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´╗┐Title: Bedside Manner
Author: Samachson, Joseph, 1906-1980
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 "Bedside Manner" ***

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



                         BEDSIDE MANNER

                       By WILLIAM MORRISON

                      Illustrated by VIDMER

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
May 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: Broken, helpless, she had to trust an alien doctor to give
her back her body and mind--a doctor who had never seen a human before!]


She awoke, and didn't even wonder where she was.

First there were feelings--a feeling of existence, a sense of still
being alive when she should be dead, an awareness of pain that made her
body its playground.

After that, there came a thought. It was a simple thought, and her mind
blurted it out before she could stop it: _Oh, God, now I won't even be
plain any more. I'll be ugly._

The thought sent a wave of panic coursing through her, but she was too
tired to experience any emotion for long, and she soon drowsed off.

Later, the second time she awoke, she wondered where she was.

There was no way of telling. Around her all was black and quiet. The
blackness was solid, the quiet absolute. She was aware of pain
again--not sharp pain this time, but dull, spread throughout her body.
Her legs ached; so did her arms. She tried to lift them, and found to
her surprise that they did not respond. She tried to flex her fingers,
and failed.

She was paralyzed. She could not move a muscle of her body.

The silence was so complete that it was frightening. Not a whisper of
sound reached her. She had been on a spaceship, but none of a ship's
noises came to her now. Not the creak of an expanding joint, nor the
occasional slap of metal on metal. Not the sound of Fred's voice, nor
even the slow rhythm of her own breathing.

It took her a full minute to figure out why, and when she had done so
she did not believe it. But the thought persisted, and soon she knew
that it was true.

The silence was complete because she was deaf.

Another thought: The blackness was so deep because she was blind.

And still another, this time a questioning one: Why, if she could feel
pain in her arms and legs, could she not move them? What strange form of
paralysis was this?

She fought against the answer, but slowly, inescapably, it formed in her
mind. She was not paralyzed at all. She could not move her arms and legs
because she had none. The pains she felt were phantom pains, conveyed by
the nerve endings without an external stimulus.

When this thought penetrated, she fainted. Her mind sought in
unconsciousness to get as close to death as it could.

       *       *       *       *       *

When she awoke, it was against her will. She sought desperately to close
her mind against thought and feeling, just as her eyes and ears were
already closed.

[Illustration]

But thoughts crept in despite her. Why was she alive? Why hadn't she
died in the crash?

Fred must certainly have been killed. The asteroid had come into view
suddenly; there had been no chance of avoiding it. It had been a miracle
that she herself had escaped, if escape it could be called--a mere
sightless, armless and legless torso, with no means of communication
with the outside world, she was more dead than alive. And she could not
believe that the miracle had been repeated with Fred.

It was better that way. Fred wouldn't have to look at her and
shudder--and he wouldn't have to worry about himself, either. He had
always been a handsome man, and it would have killed him a second time
to find himself maimed and horrible.

She must find a way to join him, to kill herself. It would be difficult,
no doubt, without arms or legs, without any way of knowing her
surroundings; but sooner or later she would think of a way. She had
heard somewhere of people strangling themselves by swallowing their own
tongues, and the thought cheered her. She could at least try that right
now. She could--

No, she couldn't. She hadn't realized it before, but she had no tongue.

She didn't black out at this sudden awareness of a new horror, although
she desperately wanted to. She thought: _I can make an effort of will, I
can force myself to die. Die, you fool, you helpless lump of flesh. Die
and end your torture, die, die, die...._

But she didn't. And after a while, a new thought came to her: She and
Fred had been the only ones on their ship; there had been no other ship
near them. Who had kept her from dying? Who had taken her crushed body
and stopped the flow of blood and tended her wounds and kept her alive?
And for what purpose?

The silence gave no answer. Nor did her own mind.

After an age, she slept again.

When she awoke, a voice said, "Do you feel better?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I _can hear_! she shouted to herself. _It's a strange voice, a most
unusual accent. I couldn't possibly have imagined it. I'm not deaf!
Maybe I'm not blind either! Maybe I just had a nightmare_--

"I know that you cannot answer. But do not fear. You will soon be able
to speak again."

Who was it? Not a man's voice, nor a woman's. It was curiously hoarse,
and yet clear enough. Uninflected, and yet pleasant. A doctor? Where
could a doctor have come from?

