- The Truth Hurts When You're Dead
- The Night of Tangible Delights
"Bless this new day, and bless you old friend," uttered Vehster, as he did everyday when entering the dining hall and greeting his friend Gleiane.
"Good day, and good feast," replied Gleiane, who sat at the breakfast table waiting for Vehster to arrive.
The two men sat down to enjoy a large breakfast complete with all of their favourite foods. "Bacon, BACON ... how can I concentrate with all this bacon around." Vehster was quoting from one of the many television shows that the men had watched together over the years.
Gleiane recognized the quote and responded, "You wouldn't have so many problems if you just kept your finger out of there." The two men laughed and continued to joke and eat until they were sufficiently full.
This breakfast ritual played out every morning -- not just because the men lived together -- but also because they were the last survivors of their tribes. In fact, they were the only living beings left on the planet.
Vehster and Gleiane grew up in separate tribes on a world full of incredibly advanced technology. All the necessities of life were at their fingertips. If you wanted something to eat, you simply went to the food machine and asked for it. If you were hurt, there was an array of medical devices that could heal almost any wound and cure almost any sickness. And they had a limitless supply of energy to power all their wonderful devices.
However, the scientific knowledge that had created these devices had somehow been lost to their society long ago. The children were taught how to use the devices to get what they wanted, and that is where their education ended. Almost all higher forms of thought and knowledge were nonexistent. Some people believed that all the technology had been created by an alien race, but no one knew for certain. In fact, most people didn't bother to think about where the devices came from, they just took them for granted and continued with their daily lives.
The people of this world live their lives according to two simple beliefs:
1. Your life belongs to your tribe, so you must always be loyal to your tribe.
2. Food must be celebrated, and you must never eat alone.
Like most of their history, the origins of these beliefs was not known, but everyone accepted them as absolute truths. There were no consequences given for disobeying these beliefs, it was simply inconceivable to consider any other possibility. In the entire known history of their society there wasn't a single documented case of anyone going against the sacred beliefs -- not even once. Of course, there wasn't much of anything documented in their history, but nevertheless, everyone strictly followed these beliefs.
Vehster and Gleiane both had happy childhoods living with their tribes. Since the technology provided everything they needed, no one had any duties or responsibilities, so everyone spent their time playing games and sports, as well as accessing the library.
The library was full of many forms of entertainment including, music, literature, movies, and much more. Of course, no one knew who had created all the content in the library, and no one had any interest in adding to the library, so everyone just enjoyed the same things over and over again. Both Vehster and Gleiane were particularly fond of the television shows.
However, everyone's favourite activity was eating. Every meal was a feast and a celebration. The technology that created the food was so advanced that everything tasted delicious, while at the same time, was totally healthy for you. You could eat until you were full -- and then eat some more -- and you still wouldn't experience any negative effects.
It was eating that lead to one of the most important events in Vehster and Gleiane's lives. In fact, it was basically the only significant historical event that either Vehster or Gleiane could remember. However, since they were both fairly young when the event took place, neither of them could remember exactly what happened.
All they could remember was that their tribes had gotten together for a feast, and at some point during the celebration one of the tribe chiefs had insulted the other. The situation quickly escalated, and before anyone could stop the chiefs, they had sworn their tribes to a blood oath to eliminate the other.
Unfortunately for everyone, the technology on the planet also included advanced weaponry, and within hours, the two tribes had not only wiped each other out, but had rendered almost all life forms on the planet extinct. The details had been forgotten, but somehow Vehster and Gleiane had managed to survive.
This left the two men in a difficult position. Each man was the last survivor of his respective tribe. Both tribes had sworn an oath to eliminate the other. And both men absolutely believed that you must be loyal to your tribe. However, both men also believed that you must not eat alone, and since they were the only life forms left on the planet, that meant that they would have to eat together.
They were stuck between being loyal to their tribes -- which would require them to try to kill each other -- and needing someone to share their meals with -- which meant that they could not kill each other.
