Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Happy Ending
Author: Reynolds, Mack, 1917-1983, Brown, Fredric, 1906-1972
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Happy Ending" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



    _A world had collapsed around this man--a world that would never
    shout his praises again. The burned-out cities were still and dead,
    the twisted bodies and twisted souls giving him their last salute in
    death. And now he was alone, alone surrounded by memories, alone and
    waiting ..._


  happy
 ending

 _by MACK REYNOLDS
 and FREDRIC BROWN_


 Sometimes the queerly shaped Venusian trees seemed to talk
 to him, but their voices were soft. They were loyal people.


There were four men in the lifeboat that came down from the
space-cruiser. Three of them were still in the uniform of the Galactic
Guards.

The fourth sat in the prow of the small craft looking down at their
goal, hunched and silent, bundled up in a greatcoat against the coolness
of space--a greatcoat which he would never need again after this
morning. The brim of his hat was pulled down far over his forehead, and
he studied the nearing shore through dark-lensed glasses. Bandages, as
though for a broken jaw, covered most of the lower part of his face.

He realized suddenly that the dark glasses, now that they had left the
cruiser, were unnecessary. He slipped them off. After the
cinematographic grays his eyes had seen through these lenses for so
long, the brilliance of the color below him was almost like a blow. He
blinked, and looked again.

They were rapidly settling toward a shoreline, a beach. The sand was a
dazzling, unbelievable white such as had never been on his home planet.
Blue the sky and water, and green the edge of the fantastic jungle.
There was a flash of red in the green, as they came still closer, and he
realized suddenly that it must be a _marigee_, the semi-intelligent
Venusian parrot once so popular as pets throughout the solar system.

Throughout the system blood and steel had fallen from the sky and
ravished the planets, but now it fell no more.

And now this. Here in this forgotten portion of an almost completely
destroyed world it had not fallen at all.

Only in some place like this, alone, was safety for him.
Elsewhere--anywhere--imprisonment or, more likely, death. There was
danger, even here. Three of the crew of the space-cruiser knew. Perhaps,
someday, one of them would talk. Then they would come for him, even
here.

But that was a chance he could not avoid. Nor were the odds bad, for
three people out of a whole solar system knew where he was. And those
three were loyal fools.

The lifeboat came gently to rest. The hatch swung open and he stepped
out and walked a few paces up the beach. He turned and waited while the
two spacemen who had guided the craft brought his chest out and carried
it across the beach and to the corrugated-tin shack just at the edge of
the trees. That shack had once been a space-radar relay station. Now the
equipment it had held was long gone, the antenna mast taken down. But
the shack still stood. It would be his home for a while. A long while.
The two men returned to the lifeboat preparatory to leaving.

And now the captain stood facing him, and the captain's face was a rigid
mask. It seemed with an effort that the captain's right arm remained at
his side, but that effort had been ordered. No salute.

The captain's voice, too, was rigid with unemotion. "Number One ..."

"Silence!" And then, less bitterly. "Come further from the boat before
you again let your tongue run loose. Here." They had reached the shack.

"You are right, Number ..."

"No. I am no longer Number One. You must continue to think of me as
_Mister_ Smith, your cousin, whom you brought here for the reasons you
explained to the under-officers, before you surrender your ship. If you
_think_ of me so, you will be less likely to slip in your speech."

"There is nothing further I can do--Mister Smith?"

"Nothing. Go now."

"And I am ordered to surrender the--"

"There are no orders. The war is over, lost. I would suggest thought as
to what spaceport you put into. In some you may receive humane
treatment. In others--"

The captain nodded. "In others, there is great hatred. Yes. That is
all?"

"That is all. And, Captain, your running of the blockade, your securing
of fuel _en route_, have constituted a deed of high valor. All I can
give you in reward is my thanks. But now go. Goodbye."

"Not goodbye," the captain blurted impulsively, "but _hasta la vista_,
_auf Wiedersehen_, _until the day_ ... you will permit me, for the last
time to address you and salute?"

The man in the greatcoat shrugged. "As you will."

Click of heels and a salute that once greeted the Caesars, and later the
pseudo-Aryan of the 20th Century, and, but yesterday, he who was now
known as _the last of the dictators_. "Farewell, Number One!"

"Farewell," he answered emotionlessly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Smith, a black dot on the dazzling white sand, watched the lifeboat
disappear up into the blue, finally into the haze of the upper
atmosphere of Venus. That eternal haze that would always be there to
mock his failure and his bitter solitude.

