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