I was astonished to make contact with someone lurking behind the comet. Following is a transcript of our conversation:
"This is Do," said a frail voice through the ether.
"Are you the leader of that cult that killed themselves in San Diego to escape the end of the world?" I asked.
"That's me," he said. "Since we left our containers, we're all aboard the space ship."
"Containers. Oh, right, your flesh bodies."
"Absolutely, as soon as we were free of our containers, the aliens beamed us up."
"You might not believe this but there are one or two humans down here who think you went a bit too far."
"The joke's on them, we made it," said Do.
"Can I ask you some questions?"
"Certainly. If a cult leader doesn't have answers, he soon runs out of followers. I had over a thousand followers at one time. But toward the end there were only about three dozen. A guy starts to doubt himself when that happens. What do you want to know?"
"How come you people castrated each other?"
"Because we enjoy music," said Do. "We didn't have a single soprano. Now we've got lots of them."
"You've got to be kidding," I said.
"I almost had you there, didn't I?" He giggled.
"Yes," I agreed. "So why did you cut off your testicles?"
"We not only cut off our testicles, some of us also clipped off our winkies."
"Yeah, but why?"
"To tell you the truth, my winkie got me into a lot of trouble. I followed the little rascal into places that were embarrassing. A cult leader is supposed to have people follow him, not follow other things. I cut off that tab of my external container so I could be an A-1 leader."
"Did it hurt?" I asked.
"Worse than a root canal," said the spiritual leader of Heaven's Gate.
"I understand you're coming back in a few weeks."
"We would like to," he said. "But it might be a few months."
"You sound unsure," I said.
"I'll be frank. Once you get rid of your container, it's tough to get back into it. Losing your winkie is bad enough but when the whole container is gone, you've got serious problems. We're way past using crazy glue."
"Can you tell me what it's like in the space ship?" I asked.
"Tedious," said Do. "On earth we thought computer programming was boring but I'm telling you, compared to life on this space ship, computer programming is a barrel of laughs."
"We can't eat. We have no containers to put anything into. We can't see too well - because we have no eyes. We get itchy and we can't even scratch. No finger nails. And worst of all, we don't even have any noses so we can't smell worth a darn. I miss the scent of newly mowed grass."
"What about the aliens? Aren't they interesting?"
"No. They're more boring than we are. Some of them have been without a container or a winkie for a billion years. They're suffering something fierce from cabin fever."
"But isn't your mission to move around the galaxy and bring enlightenment to different species?"
"The problem is getting converts. We've gone through the food chain, right down to chickens. I haven't even been able to talk a rooster into giving up his container. The silly things would rather scratch around in the dirt and eat worms than stick their heads in plastic bags. I'm one discouraged dude."
"Surely you've learned something of value."
"Yeah, I learned that we screwed up royally. We had paradise there in San Diego. Three squares a day. Side trips to Disneyland and Vegas. I sure miss double chocolate Haagen Dazs. Hey, and those sunsets over the Pacific, they were to die for. Actually, they weren't to die for, they were to live for."
"But you said the world was going to end -"
"It's going to end all right, but my estimates may have been off by a few million years. That's the last time I use one of those free calculators that comes with a Time subscription."
"So if you had to do it over again-" I asked.
"I would hang onto my winkie. For sure. I'm so depressed I'm ready to kill myself but now I can't even do that."
"But your comet looks so magnificent from earth," I said.
"Not nearly as magnificent as earth looks from up here," Do said.