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Kumpulan Cerpen Fiksi Ilmiah Karya Isaac Asimov

Dimulai oleh reborn, Desember 22, 2008, 05:32:00 PM

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Atas permintaan dari kuncungs, gw bikin thread ini. Isinya kumpulan cerpen sci-fi (fiksi ilmiah) karya Isaac Asimov. Kalo ada yang mau ikutan posting cerpennya, ga nolak sama sekali lho ;D

Post pertama ini sekaligus jadi indeksnya.

1. The Last Question
2. The Secret Sense

Enjoy ya ;)


Nah, sekarang gw mau posting salah satu cerpen awal Asimov, The Secret Sense. Cerpen ini sempet ditolak sama penerbit tapi kemudian dipublikasikan di salah satu majalah tahun 1941 dan dimasukkan dalam bukunya The Early Asimov tahun 1972.

The Secret Sense

The lilting strains of a Strauss waltz filled the room. The music waxed and waned beneath the sensitive fingers of Lincoln Fields, and through half-closed eyes he could almost see whirling figures pirouetting about the waxed floor of some luxurious salon. Music always affected him that way. It filled his mind with dreams of sheer beauty and transformed his room into a paradise of sound. His hands flickered over the piano in the last delicious combinations of tones and then slowed reluctantly to a halt. He sighed and for a moment remained absolutely silent as if trying to extract the last essence of beauty from the dying echoes. Then he turned and smiled faintly at the other occupant of the room. Garth Jan smiled in turn but said nothing. Garth had a great liking for Lincoln Fields, though little understanding. They were worlds apart—literally—for Garth hailed from the giant underground cities of Mars while Fields was the product of sprawling Terrestrial New York. "'How was that. Garth, old fellow?" questioned Fields doubtfully. Garth shook his head. He spoke in his precise, painstaking manner, "I listened attentively and can truly say that it was not unpleasant. There is a certain rhythm, a cadence of sorts, which, indeed, is rather soothing. But beautiful? No!" There was pity in Fields' eyes—pity almost painful in its intensity. The Martian met the gaze and understood all that it meant, yet there was no answering spark of envy. His bony giant figure remained doubled up in a chair that was too small for him and one thin leg swung leisurely back and forth. Fields lunged out of his seat impetuously and grasped his companion by the arm. "Here! Seat yourself on the bench." Garth obeyed genially. "I see you want to carry out some little experiment." "You've guessed it. I've read scientific works which tried to explain all about the difference in sense-equipment between Earthman and Martian, but I never could quite grasp it all." He tapped the notes C and F in a single octave and glanced at the Martian inquiringly. "If there's a difference," said Garth doubtfully, "it's a very slight one. If I were listening casually, I would certainly say you had hit the same note twice." The Earthman marvelled. "How's this?" He tapped C and G. "I can hear the difference this time."

"Well, I suppose all they say about your people is true. You poor fellows—to have such a crude sense of bearing. You don't know what you're missing." The Martian shrugged his shoulders fatalistically. "One misses nothing that one has never possessed." Garth Jan broke the short silence that followed. "Do you realize that this period of history is the first in which two intelligent races have been able to communicate with each other? The comparison of sense equipment is highly interesting—and rather broadens one's views on life." That's right," agreed the Earthman, "though we seem to have all the advantage of the comparison. You know a Terrestrial biologist stated last month that he was amazed that a race so poorly equipped in the matter of sense-perception could develop so high a civilization as yours." "All is relative, Lincoln. What we have is sufficient for us." Fields felt a growing frustration within him. "But if you only knew, Garth, if you only knew what you were missing. "You've never seen the beauties of a sunset or of dancing fields of flowers. You can't admire the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the yellow of ripe corn. To you the world consists of shades of dark and light." He shuddered at the thought "You can't smell a flower or appreciate its delicate perfume. You can't even enjoy such a simple thing as a good, hearty meal. You can't taste nor smell nor see color. I pity you for your drab world." "What you say is meaningless, Lincoln. Waste no pity on me, for I am as happy as you." He rose and reached for his cane—necessary in the greater gravitational field of Earth. "You must not judge us with such easy superiority, you know." That seemed to be the galling aspect of the matter. "We do not boast of certain accomplishments of our race of which you know nothing." And then, as if heartily regretting his words, a wry grimace overspread his face, and he started for the door. Fields sat puzzled and thoughtful for a moment, then jumped up and ran after the Martian, who was stumping his way towards the exit. He gripped Garth by the shoulder and insisted that he return. "What did you mean by that last remark?" The Martian turned his face away as if unable to face his questioner. "Forget it, Lincoln. That was just a moment of indiscretion when your unsolicited pity got on my nerves." Fields gave him a sharp glance. "It's true, isn't it? It's logical that Martians possess senses Earthmen do not, but it passes the bounds of reason that your people should want to keep it secret." "That is as it may be. But now that you've found me out through my own utter stupidity, you will perhaps agree to let it go no further?"

