The Giantessby Robert F. YoungStropheHill halted at the base of the hogback to re-sling his '02 Weslich,It was a heavy piece, and he did not wish it to encumber him while hewas climbing the ridge. This time he slung it diagonally, leavingboth arms free. It did not interfere with his overnight pack, norwith the wide belt that supported his canteen, his two way radio andan extra cartridge clip, In leaving his fly-buggy, he had taken noother weapon: if he couldn't bag Cheida with an '02 Weslich, hecouldn't bag her, period.
The question arises why, with so formidable an obstacle as thehogback still separating him from her demesne, he should have chosento go the rest of the way on foot. The answer lay partly in theimpossibility of his getting off a good shot from a moving aircraftand partly in his desire to catch her unawares. Were she to see thefly-buggy come down, she would be alerted, and bagging her then wouldbe a ticklish operation. It was true her valley was a vast one andshe might at the moment be on its far side, remote enough from thehogback not to be able to see the little fly-buggy land. But inHill's profession you took nothing for granted: you played the handyou were dealt and never asked for an unknown card.
He started up the side of the hogback, digging the pointed toes ofhis black Beowulf boots into the bank, Small trees afforded himoccasional handholds, and in places shale ledges provided erraticstairs. He had been off booze for a month and was in superbcondition. When he neared the end of the climb, he slowed his paceand inched his way the final few feet to the top. He saw a grassypromenade dotted with bushes on which big red berries grew. He movedon all fours across it and surveyed Cheida's demesne from theconceaIment of the tall grass. Midsummer haze dimmed the details ofthe valley, reduced the farther slope to a bluish blur. A riserwandered down from mountains on the north, wound its way across theprairie-like terrain to green hills on the south. Trees grew thicklyalong its banks, forming an anfractuous forest. There were a numberof widely scattered rock formations, and far to the northeast, wellbeyond the river, a little lake shone dully in theafternoon rays of Alpha Aurigae. Semicircling it was a stand ofsequoia-like trees.
Hill saw no sign of his quarry. Nevertheless, he knew she wassomewhere in the valley. The Hujiri had told him she was childlike inmore ways than one and kept irregular hours. More than likely she wastaking a nap in some secluded bower.
He had begun his survey with the opposite slope, moving his gazegradually back to the ridge. The slope immediately before him was soacute as to be perpendicular, and presently he found himself gazingstraight down to the valley floor, over a thousand feet below. Healso found himself gazing straight down upon the naked body of asleeping girl.
In Hill's mind the height of the hogback shrank drastically in orderto accommodate the pattern he had instinctively imposed upon theobject of his gaze. Consequently, it was some time before he realizedthat the young and lovely girl sleeping at the foot of the cliff farexceeded her seeming size.
Other factors delayed his re-acceptance of reality. She was lyingthere the way any girl, tired from the day's exertions might lie -one arm shielding her eyes from the sun; one hand lying on herstomach; one leg drawn up, half hiding her pubes. Then there was herwild black hair, her full rose-nippled breasts, her long, slenderlegs - one simply did not associate such qualities with a giantess.
When the realization finally did take root, he was astonished. TheHujiri, in telling him about Cheida, had failed to mention that shewas beautiful. Perhaps to them - in the light of her cruelties - shewas not. But it did not matter really - what mattered was that he hadfound her without having to track her down, had caught her unawaresand in a vulnerable position. It was true he could not get off goodshot at her from where he lay, but it would he a simple matter forhim to descend the hogback and circle out onto the prairie. Oncethere, he could bring her to her feet with one blast of the Weslichand blow her brains out with a second. He grinned. It was going to beeasy - a lead-pipe cinch. And for this one he would receive not onlyhis usual fee from Galactic Guidance but an additional one from theHujiri. They had promised him five hundred head of cattle if hesucceeded in destroying the monster they had unwittingly brought tolife and five hundred head of cattle woul d bring him a small fortune on the galactic exchange. The thought ofall the elegant boots he could buy madehis senses swim; anticipation set his hands to trembling. Heexperienced only a modicum of self-loathing. The real loathing wouldcomeafterward.