"Your husband is also alive. Fortunately, we reached both of you at
about the time death had just begun."

Fortunately? She felt a flash of rage. _You should have let us die. It
would be bad enough to be alive by myself, a helpless cripple dependent
upon others. But to know that Fred is alive too is worse. To know that
he has a picture of me like this, ugly and horrifying, is more than I
can stand. With any other man it would be bad enough, but with Fred it's
unendurable. Give me back the ability to talk, and the first thing I'll
ask of you is to kill me. I don't want to live._

"It may reassure you to know that there will be no difficulty about
recovering the use of the limbs proper to you, and the organs of
sensation. It will take time, but there is no doubt about the final
outcome."

What nonsense, she asked herself, was this? Doctors had done wonders in
the creation and fitting of artificial arms and legs, but he seemed to
be promising her the use of _real_ limbs. And he had said, "organs of
sensation." That didn't sound as if he meant that she'd see and hear
electronically. It meant--

Nonsense. He was making a promise he couldn't keep. He was just saying
that to make her feel better, the way doctors did. He was saying it to
give her courage, keep her morale up, make her feel that it was worth
fighting. But it _wasn't_ worth fighting. She had no courage to keep up.
She wanted only to die.

"Perhaps you have already realized that I am not what you would call
human. However, I suggest that you do not worry too much about that. I
shall have no difficulty in reconstructing you properly according to
your own standards."

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the voice ceased, and she was left alone. It was just as well, she
thought. He had said too much. And she couldn't answer, nor ask
questions of her own ... and she had so many.

He wasn't human? Then what was he? And how did he come to speak a human
language? And what did he mean to do with her after he had reconstructed
her? And what would she look like after she was reconstructed?

There were races, she knew, that had no sense of beauty. Or if they had
one, it wasn't like a human sense of beauty. Would he consider her
properly reconstructed if he gave her the right number of arms and legs,
and artificial organs of sight that acted like eyes--and made her look
like some creature out of Hell? Would he be proud of his handiwork, as
human doctors had been known to be, when their patients ended up alive
and helpless, their bodies scarred, their organs functioning feebly and
imperfectly? Would he turn her into something that Fred would look at
with abhorrence and disgust?

Fred had always been a little too sensitive to beauty in women. He had
been able to pick and choose at his will, and until he had met her he
had always chosen on the basis of looks alone. She had never understood
why he had married her. Perhaps the fact that she was the one woman he
knew who _wasn't_ beautiful had made her stand out. Perhaps, too, she
told herself, there was a touch of cruelty in his choice. He might have
wanted someone who wasn't too sure of herself, someone he could count on
under all circumstances. She remembered how people had used to stare at
them--the handsome man and the plain woman--and then whisper among
themselves, wondering openly how he had ever come to marry her. Fred had
liked that; she was sure he had liked that.

He had obviously _wanted_ a plain wife. Now he would have an ugly one.
Would he want _that_?

She slept on her questions, and waked and slept repeatedly. And then,
one day, she heard the voice again. And to her surprise, she found that
she could answer back--slowly, uncertainly, at times painfully. But she
could speak once more.

"We have been working on you," said the voice. "You are coming along
nicely."

"Am I--am I--" she found difficulty asking: "How do I look?"

"Incomplete."

"I must be horrible."

A slight pause. "No. Not horrible at all. Not to me. Merely incomplete."

"My husband wouldn't think so."

"I do not know what your husband would think. Perhaps he is not used to
seeing incomplete persons. He might even be horrified at the sight of
himself."

"I--I hadn't thought of that. But he--we'll both be all right?"

"As a medical problem, you offer no insuperable difficulty. None at
all."

"Why--why don't you give me eyes, if you can? Are you afraid--afraid
that I might see you and find you--terrifying?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Again a pause. There was amusement in the reply. "I do not think so. No,
that is not the reason."

"Then it's because--as you said about Fred--I might find myself
horrifying?"