"Of course! I'll be as secret as the grave, though I'm darned if I can make anything of it. Tell me, of what nature is this secret sense of yours?" Garth Jan shrugged listlessly. "How can I explain? Can you define color to me, who cannot even conceive it?" "I'm not asking for a definition. Tell me its uses. Please," he gripped the other's shoulder, "you might as well. I have given my promise of secrecy." The Martian sighed heavily. "It won't do you much good. Would it satisfy you to know that if you were to show me two containers, each filled with a clear liquid, I could tell you at once whether either of the two were poisonous? Or, if you were to show me a copper wire, I could tell instantly whether an electric current were passing through it, even if it were as little as a thousandth of an ampere? Or I could tell you the temperature of any substance within three degrees of the true value even if you held it as much as five yards away? Or I could—well, I've said enough." "Is that all?" demanded Fields, with a disappointed cry. "What more do you wish?" "All you've described is very useful—but where is the beauty in it? Has this strange sense of yours no value to the spirit as well as to the body?" Garth Jan made an impatient movement. "Really, Lincoln, you talk foolishly. I have given you only that for which you asked—the uses I put this sense to. I certainly didn't attempt to explain its nature. Take your color sense. As far as I can see its only use is in making certain fine distinctions which I cannot. You can identify certain chemical solutions, for instance, by something you call color when I would be forced to run a chemical analysis. Where's the beauty in that?" Fields opened his mouth to speak but the Martian motioned him testily into silence. "I know. You're going to babble foolishness about sunsets or something. But what do you know of beauty? Have you ever known what it was to witness the beauty of the naked copper wires when an AC current is turned on? Have you sensed the delicate loveliness of induced currents set up in a solenoid when a magnet is passed through it? Have you ever attended a Martian portwem?" Garth Jan's eyes had grown misty with the thoughts he was conjuring up, and Fields stared in utter amazement. The shoe was on the other foot now and his sense of superiority left him of a sudden. "Every race has its own attributes," he mumbled with a fatalism that had just a trace of hypocrisy in it, "but I 'see no reason why you should keep it such a blasted secret. We Earthmen have kept no secrets from your race." "Don't accuse us of ingratitude," cried Garth Jan vehemently. According to the Martian code of ethics, ingratitude was the supreme vice, and at the insinuation of that Garth's caution left him. "We never act without reason, we Martians. And certainly it is not for our own sake that we hide this magnificent ability." The Earthman smiled mockingly. He was on the trail of something—he felt it in his bones—and the only way to get it out was to tease it out.

