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The happy unfortunate


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Title:TheHappyUnfortunate
Author:RobertSilverberg
ReleaseDate:April10,2008[EBook#25035]
Language:English

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THE
HAPPY
UNFORTUNATE



ByROBERTSILVERBERG
Dekker, back from space, found great physical changes in
thepeopleofEarth;changesthatwouldhavehorrifiedhim
fiveyearsbefore.Butnow,hewantedtobeliketherest—
evenifhehadtoloseaneyeandbothearstodoit.

R

OLF DEKKERstaredincredulouslyattheslim,handsomeyoungEarther
whowasapproachingthestepsofRolf'stumbling-downSpacertownshack.He's
got no ears, Rolf noted in unbelief. After five years in space, Rolf had come
hometoastrangely-alteredworld,andhefoundithardtoaccept.
AnotherEartherappeared.Thisonewasaboutthesamesize,andgavethesame
impressionoffragility.Thisonehadears,allright—andapairofgleaming,twoinchhornsonhisforeheadaswell.I'llbeeternallyroasted,Rolfthought.Now
I'veseeneverything.
Both Earthers were dressed in neat, gold-inlaid green tunics, costumes which
lookedterriblyoutofplaceamidthefilthofSpacertown,andtheirhairwasdyed
alightgreentomatch.
Hehadbeenscrutinizingthemforseveralmomentsbeforetheybecameawareof
him. They both spotted him at once and the one with no ears turned to his
companionandwhisperedsomething.Rolf,leaningforward,strainedtohear.
"...beautiful,isn'the?That'sthebiggestoneI'veseen!"
"Come over here, won't you?" the horned one called, in a soft, gentle voice
whichcontrastedoddlywiththeraucousbellowingRolfhadbeenaccustomedto
hearinginspace."We'dliketotalktoyou."
JustthenKanadayemergedfromthedooroftheshackandlimpeddowntothe
staircase.


ThedoctorrefusedtochangeDekker,soDekkerwasgoingtochangethedoctor.

"Hey,Rolf!"hecalled."Leavethosethingsalone!"
"Letmefindoutwhattheywantfirst,huh?"
"Can'tbeanygood,whateveritis,"Kanadaygrowled."Tellthemtogetoutof
herebeforeIthrowthembacktowherevertheycamefrom.Andmakeitfast."
ThetwoEartherslookedateachotheruneasily.Rolfwalkedtowardthem.
"Hedoesn'tlikeEarthers,that'sall,"Rolfexplained."Buthewon'tdoanything
butyell."


Kanadayspatindisgust,turned,andlimpedbackinsidetheshack.
"Ididn'tknowyouwerewearinghorns,"Rolfsaid.
TheEartherflushed."Newstyle,"hesaid."Veryexpensive."
"Oh,"Rolfsaid."I'mnewhere;Ijustgotback.Fiveyearsinspace.WhenIleft
youpeoplelookedallalike.Nowyouwearhorns."
"It's the new trend," said the earless one. "We're Individs. When you left the
Conforms were in power, style-wise. But the new surgeons can do almost
anything,yousee."
TheshadowofafrowncrossedRolf'sface."Anything?"
"Almost.Theycan'ttransformanEartherintoaSpacer,andtheydon'tthinkthey
everwill."
"Orviceversa?"Rolfasked.
They sniggered. "What Spacer would want to become an Earther? Who would
giveupthatlife,outinthestars?"
Rolfsaidnothing.Hekickedattheheapoflitterinthefilthystreet.Whatspacer
indeed?hethought.HesuddenlyrealizedthatthetwolittleEartherswerestaring
upathimasifheweresomesortofbeast.Heprobablyweighedasmuchasboth
ofthem,heknew,andatsix-fourhewasbetterthanafoottaller.Theylooked
likechildrennexttohim,liketoys.Thesavageblastofaccelerationwouldsnap
theirflimsybodiesliketoothpicks.


"Whatplaceshaveyoubeento?"theearlessoneasked.
"Two years on Mars, one on Venus, one in the Belt, one on Neptune," Rolf
recited. "I didn't like Neptune. It was best in the Belt; just our one ship,
prospecting.WemadeapileonCeres—enoughtobuyout.Ishothalfofiton
Neptune.Stillhaveplentyleft,butIdon'tknowwhatIcandowithit."Hedidn't
addthathehadcomehomepuzzled,wonderingwhyhewasaSpacerinsteadof
anEarther,condemnedtoliveinfilthySpacertownwhenYawkwasjustacross
theriver.
Theywerelookingathisshabbyclothes,atthedirtybrownstonehovelhelived
in—anantiqueofahousefourorfivecenturiesold.
"Youmeanyou'rerich?"theEarthersaid.
"Sure," Rolf said. "Every Spacer is. So what? What can I spend it on? My
money'sbankedonMars andVenus.ThankstothelawI can'tlegally getitto
Earth.SoIliveinSpacertown."
"HaveyoueverseenanEarthercity?"theearlessoneasked,lookingaroundat
the quiet streets of Spacertown with big powerful men sitting idly in front of
everyhouse.
"I used to live in Yawk," Rolf said. "My grandmother was an Earther; she
brought me up there. I haven't been back there since I left for space." They
forcedmeoutofYawk,hethought.I'mnotpartoftheirspecies.Notoneofthem.
ThetwoEarthersexchangedglances.
"Can we interest you in a suggestion?" They drew in their breath as if they
expectedtobeknockedsprawling.
Kanadayappearedatthedooroftheshackagain.
"Rolf. Hey! You turning into an Earther? Get rid of them two cuties before
there'strouble."
Rolf turned and saw a little knot of Spacers standing on the other side of the
street,watchinghimwithcuriosity.Heglaredatthem.
"I'lldowhateverIdamnwellplease,"heshoutedacross.