He moved back from the edge of the cliff and stood up. Some distanceto his left the cliff gave way to more typical terrain. He walkedalong the ridge top and began circling down to the valley floor. Theslope was covered with huge berry bushes taller than he was. Some ofthem were broken, their berries scattered on the ground. Once, thehogback seemed to tremble slightly, and he nearly lost his footing.
He did not unsling the Weslich till he was almost to the base of theridge; then he brought it round and held it at ready.
A huge rock formation that he had not noted from above rose up aconsiderable distance from the cliff. It would provide ideal coverfrom which to earn his double fee. He backed toward it, eyes fixed onthe base of the cliff where he had seen Cheida lying. He found it oddthat he could not see her now...Odd? Preposterous! Aware of thecunning trap into which he had walked as naively as a purblind antswept over him, and for a while he could not move. When at lastparalysis left him and he spun around, the "rock formation"had already come to life and extended a granitelike "ridge'' inhis direction. Slablike fingers closed round him, the Weslich knockedfrom his hands, went flying butt over muzzle toward the base of thecliff. Awesome pressure drove the breath frorn his lungs, and thesky, so benignly blue a moment ago went black.
AntistropheIf we are going to sing of the monsters primitive races create andand if we are going to sing of the professional hunters who hunt themdown and kill them, we must realize front the start that essentiallywe are singing the same song.
The Hujiri of the planet Primeval invented Cheida ostensibly tofrighten their children but actually to frighten themselves. Theytold ever taller tales of her over their cook fires at night, and asthe legend of her grew, she grew too. For maximum effect they locatedher in an uninhabited valley less than two days journey from the onein which they raised their crops and grazed their sheep and cattleand made wool. They confined her diet to nuts and berries and wildapples, disqualifying her from ogrehood; but the games they inventedfor her to play were scarcely less horrifying than anthropopagy,would have been. They pretended the world was her playpen and adoptedthe role of toys for her to play with.
Inevitably they came to believe their own lies. Among primitivepeople there are no skeptics, when a primitive society believessomething, every single member believes it; and if there are nooutsiders to temper that belief, a paradox is born. On the one hand,we have awhole race of people believing en masse that something exists and onthe other hand, we have the bald fact of its nonexistence. Such aparadox cannot be tolerated. Reality is forced to relent and fictionbecomes fact.
Cheida appeared on the Hujiri horizon one fine day, strode into theirvalley and sat down beside one of their villages. She began playingwith the houses and the people hiding in them. She turned the housesupside down; she picked the people up by their heels and heldthem high above the village street and let them drop. She pushedHujiri wagons back and forth till their axles broke and their wheelsfell off and the beasts of burden harnessed to them dropped dead. Shepulled up trees by their roots and replanted them in the villagesquare. She dug a channel down the sacred Avenue of Departed Chiefsand rerouted the brook that for centuries had purled along thevillage outskirts. She knocked down the roundhouse that was the thenchief's pride and joy and squashed the shed where the communalfarming equipment was stored. Growing bored, she yawned, then laydown full-length and fell asleep, her legs demolishing the fewbuildings that still remained standing, her head resting on thesacred mound where ten generations of village chiefs lay buried. Sheslept all afternoon, then got up and found another village andwrecked it, pouting because there were no people in it for her toplay with. Finally, after kicking-over a silo, she returned to herown valley.
That was her first visit. Others followed. The Hujiri dismayed,demoralized, disorganized, no longer dared live in their own houses.
They fled to the woods, to caves in the hills. Cheida tracked themdown, resumed her terrible games.
At length word of the Hujiri's plight and its authoress reached thelocal Galactic Guidance center, whence it was relayed to GGHeadquarters. Advanced space exploration had brought to light manysuperbeings like Cheida and had resulted not only in the creation ofan authority to cope with them but in an exhaustive inquiry intoEarth's past, that bad revealed that among primitive Terran peoplesfiction had frequently become fact also and that many of thesuperhuman figures hitherto relegated to mythology fell into thesuperbeing category and had enjoyed actual - if ephemeral -existence. It was after the slayer of one of them that GalacticGuidance bad named its hunters.
