Three thousands habitable planets in the known universe, and I’m stuck on the only one without soap. Not disinfectant, there’s loads of that – all different types with different fragrances and different purposes. What I’m talking about is a simple bar of soap. The type used to wash one’s self. Surprisingly the smell isn’t so bad. It has something to do with the atmosphere, I think. When the wind blows it smells like freshly cut flowers, which perfumes the world. There might be other factors but I can’t elaborate on something I know nothing about. The real problem with a lack of soap is all the dirt that encases everyone’s body. Sometimes someone’s bright pink pimple will penetrate the filth, but that’s about all you see of someone’s skin. We have showers but water can only wash away so much – it loosens the top layer, but that’s about all. There’s even shampoo, so everyone’s hair is clean but shampoo is too mild to wash away the muck from pig farming. The entire planet is a pig farm. We used to import soap from the cow farming planet next to us, but their surplus has begun to run low and they need the rest for their population, which is considerably larger than ours.
No one really knows what happened to the soap factory planet. It happened so long ago that only legends exist. Everyone knows there was once a planet that made soap for the universe. It’s in the history books, but they differ on what actually happened. Some say a natural disaster wiped out the entire planet. Others say soap angered the Gods. And yet others blame intergalactic terrorism. On the museum planet there’s an actual bar of the stuff in a special case. Nearly all the other planets have a few bars left but pig farmers are possibly the most wasteful beings to have ever existed so all our soap ran out centuries ago.
I used to travel a lot and I can tell you the vast majority of planets are smelly, dingy places with momentous amounts of industrial waste. When they run out of soap no one will want to live there. And where does that leave us? I’m sure our population will swell, it has already begun as stricter soap rationing comes into force all over the universe. The warm pleasant fragrance attracts refugees from everywhere with horror tales of sulfurous smelling winds.
I once tried to make soap, I think everyone has, but I was unsuccessful. I thought it would be easy and other people were just being idiots and going about it wrong. This is a planet of pig farms so animal fat (which features as a key ingredient given in most of the legends) is abundant but the slimy bar of stuff I made only smelt terrible and did nothing to remove the filth on my body. Even with reverse engineering no one has figured out the secret to making more soap. And any planet with soap reverses doesn’t want to sacrifice another bar to a lost cause. Soon nowhere will have any soap.
Sometimes, with enough shampoo and disinfectant and a shower loafer one can scrub off most of the grime, but not all of it –a good old bar of soap is required to do that.
We’re getting a shipment of imports from the outer galaxies later today. Perhaps someone on one of those cold dark planets in the nearly forgotten galaxies has figured out how to make soap in their spare time. It isn’t very likely though. Most young people today have never seen a bar of soap and have absolutely no interest in the ancient art of cleaning one’s skin. But us old timers, or at least one’s who have travelled have and some, including myself, have even used it. Those who have known soap hope for its return.
I decided to go to the spaceport and wait for the ship to arrive. I joined about fifty old folks already waiting. It was a small platform way out in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a building in which snacks could be purchased like in the cities, we had a vending machine that worked about a quarter of the time. We waited and waited, talking to one another of places we’ve been and the soaps we’ve used. Eventually a ship arrived, a big old one coated in space dust (it can’t be washed here). If there was any soap we wouldn’t be able to see it, everything comes out of the ship in big unlabeled crates. It’s then stacked up on the platform. If there was a box of soap we’d be able to smell it – that’s what brings the old folks out every import day.
I thought the ship was unloaded and started to walk off the platform when I heard heavy footsteps and gasping. While turning around there was a loud clunking sound as someone fainted. The wind started to blow as a creature was lead out of the ship. It had a hemp rope tied around its large neck and another rope connected to that one as a leash. I wondered how someone managed to tie the rope around its neck – it was so large. Although I really didn’t think the rope as necessary. The creature was tranquil and would probably have followed the Box Boys off the ship. It was bigger than the crated imports from various planets even while walking on all fours. And it had fur of the brightest pink imaginable that fell in dreadlocks all over its body. Once on the platform it stood on two legs to its full height. The Box Boy, well Box Girl in this case, extended the length of rope she was holding so the creature could walk up right. It wore no clothes but with all that bright pink fur I don’t think it was concerned with covering up.
The creature was lead away. I was curious but by no means curious enough to follow as some people had. It was the last thing off the ship and unless this creature somehow knew the secret of soap making there’d be none this shipment. I always feel a bit sad when everything’s off the ship and there isn’t any. I should know not to get my hopes up, but I can’t help it. The thought of once again being entirely clean ensures I’ll always feel this sense of disappointment.
The people who didn’t follow were gathered in clusters on the platform trying to figure out the significance of the creature. I didn’t really care and wanted to get home. I put my head down hoping not to be recognised and brought into an in-depth yet boring conversation.
Upon arriving there I discovered my son and his wife had already seen to the pigs and the grandchildren were telling each other stories of a pink monster in anxious whispers. When I was finally noticed everyone went quiet. They knew I went to the spaceport when imports arrived and correctly assumed that I’d seen the pink creature. I told them what it looked like and how it was lead off the ship. I didn’t tell them how I hoped it held the secret to soap. We settled down for the night.
