Every time Arthur Wazu got sexually excited his ear lobes turned lavender. This had just happened in the central power station, so he roller-skated back to his captain’s quarters to rest. Wazu, breathless, lay back on the floating seat affixed to a plastic chain next to a large window. A brilliant red star shone through the window. Wazu began a meditation. Visualizing a cantelope, he let all the air out of his upper body. The ship’s mental hygienist, Dr. Dick, interrupted Wazu. Wazu liked Dr. Dick. But he feared him somewhat. Under fleet rules in that century, mental hygienists were given veto rights over what the Book of Instructions described as “critical and less than critical” decisions of spaceship commanders. (The following century it was back to Tarot Card readers to provide the check.) Wazu was a man of firm, independent action. Indeed, he often compared himself to Montezuma. He considered Montezuma the best emperor ever.
“Before I die,” Wazu was telling Dr. Dick, “I’d like to own a cow.”
It had been many years on the space trail for Fleet Ship TR-2, and Wazu, and the crew. They had gone a zillion miles, perhaps two zillion, to do their mission at the far reaches of the galaxy, to find, and speak to, God. The objective was to find out why living things crave affection.
Meanwhile, two members of the crew had been killed on the comet Googol, getting water. Three had passed away on the planet Sturgis. One crewman was shot while trying to slay Wazu.
And Wazu had fallen in love with a chimp, the one he had seen again, down in the power plant. Her name was Doris. The fleet had long frowned upon co-mingling between the crew and test animals. However, that policy was just beginning to change.
“What’s going on with you Wazu?” asked Dr. Dick.
“I was just trying to get to that when you barged into here,” said Wazu.
An alarm sounded over the spaceship’s emergency system. It was like the wailing sound of two cracked bassoons.
Wazu and Dr. Dick skated as fast as they could to the control room. The strobe lights were flickering. Everybody was blinking with the lights. The ship’s vice commander, Louella Gungreis, had an expression of sheer panic.
Wazu liked Louella. She frequently operated from a level of panic. He himself was quite often hysterical.
Louella was a Freemason. She often taunted Wazu with some of the secrets of Freemasonry. Wazu didn’t care. He took it in stride. Louella was an older woman. 1,632 years old. There was once a time when earth people lived for just a finite span. But, of course, spare parts had long extended everyone’s life infinitely, unless there was a bad accident and parts couldn’t be found in time, warehouses closed, a weekend, etc.
“What’s happening, Louella?” Wazu asked.
“Who can tell?” she replied.
“I fear we are going down,” said Dr. Dick solemnly.
“Going down where?” said Louella.
“I just get the distinct physical impression that we’re going down,” said Dr. Dick.
“To me it feels we’re going sideways,” said Commander Wazu.
“In fact, to me it feels like we’re always going sideways,” said Louella. She added, “Which side do you think?”
“To me it feels like we’re going to my right side,” said Wazu.
“You mean your starboard side?” said Louella Gungreis.
“I’m mixed up,” said Wazu. Wazu never could remember which was starboard. “My right side,” he repeated.
“To me it feels like down,” said Dr. Dick.
As the three of them bickered, a faint pink glow appeared in the control room. The flickering strobe lights went out altogether. There was a voice, a loud, harsh voice with a pronounced South Seas accent.
“Good morning TR-2” said the voice. “What, might I ask, are you doing in this part of the galaxy?”
Wazu took the microphone on the ship’s transmitter, cleared his voice, and declared: “I am Commander Arthur S. Wazu, the captain of TR-2. Who is addressing me?”
“I am number 1,300,” said the voice.
Wazu thought he had heard the voice before.
“Number 1,300,” said the commander, “have we met before?”
There was no reply. The pink light faded away, the strobe lights came on and stayed lit. Wazu fell back on his captain’s console, took a cigar, lit it and took a deep drag.
For the next couple of days there was one of those heat waves that come up from time to time in space. Everybody on board was sweating profusely. On the third day it happened.
Wazu was in his cabin, looking at an Ektachrome of Montezuma and singing to himself an ancient Aztec song, when a deep, pervasive trance, unlike the commander had ever known, overcame him.
He felt himself hurtling in a spiral, back to the time of finite life and through his multiple reincarnations of that time.
Pow — on his ass Commander Wazu was flung, and there, smack in front of him, was the biggest cactus Wazu had ever seen.
“What’s happening?” he said, scratching his head. It appeared to be a desert landscape. He put his hand into the ground and let it run through his fingers: it was the consistency of lumpy sand. There was not a sound but for the hushed, occasional whistle of the wind.