HeturnedbacktothetwoEarthers."Now,whatisityouwant?"
"I'mgivingapartynextweek,"theearlessonesaid."I'dlikeyoutocome.We'd
liketogettheSpacerslantonlife."
"Party?"Rolfrepeated."Youmean,dancing,andgames,andstufflikethat?"
"You'll enjoy it," the Earther said coaxingly. "And we'd all love to have a real
Spacerthere."
"Whenisit?"
"Aweek."
"Ihavetendaysleftofmyleave.Allright,"hesaid."I'llcome."
He accepted the Earther's card, looked at it mechanically, saw the name—Kal
Quinton—andpocketedit."Sure,"hesaid."I'llbethere."
TheEarthersmovedtowardtheirlittlejetcar,smilinggratefully.AsRolfcrossed
thestreet,theotherSpacersgreetedhimwithcold,puzzledstares.
KanadaywasalmostastallasRolf,andevenuglier.Rolf'seyebrowswerebold
and heavy; Kanaday's, thick, contorted, bushy clumps of hair. Kanaday's nose
hadbeenbrokenlongbeforeinsomebarroombrawl;hischeekbonesbulged;his
facewasstrongandhard.Moreimportant,hisleftfootwastwistedandgnarled
beyondhopeofredemptionbythemostskillfulsurgeon.Hehadbeencrippledin
ajetexplosionthreeyearsbefore,andwasofnousetotheSpacelinesanymore.
They had pensioned him off. Part of the deal was the dilapidated old house in
Spacertownwhichheoperatedasaboarding-housefortransientSpacers.
"What do you want to do that for?" Kanaday asked. "Haven't those Earthers
pushed you around enough, so you have to go dance at one of their wild
parties?"
"Leavemealone,"Rolfmuttered.
"You like this filth you live in? Spacertown is just a ghetto, that's all. The
Earthershavepushedyourightintothemuck.You'renotevenahumanbeingto
them—justsomesortoftrainedape.Andnowyou'regoingtogoandentertain
them.Ithoughtyouhadbrains,Rolf!"


"Shutup!"Hedashedhisglassagainstthetable;itbouncedoffanddroppedto
thefloor,whereitshattered.
Kanaday's girl Laney entered the room at the sound of the crash. She was tall
and powerful-looking, with straight black hair and the strong cheekbones that
characterizedtheSpacers.Immediatelyshestoopedandbeganshovelingupthe
brokenglass.
"Thatwasn'tsmart,Rolf,"shesaid."That'llcostyouhalfacredit.Wasn'tworth
it,wasit?"
Rolflaidthecoinontheedgeofthetable."Tellyourpaltoshutup,then.Ifhe
doesn'tstopicingmeI'llfixhisotherfootforhimandyoucanbuyhimadolly."
Shelookedfromonetotheother."What'sbotheringyoutwonow?"
"AcoupleofEartherswereherethismorning,"Kanadaysaid."Slumming.They
tookafancytoouryoungfriendhereandinvitedhimtooneoftheirparties.He
accepted."
"Hewhat?Don'tgo,Rolf.You'recrazytogo."
"WhyamIcrazy?"Hetriedtocontrolhisvoice."Whyshouldwekeepourselves
apartfromtheEarthers?Whyshouldn'tthetworacesgettogether?"
Sheputdownhertrayandsatnexttohim."They'remorethantworaces,"she
said patiently. "Earther and Spacer are two different species, Rolf. Carefully,
genetically separated. They're small and weak, we're big and powerful. You've
beenbredforgoingtospace;they'rethecastoffs,theoneswhoweretooweakto
go.Thelinebetweenthetwogroupsistoostrongtobreak."
"Andtheytreatuslikedirt—likeanimals,"Kanadaysaid."Butthey'rethedirt.
Theyweretheoneswhocouldn'tmakeit."
"Don'tgototheparty,"Laneysaid."Theyjustwanttomakefunofyou.Lookat
thebigape,they'llsay."
Rolf stood up. "You don't understand. Neither of you does. I'm part Earther,"
Rolfsaid."Mygrandmotheronmymother'sside.SheraisedmeasanEarther.
ShewantedmetobeanEarther.ButIkeptgettingbiggeranduglierallthetime.
Shetookmetoaplasticsurgeononce,figuringhecouldmakemelooklikean


