Death of a B.E.M.
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories October 1948. Extensiveresearch did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication wasrenewed.
The writer hated to create bug-eyedmonsters, but they hated him too!
DEATH OF A B. E. M.
By BERKELEY LIVINGSTON
"Blast them!" the writergroaned in bitter accents."How I hate those B. E.M's.!"
"Hang them!" the artist yelled."How I hate those B. E. M's.!"
"Darn them!" the B. E. M. moaned."How I hate those humans!"
The artist and the writer satstaring at each other in wordlessmisery, their coffee untasted andtheir spirits at low ebb. Up above,in the beehive that was the publishinghouse which gave themtheir livelihood, the word had gonearound. B. E. M'S, B. E. M'S....
Sadly, in accents forlorn, thewriter said:
"Bug-eyed monsters! Ye gads!Bug-eyed monsters! Jack, old boy,do you realize we're setting science-fictionback a hundred years?"
"I know just how you feel, Harry,"the artist replied. "After all,we too had presumed that we hadbeen freed of these monsters. Soback we go to the drawing board,our minds tortured and twisted ..."He sighed disconsolately.
"Oh, well," the writer sighed andblew out his breath. He stared fixedlyat his coffee until a somethingblue slipped into focus. His glancetraveled upward from the hem ofthe girl's apron, past the lovelyswell of her charms and on past thesweet throat, to the gay, smilingface and sparkling eyes. Forgottenthen were B. E. M's. for both.Diane, the goddess of the restaurantcorps of enchanting waitresses,was at their side....
Hiah-Leugh was having his eyeballsmassaged. It was a delicateand tedious operation for the onedoing the massaging; not every Gomanwas possessed of eight eyeballs.But Hiah-Leugh was not an ordinaryGoman. Not he! He was chiefof all the Gomans, which meant hewas head of all the bug-eyed monsterson the whole of the planet ofXYZ268PDQ.
The four-headed slave, one of thegiants Hiah-Leugh's tribe had capturedon one of their forays into theterrible forest of Evil Contractions,scratched himself with one of hissix arms. He was quite bored withthis peaceful, though tedious pursuitthe tribe of Hiah-Leugh hadgiven to him as his duties. Especiallythe massaging of eyeballs. Ofcourse it helped to have six arms.Ooh! His four heads ranged themselvesin a single line.
The slave had committed a sin.
There were three cardinal sins onthe planet of XYZ268PDQ. Two ofthem were unmentionable and thethird was forgetting to massage allof the eight eyeballs of Hiah-Leughat one and the same time. If it werenot for the massage the giants ofthe planet would all live in peace.But it took a man with six arms todo the job. In fact it was to the regretof Hiah-Leugh that the giantsdid not have eight arms.
Now one of the eyelids was closing.In a second or two it would beclosed completely and once a singleof the eight eyes closed the othersautomatically followed suit. Therewas but a single thing to do in thiscase. The giant did it.
He poked his finger into thedrooping lid.
Hiah-Leugh awoke with a suddennessof shock and startled surprise.He howled in pain then leaped fromthe chair, scuttling about the room-of-massageon his twelve pairs ofcrablike legs at a great pace.
"Heavens to Betsy!" Hiah-Leughscreamed. "You are theclumsiest giant.... But what can aB. E. M. expect? Oh, well! You'reexcused. Go and see if there are anychildren to frighten...."
There were four different expressionson the four heads. Oneshowed pleasure, and another, surprise and a third, gloom and thefourth was blank completely. Thishead was the dumb one. It had butone expression, blankness. The fourheads bent and the great body bowedlow, and slowly, with great effortand with many bumpings intovarious pieces of furniture, thegiant bowed himself out of the massageparlor.
Hiah-Leugh was left alone.
But not for long. Suddenly awhole section of the wall slid backshowing another room. This was thefamous Gloating Chamber of Hiah-Leugh.Here were brought all thevictims the tribe captured. And hereit was that their chief was supposedto spend his time in Gloating overthe tortures his torturers were supposedto spend their time in devising.But business had been very badlately. Not only was there not a singlevictim in the Gloating Chamber,there was not a single tortureravailable. Hiah-Leugh suddenly remembered.Something about a picnic....Then why had the wall slidback?
