A New Dimension: Interlude

        “Dr. McCleese?”
        “Yes, Denise?”
        “The campfire was a good idea.”
        “Oh? Oh, yes, thank you, Denise. It’s been a long day, and we’ve had quite a few shocks. Anything we can do to reduce our stress response and calm down, we should do.”
        “Right, it’s been very stressful. Uh, Professor?”
        “Yes, Denise?”
        “Could we, uh, could we cook some s’mores?”
        “S’mores?”
        “Yes, professor, you know, toast some marshmallows?”
        “Ah, of course, S’mores! A traditional campfire activity. A capital idea. I think we have some marshmallows here somewhere – maybe in that crate over there?”
        “Yes! Here they are – and look, someone has packed little bars of chocolate and some graham crackers. How thoughtful.”
        “Indeed – I suspect that would be our Alise, always thinking of others she is. Bring all that over here by the fire, I’ll just cut this little branch here and sharpen the point. Yes, that’s it. Now, hand me a marshmallow. Lovely!”
        “Professor!”
        “Yes, Denise?”
        “Your marshmallow is on fire!”
        “No, it most certainly – ack! My marshmallow is on fire. Whwhwhwhwh, pfew! Well, it’s only a little charred – achhgg!”
        “Oh Dr. McCleese, that marshmallow looks pretty sticky there on your shirt. I do hope it doesn’t stain.”
        “Yes, Denise. I hope so too. Do we have any rags? I’ll need water and . . . yes, there. That’s better. Perhaps you’ll have better luck. Here’s the stick.”
        “You know, Dr. McCleese, this reminds me of being a kid. I was a girl scout you know.”
        “I was unaware of that fact, Denise.”
        “Yes, we went camping quite a lot. If I didn’t know better, this little campfire and the marshmallow are all so comfortably familiar that I wouldn’t believe we spoke with talking animals that came out of an ancient archaeological site.”
        “Yes, that does sound funny when you say it that way, Denise. Here you are, one graham cracker topped with a small bar of chocolate. And another to top it. Perfect! That was a lovely browned marshmallow, Denise.”
        “Thank you Professor. Have you thought about what you’ll tell your colleagues when you get back to the university?”
        “What do you mean, Denise?”
        “Well, you can’t very well tell them that you met talking animals, now can you. You’ll be laughed out of the whole university.”
        “Hmm, yes, I see your point, Denise. That is a problem.”
        “I mean, take this evening, this fire, us talking. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing would point to the fact that we met talking animals this afternoon.”
        “Quite right, Denise.”
        “In fact, I almost don’t believe myself, saying that now, saying those words right now around this fire, enjoying this delicious snack, a staple of my youth, a symbol of comfort and continuity. I almost don’t believe it.”
        “Why, Denise, but there’s evidence that . . . “
        “What evidence? Do you have any evidence? I don’t have any evidence? There are some animal tracks out here, but we’re in the countryside, almost the wilderness, of course there are animal tracks out here.”
        “And the camera, it has nothing on it, as I recall.”
        “Too true. Nothing on it. Hmm . . .”
        “You seem lost in thought, Professor.”
        “If we have no evidence of this experience, which we are both questioning, then how can we be sure we did, in fact talk with animals this afternoon?”
        “Well, Maurice and Alise are both gone away with them.”
        “Not conclusive evidence of talking animals.”
        “No, I suppose not, Dr. McCleese. Would you like to try another marshmallow, Professor?”
        “Yes. Yes I would. Thank you. There. That’s much better. Yes, a nice roasting brown color, swelling – lovely, just lovely. Achkk!”
        “Oh, professor, you lost your marshmallow into the fire!”
        “Yes, Denise, it would seem I have.”
        “So, maybe we didn’t talk with animals this afternoon after all.”
        “What? Oh, yes, maybe not, Denise. Maybe not. It does seem most implausible. Most implausible indeed.”
        “You’re right, it is implausible. Just the right word, here would you pass me that stick, I’d like to try again.”
        “Yes, of course, here you are my dear.”
        “Thank you, there, perfect. I think you’re right. I think talking with animals is imaginary, we imagined it. A silly dream we shared.”
        “Ah, a dream, a shared dream, perhaps. Perhaps you’re right.”
        “I mean think about it, what’s a simpler explanation? That we talked with chickens and rabbits this afternoon, or that we had a little shared dream experience?”
        “You’re right, Occam’s Razor they call that, whatever is the simplest explanation is likely the correct explanation. My that’s a lovely marshmallow – here, here’s another graham cracker and piece of chocolate . . . just so – perfect. My dear, you seem to be an expert at this.”
        “Like I said, Girl Scouts.”
        “Of course. Yes, I believe you’re onto something there. I think we can just as easily chalk our experience today up to a little shared hallucination. It’s extremely improbably, impossible really, that we were having conversations with squirrels earlier.”
        “Oh, professor, your certainty about that brings me such happiness! I was so consternated about this whole talking animal thing, and you’ve solved it.”
        “Yes, my dear, I believe I have solved it.”
        “You’re so – so . . . wise, professor.”
        “Thank you my dear, and you, I must say, you are talented and savvy. You’ll make an excellent archaeologist.”
        “Oh, Professor, you flatter me.”
        “No, really, I mean it. Here, hand me that stick, I’d like to try one more time on that marshmallow. Yes, that’s it.”
        “Ok, Professor, now, the key is to rotate it slowly over some coals. There. That’s it, see how it’s cooking, but not near a flame? Yes, I think you’re going to get it! Now hold on while I get a little piece of chocolate and a graham cracker out. Oh, why thank you!”
        “You, ah, welcome.”
        “Denise?”
        “Yes, Professor?”
        “Who handed you that graham cracker?”
        “Uh, I, oh, my, Professor! It’s a sheep!”
        “AACK!”
        “AACK!”
        “Uh, hi, howdy, you are American? Like chock-lat? Yes? Is super premium chock-lat. Lietuvis – ah, Lithuanian chock-lat. You like? Yes? Hello? Where you go? Fire is nice yes? Come back and eat friendly chock-lat!”

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