Earther.Hewasalittleman;Idon'tknowwhathelookedliketostartwithbut
someothersurgeonhadmadehimclean-cutandstraight-nosedandthin-lipped
like all the other Earthers. I was bigger than he was—twice as big, and I was
onlyfifteen.Helookedatmeandfeltmybonesandmeasuredme.'Healthylittle
ape'—thosewerethewordsheused.HetoldmygrandmotherI'dgetbiggerand
bigger,thatnoamountofsurgerycouldmakemesmallandhandsome,thatIwas
fit only for space and didn't belong in Yawk. So I left for space the next
morning."
"Isee,"Laneysaidquietly.
"Ididn'tsaygood-bye.Ijustleft.TherewasnoplaceformeinYawk;Icouldn't
passmyselfoffasanEartheranymore.ButI'dliketogobackandseewhatthe
old life was like, now that I know what it's like to be on the other side for a
while."
"It'llhurtwhenyoufindout,Rolf."
"I'lltakethatchance.ButIwanttogo.Maybemygrandmother'llbethere.The
surgeonsmadeheryoungandprettyagaineveryfewyears;shelookedlikemy
sisterwhenIleft."
Laneynoddedherhead."There'snopointarguingwithhim,Kanaday.Hehasto
gobackthereandfindout,solethimalone."
Rolfsmiled."Thanksforunderstanding."HetookoutQuinton'scardandturned
itoverandoverinhishand.
RolfwenttoYawkonfoot,dressedinhisbestclothes,withhisfaceascleanasit
had been in some years. Spacertown was just across the river from Yawk, and
the bridges spanning the river were bright and gleaming in the mid-afternoon
sun.
The bombs had landed on Yawk during the long-forgotten war, but somehow
theyhadsparedthesprawlingboroughacrosstheriver.AndsoYawkhadbeen
completelyrebuilt,oncetheradioactivityhadbeenpurgedfromtheland,while
whatwasnowSpacertownconsistedmostlyofbuildingsthatdatedbacktothe
TwentiethCentury.
Yawk had been the world's greatest seaport; now it was the world's greatest
spaceport.Theskywasthickwithincomingandoutgoingliners.Thepassengers


on the ship usually stayed at Yawk, which had become an even greater
metropolis than it had been before the Bomb. The crew crossed the river to
Spacertown,wheretheycouldfindtheirownkind.
YawkandSpacertownwereliketwoseparateplanets.Therewerethreebridges
spanningtheriver,butmostofthetimetheywentunused,exceptbyspacemen
goingbackhomeorbyspacemengoingtothespaceportforembarkation.There
wasnoregulartransportationbetweenthetwocities;togetfromSpacertownto
Yawk,youcouldborrowajetcaroryoucouldwalk.Rolfwalked.
He enjoyed the trip. I'm going back home, he thought as he paced along the
gleamingarcofthebridge,dressedinhisSundaybest.Herememberedthedays
of his own childhood, his parentless childhood. His earliest memory was of a
fight at the age of six or so. He had stood off what seemed like half the
neighborhood, ending the battle by picking up an older bully, much feared by
everyone, and heaving him over a fence. When he told his grandmother about
thewayhehadwonthefightshecriedforanhour,andnevertoldhimwhy.But
theyhadneverpickedonhimagain,thoughheknewtheotherboyshadjeeredat
him behind his back as he grew bigger and bigger over the years. "Ape," they
calledhim."Ape."
Butnevertohisface.
He approached the Yawk end of the bridge. A guard was waiting there—an
Eartherguard,smallandfrail,butwithasturdy-lookingblasterathiship.
"Goingback,Spacer?"
Rolfstarted.Howdidtheguardknow?Andthenherealizedthatalltheguard
meantwas,areyougoingbacktoyourship?
"No.No,I'mgoingtoaparty.KalQuinton'shouse."
"Tellmeanother,Spacer."Theguard'svoicewaslightandderisive.Aswiftpoke
intheribswouldbreakhiminhalf,Rolfthought.
"I'mserious.Quintoninvitedme.Here'shiscard."
"Ifthisisajokeit'llmeantrouble.Butgoahead;I'lltakeyourwordforit."
Rolfmarchedonpasttheguard,almostnonchalantly.Helookedattheaddress
on the card. 12406 Kenman Road. He rooted around in his fading memory of


Yawk, but he found the details had blurred under the impact of five years of
Mars and Venus and the Belt and Neptune. He did not know where Kenman
Roadwas.
Theglowingstreetsignswerenotmuchhelpeither.Onesaid287thStreetand
theothersaid72ndAvenue.KenmanRoadmightbeanywhere.
Hewalkedonablockortwo.Thestreetswereantisepticallyclean,andhehad
the feeling that his boots, which had lately trod in Spacertown, were leaving
dirtmarksalongthestreet.Hedidnotlookbacktosee.
He looked at his wristchron. It was getting late, and Kenman Road might be
anywhere.Heturnedintoabusythoroughfare,consciousthathewasattracting
attention. The streets here were crowded with little people who barely reached
hischest;theywereallaboutthesameheight,andmostofthemlookedalike.A
few had had radical surgical alterations, and every one of these was different.
Onehadaunicorn-likehorn;another,anextraeyewhichcunninglyresembled
hisrealones.TheEartherswerelookingathimfurtively,astheywouldatatiger
oranelephantstrollingdownamainstreet.
"Whereareyougoing,Spacer?"saidavoicefromthemiddleofthestreet.
Rolf'sfirstimpulsewastosnarloutacurseandkeepmoving,butherealizedthat
thequestionwasagoodoneandonewhoseanswerhewastryingtofindoutfor
himself.Heturned.
Another policeman stood on the edge of the walkway. "Are you lost?" The
policemanwasshortanddelicate-looking.
Rolfproducedhiscard.
Thepolicemanstudiedit."WhatbusinessdoyouhavewithQuinton?"
"Justtellmehowtogetthere,"Rolfsaid."I'minahurry."
Thepolicemanbackedupastep."Allright,takeiteasy."Hepointedtoakiosk.
"Takethesubcarhere.There'sastopatKenmanRoad.Youcanfindyourway
fromthere."
"I'd rather walk it," Rolf said. He did not want to have to stand the strain of
ridinginasubcarwithabunchofcuriousstaringEarthers.