"Hiah-Leugh! Hiah-Leugh!" itwas the clarion call of his ninth concubine,the lovely and charmingSally Patica. But what in the nameof all that was unmentionable wasshe doing in the Gloating Chamber?Of course she too could be Gloating!
He moved slowly toward theroom, hoping against hope she wasnot in a bad mood. The last timeshe had called in that tone of voicehe had suffered greatly. She hadmade him go without an eyeballmassage for a whole week....
She was pacing back and forthon the long, raised platform.Hiah-Leugh skirted the Iron Maiden,the Pallid Pulley, the BronzeBeater, the Copper Conker, andGiant Mas-Mixer, which was a fake.Nothing was ever mixed in it exceptthe noxious weed Hiah-Leugh usedin his pipe. At the sound of his approachSally stopped her pacingand fixed him with a baleful glanceout of eyes, four and five. Eyes, twoand three were busy seeing if hercoiffure was right and eyes one, sixand seven were having their lidstweezed. After all, she had twelvepairs of legs which were also usedfor hands. A heck of a lot could bedone with so many appendages.
She started in even before hequite reached her side:
"Where is everybody? Do I haveto sit by myself every day? Mustyou have your eyeballs massagedeveryday? Where are the torturers?Where is everybody...?"
"I think there's a picnic scheduledfor today, dear," Hiah-Leughsaid.
"Why wasn't I told about it?"Sally demanded.
She had very probably been toldabout it but knowing his ninth concubineand the limits of her memory,she had very surely forgotten.
"Hiah-Leugh!" she broke in onhim before he could frame a reply."I'm so terribly, terribly bored!There hasn't been a good torturesince, since ... when was the lasttime there was a torture party?"
"The time Gin-Pad was caughtstealing wokkerjabbies from hisyoungest child," Hiah-Leugh said."We put him in the Pallid Pulleyand stretched four of his legs untilthey were longer than the rest. Andto this day Gin-Pad walks like he'slooking for something between hisforelegs...."
Six of Sally's seven pairs of eyescrossed suddenly, a sign she was inthought. Hiah-Leugh had the wishfulhope that the seventh pair wouldcross. When that happened Sallywould be ex-concubine. She wouldalso be ex-living but that didn'tbother him. We all have to die sometime,he thought. But why does shehave to live so long? The thoughtprocesses of Sally Patica woundtheir weary way and came to theirproper end. Life was boresome. Andshe had to think of something tomake it less so. She did.
"Y'know, Hiah," she said as sheuncrossed her eyes, "I have anidea...."
The chief of all the Gomans rolledall eight pairs of his eyes ceiling-ward.Not another of her ideas. Ohno! Not that! The last time she hadone of her ideas it was for a treasurehunt, a treasure hunt for a five-headedgiant, despite Hiah-Leugh'sinsistence there were no such beings.But she wanted one dead or alive.She got it, dead. What Sally didn'tknow was that her mate gave ordersto have one killed and have a fifthhead sewn on his shoulders.
Love, however, was as strong onplanet XYZ268PDQ as it was onany other planet, and as burdensome,and though Hiah-Leugh felthis heart sink, he also knew hewould give in to her wishes.
"... What do you think of this;bring some humans up here andwe'll run a torture party for ourfiends?"
The male's jaw dropped, all threefeet of it. This was even worse thanhe had imagined. Bring some humansup here, she said. Had she anyidea of what that entailed? No.NOO!
He tried to reason with her:
"Darling. Wait. Don't be hasty.Let me explain. In the first placehave you ever met a human?"
"What difference does thatmake?" she pouted. "I've heardabout them."
"But sweetheart," he went on inhis pleading. "They're quite horrible.They have but one head, anda single pair of arms and legs. Theywalk upright and they can only bearchildren...."
This was new to her.
"Yes! And they're horriblethings, really. Must be raised onpablum and formulas and thingslike that. Formulas. Sounds mechanical.No, Sally, my pet. I'll thinkof something else. Something whichwill not require so much work...."
