I was reading the writing on the wall: ‘Illegal parking is illegal,’ it said. Illegal people will be punished, I repeated dutifully in my mind. That’s the rules. A grim smile slowly spread across my face – I knew all about punishing illegal people. I thought I did, anyway. ‘What does it take to make a hoo-min bean?’ I wondered idly. What are the essential qualities that are needed?’ Some questions can’t be answered of course, but that isn’t one of them. ‘All the products are good, but some are worthy of special mention,’ I told myself with a vigorous nod of my head. I was agreeing with myself, you see. No one else does. ‘Yes, yes, yes’ I said, ‘that’s just the way it is.’ I was a visitor from the Lesser Mandibular Cluster, a transient on this planet. ‘What is it that makes up a hoo-min bean?’ I found myself wondering for what must have been the hundredth time that evening. ‘Is it their slyness? Is it their ability to lie convincingly? Or is it perhaps the fact that they have no interest in anything else apart from continuously distracting themselves with their own bullshit?’ The police had been asking me about my documentation but I didn’t know what to say to them. ‘I’m a transient,’ I told them. ‘I’m not here for very long…’ When I explained that I was from the Lesser Mandibular Cluster that finally seemed to satisfy them and they left me alone. But not without giving me a good few whacks with their trusty truncheons, I might add. ‘I have been praying for death,’ I shouted at them as they walked away, ‘have you been sent to kill me?’ They ignored me and drove off in their vehicle, probably realising that they were dealing with a superior intellect and that there was nothing they could do. They had to walk away in order to save face, but not without giving me a good kicking, I might add. Not without giving me a good kicking. I’m not really from the Lesser Mandibular Cluster though – that was just a ruse on my part. I’m full of ruses. I’m actually from Algol-9, the Devil Star, only it doesn’t generally help the situation much to say this. Though it’s not really Algol-9, it’s just plain old Algol – it’s only Algol-9 in my mind. Our lives just happened, didn’t they? They just happened and there’s no other way to put it. No way that I know of, anyway. What are we supposed to do about it? What can we do about it? Our lives just happened and so here we are. Here we are, picking up the pieces as best we can. Not that we can ‘pick up the pieces’ of course, not really. It’s kind of bewildering, isn’t it? I often wonder why people don’t look more obviously bewildered as they go about their daily business. They should look more bewildered than they do, by rights. They don’t look bewildered at all come to think of it and that’s a weird thing. A very weird thing. They look as if there actually know what they’re doing – can you believe that? How incredible is that? Why do we feel that it’s so important – essential even – to look as if we know what we are doing? And not only look as if we know what we doing but to actually believe it ourselves! How incredible is that? Just what the hell is all that about? ‘Eat fresh food fast,’ says the sign in front of me. Or maybe it says ‘Eat fresh food quickly’ – I can’t tell what is reality and what is my own hasty interpretation of reality. Always so hasty, always so hasty. Why so hasty my friend? Why always so hasty? It’s because we are afraid, isn’t it? We’re refugees from the Terror World. Only the border guards wouldn’t let us in. The border guards are brutal and coarse and they delight in giving pain. They delight so very much in giving pain that it’s positively uncanny! When you go for the job that is the first thing they ask you – ‘Do you delight in giving pain?’ If you answer ‘yes’ then you will get the job. Simple as that. Just say ‘yes’ loudly and clearly, and sound like you mean it!