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The Huddlers   By: (1910-1995)

The Huddlers by William Campbell Gault

First Page:

The Huddlers

By William Campbell Gault

Illustrated by Ernie Barth

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction May 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: He was a reporter from Venus with an assignment on Earth. He got his story but, against orders, he fell in love and therein lies this story. ]

That's what we always called them, where I come from, huddlers. Damnedest thing to see from any distance, the way they huddle. They had one place, encrusting the shore line for miles on one of the land bodies they called the Eastern Seaboard. A coagulation in this crust contained eight million of the creatures, eight million .

They called it New York, and it was bigger than most of the others, but typical. It wasn't bad enough living side by side; the things built mounds and lived one above the other. Apartments they called them. What monstrosities they were.

We couldn't figure this huddling, at first.

All our attention since Akers' first penetration into space had been directed another way in the galaxy, and though I'll grant you unified and universal concentration may be considered unwise in some areas, it's been our greatest strength. It's brought us rather rapidly to the front, I'm sure you'll agree, and we're not the oldest planet, by a damned sight.

Well, by the time we got to the huddlers, Akers was dead and Murten was just an old man with vacant eyes. Jars was handling the Department, though you might say Deering ran it, being closer to most of the gang. Jars was always so cold; nobody ever got to know him really well.

They divided on the huddling. Fear, Jars said, and love, Deering said, but who could say for sure?

As Deering said to me, "What could they fear? They've got everything they need, everything but knowledge and their better specimens are getting closer to that, every day."

In the laboratory, Deering said this, and how did we know old Jars was in a corner, breaking down a spirigel?

"They fear each other," Jars said, as though it was an official announcement, as though any fact is permanent. "And they fear nature. It's the most fear ridden colony of bipeds a sane mind could imagine."

Deering looked at me, and winked.

Jars went back to the spirigel.

Deering said, "Love, love, love. All they sing about, all they write about, all they talk about, love, love, love."

Jars was just tracing a z line on the spirigel and he put down his legort at that. "Rather superficial thinking, from a scientist," he said quietly. "Surface manifestations to be considered as indicative. Oral and verbal camouflage to be accepted as valid. Deering, old thing, please "

Deering shrugged. "So I am what do they call it, a Pollyanna. Isn't that a pretty word? So, I'm a Pollyanna."

"I rather think that describes you partially," Jars said, "and with this particular planet we're discussing, it can be a dangerous attitude."

"So?" Deering said, nudging me. "And could I ask why?"

"Ask it."

"I ask."

"You've recorded the state of their development. They have, among other things, achieved nuclear fission."

"So? In the fourth grade we are teaching nuclear fission."

"We are a scientific people. They haven't been, until very, very recently. You have noted, I hope, their first extensive use of this new discovery?"

"Hero Helo " Deering shrugged. "My memory."

"Hiroshima," Jars supplied. "Love , my friend?"

"I have noted it," Deering said. "We spoke, a while ago, of surface manifestations."

"We shall continue to. You have witnessed the mechanical excellence of their machines, in some ways beyond ours, because of their greater element wealth. You have noted the increased concentration of their better minds, their scientific minds. How long do you think it will be, friend, before they are ready for us?"

"Ready, ready ? In what way, ready?"

"The only way they know, the only thing they seem to have time for ready for war... Continue reading book >>

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