... bersambung


"No doubt there is some nobility behind it all. It is a strange attribute of your race
that you can always find some altruistic motive for your actions."
Garth Jan bit his lip angrily. "You have no right to say that." For a moment he
thought of pleading worry over Fields' future peace of mind as a reason for silence, but
the latter's mocking reference to "altruism" had rendered that impossible. A feeling of
anger crept over him gradually and that forced him to his decision.
There was no mistaking the note of frigid unfriendliness that entered his voice. "I'll
explain by analogy." The Martian stared straight ahead of him as he spoke, eyes halfclosed.
"You have told me that I live in a world that is composed merely of shades of light
and dark. You try to describe a world of your own composed of infinite variety and
beauty. I listen but care little concerning it. I have never known it and never can know it.
One does not weep over the loss of what one has never owned.
"But—what if you were able to give me the ability to see color for five minutes?
What if, for five minutes, I reveled in wonders undreamed of? What if, after those five
minutes, I have to return it forever? Would those five minutes of paradise be worth a
lifetime of regret afterwards—a lifetime of dissatisfaction because of my own
shortcomings? Would it not have been the kinder act never to have told me of color in
the first place and so have removed its ever-present temptation?"
Fields had risen to his feet during the last part of the Martian's speech and his eyes
opened wide in a wild surmise.
"Do you mean an Earthman could possess the Martian sense if so desired?"
"For five minutes in a lifetime," Garth Jan's eyes grew dreamy, "and in those five
minutes sense—"
He came to a confused halt and glared angrily at his companion, "You know more
than is good for you. See that you don't forget your promise."
He rose hastily and hobbled away as quickly as he could, leaning heavily upon the
cane. Lincoln Fields made no move to stop him. He merely sat there and thought.
The great height of the cavern shrouded the roof in misty obscurity in which, at
fixed intervals, there floated luminescent globes of radite. The air, heated by this
subterranean volcanic stratum, wafted past gently. Before Lincoln Fields stretched the
wide, paved avenue of the principal city of Mars, fading away into the distance.
He clumped awkwardly up to the entrance of the home of Garth Jan, the six-inchthick
layer of lead attached to each shoe a nuisance unending. Though it was still better
than the uncontrollable bounding Earth muscles brought about in this lighter gravity.
The Martian was surprised to see his friend of six months ago but not altogether
joyful. Fields was not slow to notice this but he merely smiled to himself. The opening
formalities passed, the conventional remarks were made, and the two seated themselves.
Fields crushed the cigarette in the ash-tray and sat upright suddenly serious. "I've
come to ask for those five minutes you claim you can give me! May I have them?"
"Is that a rhetorical question? It certainly doesn't seem to require an answer."
Garth's tone was openly contemptuous.
The Earthman considered the other thoughtfully. "Do you mind if I outline my
position in a few words?"
The Martin smiled indifferently. "It won't make any difference," he said.
"I'll take my chance on that. The situation is this: I've been born and reared in the
lap of luxury and have been most disgustingly spoiled. I've never yet had a reasonable
desire that I have not been able to fulfill, and I don't know what it means not to get what I
want. Do you see?"
There was no answer and he continued, "I have found my happiness in beautiful
sights, beautiful words, and beautiful sounds. I have made a cult of beauty. In a word, I
am an aesthete."
"Most interesting," the Martian's stony expression did not change a whit, "but
what bearing has all this on the problem at hand?"
"Just this: You speak of a new form of beauty—a form unknown to me at present
and entirely inconceivable even, but one which could be known if you so wished. The
notion attracts me. It more than attracts me—it makes its demands of me. Again I remind
you that when a notion begins to make demands of me, I yield—I always have."
"You are not the master in this case," reminded Garth Jan.
"It is crude of me to remind you of this, but you cannot force me, you know. Your
words, in fact, are almost offensive in their implications."
"I am glad you said that, for it allows me to be crude in my turn without offending
my conscience."
Garth Jan's only reply to this was a self-confident grimace.
"I make my demand of you," said Fields, slowly, "in the name of gratitude."
"Gratitude?" the Martian started violently.
Fields grinned broadly, "It's an appeal no honorable Martian can refuse—by your
own ethics. You owe me gratitude, now, because it was through me you gained entrance
into the houses of the greatest and most honorable men of Earth."
"I know that," Garth Jan flushed angrily. "You are impolite to remind me of it."
"I have no choice. You acknowledged the gratitude you owe me in actual words,
back on Earth. I demand the chance to possess this mysterious sense you keep so
secret—in the name of this acknowledged gratitude. Can you refuse now?"
"You know I can't," was the gloomy response. "I hesitated only for your own sake."
The Martian rose and held out his hand gravely, "You have me by the neck,
Lincoln. It is done. Afterwards, though, I owe you nothing more. This will pay my debt of
"Agreed!" The two shook hands and Lincoln Fields continued in an entirely
different tone. "We're still friends, though, aren't we? This little altercation won't spoil
"I hope not. Come! Join me at the evening meal and we can discuss the time and
place of your—er—five minutes."
Lincoln Fields tried hard to down the faint nervousness that filled him as he waited
in Garth Jan's private "concert"-room.
He felt a sudden desire to laugh as the thought came to him that he felt exactly as
he usually did in a dentist's waiting room.
He lit his tenth cigarette, puffed twice and threw it away, "You're doing this very
elaborately, Garth."
The Martian shrugged, "You have only five minutes so I might as well see to it that
they are put to the best possible use. You're going to 'hear' part of a portwem, which is
to our sense what a great symphony (is that the word?) is to sound."
"Have we much longer to wait? The suspense, to be trite, is terrible."
"We're waiting for Novi Lon, who is to play the portwem, and for Done Vol. my
private physician. They'll be along soon."
Fields wandered onto the low dais that occupied the center of the room and
regarded the intricate mechanism thereupon with curious interest. The fore-part was
encased in gleaming aluminum leaving exposed only seven tiers of shining black knobs
above and five large white pedals below. Behind, however, it lay open, and within there
ran crossings and recrossings of finer wires in incredibly complicated paths.
"A curious thing, this," remarked the Earthman.
The Martian joined him on the dais, "It's an expensive instrument. It cost me ten
thousand Martian credits."
"How does it work?"
"Not so differently from a Terrestrial piano. Each of the upper knobs controls a
different electric circuit. Singly and together an expert portwem player could, by
manipulating the knobs, form any conceivable pattern of electric current. The pedals
below control the strength of the current."
Fields nodded absently and ran his fingers over the knobs at random. Idly, he
noticed the small galvanometer located just above the keys kick violently each time he
depressed a knob. Aside from that, he sensed nothing.
"Is the instrument really playing?"
The Martian smiled, "Yes, it is. And a set of unbelievably atrocious discords too."
He took a seat before the instrument and with a murmured "Here's howl" his
fingers skimmed rapidly and accurately over the gleaming buttons.
The sound of a reedy Martian voice crying out in strident accents broke in upon
him, and Garth Jan ceased in sudden embarrassment. "This is Novi Lon," he said hastily
to Fields, "As usual, he does not like my playing."
Fields rose to meet the newcomer. He was bent of shoulder and evidently of great
age. A fine tracing of wrinkles, especially about eyes and mouth, covered his face.
"So this is the young Earthman," he cried, in strongly accented English. "I
disapprove your rashness but sympathize with your desire to attend a portwem. It is a
great pity you can own our sense for no more than five minutes. Without it no one can
truly be said to live."
Garth Jan laughed, "He exaggerates, Lincoln. He's one of the greatest musicians
of Mars, and thinks anyone doomed to damnation who would not rather attend a
portwem than breathe." He hugged the older man warmly, "He was my teacher in my
youth and many were the long hours in which he struggled to teach me the proper
combination of circuits."
"And I have failed after all, you dunce," snapped the old Martian. "I heard your
attempt at playing as I entered. You still have not learned the proper fortgass
combination. You were desecrating the soul of the great Bar Damn. My pupil! Bah! It is a
The entrance of the third Martian, Done Vol, prevented Novi Lon from continuing
his tirade. Garth, glad of the reprieve, approached the physician hastily.
"Is all ready?"
"Yes," growled Vol surily, "and a particularly uninteresting experiment this will be.