So for the past sixteen years, the two men have eaten every meal together, and spent every other waking moment fighting each other to the death -- being very careful not to actually kill each other. Which really wasn't that difficult, partly because they spent so much time eating that there wasn't much time left to fight, but also because they had such advanced medical technology that they could easily be brought back to perfect health after each fight.
But the men didn't just eat together, they believed that eating must be celebrated, so every meal was still treated as a joyous occasion, and as such, the two men had experienced many enjoyable moments together over the years.
Every day the two men followed the same routine. They would start the day with a large breakfast and then go to one of the places they liked to use for their battles, and proceed to fight. They generally stuck with very basic weapons, consisting mostly of blunt or bladed items.
Before long the men would cease fighting and go back to the dinning hall -- stopping at the infirmary if needed -- and then eat brunch, which would be followed by another round of fighting. This would continue through lunch, dinner, supper, and sometimes -- although not always -- a late night snack. Finally the men would adjourn to their separate bedrooms to rest up for the next day.
This day began just as all the others had, but everything changed when Vehster saw something outside the window as the two men were heading back to the dinning hall for dinner.
"Do you see that?" Vehster asked, pointing out the window.
"Yes," replied Gleiane. "It looks like the spaceship from that movie with the huge green aliens that ended up eating everyone."
"Was that the one where the people were stuck out on the water because their boat was disabled?"
"No, it took place in a farming community."
"Are you sure?" questioned Vehster, "I thought the aliens were attacking a big city."
"Fine, it was a boat in the middle of a city. The movie doesn't matter, we are about to get attacked by huge green aliens," Gleiane said with a mixture of anxiety and frustration.
"Maybe they aren't huge, green, man-eating aliens, maybe they are more like the ones from that other movie -- you know -- the ones with the glowing fingers. They were pretty cool."
"Look at that ship. Does that look like a ship full of glowing-finger aliens?" Gleiane pointed at the space ship that was now close enough for the men to be able to clearly see the menacing outer hull.
"Well, no, but I don't remember what their ship looked like." Vehster saw Gleiane giving him a look -- a look that Vehster had seen many times over the years -- that said that Gleiane was through discussing the matter, so Vehster decided to give in. "Fine, maybe you're right. So what do we do about it?"
"We get our weapons and we take care of those green aliens before they get us," replied Gleiane, already rushing towards the armory.
The men armed themselves with some of their most powerful weapons and then headed outside just in time to see the spaceship landing outside their home. Gleiane powered up his weapons and prepared for the worst. "This is it -- get ready," Gleiane shouted over to Vehster.
"Be careful," Vehster said back to Gleiane.
As the spaceship's doors began to open Vehster and Gleiane readied themselves to face the hideous, green, man-eating aliens. However, the door opened to reveal the most beautiful woman either man had ever seen, which caused a rather profound reaction on both their emotional and physical states, since neither man had seen a woman in over a decade.
"You can put down your weapons boys," assured the woman, "I mean you no harm."
If Vehster or Gleiane had ever heard another language in their lives, they might have been surprised that the woman spoke the same language as them, but since the two men had no concept of language, they didn't take much notice of the odd coincidence. The men were however, very surprised -- and pleased -- to see that the woman looked very much like the women of their world.
"I am Jula," the woman said while giving a slight bow towards the men, "and who are you?"
"I am Vehster and this is Gleiane," Vehster quickly replied. "Welcome to our home."
"Thank you," Jula said smiling back at Vehster, "you're very kind." Jula looked around at the barren terrain that surrounded her in all directions. "Are you two alone on this planet?"
"Yes, it has been just the two of us for a long time now."
"Were there others here before?" Jula asked.
"That is a long story, one that should not be told on an empty stomach," explained Gleiane. "Why don't you join us for dinner."
The men lead Jula into the dinning hall where they sat down to a typical feast. They explained to Jula about the technology that provided their food. Jula was amazed by the incredibly advanced technology that Vehster and Gleiane had access to, although, Jula seemed to understand more about it than the men did.
Jula was very interested to find out what had happened to everyone else on the planet, but Vehster and Gleiane were more interested in Jula, so they glossed over most of the details of the war that had lead to the near total extinction of life on their home world.