The slow days snarled by, and the sun shone dimly, and the _marigees_
screamed in the early dawn and all day and at sunset, and sometimes
there were the six-legged _baroons_, monkey-like in the trees, that
gibbered at him. And the rains came and went away again.

At nights there were drums in the distance. Not the martial roll of
marching, nor yet a threatening note of savage hate. Just drums, many
miles away, throbbing rhythm for native dances or exorcising, perhaps,
the forest-night demons. He assumed these Venusians had their
superstitions, all other races had. There was no threat, for him, in
that throbbing that was like the beating of the jungle's heart.

Mr. Smith knew that, for although his choice of destinations had been a
hasty choice, yet there had been time for him to read the available
reports. The natives were harmless and friendly. A Terran missionary had
lived among them some time ago--before the outbreak of the war. They
were a simple, weak race. They seldom went far from their villages; the
space-radar operator who had once occupied the shack reported that he
had never seen one of them.

So, there would be no difficulty in avoiding the natives, nor danger if
he did encounter them.

Nothing to worry about, except the bitterness.

Not the bitterness of regret, but of defeat. Defeat at the hands of the
defeated. The damned Martians who came back after he had driven them
halfway across their damned arid planet. The Jupiter Satellite
Confederation landing endlessly on the home planet, sending their vast
armadas of spacecraft daily and nightly to turn his mighty cities into
dust. In spite of everything; in spite of his score of ultra-vicious
secret weapons and the last desperate efforts of his weakened armies,
most of whose men were under twenty or over forty.

The treachery even in his own army, among his own generals and admirals.
The turn of Luna, that had been the end.

His people would rise again. But not, now after Armageddon, in his
lifetime. Not under him, nor another like him. The last of the
dictators.

Hated by a solar system, and hating it.

It would have been intolerable, save that he was alone. He had foreseen
that--the need for solitude. Alone, he was still Number One. The
presence of others would have forced recognition of his miserably
changed status. Alone, his pride was undamaged. His ego was intact.

       *       *       *       *       *

The long days, and the _marigees'_ screams, the slithering swish of the
surf, the ghost-quiet movements of the _baroons_ in the trees and the
raucousness of their shrill voices. Drums.

Those sounds, and those alone. But perhaps silence would have been
worse.

For the times of silence were louder. Times he would pace the beach at
night and overhead would be the roar of jets and rockets, the ships that
had roared over New Albuquerque, his capitol, in those last days before
he had fled. The crump of bombs and the screams and the blood, and the
flat voices of his folding generals.

Those were the days when the waves of hatred from the conquered peoples
beat upon his country as the waves of a stormy sea beat upon crumbling
cliffs. Leagues back of the battered lines, you could _feel_ that hate
and vengeance as a tangible thing, a thing that thickened the air, that
made breathing difficult and talking futile.

And the spacecraft, the jets, the rockets, the damnable rockets, more
every day and every night, and ten coming for every one shot down.
Rocket ships raining hell from the sky, havoc and chaos and the end of
hope.

And then he knew that he had been hearing another sound, hearing it
often and long at a time. It was a voice that shouted invective and
ranted hatred and glorified the steel might of his planet and the
destiny of a man and a people.

It was his own voice, and it beat back the waves from the white shore,
it stopped their wet encroachment upon this, his domain. It screamed
back at the _baroons_ and they were silent. And at times he laughed, and
the _marigees_ laughed. Sometimes, the queerly shaped Venusian trees
talked too, but their voices were quieter. The trees were submissive,
they were good subjects.

Sometimes, fantastic thoughts went through his head. The race of trees,
the pure race of trees that never interbred, that stood firm always.
Someday the trees--

But that was just a dream, a fancy. More real were the _marigees_ and
the _kifs_. They were the ones who persecuted him. There was the
_marigee_ who would shriek "_All is lost!_" He had shot at it a hundred
times with his needle gun, but always it flew away unharmed. Sometimes
it did not even fly away.

"_All is lost!_"

At last he wasted no more needle darts. He stalked it to strangle it
with his bare hands. That was better. On what might have been the
thousandth try, he caught it and killed it, and there was warm blood on
his hands and feathers were flying.

