Being of an extremely suggestible nature, I often do things just because other people tell me I should (which is how I wound up going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but that's a story for another time). This time, it's Blue Gal telling me that I ought to sign up for National Blog Posting Month, aka NaBloPoMo. The idea is to encourage bloggers to post new content to their blogs every day for the month of November.
"But, Johnny," I hear you respond, "you already do that." Not exactly. The Harl Vincent stories I post were written by someone else. The DBTL episodes are mine, but don't count as new content since they were originally written for, and posted to, the soc.history.what-if newsgroup back in the early days of the internet (circa 2000).
So, I have taken the challenge. Every day, something new. There's still thirty-eight minutes left of November 1 here in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, so I can still make it in under the wire.
This first piece was inspired by a really old science fiction story that I'm currently reading, "Hunger Death" by Clifford D. Simak, from the October 1938 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction. The characters of Doc Trowbridge and Angus MacDonald are from that story, as is the setting on Venus, which technically makes this a piece of "Hunger Death" fanfic. I make no apologies.
* * *
Old Doc Trowbridge had seen a lot of strange things since coming to Venus, most of them through the bottom of a whiskey bottle, but the object in his friend's hand just about beat all of them for sheer incomprehensibility.
"Latest thing from Earth," Angus MacDonald told him. "Just came in on the last mail rocket. It's called a ladybug."
Doc could see why. Although clearly an artificial object, there was no mistaking its resemblance to its insect namesake. It was a plastic hemisphere about two inches in diameter, orange with black spots.
"Okay," said Doc, "so it's a ladybug. What's it do?"
"Well, you open it up like this, and . . . " With a quick turn of his wrists, Angus had the thing open. It unfolded like the petals of a flower, opening out to transform itself into a multifaceted, slightly concave mirror seven or eight inches in diameter.
"Have a look," said Angus, handing it over.
Doc looked, expecting to see his own face reflected back at him. Instead, he saw the face of an Oriental woman. He blinked, and the woman's face was gone, replaced by the face of a little boy with unkempt blond hair. The boy looked right at him, stuck out his tongue, and was gone. In his place was the face of a wrinkled old man with Middle Eastern features. He glared at Doc and said something that looked uncomplimentary, but there was no sound.
Doc raised his eyes from the ladybug and stared at Angus. "What in tarnation is going on?"
"I don't know just how it works," said Angus, "but when you look into it, you see the face of somebody else who's looking into his own ladybug."
"And why would I want to spend my days looking into peoples' faces?" Doc asked. "I can do that right here in New Chicago, and talk to 'em while I'm at it."
"Well, that's the whole point," said Angus. "It's a way to see people you wouldn't normally see. Keeps you from getting stuck in a rut, seeing the same old faces day after day."
"Don't need some gadget to do that," said Doc as he closed the ladybug back into its original small hemisphere. "That's why they make whiskey."