"That is part of the reason. Not the major part, however. You see, I am,
in a way, experimenting. Do not be alarmed, please--I shall not turn you
into a monster. I have too much knowledge of biology for that. But I am
not too familiar with human beings. What I know I have learned mostly
from your books, and I have found that in certain respects there are
inaccuracies contained in them--I must go slowly until I can check what
they say. I might mend certain organs, and then discover that they do
not have the proper size or shape, or that they produce slightly altered
hormones. I do not want to make such mistakes, and if I do make them, I
wish to correct them before they can do harm."

"There's no danger--?"

"None, I assure you. Internally and externally, you will be as before."

"Internally and externally. Will I--will I be able to have children?"

"Yes. We ourselves do not have your distinctions of sex, but we are
familiar with them in many other races. We know how important you
consider them. I am taking care to see that the proper glandular balance
is maintained in both yourself and your husband."

"Thank you--Doctor. But I still don't understand--why don't you give me
eyes right away?"

"I do not wish to give you eyes that see imperfectly, and then be forced
to take them away. Nor do I want you to watch imperfect arms and legs
developing. It would be an unnecessary ordeal. When I am sure that
everything is as it should be, then I shall start your eyes."

"And my husband--"

"He will be reconstructed in the same way. He will be brought in to talk
to you soon."

"And you don't want either of us to see the other in--in imperfect
condition?"

"It would be inadvisable. I can assure you now that when I have
completed your treatment you will almost exactly be as you were in the
beginning. When that time comes, you will be able to use your eyes."

She was silent a moment.

He said, "Your husband had other questions. I am waiting to hear you ask
them too."

"I'm sorry, Doctor ... I wasn't listening. What did you say?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He repeated his remarks, and she said, "I do have other questions.
But--no, I won't ask them yet. What did my husband want to know?"

"About me and my race. How we happened to find you in time to save you.
_Why_ we saved you. What we intend to do with you after you are
reconstructed."

"Yes, I've wondered about those things too."

"I can give you only a partial answer. I hope you do not find it too
unsatisfactory. My race, as you may have gathered, is somewhat more
advanced than yours. We have had a head start," he added politely.

"If you can grow new arms and legs and eyes," she said, "you must be
thousands of years ahead of us."

"We can do many other things, of which there is no need to talk. All I
need say now is that I am a physician attached to a scouting expedition.
We have had previous contact with human beings, and have taken pains to
avoid coming to their attention. We do not want to alarm or confuse
them."

"But all the same, you rescued us."

"It was an emergency. We are not human, but we have, you might say,
humanitarian feelings. We do not like to see creatures die, even
inferior creatures--not that you are, of course," he added delicately.
"Our ship happened to be only a few thousand miles away when it
happened. We saw, and acted with great speed. Once you are whole again,
we shall place you where you will be found by your own kind, and proceed
on our way. By that time, our expedition will have been completed."

"When we are whole again--Doctor, will I be exactly the same as before?"

"In some ways, perhaps even better. I can assure you that all your
organs will function perfectly."

"I don't mean that. I mean--will I look the same?"

She felt that there was astonishment in the pause. "Look the same? Does
that matter?"

"Yes ... oh, yes, it matters! It matters more than anything else."

He must have been regarding her as if she were crazy. Suddenly she was
glad that she had no eyes to see his bewilderment. And his contempt,
which, she was sure, must be there too.

He said slowly, "I didn't realize. But, of course, we don't know how you
did look. How can we make you look the same?"

"I don't know. But you must! You must!" Her voice rose, and she felt the
pain in her throat as the new muscles constricted.

"You are getting hysterical," he said. "Stop thinking about this."

"But I can't stop thinking about it. It's the only thing I _can_ think
of! I don't want to look any different from the way I did before!"

He said nothing, and suddenly she felt tired. A moment before she had
been so excited, so upset; and now--merely tired and sleepy. She wanted
to go to sleep and forget it all. _He must have given me a sedative_,
she thought. _An injection? I didn't feel the prick of the needle, but
maybe they don't use needles. Anyway, I'm glad he did. Because now I
won't have to think, I won't be able to think--_

       *       *       *       *       *

She slept. When she awoke again, she heard a new voice. A voice she
couldn't place. It said, "Hello, Margaret. Where are you?"

"Who ... Fred!"

"Margaret?"

"Y-yes."

"Your voice is different."

"So is yours. At first I couldn't think who was speaking to me!"

"It's strange it took us so long to realize that our voices would be
different."

She said shakily, "We're more accustomed to thinking of how we look."