... bersambung


We know all the results beforehand." His eyes fell upon the Earthman, whom he eyed
contemptuously. "Is this the one who wishes to be inoculated?"
Lincoln Fields nodded eagerly and felt his throat and mouth go dry suddenly. He
eyed the newcomer uncertainly and felt uneasy at the sight of a tiny bottle of clear liquid
and a hypodermic which the physician had extracted from a case he was carrying.
"What are you going to do?" he demanded.
"He'll merely inoculate you. It'll take a second," Garth Jan assured him. "You see,
the sense-organs in this case are several groups of cells in the cortex of the brain. They
are activated by a hormone, a synthetic preparation of which is used to stimulate the
dormant cells of the occasional Martian who is born—er—'blind.' You'll receive the same
"Oh!—then Earthmen possess those cortex cells?"
"In a very rudimentary state. The concentrated hormone will activate them, but
only for five minutes. After that time, they are literally blown out as a result of their
unwonted activity. After that, they can't be re-activated under any circumstances."
Done Vol completed his last-minute preparations and approached Fields. Without
a word. Fields extended his right arm and the hypodermic plunged in.
With the operation completed, the Terrestrial waited a moment or two and then
essayed a shaky laugh, "I don't feel any change."
"You won't for about ten minutes," explained Garth. -"It takes time. Just sit back
and relax. Novi Lon has begun Bar Damn's 'Canals in the Desert'—it is my favorite—and
when the hormone begins its work you will find yourself in the middle of things."
Now that the die was cast irrevocably. Fields found himself stonily calm. Novi Lon
played furiously, and Garth Jan, at the Earthman's right, was already lost in the
Even Done Vol, the fussy doctor, had forgotten his peevishness for the nonce.
Fields snickered under his breath. The Martians listened attentively but to him the
room was devoid of sound and— almost—of all other sensation as well. What—no, it was
impossible, of course—but what if it were just an elaborate practical joke? He stirred
uneasily and put the thought from his mind angrily.
The minutes passed; Novi Lon's fingers flew; Garth Jan's expression was one of
unfeigned delight.
Then Lincoln Fields blinked his eyes rapidly. For a moment a nimbus of color
seemed to surround the musician and his instrument. He couldn't identify it—but it was
there. It grew and spread until the room was full of it. Other hues came to join it and still
others. They wove and wavered; expanding and contracting; changing with lightning
speed and yet staying the same. Intricate patterns of brilliant tints formed and faded,
beating in silent bursts of color upon the young man's eyeballs.
Simultaneously, there came the impression of sound. From a whisper it rose into a
glorious, ringing shout that wavered up and down the scale in quivering tremolos. He
seemed to hear every instrument from fife to bass viol simultaneously, and yet,
paradoxically, each rang in his ear in solitary clearness.
And together with this, there came the more subtle sensation of odor. From a
suspicion, a mere trace, it waxed into a phantasmal field of flowers. Delicate spicy scents
followed each other in ever stronger succession; in gentle wafts of pleasure.
Yet all this was nothing. Fields knew that. Somehow, he knew that what he saw,
heard, and smelt were mere delusions —mirages of a brain that frantically attempted to
interpret an entirely new conception in the old, familiar ways.
Gradually, the colors and the sounds and the scents died.
His brain was beginning to realize that that which beat upon it was something
hitherto unexperienced. The effect of the hormone became stronger, and suddenly—in
one burst—Fields realized what it was he sensed.
He didn't see it—nor hear it—nor smell it—nor taste it— nor feel it. He knew what
it was but he couldn't think of the word for it. Slowly, he realized that there wasn't any
word for it. Even more slowly, he realized that there wasn't even any concept for it.
Yet he knew what it was.
There beat upon his brain something that consisted of pure waves of enjoyment—
something that lifted him out of himself and pitched him headlong into a universe
unknown to him earlier. He was falling through an endless eternity of— something. It
wasn't sound or sight but it was—something.
Something that enfolded him and hid his surroundings from him—that's what it
was. It was endless and infinite in its variety, and with each crashing wave, he glimpsed a
farther horizon, and the wonderful cloak of sensation became thicker —and softer—and
more beautiful.
Then came the discord. Like a little crack at first—marring a perfect beauty. Then
spreading and branching and growing wider, until, finally, if split apart thunderously—
though without a sound.
Lincoln Fields, dazed and bewildered, found himself back in the concert room
He lurched to his feet and grasped Garth Jan by the arm violently, "Garth! Why did
he stop? Tell him to continue! Tell him!"
Garth Jan's startled expression faded into pity, "He is still playing, Lincoln."
The Earthman's befuddled stare showed no signs of understanding. He gazed
about him with unseeing eyes. Novi Lon's fingers sped across the keyboard as nimbly as
ever; the expression on his face was as rapt as ever. Slowly, the truth seeped in, and the
Earthman's empty eyes filled with horror.
He sat down, uttering one hoarse cry, and buried his head in his hands.
The five minutes had passed! There could be no return! Garth Jan was smiling—a
smile of dreadful malice, "I had pitied you just a moment ago, Lincoln, but now I'm
glad— glad! You forced this out of me—you made me do this. I hope you're satisfied,
because I certainly am. For the rest of your life," his voice sank to a sibilant whisper,
"you'll remember these five minutes and know what it is you're missing —what it is you
can never have again. You are blind, Lincoln—blind!"
The Earthman raised a haggard face and grinned, but it was no more than a
horrible baring of the teeth. It took every ounce of willpower he possessed to maintain an
air of composure.
He did not trust himself to speak. With wavering step, he marched out of the room,
head held high to the end.
And within, that tiny, bitter voice, repeating over and over again, "You entered a
normal man! You leave blind—blind— BLIND."





