In the midst of the lawn, jutting up from the middle of the fallen autumn leaves, there stood a single, moldy, decomposing stump. It was upon this stump that Fruuz, a slug, was preparing for his morning meal. And when I say "his," I'm just saying it for the sake of convenience, because all slugs are...uh...I forget the word. But it means they have both male and female private parts. Yeah. Seriously.
Anyway, Fruuz was munching on a mushroom that was growing from the stump when he heard a voice behind him.
"Fruuz! Fruuz! I haven't seen you for AGES!"
Fruuz turned around (this took about five minutes. He was a slug, after all) and there he saw his old friend from childhood, Marcus.
"MARCUS! Wow! Imagine running into you here! How've you been?"
"Eh, not too good. I'm having a bit of a crisis actually. I'm facing the absurdity of myself. I'm ridiculous. All I do is wander around this lawn aimlessly, eating, pooping, dodging predators and psychotic children, then going to sleep. I keep telling myself that my life will get better, but then I get up the next morning and everything is just as ridiculous as it was the day before."
"Jeeze, you sound depressed. Here, eat some mushrooms."
"Why do I bother? Why do I bother doing anything? I know I'll end up dead just like everyone else. Why bother eating mushroooms?"
"...because they taste good?"
"Heh. Fair enough."
Marcus crawled up to the mushroom and started taking bites out of it.
"So..." said Fruuz, "...feeling upset by the monotonousness of your life?"
"Hell yeah," said Marcus, "I just repeat stuff over and over. And I'll keep doing it until I die. I keep saying to myself "I'll go out and see the world!" but instead I usually just end up seeing a movie or something."
"Seeing a movie? You can't see movies! You're a slug!"
"And besides, don't freak out about your life being repetitive and dull. At least you REALIZE it's repetitive and dull, right? Which makes you better off than 99% of living things on this planet! I mean, look at this mushroom! Does HE realize ANYTHING? Sure, it's alive. There might even be a soul in there. But it's oblivious to the fact that it's being devoured by other creatures. It's not like the mushroom is stupid or anything. Our existence is simply beyond his understanding."
"But the thing is, there are things that could be just as beyond OUR understanding as WE are beyond the understanding of that musrhoom! There could be truths and beauties in this universe that we will never, ever, ever know or understand!"
"Oh, of course there are things in this universe beyond our understanding. Heck, there are things on this STUMP beyond our understanding! Look at that mushroom. It's orange, right? But how would you explain "orange" to somebody who'd never seen the color? How could you explain the color orange in words? You couldn't. You could spend your entire life trying to think of a way, but it would never happen. If we can't truly understand freakin' ORANGE, then how could we even begin to fathom the vastnees of the universe?"
"Yeah. I suppose you're right. I won't understand the universe."
There was a pause.
"Uh...it's uh...a nice day, huh?"
"This mushroom tastes really good! Way better than last fall's mushrooms!"
"Yeah, I think it does."
Fruuz swallowed a particularly large chunk of mushroom, and belched loudly.
"Oh God, I'm sorry!" said Fruuz, blushing. Yeah, slugs can blush. "I'm so embarrassed! That was disgusting!"
"No it wasn't, are you kidding me?" said Marcus. "You sound like a human! Ashamed of your own bodily functions. Come on. Evolution sculpted you. Your body burps because it needs to. It's like being ashamed of breathing. There's enough to worry about in this world without being ashamed of your own burps."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. There are creatures in miserable situations all over this planet at this exact moment. I bet a bunch of them died since I started talking. I shouldn't be worrying about something as trivial as the miraculous noises my own body makes."
"Miraculous? I wouldn't take it THAT far."
"Oh, but it IS miraculous! To be a living thing is miraculous."
"The thing is, being a living thing ISN'T miraculous. If anything, it's just highly ridiculous and somewhat comical. And pointless. The natural state of the universe is coldness and emptiness. Eventually, all living things have to face that nasty fact."
"But that just makes life even MORE miraculous! Think about it. Billions of years ago, earth is an empty, lifeless, meaningless rock. Suddenly, some randomly clumping chemicals become a new sort of molecule: DNA. This is a different sort of molecule. A molecule that can duplicate itself. A molecule that, unlike everything else in the universe, does NOT decay towards pointless chaos--instead, it organizes itself, it grows, it progresses, it reproduces itself. Religious folks talk a lot about miracles. Well, that sounds an awful lot like a miracle to me."
"Yeah, but what's the POINT of it all, when the universe is going to collapse on itself and everything will be obliterated?"
