29 April, 7114
I believe the natives of this isle are beginning to trust me, for today they showed me around their isle. They have have paved concentric circles around the isle, using a sun-baked mixture of sand and tree resin as a road surface. They then use their bicycles — more about these in a moment — to ride around the isle.
The purpose of this activity is unclear. At first, it appears to be a clever, simple means of conveyance: lightweight, easily maintained, and reasonably efficient. However, When I ask natives where they are going on these bicycles, they frequently describe a route, instead of a destination. To my dismay, the routes they describe often arrive at the very point from which they left!
What does this mean? I have several theories, none satisfactory.
Are they patrolling for marauders? Is this a social interaction — via a perfunctory nod or wave — with others on the isle (note to self: investigate why only some natives wave to others, while many remain studiously aloof)? A political commentary? A mating dance? A religious ritual?
More indecipherable even than riding bicycles for great lengths of time with no destination other than the point of origin is the manner in which they ride. Some ride alone, for hour upon end. Some ride in packs, protecting what appears to be the alpha native of the group. Some ride single file and cannot seem to make up their mind as to who should lead; no sooner does a native get to a command position than she drops back to the rear of the line. Baffling.
Perhaps strangest of all, a very few of their number seem to take pleasure in first taking a swim, then riding a their bicycles, then running a great distance. Perhaps these are the mentally ill of the society. Or the outcasts. Or the criminals, being punished for their societal trespasses. Regardless, these natives are looked down upon by the others on the isle. I have learned that until recently were ejected from society, turned out from the village, and left to die, although in recent times they are treated more humanely, in the hope that they will someday come to their senses.
Their road is more than a practical way to simplify getting from one point to the other. The natives seem to regard it as a boundary. “Why,” I have asked them, “do you never stray from the road into the beautiful forest beyond?”
“There is nothing but the road,” the native will often reply, denying the very existence of their surroundings. Or perhaps they will ridicule me with what they regard as an equivalent question: “Why do you not eat pig offal?” When I say I don’t because it is repugnant and would do me no good were I to try, they will smile and say, “Precisely.”
I believe they worship their bicycles. Before each ride, they go through a ritual. They replenish the bicycle’s air. They wash and polish the bike, kneeling as they do so. Finally, they apply ceremonial ointment. The air of reverence and expectation is as touching as it is primitive.
Before — and sometimes after — their bicycle ministrations, the natives will often go to a bicycle church. There, they will describe how their religious rites have gone awry. A priest — witch doctor? — will lay hands on the bike, healing it. The native will offer thanks and some of their currency (those horrible foodlike bars of which I have earlier spoken) in exchange.
Who is this god to whom they pray? “Edam Urrix,” they say, the prime mover of their world.
The name strikes me as familiar, somehow. Perhaps it is because I, too, am fond of that particular kind of cheese.