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The Honored Prophet   By:

The Honored Prophet by William E. Bentley

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction November 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

THE HONORED PROPHET

BY WILLIAM E. BENTLEY

Illustrated by Virgil Finlay

The black dwarf sun sent its assassin on a mission which was calculated to erase the threat to its existence. But prophesies run in strange patterns and, sometimes, an act of evasion becomes an act of fulfillment....

[Illustration]

The ruler of a planet with a black dwarf sun had called a meeting of the council. It was some time before they were assembled, and he waited patiently without thought.

When the patchwork of mentalities was complete he allowed the conclusions of the prognosticator to occupy his mind. A wall of unanimous incredulity sprang up. The statement was that when the inhabitants of a distant planet achieved space flight they would come to this planet, and use a weapon invented by an individual to destroy it. The prognosticator could not lie, and soon the facade dissolved into individual reactions as acceptance became general. Anger, fear, resignation, and greedy little thoughts of self aggrandizement. Those thoughts were replaced by a quiescent, questioning receptivity. The questioning grew out of proportion, became hysterical, assumed the panic shape. Self preservation demanding that there be a solution. Minor prophecies had been evaded before. Details of the individual had been supplied, could not something be done?

The Assassin was summoned.

The pattern of Dr. Simon Cartwright's encephalic emanations, and the approximate position of the center of these emanations were impressed on its mind. And in a strangely bulbous ship it plunged outward from that eternally dark and silent planet towards Earth.

A man was walking along a road. A high road. A silent, dark road. Below him on both sides of the road flat marshland swept away, and a little wind caressed him with chill fingers. His tiny world of road beneath him, darkness around him, sky above him, contained only the sound of his footsteps and one other. A regular, liquid sound. He thought it was a sound from the marsh. He listened to it, and wondered how long it had been with him. It was close behind him on the road. He stopped, turned round in small curiosity, and bellowed in great horror. He threw up his hands against an immense bulk, a frog like shape, a lurching, flowing movement. Then it was upon him, and stilled his futile writhings, and passed over him, and left him dead.

The Assassin continued along the road. It was aware that it had killed, but it could not contemplate the fact. It possessed all the mental powers of its race, but its conditioning had focused them in one direction, the assassination of Dr. Cartwright. It could consider only those factors which had a direct relation to that purpose.

Daylight was one of those factors.

It was not aware of the passage of time, but when the sensitive patch on its back began to contract it left the road and went to the marsh. There it burrowed into the slime until green flecked water closed over it. And deeper until a depth of mud protected it from the sun.

Dr. Cartwright groaned and sat up in bed. He silenced the ringing telephone by putting the receiver to his ear.

"Do you know what time it is?" he asked, aggrieved.

"Hello? Doctor Cartwright? This is the police."

"It is half past seven," continued Simon. "For me, the middle of the night. I am in no fit state to measure a drunk's reactions."

"I'm sorry, sir, but there's been an accident. On the Waverton Highway. A man is dead, Inspector Andrews is in charge of the case."

"Inspector Andrews? Is mayhem suspected? Never mind, I'll get down there, right away... Continue reading book >>




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