At the time of Cheida's rampage, GG had at least a dozen such"Beowulfs" on its payroll. But most of them were in thefield, and of those who weren't only one could be located. NormanHill.
Enter Normal Hill. Slayer of Gogmagogs, Grendels and Fafnirs.
Frequenter of stargirl stations, seeker after pain. Hung-up NormanHill.
StropheThere were a number of semilucid intervals during which Hill fanciedhimself lying in a warm sling from which his head and feet protrudedand which was attached to the end of a huge pendulum that wasswinging slowly back and forth in an impossibly long arc.
Accompanying the swing and inexplicably connected with it were evenlyspaced rumbles as of thunder.
He did not open his eyes. To have done so would have dispelled theillusion that was enabling him to retain his sanity.
When complete consciousness finally returned, he became aware firstof all of pain. It enveloped his entire thorax but seemed to he mostacute in the lower left region. Motion had ceased and the''sling" had been supplanted by a hard surface of some kind. Awind was blowing at rhythmic intervals, but he could not feel it uponhis body.
He lay without moving, letting the memory of what had happened seepslowly into his mind. He kept his eyes lightly closed. Gradually itbecame clear to him that he had not played his hand quite carefullyenough; that Cheida must have spotted the approaching fly-buggy whileberrying on the hogback and watched it land from the concealment ofthe ridge. Then, divining the reason for his presence, she hadpretended to be asleep long enough to lure him into the valley. Italso became clear to him that he had taken the Hujiri too literallywhen they had described her as an inarticulate child, that she couldthink, and think well. Moreover, her intuition must be highlydeveloped indeed for her to have perceived that, when he saw her atclose range for the first time, his mind would automatically rejecther and substitute a more believable phenomenon.
Only after he had safely absorbed the memory did Hill open his eyes.
Night had fallen. He was in a large box. A box with vertical bars onall foursides. Its miasmal stench informed him that he as far frombeing its first occupant.
Between the bars he saw starlit foliage. Painfully he got to his feetThe bars were branches broken from trees, spaced three inches apart.
The floor and the upper section consisted of branches lashed togetherwith vines. The truth struck him - he was in a cage and the cage washanging in a tree.
Far below and perhaps a thousand yards distant the waters of a littlelake shone in the starlight. He remembered seeing the take from thehogback. Cheida, evidently, had carried him all the way across thevalley.
But where was she now? Paying the Hujiri another visit?Hearing the rhythmic wind, he lowered his gaze. Beneath the cage andextending partway into the forest, was a smooth granite outcropping.
He traced its contours out onto the prairie, saw that it joined a farlarger outcropping from which two granite tors jutted. From the torsthe outcropping extended northward toward the lake, dividing into tworidges; to the south it terminated in a great granite boulder,heavily wooded on its southern side...
He heard the wind again and saw the magnificent tors rise and fall.
No, Cheida wasn't visiting the Hujiri. This was her night to stayhome.
Hill taped his ribs as best he could with adhesive strips from thefirst aid compartment of his overnight pack. Cheida had not removedit, nor had she removed his carryall belt. His two way radio, howeverwas hopelessly smashed. He broke open a carton of concentratedrations and ate silently in the darkness, washing the food down witha few swallows of water from his canteen. Finishing, he put the packback on and began a systematic survey of his prison.
It netted him nothing. The vines Cheida had used to bind the branchestogether were unbreakable, and he had no knife to cut through them.
The bars were firmly secured to both floor and roof, and try as hewould, he could not bend them. He did discover a door- not that itdid him any good. It consisted of six vertical branches and twohorizontal ones and was held tightly in place by means of more vines,those on the right functioning as hinges.
He was wasting his time and he knew it. Even if he could break out ofthe cage and even if he could make the climb to the branch from whichit was suspended, he still wouldn't be able to climb down thesequoia-like trunk to the ground.
