, I thought.
I sat back on the bed and did a search for Noll. I found at least five thousand entries on the planet and its people. I clicked on one that seemed most recent.
The planet Noll has recently entered into the Galactic Government, making it the first of a legion of planets from the Western Spiral to get over its moral superiority and actually support our cause.
Though Noll frequently rallies against blasting inhabited worlds as a part of Urban renewal, they're contributions to society at large are unsurpassed. Most notable are their communications technology, which can link two worlds several thousand light years apart. Also notable is their contribution of an intelligent form of plant life that can be trained to organize information and display it on a computer screen in exchange for light, air, food and water.
"Ha," I laughed, thinking immediately of prot. I wonder how he feels about a form of plant life you can't eat. I checked out another entry on the Nollians. This was a much more detailed entry on their evolution and included photos of the creatures. They resembled kangaroos, with long slender bodies and long tails giving them balance. They stood on two flat feet with three raking claws, and their arms were about half the length of my own. Their hands reminded me of the velociraptor's from Jurassic Park, accept there was an opposable thumb, which the Nollian in the photo used to hold some kind of hammer-like tool. Large bat-like ears covered their eyes and necks, which I guessed served as protection from their intensely bright sun. They had two beady black eyes on either side of a triangular head that ended in a camel-like snout. They were fascinating to look at, and like the Vogon who didn't speak English, it dispersed a lot of theories about aliens looking like humans.
Prot once said, "I look like you because it is the most energy efficient configuration." But who said the human form was the same configuration for the entire galaxy? After all, he did say once, "If you can imagine it, it exists, somewhere out there."
I read more entries on the living computer that the early entry spoke of.
The Living Computer, as it is called by many, is one of the most advanced forms of plant life in the known galaxy. While it doesn't seem to boast of any real intelligence, there is evidence to suggest that it may very well respond to the emotions of those around it. Once it is wired into a computer system, users tend to find that if they get angry and loose their temper with the device, its performance slows down. On the other hand, if users treat their living computers with respect and love the computer runs long and far.
In edition to emotional needs, the living computer has the same energy requirements of other plant life. It requires exposure to solar energy, natural or artificial, frequent amounts of water, and food. (preferably fertilizer from its home planet, but it's been known to accept other forms of plant food.) Oxygen is also necessary, therefore it is recommended that living computers be left in the ship's hydroponics garden, or out in the open when on a planet.
Noll will gladly hand out these living computers for free as that is their way (however misguided it is), but in the Galactic market the cuttings alone can go away for as high as twenty million Galactic bucks per unit.
"Fascinating," I remarked. Earth biologists would be fascinated with these living computers for centuries…that is if the Earth still existed in a few centuries.
As I read the Guide I felt a sudden lurch in the ship. The gravity in the cabin changed for a moment and I was struck with a sudden nausea. I placed the Guide down-then I thought better of leaving it around and put it in my pocket. Even a queasy stomach wasn't enough to make me forsake such a precious little item- and knelt near the basin. I didn't know if I was going to vomit or not, but it was better to be prepared this time than to have another messy accident.
I remained there for what felt like hours while the gravity adjusted itself to some outside stimulus I didn't understand. A few times it felt like I was ready to vomit, and then it just tapered back down. I tried to ignore the smell of my pants because that wasn't making it any better.
The door slid open. I looked up and prot walked in with what looked like a large metal case, the kind they put money or jewels in.
"Great news geno!" he said, cheerfully as ever. "We're not going to be the latest addition to millions and millions of individual pieces of space junk."
"I'm grateful prot," I replied sardonically. "What's in the suitcase?"
"Some things you need. A few new pieces of clothes, some food to keep you going, and more importantly a towel."
"Right in the guide geno. Never forget your towel. All hitchhikers need towels because for one, you never know when you're going to need it. And two, if someone out there sees you with your towel they're more libel to trust you because they'll see you have your head on straight. Anyone with enough sense to bring a towel in the event they might need it has to be someone worth getting to know."
I shook my head and asked prot to give me some privacy. He might not have minded stripping to his boxers or getting completely naked in front of others but I had my New England sense of privacy to maintain. When he turned around I gratefully stripped out of all my clothes and opened up the suitcase. Prot verbally explained most of the items in there, like the Hyginaray. It was compact and shaped like an electric razor, and when I turned it on it emitted a small red beam that supposedly killed off all of the harmful bacteria and mold on my body. Another setting of the beam cleared up any skin irritation I felt. The clothes were another matter. If anyone on Earth had been caught wearing them they'd have been locked up for certain, but here I was trying on an alien outfits (One small step for man one giant leap for men's fashions I suppose) with all kinds of weird colors and flashy metallic buttons. There were a few extra snug pairs of underpants ("Just in case," prot said with his usual dry sense of humor) a pair of khaki-like pants and a blazer that looked like a ten-year old's first tie dye project. Everything fit remarkably well, but when I looked at myself in the mirror I looked like a reject from a Woodstock concert.
"You'll have to ditch your old clothes," prot said. "They'll only bog you down."
"Makes sense I guess."
I took the Guide from my old pants pocket and found a breast pocket on my new blazer. Then I asked prot what was happening now.
"We're changing course and heading to NOLL as planned. The EARTH is still scheduled to be destroyed in one week but we're on our way to negotiate preventing its destruction. By the way, when we get to the planet you'll be on your own for a little while as I have to leave to go and get you off of EARTH."
