It's a brand new day! Bruce is curious what it has in store for him.
Sunlight streams through the window of his tiny cozy cottage, which is just about exactly Bruce-sized, with a roof at just the right height for him to stand up under and a bed of just the right length for him to lie down in. There are two drawers underneath the bed, one slightly open with a glimpse of something bright red visible within. Next to the bed, there is a shelf, tucked into the corner of the cottage; just past the shelf, there is a narrow door in the wall opposite the bed, and next to the foot of the bed there is a wider door in the wall opposite the shelf.
It's not entirely clear whether he's been here before. It's not entirely clear whether he's been anywhere before. His surroundings look familiar, but he has no memory of them, or of anything else; on the other hand, there's no particular sense that he should remember anything from before he opened his eyes, no sense of anything missing. Everything is new, but nothing is alien. He's right at home.
It is indeed!
There is a small space around the house that is clear of grass, but outside of that, the green carpet runs all the way to the curve of the horizon in every direction, making pleasant swishing sounds as the wind ruffles its soft blades. There are only two interruptions visible from his doorstep: straight ahead, a small pond cradled in the shelter of several large boulders, and off to the left, a much smaller boulder flanked by two large pine trees. Here and there, the grass dips or swirls in a way that might indicate another obstruction, too small to show above it.
It's not so very deep but it is deep enough that in order to walk across it with his head above water he would have to be standing on the shoulders of a second, wetter Bruce. He can go underwater a bit. There are pretty sparkly rocks down there, stuck in some mud that makes the water around it murkier if he pokes it.
Then he shall have a line of ten sparkly rocks on the edge of the pond! Actually, how about two rows of five, with the five biggest in one row and the five smallest in the other. There, that's excellent.
Now to get out of the pond and dry and reclothed for more exploring! There are still plenty of things on the grass to go check out.
Should he explore further in the grass, he will find:
two more rocks, one of them pleasantly lumpy, the other one jagged and uncomfortable to hold;
a very small bush sprouting from the ground;
two more bushes behind the pond, their branches heavy with clusters of purple berries;
and a little baby version of those two large pine trees, standing no taller than his knee, barely visible amid the grass until he's right up close.
Trees do not seem to emote very much, but as far as he can tell, this one is chill about the seed vandalism. It's all good.
Things in the grass include:
several more rocks, of varying sizes and sharpnesses;
two more little baby bushes;
three more little baby trees;
and a curious little dip in the ground, with glassy-smooth blobs of dark grey stone scattered around it like droplets from a splash of water, and bluish-green shards of something-or-other glittering at the bottom amid scorched lumps of dirt and charred shreds of grass. The grass next to the smooth stones is burned, too.
The droplets of stone are warmish to the touch but not uncomfortable; the glittering shards, when he unearths them, are also warmish but less so. They're very pretty. A little sharp, but not too bad as long as he doesn't outright stab himself with them. They seem to glow, very very faintly, with a pretty bluish-green light.
He does poke himself with one of them, just to see what that's like, but he stops before drawing blood. Glittery glowy rocks are way too cool for the rock pile; they'd totally distort all the scales he's sorting them on, and anyway he wants to put them somewhere safer. He gathers up all the pretty shards and brings them to his house for safekeeping.
After about an hour of walking briskly directly away from the berry bushes by the pond, he finds...
...that a suspiciously familiar roof is visible up ahead, cresting the curve of the horizon. If he walks a little farther, he'll be right by his house, nearly all the way back where he started.
That's really neat! He sits down next to the pond to think about this for a bit. He picks up one of his rocks and traces a finger around it, sees how he always gets back to the same spot no matter what direction he goes in. So the world is like this rock, except bigger. He wonders whether, if he had something to dig with, he could dig a hole that goes all the way through. Something to think about. In the meantime, all that walking made him hungry. Berries are still delicious, but also does anything else around here look like food?
There's a bunch more of the little pits with splashy rock-stuff around them and sparkly shards hidden in their depths. Also some more regular rocks, and a few new baby bushes and baby trees, and the grownup trees have made more seeds, and it is generally a peaceful and ordinary time here on Bruce's planet.
And then there is a strange new sound, and a strange new light in the sky, pink-orange-blue and blazing along like a thrown rock. A very large thrown rock. A very large thrown rock making an eerie whistling noise.
It does land!
It is not a rock.
It's a shiny smooth oddly shaped thing, bigger than Bruce's house although not by much, and it zooms in an arc across the sky and then slows down and turns and settles onto the grass near the pond in a way that is not very much like a thrown rock at all.