He forced himself to lie down, to relax. He slept fitfully throughthe night, sank into a deep slumber just before dawn. A. series oftremendous splashings and loud gurglings awakened him, and openinghis eyes and sitting up, he saw that Cheida was in the lake, bathing.
He gasped at the sight of her vast water-rivuleted breasts as shestood there waist-deep in the water he marveled at the blackabundance of her hair. Her complexion was fair, like the Hujiri's,the pigmentation of her skin, like theirs, impervious to the sun.
She was combing her hair with a large hayrake taken from one of thevillages. The wrought-iron teeth exceeded a foot in length but werespaced too far apart for her to do a good job. Presently she finishedand tossed the rake to shore; then she squatted down neck-deep in thewater. Her hair spread out like a black kelp bed, losing the modicumof order combing had imposed upon it. She must have felt Hill's gazeupon her, for she looked up at him - and smiled.
She emerged from the lake, drops of water dancing down her arms andshoulders, tumbling down the escarpments of her thighs. Stillsmiling, she approached the cage. He shrank back against the rearbars. Her face loomed ever larger upon the blue-green-gold canvas ofthe morning. Seen from the top of the hogback, it had been the faceof a beautiful girl; seen from the cage when she had been bathing, ithad been the face of a beautiful giantess. But he could no longer seeit in toto. The eyebrows were like cornices upon which dark thicketsgrew; the nose appeared as a near-vertical granite ridge. A beautymark on her check had degenerated into a black ulcerous mass; herlips were pink rimrocks beyond which showed the vertical slabs ofslightly yellowed teeth.
He saw her right am rise, the blur of her hand approach. Dumbly hewatched her fingers fumble with the vines that held the door.
Abruptly the door swung open. She reached in and got him and set himgently on the ground.
He looked up at her, up past the pale precipices of her legs, up pastthe dark coppice of her mons veneris; up past the white expanse ofher belly, up between the awesome overhangs of her breasts at herstill-smiling face.
Subtly, the smile became a grin.
Goose flesh erupted over his entire body. A thrill of anticipationintermingled with his fear.
She nudged him with her big toe. He began to run.
He ran out of the forest and onto the prairie. The grass sang aroundhis legs. Within him sang the pain of his bruised and broken ribs andanother song. He ran in the direction of the distant hogback - notbecause he expected to reach it, but because logically there was noother direction for him to take. The '02 Weslich lay somewhere in thegrass at the hogback's base (unless Cheida had found it, and he didnot think she had), and the Weslich represented his one and only hopeof living a long life.
The ground jarred beneath his feet, and sudden shade engulfed him. Hebegan running erratically to avoid being scooped up in her enormouspalm. But such did not prove to be the nature of the game. Instead,she stepped over him and brought her right foot down squarely in hispath. He collided with her heel and fell back bleeding to the ground.
There was a sound as of a thousand power saws biting into a thousandbars of high-alloy steel. It was her laughter.
He groveled in abject ecstasy at her feet. She turned him over withher toes and he got up dutifully and began to run again. Heunderstood the rules of the game now. It was a variant of the game hehad played many times before in the stargirl stations. The fact thathe had real rather than artificial gravity and real rather thanfeigned sadism to contend with only made the game more thrilling.
He wondered why it hadn't occurred to him in the beginning that hewas psychologically unfit for the Primeval assignment.
He wondered why it hadn't occurred to Galactic Guidance.
AntistropheIt had occurred to Galactic Guidance.
Hill's dossier contained not only the information he had volunteeredbut the data GG's investigative division had dug up behind his back.
The latter far outweighed the former, and it said as plain as daythat a mission involving a sadistic giantess would be suicidal forNorman Hill.
Why, then, had Galactic Guidance dispatched him post-haste toPrimeval?Did they do so because they abhorred his sexual aberration, or didthey do so because they saw reflected in it latent aberrations oftheir own?Whatever their true motive, their official reason was irreproachable:the Hujiri had been in desperate need of help, and there had been noone to send but Hill- Hung-up Norman Hill.
