"A true story"

Part 3

ENDYMION gave me some lovely presents - including some of the cool see-through glass clothes, and some bronze ones - but, alas, they all got lost in the whale. [What whale? Wait and see. ed] We sailed past the Morning Star, where the new arrivals were settling in, and the Sun. We didn't land, as the wind was against us, but we could see it was a green and pleasant well-watered place, full of good things…

Sailing all night, and all next day, towards evening we reached a place called Lampsterdam.A typical inhabitant  It's in the sky halfway between the Pleiades and the Hyades - though far below the Zodiac. There were no people there - only a bunch of lamps scuttling about, or hanging out in the square and by the port. There were poor ones - small and flickering, and rich ones - big and bright. Every lamp has his own house - or lamppost. They have names, just like humans, and can talk. They made no attempt to harm us - in fact they invited us to stay to dinner. But we were suspicious - we hardly dared blink and we didn't touch a morsel. They have a large hall in the middle of the square, where their Governor sits all night. He takes a roll-call - and if they don't answer, there is trouble. Non-appearers are sentenced to death for leaving their (lamp)posts: they are executed by being blown out. We could hear the lamps protesting and giving their excuses for being late. Among them was a lamp I recognised - my own trusty nightlight. I asked how things were at home. He told me. You wouldn't be interested.

We stayed the night, but next day we pressed on. As we neared the clouds, I saw Cloudcuckooland. We didn't land, as the wind was against us. This proves that the great Aristophanes was a wise and truthful man - not just some comedian who made up a load of old nonsense. The president apparently was a Mr. C.Rook. The day after next we saw the sea again, and the lands in the sky began looking more like points of fire. Four days after we left the Moon, around noon, we touched down on the water. We were so happy! We went wild with excitement, and celebrated like crazy. We were leaping off the ship, swimming and splashing around in the warm, calm sea.

It seems, though, that a change for the better often proves to be a prelude to worse troubles…

FOR two days we sailed on homewards. The sea was completely calm. Dawn of the third day had just broken when we got our first sight of them. Whales. Monsters of the deep. The daddy was a full 150 miles in length. He came straight at us, vast jaws gaping open, and the sea fizzed and roared as he hurtled towards us - his teeth were taller than any erection back on Earth. They were as sharp as very pointed things, and white as elephants' tusks. We said our last words. We huddled together. We waited. For less than a second. Then his mouth closed over us, and, in a single gulp he swallowed us, ship and all. We didn't get chewed up though, because the ship miraculously found its way through a gap in his teeth, and went sliding down his throat.

At first it was too dark to see a thing, but when he opened his mouth, we could see a vast cavity: level on the bottom, with an immensely high roof. Room enough for a mighty metropolis. In it there were fish aplenty, whoppers and tiddlers; along with the masticated remnants of various creatures, chomped up ships, with cargo, rigging and all - and human bones. At the centre was a great island, with hills. I worked out that it must have accumulated from all the mud he swallowed. There was actually a forest on it, where every type of tree was growing. And there were vegetable-patches and market gardens. The coastline was as long as about 250 running-tracks. You could spot sea-birds roosting in the branches, pelicans and cormorants.

After a long period of feeling sorry for ourselves, we got organised. We beached the ship and propped it up, rubbed sticks together, made a fire and cooked supper. Fish, not surprisingly. Next day I picked seven men, and off we went to explore the forest. We hadn't gone much more than half a mile when we came across a temple. Poseidon's according to the notice outside. There were a number of graves close by. There was a bubbling spring, with crystal-clear water. We heard a dog bark. In the distance we saw a wisp of smoke, and could make out what appeared to be a farmhouse.

We quickened our pace, and advanced eagerly towards it…