Saturday, October 15, 2016

Star-Sent Knaves - Part 14 (Intermediate-Advanced level)

       *       *       *       *       *
He was standing on a steep hillside, looking down across a sweep of meadow to a plain far below. There were clumps of trees, and a river.
In the distance a herd of animals grazed among low shrubbery. No road wound along the valley floor; no boats dotted the river; no village nestled at its bend. The far hills were innocent of trails, fences, houses, the rectangles of plowed acres. There were no contrails in the wide blue sky. No vagrant aroma of exhaust fumes, no mutter of internal combustion, no tin cans, no pop bottles-- 
In short, no people.
Dan turned. The Portal still shimmered faintly in the bright air. He thrust his head through, found himself staring into the locker room.
The yellow-clad Neanderthaloid glanced at him.
"Say," Dan said, ignoring the sensation of a hot wire around his neck, "can't we talk this thing over?"
"Better get your head out of there before it shuts down," the guard said cheerfully. "Otherwise--ssskkkttt!"
"What about some reading matter? And look, I get these head colds. Does the temperature drop here at night? Any dangerous animals? What do I eat?"
"Here," the guard reached into a hopper, took out a handful of pamphlets. "These are supposed to be for guys that are relocated without prejudice. You know, poor slobs that just happened to see too much; but I'll let you have one. Let's see ... Anglic, Anglic...." He selected one, handed it to Dan.
"Better get clear."
Dan withdrew his head. He sat down on the grass and looked over the booklet. It was handsomely printed in gay colors. WELCOME TO RELOCATION CENTER NO. 23 said the cover. Below the heading was a photo of a group of sullen-looking creatures of varying heights and degrees of hairiness wearing paper hats. The caption read:  New-comers Are Welcomed Into a Gay Round of Social Activity. Hi, New-comer!
Dan opened the book. A photo showed a scene identical to the one before him, except that in place of the meadow, there was a park-like expanse of lawn, dotted with rambling buildings with long porches lined with rockers. There were picnic tables under spreading trees, and beyond, on the river, a yacht basin crowded with canoes and row-boats.
    "Life In a Community Center is Grand Fun!" Dan read. "Activities!  Brownies, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts, Tree     Scouts, Cave Scouts, PTA, Shriners, Bear Cult, Rotary, Daughters of     the Eastern Star, Mothers of the Big Banana, Dianetics--you name     it! A Group for Everyone, and Everyone in a Group!
    Classes in conversational Urdu, Sprotch, Yiddish, Gaelic, Fundu, etc; knot-tying, rug-hooking, leather-work, Greek Dancing, finger-painting and many, many others!
    Little Theatre!
      Indian Dance Pageants! 
        Round Table Discussions!
          Town Meetings!
Dan thumbed on through the pages of emphatic print, stopped at a double-page spread labeled, A Few Do's and Don'ts.
    * All of us want to make a GO of relocation. So--let's remember the       Uranium Rule: Don't Do It! The Other Guy May Be Bigger!
    * Remember the Other Fellow's Taboos!
      What to you might be merely a wholesome picnic or mating bee may       offend others. What some are used to doing in groups, others       consider a solitary activity. Most taboos have to do with eating,       sex, elimination or gods; so remember look before you sit down,  lie down, squat down or kneel down!
    * Ladies With Beards Please Note:
      Friend husband may be on the crew clearing clogged drains—so       watch that shedding in the lavatories, eh, girls? And you fellas, too! Sure, good grooming pays--but groom each other out in the open, okay?

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