StropheHill lay upon his back on the floor of the cage. His body was bruisedin a hundred places; at least three of his ribs were broken; bloodoozed from his broken nose.
It was midday. He had wanted to keep on playing the game, but Cheidahad grown bored and put him back in the cage. Then she had departed.
Probably she was visiting the Hujiri, shopping for a new toy toreplace him when he wore out.
The thought made him writhe.
Miraculously his pack still clung to his back, his carryall beltstill encircled his waist. When his strength began to return he satup, leaned against the treebranch bars and ate and drank. Sparingly.
Why sparingly? After today he would have no further need of food andwater. By tomorrow he would be dead.
That was what he wanted, wasn't it? To be dead?Wasn't that what he had always wanted whenever he visited a stargirlstation? Hadn't he, every time a heavy whore ground a spiked heelinto his naked chest, wanted that heel to pierce his heart? Hadn'the, every time the stargirls walked on his naked body in the elegantspiked boots he bought them, wanted death and orgasm to be one?Yes, that was what he wanted at the time. But not afterward.
Afterward, despite the pain, despite the shame, despite the guilt,despite the selfloathing, he knew peace.
He knew peace now. And he did not want to die. Not quite.
A warm wind came up and breathed sporadically down the distanthogback and across the valley floor, and the cage swung gently backand forth, back and forth. For some time he had been staring absentlyat the little lake. Presently he realized that his gaze had shiftedto something lying on the shore. At first he did not consciouslyidentify it. Only gradually did he become cognizant that it wasCheida's "comb".
Even then, he did not for a long while realize why he was staring atit. He kept thinking of the game he and Cheida had played all morninglong, kept remembering her uncanny timing whenever it was her "move". Part of it was owing to his unvarying rate of speed andto his adherence, after he'd learned the rules, to straight ratherthin erratic courses. In effect, he had established a pattern, andshe had become conditioned to it.
If he were to re-establish it when they next played the game and thensuddenly vary it, would not the "move" she had alreadystarted to make be completed through sheer momentum?He knew then why he was staring at the hayrake.
It wasn't much of a card, but it was the only one he had been dealt.
When Cheida returned he would play it. Play it for all it was worth.
But he did not play it that day. Cheida did not return till late, andeither she was too tired for games or did not care to risk losing himin the gathering darkness. She peered at him through the bars of thecage, the whites of her eyes like pale moons in the night sky of herface, He smelled wild berries on her awesome breath ... To his horrorhe found himself wishing to be set upon the ground, to be prodded byher toe to begin the game again not so he could employ his stratagemand flee, but so he could reexperience the bliss of being utterlysubject to her will.
He sat perspiring in the darkness after she lay down to sleep. Hisnose began to bleed again; his broken ribs were jagged peaks in theragged graph line of his pain. Around him the leaves rustled in thewind of her rhythmic exhalations. He fell suddenly, horribly alone.
Alone in the night, alone in eternity; forever, evermore alone -AntistropheHe is not alone. In the surreal shadows behind him the pages ofPsychopathia Sexualis flutter in the winds of time, and aKrafft-Ebing company steps upon the stage. Footlights blaze, a dansemacabre begins. A harlot makes a pirouette, a sadist does a rigadoon,a masochist a minuet. A fetishist waltzes with a shoe, a sodomistwith a sheep. Queers dance with queers. And from the wings, Rousseauand Baudelaire look on.
StropheMorning found Cheida again bathing in the little lake. From his cageHill carefully noted where she tossed the hayrake after she finishedcombing her hair.
He had eaten the rest of his rations and drunk the rest of his waterbefore she arose. While she bathed, he retaped his ribs. He did notbother to put his pack back on. It was useless to him now. Hedetached his empty thermos from his belt. He had already thrown theuseless two-way radio away. It had been useless to begin with. ThePrimeval GG Center consisted of one man, one modular hut and oneflybuggy, and Hill had borrowed the flybuggy for his mission.
He expected Cheida to begin where they had left off yesterday. Shedid not. Instead. after removing him from his, cage she waded backinto the water and dropped him in the middle of the lake.