"Finewithme,"thepolicemansaid."It'sabouttwohundredblockstothenorth.
Gotagoodpairoflegs?"
"Nevermind,"Rolfsaid."I'lltakethesubcar."
Kenman Road was a quiet little street in an expensive-looking end of Yawk.
12406wasatoweringbuildingwhichcompletelyovershadowedeverythingelse
onthestreet.AsRolfenteredthedoor,aperfumedlittleEartherwithaflashing
diamond where his left eye should have been and a skin stained bright purple
appearedfromnowhere.
"We'vebeenwaitingforyou.Comeon;Kalwillbedelightedthatyou'rehere."
TheelevatorzoomedupsoquicklythatRolfthoughtforamomentthathewas
backinspace.Butitstoppedsuddenlyatthe62ndfloor,and,asthedoorswung
open,thesoundsofwildrevelrydrifteddownthehall.Rolfhadabriefmoment
of doubt when he pictured Laney and Kanaday at this very moment, playing
cards in their mouldering hovel while he walked down this plastiline corridor
backintoaworldhehadleftbehind.
Quintoncameoutintothehalltogreethim.Rolfrecognizedhimbythemissing
ears;hisskinwasnowasubduedbluetogowithhisorangerobe.
"I'msogladyoucame,"thelittleEartherbubbled."ComeoninandI'llintroduce
youtoeveryone."
The door opened photoelectrically as they approached. Quinton seized him by
thehandanddraggedhimin.Therewasthesoundoflaughterandofshouting.
Asheentereditallstopped,suddenly,asifithadbeenshutoff.Rolfstaredat
themquizzicallyfromunderhisloweringbrows,andtheylookedathimwithillconcealedcuriosity.
Theyseemeddividedintotwogroups.Clusteredatoneendofthelonghallwas
agroupofEartherswhoseemedcompletelyidentical,allwiththesamefeatures,
lookinglikesomanydollsinarow.TheseweretheEarthersheremembered,the
oneswhomtheplasticsurgeonshadhackedatandhewnuntiltheyallconformed
totheprevailingconceptofbeauty.
Thenattheotherendwasadifferentgroup.Theywerealldifferent.Somehad
glittering jewels set in their foreheads, others had no lips, no hair, extra eyes,
threenostrils.Theywereaweirdandfrighteninggroup,highestproductofthe


plasticsurgeon'sart.
BothgroupswerestaringsilentlyatRolf.
"Friends,thisisRolf—Rolf—"
"Dekker,"Rolfsaidafterapause.Hehadalmostforgottenhisownlastname.
"RolfDekker,justbackfromouterspace.I'veinvitedhimtojoinustonight.I
thinkyou'llenjoymeetinghim."
The stony silence slowly dissolved into murmurs of polite conversation as the
party-goers adjusted to the presence of the newcomer. They seemed to be
discussing the matter earnestly among themselves, as if Quinton had done
somethingunheard-ofbybringingaSpacerintoanEartherparty.
Atallgirlwithblondehairdrifteduptohim.
"Ah. Jonne," Quinton said. He turned to Rolf. "This is Jonne. She asked to be
yourcompanionattheparty.She'sveryinterestedinspaceandthingsconnected
withit."
Thingsconnectedwithit,Rolfthought.Meaningme.Helookedather.Shewas
as tall an Earther as he had yet seen, and probably suffered for it when there
werenoSpacersaround.Furthermore,hesuspected,herheightwasaccentuated
fortheeveningbyspecialshoes.ShewasnotoftheIndividpersuasion,because
her face was well-shaped, with smooth, even features, with no individualist
distortion. Her skin was unstained. She wore a clinging off-the-breast tunic.
Quiteadish,Rolfdecided.Hebegantoseethathemightenjoythisparty.
The other guests began to approach timidly, now that the initial shock of his
presencehadwornoff.Theyaskedsillylittlequestionsaboutspace—questions
whichshowedthattheyhadonlyasuperficialinterestinhimandweretreating
himasasortoftalkingdog.Heansweredasmanyashecould,lookingdownat
theirlittlepaintedfaceswithconcealedcontempt.
TheythinkaslittleofmeasIdoofthem.Thethoughthithimsuddenlyandhis
broadfacecreasedinasmileattheirony.Thenthemusicstarted.
TheknotofEarthersslowlybrokeupanddriftedawaytodance.Helookedat