That should have ended it, but it didn't. Now there were a dozen
_marigees_ that screamed that all was lost. Perhaps there had been a
dozen all along. Now he merely shook his fist at them or threw stones.

The _kifs_, the Venusian equivalent of the Terran ant, stole his food.
But that did not matter; there was plenty of food. There had been a
cache of it in the shack, meant to restock a space-cruiser, and never
used. The _kifs_ would not get at it until he opened a can, but then,
unless he ate it all at once, they ate whatever he left. That did not
matter. There were plenty of cans. And always fresh fruit from the
jungle. Always in season, for there were no seasons here, except the
rains.

But the _kifs_ served a purpose for him. They kept him sane, by giving
him something tangible, something inferior, to hate.

Oh, it wasn't hatred, at first. Mere annoyance. He killed them in a
routine sort of way at first. But they kept coming back. Always there
were _kifs_. In his larder, wherever he did it. In his bed. He sat the
legs of the cot in dishes of gasoline, but the _kifs_ still got in.
Perhaps they dropped from the ceiling, although he never caught them
doing it.

They bothered his sleep. He'd feel them running over him, even when he'd
spent an hour picking the bed clean of them by the light of the carbide
lantern. They scurried with tickling little feet and he could not
sleep.

He grew to hate them, and the very misery of his nights made his days
more tolerable by giving them an increasing purpose. A pogrom against
the _kifs_. He sought out their holes by patiently following one bearing
a bit of food, and he poured gasoline into the hole and the earth around
it, taking satisfaction in the thought of the writhings in agony below.
He went about hunting _kifs_, to step on them. To stamp them out. He
must have killed millions of _kifs_.

But always there were as many left. Never did their number seem to
diminish in the slightest. Like the Martians--but unlike the Martians,
they did not fight back.

Theirs was the passive resistance of a vast productivity that bred
_kifs_ ceaselessly, overwhelmingly, billions to replace millions.
Individual _kifs_ could be killed, and he took savage satisfaction in
their killing, but he knew his methods were useless save for the
pleasure and the purpose they gave him. Sometimes the pleasure would
pall in the shadow of its futility, and he would dream of mechanized
means of killing them.

He read carefully what little material there was in his tiny library
about the _kif_. They were astonishingly like the ants of Terra. So much
that there had been speculation about their relationship--that didn't
interest him. How could they be killed, _en masse_? Once a year, for a
brief period, they took on the characteristics of the army ants of
Terra. They came from their holes in endless numbers and swept
everything before them in their devouring march. He wet his lips when he
read that. Perhaps the opportunity would come then to destroy, to
destroy, _and destroy_.

Almost, Mr. Smith forgot people and the solar system and what had been.
Here in this new world, there was only he and the _kifs_. The _baroons_
and the _marigees_ didn't count. They had no order and no system. The
_kifs_--

In the intensity of his hatred there slowly filtered through a grudging
admiration. The _kifs_ were true totalitarians. They practiced what he
had preached to a mightier race, practiced it with a thoroughness beyond
the kind of man to comprehend.

Theirs the complete submergence of the individual to the state, theirs
the complete ruthlessness of the true conqueror, the perfect selfless
bravery of the true soldier.

But they got into his bed, into his clothes, into his food.

They crawled with intolerable tickling feet.

Nights he walked the beach, and that night was one of the noisy nights.
There were high-flying, high-whining jet-craft up there in the moonlight
sky and their shadows dappled the black water of the sea. The planes,
the rockets, the jet-craft, they were what had ravaged his cities, had
turned his railroads into twisted steel, had dropped their H-Bombs on
his most vital factories.

He shook his fist at them and shrieked imprecations at the sky.

And when he had ceased shouting, there were voices on the beach.
Conrad's voice in his ear, as it had sounded that day when Conrad had
walked into the palace, white-faced, and forgotten the salute. "There is
a breakthrough at Denver, Number One! Toronto and Monterey are in
danger. And in the other hemispheres--" His voice cracked. "--the damned
Martians and the traitors from Luna are driving over the Argentine.
Others have landed near New Petrograd. It is a rout. All is lost!"

Voices crying, "Number One, _hail_! Number One, _hail_!"

A sea of hysterical voices. "Number One, _hail_! Number One--"

A voice that was louder, higher, more frenetic than any of the others.
His memory of his own voice, calculated but inspired, as he'd heard it
on play-backs of his own speeches.

