Friday, August 26, 2016

Exile From Space



Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber’s Note:

This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe November 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.

[“They” worried about the impression she’d make. Who could
imagine that she’d fall in love, passionately, the way others of her
blood must have done?

Exile From Space

by … Judith Merril

Who was this strange girl who had been born in this
place–and still it wasn’t her home?…

* * * * *
I don’t know where they got the car. We made three or four stops
before the last one, and they must have picked it up one of those
times. Anyhow, they got it, but they had to make a license plate,
because it had the wrong kind on it.

They made me some clothes, too–a skirt and blouse and shoes that
looked just like the ones we saw on television. They couldn’t make me
a lipstick or any of those things, because there was no way to figure
out just what the chemical composition was. And they decided I’d be as
well off without any driver’s license or automobile registration as I
would be with papers that weren’t exactly perfect, so they didn’t
bother about making those either.

They were worried about what to do with my hair, and even thought
about cutting it short, so it would look more like the women on
television, but that was one time I was way ahead of them. I’d seen
more shows than anyone else, of course–I watched them almost every
minute, from the time they told me I was going–and there was one
where I’d seen a way to make braids and put them around the top of
your head. It wasn’t very comfortable, but I practiced at it until it
looked pretty good.

They made me a purse, too. It didn’t have anything in it except the
diamonds, but the women we saw always seemed to carry them, and they
thought it might be a sort of superstition or ritual necessity, and
that we’d better not take a chance on violating anything like that.

They made me spend a lot of time practicing with the car, because
without a license, I couldn’t take a chance on getting into any
trouble. I must have put in the better part of an hour starting and
stopping and backing that thing, and turning it around, and weaving
through trees and rocks, before they were satisfied.

Then, all of a sudden, there was nothing left to do except go. They
made me repeat everything one more time, about selling the diamonds,
and how to register at the hotel, and what to do if I got into
trouble, and how to get in touch with them when I wanted to come back.
Then they said good-bye, and made me promise not to stay too long,
and said they’d keep in touch the best they could. And then I got in
the car, and drove down the hill into town.

I knew they didn’t want to let me go. They were worried, maybe even a
little afraid I wouldn’t want to come back, but mostly worried that I
might say something I shouldn’t, or run into some difficulties they
hadn’t anticipated. And outside of that, they knew they were going to
miss me. Yet they’d made up their minds to it; they planned it this
way, and they felt it was the right thing to do, and certainly they’d
put an awful lot of thought and effort and preparation into it.

If it hadn’t been for that, I might have turned back at the last
minute. Maybe they were worried; but I was petrified. Only of
course, I wanted to go, really. I couldn’t help being curious, and it
never occurred to me then that I might miss them. It was the first
time I’d ever been out on my own, and they’d promised me, for years
and years, as far back as I could remember, that some day I’d go back,
like this, by myself. But….

Going back, when you’ve been away long enough, is not so much a
homecoming as a dream deja vu. And for me, at least, the dream was
not entirely a happy one. Everything I saw or heard or touched had a
sense of haunting familiarity, and yet of wrongness, too–almost a
nightmare feeling of the oppressively inevitable sequence of events,
of faces and features and events just not-quite-remembered and

I was born in this place, but it was not my home. Its people were not
mine; its ways were not mine. All I knew of it was what I had been
told, and what I had seen for myself these last weeks of preparation,
on the television screen. And the dream-feeling was intensified, at
first, by the fact that I did not know why I was there. I knew it
had been planned this way, and I had been told it was necessary to
complete my education. Certainly I was aware of the great effort that
had been made to make the trip possible. But I did not yet understand
just why.

Perhaps it was just that I had heard and watched and thought and
dreamed too much about this place, and now I was actually there, the
reality was–not so much a disappointment as–just sort of unreal.
Different from what I knew when I didn’t know.

