Beyond Lies The Wub – part III

fiction

Beyond Lies The Wub – part three

 

By PHILIP K. DICK

The room was quiet.

"So you see," the wub said, "we have a common myth. Your mind contains
many familiar myth symbols. Ishtar, Odysseus--"

Peterson sat silently, staring at the floor. He shifted in his chair.

"Go on," he said. "Please go on."

"I find in your Odysseus a figure common to the mythology of most
self-conscious races. As I interpret it, Odysseus wanders as an
individual, aware of himself as such. This is the idea of separation, of
separation from family and country. The process of individuation."

"But Odysseus returns to his home." Peterson looked out the port window,
at the stars, endless stars, burning intently in the empty universe.
"Finally he goes home."

"As must all creatures. The moment of separation is a temporary period,
a brief journey of the soul. It begins, it ends. The wanderer returns to
land and race...."

The door opened. The wub stopped, turning its great head.

Captain Franco came into the room, the men behind him. They hesitated at
the door.

"Are you all right?" French said.

"Do you mean me?" Peterson said, surprised. "Why me?"

Franco lowered his gun. "Come over here," he said to Peterson. "Get up
and come here."

There was silence.

"Go ahead," the wub said. "It doesn't matter."

Peterson stood up. "What for?"

"It's an order."

Peterson walked to the door. French caught his arm.

"What's going on?" Peterson wrenched loose. "What's the matter with
you?"

Captain Franco moved toward the wub. The wub looked up from where it lay
in the corner, pressed against the wall.

"It is interesting," the wub said, "that you are obsessed with the idea
of eating me. I wonder why."

"Get up," Franco said.

"If you wish." The wub rose, grunting. "Be patient. It is difficult for
me." It stood, gasping, its tongue lolling foolishly.

"Shoot it now," French said.

"For God's sake!" Peterson exclaimed. Jones turned to him quickly, his
eyes gray with fear.

"You didn't see him--like a statue, standing there, his mouth open. If
we hadn't come down, he'd still be there."

"Who? The Captain?" Peterson stared around. "But he's all right now."

They looked at the wub, standing in the middle of the room, its great
chest rising and falling.

"Come on," Franco said. "Out of the way."

The men pulled aside toward the door.

"You are quite afraid, aren't you?" the wub said. "Have I done anything
to you? I am against the idea of hurting. All I have done is try to
protect myself. Can you expect me to rush eagerly to my death? I am a
sensible being like yourselves. I was curious to see your ship, learn
about you. I suggested to the native--"

The gun jerked.

"See," Franco said. "I thought so."

The wub settled down, panting. It put its paw out, pulling its tail
around it.

"It is very warm," the wub said. "I understand that we are close to the
jets. Atomic power. You have done many wonderful things with
it--technically. Apparently, your scientific hierarchy is not equipped
to solve moral, ethical--"

Franco turned to the men, crowding behind him, wide-eyed, silent.

"I'll do it. You can watch."

French nodded. "Try to hit the brain. It's no good for eating. Don't hit
the chest. If the rib cage shatters, we'll have to pick bones out."

"Listen," Peterson said, licking his lips. "Has it done anything? What
harm has it done? I'm asking you. And anyhow, it's still mine. You have
no right to shoot it. It doesn't belong to you."

Franco raised his gun.

"I'm going out," Jones said, his face white and sick. "I don't want to
see it."

"Me, too," French said. The men straggled out, murmuring. Peterson
lingered at the door.

"It was talking to me about myths," he said. "It wouldn't hurt anyone."

He went outside.

Franco walked toward the wub. The wub looked up slowly. It swallowed.

"A very foolish thing," it said. "I am sorry that you want to do it.
There was a parable that your Saviour related--"

It stopped, staring at the gun.

"Can you look me in the eye and do it?" the wub said. "Can you do that?"

The Captain gazed down. "I can look you in the eye," he said. "Back on
the farm we had hogs, dirty razor-back hogs. I can do it."

Staring down at the wub, into the gleaming, moist eyes, he pressed the
trigger.
The taste was excellent.

They sat glumly around the table, some of them hardly eating at all. The
only one who seemed to be enjoying himself was Captain Franco.

"More?" he said, looking around. "More? And some wine, perhaps."

"Not me," French said. "I think I'll go back to the chart room."

"Me, too." Jones stood up, pushing his chair back. "I'll see you later."

The Captain watched them go. Some of the others excused themselves.

"What do you suppose the matter is?" the Captain said. He turned to
Peterson. Peterson sat staring down at his plate, at the potatoes, the
green peas, and at the thick slab of tender, warm meat.

He opened his mouth. No sound came.

The Captain put his hand on Peterson's shoulder.

"It is only organic matter, now," he said. "The life essence is gone."
He ate, spooning up the gravy with some bread. "I, myself, love to eat.
It is one of the greatest things that a living creature can enjoy.
Eating, resting, meditation, discussing things."

Peterson nodded. Two more men got up and went out. The Captain drank
some water and sighed.

"Well," he said. "I must say that this was a very enjoyable meal. All
the reports I had heard were quite true--the taste of wub. Very fine.
But I was prevented from enjoying this pleasure in times past."

He dabbed at his lips with his napkin and leaned back in his chair.
Peterson stared dejectedly at the table.

The Captain watched him intently. He leaned over.

"Come, come," he said. "Cheer up! Let's discuss things."

He smiled.

"As I was saying before I was interrupted, the role of Odysseus in the
myths--"

Peterson jerked up, staring.

"To go on," the Captain said. "Odysseus, as I understand him--"

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