Jonne,whohadstoodpatientlyathissidethroughallthis.
"I don't dance," he said. "I never learned how." He watched the other couples
movinggracefullyaroundthefloor,lookingforalltheworldlikeanassemblage
of puppets. He stared in the dim light, watching the couples clinging to each
otherastheyrockedthroughthemotionsofthedance.Hestoodagainstthewall,
wearing his ugliness like a shield. He saw the great gulf which separated him
fromtheEarthersspreadingbeforehim,ashewatchedthedancersandthegay
chatterandtheemptybadinageandthefurtivehand-holding,andeverythingelse
from which he was cut off. The bizarre Individs were dancing together—he
noticedonemanputtinganextraarmtofulladvantage—andthealmostidentical
Conformshadformedtheirowngroupagain.Rolfwonderedhowtheytoldeach
otherapartwhentheyalllookedalike.
"Comeon,"Jonnesaid."I'llshowyouhowtodance."Heturnedtolookather,
with her glossy blonde hair and even features. She smiled prettily, revealing
whiteteeth.Probablynewlypurchased?Rolfwondered.
"ActuallyIdoknowhowtodance,"Rolfsaid."ButIdoitsobadly—"
"Thatdoesn'tmatter,"shesaidgaily."Comeon."
She took his arm. Maybe she doesn't think I look like an ape, he thought. She
doesn'ttreatmethewaytheothersdo.ButwhyamIsougly,andwhyissheso
pretty?
He looked at her and she looked at him, and he felt her glance on his stubbly
facewithitsferociousteethandburningyellowisheyes.Hedidn'twantherto
seehimatall;hewishedhehadnoface.
Hefoldedherinhisarms,feelingherwarmthradiatethroughhim.Shewasvery
tall,herealized,almostastallasaSpacerwoman—butwithnoneoftheharsh
ruggedness of the women of Spacertown. They danced, she well, he clumsily.
Whenthemusicstoppedsheguidedhimtotheentranceofaveranda.
Theywalkedoutsideintothecoolnightair.Thelightsofthecityobscuredmost
of the stars, but a few still showed, and the moon hung high above Yawk. He
coulddimlymakeoutthelightsofSpacertownacrosstheriver,andhethought
againofLaneyandKanadayandwishedKanadaycouldseehimnowwiththis
beautifulEarthernexttohim.
"Youmustgetlonelyinspace,"shesaidafterawhile.


"Ido,"hesaid,tryingtokeephisvoicegentle."Butit'swhereIbelong.I'mbred
forit."
Shenodded."Yes.Andanyofthoseso-calledmeninsidewouldgivetenyears
ofhislifetobeabletogotospace.Butyetyousayit'slonely."
"Thoselongridesthroughthenight,"hesaid."Theygetyoudown.Youwantto
be back among people. So you come back. You come back. And what do you
comebackto?"
"Iknow,"shesaidsoftly."I'veseenSpacertown."
"Why must it be that way?" he demanded. "Why are Spacers so lucky and so
wretchedallatonce?"
"Let'snottalkaboutitnow,"shesaid.
I'dliketokissher,hethought.Butmyfaceisrough,andI'mroughandugly,and
she'dpushmeaway.IremembertheprettylittleEarthergirlswhoranlaughing
awayfrommewhenIwasthirteenandfourteen,beforeIwenttospace.
"Youdon'thavetobelonely,"shesaid.Oneofherperfecteyebrowsliftedjusta
little."Maybesomedayyou'llfindsomeonewhocares,Rolf.Someday,maybe."
"Yeah," he said. "Someday, maybe." But he knew it was all wrong. Could he
bringthisgirltoSpacertownwithhim?No;shemustbemerelyplayingagame,
lookingforanevening'sdiversion.Somethingnew:makelovetoaSpacer.
They fell silent and he watched her again, and she watched him. He heard her
breathrisingandfallingevenly,notatalllikehisownthickgasps.Afterawhile
hesteppedclosetoher,puthisarmaroundher,tiltedherheadintothecrookof
hiselbow,bent,andkissedher.
Ashedidit,hesawhewasbotchingitjustlikeeverythingelse.Hehadcome
tooclose,andhisheavybootwaspressingonthetipofhershoe;andhehadnot
quitelandedsquareonherlips.Butstill,hewasclosetoher.Hewasreluctantto
break it up, but he felt she was only half-responding, not giving anything of
herselfwhilehehadgivenall.Hedrewbackastep.
Shedidnothavetimetohidetheexpressionofdistastethatinvoluntarilycrossed
her face. He watched the expression on her face as she realized the kiss was


