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WELLS'S QUEST

Dreamed 1992/7/14 by Chris Wayan

I'm on a world inhabited by hobbits. I'm neither human nor hobbit, but an alien tourist. Their world, called Isuza, is a member of the galactic federation, but not that many tourists come here, so I do stand out.

An illegal alien is on the loose, and they want me to find him.

I've forgotten the chase, but I do catch the creature at last.

It's a human. A human by the name of H. G. Wells. Perched on his Victorian time machine, all brass and crystal, like a Byzantine bicycle that sprouted curling tendrils of gold and silver wire. Time and space are a continuum; is it any wonder, once he mastered time, that he'd turn to space?

I explain to the hobbits that "I know this being. He's a writer of fables about space- and time-travel that provoked his species to send up their first spacepods" (hobbitese for satellites).

Human readers may find it odd that I'd ignore the fifty or sixty year gap between Wells's space books and the space program, but change here is slow, for hobbits like stability. Half a century will look like nothing to a hobbit, if anyone bothers to check.

H.G. explains he didn't just blunder in here. For his quest, this is the best of all possible worlds. "I needed to find a rare species. Unlike all other known species of hobbits, your people, when young, are thin but nearly as tall as me, correct? You go through metamorphosis and come out short and stout--er, excuse me, normal-sized. With tall, slender young, you instinctively want to nurture and teach tall, immature creatures, and you're well-known as excellent tutors for the tall fledglings of the Stork People. That symbiotic relationship has worked out well for you both. Now, those people are much the same height as my own, and so I've come here hoping your people will feel at least a shadow of the same instinctive drive to teach MY people! You see, I need hobbits who will come with me to Earth. We need you to teach us where our Ring is."

I'm shocked. The One Ring, the Ring of Power in Tolkien's book? A horrible Ring--the ring of Power-Over.

My face shows... Wells says, "No, no, not THAT ring. This is a different species of hobbit."

The hobbits are still getting over their own astonishment. "Your people... you LOST your Ring of External Awareness?" They're barely able to conceive of a species so irresponsible. And how could humans have survived without it? A ringless people, they explain, "will only be concerned with their own species' status games--politics, money, fame." "They're blind to the state of other species, or of the world." "Turned inward. A snake eating itself!" "Either war or eco-crash, every time."

H. G. Wells snorts from his crystal saddle. "Lose it? We never HAD one, as far as we know. Never knew they existed till we met other races and found they all had the concept. And had the rings to prove it. But MY species--if we have a Ring at all--has NEVER been able to recognize it.

"I'm hoping you will."

I hope the hobbits say yes. H. G. Wells was often wrong in practice (like his uncritical faith in central planning) but he was one of the first humans to consider the welfare of his planet as a whole. A behavior that, in Galactic terms, that makes him... normal.

For a Human--a Ringless creature--it makes him a rarity. It damn near makes him a saint.



LISTS AND LINKS: I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-species dreams - aliens - hobbits - other worlds - H.G. Wells - time travel - Tolkien - rings of power - politics - duty and responsibility - ecology - a related dream: Escape From PBS!

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