Tonight’s my first night in Hapdorn, and I can’t sleep! All the excitement of travel, and the jet lag from the trip from Fomin have all gotten to me, I suppose. I did not feel well when I arrived, so Lanni took my temperature. It was just ninety-five point six degrees, which is only slightly elevated (normal for humans is ninety four point seven), so it must just be the stress and excitement.
It is half past thirty-two in the morning, and I just lie here in the bed in Harna and Lanni’s guest room, watching the shadows on the ceiling. The apartment is on the third floor, so the headlights of passing cars make interesting patterns on the ceiling as they shine through the drapes. It is a cold night, about ten degrees below freezing and snowing, but I’m all comfy and cozy in this nice warm bed. Flashing yellow lights! I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. I was just in time to see the snow plow pass by on the street below. Even aliens have to plow the streets when it snows!
Back to bed.
Just think, I’m actually lying on an alien bed in an alien guest room on an alien planet, light-years from home! Earlier this evening, Harna pointed out the human sun for me, but stars are just stars for me. Homeland is supposed to have three moons, but none of them were up, so I’ve missed that. I’m excited about being here, but at the same time everything seems so normal and ordinary. There is no doubt whatsoever that I am in a quaint but sophisticated country called the “Grand Duchy of Thorgelfayne.” The name and crest are splashed all over the place at the airport! The clocks all go to thirty-two. Hours are shorter, but there are more of them in the day. (It seems like bedtime will never come!) The food looks a little odd, but it’s hearty, tastes great, and really sticks to your ribs. Everything is clean and orderly, and the people are astoundingly friendly, as if Hapdorn were a small country town.
The neatest thing is that everybody speaks Thorgelfaynese! I spent a lot of time and effort learning this language, so it’s a relief to be in a place where everyone speaks it—it’s like being vindicated. And everyone is black but me. That’s going to take some getting used to.
All these wonderful things are happening because I took some silly science-fiction stories seriously! I can remember when I read the Bobo stories for the first time on the Internet. I liked them, but I thought they were fiction at first. Then, when I found out that Ken Collins was not a fictional character, but an actual, living and breathing human being, I knew just what I wanted. To travel to Thorgelfayne! Even my best friend Joanne laughed at me then (but very politely, she didn’t want to hurt my feelings). Everybody treated me like I wanted to visit trolls in Norway! But I persevered, and here I am!
It is a bit anti-climatic. I’m lying in an ordinary bed in an ordinary room. The decor looks sort of Swedish (when the lights are on)!
The clock on the writing desk glows thirty-two:forty-six.
Since I am not going to sleep anyway, I might as well do something constructive, I thought. So I walked over to the desk and fumbled with the lamp until it came on. Light switches are different here, so it takes me a minute to turn something on. I chuckle as I remember poor Harna. I just wanted to flip on the dining room light, but it took me three tries. The poor man was in stitches! And so was I; imagine having trouble turning on a light! I nearly knocked over the flowers just now. They were waiting for me when I arrived. I have no idea who sent them, but that’s a mystery that will have to wait until tomorrow.
So here I am at quarter to one in the morning, writing you a note rather than sleeping.
(I was interrupted at this point by a light tapping on the door. Lanni was just checking on me and brought me a glass of Harng and a little snack. People here are universally so nice that I’m beginning to feel like I’m trapped in a Disney movie, but I’m not complaining. If there are any grease stains on the paper, or crumbs in the envelope—whoops, sorry about that big one—you’ll know they’re from my snack.)
I’m really fortunate to have arrived on a Fifthday evening, because it means that I have the whole weekend to relax and do touristy things. Tomorrow, we’re going shopping at the West Hapdorn Shopping Mall. (I never imagined that the first thing I would do on an alien planet is go shopping, but I guess fact is stranger than fiction.) I’ll use some of my grant money to buy some clothes. Lanni says she buys all her stuff at Hagel Tarn, so I guess that’s where we’ll go. Then Harna will give us an auto tour of the city. Then in the evening we’re going to have dinner at John Anderson’s apartment in Barlamon, a suburb on the other side of the valley. Seventhday we’ll take in a museum and relax; and on Eighthday morning, I insist on accompanying Lanni and Harna to their religious service. After that, more rest and relaxation.
Firstday, everyone goes back to work, and my tour begins!
Writing this note has really made me sleepy, which is a good thing, because I ran out of paper anyway. I never thought I would write this empty cliché and mean it with all my heart:
Having a nice time, wish you were here.
What a shame, Ken, that you know all about this place, but cannot come. It’s even better than you think. However, I don’t think I could go so far as to emigrate like John did.
With fondest regards,