over.Hewatchedhersilently.
"Someday, maybe," he said. She stared at him, not hiding the fear that was
startingtogrowonherface.
Hefeltacoldchilldeepinhisstomach,anditgrewuntilitpassedthroughhis
throatandintohishead.
"Yeah,"hesaid."Someday,maybe.Butnotyou.Notanyonewho'sjustplaying
games.That'sall—youwantsomethingtotellyourfriendsabout,that'swhyyou
volunteeredfortonight'sassignment.It'sallyoucandotokeepfromlaughingat
me,butyou'restickingtoit.Idon'twantanyofit,hearme?Getaway."
She stepped back a pace. "You ugly, clumsy clown. You ape!" Tears began to
spoiltheflawlessmaskofherface.Blindedwithanger,hegrabbedroughlyfor
herarm,butshebrokeawayanddashedbackinside.
She was trying to collect me, he thought. Her hobby: interesting dates. She
wantedtoaddmetohercollection.AnExperience.Calmlyhewalkedtotheend
of the veranda and stared off into the night, choking his rage. He watched the
moonmakingitsdeadrideacrossthesky,andstaredatthesprinklingofstars.
Thenightwasemptyandcold,hethought,finally.ButnotmoresothanI.
Heturnedandlookedbackthroughthehalf-openedwindow.Hesawagirlwho
lookedalmostlikeher,butwasnottallenoughandworeadifferentdress.Then
hespottedher.ShewasdancingwithoneoftheConforms,afrail-lookingmana
few inches shorter than she, with regular, handsome features. She laughed at
someslyjoke,andhelaughedwithher.
Rolfwatchedthemoonforamomentmore,thinkingofLaney'swarning.They
justwanttomakefunofyou.Lookatthebigape,they'llsay.
Heknewhehadtogetoutofthereimmediately.HewasaSpacer,andtheywere
Earthers, and he scorned them for being contemptuous little dolls, and they
laughedathimforbeingahulkingape.Hewasnotamemberoftheirspecies;he
wasnotpartoftheirworld.
Hewentinside.KalQuintoncamerushinguptohim.
"I'mgoing,"Rolfsaid.


"What? You don't mean that," the little man said. "Why, the party's scarcely
gotten under way, and there are dozens of people who want to meet you. And
you'llmissthebigshowifyoudon'tstay."
"I'vealreadyseenthebigshow,"Rolftoldhim."Iwantout.Now."
"Youcan'tleavenow,"Quintonsaid.Rolfthoughthesawtearsinthecornersof
thelittleman'seyes."Pleasedon'tleave.I'vetoldeveryoneyou'dbehere—you'll
disgraceme."
"What do I care? Let me out of here." Rolf started to move toward the door.
Quintonattemptedtopushhimback.
"Justaminute,Rolf.Please!"
"Ihavetogetout,"hesaid.HeknockedQuintonoutofhiswaywithabackhand
swipeofhisarmanddasheddownthehallfrantically,lookingfortheelevator.
LaneyandKanadayweresittingupwaitingforhimwhenhegotback,earlyin
the morning. He slung himself into a pneumochair and unsealed his boots,
releasinghiscramped,tiredfeet.
"Well,"Laneyasked."Howwastheparty?"
"YouhavefunamongtheEarthers,Rolf?"
Hesaidnothing.
"Itcouldn'thavebeenthatbad,"Laneysaid.
Rolflookedupather."I'mleavingspace.I'mgoingtogotoasurgeonandhave
himturnmeintoanEarther.Ihatethisfilthylife!"
"He'sdrunk,"Kanadaysaid.
"No,I'mnotdrunk,"Rolfretorted."Idon'twanttobeanapeanymore."
"Is that what you are? If you're an ape, what are they to you? Monkeys?"
Kanadaylaughedharshly.
"Are they really so wonderful?" Laney asked. "Does the life appeal to you so
muchthatyou'llgiveupspaceforit?DoyouadmiretheEartherssomuch?"


She'sgotme,Rolfthought.IhateSpacertown,butwillIlikeYawkanybetter?
DoIreallywanttobecomeoneofthoselittlepuppets?Butthere'snothingleftin
spaceforme.AtleasttheEarthersarehappy.
Iwishshewouldn'tlookatmethatway."Leavemealone,"hesnarled."I'lldo
whatever I want to do." Laney was staring at him, trying to poke behind his
mask of anger. He looked at her wide shoulders, her muscular frame, her
unbeautiful hair and rugged face, and compared it with Jonne's clinging grace,
herflowinggoldhair.
Hepickeduphisbootsandstumpeduptobed.
The surgeon's name was Goldring, and he was a wiry, intense man who had
prevailed on one of his colleagues to give him a tiny slit of a mouth. He sat
behindashiningplastilinedesk,waitingpatientlyuntilRolffinishedtalking.
"Itcan'tbedone,"hesaidatlast."Plasticsurgeonscandoalmostanything,butI
can't turn you into an Earther. It's not just a matter of chopping eight or ten
inchesoutofyourlegs;I'dhavetoalteryourentirebonestructureoryou'dbea
hideous misproportioned monstrosity. And it can't be done. I can't build you a
wholenewbodyfromscratch,andifIcoulddoityouwouldn'tbeabletoafford
it."
Rolfstampedhisfootimpatiently."You'rethethirdsurgeonwho'sgivenmethe
sameline.Whatisthis—aconspiracy?Iseewhatyoucando.Ifyoucangrafta
thirdarmontosomebody,youcanturnmeintoanEarther."
"Please,Mr.Dekker.I'vetoldyouIcan't.ButIdon'tunderstandwhyyouwant
such a change. Hardly a week goes by without some Yawk boy coming to me
and asking to be turned into a Spacer, and I have to refuse him for the same
reasons I'm refusing you! That's the usual course of events—the romantic
Eartherboywantingtogotospace,andnotbeingableto."
AnideahitRolf."WasoneofthemKalQuinton?"
"I'msorry,Mr.Dekker.Ijustcan'tdivulgeanysuchinformation."
Rolfshothisarmacrossthedeskandgraspedthesurgeonbythethroat."Answer
me!"
"Yes," the surgeon gasped. "Quinton asked me for such an operation. Almost