He was silent. His mind had been on the same thing.

"Your new voice isn't bad, Fred," she said after a moment. "I like it.
It's a little deeper, a little more resonant. It will go well with your
personality. The Doctor has done a good job."

"I'm trying to think whether I like yours. I don't know. I suppose I'm
the kind of guy who likes best what he's used to."

"I know. That's why I didn't want him to change my looks."

Again silence.

She said, "Fred?"

"I'm still here."

"Have you talked to him about it?"

"He's talked to me. He's told me about your being worried."

"Don't you think it matters?"

"Yes, I suppose it does. He told me he could do a good technical
job--leave us with regular features and unblemished skins."

"That isn't what I want," she said fiercely. "I don't want the kind of
regular features that come out of physiology books. I want my own
features. I don't care so much about the voice, but I want my own face
back!"

"That's a lot to ask for. Hasn't he done enough for us?"

"No. Nothing counts unless I have that. Do--do you think that I'm being
silly?"

"Well--"

"I don't want to be beautiful, because I know you don't want me to be."

He sounded amazed. "Whoever told you that?"

"Do you think that after living with you for two years, I don't know? If
you had wanted a beautiful wife, you'd have married one. Instead, you
chose me. You wanted to be the good-looking one of the family. You're
vain, Fred. Don't try to deny it, because it would be no use. You're
vain. Not that I mind it, but you are."

"Are you feeling all right, Margaret? You sound--overwrought."

"I'm not. I'm being very logical. If I were either ugly or beautiful,
you'd hate me. If I were ugly, people would pity you, and you wouldn't
be able to stand that. And if I were beautiful, they might forget about
you. I'm just plain enough for them to wonder why you ever married
anyone so ordinary. I'm just the kind of person to supply background for
you."

       *       *       *       *       *

After a moment he said slowly, "I never knew you had ideas like that
about me. They're silly ideas. I married you because I loved you."

"Maybe you did. But _why_ did you love me?"

He said patiently, "Let's not go into that. The fact is, Margaret, that
you're talking nonsense. I don't give a damn whether you're ugly or
beautiful--well, no, that isn't strictly true. I do care--but looks
aren't the most important thing. They have very little to do with the
way I feel about you. I love you for the kind of person you are.
Everything else is secondary."

"Please, Fred, don't lie to me. I want to be the same as before, because
I know that's the way you want me. Isn't there some way to let the
Doctor know what sort of appearance we made? You have--had--a good eye.
Maybe you could describe us--"

"Be reasonable, Margaret. You ought to know that you can't tell anything
from a description." His voice was almost pleading. "Let's leave well
enough alone. I don't care if your features do come out of the pictures
in a physiology textbook--"

"Fred!" she said excitedly. "That's it! Pictures! Remember that stereo
shot we had taken just before we left Mars? It must be somewhere on the
ship--"

"But the ship was crushed, darling. It's a total wreck."

"Not completely. If they could take _us_ out alive, there must have been
some unhurt portions left. Maybe the stereo is still there!"

"Margaret, you're asking the impossible. We don't know where the ship
is. This group the Doctor is with is on a scouting expedition. The wreck
of our ship may have been left far behind. They're not going to retrace
their tracks just to find it."

"But it's the only way ... the only way! There's nothing else--"

She broke down. If she had possessed eyes, she would have wept--but as
it was, she could weep only internally.

They must have taken him away, for there was no answer to her tearless
sobbing. And after a time, she felt suddenly that there was nothing to
cry about. She felt, in fact, gay and cheerful--and the thought struck
her: _The Doctor's given me another drug. He doesn't want me to cry.
Very well, I won't. I'll think of things to make me happy, I'll bubble
over with good spirits--_

Instead, she fell into a dreamless sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

When she awoke again, she thought of the conversation with Fred, and the
feeling of desperation returned. _I'll have to tell the Doctor all about
it_, she thought. _I'll have to see what he can do. I know it's asking
an awful lot, but without it, all the rest he has done for me won't
count. Better to be dead than be different from what I was._

But it wasn't necessary to tell the Doctor. Fred had spoken to him
first.

_So Fred admits it's important too. He won't be able to deny any longer
that I judged him correctly._

The Doctor said, "What you are asking is impossible."

