Planetary Explorers Confounded By Giant Enigma

Don’t mess with the Giant.

We learned that fundamental rule very early in our stay here. The natives take their god seriously.

“Do Not Touch” is a simpler way to put it.

Our lesson came the hard way. Six of our best people were killed on the first expedition to the Giant – felled by the otherwise most congenial people we have ever encountered on our planetary explorations.

0025sign Signs of Trouble

We don’t know whether the Giant is animal, vegetable or mineral. It was visible from orbit upon our arrival, which was the primary reason we set down here. The giant rules the horizon, driving us crazy with its nearby unknowability.

The giant appears to be worshiped by the planet’s primitive humanoids. We’ve been close enough to see the structures erected at its feet. Temples?

We’ve observed that some of those who march, single-file to the temples every four planetary rotations don’t always come back. Sacrifices?

Theories about the nature of the Giant abound, as one might expect in a scientific community denied access to the focal point of its curiosity and further hampered by an incredibly hostile environment.

A few of us speculate that the Giant is a natural landscape feature, mindlessly forged by the same forces that shaped the planet as whole.

Unlikely.

The least discerning eye cannot escape the detail of the Giant’s sagging face and posture. Random elements of nature could not create that figure.

More likely. The Giant is a mountain, painstakingly transformed, Mount Rushmore-style, as a tribute to some fallen hero from the planetary past.

Yet, the inhabitants to not appear to have the technological means to create such a monument.

That leads to my pet theory: The giant was a living being. He was a member of a king-sized race which preceded the current dominant species.

Slumped in despair at the demise of the rest of his kind, he was the final victim of an ice age that suddenly engulfed his world.

I am alone in this flight of fantasy. Most scientists, meaning those who are not me, require empirical data to support a hypothesis and form a theory. I had gone straight to theory.

I argued that, completely lacking scientific evidence for any theory explaining the giant’s existence, my conclusion was as valid as any other. As highly-educated and rational people, my fellow expedition members refrained from burning me at the stake, but I could read the look of dismissal in their eyes whenever we met.

Then came the awakening.

I had taken advantage of a toasty, minus 40-degree day to make a solo trek to an ice ridge about a quarter-mile from camp when the ground abruptly heaved and tossed me on my face. Somehow, I did not feel surprised when I looked back to see that the giant had risen and was facing the camp.

He did not look pleased.

I watched in horrified fascination as the giant strode purposefully toward the camp. The ground shook with each step.

When he reached the camp, he paused to look down on those who had invaded his domain. The entire expedition had grouped at the edge of the camp, staring up at the giant with, I assumed, an intense, scientific thirst for knowledge.

I cupped my hands and shouted in their direction.

“Ha! I told you so!”

Big mistake. As my words of vindication still echoed across the barren landscape, the giant squashed all of my colleagues with one well-placed foot.

Now, he’s coming in my direction. I wonder if I can somehow convey “I believe in you, Mister Giant,”  when he gets here.

 

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The Pedestrians

In the beginning, well, a long time ago, anyway, were the Anabaptists; and the Anabaptists begot the Mennonites; and the Mennonites begot the Amish; and the Amish begot the religion known as the Pedestrians.

The Amish split from the Mennonites during the late 17th century over disagreements in, among other things, the practice of foot washing. The Pedestrians left their Amish brethren in early 19th century, following another podiatric dispute. While the Amish condoned the use of horse and buggy, the more conservative among them felt that if God had intended humans to travel recklessly about on wheels, He would not have given them feet.

pedestrians onlyWanting to move beyond buggy range of the wild Amish, yet mindful of their only sanctioned mode of travel limitations, 13 Pedestrian families trekked south in 1815 and settled in a area north of Freeland, Maryland. The settlement is known to its residents simply as “home,” although today’s tourists commonly call it the “Pedestrian Zone.”

The community, now numbering approximately 2,000 souls, has survived if not flourished. Current members of the faith are all direct descendants of the original 13 families. Converts are not accepted, and outsiders, “Yankees,” to the Pedestrians, may not live among them. Contact with the Yankee world is not encouraged. Largely self-sufficient, the Pedestrians produce their own food, clothing and shelter. They school their own children, tend their own sick and field their own semi-professional football teams.

By Pedestrian law, no wheeled vehicles are permitted within the community: no cars, no wagons, no rollerblades, no baby buggies, no rolling suitcases. Horses are used to pull plows, but they may not be ridden. All travel within the community is along a network of footpaths.

The paths are intentionally wide enough to accommodate only one walker. Whenever members of the faith traveling in opposite directions meet on a path, one must step aside and initiate the traditional Pedestrian exchange by saying: “Good day, my friend, what’s afoot?” The other must respond with: “We are, my friend; we are.” Both then continue on their opposite ways.

The faith has not been without problems. Although the foot is revered in Pedestrian teachings, it is not worshiped. Foot fetishism is strictly verboten. Any member who appears to be growing overly enamored of the foot must face the dreaded “Circle of Toe Jam.”

In this interventional procedure, the transgressor is placed in the center of a circle of back-facing chairs. Following a long, hard day in the fields, the Pedestrian elders enter the room, remove their boots and position themselves on the chairs so that their legs are propped on the chair backs with their feet dangling toward the center of the circle. Thus surrounded by a veritable forest of hideous and odoriferous appendages, the errant member quickly loses all lust for the foot and is allowed to leave the circle.

More trouble looms on the horizon for the Pedestrians. Tiptoeing among the faithful is a growing faction which believes that if God had intended for His children to lumber ungracefully about on their feet, He would not have given them toes.

Adapted from Truth Is An Amusing Concept