The first pang of nausea had passed and Jan Prentiss said, "Damn it, you're an
It was a statement of fact, not an insult, and the thing that sat on Prentiss' desk
said, "Of course."
It was about a foot long, very thin, and in shape a farfetched and miniature
caricature of a human being. Its stalky arms and legs originated in pairs from the upper
portion of its body. The legs were longer and thicker than the arms. They extended the
length of the body, then bent forward at the knee.
The creature sat upon those knees and, when it did so, the stub of its fuzzy
abdomen just cleared Prentiss' desk.
There was plenty of time for Prentiss to absorb these details. The object had no
objection to being stared at. It seemed to welcome it, in fact, as though it were used to
exciting admiration.
"What are you?" Prentiss did not feel completely rational. Five minutes ago, he
had been seated at his typewriter, working leisurely on the story he had promised Horace
W. Browne for last month's issue of Farfetched Fantasy Fiction. He had been in a perfectly
usual frame of mind. He had felt quite fine; quite sane.
And then a block of air immediately to the right of the typewriter had shimmered,
clouded over and condensed into the little horror that dangled its black and shiny feet
over the edge of the desk.
Prentiss wondered in a detached sort of way that he bothered talking to it. This
was the first time his profession had so crudely affected his dreams. It must be a dream,
he told himself.
"I'm an Avalonian," said the being. "I'm from Avalon, in other words." It's tiny face
ended in a mandibular mouth. Two swaying three-inch antennae rose from a spot above
either eye, while the eyes themselves gleamed richly in their many-faceted fashion. There
was no sign of nostrils.
Naturally not, thought Prentiss wildly. It has to breathe through vents in its
abdomen. It must be talking with its abdomen then. Or using telepathy.
"Avalon?" he said stupidly. He thought: Avalon? The land of the fay in King
Arthur's time?
"Certainly," said the creature, answering the thought smoothly. "I'm an elf."
"Oh, no!" Prentiss put his hands to his face, took them away and found the elf still
there, its feet thumping against the top drawer. Prentiss was not a drinking man, or a
nervous one. In fact, he was considered a very prosaic sort of person by his neighbors. He
had a comfortable paunch, a reasonable but not excessive amount of hair on his head, an
amiable wife and an active ten-year-old son. His neighbors were, of course, kept ignorant
of the fact that he paid off the mortgage on his house by writing fantasies of one sort or
Till now, however, this secret vice had never affected his psyche. To be sure, his
wife had shaken her head over his addiction many times. It was her standard opinion that
he was wasting, even perverting, his talents.
"Who on Earth reads these things?" she would say. "All that stuff about demons
and gnomes and wishing rings and elves. All that kid stuff, if you want my frank opinion."
"You're quite wrong," Prentiss would reply stiffly. "Modern fantasies are very
sophisticated and mature treatments of folk motifs. Behind the facade of glib unreality
there frequently lie trenchant comments on the world of today. Fantasy in modem style is,
above all, adult fare."
Blanche shrugged. She had heard him speak at conventions so these comments
weren't new to her.
"Besides," he would add, "fantasies pay the mortgage, don't they?"
"Maybe so," she would reply, "but it would be nice if you'd switch to mysteries. At
least you'd get quarter-reprint sales out of those and we could "'even tell the neighbors
what you do for a living."
Prentiss groaned in spirit. Blanche could come in now at any time and find him
talking to himself (it was too real for a dream; it might be a hallucination). After that he
would have to write mysteries for a living-or take to work.
"You're quite wrong," said the elf. "This is neither a dream nor a hallucination."
"Then why don't you go away?" asked Prentiss.
"I intend to. This is scarcely my idea of a place to live. And you're coming with
"I am not. What the hell do you think you are, telling me what I'm going to do?"
"If you think that's a respectful way to speak to a representative of an older culture,
I can't say much for your upbringing."
"You're not an older culture-" He wanted to add: You're just a figment of my
imagination; but he had been a writer too long to be able to bring himself to commit the
"We insects," said the elf freezingry, "existed half a billion years before the first
mammal was invented. We watched the dinosaurs come in and we watched them go out.
As for you man-things-strictly newcomers."
For the first time, Prentiss noted that, from the spot on the elf's body where its
limbs sprouted, a third vestigial pair existed as well. It increased the insecticity of the
object and Prentiss' sense of indignation grew.
He said, "You needn't waste your company on social inferiors."
"I wouldn't," said the elf, "believe me. But necessity drives, you know. It's a rather
complicated story but when you hear it, you'll want to help."
Prentiss said uneasily, "Look, I don't have much time. Blanche-my wife will be in
here any time. She'll be upset."
"She won't be here," said the elf. "I've set up a block in her mind."
"Quite harmless, I assure you. But, after all, we can't afford to be disturbed, can
Prentiss sat back in his chair, dazed and unhappy.
The elf said, "We elves began our association with you man-things immediately
after the last ice age began. It had been a miserable time for us, as you can imagine. We
couldn't wear animal carcasses or live in holes as your uncouth ancestors did. It took
incredible stores of psychic energy to keep warm."
"Incredible stores of what?"
"Psychic energy. You know nothing at all about it. Your mind is too coarse to grasp
the concept. Please don't interrupt."
The elf continued, "Necessity drove us to experiment with your people's brains.
They were crude, but large. The cells were inefficient, almost worthless, but there were a
vast number of them. We could use those brains as a concentrating device, a type of
psychic lens, and increase the available energy which our own minds could tap. We
survived the ice age handily and without having to retreat to the tropics as in previous
such eras.
"Of course, we were spoiled. When warmth returned, we didn't abandon the manthings.
We used them to increase our standard of living generally. We could travel faster,
eat better, do more, and we lost our old, simple, virtuous way of life forever. Then, too,
there was milk."
"Milk?" said Prentiss. "I don't see the connection."
"A divine liquid. I only tasted it once in my life. But elfin classic poetry speaks of it
in superlatives. In the old days, men always supplied us plentifully. Why mammals of all
things should be blessed with it and insects not is a complete mystery. . . How
unfortunate it is that the men-things got out of hand."
"They did?"
"Two hundred years ago."
"Good for us."
"Don't be narrow-minded," said the elf stiffly. "It was a useful association for all
parties until you man-things learned to handle physical energies in quantity. It was just the
sort of gross thing your minds are capable of."
"What was wrong with it?"
"It's hard to explain. It was all very well for us to light up our nightly revels with
fireflies brightened by use of two manpower of psychic energy. But then you mencreatures
installed electric lights. Our antennal reception is good for miles, but then you
invented telegraphs, telephones and radios. Our kobolds mined ore with much greater
efficiency than man-things do, until man-things invented dynamite. Do you see?"
"Surely you don't expect sensitive and superior creatures such as the elves to
watch a group of hairy mammals outdo them. It wouldn't be so bad if we could imitate
the electronic development ourselves, but our psychic energies were insufficient for the
purpose. Well, we retreated from reality. We sulked, pined and drooped. Call it an
inferiority complex, if you will, but from two centuries ago onward, we slowly abandoned
mankind and retreated to such centers as Avalon."
Prentiss thought furiously. "Let's get this straight. You can handle minds?"
"You can make me think you're invisible? Hypnotically, I mean?"
"A crude term, but yes."
"And when you appeared just now, you did it by lifting a kind of mental block. Is
that it?"
"To answer your thoughts, rather than your words: You are not sleeping; you are
not mad; and I am not supernatural."
"I was just making sure. I take it, then, you can read my mind."
"Of course. It is a rather dirty and unrewarding sort of labor, but I can do it when I
must. Your name is Prentiss and you write imaginative fiction. You have one larva who is
at a place of instruction. I know a great deal about you."
Prentiss winced. "And just where is Avalon?"
"You won't find it." The elf clacked his mandibles together two or three times.
"Don't speculate on the possibility of warning the authorities. You'll find yourself in a
madhouse. Avalon, in case you think the knowledge will help you, is in the middle of the
Atlantic and quite invisible, you know. After the steamboat was invented, you man-things
got to moving about so unreasonably that we had to cloak the whole island with a psychic