The voices of children chanting, "To thee, O Number One--" He couldn't
remember the rest of the words, but they had been beautiful words. That
had been at the public school meet in the New Los Angeles. How strange
that he should remember, here and now, the very tone of his voice and
inflection, the shining wonder in their children's eyes. Children only,
but they were willing to kill and die, _for him_, convinced that all
that was needed to cure the ills of the race was a suitable leader to
follow.

"_All is lost!_"

And suddenly the monster jet-craft were swooping downward and starkly he
realized what a clear target he presented, here against the white
moonlit beach. They must see him.

The crescendo of motors as he ran, sobbing now in fear, for the cover of
the jungle. Into the screening shadow of the giant trees, and the
sheltering blackness.

He stumbled and fell, was up and running again. And now his eyes could
see in the dimmer moonlight that filtered through the branches overhead.
Stirrings there, in the branches. Stirrings and voices in the night.
Voices in and of the night. Whispers and shrieks of pain. Yes, he'd
shown them pain, and now their tortured voices ran with him through the
knee-deep, night-wet grass among the trees.

The night was hideous with noise. Red noises, an almost _tangible_ din
that he could nearly _feel_ as well as he could see and hear it. And
after a while his breath came raspingly, and there was a thumping sound
that was the beating of his heart and the beating of the night.

And then, he could run no longer, and he clutched a tree to keep from
falling, his arms trembling about it, and his face pressed against the
impersonal roughness of the bark. There was no wind, but the tree swayed
back and forth and his body with it.

Then, as abruptly as light goes on when a switch is thrown, the noise
vanished. Utter silence, and at last he was strong enough to let go his
grip on the tree and stand erect again, to look about to get his
bearings.

One tree was like another, and for a moment he thought he'd have to stay
here until daylight. Then he remembered that the sound of the surf would
give him his directions. He listened hard and heard it, faint and far
away.

And another sound--one that he had never heard before--faint, also, but
seeming to come from his right and quite near.

He looked that way, and there was a patch of opening in the trees above.
The grass was waving strangely in that area of moonlight. It moved,
although there was no breeze to move it. And there was an almost sudden
_edge_, beyond which the blades thinned out quickly to barrenness.

And the sound--it was like the sound of the surf, but it was continuous.
It was more like the rustle of dry leaves, but there were no dry leaves
to rustle.

Mr. Smith took a step toward the sound and looked down. More grass bent,
and fell, and vanished, even as he looked. Beyond the moving edge of
devastation was a brown floor of the moving bodies of _kifs_.

Row after row, orderly rank after orderly rank, marching resistlessly
onward. Billions of _kifs_, an army of _kifs_, eating their way across
the night.

Fascinated, he stared down at them. There was no danger, for their
progress was slow. He retreated a step to keep beyond their front rank.
The sound, then, was the sound of chewing.

He could see one edge of the column, and it was a neat, orderly edge.
And there was discipline, for the ones on the outside were larger than
those in the center.

He retreated another step--and then, quite suddenly, his body was afire
in several spreading places. The vanguard. Ahead of the rank that ate
away the grass.

His boots were brown with _kifs_.

Screaming with pain, he whirled about and ran, beating with his hands
at the burning spots on his body. He ran head-on into a tree, bruising
his face horribly, and the night was scarlet with pain and shooting
fire.

But he staggered on, almost blindly, running, writhing, tearing off his
clothes as he ran.

This, then, was _pain_. There was a shrill screaming in his ears that
must have been the sound of his own voice.

When he could no longer run, he crawled. Naked, now, and with only a few
_kifs_ still clinging to him. And the blind tangent of his flight had
taken him well out of the path of the advancing army.

But stark fear and the memory of unendurable pain drove him on. His
knees raw now, he could no longer crawl. But he got himself erect again
on trembling legs, and staggered on. Catching hold of a tree and pushing
himself away from it to catch the next.

Falling, rising, falling again. His throat raw from the screaming
invective of his hate. Bushes and the rough bark of trees tore his
flesh.

       *       *       *       *       *

Into the village compound just before dawn, staggered a man, a naked
terrestrial. He looked about with dull eyes that seemed to see nothing
and understand nothing.

The females and young ran before him, even the males retreated.

He stood there, swaying, and the incredulous eyes of the natives widened
as they saw the condition of his body, and the blankness of his eyes.