"Heh? But-you just got me off of-"
"Confusing isn't it?" prot asked, giving me his Cheshire cat grin. "I had to grab you and then go back in time one week so you could negotiate the fate of your PLANET. If I don't go to you in exactly one week from now I'll have never run into you at mpi and you would never have gotten off the PLANET."
I took a few deep breaths before I made my observation. For all I knew no matter what I said prot would just keep dropping bombshells like this in my lap.
"Okay prot, let's say you have to keep doing this each time. Going back a week and pulling me and Will off of Earth. If we keep Earth from getting destroyed then you would never have had to come to Earth and then I would never learn about the Galactic Federation or anything like that."
"Not entirely true." Prot said. "When you save the PLANET a whole new timeline will be created, and this week will never have existed. Time will continue to move forward for you and neither you, nor your family, nor I will not notice the changes and the only thing that will be different is the interstellar highway will go through some other place in the UNIVERSE."
I didn't understand it no matter how he put it so I stopped asking. Lets face it, I could play the part of psychiatrist all I wanted. Filling in the holes in the patient's delusion, convincing him that he was delusional and that he had a lapse in reality but I had to be the realistic one this time. I didn't know how this universe really worked, and this time it was prot trying to keep me at ease. So far he'd done everything possible to try and make me comfortable about all this, even getting me clothes and food. For crying out loud the man saved me and my family I didn't even thank him properly.
"You've been a great friend prot," I said, sincerely. "I really do thank you for all that you've done for us."
"Aw, now geno it was nothing. You and your family treated me like a welcome friend and not just some harmful lunatic out of MPI. Letting EARTH and all those little beings, both furry and hairless get destroyed like that would be almost like destroying my second home in the UNIVERSE."
The time passed slowly. Prot had warned me about venturing out of the cabin, telling me that the captain threatened to read some of his poetry to me if I was caught. So we remained in the cabin, eating and sleeping. The food wasn't bad. Fruits and vegetables like prot's typical diet.
"Some of these came from around the GALAXY," prot explained as he helped me open the ration container. "I've used the ship's biological scanners to determine their safety. Fortunately since a dremer has similar biological components to homo sapiens you should be fine with whatever I can eat."
"That's not entirely true, prot," I pointed out. "You've eaten berries on Earth that are poisonous to humans. And all those apple seeds you've eaten, I'm surprised you never keeled over."
"Apple seeds have a very small amount of cyanide. You'd have to eat a lot of them in handfuls before you'd even start to get sick. My body always eliminated the poison before it became an issue. And incidentally with all of the pesticides used to kill off harmless tiny beings I'm even more amazed that you humans do not keel over more."
"Oh prot, you know we've died from much worse."
"So true geno. So true."
I picked up a hard and yellowish fruit. It was dry and had an odd consistency that reminded me of ramen noodles right out of the package. It was practically flavorless and it left my mouth dry. Then I munched on several berries that prot called "manga" berries from a planet he called M-REN. There was a very large and sweet fruit called a pola, which was purple with green lines, and almost one third the size of a watermelon. Prot and I split one in half since there was no way I could finish it on my own.
Not long after my stomach began to grumble and I was distressed to find that the basin was our only source of plumbing for now. There was no way to flush, and basically it was a round thin rim, so sitting on it too long would could cut the circulation in my legs off. I had such a need that holding it wasn't an option, so I arranged my self as comfortably as I could and let it go. Prot didn't even bother looking up, and from what I understood of his life on K-PAX I wasn't too embarrassed either way.
"It's perfectly natural gene," prot said simply. "When you gotta go, you gotta go."
"You know this sort of reminds me of my first time in Japan," I said. "The toilets there are mostly built into the floor you know."
"Many native tribes use latrines far away from the water source." Prot explained. "We dremers never worried about such pointless trivialities anyway. We eat and we poop. The poop is so enriched with nutrients from the vegetation and fruits that we eat that it actually nurtures the ground and bigger better vegetables grow in it. Most beings throughout the GALAXY choose this largely uninhibited fashion."
"You mean dremers never try to squat beside a tree?" I asked, grunting a little.
"Only if it's convenient geno."
"Well when you got to Earth it must have been tough to have to suddenly hold it until an appropriate time."
"A little," prot admitted. "But the beauty part with Earth is that it's such a big place that there's always a place to go. Plus humans are very skiddish about their privacy and what they like to see, so I got used to using toilets fairly quickly. Robert needed to show me everything at first, and it was real fun listening to the flushing sound of the drain pipes. It wasn't until someone on K-PAX explained to me the dangers of using a system like that that I began to dislike it. Toilet paper is a good idea, on the other hand, since it can break down and return to the soil."
I didn't see the harm in asking, and frankly it took my mind off of things, so I didn't hold back. "Well, how did you clean up afterwards without toilet paper?"
There was the Cheshire cat grin again. "Usually a few leaves do the trick. Otherwise we just go around and not worry about it. Dremer fecal matter doesn't smell that bad anyway and we don't have that much water to begin with so we're not familiar with the "constantly fresh" feeling that you humans have come to love.
We spent most of the time talking about alien bathroom habits. I still had quite a ways to go before I was done so I just sat there and did my best to remain comfortable. Eventually prot had to use it as well and we just at side by side as comfortable with each other's presence as brothers.
I cleaned myself up using the hygeneray, which wasn't a bad improvement on the old fashioned way. Then I spent the next few hours in sleep, dreaming of my good old planet Earth.