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Title: Unwelcomed Visitor
Author: Morrison, William Douglas
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 "Unwelcomed Visitor" ***

                          UNWELCOMED VISITOR

                          BY WILLIAM MORRISON

        _Xhanph was the fully accredited ambassador from Gfun,
              and Earth's first visitor from outer space.
           History and the amenities called for a tremendous
           reception. But earth people are funny people...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, October 1954.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

All the way over, all through the loneliness of the long trip, he had
consoled himself with the thought of the reception he would get. How
they would crowd around him, how they would gape and cheer! All the
most prominent and most important Earthlings would rush to see him,
to touch their own appendages to his tentacles, to receive his report
of interplanetary good will. His arrival would certainly be the most
celebrated occasion in all the history of Earth....

He was coming in for a landing, and it was no time for day-dreaming.
He brought the ship down slowly, in the middle of a large square, as
carefully as if he were settling down among his own people. He gave
them a chance to get out from under him before making contact with the
ground. When the ship finally rested firmly on the strange planet, he
gave a sigh of relief, and for a few long seconds sat there motionless.
And then he began to move toward the door.

The increased gravity did not affect him as badly as he had thought it
would. For the dense atmosphere, with its high oxygen content, he had
of course been prepared. He injected another dose of respiratory enzyme
into his bloodstream just to make sure, and then swung open the door.
The inrush of air caused only a momentary dizziness.

Then he climbed over the side and stared about in surprise.

No one was paying any attention to him.

Their indifference was so enormous that it struck him like a blow.
Individuals of both sexes--he could easily distinguish them by the
difference in their clothing--were going about their own business as
if he simply were not there. A small animal running about on all fours
had its forepart to the ground. It trotted from one place to another,
making a slight noise with an organ that he felt sure was used for the
intake of oxygen. When it came to him, it sniffed slightly, without
any especial interest, and then ran off to more important business. No
other creature paid him even that much attention.

Can it be, he asked himself incredulously, that they don't see me?
Perhaps their organs of vision make use of different wave lengths.
Perhaps to them I and the ship are not pink and gray respectively, but
a perfect black which fails to register. I must speak to them, I must
make myself known. They may be startled, but I must take the chance.

He rolled over to an individual who towered over him a full _spard_,
and said gravely, "Greetings! I, Xhanph, bring you greetings from the
inhabitants of the planet, Gfun. I come with a message of friendship--"

There could be no doubt that the other heard him. And saw him too. He
looked straight at Xhanph, muttered something, probably about a pink
monster, which Xhanph could guess at but not really interpret, and
moved on impatiently. Xhanph stared after him with an incredulity that
grew by the moment.

They didn't understand his language, that he realized. But surely
they didn't have to understand in order to be interested. The very
sight of his ship, a mere glimpse of _him_, the first visitor from
interplanetary space, should have been enough to bring them flocking
around. How could they possibly greet him with such disinterest, with
such faces which even to a stranger seemed cold and chilling?

When you have traveled as far as he had traveled, you don't give up
easily. Another, a shorter individual, was coming toward him, and he
began again, "Greetings! I, Xhanph--"

This time the individual didn't even stop, but muttered something which
must surely have been of the nature of an oath. And hurried on.

Xhanph tried five more times before he gave up. If there had been the
slightest indication of interest, he would have kept on. But there
wasn't. The only feeling he could detect was one of impatience at being
annoyed. And he saw that there was nothing else to do but go back to
his ship.

For a while he sat there, brooding. One possible solution struck
him, although it didn't seem at all probable. These people were not
representative of their kind. Perhaps this entire area he had taken for
a city was nothing more than a retreat for the mentally disabled, for
those who had found the strain of living too much and had sunk back
into a kind of stupor. Perhaps elsewhere the people were more normal.

At the thought, he brightened for a moment. Yes, that must be it.
Convincing himself against his own better judgment, he lifted the ship
into the air again and set it down a few dozen _grolls_ away.

But there was no difference. Here, too, the faces looked at him
blankly, and people hurried away impatiently when he tried to stop them.

He knew now that it was useless to pick up the ship still another time
and set it down elsewhere. If there was some rational explanation
for such irrational behavior, it could be found here just as well as
anywhere else. And explanation there must be. But he would have to look
for it. It would not come to him if he simply sat there in the ship and
waited for it.

He got out and locked the ship so that in case some one finally did
show curiosity, no harm would come to it. Then he began to roll around
the city.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everywhere he met the same indifference as at first. Even the children
stared at him without curiosity, and went on with their games. He
stopped to watch--and to listen.

They bounced balls, and as they bounced, they recited words. When
something interrupted the even tenor of the game and they had to begin
again, they went back to the start of the recitation. Surely, they were
counting. Listening carefully, he learned the fundamentals of their
system of numerals. At the same time, for the sake of permanence, he
made pictorial and auditory records.