"Impossible? You won't even try?"

"My dear patient, the wrecked ship is hundreds of millions of miles
behind us. The expedition has its appointed task. It cannot retrace its
steps. It cannot waste time searching the emptiness of space for a
stereo which may not even exist any longer."

"Yes, you're right ... I'm sorry I asked, Doctor."

He read either her mind or the hopelessness in her voice. He said, "Do
not make any rash plans. You cannot carry them out, you know."

"I'll find a way. Sooner or later I'll find a way to do something to
myself."

"You are being very foolish. I cannot cease to marvel at how foolish you
are. Are many human beings like you, psychologically?"

"I don't know, Doctor. I don't care. I know only what's important to
me!"

"But to make such a fuss about the merest trifle! The difference in
appearance between one human being and another of the same sex, so far
as we can see, is insignificant. You must learn to regard it in its true
light."

"You think it's insignificant because you don't know anything about men
and women. To Fred and me, it's the difference between life and death."

He said in exasperation, "You are a race of children. But sometimes even
a child must be humored. I shall see what I can do."

But what could he do? she asked herself. The ship was a derelict in
space, and in it, floating between the stars, was the stereo he wouldn't
make an attempt to find. Would he try to get a description from Fred?
Even the best human artist couldn't produce much of a likeness from a
mere verbal description. What could someone like the Doctor do--someone
to whom all men looked alike, and all women?

       *       *       *       *       *

As she lay there, thinking and wondering, she had only the vaguest idea
of the passage of time. But slowly, as what must have been day followed
day, she became aware of strange tingling sensations all over her body.
The pains she had felt at first had slowly diminished and then vanished
altogether. What she felt now was not pain at all. It was even mildly
pleasant, as if some one were gently massaging her body, stretching her
muscles, tugging at her--

Suddenly she realized what it was: New limbs were growing. Her internal
organs must have developed properly, and now the Doctor had gone ahead
with the rest of his treatment.

With the realization, tears began to roll down her cheeks. _Tears_, she
thought, _real tears--I can feel them. I'm getting arms and legs, and I
can shed tears. But I still have no eyes._

_But maybe they're growing in.... From time to time I seem to see
flashes of light. Maybe he's making them develop slowly, and he put the
tear ducts in order first. I'll have to tell him that my eyes must be
blue. Maybe I never was beautiful, but I always had pretty eyes. I don't
want any different color. They wouldn't go with my face._

The next time the Doctor spoke to her, she told him.

"You may have your way," he said good-naturedly, as if humoring a child.

"And, Doctor, about finding the ship again--"

"Out of the question, as I told you. However, it will not be necessary."
He paused, as if savoring what he had to tell her. "I checked with our
records department. As might have been expected, they searched your
shattered ship thoroughly, in the hope of finding information that might
contribute to our understanding of your race. They have the stereos,
about a dozen of them."

"A _dozen_ stereos? But I thought--"

"In your excitement, you may have forgotten that there were more than
one. All of them seem to be of yourself and your husband. However, they
were obviously taken under a wide variety of conditions, and with a wide
variety of equipment, for there are certain minor differences between
them which even I, with my non-human vision, can detect. Perhaps you can
tell us which one you prefer us to use as a model."

She said slowly, "I had better talk about that with my husband. Can you
have him brought in here, Doctor?"

"Of course."

       *       *       *       *       *

She lay there, thinking. A dozen stereos. And there was still only one
that she remembered. Only a single one. They had posed for others,
during the honeymoon and shortly after, but those had been left at home
on Mars before they started on their trip.

Fred's new voice said, "How are you feeling, dear?"

"Strange. I seem to have new limbs growing in."

"So do I. Guess we'll be our old selves pretty soon."

"Will we?"

She could imagine his forehead wrinkling at the intonation of her voice.
"What do you mean, Margaret?"

"Hasn't the Doctor told you? They have the stereos they found on our
ship. Now they can model our new faces after our old."

"That's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"But what do _you_ want, Fred? I remember only a single one, and the
Doctor says they found a dozen. And he says that my face differs from
shot to shot."

Fred was silent.

"Are they as beautiful as all that, Fred?"

"You don't understand, Margaret."

"I understand only too well. I just want to know--were they taken before
we were married or after?"