"The point of it all is to look that oblivion in the face and say, "HA! Screw you! I am a living thing, and I am going to LIVE!"
"But you're NOT going to live. Neither am I. Neither is anybody. It's absurd."
"Ah, yes, but we ARE going to live. Not ourselves, but through our children. Again, the miracle of life. Evolution has found a way to keep life from dying out. You can create another creature, just like you, and nurture it, protect it, ensure that it will get its own fighting chance at life. That's where it's at. Sure, individuals may die, but they're a part of a gigantic, infinite web of life that extends beyond any of them. That's the purpose of life. The purpose of life is simply to live, to continue the web of life started by that very first DNA molecule, and to find love, that sacred bond, and create another being just like you. CREATE another being! The act of creation! It's remarkable! And even if you know what you're creating will ultimately be destroyed, you create it anyway. Because that's life."
There was another long pause. They avoided each other's eyes. A minute passed.
"The...uh...sky is very blue today."
Their meal was interrupted by a strange honking sound overhead. "Geese!" shouted Fruuz.
Fruuz and Marcus stared up at the sky, watching as a flock of 20 or so geese flew overhead. But something strange was going on. There was a smaller bird with them.
"What the hell is that?" said Fruuz.
"It's a duck," said Marcus, "Fascinating!"
"A duck? Flying with the geese?"
"One duck. Maybe he thinks he's a goose. Maybe he has a lifelong wish to be a goose, and rather than facing the heartbreaking fact that he is a duck and will NEVER be a goose, he'd rather pretend. Or maybe he's just stupid."
"He's probably just stupid. Ducks aren't as in touch with their inner souls as we slugs are."
"I sense something in that duck," said Marcus, "It's like when you find a clump of hair in your shower drain and you're not sure if it's yours or your grandmother's, but you hope to God it's yours."
"WHAT???? What are you TALKING about?"
"I dunno, actually. It just kind of popped into my head. But I tend to say whatever pops into my brain, so it will be preserved in the cosmos rather than being trapped in my skull for eternity."
"You don't have a skull. You're a slug."
"Oh. Well, so it won't be trapped in my head for eternity."
"You don't really have a head either."
"Look, you get the idea anyway. Don't trample on my poetry. Though come to think of it, you can't really trample either, can you? No feet! Boy, we're a dandy pair, aren't we? Here we are, back where we started, facing the ridiculousness of being slugs. I mean, we're basically abnormally large boogers. Living boogers."
They both craughed.
The two slugs continued feasting on their mushroom for a time. Then Marcus said, "So Fruuz...what do you think of religion?"
"MEH? Is that all you have to say? You sound like a HUMAN!"
"No need to be insulting, Marcus. If we were human, we'd be talking about beer right now."
"Fair enough. But you can honestly give me a better opinion than "meh."
"Well, everyone chooses to believe what they want to believe, but whether or not it's true is another matter."
"You're being merciful. You're right though. The fact is that nobody alive knows what death is. No living creature has any idea what's in store from them when they die. The only ones who do know what death is are already dead. Therefore, they're really in no position to tell anyone, are they? So we all choose what we want to believe death is. Some choose to believe it's a gateway to paradise, where God will reward you for good behaviour. Others believe God's a myth, and when your die your soul simply ceases to exist."
"It's all a matter of belief. But then again, everything's a matter of belief. You and I are living on the same planet, sitting on the same stump, but we are experiencing it very differently based on our own opinions, our own morals, our own pasts."
"Yes, people have different opinions. But there's only one truth. That fly in the spiderweb over there can believe all he wants that the spider won't bite him. But it won't change the fact that the spider is three inches away, and he's hungry." At this point, the spider gratuitously sank its fangs into the fly as if to prove a point. "It's fine with having those religious beliefs, but I think creatures--especially human beings--would be much better off if they admitted that the only reason they believe this stuff is because their parents told them to. As far as I'm concerned, all religions, including atheism are mere theories about death, which is a mystery."
"I don't think what you believe about death really affects your life all that much in the long run," said Fruuz, "You still try to cherish the time you have in this strange universe, since it's over quickly. Though I think the idea that atheists have no morals is pretty nonsensical. It implies that the only reason religious people behave themselves is because they want God to reward them. That is, it implies that the only reason they're only good out of selfishness. Kind of cynical, eh? Along with the idea that a Godless universe would somehow be "meaningless." If anything, it makes life MORE meaningful, because it would mean that life is all you have, and once you die, that's it. Yer done."