The road unwound in a spreading spiral down the mountainside. Each
time I came round, I could see the city below, closer and larger, and
less distinct. From the top, with the sunlight sparkling on it, it had
been a clean and gleaming pattern of human civilization. Halfway down,
the symmetry was lost, and the smudge and smoke began to show.

Halfway down, too, I began to pass places of business: restaurants and
gas stations and handicraft shops. I wanted to stop. For half an hour
now I had been out on my own, and I still hadn’t seen any of the
people, except the three who had passed me behind the wheels of their
cars, going up the road. One of the shops had a big sign on it, “COME
IN AND LOOK AROUND.” But I kept going. One thing I understood was that
it was absolutely necessary to have money, and that I must stop
nowhere, and attempt nothing, till after I had gotten some.

Farther down, the houses began coming closer together, and then the
road stopped winding around, and became almost straight. By that time,
I was used to the car, and didn’t have to think about it much, and for
a little while I really enjoyed myself. I could see into the houses
sometimes, through the windows, and at one, a woman was opening the
door, coming out with a broom in her hand. There were children playing
in the yards. There were cars of all kinds parked around the houses,
and I saw dogs and a couple of horses, and once a whole flock of

But just where it was beginning to get really interesting, when I was
coming into the little town before the city, I had to stop watching it
all, because there were too many other people driving. That was when I
began to understand all the fuss about licenses and tests and traffic
regulations. Watching it on television, it wasn’t anything like being
in the middle of it!

Of course, what I ran into there was really nothing; I found that out
when I got into the city itself. But just at first, it seemed pretty
bad. And I still don’t understand it. These people are pretty bright
mechanically. You’d think anybody who could build an automobile–let
alone an atom bomb–could drive one easily enough. Especially with a
lifetime to learn in. Maybe they just like to live dangerously….

It was a good thing, though, that I’d already started watching out for
what the other drivers were doing when I hit my first red light. That
was something I’d overlooked entirely, watching street scenes on the
screen, and I guess they’d never noticed either. They must have taken
it for granted, the way I did, that people stopped their cars out of
courtesy from time to time to let the others go by. As it was, I
stopped because the others did, and just happened to notice that they
began again when the light changed to green. It’s really a very good
system; I don’t see why they don’t have them at all the intersections.

[Read More…]

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Eyes Have It

Eye - public domain image by Alexas fotos


Produced by Greg Weeks, Barbara Tozier and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

This etext was produced from “Science Fiction Stories” 1953.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.

“A little whimsy, now and then, makes for good balance.
Theoretically, you could find this type of humor anywhere. But
only a topflight science-fictionist, we thought, could have
written this story, in just this way….”


“The Eyes Have It”


It was quite by accident I discovered this incredible invasion of
Earth by lifeforms from another planet. As yet, I haven’t done
anything about it; I can’t think of anything to do. I wrote to the
Government, and they sent back a pamphlet on the repair and
maintenance of frame houses. Anyhow, the whole thing is known; I’m not
the first to discover it. Maybe it’s even under control.

I was sitting in my easy-chair, idly turning the pages of a
paperbacked book someone had left on the bus, when I came across the
reference that first put me on the trail. For a moment I didn’t
respond. It took some time for the full import to sink in. After I’d
comprehended, it seemed odd I hadn’t noticed it right away.

The reference was clearly to a nonhuman species of incredible
properties, not indigenous to Earth. A species, I hasten to point out,
customarily masquerading as ordinary human beings. Their disguise,
however, became transparent in the face of the following observations
by the author. It was at once obvious the author knew everything. Knew
everything–and was taking it in his stride. The line (and I tremble
remembering it even now) read:

“… his eyes slowly roved about the room.”

Vague chills assailed me. I tried to picture the eyes. Did they roll
like dimes? The passage indicated not; they seemed to move through the
air, not over the surface. Rather rapidly, apparently. No one in the
story was surprised. That’s what tipped me off. No sign of amazement
at such an outrageous thing. Later the matter was amplified.

“… his eyes moved from person to person.”

