The Sweeper of Loray
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by Robert Sheckley
Category: Science Fiction/Humor
Description: "Absolutely impossible," declared Professor Carver. "But I saw it," said Fred, his companion and bodyguard. "Late last night, I saw it! They carried in this hunter--he had his head half ripped off--and they--" "Wait," Professor Carver said, leaning forward expectantly. 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 Galaxy
eBookwise Release Date: August 2009
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [26 KB]
Reading time: 12-17 min.
"ABSOLUTELY impossible," declared Professor Carver.
"But I saw it," said Fred, his companion and bodyguard. "Late last night, I saw it! They carried in this hunter--he had his head half ripped off--and they--"
"Wait," Professor Carver said, leaning forward expectantly.
They had left their spaceship before dawn, in order to witness the sunrise ceremonies in the village of Loray, upon the planet of the same name. Sunrise ceremonies, viewed from a proper distance, are often colorful and can provide a whole chapter for an anthropologist's book; but Loray, as usual, proved a disappointment.
Without fanfare, the sun rose, in answer to prayers made to it the preceding night. Slowly it hoisted its dull red expanse above the horizon, warming the topmost branches of the great rain-forest that surrounded the village. And the natives slept on...
Not all the natives. Already the Sweeper was out, cleaning the debris between huts with his twig broom. He slowly shuffled along, human-shaped but unutterably alien. The Sweeper's face was a stylized blank, as though nature had drawn there a preliminary sketch of intelligent life. His head was strangely knobbed and his skin was pigmented a dirty gray.
The Sweeper sang to himself as he swept, in a thick, guttural voice. In only one way was the Sweeper distinguishable from his fellow Lorayans: painted across his face was a broad black band. This was his mark of station, the lowest possible station in that primitive society.
"Now then," Professor Carver said, after the sun had arisen without incident, "a phenomenon such as you describe could not exist. And it most especially could not exist upon a debased, scrubby little planet like this."
"I saw what I saw," Fred maintained, "I don't know from impossible, Professor. I saw it. You want to pass it up, that's up to you."
He leaned against the gnarly bole of a stabicus tree, folded his arms across his meager chest and glowered at the thatch-roofed village. They had been on Loray for nearly two months and Fred detested the village more each day.
He was an underweight, unlovely young man and he wore his hair in a bristling crewcut which accentuated the narrowness of his brow. He had accompanied the professor for close to ten years, had journeyed with him to dozens of planets, and had seen many strange and wonderful things. Everything he saw, however, only increased his contempt for the Galaxy at large. He desired only to return, wealthy and famous, or wealthy and unknown, to his home in Bayonne, New Jersey.
"This thing could make us rich," Fred accused. "And you want to pass it up."