everyonewantsone."
"Andyoucan'tdoit?"Rolfasked.
"Of course not. I've told you: the amount of work needed to turn Earther into
SpacerorSpacerintoEartherisinconceivable.It'llneverbedone."
"Iguessthat'sdefinite,then,"Rolfsaid,slumpingalittleindisappointment."But
there's nothing to prevent you from giving me a new face—from taking away
thisfaceandreplacingitwithsomethingpeoplecanlookatwithoutshuddering."
"Idon'tunderstandyou,Mr.Dekker,"thesurgeonsaid.
"Iknowthat!Can'tyouseeit—I'mugly!Why?WhyshouldIlookthisway?"
"Pleasecalmdown,Mr.Dekker.Youdon'tseemtorealizethatyou'reaperfectly
normal-lookingSpacer.Youwerebredtolookthisway.It'syourgeneticheritage.
Space is not a thing for everyone; only men with extraordinary bone structure
canwithstandacceleration.Thefirstmenwerecarefullyselectedandbred.You
seetheresultoffivecenturiesofthissortofbreeding.Thesturdy,heavy-boned
Spacers—you, Mr. Dekker, and your friends—are the only ones who are fit to
travelinspace.Theothers,theweaklingslikemyself,thelittlepeople,resortto
plasticsurgerytocompensatefortheirdeficiency.Forawhilethetrendwasto
haveeveryoneconformtoacertainstandardofbeauty;ifwecouldn'tbestrong,
wecouldatleastbehandsome.Latelyanewtheoryofindividualismhassprung
up,andnowwestrivefororiginalformsinourbodies.Thisisallbecausesize
andstrengthhasbeenbredoutofusandgiventoyou."
"Iknowallthis,"Rolfsaid."Whycan'tyou—"
"Why can't I peel away your natural face and make you look like an Earther?
There'snoreasonwhy;itwouldbeasimpleoperation.Butwhowouldyoufool?
Whycan'tyoubegratefulforwhatyouare?YoucangotoMars,whilewecan
merelylookatit.IfIgaveyouanewface,itwouldcutyouofffrombothsides.
TheEartherswouldstillknowyouwereaSpacer,andI'msuretheotherSpacers
wouldimmediatelyceasetoassociatewithyou."
"Who are you to say? You're not supposed to pass judgment on whether an
operationshouldbeperformed,oryouwouldn'tpulloutpeople'seyesandstick
diamondsin!"


"It's not that, Mr. Dekker." The surgeon folded and unfolded his hands in
impatience."Youmustrealizethatyouarewhatyouare.Yourappearanceisa
socialnorm,andforacceptanceinyoursocialenvironmentyoumustcontinueto
appear,well,perhaps,shallIsayapelike?"
Itwasasbadawordasthesurgeoncouldhavechosen.
"Ape!Ape,amI!I'llshowyouwho'sanape!"Rolfyelled,alltheaccumulated
frustration of the last two days suddenly bursting loose. He leaped up and
overturnedthedesk.Dr.Goldringhastilyjumpedbackwardsastheheavydesk
crashedtothefloor.Astartlednursedashedintotheoffice,sawthesituation,and
immediatelyranout.
"Give me your instruments! I'll operate on myself!" He knocked Goldring
againstthewall,pulleddownacostlysolidographfromthewallandkickeditat
him,andcrashedthroughintotheoperatingroom,wherehebeganoverturning
tablesandheavingchairsthroughglassshelves.
"I'llshowyou,"hesaid.Hecrackedaninstrumentcaseandtookoutadelicate
knife with a near-microscopic edge. He bent it in half and threw the crumpled
wreckageaway.Wildlyhedestroyedeverythinghecould,ragingfromoneend
oftheroomtotheother,rippingdownfurnishings,smashing,destroying,while
Dr.Goldringstoodatthedoorandyelledforhelp.
Itwasnotlongincoming.AnarmyofEartherpolicemeneruptedintotheroom
andconfrontedhimashestoodpantingamidthewreckage.Theywereallshort
men,buttheremusthavebeentwentyofthem.
"Don'tshoothim,"someonecalled.Andthentheyadvancedinabody.
He picked up the operating table and hurled it at them. Three policemen
crumpledunderit,buttherestkeptcoming.Hebattedthemawaylikeinsects,
buttheysurroundedhimandpiledon.Forafewmomentshestruggledunderthe
loadoffifteensmallmen,punchingandkickingandyelling.Heburstloosefor
aninstant,buttwoofthemwereclingingtohislegsandhehitthefloorwitha
crash.Theywereonhimimmediately,andhestoppedstrugglingafterawhile.
The next thing he knew he was lying sprawled on the floor of his room in
Spacertown,breathingdustoutofthetatteredcarpet.Hewasamassofcutsand
bruises,andheknewtheymusthavegivenhimquiteagoing-over.Hewassore