"Where are you from Jula?" asked Vehster.
"I'm from a planet far from here," began Jula, "it's full of advanced technology - but not nearly like what you have hear -- and nearly everyone there is obsessed with science. In other words -- it's a very boring place for a wild girl like me. So I left several years ago to find adventure, and passion, and excitement. I haven't been back in a very long time."
"And did you find what you were looking for?" asked Gleiane.
"Oh yes, I've had many exciting adventures, and plenty of ... " Jula paused as her thoughts filled with old memories -- memories that she didn't want to remember just then, "... yes, I did."
"Tell us about your adventures," Vehster asked, excited to hear a new story.
"Those are long stories."
"We've got plenty of time -- look at all the food that still needs to be eaten."
"Well, if you really want to hear about it -- I guess it all started when I met up with Captain Falderm of the notorious Red Sight crew. Now there was a man full of excitement and passion. In the end he may have been a little too passionate. He could never resist an opportunity to 'right the injustices in the universe', as he put it, and it got him in a lot of trouble. But traveling with him was a lot of fun, in more ways than one."
Jula went on to tell the two men a few of her many stories of adventure. About how she had worked as a smuggler, and how she nearly died trying to defend a small colony from the dominion of the Guialantar. Vehster and Gleiane were totally captivated listening to Jula's story, even if they were slightly distracted every time Jula leaned over to reach for another strawberry from the table.
"I think Captain Falderm was right -- you have to do what you believe is right, no matter what the cost," Vehster commented, after listening to Jula's stories.
"Well, maybe so, but sometimes there are nasty consequences. I personally prefer things that have pleasant consequences, like, as a consequence of landing on this planet, I get to eat all this wonderful food," Jula said as she reached for yet another strawberry.
"There is plenty more where those came from," encouraged Gleiane as he gestured to all the remaining food on the table.
"Actually, I think I've probably had enough. In fact, I think it's just about time for me to call it a night," Jula said as she slowly got up from the table. "I have to leave in the morning, but if you guys would like to come with me, I can take you to some other planet, somewhere that is actually populated.
"That would be great," replied Gleiane.
"Yes - I would really enjoy getting a chance to meet more people like you," said Vehster excitedly.
"I don't think you'll ever find anyone quite like me," boasted Jula, "but you'll certainly have the chance to meet a lot of people where I'm going."
"We are deeply grateful for your kind gesture, and we shall see you in the morning for a delightful breakfast before we leave," Gleiane said with genuine gratitude towards Jula.
"Excellent - I'll see you then," Jula said, cheerfully imagining all the wonderful food she would have. Then she went back to her ship, leaving the two men alone in the dinning hall.
"It seems this is our last night together in this place," Gleiane said to Vehster.
"Yes," replied Vehster, "we've had many good times here, but it's time for a change, and I for one am looking forward to it."
"This chapter of our lives is almost over," said Gleiane as he looked around the dinning hall where the two men had enjoyed so many wondrous feasts. Then Gleiane looked at his old friend Vehster, "just one last entry to add before we close the book."
Vehster was silent for a moment as he looked back at Gleiane. The reality of their situation had begun to sink in, and the moment became very serious for the two men. "I'm ready for my new life to begin," declared Vehster.
"I'm sure it will be glorious."
"Goodbye," Vehster said trying to suppress the emotions inside him, "you will always be my true friend."
"I'll never be far away," said Gleiane. With that, the men left the dinning hall and went to their rooms to enjoy one last good sleep.
The next morning Jula returned to the dining hall to find the table once again full of a seemingly endless indulgence of treats. Vehster was waiting patiently for her to arrive so they could begin the feast.
"Where's Gleiane," Jula asked.
Vehster turned to Jula, and for the first time he looked her right in the eyes. "Gleiane was a truly honourable man, always fun to be around -- even when he was being stubborn -- and he loved to eat. I could hardly imagine a better person to spend the last sixteen years with. Gleiane was also a great fighter, but on this day, I was victorious. My good friend Gleiane is dead, and now my duty to my tribe is complete."