Beyond Lies The Wub – part II

fiction

Beyond Lies The Wub – part two

 

By PHILIP K. DICK

The wub survived the take-off, sound asleep in the hold of the ship.
When they were out in space and everything was running smoothly, Captain
Franco bade his men fetch the wub upstairs so that he might perceive
what manner of beast it was.

The wub grunted and wheezed, squeezing up the passageway.

"Come on," Jones grated, pulling at the rope. The wub twisted, rubbing
its skin off on the smooth chrome walls. It burst into the ante-room,
tumbling down in a heap. The men leaped up.

"Good Lord," French said. "What is it?"

"Peterson says it's a wub," Jones said. "It belongs to him." He kicked
at the wub. The wub stood up unsteadily, panting.

"What's the matter with it?" French came over. "Is it going to be sick?"

They watched. The wub rolled its eyes mournfully. It gazed around at the
men.

"I think it's thirsty," Peterson said. He went to get some water. French
shook his head.

"No wonder we had so much trouble taking off. I had to reset all my
ballast calculations."

Peterson came back with the water. The wub began to lap gratefully,
splashing the men.

Captain Franco appeared at the door.

"Let's have a look at it." He advanced, squinting critically. "You got
this for fifty cents?"

"Yes, sir," Peterson said. "It eats almost anything. I fed it on grain
and it liked that. And then potatoes, and mash, and scraps from the
table, and milk. It seems to enjoy eating. After it eats it lies down
and goes to sleep."

"I see," Captain Franco said. "Now, as to its taste. That's the real
question. I doubt if there's much point in fattening it up any more. It
seems fat enough to me already. Where's the cook? I want him here. I
want to find out--"

The wub stopped lapping and looked up at the Captain.

"Really, Captain," the wub said. "I suggest we talk of other matters."

The room was silent.

"What was that?" Franco said. "Just now."

"The wub, sir," Peterson said. "It spoke."

They all looked at the wub.

"What did it say? What did it say?"

"It suggested we talk about other things."

Franco walked toward the wub. He went all around it, examining it from
every side. Then he came back over and stood with the men.

"I wonder if there's a native inside it," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe
we should open it up and have a look."

"Oh, goodness!" the wub cried. "Is that all you people can think of,
killing and cutting?"

Franco clenched his fists. "Come out of there! Whoever you are, come
out!"

Nothing stirred. The men stood together, their faces blank, staring at
the wub. The wub swished its tail. It belched suddenly.

"I beg your pardon," the wub said.

"I don't think there's anyone in there," Jones said in a low voice. They
all looked at each other.

The cook came in.

"You wanted me, Captain?" he said. "What's this thing?"

"This is a wub," Franco said. "It's to be eaten. Will you measure it and
figure out--"

"I think we should have a talk," the wub said. "I'd like to discuss this
with you, Captain, if I might. I can see that you and I do not agree on
some basic issues."

The Captain took a long time to answer. The wub waited good-naturedly,
licking the water from its jowls.

"Come into my office," the Captain said at last. He turned and walked
out of the room. The wub rose and padded after him. The men watched it
go out. They heard it climbing the stairs.

"I wonder what the outcome will be," the cook said. "Well, I'll be in
the kitchen. Let me know as soon as you hear."

"Sure," Jones said. "Sure."

       *       *       *       *       *

The wub eased itself down in the corner with a sigh. "You must forgive
me," it said. "I'm afraid I'm addicted to various forms of relaxation.
When one is as large as I--"

The Captain nodded impatiently. He sat down at his desk and folded his
hands.

"All right," he said. "Let's get started. You're a wub? Is that
correct?"

The wub shrugged. "I suppose so. That's what they call us, the natives,
I mean. We have our own term."

"And you speak English? You've been in contact with Earthmen before?"

"No."

"Then how do you do it?"

"Speak English? Am I speaking English? I'm not conscious of speaking
anything in particular. I examined your mind--"

"My mind?"

"I studied the contents, especially the semantic warehouse, as I refer
to it--"

"I see," the Captain said. "Telepathy. Of course."

"We are a very old race," the wub said. "Very old and very ponderous. It
is difficult for us to move around. You can appreciate that anything so
slow and heavy would be at the mercy of more agile forms of life. There
was no use in our relying on physical defenses. How could we win? Too
heavy to run, too soft to fight, too good-natured to hunt for game--"

"How do you live?"

"Plants. Vegetables. We can eat almost anything. We're very catholic.
Tolerant, eclectic, catholic. We live and let live. That's how we've
gotten along."

The wub eyed the Captain.

"And that's why I so violently objected to this business about having me
boiled. I could see the image in your mind--most of me in the frozen
food locker, some of me in the kettle, a bit for your pet cat--"

"So you read minds?" the Captain said. "How interesting. Anything else?
I mean, what else can you do along those lines?"

"A few odds and ends," the wub said absently, staring around the room.
"A nice apartment you have here, Captain. You keep it quite neat. I
respect life-forms that are tidy. Some Martian birds are quite tidy.
They throw things out of their nests and sweep them--"

"Indeed." The Captain nodded. "But to get back to the problem--"

"Quite so. You spoke of dining on me. The taste, I am told, is good. A
little fatty, but tender. But how can any lasting contact be established
between your people and mine if you resort to such barbaric attitudes?
Eat me? Rather you should discuss questions with me, philosophy, the
arts--"

The Captain stood up. "Philosophy. It might interest you to know that we
will be hard put to find something to eat for the next month. An
unfortunate spoilage--"

"I know." The wub nodded. "But wouldn't it be more in accord with your
principles of democracy if we all drew straws, or something along that
line? After all, democracy is to protect the minority from just such
infringements. Now, if each of us casts one vote--"

The Captain walked to the door.

"Nuts to you," he said. He opened the door. He opened his mouth.

He stood frozen, his mouth wide, his eyes staring, his fingers still on
the knob.

The wub watched him. Presently it padded out of the room, edging past
the Captain. It went down the hall, deep in meditation.

>>>>>>>>>>>For part two, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on October 13 2020<<<<<<<<<<

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