There it was in a nutshell. The eyes had clearly come apart from the
rest of him and were on their own. My heart pounded and my breath
choked in my windpipe. I had stumbled on an accidental mention of a
totally unfamiliar race. Obviously non-Terrestrial. Yet, to the
characters in the book, it was perfectly natural–which suggested they
belonged to the same species.

And the author? A slow suspicion burned in my mind. The author was
taking it rather “too easily” in his stride. Evidently, he felt this
was quite a usual thing. He made absolutely no attempt to conceal this
knowledge. The story continued:

“… presently his eyes fastened on Julia.”

Julia, being a lady, had at least the breeding to feel indignant. She
is described as blushing and knitting her brows angrily. At this, I
sighed with relief. They weren’t “all” non-Terrestrials. The narrative

“… slowly, calmly, his eyes examined every inch of her.”

Great Scott! But here the girl turned and stomped off and the matter
ended. I lay back in my chair gasping with horror. My wife and family
regarded me in wonder.

“What’s wrong, dear?” my wife asked.

I couldn’t tell her. Knowledge like this was too much for the ordinary
run-of-the-mill person. I had to keep it to myself. “Nothing,” I
gasped. I leaped up, snatched the book, and hurried out of the room.

* * * * *

In the garage, I continued reading. There was more. Trembling, I read
the next revealing passage:

“… he put his arm around Julia. Presently she asked him if
he would remove his arm. He immediately did so, with a smile.”

It’s not said what was done with the arm after the fellow had removed
it. Maybe it was left standing upright in the corner. Maybe it was
thrown away. I don’t care. In any case, the full meaning was there,
staring me right in the face.

Here was a race of creatures capable of removing portions of their
anatomy at will. Eyes, arms–and maybe more. Without batting an
eyelash. My knowledge of biology came in handy, at this point.
Obviously they were simple beings, uni-cellular, some sort of
primitive single-celled things. Beings no more developed than
starfish. Starfish can do the same thing, you know.

I read on. And came to this incredible revelation, tossed off coolly
by the author without the faintest tremor:

“… outside the movie theater we split up. Part of us went
inside, part over to the cafe for dinner.”

Binary fission, obviously. Splitting in half and forming two entities.
Probably each lower half went to the cafe, it being farther, and the
upper halves to the movies. I read on, hands shaking. I had really
stumbled onto something here. My mind reeled as I made out this

“… I’m afraid there’s no doubt about it. Poor Bibney has
lost his head again.”

Which was followed by:

“… and Bob says he has utterly no guts.”

Yet Bibney got around as well as the next person. The next person,
however, was just as strange. He was soon described as:

“… totally lacking in brains.”

* * * * *

There was no doubt of the thing in the next passage. Julia, whom I had
thought to be the one normal person, reveals herself as also being an
alien life form, similar to the rest:

“… quite deliberately, Julia had given her heart to the
young man.”

It didn’t relate what the final disposition of the organ was, but I
didn’t really care. It was evident Julia had gone right on living in
her usual manner, like all the others in the book. Without heart,
arms, eyes, brains, viscera, dividing up in two when the occasion
demanded. Without a qualm.

“… thereupon she gave him her hand.”

I sickened. The rascal now had her hand, as well as her heart. I
shudder to think what he’s done with them, by this time.

“… he took her arm.”

Not content to wait, he had to start dismantling her on his own.
Flushing crimson, I slammed the book shut and leaped to my feet. But
not in time to escape one last reference to those carefree bits of
anatomy whose travels had originally thrown me on the track:

“… her eyes followed him all the way down the road and
across the meadow.”

I rushed from the garage and back inside the warm house, as if the
accursed things were following me. My wife and children were playing
Monopoly in the kitchen. I joined them and played with frantic fervor,
brow feverish, teeth chattering.

I had had enough of the thing. I want to hear no more about it. Let
them come on. Let them invade Earth. I don’t want to get mixed up in

I have absolutely no stomach for it.


End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Eyes Have It, by Philip Kindred Dick