After getting a good long sleep, Malagor and I began to pack our meager belongings for an extended journey. Our belongings truly were meager. My dog-like friend had only a few furs and some weapons and tools to his name, and I had almost nothing to mine. I was interested to observe Malagor’s weapons. With the exception of his knife, which was obviously well manufactured, they all seemed to be hand-made, and consisted of a spear, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. As soon as we had grouped the possessions into two bundles, we each took one and started on our way. There seemed to be no north, south, east, or west in Ecos, so we went in the direction that Malagor said he had previously been traveling. After we had walked across the plain quite a long way, I looked back at the cabin. It was inching its way up toward the sky. It seemed a lonely place now. As we got farther and farther away, it would move up the endless horizon, though of course it would disappear from view before it got very high. I wondered though if, when we reached wherever it was we were going, it would be looking down at us from some point high up in the heavens.
While we walked along, I asked Malagor many questions about the world of Ecos, the fauna and flora, and the intelligent inhabitants.
“How big is Ecos?” I asked. I had thought that had Ecos been just a hollow planet, I would have been able to see far more of the horizon as it stretched up into the sky and that much more clearly than I could. It seemed to me that it was far larger.
“Two hundred twenty-six thousand hokents,” he replied.
This of course, led to my lesson in the measurement of distances in Ecos, which was common to the Malagor and the Amatharians, and a few other intelligent races. The kentan was the basic unit of measurement and had apparently been derived from the size of an insect lair, as strange as this may have seemed at the time. Then again, I recalled that honey bees made cells in their hive that were completely uniform in size, no matter where you happened to find the hive, or what the bees were using as a source of pollen. I marveled that the kentan had come from a zoological observation such as this. As nearly as I could calculate, the kentan was about five and one-quarter inches. A kentar was ten kentans, or about fifty-two and a half inches. A kent was ten kentars, one hundred kentans, or about forty-three feet nine inches. A kentad was one hundred kents, or some eight tenths of a mile. And a hokent was one thousand kentads, one hundred thousand kents, or eight hundred twenty-eight miles.
So, when Malagor said that Ecos was two hundred twenty-six thousand hokents in diameter, he was telling me that it was about one hundred eighty-seven million miles in diameter. With a little mental calculation on my part, I realized that with a sun just under one million miles in diameter, this would put the surface of Ecos about ninety-three million miles from the surface of the sun— about the same distance that Earth is from the surface of its sun. If my calculations held correct, Ecos would have a surface area of over three billion planet Earths. It was quite an astounding concept.
For a while I thought about the fact that the great plain we walked across, might well be larger than the surface area of my home planet, and yet be only a tiny fraction of Ecos. But after a while these types of musings can only give one a headache, so I turned my head to other thoughts. Looking around across the plain, I observed a marvelous collection of plains animals. I could identify the ecological niches of most of the beasts, by observing their similarities to Earth animals, and yet some of these denizens of the great prairie were completely unearthly. There was a herd of beautiful antelope-like creatures, with long spiral horns and stripes across their backs and six legs. There were beautiful flying things that looked like butterflies two yards wide. Whether they were birds or insects or something entirely different than either, I could not say. There was a large caterpillar creature thirty feet long, with a huge maw in front, that ate everything it came across, plant or animal, and there was a beast that preyed upon it that stood twenty feet tall and looked like a cross between an ostrich and a praying mantis. Some of these animals we hunted for food, some of them we gave a wide berth, and some of them we stopped and stared at in amazement, because not even Malagor had seen the likes of them.
We walked, and we hunted as we walked, and at last I was sure we must have been traveling for a week. It is very eerie to do anything for a long period of time, and then to look up and see the sun in the exact position that it was in when you started whatever it was that you were doing. That’s how it was for me. At last however, Malagor decided it was time to stop and sleep, so we cleared the grass from an area and made a fire. Malagor and I then took turns watching for beasts and sleeping. We each slept once, ate, then slept again, and then we started on our way once more. We followed this procedure many, many times over. We continued to hunt for food animals along our way, and at every small stream, we stopped to fill our water skins. I must confess that I never did know how long a journey our trip was, but it seems to me that it must have been close to a year. At one time I asked my friend how long he though that we had been walking. His only reply was, “What does it matter.”
At long last we reached the edge of the great plain. Before us stood a line of small hills that looked to be easily passable. On the lower slope of the hills grew many small bushes, profusely covered with tiny blue berries. Malagor picked one, smelled it, tasted it, and pronounced it good.
“We will stay a while here,” he announced. “Berries do not grow enough places to warrant passing them by.”
I examined the bushes closest to us.
“Some of these berries are new growth, and some of them are rotting on the plant,” I said. “How long will the season last?”
“I do not know season,” he said. “What is season?”