"Before, of course. I haven't gone out with another girl since our
wedding."

"Thank you, dear." Her own new voice had venom in it, and she caught
herself. _I mustn't talk like that_, she thought. _I know Fred, I know
his weakness. I knew them before I married him. I have to accept them
and help him, not rant at him for them._

He said, "They were just girls I knew casually. Good-looking, but
nothing much otherwise. Not in a class with you."

"Don't apologize." This time her voice was calm, even amused. "You
couldn't help attracting them. Why didn't you tell me that you kept
their pictures?"

"I thought you'd be jealous."

"Perhaps I would have been, but I'd have got over it. Anyway, Fred, is
there any one of them you liked particularly?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He became wary, she thought. His voice was expressionless as he said,
"No. Why?"

"Oh, I thought that perhaps you'd want the Doctor to make me look like
her."

"Don't be silly, Margaret! I don't want you to look like anybody but
yourself. I don't want to see their empty faces ever again!"

"But I thought--"

"Tell the Doctor to keep the other stereos. Let him put them in one of
his museums, with other dead things. They don't mean anything to me any
more. They haven't meant anything for a long time. The only reason I
didn't throw them away is because I forgot they were there and didn't
think of it."

"All right, Fred. I'll tell him to use our picture as a model."

"The AC studio shot. The close-up. Make sure he uses the right one."

"I'll see that there's no mistake."

"When I think I might have to look at one of _their_ mugs for the rest
of my life, I get a cold sweat. Don't take any chances, Margaret. It's
your face I want to see, and no one else's."

"Yes, dear."

_I'll be plain_, she thought, _but I'll wear well. A background always
wears well. Time can't hurt it much, because there's nothing there to
hurt._

_There's one thing I overlooked, though. How old will we look? The
Doctor is rather insensitive about human faces, and he might age us a
bit. He mustn't do that. It'll be all right if he wants to make us a
little younger, but not older. I'll have to warn him._

She warned him, and again he seemed rather amused at her.

"All right," he said, "you will appear slightly younger. Not too much
so, however, for from my reading I judge it best for a human face to
show not too great a discrepancy from the physiological age."

She breathed a sigh of relief. It was settled now, all settled.
Everything would be as before--perhaps just a little better. She and
Fred could go back to their married life with the knowledge that they
would be as happy as ever. Nothing exuberant, of course, but as happy as
their own peculiar natures permitted. As happy as a plain and worried
wife and a handsome husband could ever be.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now that this had been decided, the days passed slowly. Her arms and
legs grew, and her eyes too. She could feel the beginnings of fingers
and toes, and on the sensitive optic nerve the flashes of light came
with greater and greater frequency. There were slight pains from time to
time, but they were pains she welcomed. They were the pains of growth,
of return to normalcy.

And then came the day when the Doctor said, "You have recovered. In
another day, as you measure time, I shall remove your bandages."

Tears welled up in her new eyes. "Doctor, I don't know how to thank
you."

"No thanks are needed. I have only done my work."

"What will you do with us now?"

"There is an old freighter of your people which we have found abandoned
and adrift. We have repaired it and stocked it with food taken from your
own ship. You will awaken inside the freighter and be able to reach your
own people."

"But won't I--can't I even get the chance to see you?"

"That would be inadvisable. We have some perhaps peculiar ideas about
keeping our nature secret. That is why we shall take care that you carry
away nothing that we ourselves have made."

"If I could only--well, even shake hands--do _something_--"

"I have no hands."

"No hands? But how could you--how can you--do such complicated things?"

"I may not answer. I am sorry to leave you in a state of bewilderment,
but I have no choice. Now, please, no more questions about me. Do you
wish to talk to your husband for a time before you sleep again?"

"Must I sleep? I feel so excited.... I want to get out of bed, tear off
my bandages, and see what I look like!"

"I take it that you are not anxious to speak to your husband yet."

"I want to see myself first!"

"You will have to wait. During your last sleep, your new muscles will be
exercised, their tones and strength built up. You will receive a final
medical examination. It is most important."

She started to protest once more, but he stopped her. "Try to be calm. I
can control your feelings with drugs, but it is better that you control
yourself. You will be able to give vent to your excitement later. And
now I must leave you. You will not hear from me after this."

"Never again?"

"Never again. Goodbye."