It was the wrong thing to say.He knew it the instant he said it.
"Work!" she yelped. "So that'swhat's troubling you. Too muchwork you say. And what is occupyingyour time now? Have you evenso much as gone to the forest of EvilContractions to capture a giant inthe past six months? Not you!You're satisfied with the way thingsare. You wouldn't give a hang if Idied of boredom. And when I askfor something like a torture party,all you can say is, it's too muchwork."
She started to cry. And after allshe had seven pairs of eyes to shedtears from. It was the biggest cryingjag since the invasion fromspace a millenium before when theinvaders used tear gas....
Hiah-Leugh threw up all the armshe could spare and shouted:
"Okay. OKAY! I'll call a meetingof the Council and we'll plansomething."
"The situation is this," Hiah-Leughsaid in opening themeeting, "we must (get the) right to workand bring some humans up here."
The assembled B. E. M's. stoppedlooking bored at the words. Theyhad wondered why their chieftanhad called the meeting. Now theyknew. One after the other they repeatedthe words as if they couldn'tbelieve their senses. Humans! Hereon Planet XYZ268PDQ.
"But mighty chief," one of themsaid in objection. "Do you realizewhat you're asking of us?"
And a third asked:
"Our scientists, that's who,"Hiah-Leugh answered. "What theheck we got them for anyway?Seems all they do is sleep. Let themwake up and to work."
But the oldest and wisest of themsaid:
"Why can't we be normal monstersand not act like we're expectedto? Isn't peace enough forus? Must we look for trouble?"
But their chieftan knew there wasno turning back. Not if he wantedpeace. And knowing Sally Patica,he also knew there would be nopeace for him until he brought somehumans up for torture.
"Let them construct space ships,terrible weapons of war, plaguesand all the necessary adjuncts toplanetary invasion. Let them preparefor the holocaust," Hiah-Leughshouted, drowning out theothers.
But it was the youngest, a mereyouth of ten thousand years, uponwhose head but a single eye showed,who pointed out the path. He was alreadybored with this meeting; besides,he had but fallen in love theday before and wanted to get backto his amorata.
"Why all this fuss?" he asked."What's more, we don't have scientists,or mathematicians, or warriors.If the giants weren't so stupidwe'd never capture them. Solet's stop this foolishness, thisdreaming...."
That was the clue. After all, Hiah-Leughhadn't been made chief ofall the Gomans for nothing. Heproved his right to the leadershipthen.
"That's it!" he said. "The artistsand writers of the human worldhave made monsters of us, eventhough we can't do any of the thingsthey pretend we can. There is buta single attribute we possess whichthey have said we do. We can projectourselves through space andtime. So let us to the Earth, andpluck one or two of these humans,and if I may offer a suggestion, letus take a writer and artist fromamong them and bring them backwith us...."
Harry Zmilch, writer-extraordinaryof science-fiction, passedweary fingers across a furrowedbrow. A few feet to the rear of thedesk at which Zmilch labored stoodthe drawing board of Jack Gangreneyellow,the artist. He too pausedin his labors. At one and thesame instant they turned and regardedeach other with solemn, staringeyes.
"No use, Joe," Harry said."I can't do it. I've beaten mybrain until it refuses to function. Ikeep typing the same word overand over again ... nuts ... nuts!...Bug-eyed monsters! There aren'tsuch things. My imagination justcan't bring them to paper."
"Nor can mine to the board,"Jack said.
"Still it's easier for you," Harrysaid. "All you've got to do is drawa spider or huge bug of sorts, puta man and woman somewhere in thedrawing, make the woman appearas if she'd lost half her clothes in astruggle, and you've got your piece.With me it's different."
Gangreneyellow snorted. Thischaracter, he thought, knew as littleof art and the difficulties of compositionas the next guy.
"That's what you think," he retorted."All you guys have to dois imagine a monster, have a manand woman placed in peril by themonster's presence and you've gota story. With us it's different...."
Zmilch was half-turned, facing hisfriend across the width of one shoulder.At the other's words, Zmilchturned all the way, got up from