Ahmed A. Khan


            Bleerbo Gumblum had an exceptionally long nose and an exceptionally short tail and was considered to be one of the wisest male creatures of the sentient species on the planet Valigh.
            Once, when Bleerbo was quite young and not so wise, a few incautious words from his mouth had caused a minor disaster on Valigh. In order not to cause Bleerbo Gumblum undue embarrassment, we will not go into details either about Gumblum's words or about the disaster that ensued. Suffice it to say that the day after the disaster, Bleerbo Gumblum, grim decision writ large on his face, swore. "Damn, damn, damn, damn," he said.
            Then he swore: "I, Bleerbo Gumblum, hereby swear that I shall not speak another word again, unless it becomes absolutely necessary to do so."
            Soon after that, he took his tachyonic spaceship and became what could be called the social worker of the spaceways. Planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy, he moved, helping people, saving lives, redeeming himself... and never finding the necessity to speak a word.
            He prevented war on at least two planets.
            First, there was the planet Linglora. On Linglora there lived two sentient races. One was a race of four-footed two-handed reptiles and the other was a race of two-footed four-handed reptiles. There was a most bloody sort of war going on between them. Swords rose and fell. Limbs flew through the air like nobody's business.
            Then, right in the midst of the war, landed Bleerbo Gumblum. One look at him and the chieftains of the warring factions, not to mention the other soldiers, ran babbling to hide behind the skirts of their respective mothers. This reaction was normal enough when you consider the fact that the Linglorans (who are themselves about five inches high when standing on their toes) had never in their lives seen anything higher than fifteen inches, and Bleerbo had the stately height of about thirty odd feet. The Linglorans were so unnerved at the experience that for at least twenty years after the fateful day, there was no war on Linglora.
            And Bleerbo had not spoken a word.
            On Plant Corruga, war was prevented in quite an oblique manner. As Bleerbo's tachyonic ship neared the planet, its psychotelemetric instruments started collected and evaluating data about the planet and its inhabitants. Bleerbo looked through the data, traced the whole network of causes and effects of an imminent war and decided that the right thing to do was to land on the planet and pluck a fruit from a tree.
            The young warlord of the biggest warring faction of Corruga was taking a stroll through the woods, his mind occupied with schemes of throwing his country into a major war so that his powers as the warlord would increase ten-fold, at least.
            The deep reverie of the young warlord was rudely interrupted by a sound never before heard on the planet Corruga - the sound of a tachyonic ship emerging into normal space-time and landing on a planet amid the soft, long-drawn sigh of neutron jets. The young warlord, lost in wonder, watched the ship come down in a clearing in the woods. Out of the ship emerged a strange entity with a short tail and a long nose. This entity walked to a wandinoga tree, plucked a white and yellow fruit from the tree and, with the fruit in its hand, walked back to the ship. Then the ship was gone.
            Imagination fired with wonder, the young Corrugan came home from the woods, resigned from his position as the country's warlord and went on to become the planet's most famous writer of science fiction and epic fantasy.
            And Bleerbo Gumblum had not spoken a word.
            One of the strangest incidents of Bleerbo's life took place at a region about half a billion light years away from Valigh.
            While moving through tachyonic space-time, Bleerbo felt something from the normal space-time tugging at his brain. Suddenly, a feeling of intense loneliness invaded his heart and mind.
            Totally mystified, Bleerbo, with the help of his psychotelemetric instruments, set course for the source of the mental tugging. His ship emerged from tachyonic space-time into a deep deep darkness of normal space-time. There was nothing to be seen for light years, no planet, no star, no galaxy. Who or what was it that tugged at his brain? The feeling of loneliness was almost unbearable. Bleerbo checked the psychotelemetric data again. The conclusions surprised even Bleerbo.
            Very close to his ship lay a huge sphere of peculiarity; a region where the natural laws of space and time seemed to have been bent quite out of shape, where the fourth dimension of time could actually be observed and measured as a spatial dimension. Within this region Bleerbo found four sentient intelligent and good-natured creatures, two males and two females, floating in space. Due to the peculiarity of the space and time in that region, Bleerbo could see the entire life of each of the four creatures. Each of them appeared to him as a long worm, with one end showing the creature at birth and the other at death.
            Strangeness of the scenario aside, what was wrong with it was the fact that there was no point of contact between the four worms. Interpreted in normal space-time terms, this would mean that each of the four creatures had lived its entire life in total isolation, never coming in contact with any other living being.
            The feeling of utter loneliness which emanated from these creatures was, thus, not at all surprising.
            How had the four creatures come into being in the first place? Yet another unsolved mystery, thought Bleerbo, among the myriad unsolved mysteries of creation.
            Bleerbo knew what he had to do next. He manipulated the tachyonic controls on his ship in a certain way so that the space for a few thousands of miles around the ship pulsed once. It seemed to contract to a point and then bounce back to its original size. In the process of the contraction of space, the four worms meshed with each other, forming relationships and, when the space-time was returned to normal, the sphere of peculiarity was filled with a colourful lattice-work of millions and millions of worms, all offsprings of the relationships formed by the first four worms.
            The wonderful sight filled Bleerbo with gladness but nary a word did he speak.
            Then there was the planet called Smak. The whole planet could be called a gigantic solid-state transistor. It was alive. It fed on sound. It gathered sound from millions of miles of surrounding space, digested certain necessary frequencies and excreted the unwanted sounds back into space.
            Here, Bleerbo saved the day by invented earmuffs with 99.9% efficiency for the sentient inhabitants of Smak's neighbouring planet, Slak.
            And so it went - for a million years, at a million places. Bleerbo the wise, formerly of Valigh, toured the universe, saving lives, saving cultures, sowing seeds of peace in soils torn with war... and never speaking a word.
            Then, he chanced upon a star called Sol. Here, on Earth, the third planet from the star, he found sentient life. His psychotelemetric instruments started bringing him data on the planet and on the sentient creatures who lived on it.
            It was a strange place, perhaps the strangest Bleerbo had ever come across. The surface of the planet was divided, due to some strange reason, into more than an hundred parts of different sizes and shapes. Each part had a different name but collectively, they were called 'countries'. The funny thing was that these divisions were not physical. They were just lines drawn across the map of the planet's surface. But, if his interpretation of the data was correct, the people of the planet took these lines quite seriously. They even killed for these lines.
            With a growing sense of confusion, Bleerbo observed.
            Alive at places on the planet was an abominable something called 'racism'. When Bleerbo tried to define it in his own terms, he got sick and had to throw up.
            In one country, there was famine. Men, women and children were dying of hunger. And in another country, thousands of tons of eggs and wheat were being intentionally destroyed "to stabilize the economy". Bleerbo marveled at the phrase. Each word of the phrase, taken individually, had a meaning, but the phrase itself was totally meaningless. What a paradox. Earth seemed full of such paradoxes, contrasts and contradictions.
            In the ocean near a country called Japan, there was a small-scale battle between two ships. On one of the ships were whale-hunters. On the other were those who wanted to protect the whales. In another place, there was a civil war going on. People died. No one tried to protect them.
            Moment by moment, all collectible data was collected. Bleerbo observed, noted, interpreted.
            Then it was that a historic moment came, a moment when the million year silence of Bleerbo Gumblum was broken... the silence that had been maintained in the face of countless wonders and horrors of the vast, vast universe.
            For the first time in a million years, Bleerbo Gumblum felt that he
had to speak.
            For the first time ina million years, Bleerbo Gumblum spoke.
            "Oh bloody hell!" he said and turned his ship back home.

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