Prologue

In the middle of a desert, many miles from civilisation, a lone cactus had just awoken from
a terrifying nightmare and was surveying the moonlit landscape with mixed feelings of
dread and fear.

When the initial terror had passed, the cactus turned its mind to the events of the previous
day which, it recalled, had consisted of the sun rising in the morning and the sun setting in
the evening.

This lamentably dull routine, the cactus observed, was not atypical of its days in general. In
fact, as far as it could remember, it had seen little besides the sun's rising and setting for the
last four thousand years or so.

"One day," said the cactus (to itself), "I'll retire and get a nice house by the sea." And with
this thought in mind it was able, eventually, to go back to sleep and dream about the earthly
paradise which it would one day be able to call home.

By the following day, however, the cactus was already bored with the idea of its house by
the sea and was now considering the possibility of acquiring a luxury apartment in New
York, or perhaps even a palatial residence in India. Finally it settled on an Egyptian
Pyramid, since it only really felt at home when there was plenty of sand around.

Very soon so many imaginary possessions had accumulated in the cactus's mind that it was
no longer able to remember everything it would have to buy in order to live out the
existence which it had planned for itself.

At this point the overly-introspective desert plant realised that it had been getting carried
away with its own imagination and was rapidly losing sight of reality - which consisted, for
the moment, of watching the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening.

And as the cactus tried to put its wild flight of fancy out of its mind, disillusionment set in
and it began to wonder if even the house by the sea was an impossibility, destined to
remain a dream forever.

With disillusionment came lethargy and self-hatred, and the cactus consequently sank into
the depths of depression.

"There must be more to life," it said (to no one in particular), "than standing motionless in a
desert and being green. What of all that I wish to do? Am I destined to be eternally starved
of all that makes life worth living? Why must I remain in this desert whilst others are free to
roam the world like kings?

"Am I to be permitted nothing which I desire? What of Love? What of Ambition? What of
the Soul?"

Upon uttering these words, however, the cactus perceived what it initially mistook for the
face of God - a very serene and very bright flash of white light which, for an instant, lit up
the whole sky.

When the ambient temperature began to soar the cactus realised, from what little it knew of
twentieth century human history, that the light it had seen had not been the visage of some
all-powerful being which had created the Universe in all its glory.

Not unless one were to subscribe to the view that the Universe was created by an exploding
bomb (or something of that ilk). In any case, the cactus itself was not, at this time, hugely
concerned with any speculations about the birth of the Universe, nor indeed with any
notions of what God might be, if anything at all. It wasn't even concerned about its house
by the sea.

In fact it was taking a last look at the sun before facing what promised to be a grim and
lonely death.

Click here to read The Story of Bob.