When he made no hostile move, they came closer again, formed a
wondering, chattering circle about him, these Venusian humanoids. Some
ran to bring the chief and the chief's son, who knew everything.

The mad, naked human opened his lips as though he were going to speak,
but instead, he fell. He fell, as a dead man falls. But when they turned
him over in the dust, they saw that his chest still rose and fell in
labored breathing.

And then came Alwa, the aged chieftain, and Nrana, his son. Alwa gave
quick, excited orders. Two of the men carried Mr. Smith into the chief's
hut, and the wives of the chief and the chief's son took over the
Earthling's care, and rubbed him with a soothing and healing salve.

But for days and nights he lay without moving and without speaking or
opening his eyes, and they did not know whether he would live or die.

Then, at last, he opened his eyes. And he talked, although they could
make out nothing of the things he said.

Nrana came and listened, for Nrana of all of them spoke and understood
best the Earthling's language, for he had been the special protege of
the Terran missionary who had lived with them for a while.

Nrana listened, but he shook his head. "The words," he said, "the words
are of the Terran tongue, but I make nothing of them. His mind is not
well."

The aged Alwa said, "Aie. Stay beside him. Perhaps as his body heals,
his words will be beautiful words as were the words of the Father-of-Us
who, in the Terran tongue, taught us of the gods and their good."

So they cared for him well, and his wounds healed, and the day came when
he opened his eyes and saw the handsome blue-complexioned face of Nrana
sitting there beside him, and Nrana said softly, "Good day, Mr. Man of
Earth. You feel better, no?"

There was no answer, and the deep-sunken eyes of the man on the sleeping
mat stared, glared at him. Nrana could see that those eyes were not yet
sane, but he saw, too, that the madness in them was not the same that it
had been. Nrana did not know the words for delirium and paranoia, but he
could distinguish between them.

No longer was the Earthling a raving maniac, and Nrana made a very
common error, an error more civilized beings than he have often made. He
thought the paranoia was an improvement over the wider madness. He
talked on, hoping the Earthling would talk too, and he did not recognize
the danger of his silence.

"We welcome you, Earthling," he said, "and hope that you will live among
us, as did the Father-of-Us, Mr. Gerhardt. He taught us to worship the
true gods of the high heavens. Jehovah, and Jesus and their prophets the
men from the skies. He taught us to pray and to love our enemies."

And Nrana shook his head sadly, "But many of our tribe have gone back to
the older gods, the cruel gods. They say there has been great strife
among the outsiders, and no more remain upon all of Venus. My father,
Alwa, and I are glad another one has come. You will be able to help
those of us who have gone back. You can teach us love and kindliness."

The eyes of the dictator closed. Nrana did not know whether or not he
slept, but Nrana stood up quietly to leave the hut. In the doorway, he
turned and said, "We pray for you."

And then, joyously, he ran out of the village to seek the others, who
were gathering bela-berries for the feast of the fourth event.

When, with several of them, he returned to the village, the Earthling
was gone. The hut was empty.

Outside the compound they found, at last, the trail of his passing.
They followed and it led to a stream and along the stream until they
came to the tabu of the green pool, and could go no farther.

"He went downstream," said Alwa gravely. "He sought the sea and the
beach. He was well then, in his mind, for he knew that all streams go to
the sea."

"Perhaps he had a ship-of-the-sky there at the beach," Nrana said
worriedly. "All Earthlings come from the sky. The Father-of-Us told us
that."

"Perhaps he will come back to us," said Alwa. His old eyes misted.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Smith was coming back all right, and sooner than they had dared to
hope. As soon in fact, as he could make the trip to the shack and
return. He came back dressed in clothing very different from the garb
the other white man had worn. Shining leather boots and the uniform of
the Galactic Guard, and a wide leather belt with a holster for his
needle gun.

But the gun was in his hand when, at dusk, he strode into the compound.

He said, "I am Number One, the Lord of all the Solar System, and your
ruler. Who was chief among you?"

Alwa had been in his hut, but he heard the words and came out. He
understood the words, but not their meaning. He said, "Earthling, we
welcome you back. I am the chief."

"You were the chief. Now you will serve me. I am the chief."

Alwa's old eyes were bewildered at the strangeness of this. He said, "I
will serve you, yes. All of us. But it is not fitting that an Earthling
should be chief among--"

The whisper of the needle gun. Alwa's wrinkled hands went to his scrawny
neck where, just off the center, was a sudden tiny pin prick of a hole.
A faint trickle of red coursed over the dark blue of his skin. The old
man's knees gave way under him as the rage of the poisoned needle dart
struck him, and he fell. Others started toward him.