He landed on his left side and nearly blacked out from pain. He sankdeep, kicked free from his boots and clawed his way back to thesurface. He began swimming toward the opposite shore. He knew shewould be waiting for him when he got there. She was. Her delightedcachinnation crashed upon his eardrums as she picked him up and wadedback into the lake and dropped him into the water once again. Thistime he surfaced in a dead-man's float, hoping to make her understandthat he was not built for this kind of play and that if it were tocontinue she would have an inanimate toy on her hands.
Either she got the message or had already become bored; at any rate,she picked him up out of the water and deposited him on the grassyshore. He lay there on his right side, breathing heavily. From wherehe lay he could see her "comb". It was partially hidden bythe tall grass. He had seen similar rakes in the ruins of the Hujirivillages he had visited during his reconnaissance. They had longwooden tongues with which to attach them to yoked oxen. This one hadno tongue. Probably Cheida had broken it off.
She did not let him rest for long and presently she nudged him withher big toe. He groveled in the grass at her feet, fighting animpulse to kiss them. She laughed delightedly and nudged him again.
This time he got up and began to run. He headed toward the trees,knowing he would never reach them. He did not. Her right footdescended in his path and he crashed into her heel, toppled backwardto the ground. He fought back an impulse to grovel again, screamingto himself that he must kill this outsize whore or be killed himself;then he got up and ran out onto the prairie.
As he ran, he counted his steps. Her right foot descended in his pathagain. Again he collided with her heel, but managed to cushion theshock by turning sideways. He got up and set off again, once morecounting his steps. Her right foot descended on the same count asbefore. He was well out on the prairie. Still counting, he begancircling back toward the lake. He was divided Into two parts: onepart wanted to go on playing the game; the other wanted desperatelyto reach the hayrake and bring the game to an end.
But merely reaching the rake would not be enough. He must reach it atexactly the right moment.
Cheida was laughing almost continuously now, and forest birds,flushed from the trees by the terrifying sound, hung high in thebenign blue sky... He could see them clearly as he lay on his backfor the sixth consecutive time. He had estimated the last three"moves" carefully, and the next one should bring him to therake.
He lay there, breathing heavily. Cheida squatted above him, lookingdown into his face. Her knees were a pair of granite knolls, her dugswreaths of wild red roses. Her hair hung down around her face likethe black streamers of a summer storm.
He got up again and began running toward the rake, pacing himselfcarefully. The soles of his socks had worn through, and his feet werebleeding. He did not even feel them. When he was halfway to the rake,the ground trembled from the impact of her first step. He continuedto run at the same even, pace; then, ten feet from his goal, hedoubled his speed. Reaching the rake, he raised it on edge, so thatits teeth pointed toward the sky. Cheida's enormous foot was alreadydescending, the whole of her massive weight behind it. He held ontothe rake till the last second, then let go and jumped to one side.
THUDDDD!Her scream sent the forest birds winging far out over the prairie.
The waters of the little lake quivered in the morning sunlight. Shesat down with an earthshaking crash and, crooking her right leg overher left knee, seized the imbedded rake and pulled it from the soleof her foot. She screamed again. Hill expected her to throw it at himand stood where he was, prepared to dodge. But she did not. Instead,she laid it to one side and looked at him in terrible contemplation.
He waited no longer. He was off over the prairie, running.
AntistropheRun, Hill. run.
Run run run,Run from your twisted yesterdays; run from your tortured tomorrows.
Run from the mother that begot you; run from the mother that forgotyou.
Run, Hill, run.
Run run run!StropheHill came at length to the anfractuous forest that bordered bothsides of the river, and entered the coolness of the trees. When hereached the river, he halted on the bank. His legs were a pair ofwooden stilts, his feet two concrete blocks. He sank down on thegrassy bank to get his breath -Only to leap instantly erect when he felt the bank shudder beneathhim.
He waited for the tremor of her next footstep. Almost a minute passedbefore it came, and it was almost imperceptible. Good. She waslimping badly. There was an excellent chance he could reach thehogback before she overtook him, a fair chance he could find theWeslich in time to save his life.