"But the real things in life that are to be valued are friends. Love is what drives it all, not anything else. Not religion, not money, not government--"
"Ah, I'm glad you brought up government. Government, which assumes that all humans are essentially flawed and need to be "monitored," but ends up placing those SAME flawed humans in power, where they end doing far more damage than they would otherwise."
"Indeed. Not to say that government isn't necessary. But it will never fully stifle crime or any of that crap, because humans are humans. Though we aren't humans, thank God. But anyway, the best you can do in this world is try to carve a happy life for yourself out of the madness that surrounds you, trying to think independently and question what you're told, holding on to your friends who make miserable experiences bearable--"
"Though I think those miserable experiences are crucial, because they make you appreciate your friends more. We learn a lot about ourselves from emotionally crushing ordeals. Moreso than we might necessarily learn from happy experiences."
"Perhaps. But anyway, that's the real purpose of life, I think. Being alive itself is a miraculous experience, as is having friends, falling in love, being a very small, yet important part of the endless universe that surrounds us."
"So..." said Fruuz, eyeing the human house that was about 45 feet away, "Who do you think is better off, the slug or the human?"
"Oooh, good question Fruuz, very good question. Hmmm. Well I'd say that when it comes to technological advancement, the humans are way better off than we are. Sure, we get a lot of idea, but without hands we can't build stuff. Or masturbate."
"Don't remind me."
"Haha, sorry. And as far as progress is concerned, humans are also ahead of us there. They've built civilizations for themselves, and we're still crawling around in the dirt, eating rotten mushrooms. But on the other hand, humans have some gaping flaws. These flaws are often magnified by their technology and their civilization. Having opposable thumbs means being able to build weapons. Cars. Factories. Disposable Diapers. Things that distance you from what life's really all about. And we face none of those problems. None whatsoever."
"So both humans and slugs have their problems."
"Yeah. But humans and slugs aren't really all that different from each other, when you think about it. Sure, humans are a bit bigger and hopefully less slimy. But other than that, we're both living things stuck on this rock of a planet, and the human race deals with the same questions we dealt with in this article. Though the human race deals with its questions in a less civilized way."
"Wait..." said Fruuz, "...article? Did you say this was an article?"
"Of course! Haven't you heard of illogicopedia theory?"
"No, I haven't!"
"Wow Fruuz, you're behind the times! It's very well known amongst slugs, though the human race knows much less about it. They're a lot less in-tune with the universe. Anyway, none of this is real. None of it. Our entire world is contained within an article on the website illogicopedia. The only reason you and I exist is because TEH, the author of this article, decided his articles had been getting too bleak lately, and he wanted to write something a bit less emotionally devastating. We're not real. We're just literary devices."
"Hmmm...that's interesting. I wonder why TEH decided to make us slugs?"
"An interesting question. For one of two reasons, probably. Maybe you and I represent two battling philosophical parts of TEH's mind, and the mind of the philosophical community as a whole. You, Fruuz, are the more optimistic half, and I'm the darker, more depressing, and probably more interesting half."
"And this conversation was supposed to represent how we sort of balance each other out, like the two sides of a coin?"
"Probably, yeah. It's not very well done though."
"And the thing is that we DON'T really balance each other out, just like the two sides of a coin don't balance each other out. One side always has to be facing up, while the other always has to be facing down. You can balance the coin on its side, but at the slightest touch, it will fall over to one side or the other. TEH has failed."
"You're right, Fruuz. And what's more, we didn't really arrive at any conclusions about the big questions that any independently thinking living thing considers. Sure, we said some nice stuff about love, friendship, etc., but did we really answer ANY of life's really big questions? No. We're right where we started. Facing our own pointlessness and our own inability to understand any of the ridiculous things that happen to us. No matter how hard we try."
"Now, don't start to despair, Marcus. Maybe THAT'S the point of the article! And the point of life, no less! Perhaps some strength and wisdom can be found in simply admitting that you have absolutely no idea who the hell you are."
"You know what, Fruuz? I think you're right."
"Did we just agree?"
"Yes, we did."
They then noticed that they had completely devoured the mushroom they'd been eating.
"Well, there's nothing left of this mushroom," said Marcus, "And if I read my symbolism correctly, that would mean that our time is almost up."
"The article's over?"
"Almost over, yeah. I'd guess a few more lines. TEH probably wants to end it in some sort of strange, ironic way."
"I just hope he's not stupid enough to end it without any plot resolution whatsoever."