Every now and then the game would be interrupted by a quarrel. And a
childish quarrel, of course, was sure to be full of recriminations.
You did this, I did that. He learned the names of the objects with
which they played, he learned the words for first and second persons in
their different forms. He learned the word for the maternal parent, who
seemed to stand in the closest relation to the young ones.

By evening he had acquired a fairly good child's grasp of the language.
He rolled back in the direction of the ship. When he came to the place
where it should be, he had a sudden feeling of panic. The ship was gone.

They must have dragged it away. Their whole pretense of indifference
must have been a trick, he thought excitedly. They had waited until
they could tamper with it without his interference, in order to learn
its secrets. What had they done with it? Perhaps they had harmed it,
possibly they had ruined the drive. How could he ever get off this
accursed planet, how would he ever get back to Gfun?

He rolled hastily over to the nearest man and tried to put his newfound
vocabulary to use. "Where--where--" He realized suddenly that he didn't
know the word for ship. "Where galenfain?"

The man looked at him as if he were crazy, and walked on.

Xhanph did some swearing on his own account. He began to roll
madly around the square, becoming more desperate from moment to
moment. Finally, just when he thought he would explode from rage
and frustration, he found the ship again. It had been dragged to
a neighboring street and left on a vacant lot, surrounded by rusty
cans, broken bottles, and various other forms of garbage and rubbish
indigenous to this section of the planet.

Relief mingled with a feeling of outrage. Xhanph swore again. The
indignity of it was enough to start an interplanetary war. If they ever
heard of it back on Gfun, they would want to blast this stupid and
insulting planet out of existence.

He hastened into the ship, and found to his joy that there had been
no damage. There was nothing to prevent him from taking off again and
getting back to Gfun. But the mystery of his reception still intrigued
him. He could not leave without solving it.

He rolled out of the ship again and stood there watching it. Evidently
they had regarded this miracle of engineering as nothing more than so
much rubbish. They would probably leave it alone now. He could let it
remain here, and in the meantime carry on his investigating as before.

Things would go more rapidly now that he understood some of the
elements of human speech. All he had to do was keep his hearing
appendages open and interpret the key words as he heard them. It
shouldn't take him long. One of the reasons he had been selected to
make the trip was that he had a gift for languages, and a day or two
more should suffice to establish communications.

He left the ship again, and began to roll around the city. He listened
to traffic policemen directing the flow of helicopters, he stood
by unobtrusively while boy talked with girl--these conversations
turned out to be very limited in scope, as well as uninstructive in
syntax--and he even managed to get into a place of amusement where
three dimensional images created in him a sense of nostalgia. From his
slight knowledge of the language, he could perceive that the dialogue
was so stale that he himself could have supplied it from stories
written long ago on his native planet. After a lapse of many hours, the
majority of the people disappeared from the streets, and he decided it
was time to return to his ship and suspend animation.

In the morning he set out again. By the end of that day he felt he
could understand the spoken language well enough. What next?

To learn the language in written form might take too long, and besides,
to solve his mystery he would have to waste time in digging up the
recorded forms that contained the necessary information. No, he would
have to find some one to talk to, some one who would have the necessary
information at his tentacle-tips, or as they called the appendages
here, finger-tips.

He began to approach various people again, undiscouraged by their
cold and impolite replies. Finally he found the informant he had been
seeking, an old, white-haired individual who was walking slowly, with
the aid of a cane, along one of the wider and quieter streets.

The man looked at him with calm lack of interest as he approached.
Xhanph came to a stop, and said, "Greetings! I, Xhanph, bring you
greetings from the inhabitants of the planet, Gfun. I come with a
message of friendship."

"Very glad to make your acquaintance, sir," said the old man politely,
but still without genuine interest.

At last some one who had answered! Xhanph started his portable
recording machine going.

"I wish for information. Perhaps you can give it to me."

"Ah, my young fellow, I have seen a great deal and know a great deal.
But it isn't very often that you young ones want to find out what we
old folks know."

"Perhaps I have not made myself clear. I am an inhabitant of the
planet, Gfun."

"Yes, indeed. Do you intend to stay here long?"

"I have come with a message of friendship. But I have found no one to
receive it."

"Mmm. That's unfortunate," the old man said. "People are very impatient
nowadays. Time is money, they say. Can't spare the money to stop
and talk. Couldn't spare it myself, not so long ago. I'm retired
now, though. Used to run a stereo store, up around Mudlark Street.
Biggest store in the city. Everybody used to buy from me. Jefferson J.
Gardner's my name. You may have heard of me on--where did you say you
come from?"

"Gfun. However, I wish to make clear--"

"Never sold any stereos to any one on Gfun. Probably don't get good
reception up there. Sold 'em to everybody else, though. I'm well known
here, Mr.--"

"Xhanph. But before you go further--"

"Got into the stereo game when they first came out. Went like hotcakes
in those days. Although I don't suppose you know what a hotcake is.
Quality didn't count. Only thing that counted was size of screen and
strength of the three-dimensional effect. Mr. Gloopher--he was Mayor
then--Robert F. Gloopher--had a daughter who went in for acting...."