He waded into the river, began swimming when the water reached hiswaist. The pain of his damaged rib was so acute that he could barelymove his arms, but at last he crawled up onto the opposite bank. Helay face downward, taking in great lungfuls of the morning airexpelling them in huge sobs. A tremor brought him to his bleedingfeet, and he reentered the forest at a stumbling trot.
Through the forest and out onto the prairie again. He could see thehogback distinctly now. The cliff he had so confidently looked downfrom less than two days ago stood out starkly from the greenness ofthe rest of the ridge. He pointed himself toward it, ran on. Frombehind him came the crash of failing trees. Cheida had reached theforest.
She screamed at him, but he did not look back. Little animals eruptedfrom the ground and ran with him toward the hogback. He was so weakthat he nearly fell when the next major tremor came. The minorfollowed a long time afterwardSuddenly the sunlight gave way to shadow, and before him he made outthe ragged outline of her head; on either side, the shape of her hugeshoulders. However, the sun was still low in the sky, and her shadowwas long; she was still 2 considerable distance behind him. The cliffloomed tantalizingly close; he pushed himself toward it. Behind him,Cheida screamed again. Her shadow had not yet reached the hogback,and the grass along the base was still bathed in morning sunshine. Hescanned the grass as he ran, and presently his eyes caught a faintgleam of metal near the foot of the cliff. It had to be the Weslich.
He came upon it still running, did not pause but snatched it up andveered sharply to the right and started up the slope where the berrybushes grew. To bag her at such close range, he needed all the heighthe could get.
He had not climbed far before he felt the warm wind of her breathupon his back. He turned, then, and fitted the butt of the Weslich tohis shoulder and braced his feet against a shale ledge. She loomedawesomely above him, obscuring the morning sky. Her hair was like ablack thundercloud, her arms were raised, her fingers curved intomassive claws. Her face was in shadow, but he could see her coldpitiless eyes. Suddenly he remembered how a long time ago he hadwatched a little girl vent her rage upon a doll she had taken adislike to. First she had pulled out its hair; then she had torn offits arms; then she had gripped it by its feet and slammed itrepeatedly on the floor till finally the head had fallen off androlled into a corner.
He had already pointed the muzzle of the Weslich at Cheida'sforehead. He had merely to squeeze the trigger. To his horror, hefound that he could not. He gazed helplessly up at the vastmagnificence of her body; he remembered the thrilling game they hadplayed. What stargirl in what orbital brothel could ever match herterrible tyranny? What boots could ever symbolize the primitiveimperiousness of her naked feet?Screaming with rage, she reached down to pluck him from the bank. Helowered the muzzle of the Weslich till it pointed at her neck. closedhis eyes and squeezed the trigger. She fell forward onto the slope ofthe hogback. Slowly; there was plenty of time for him to get out ofthe way. Her hair spread out around her head and shoulders, coveringbushes and little trees. He found wild flowers growing farther up thebank and picked them, blue ones, yellow ones, orange, and placed themin her hair. The ground was turning red from the blood pouring fromthe huge hole the Weslich had blown in her throat. His feet were redas he climbed the slope a second time and picked more wild flowersfor her hair, red with her blood and his own. He sat beside her allafternoon. Toward nightfall he climbed the hogback for the last timeand descended the opposite slope. The fly-buggy was unharmed; eitherCheida had forgotten it or had disdained to play with it. He gotbehind the controls and lifte d it into the night sky. The stars came out; peace lay upon theland.
I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill offrankincense...
The starlit land drifted by beneath him, the fields and the streams,the bills and the little outlying places pale with flowers.. Afterselling his five hundred head of Hujiri cattle he would return toEarth and collect his fee from Galactic Guidance. He knew how hewould spend the money. He knew how be would spend the rest of hislife. He would frequent the stargirl stations as he had neverfrequented them before; like a man condemned, he would search foreverfor her ghost among the whores.
AntistropheHer ghost among the whores.