After some time, he saw something near the horizon. It took two hours before it came close enough for Wazu to see clearly that it was a man and a donkey. The man looked exactly like Dr. Dick. Wazu felt an immediate sexual attraction to the donkey. He found himself talking in a strange language, Aztec with a marked South Tenochtitlan accent.
“Stranger,” Wazu heralded the newcomer.
“Yes sir,” replied the stranger.
“Where am I?” said Wazu.
“You are on the Desert of Prunes. You have displeased the priests and they have put you here to dry out.”
“What have I done?”
“I don’t know,” said the stranger.
“Might I follow you and your ass and go and see?” said Wazu.
“Yes, but stay away from my ass,” said the stranger, seeing Wazu leering at his donkey.
For three days they marched until they came to a little stream and followed it up to a river and finally to a little town, West Mansfield, along the river. The high priests of West Mansfield were awaiting the two.
A particularly ugly high priest in purple robes covered with stars and graffiti and various buttons looked sternly at Wazu. The high priest evoked the name of Quetzalcoatl again and again.
“This man is plenty pissed,” Wazu told the man with the donkey, who differed slightly from Dr. Dick, Wazu noticed, in that one of his eyes didn’t point straight ahead but focused sharply inwards.
When all the yelling and screaming and uttering the name of Quetzacoatl died down, Wazu had a grasp of what it was all about. Indeed, to reinforce the priest’s story a woman was dragged out of the town’s big pyramid and brought to the high priest. The woman looked exactly like Louella Gungreis, thought Wazu, not as old, 1,283 years, less maybe.
The woman was Wazu’s wife and she was to have been a virgin sacrifice, the priest said, to Quetzalcoatl. Wazu had objected and had interrupted the ceremony on top of the pyramid, just as the high priest and his friends were going to take Mrs. Wazu’s heart out.
Wazu woke up with a start. There was the real Dr. Dick staring at him.
“Take one of these,” said Dr. Dick. It was a bluish-tinged mushroom.
Again, Wazu went hurtling back in time. This time he found himself in Egypt. He was dressed in white silk, walking the courtyard of a great and spacious palace. He was the Pharaoh’s son, and he was refusing to marry his sister.
There was the Pharoah looking at him with the searing passion of morality in his eyes.
“Now why is this, why can you not follow tradition?” said the Pharaoh.
Wazu said he wanted to, but thought his sister was a creep.
“Boy, you betray our belief,” said the Pharoah.
“There are limits to keeping things in the family,” Wazu protested.
He found himself being actually carried, by two of the Pharaoh’s biggest brutes. They tossed him in a room with his sister, who looked exactly like Louella Gungreis, perhaps 1,600 years ago.
Dr. Dick’s cherubic face loomed down on Wazu as the space commander came out of it.
“Well, what do you say Wazu?” said Dr. Dick.
“It is time to go on,” said Wazu. “We must fly on, The Truth is close at hand.”
Wazu got out of his floating seat, tied up his space suit and he and Dr. Dick skated to the elevator and took it to the control room. Louella Gungreis was the officer in charge. She nodded as Commander Wazu and Dr. Dick entered the room.
“We have been encountering turbulence,” said Gungreis. “I think we will soon break away from this heat wave.”
“Terrific,” said Commander Wazu.
Wazu pulled out a cigar and lit it up. On the huge video screen meteorites would occasionally flash by. Here and there a planetoid, a flying horse, sometimes a comet. Wazu had always liked the scenery of the galaxy. He could spend days just watching it pass by.
Suddenly, filling the screen were two huge eyes. That was all, just two huge eyes.
The spaceship seemed to come to a stop.
“Strangers!” bellowed the eyes.
“Hi there,” said Wazu, grabbing the microphone. He announced himself and the ship.
“We are looking for God,” said Wazu.
“I am his brother-in-law,” said the eyes.
“Fine,” said Wazu.
“What would you like?” the eyes asked.
“We have been sent to the far reaches of the cosmos,” said Wazu, “to find, and speak to, God and find out why living things crave affection.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said the eyes.
The huge blue globes dissolved. For a day and a half things returned to normal on TR-2. There were the joys, the good times, and also the heartbreak of spaceship travel. Wazu found that Doris had fallen in love with another chimp, with whom she was pregnant.
Precisely at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the big blue eyes returned, and the gigantic TR-2 space vehicle again was stopped dead.
“Through time,” said the big blue eyes, “living things have craved affection.”
“We know that,” said Wazu, “but why?”
“Why not?” said the eyes.