fromheadtofoot.
Sotheyhadn'tarrestedhim.No,ofcoursenot;nomorethantheywouldarrest
any wild animal who went berserk. They had just dumped him back in the
jungle.Hetriedtogetup,butcouldn'tmakeit.Quiteagoing-overitmusthave
been.Nothingseemedbroken,buteverythingwasslightlybent.
"Satisfiednow?"saidavoicefromsomewhere.Itwasapleasantsoundtohear,a
voice, and he let the mere noise of it soak into his mind. "Now that you've
provedtoeveryonethatyoureallyarejustanape?"
Hetwistedhisneckaround—slowly,becausehisneckwasstiffandsore.Laney
wassittingontheedgeofhisbedwithtwosuitcasesnexttoher.
"It really wasn't necessary to run wild there," she said. "The Earthers all knew
youwerejustananimalanyway.Youdidn'thavetoproveitsoviolently."
"Okay,Laney.Quitit."
"Ifyouwantmeto.Ijustwantedtomakesureyouknewwhathadhappened.A
gangofEarthercopsbroughtyoubackawhileagoanddumpedyouhere.They
toldmethestory."
"Leavemealone."
"You've been telling everyone that all along, Rolf. Look where it got you. A
royalbeatingatthehandsofabunchofEarthers.Nowthatthey'vethrownyou
outforthelasttime,hasitfilteredintoyourmindthatthisiswhereyoubelong?"
"InSpacertown?"
"Only between trips. You belong in space, Rolf. No surgeon can make you an
Earther.TheEarthersaredead,buttheydon'tknowityet.Alltheirparties,their
fancy clothes, their extra arms and missing ears—that means they're decadent.
They're finished. You're the one who's alive; the whole universe is waiting for
youtogooutandsteponitsneck.Andinsteadyouwanttoturnyourselfintoa
green-skinnedlittlemonkey!Why?"
He pulled himself to a sitting position. "I don't know," he said. "I've been all
mixed up, I think." He felt his powerful arm. "I'm a Spacer." Suddenly he
glancedather."Whatarethesuitcasesfor?"hesaid.


"I'mmovingin,"Laneysaid."Ineedaplacetosleep."
"What'sthematterwithKanaday?Didhegettiredoflisteningtoyoupreaching?
He'smyfriend,Laney;I'mnotgoingtodohimdirt."
"He's dead, Rolf. When the Earther cops came here to bring you back, and he
sawwhattheydidtoyou,hishatredoverflowed.HealwayshatedEarthers,and
hehatedthemevenmoreforthewayyouwerebeingtrickedintothinkingthey
were worth anything. He got hold of one of those cops and just about twisted
himintotwopieces.Theyblastedhim."
Rolfwassilent.Helethisheadsinkdownonhisknees.
"SoImoveddownhere.It'slonelyupstairsnow.Comeon;I'llhelpyougetup."
Shewalkedtowardhim,hookedherhandunderhisarm,andhalf-dragged,halfpushed him to his feet. Her touch was firm, and there was no denying the
strengthbehindher.
"Ihavetogetfixedup,"hesaidabruptly."Myleave'supintwodays.Ihaveto
getoutofhere.We'reshippingforPluto."
Herockedunsteadilyonhisfeet."It'llreallygetlonelyherethen,"hesaid.
"Areyoureallygoingtogo?Orareyougoingtofindsomejack-surgeonwho'll
makeyourfaceprettyforafewdirtycredits?"
"Stopit.Imeanit.I'mgoing.I'llbegoneayearonthissignup.BythenI'llhave
enoughcashpileduponvariousplanetstobearichman.I'llgetitalltogether
andgetamansiononVenus,andhaveGreenieslaves."
Itwasgettingtowardnoon.Thesun,highinthesky,burstthroughtheshutters
andlitupthedingyroom.
"I'llstayhere,"Laneysaid."You'regoingtoPluto?"
Henodded.
"Kanaday was supposed tobe going toPluto. Hewasheading therewhen that
explosionfinishedhisfoot.Henevergotthereafterthat."
"PooroldKanaday,"Rolfsaid.


"I'llmisshimtoo.IguessI'llhavetoruntheboarding-housenow.Forawhile.
Willyoucomebackherewhenyouryear'sup?"
"Isupposeso,"Rolfsaidwithoutlookingup."Thistownisnoworsethananyof
theotherSpacertowns.Nobetter,butnoworse."Heslowlyliftedhisheadand
lookedatherasshestoodtherefacinghim.
"Ihopeyoucomeback,"shesaid.
The sun was coming in from behind her, now, and lighting her up. She was
rugged, all right, and strong: a good hard worker. And she was well built.
Suddenlyhisachesbecamelesspainful,ashelookedatherandrealizedthatshe
wasinfinitelymorebeautifulthantheslick,glossy-lookinggirlhehadkissedon
theveranda,whohadboughtherteethatastoreandhadgottenherfigurefroma
surgeon.Laney,atleast,wasreal.
"Youknow,"hesaidatlast,"IthinkIhaveanidea.YouwaithereandI'llcome
getyouwhenmyyear'sup.I'llhaveenoughtopaypassagetoVenusfortwo.We
cangetaslightlysmallermansionthanIplannedongetting.Butwecangetit.
Some parts of Venus are beautiful. And the closest those monkeys from Yawk
cangettoitistolookatitinthenightsky.Youthinkit'sagoodidea?"
"Ithinkit'sagreatidea,"shesaid,movingtowardhim.Herheadwasnearlyas
highashisown.
"I'llgobacktospace.Ihaveto,tokeepmyrating.Butyou'llwaitforme,won't
you?"
"I'llwait."
Andashedrewherclose,heknewshemeantit.
THEEND


Transcriber'sNote:
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories
December 1957. Extensive research did not
uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on
this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without
note.

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