"Of course, incidents will take place. Once a huge, barbaric vessel hit us dead
center and it took all the psychic energy of the entire population to give the island the
appearance of an iceberg. The Titanic, I believe, was the name printed on the vessel. And
nowadays there are planes flying overhead all the time and sometimes there are crashes.
We picked up cases of canned milk once. That's when I tasted it."
Prentiss said, "Well, then, damn it, why aren't you still on Avalon? Why did you
"I was ordered to leave," said the elf angrily. "The fools."
"You know how it is when you're a little different. I'm not like the rest of them and
the poor tradition-ridden fools resented it. They were jealous. That's the best explanation.
"How are you different?"
"Hand me that light bulb," said the elf. "Oh, just unscrew it. You don't need a
reading lamp in the daytime."
With a quiver of repulsion, Prentiss did as he was told and passed the object into
the little hands of the elf. Carefully, the elf, with fingers so thin and wiry that they looked
like tendrils, touched the bottom and side of the brass base.
Feebly the filament in the bulb reddened.
"Good God," said Prentiss.
"That," said the elf proudly, "is my great talent. I told you that we elves couldn't
adapt psychic energy to electronics. Well, I can! I'm not just an ordinary elf. I'm a mutant!
A super-elf! I'm the next stage in elfin evolution. This light is due just to the activity of my
own mind, you know. Now watch when I use yours as a focus."
As he said that, the bulb's filament grew white hot and painful to look at, while a
vague and not unpleasant tickling sensation entered Prentiss' skull.
The lamp went out and the elf put the bulb on the desk behind the typewriter.
"I haven't tried," said the elf proudly, "but I suspect I can fission uranium too."
"But look here, lighting a bulb takes energy. You can't just hold it-"
"I've told you about psychic energy. Great Oberon, man-thing, try to understand."
Prentiss felt increasingly uneasy; he said cautiously, "What do you intend doing
with this gift of yours?"
"Go back to Avalon, of course. I should let those fools go to their doom, but an elf
does have a certain patriotism, even if he is a coleopteron."
"A what?"
"We elves are not all of a species, you know. I'm of beetle descent. See?"
He rose to his feet and, standing on the desk, turned his back to Prentiss. What
had seemed merely a shining black cuticle suddenly split and lifted. From underneath,
two filmy, veined wings fluttered out.
"Oh, you can fly," said Prentiss.
"You're very foolish," said the elf contemptuously, "not to realize I'm too large for
flight. But they are attractive, aren't they? How do you like the iridescence? The
lepidoptera have disgusting wings in comparison. They're gaudy and indelicate. What's
more they're always sticking out."
"The lepidoptera?" Prentiss felt hopelessly confused.
"The butterfly clans. They're the proud ones. They were always letting humans see
them so they could be admired. Very petty minds in a way. And that's why your legends
always give fairies butterfly wings instead of beetle wings which are much more
diaphanously beautiful. We'll give the lepidoptera what for when we get back, you and I."
"Now hold on-"
"Must think," said the elf, swaying back and forth in what looked like elfin ecstasy,
"our nightly revels on the fairy green will be a blaze of sparkling light from curlicues of
neon tubing. We can cut loose the swarms of wasps we've got hitched to our flying
wagons and install internal-combustion motors instead. We can stop this business of
curling up on leaves when it's time to sleep and build factories to manufacture decent
mattresses. I tell you, we'll live. . . And the rest of them will eat dirt for having ordered
me out."
"But I can't go with you," bleated Prentiss. "I have responsibilities. I have a wife
and kid. You wouldn't take a man away from his-his larva, would you?"
"I'm not cruel," said the elf. He turned his eyes full on Prentiss. "I have an elfin
soul. Still, what choice have I? I must have a man-brain for focusing purposes or I will
accomplish nothing; and not all man-brains are suitable."
"Why not?"
"Great Oberon, creature. A man-brain isn't a passive thing of wood and stone. It
must co-operate in order to be useful. And it can only co-operate by being fully aware of
our own elfin ability to manipulate it. I can use your brain, for instance, but your wife's
would be useless to me. It would take her years to understand who and what I am."
Prentiss said, "This is a damned insult. Are you telling me I believe in fairies? I'll
have you know I'm a complete rationalist."
"Are you? When I first revealed myself to you, you had a few feeble thoughts
about dreams and hallucinations but you talked to me, you accepted me. Your wife would
have screamed and gone into hysterics."
Prentiss was silent. He could think of no answer.
"That's the trouble," said the elf despondently. "Practically all you humans have
forgotten about us since we left you. Your minds have closed; grown useless. To be sure,
your larvae believe in your legends about the 'little folk,' but their brains are undeveloped
and useful only for simple processes. When they mature, they lose belief. Frankly, I don't
know what I would do if it weren't for you fantasy writers."
"What do you mean we fantasy writers?"
"You are the few remaining adults who believe in the insect folk. You, Prentiss,
most of all. You've been a fantasy writer for twenty years."
"You're mad. I don't believe the things I write."
"You have to. You can't help it. I mean, while you're actually writing, you take the
subject matter seriously. After a while your mind is just naturally cultivated into usefulness.
. . But why argue. I have used you. You saw the light bulb brighten. So you see you must
come with me."
"But I won't." Prentiss set his limbs stubbornly. "Can you make me against my
"I could, but I might damage you, and I wouldn't want that. Suppose we say this. If
you don't agree to come, I could focus a current of high-voltage electricity through your
wife. It would be a revolting thing to have to do, but I understand your own people
execute enemies of the state in that fashion, so that you would probably find the
punishment less horrible than I do. I wouldn't want to seem brutal even to a man-thing."
Prentiss grew conscious of the perspiration matting the short hairs on his temple.
"Wait," he said, "don't do anything like that. Let's talk it over."
The elf shot out his filmy wings, fluttered them and returned them to their case.
"Talk, talk, talk. It's tiring. Surely you have milk in the house. You're not a very thoughtful
host or you would have offered me refreshment before this."
Prentiss tried to bury the thought that came to him, to push it as far below the
outer skin of his mind as he could. He said casually, "I have something better than milk.
Here, I'll get it for you."
"Stay where you are. Call to your wife. She'll bring it."
"But I don't want her to see you. It would frighten her."
The elf said, "You need feel no concern. I'll handle her so that she won't be the
least disturbed."
Prentiss lifted an arm.
The elf said, "Any attack you make on me will be far slower than the bolt of
electricity that will strike your wife."
Prentiss' arm dropped. He stepped to the door of his study.
"Blanche!" he called down the stairs.
Blanche was just visible in the living room, sitting woodenly in the armchair near
the bookcase. She seemed to be asleep, open-eyed.
Prentiss turned to the elf. "Something's wrong with her."
"She's just in a state of sedation. She'll hear you. Tell her what to do."
"Blanche!" he called again. "Bring the container of eggnog and a small glass, will
With no sign of animation other than that of bare movement, Blanche rose and
disappeared from view.
"What is eggnog?" asked the elf.
Prentiss attempted enthusiasm. "It is a compound of milk, sugar and eggs beaten
to a delightful consistency. Milk alone is poor staff compared to it."
Blanche entered with the eggnog. Her pretty face was expressionless. Her eyes
turned toward the elf but lightened with no realization of the significance of the sight.
"Here, Jan," she said, and sat down in the old, leather-covered chair by the
window, hands falling loosely to her lap.
Prentiss watched her uneasily for a moment. "Are you going to keep her here?"
"She'll be easier to control. . . Well, aren't you going to offer me the eggnog?"
"Oh, sure. Here!"
He poured the thick white liquid into the cocktail glass. He had prepared five milk
bottles of it two nights before for the boys of the New York Fantasy Association and it
had been mixed with a lavish hand, since fantasy writers notoriously like it so.
The elf's antennae trembled violently.
"A heavenly aroma," he muttered.
He wrapped the ends of his thin arms about the stem of the small glass and lifted it
to his mouth. The liquid's level sank. When half was gone, he put it down and sighed,
"Oh, the loss to my people. What a creation! What a thing to exist! Our histories tell us
that in ancient days an occasional lucky sprite managed to take the place of a man-larva
at birth so that he might draw off the liquid fresh-made. I wonder if even those ever
experienced anything like this."
Prentiss said with a touch of professional interest, "That's the idea behind this
business of changelings, is it?"
"Of course. The female man-creature has a great gift. Why not take advantage of
it?" The elf turned his eyes upon the rise and fall of Blanche's bosom and sighed again.
Prentiss said (not too eager, now; don't give it away), "Go ahead. Drink all you