And part of the side flops open in a way reminiscent of a door except turned sideways so the hinges are on the bottom, and a person steps out onto the flopped part and walks down it. She is much taller than Bruce - less than two Bruces tall, but more than one and a half - and she seems very curious about the pond and the trees and the house, and even more curious about Bruce when she spots him.
"Didn't know this planet was big enough for people!" she says, blinking at him in friendly surprise.
The inside of the ship is shiny and complicated! And pretty small, if you're an Apra-sized person. There's a chair, set in the middle of the cramped space and facing a curved panel of buttons and switches and blinking lights. Above/behind the panel, there's a dark glossy surface that covers most of the wall. Behind the chair, there's a ladder leading up into a dark mysterious place.
"A respectable ambition," says Apra. "Maybe I'll come by again sometime and take you for a ride around the galaxy. I couldn't do it now, I don't have room for a passenger even if they're as little as you. D'you need anything in the meantime? Is there enough food here and stuff?"
"There's plenty. Hmm, let me see if I can find anything..."
She steps into the ship, hauls herself up the ladder, and disappears out of sight. Rummaging noises ensue. Half a minute later she's sliding back down the ladder again with a box cradled in one arm.
"Here," she says, opening the box. It's made of a thin rough bendable material like very stiff leaves, and inside there are lots of roundish flattish objects slightly bigger than Bruce could hold in two cupped palms. She takes one out and bites it, revealing that it is a pale outer skin wrapped around a gooey inner filling, and offers the box to Bruce. "Apple handpies!"
"Mostly I fly around and meet new planets, actually! That's my job, I'm a starscout. I look for planets that are interesting somehow, like if they're pretty or if people could live on them, and I write down where they are and then I go put them on the big list of all the planets in the galaxy so other people can find them later. But usually if I find a planet that's not on the list already, there won't be anybody living there. And usually if a planet is this small, it's not good enough at growing things for somebody to live on it."
"So plants grow in dirt," she says, "and different dirt is better or worse for growing plants in, and different plants like different kinds of dirt more or less. Like, there's no grass growing on that rock," she gestures at the pond, "because rock is really bad for growing just about anything. And really little planets are usually just made of rock, sometimes with some sand on it, and there's not much that likes growing in sand either. And plants need water, too, and really little planets sometimes don't have any. Do you want your planet on the list? If it's on the list then lots of people can find out where it is and they might come visit you."
"I'm not sure. Meeting you has been nice but I don't know if I want to be meeting lots of people all the time. . . . But some of them would have cool explanations of things like you, and if there are too many people I can just go in my house and not talk to them, so yeah, I do want to be on the list."
"Okay, follow me! Over there is my house, and this way is the pond I like to swim in . . ."
He gives her a tour of the pond and the berry bushes and the trees that make cool scaly seeds and the place he found the prettiest of all of his rocks and various other landmarks and in not too long they have gone clear around the planet and seen all the important tourist locations.
"Maybe how to build a house, in case something happens to the one you've got or you just want a bigger one, and how to grow more food, so you can have different stuff to eat," she suggests. "And how to read if you don't have that one down already. I could see about bringing you some books."
His house is mostly made of rectangular objects, pale brown with a darker brown wavy pattern running through them. There are also some little shiny round things embedded in the rectangles. If he goes over the whole thing very carefully, it looks like there are more or less three materials involved in the bulk of the construction:
- Shiny hard stuff that functions as fasteners and door hinges. It's similar to some of the parts of Apra's spaceship, but it's not clear what exactly it is or where it comes from or how to get more.
- Brown patterned stuff, usually but not always found in rectangular planks, that makes up most of the structure of the house. It doesn't look quite like any other object he's encountered, but the sound when he taps on it is a little reminiscent of what it sounds like to tap on the side of a tree.
- Different brown rectangles, which cover the roof in a pattern a little like the scales on a fish, and sound more like rocks than trees when tapped on but not really very much like rocks either.
Maybe someone broke up a tree into rectangles, then? That sounds like a lot of work, and getting it to break in such nice straight lines sounds even harder.
After enough days of swimming in the pond every day, Bruce notices a patch of bare dirt where he usually gets in and out. When he's just been splashing and dripping on it, it turns into mud, and squashes under his feet, but when he comes back the next day, it's dry again and stays in one shape--and that shape includes a dent shaped like his foot! That's cool.
Other things that are cool: a new and totally different spaceship landing on his lawn. This one is flatter and more disklike, and when the panel in the side opens, it unfolds in a more complicated way and creates a little awning just about big enough to comfortably shelter the approximately Apra-sized person who emerges from the spaceship a moment later.
"Hello!" she calls, leaning out of her awning. "I hear someone wants to learn how to make apple pie!"