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Beyond Lies the Wub

Philip K. Dick

  Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at

  _"The wub, sir," Peterson said. "It spoke!"_]



  _The slovenly wub might well have said: Many men talk like philosophers and live like fools._

  They had almost finished with the loading. Outside stood the Optus, hisarms folded, his face sunk in gloom. Captain Franco walked leisurelydown the gangplank, grinning.

  "What's the matter?" he said. "You're getting paid for all this."

  The Optus said nothing. He turned away, collecting his robes. TheCaptain put his boot on the hem of the robe.

  "Just a minute. Don't go off. I'm not finished."

  "Oh?" The Optus turned with dignity. "I am going back to the village."He looked toward the animals and birds being driven up the gangplankinto the spaceship. "I must organize new hunts."

  Franco lit a cigarette. "Why not? You people can go out into the veldtand track it all down again. But when we run out halfway between Marsand Earth--"

  The Optus went off, wordless. Franco joined the first mate at the bottomof the gangplank.

  "How's it coming?" he said. He looked at his watch. "We got a goodbargain here."

  The mate glanced at him sourly. "How do you explain that?"

  "What's the matter with you? We need it more than they do."

  "I'll see you later, Captain." The mate threaded his way up the plank,between the long-legged Martian go-birds, into the ship. Franco watchedhim disappear. He was just starting up after him, up the plank towardthe port, when he saw _it_.

  "My God!" He stood staring, his hands on his hips. Peterson was walkingalong the path, his face red, leading _it_ by a string.

  "I'm sorry, Captain," he said, tugging at the string. Franco walkedtoward him.

  "What is it?"

  The wub stood sagging, its great body settling slowly. It was sittingdown, its eyes half shut. A few flies buzzed about its flank, and itswitched its tail.

  _It_ sat. There was silence.

  "It's a wub," Peterson said. "I got it from a native for fifty cents. Hesaid it was a very unusual animal. Very respected."

  "This?" Franco poked the great sloping side of the wub. "It's a pig! Ahuge dirty pig!"

  "Yes sir, it's a pig. The natives call it a wub."

  "A huge pig. It must weigh four hundred pounds." Franco grabbed a tuftof the rough hair. The wub gasped. Its eyes opened, small and moist.Then its great mouth twitched.

  A tear rolled down the wub's cheek and splashed on the floor.

  "Maybe it's good to eat," Peterson said nervously.

  "We'll soon find out," Franco said.

  * * * * *

  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, CaptainFranco bade his men fetch the wub upstairs so that he might perceivewhat 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, rubbingits 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 kickedat 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 themen.

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

  "No wonder we had so much trouble taking off. I had to reset all myballast 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 gotthis for fifty cents?"

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

  "I see," Captain Franco said. "Now, as to its taste. That's the realquestion. I doubt if there's much point in fattening it up any more. Itseems fat enough to me already. Where's the cook? I want him here. Iwant 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 fromevery side. Then he came back over and stood with the men.

  "I wonder if there's a native inside it," he said thoughtfully. "Maybewe 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, comeout!"

  Nothing stirred. The men stood together, their faces blank, staring atthe 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. Theyall 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 andfigure out--"

  "I think we should have a talk," the wub said. "I'd like to discuss thiswith you, Captain, if I might. I can see that you and I do not agree onsome 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 walkedout of the room. The wub rose and padded after him. The men watched itgo out. They heard it climbing the stairs.

  "I wonder what the outcome will be," the cook said. "Well, I'll be inthe 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 forgiveme," 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 hishands.

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

  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?"


  "Then how do you do it?"

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

  "My mind?"

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

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

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

  "How do you live?"

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

  The wub eyed the Captain.

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

  "So you read minds?" the