There was a polite beeping from the Thing. "You may be interested to know," it said, "that we've broken the sound barrier." Masklin turned wearily to the others. "All right, own up. Who broke it?"
Beyond the top of the sky was the place the Thing had called the universe. It contained -- according to the Thing -- everything and nothing. And there was very little everything and more nothing than anyone could imagine.
- "The other humans around it are trying to explain to it what a planet is."
- "Doesn't it know?"
- "Many humans don't. Mistervicepresident is one of them."
AIRPORTS: A place where people hurry up and wait.
"I thought jet planes were just trucks with more wings and less wheels."
Nomes live ten times faster than humans. They're harder to see than a high- speed mouse. That's one reason why most humans hardly ever see them. The other is that humans are very good at not seeing things they know aren't there. And, since sensible humans know that there are no such things as people four inches high, a nome who doesn't want to be seen probably won't be seen.
And then there were the frogs. Very, very small frogs. They had such a tiny life cycle it still had trainer wheels on it.
And this had been the way things were for as far back as the frogs could remember [footnote: About three seconds. Frogs don't have good memories].
"You get more air close to the ground," said Angalo. "I read that in a book. You get lots of air low down, and not much when you go up." "Why not?" said Gurder. "Dunno. It's frightened of heights, I guess."
CONCORDE: It goes twice as fast as a bullet and you get smoked salmon.
It had been in a pocket diary, and the names of the faraway places written on it were like magic -- Africa, Australia, China, Equator, Printed in Hong Kong, Iceland...
They stared at the branch. There wasn't just one flower out there, there were dozens, although the frogs weren't able to think like this because frogs can't count beyond one. They saw lots of ones.
They stared at them. Staring is one of the few things frogs are good at. Thinking isn't.
It would be nice to say that the tiny frogs thought long and hard about the new flower, about life in the old flower, about the need to explore, about the possibility that the world was bigger than a pool with petals around the edge. In fact, what they thought was: "._._.mipmip._._.mipmip._._.mipmip".
HOTELS: A place where TRAVELLING HUMANS are parked at night. Other humans bring them food, including the famous BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SANDWICH. There are beds and towels and special things that rain on people to get them clean.
- "Very clever idea, though."
- "What is?"
- "Asking the questions when people arrive. If anyone was coming here to
do some subversive overthrowing, everyone'd be down on him like a pound of
bricks as soon as he answered 'Yes'."
- "It's a sneaky trick, isn't it," said Angalo, in an admiring tone of
- "What's the human singing about, Thing?" said Masklin.
- "It is a little difficult to follow. However, it appears that the singer
wishes it to be known that he did something his way."
- "Did what?"
- "Insufficient data at this point. But whatever it was, he did it at
a) each step along life's highway and b) not in a shy way..."
FLORIDA (or FLORIDIA): A place where may be found ALLIGATORS, LONG-NECKED TURTLES and SPACE SHUTTLES. An interesting place which is warm and wet and there are geese. BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SANDWICHES may be found here also. A lot more interesting than many other places. The shape when seen from the air is like a bit stuck on a bigger bit.
SATELLITES: They are in SPACE and stay there by going so fast that they are never in one place enough to fall down. TELEVISIONS are bounced off them. They are part of SCIENCE.
SCIENCE: A way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does RELIGION, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it is wrong. There is a lot more Science than you think.
"All right," said Masklin. "But you're not to fly down low again and try to read the signposts. Every time you do that, humans rush into the streets and we get lots of shouting on the radio." "That's right." said the Thing. "People are bound to get excited when they see a ten-million-ton starship trying to fly down the street."
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