Not for the first time, Xhanph cursed this damnable planet. The only
man he had found willing to talk was senile and his conversation
rambled wildly like a feather in a strong and particularly erratic
whirlwind. Still, he told himself with a touch of philosophy, I have
wasted so much time, I can afford to waste a little more. Sooner or
later this individual will tell me what I want to know.

Half an hour later, however, when Jefferson J. Gardner began to repeat
himself, Xhanph realized that he couldn't just wait for the old man to
talk himself out. Different tactics were needed.

He interrupted rudely. "Why don't people pay any attention to me?"

"Eh? What's that you say?"

"I come from the planet, Gfun. I thought that as an interplanetary
visitor I would be received with tremendous enthusiasm. Instead I find
myself disregarded."

"I recollect that back in the old days--"

"Never mind that. Why don't people pay any attention to me?"

"Why should they?"

"That is no answer!"

"But it is, sir," said the old gentleman with dignity. "They don't find
you out of the ordinary. Why pay attention to you?"

"You mean that you are accustomed to visitors from space?"

"No, sir, I mean nothing of the kind. What I do mean is that we are by
now thoroughly accustomed to the idea of you. I remember--"

"Never mind what you remember!"

"When I was a child, stories about visitors from Mars or Venus were
already trite and stereotyped. What could a visitor do? What might a
visitor look like? All the possible answers had already been given,
and we were familiar with every one of them. We imagined visitors with
tentacles and without, with a thousand legs and no legs, with five
heads and seven feet, and eighteen stomachs. We imagined visitors who
were plants, or electrical impulses, or viruses, or energy-creatures.
They had the power to read minds, to move objects telekinetically and
to travel through impossible dimensions. Their space ships were of all
kinds, and they could race along with many times the speed of light
or crawl with the speed of molasses. I do not know, sir, in which
category you fall--whether you are animal, vegetable, mineral, or
electrical--but I know that there is nothing new about you."

"But you are familiar merely with the ideas. I am a _real_ visitor!"

"Young man, I am a hundred and ten years old, and the idea of you was
already ancient when I was eight. I remember reading about you in a
comic book. You are not the first visitor who has pretended to be real.
There were hundreds before you. I have seen press agent stunts by the
dozen, and advertising pictures by the hundreds about Mars, about
Venus, about the Moon, about visitors from interstellar space. Your
pretended colleagues have walked the streets of innumerable cities,
until now we are weary of the entire tribe of you. And you yourself,
sir, if you will pardon the expression, you are an anticlimax."

"Your race must be insane," protested Xhanph. "For all you know I may
come with great gifts which I wish to confer upon you."

"We have been fooled before. And in view of the fact, as I have
reminded you, that time is money, we do not wish to bankrupt ourselves
by investigating."

"But suppose I'm here to harm you!"

"If your race is capable of it, we can hardly stop you, so it is no use
trying. If incapable, you are wasting your efforts."

"This is insanity, genuine racial insanity!"

"You repeat yourself. The fact is, we have become blasé," said the old
man. "Thanks to the efforts of our science fiction writers, we have
experienced in imagination all there is to experience in interplanetary
contact, and the genuine article can be only a disappointment. I am
reminded of an incident that occurred when Gerald Crombie, who was City
Councilman at the time, ordered a twenty-five inch stereo set...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Xhanph rolled away. He had his answer now, and he couldn't stand
listening any longer to the old man's babbling. He rolled aimlessly, up
one street and down another. And he thought of how they would receive
his answer when he went back to Gfun.

Was it him or the planet that they would consider mad? Almost
certainly, they wouldn't believe him. He could imagine the exchange
of wondering glances, the first delicate hints that the long trip had
deranged him, the not so delicate hints later on when he persisted in
sticking to his story. He remembered the high hopes with which he had
departed, the messages with which he had been entrusted by the Chief
of Planetary Affairs, the Head of the Scientific Bureau, the Director
of Economic Affairs, and countless others. And he could imagine the
reception he would find when he reported that he had been unable to
deliver a single message.

How long he rolled in this aimless fashion he did not know. After a
time he seemed to come to his senses. It was no use trying to run away
from reality, as he was doing. He had to go back to the ship and
return to Gfun. Let them believe him or not, his report would tell the
truth. And the pictorial and auditory records would confirm his story.

What a planet, he thought again. Of all its hundreds of millions,
its billions of inhabitants, not one had the curiosity, the ordinary
intellectual decency, to be interested in him. Not one had the
imagination, the awareness--

"Pardon me," said a shrill voice, "Excuse me for reading thoughts, but
I could not help overhearing--I am a visitor here myself."

He swung around. The figure before him was strange, but an aura of
friendliness came from it and he knew there was nothing to fear.
Nothing to fear--and much to be thankful for.

With a heartfelt double sigh, while disinterested passersby spared
them not even a glance, pink tentacles and green streamers clasped
in a gesture of friendship that spanned the millions of miles of
interplanetary space.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Unwelcomed Visitor" ***

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