Five Men in the Desert
A plane was flying East when something went wrong with the engines and it crashed in the middle of a desert. Only five men survived. Three were very religious men and believed it had been the hands of their gods that had struck them from the sky. One of the other two men was an athiest and was convinced the plane had had a serious malfunction. The fifth man was an agnostic and didn't know who to believe, so he kept his mouth shut.
The five men wandered across the desert for days, becoming wearier and wearier. They were almost dead from hunger and thirst; until one day, they came across a small pebble. The pebble spoke to them and said "Hello, comrades. I am tired of sitting here all day in the sun. Would one of you mind carrying me in your pocket?"
"Sure," they said, and the athiest put the talking pebble in his pocket.
On the third day, one of the religious men jumped up crying "Look! Look over there!"
The others looked in every direction but could not see anything. The religious man who had been yelling took off running, screaming "I can't believe it! Come on, let's go! We're saved!" He soon disappeared over a dune and never returned.
"What an idiot," said the athiest. "There was never any water there."
"Can you see what he was yelling about?" asked the pebble softly.
"Perhaps," replied the pebble, "if you could see what he saw, you might well be chasing after it yourself."
The men continued on. Soon they stopped to take a rest. The sun beat down on their backs and burned their skin.
After a time, another of the religious man jumped up. "I can see an oasis! It's beautiful!" he cried, and he too took off running. The others looked and to their surprise, they saw the oasis as well. But the athiest saw it shimmer in the sun and told them to stay put.
The second religious man never came back.
"You see? Mirages never did anyone any good," muttered the athiest as the remaining three trekked off across the sand. "Fool..."
"At least he knows where he's going," the pebble said mildly.
"Fat lot of good that will do him," the athiest replied.
A few days later, the men were almost dead. They could barely walk anymore. The athiest was just about ready to fall down and never get up when the last religious man jumped up screaming "The city! It's the city!" and, just like the others, ran towards it.
The other men looked and sure enough, there was a city, shimmering with gold and silver. The athiest shook his head. "It's just an illusion, you idiot! Come back!"
The religious man paused at the top of a dune and yelled "No it's not! Come see for yourself! C'mon, you can even smell the food from here-"
"Oh no, I'm not wasting precious breath falling for that one again. Didn't you learn from the others?"
The religious man said "I sure did. And now I'm leaving," and disappeared down into the city.
The athiest rolled his eyes and kept going, wearily. The pebble said nothing more to him after that, and nobody knows what became of him.
The agnostic, on the other hand, indecisively torn between directions, wandered around between city and sand before starving to death.
Before you get angry or praising, read the Author's Note (which is cleverly disguised as a second chapter). It should help clear a few things up.
Oh, and please do review afterwards. I'm taking a bit of a risk by posting this and I'd like feedback.