For a moment she felt something cool and dry and rough laid very lightly
against her forehead. She tried to reach for him, but could only twitch
her new hands on her new wrists. She said, with a sob, "Goodbye,
Doctor."

When she spoke again, there was no answer.

She slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

This time, the awakening was different. Before she opened her eyes, she
heard the creaking of the freighter, and a slight hum that might have
come from the firing of the jets.

As she tried to sit up, her eyes flashed open, and she saw that she was
lying in a bunk, strapped down to keep from being thrown out.
Unsteadily, she began to loosen the straps. When they were half off, she
stopped to stare at her hands. They were strong hands, well-shaped and
supple, with a healthily tanned skin. She flexed them and unflexed them
several times. Beautiful hands. The Doctor had done well by her.

She finished undoing the straps, and got to her feet. There was none of
the dizziness she had expected, none of the weakness that would have
been normal after so long a stay in bed. She felt fine.

She examined herself, staring at her legs, body--staring as she might
have done at a stranger's legs and body. She took a few steps forward
and then back. Yes, he had done well by her. It was a graceful body, and
it felt fine. Better than new.

But her face!

She whirled around to locate a mirror, and heard a voice: "Margaret!"

Fred was getting out of another bunk. Their eyes sought each other's
faces, and for a long moment they stared in silence.

Fred said in a choked voice, "There must be a mirror in the captain's
cabin. I've got to see myself."

[Illustration]

At the mirror, their eyes shifted from one face to the other and back
again. And the silence this time was longer, more painful.

A wonderful artist, the Doctor. For a creature--a person--who was
insensitive to the differences in human faces, he could follow a pattern
perfectly. Feature by feature, they were as before. Size and shape of
forehead, dip of hairline, width of cheeks and height of cheekbones,
shape and color of eyes, contour of nose and lips and chin--nothing in
the two faces had been changed. Nothing at all.

Nothing, that is, but the overall effect. Nothing but the fact that
where before she had been plain, now she was beautiful.

_I should have realized the possibility_, she thought. _Sometimes you
see two sisters, or mother and daughter, with the same features, the
faces as alike as if they had been cast from the same mold--and yet one
is ugly and the other beautiful. Many artists can copy features, but few
can copy with perfect exactness either beauty or ugliness. The Doctor
slipped up a little. Despite my warning, he's done too well by me._

_And not well enough by Fred. Fred isn't handsome any more. Not ugly
really--his face is stronger and more interesting than it was. But now
I'm the good-looking one of the family. And he won't be able to take it.
This is the end for us._

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred was grinning at her. He said, "Wow, what a wife I've got! Just look
at you! Do you mind if I drool a bit?"

She said uncertainly, "Fred, dear, I'm sorry."

"For what? For his giving you more than you bargained for--and me less?
It's all in the family!"

"You don't have to pretend, Fred. I know how you feel."

"You don't know a thing. I _asked_ him to make you beautiful. I wasn't
sure he could, but I asked him anyway. And he said he'd try."

"You _asked_ him--oh, no!"

"Oh, yes," he said. "Are you sorry? I hoped he'd do better for me,
but--well, did you marry me for my looks?"

"You know better, Fred!"

"I didn't marry you for yours either. I told you that before, but you
wouldn't believe me. Maybe now you will."

Her voice choked. "Perhaps--perhaps looks aren't so important after all.
Perhaps I've been all wrong about everything I used to think was
essential."

"You have," agreed Fred. "But you've always had a sense of inferiority
about your appearance. From now on, you'll have no reason for that. And
maybe now we'll both be able to grow up a little."

She nodded. It gave her a strange feeling to have him put around her a
pair of arms she had never before known, to have him kiss her with lips
she had never before touched. _But that doesn't matter_, she thought.
_The important thing is that whatever shape we take, we're_ us. _The
important thing is that now we don't have to worry about ourselves--and
for that we have to thank_ him.

"Fred," she said suddenly, her face against his chest. "Do you think a
girl can be in love with two--two people--at the same time? And one of
them--one of them not a man? Not even human?"

He nodded, but didn't say anything. And after a moment, she thought she
knew why. _A man can love that way too_, she thought--_and one of them
not a woman, either_.

_I wonder if he ... she ... it knew. I wonder if it knew._





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