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The Worshippers   By: (1922-2002)

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THE WORSHIPPERS

BY DAMON KNIGHT

ILLUSTRATED BY EMSH

Destiny reached out a hand to Algernon Weaver but he was a timid man, at first. But on the strange world of Terranova, there was much to be learned of destiny, and other things....

It was a very different thing, Algernon Weaver decided, actually to travel in space. When you read about it, or thought about it in terms of what you read, it was more a business of going from one name to another. Algol to Sirius. Aldebaran to Epsilon Ceti. You read the names, and the descriptions that went with them, and the whole thing although breathtaking in concept, of course, when you really stopped to meditate on it became rather ordinary and prosaic and somehow more understandable.

Not that he had ever approved. No. He had that, at least, to look back upon; he had seen the whole enterprise as pure presumption, and had said so. Often. The heavens were the heavens, and Earth was Earth. It would have been better much better for all concerned if it had been left that way.

He had held that opinion, he reminded himself gratefully, from the very beginning, when it was easy to think otherwise. Afterward, of course when the first star ships came back with the news that space was aswarm with creatures who did not even resemble Man, and had never heard of him, and did not think much of him when they saw him.... Well, who but an idiot could hold any other opinion?

If only the Creator had not seen fit to make so many human beings in His image but without His common sense....

Well, if He hadn't then for one thing, Weaver would not have been where he was now, staring out an octagonal porthole at an endless sea of diamond pierced blackness, with the empty ship humming to itself all around him.

It was an entirely different thing, he told himself; there were no names, and no descriptions, and no feeling of going from one known place to another known place. It was more like

It was like standing outdoors, on a still summer night, and looking up at the dizzying depths of the stars. And then looking down, to discover that there was no planet under your feet and that you were all alone in that alien gulf....

It was enough to make a grown man cry; and Weaver had cried, often, in the empty red twilight of the ship, feeling himself hopelessly and forever cut off, cast out and forgotten. But as the weeks passed, a kind of numbness had overtaken him, till now, when he looked out the porthole at the incredible depth of sky, he felt no emotion but a thin, disapproving regret.

Sometimes he would describe himself to himself, just to refute the feeling that he was not really here, not really alive. But his mind was too orderly, and the description would come out so cold and terse "Algernon James Weaver (1942 ) historian, civic leader, poet, teacher, philosopher. Author of Development of the School System in Schenectady and Scoharie Counties, New York (pamphlet, 1975); An Address to the Women's Clubs of Schenectady, New York (pamphlet, 1979); Rhymes of a Philosopher (1981); Parables of a Philosopher (1983), Reflections of a Philosopher (1986). Born in Detroit, Michigan, son of a Methodist minister; educated in Michigan and New York public schools; B.A., New York State University, 1959; M.A., N.Y.S.U. Extension, 1964. Unmarried. Surviving relatives "

That was the trouble, it began to sound like an obituary. And then the great humming metal shell would begin to feel like a coffin....

[Illustration]

Presumption. Pure presumption. None of these creatures should have been allowed to get loose among the stars, Man least of all. It cluttered up the Universe. It undermined Faith. And it had got Algernon Weaver into the devil of a fix.

It was his sister's fault, actually. She would go, in spite of his advice, up to the Moon, to the UN sanatorium in Aristarchus... Continue reading book >>




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