"Back," said Mr. Smith. "Let him die slowly that you may all see what
happens to--"

But one of the chief's wives, one who did not understand the speech of
Earth, was already lifting Alwa's head. The needle gun whispered again,
and she fell forward across him.

"I am Number One," said Mr. Smith, "and Lord of all the planets. All who
oppose me, die by--"

And then, suddenly all of them were running toward him. His finger
pressed the trigger and four of them died before the avalanche of their
bodies bore him down and overwhelmed him. Nrana had been first in that
rush, and Nrana died.

The others tied the Earthling up and threw him into one of the huts. And
then, while the women began wailing for the dead, the men made council.

They elected Kallana chief and he stood before them and said, "The
Father-of-Us, the Mister Gerhardt, deceived us." There was fear and
worry in his voice and apprehension on his blue face. "If this be indeed
the Lord of whom he told us--"

"He is not a god," said another. "He is an Earthling, but there have
been such before on Venus, many many of them who came long and long ago
from the skies. Now they are all dead, killed in strife among
themselves. It is well. This last one is one of them, but he is mad."

And they talked long and the dusk grew into night while they talked of
what they must do. The gleam of firelight upon their bodies, and the
waiting drummer.

The problem was difficult. To harm one who was mad was tabu. If he was
really a god, it would be worse. Thunder and lightning from the sky
would destroy the village. Yet they dared not release him. Even if they
took the evil weapon-that-whispered-its-death and buried it, he might
find other ways to harm them. He might have another where he had gone
for the first.

Yes, it was a difficult problem for them, but the eldest and wisest of
them, one M'Ganne, gave them at last the answer.

"O Kallana," he said, "Let us give him to the _kifs_. If _they_ harm
him--" and old M'Ganne grinned a toothless, mirthless grin "--it would
be their doing and not ours."

Kallana shuddered. "It is the most horrible of all deaths. And if he is
a god--"

"If he is a god, they will not harm him. If he is mad and not a god, we
will not have harmed him. It harms not a man to tie him to a tree."

Kallana considered well, for the safety of his people was at stake.
Considering, he remembered how Alwa and Nrana had died.

He said, "It is right."

The waiting drummer began the rhythm of the council-end, and those of
the men who were young and fleet lighted torches in the fire and went
out into the forest to seek the _kifs_, who were still in their season
of marching.

And after a while, having found what they sought, they returned.

They took the Earthling out with them, then, and tied him to a tree.
They left him there, and they left the gag over his lips because they
did not wish to hear his screams when the _kifs_ came.

The cloth of the gag would be eaten, too, but by that time, there would
be no flesh under it from which a scream might come.

They left him, and went back to the compound, and the drums took up the
rhythm of propitiation to the gods for what they had done. For they had,
they knew, cut very close to the corner of a tabu--but the provocation
had been great and they hoped they would not be punished.

All night the drums would throb.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man tied to the tree struggled with his bonds, but they were strong
and his writhings made the knots but tighten.

His eyes became accustomed to the darkness.

He tried to shout, "I am Number One, Lord of--"

And then, because he could not shout and because he could not loosen
himself, there came a rift in his madness. He remembered who he was, and
all the old hatreds and bitterness welled up in him.

He remembered, too, what had happened in the compound, and wondered why
the Venusian natives had not killed him. Why, instead, they had tied him
here alone in the darkness of the jungle.

Afar, he heard the throbbing of the drums, and they were like the
beating of the heart of night, and there was a louder, nearer sound that
was the pulse of blood in his ears as the fear came to him.

The fear that he knew why they had tied him here. The horrible,
gibbering fear that, for the last time, an army marched against him.

He had time to savor that fear to the uttermost, to have it become a
creeping certainty that crawled into the black corners of his soul as
would the soldiers of the coming army crawl into his ears and nostrils
while others would eat away his eyelids to get at the eyes behind them.

And then, and only then, did he hear the sound that was like the rustle
of dry leaves, in a dank, black jungle where there were no dry leaves to
rustle nor breeze to rustle them.

Horribly, Number One, the last of the dictators, did not go mad again;
not exactly, but he laughed, and laughed and laughed....



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ September 1957.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Happy Ending" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home