One would think a planet of pig farmers would be early to rise but that isn’t so. When I woke up around noon I heard excitement from outside my open window. News travels fast and it sounds like some people were too excited to sleep much last night. I quickly dressed and went downstairs. The entire household was out of bed, even my son who usually considers it to be illegal to make an appearance while there’s still natural light in the sky.
The television in the kitchen was on which is most unusual, even the grandchildren don’t watch much TV. It was tuned to the news. A young news presenter with clean skin was at the spaceport. I thought that with a story this big the Journalism Planet would have sent a more seasoned presenter but I was wrong. The news didn’t give us a clue about the creature. All the presenter did was regurgitate what everyone knew already. I wasn’t surprised. The news lady didn’t even tell us if the creature was dangerous. It seemed tranquil enough yesterday but the Box Boys could have given it some sort of calming serum. I decided to go out to see if there was anything I could learn.
There were far too many pedestrians to take the car, besides one learns more when traveling on foot. That’s how I found out an import was coming in today. Two days in a row. That’s a bit strange, but not unheard of. The Depot Planet is one of the slowest moving things in the entire universe and the Administrative Planet just messes things up. We were probably due two ships yesterday but it was held back for whatever reason, probably incorrect paperwork.
Based on the gossip I heard, everyone seemed to be in agreement on two things; firstly, the creature is meant to be here, and second, there really is a ship of imports landing today.
The spaceport was so crowded with people and news crews that I couldn’t get on the platform. I don’t think anyone in the area was tending to the pigs. The police had to monitor the crowd that was gathering outside and leaking onto the road. Suddenly everyone went quiet. I couldn’t see anything from my position on the road but I knew the ship had come in. In the silence I could here the door opening. People tried shifting their bodies but it was hopeless, no one would be able to see anything from the road.
I heard the box boys shout at the crowd, “Stand back. Clear a path”.
I craned my neck skywards even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to see. Lots of people did that, some type of reflex, I guess. There were gasps from the platform. I wondered what they saw.
There were more of the creatures. Blue ones, green ones, pink ones, yellow ones. Colours of the rainbow and more. All with that bizarre dreadlock fur. They had ropes around their necks and were slowly being lead away. The crowd followed.
No one needed to have worried about aggression – they were the calmest creatures in the entire universe. So calm in fact, that the creatures brought to the Pig Farm were the last of their kind. Later that day I found out that the rest had been wiped out. Not so much as by hunters which usually involves some sort of chase, but by people who fancied themselves as hunters.
Some archeologists set out to discover the formula for soap and found these creatures cowering in the ancient ruins of a factory on what is assumed to be the Soap Factory Planet. The creatures the so-called hunters didn’t drive to the brink of extinction were dying of starvation. They were brought to the Depot Planet to await further instruction from the Administrative Planet. The creatures would have surely died then because the Administrative Planet never sent the order to feed them but the Depot Planet has a fair number of rebels and these rebels took responsibility for looking after the creatures. Eventually the Administrative Planet gave the order to the Depot Planet to send the creatures here. We already have a large number of refugees from all over the universe and it was thought that someone would be able to speak the same language as the creatures. But the creatures were silent. It was obvious they were an advanced species, but seemed to lack vocal cords and no one could tap into them telepathically.
The creatures appeared to be interested in the pigs. They’d point and stare at them.
One lazy evening the town awoke to find dead pigs scattered down the road leading to where the creatures slept. Some of these were exceedingly expensive award winning pigs. It’s the only place on the entire planet that farms these particular pigs and they were nearly all killed. Anger wouldn’t be the correct word. I don’t even think rage would cover how everyone felt. No wonder why these creatures were facing extinction, if they go around killing people’s livestock like that. The townspeople and people from surrounding towns and even far-away city dwellers quickly assembled into a mob. I think the intention was to burn them alive while stabbing and beating them. The mob gained strength as it hammered down the road, swelling as more rage filled people joined uttering incoherent battle cries. I’m ashamed to say that I was a part of the blood thirsty mob, but I was.
We circled the bright fur creatures so they had nowhere to turn and run away. I dread to think about how similar we looked to rage filled rabid monsters. They were crying, not tears, but bubbles that floated up instead of running into their dreadlock fur. These were really large bubbles. They had a calming effect on the mob. Weapons were lowered as arms became tired. Bubbles popped high above the mob and rained down blessed liquid soap of the highest quality.
One of the creatures, a small one, a baby by the looks of it silently screamed. It pulled at the fur of the creature next to it. The creature knelt down to comfort it with such loving tenderness it brought tears to the eyes of the monsters in the mob. Turns out the baby needed to shit but didn’t fancy the idea of doing it in front of everyone. The mob had already blocked all exits, which in turn blocked all ways leading to a toilet. The poor little thing was forced to shit right there in front of everyone. With all that fur it’s hard to imagine no shit or mud caked to it but there wasn’t any.
The mob denied the little creature any dignity. Bubbles rose up in the air as the creatures silently cried harder. Tension was once again building. Slowly people began to raise their weapons luckily the venom had left the mob. The creatures stepped aside. The little one had finished its business. A lot of the people in the mob were young but I was there at the front. I knew what the pile of droppings were. Before the mob could attack I dived towards where the creatures were with my hands held up in the universal “I surrender” gesture. I reached the shit and held up a bar of soap. I figured out then why soap was scarce and impossible to make – it is a waste product of these creatures, but only when they eat raw pork, which we always ensure they have plenty of.