He, too, watched Blanche, waiting for signs of restoring animation, waiting for the
beginnings of breakdown in the elf's control.
The elf said, "When is your larva returning from its place of instruction? I need
"Soon, soon," said Prentiss nervously. He looked at his wristwatch. Actually, Jan,
Junior, would be back, yelling for a slab of cake and milk, in something like fifteen
"Fill 'er up," he said urgently. "Fill 'er up."
The elf sipped gaily. He said, "Once the larva arrives, you can go."
"Only to the library. You'll have to get volumes on electronics. I'll need the details
on how to build television, telephones, all that. I'll need to have rules on wiring,
instructions for constructing vacuum tubes. Details, Prentiss, details! We have tremendous
tasks ahead of us. Oil drilling, gasoline refining, motors, scientific agriculture. We'll build a
new Avalon, you and I. A technical one. A scientific fairyland. We will create a new world."
"Great!" said Prentiss. "Here, don't neglect your drink."
"You see. You are catching fire with the idea," said the elf. "And you will be
rewarded. You will have a dozen female man-things to yourself."
Prentiss looked at Blanche automatically. No signs of hearing, but who could tell?
He said, "I'd have no use for female man-to-for women, I mean."
"Come now," said the elf censoriously, "be truthful. You men-things are well
known to our folk as lecherous, bestial creatures. Mothers frightened their young for
generations by threatening them with men-things. . . Young, ah!" He lifted the glass of
eggnog in the air and said, "To my own young," and drained it.
"Fill 'er up," said Prentiss at once. "Fill 'er up."
The elf did so. He said, "I'll have lots of children. I'll pick out the best of the
coleoptresses and breed my line. I'll continue the mutation. Right now I'm the only one,
but when we have a dozen or fifty, I'll interbreed them and develop the race of the superelf.
A race of electro-ulp-electronic marvels and infinite future. . . . If I could only drink
more. Nectar! The original nectar!"
There was the sudden noise of a door being flung open and a young voice calling,
"Mom! Hey, Mom!"
The elf, his glossy eyes a little dimmed, said, "Then we'll begin to take over the
men-things. A few believe already; the rest we will-urp-teach. It will be the old days, but
better; a more efficient elfhood, a tighter union."
Jan, Junior's, voice was closer and tinged with impatience. "Hey, Mom! Ain't you
Prentiss felt his eyes popping with tension. Blanche sat rigid. The elf's speech was
slightly thick, his balance a little unsteady. If Prentiss were going to risk it, now, now was
the time.
"Sit back," said the elf peremptorily. "You're being foolish. I knew there was
alcohol in the eggnog from the moment you thought your ridiculous scheme. You menthings
are very shifty. We elves have many proverbs about you. Fortunately, alcohol has
little effect upon us. Now if you had tried catnip with just a touch of honey in it . . . Ah,
here is the larva. How are you, little man-thing?"
The elf sat there, the goblet of eggnog halfway to his mandibles, while Jan, Junior,
stood in the doorway. Jan, Junior's, ten-year-old face was moderately smeared with dirt,
his hair was immoderately matted and there was a look of the utmost surprise in his gray
eyes. His battered schoolbooks swayed from the end of the strap he held in his hand.
He said, "Pop! What's the matter with Mom? And-and what's that?"
The elf said to Prentiss, "Hurry to the library. No time must be lost. You know the
books I need." All trace of incipient drunkenness had left the creature and Prentiss'
morale broke. The creature had been playing with him.
Prentiss got up to go.
The elf said, "And nothing human; nothing sneaky; no tricks. Your wife is still a
hostage. I can use the larva's mind to kill her; it's good enough for that. I wouldn't want to
do it. I'm a member of the Elfitarian Ethical Society and we advocate considerate
treatment of mammals so you may rely on my noble principles if you do as I say."
Prentiss felt a strong compulsion to leave flooding him. He stumbled toward the

