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If the Red Slayer
by Robert Sheckley

Category: Science Fiction/Humor
Description: I won't even try to describe the pain. I'll just say that it was unbearable even with anesthetics, and that I bore it because I didn't have any choice. Then it faded away and I opened my eyes and looked into the faces of the brahmins standing over me. There were three of them, dressed in the usual white operating gowns and white gauze masks. They say they wear those masks to keep germs out of us. But every soldier knows they wear them so we can't recognize them. Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) was a Hugo and Nebula nominated American author. First published in the science fiction magazines of the 1950s, his numerous quick-witted stories and novels were famously unpredictable, absurdist, and broadly comical.Sheckley was given the Author Emeritus honor by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2001.
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 1959 Amazing Stories
eBookwise Release Date: August 2009

eBookeBook

12 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [16 KB]
Words: 2365
Reading time: 6-9 min.


I WON'T EVEN TRY to describe the pain. I'll just say that it was unbearable even with anesthetics, and that I bore it because I didn't have any choice. Then it faded away and I opened my eyes and looked into the faces of the brahmins standing over me. There were three of them, dressed in the usual white operating gowns and white gauze masks. They say they wear those masks to keep germs out of us. But every soldier knows they wear them so we can't recognize them.

I was still doped up to the ears on anesthetics, and only chunks and bits of my memory were functioning. I asked, "How long was I dead?"

"About ten hours," one of the brahmins told me.

"How did I die?"

"Don't you remember?" the tallest brahmin asked.

"Not yet."

"Well," the tallest brahmin said, "you were with your platoon in Trench 2645B-4. At dawn your entire company made a frontal attack, trying to capture the next trench, Number 2645B-5."

"And what happened?" I asked.

"You stopped a couple of machine gun bullets. The new kind with the shock heads. Remember now? You took one in the chest and three more in the legs. When the medics found you, you were dead."

"Did we capture the trench?" I asked.

"No. Not this time."

"I see." My memory was returning rapidly as the anesthetic wore off. I remembered the boys in my platoon. I remembered our trench. Old 2645B-4 had been my home for over a year, and it was pretty nice as trenches go. The enemy had been trying to capture it, and our dawn assault had been a counter-attack, really. I remembered the machine gun bullets tearing me into shreds, and the wonderful relief I had felt when they did. And I remembered something else too.

I sat upright. "Hey, just a minute!" I said.

"What's the matter?"

"I thought eight hours was the upper limit for bringing a man back to life."

"We've improved our techniques since then," one of the brahmins told me. "We're improving them all the time. Twelve hours is the upper limit now, just as long as there isn't serious brain damage."

"Good for you," I said. Now my memory had returned completely, and I realized what had happened. "However, you made a serious mistake in bringing me back."

"What's the beef, soldier?" one of them asked in that voice only officers get.

"Read my dogtags," I said.

He read them. His forehead, which was all I could see of his face, became wrinkled. He said, "This is unusual!"

"Unusual!" I said.

"You see," he told me, "you were in a whole trench full of dead men. We were told they were all first-timers. Our orders were to bring the whole batch back to life."

"And you didn't read any dogtags first?"

"We were overworked. There wasn't time. I really am sorry, Private. If I'd known--"

"To hell with that," I said. "I want to see the Inspector General."

"Do you really think--"

"Yes I do," I said. "I'm no trench lawyer, but I've got a real beef. It's my right to see the I.G."


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