Jan, Junior, cried, "Pop, it can talk! He says he'll kill Mom! Hey, don't go away!"
Prentiss was already out of the room, when he heard the elf say, "Don't stare at
me, larva. I will not harm your mother if you do exactly as I say. I am an elf, a fairy. You
know what a fairy is, of course."
And Prentiss was at the front door when he heard Jan, Junior's, treble raised in
wild shouting, followed by scream after scream in Blanche's shuddering soprano.
The strong, though invisible, elastic that was drawing Prentiss out the house
snapped and vanished. He fell backward, righted himself and darted back up the stairs.
Blanche, fairly saturated with quivering life, was backed into a corner, her arms
about a weeping Jan, Junior.
On the desk was a collapsed black carapace, covering a nasty smear of pulpiness
from which colorless liquid dripped.
Jan, Junior, was sobbing hysterically, "I hit it. I hit it with my school-books. It was
hurting Mom."
An hour passed and Prentiss felt the world of normality pouring back into the
interstices left behind by the creature from Avalon. The elf itself was already ash in the
incinerator behind the house and the only remnant of its existence was the damp stain at
the foot of his desk.
Blanche was still sickly pale. They talked in whispers.
Prentiss said, "How's Jan, Junior?"
"He's watching television."
"Is he all right?"
"Oh, he's all right, but I'll be having nightmares for weeks."
"I know. So will I unless we can get it out of our minds. I don't think there'll ever be
another of those-things here."
Blanche said, "I can't explain how awful it was. I kept hearing every word he said,
even when I was down in the living room."
"It was telepathy, you see."
"I just couldn't move. Then, after you left, I could begin to stir a bit. I tried to
scream but all I could do was moan and whimper. Then Jan, Junior, smashed him and all
at once I was free. I don't understand how it happened."
Prentiss felt a certain gloomy satisfaction. "I think I know. I was under his control
because I accepted the truth of his existence. He held you in check through me. When I
left the room, increasing distance made it harder to use my mind as a psychic lens and
you could begin moving. By the time I reached the front door, the elf thought it was time
to switch from my mind to Jan, Junior's. That was his mistake."
"In what way?" asked Blanche.
"He assumed that all children believe in fairies, but he was wrong. Here in America
today children don't believe in fairies. They never hear of them. They believe in Tom
Corbett, in Hopalong Cassidy, in Dick Tracy, in Howdy Doody, in Superman and a dozen
other things, but not in fairies.
"The elf just never realized the sudden cultural changes brought about by comic
books and television, and when he tried to grab Jan, Junior's mind, he couldn't. Before
he could recover his psychic balance, Jan, Junior, was on top of him in a swinging panic
because he thought you were being hurt and it was all over.
"It's like I've always said, Blanche. The ancient folk motifs of legend survive only in
the modern fantasy magazine, and modem fantasy is purely adult fare. Do you finally see
my point?"
Blanche said humbly, "Yes, dear."
Prentiss put his hands in his pockets and grinned slowly. "You know, Blanche, next
time I see Walt Rae, I think I'll just drop a hint that I write the stuff. Time the neighbors
knew, I think."
Jan, Junior, holding an enormous slice of buttered bread, wandered into his
father's study in search of the dimming memory. Pop kept slapping him on the back and
Mom kept putting bread and cake in his hands and he was forgetting why. There had
been this big old thing on the desk that could talk . . .
It had all happened so quickly that it got mixed up in his mind.
He shrugged his shoulders and, in the late afternoon sunlight, looked at the partly
typewritten sheet in his father's typewriter, then at the small pile of paper resting on the
He read a while, curled his lip and muttered, "Gee whiz. Fairies again. Always kid
stuff!" and wandered off.



Ijin nyimak dulu ya gan...
soalnya sedang kerjain cerita pendek...


 *Link Removed*


wah, minta biografi dong..... supaya bisa lebih mudah dikaji


Senpai daisuki ♡♡♡
Ganbate senpai ♡♡♡