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 Flies importans

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تاريخ التسجيل : 21/02/2012

مُساهمةموضوع: Flies importans   الخميس فبراير 23, 2012 8:26 pm

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Flies

Copyright © 1953 by Fantasy House, Inc.

"Flies!" said Kendell Casey, wearily. He swung his arm. The fly circled, returned and nestled on Casey's shirt-collar.
From somewhere there sounded the buzzing of a second fly.
Dr. John Polen covered the slight uneasiness of his chin by moving his cigarette quickly to his lips.
He said, "I didn't expect to meet you, Casey. Or you, Winthrop. Or ought I call you Reverend Winthrop?"
"Ought I call you Professor Polen?" said Winthrop, carefully striking the proper vein of rich-toned friendship.
They were trying to snuggle into the cast-off shell of twenty years back, each of them. Squirming and cramming and not fitting.
Damn, thought Polen fretfully, why do people attend college reunions?
Casey's hot blue eyes were still filled with the aimless anger of the college sophomore who has discovered intellect, frustration, and the tag-ends of cynical philosophy all at once.
Casey! Bitter man of the campus!
He hadn't outgrown that. Twenty years later and it was Casey, bitter ex-man of the campus! Polen could see that in the way his finger tips moved aimlessly and in the manner of his spare body.
As for Winthrop? Well, twenty years older, softer, rounder. Skin pinker, eyes milder. Yet no nearer the quiet certainty he would never find. It was all there in the quick smile he never entirely abandoned, as though he feared there would be nothing to take its place, that its absence would turn his face into a smooth and featureless flesh.
Polen was tired of reading the aimless flickering of a muscle's end; tired of usurping the place of his machines; tired of the too much they told him.
Could they read him as he read them? Could the small restlessness of his own eyes broadcast the fact that he was damp with the disgust that had bred mustily within him?
Damn, thought Polen, why didn't I stay away?
They stood there, all three, waiting for one another to say something, to flick something from across the gap and bring it, quivering, into the present.
Polen tried it. He said, "Are you still working in chemistry, Casey?"
"In my own way, yes," said Casey, gruffly. "I'm not the scientist you're considered to be. I do research on insecticides for E. J. Link at Chatham."
Winthrop said, "Are you really? You said you would work on insecticides. Remember, Polen? And with all that, the flies dare still be after you, Casey?"
Casey said, "Can't get rid of them. I'm the best proving ground in the labs. No compound we've made keeps them away when I'm around. Some¬one once said it was my odor. I attract them."
Polen remembered the someone who had said that.
Winthrop said, "Or else—"
Polen felt it coming. He tensed.
"Or else," said Winthrop, "it's the curse, you know." His smile intensi¬fied to show that he was joking, that he forgave past grudges.
Damn, thought Polen, they haven't even changed the words. And the past came back.
"Flies," said Casey, swinging his arm, and slapping. "Ever see such a thing? Why don't they light on you two?"
Johnny Polen laughed at him. He laughed often then. "It's something in your body odor, Casey. You could be a boon to science. Find out the nature of the odorous chemical, concentrate it, mix it with DDT, and you've got the best fly-killer in the world."
"A fine situation. What do I smell like? A lady fly in heat? It's a shame they have to pick on me when the whole damned world's a dung heap."
Winthrop frowned and said with a faint flavor of rhetoric, "Beauty is not the only thing, Casey, in the eye of the beholder."
Casey did not deign a direct response. He said to Polen, "You know what Winthrop told me yesterday? He said those damned flies were the curse of Beelzebub."
"I was joking," said Winthrop.
"Why Beelzebub?" asked Polen.
"It amounts to a pun," said Winthrop. "The ancient Hebrews used it as
one of their many terms of derision for alien gods. It comes from Ba'al, meaning lord and zevuv, meaning fly. The lord of flies."
Casey said, "Come on, Winthrop, don't say you don't believe in Beelze¬bub." •:,t "I believe in the existence of evil," said Winthrop, stiffly.
"I mean Beelzebub. Alive. Horns. Hooves. A sort of competition deity." 1 "Not at all." Winthrop grew stiffer. "Evil is a short-term affair. In the end it must lose—"
Polen changed the subject with a jar. He said, "I'll be doing graduate work for Venner, by the way. I talked with him day before yesterday, and he'll take me on."
"No! That's wonderful." Winthrop glowed and leaped to the subject-change instantly. He held out a hand with which to pump Polen's. He was always conscientiously eager to rejoice in another's good fortune. Casey often pointed that out.
Casey said, "Cybernetics Venner? Well, if you can stand him, I suppose he can stand you."
Winthrop went on. "What did he think of your idea? Did you tell him your idea?"
"What idea?" demanded Casey.
Polen had avoided telling Casey so far. But now Venner had considered it and had passed it with a cool, "Interesting!" How could Casey's dry laughter hurt it now?
Polen said, "It's nothing much. Essentially, it's just a notion that emotion is the common bond of life, rather than reason or intellect. It's practically a truism, I suppose. You can't tell what a baby thinks or even // it thinks, but it's perfectly obvious that it can be angry, frightened or contented even when a week old. See?
"Same with animals. You can tell in a second if a dog is happy or if a cat is afraid. The point is that their emotions are the same as those we would have under the same circumstances."
"So?" said Casey. "Where does it get you?"
"I don't know yet. Right now, all I can say is that emotions are universals. Now suppose we could properly analyze all the actions of men and certain familiar animals and equate them with the visible emotion. We might find a tight relationship. Emotion A might always involve Motion B. Then we could apply it to animals whose emotions we couldn't guess at by common sense alone. Like snakes, or lobsters."
"Or flies," said Casey, as he slapped viciously at another and flicked its remains off his wrist in furious triumph.
He went on. "Go ahead, Johnny. I'll contribute the flies and you study them. We'll establish a science of flychology and labor to make them happy
by removing their neuroses. After all, we want the greatest good of the greatest number, don't we? And there are more flies than men." "Oh, well," said Polen.
Casey said, "Say, Polen, did you ever follow up that weird idea of yours? I mean, we all know you're a shining cybernetic light, but 1 haven't been reading your papers. With so many ways of wasting time, something has to be neglected, you know."
"What idea?" asked Polen, woodenly.
"Come on. You know. Emotions of animals and all that sort of guff. Boy, those were the days. I used to know madmen. Now I only come across idiots."
Winthrop said, "That's right, Polen. I remember it very well. Your first year in graduate school you were working on dogs and rabbits. I believe you even tried some of Casey's flies."
Polen said, "It came to nothing in itself. It gave rise to certain new principles of computing, however, so it wasn't a total loss."
Why did they talk about it?
Emotions! What right had anyone to meddle with emotions? Words were invented to conceal emotions. It was the dreadfulness of raw emotion that had made language a basic necessity.
Polen knew. His machines had by-passed the screen of verbalization and dragged the unconscious into the sunlight. The boy and the girl, the son and the mother. For that matter, the cat and the mouse or the snake and the bird. The data rattled together in its universality and it had all poured into and through Polen until he could no longer bear the touch of life.
In the last few years he had so painstakingly schooled his thoughts in other directions. Now these two came, dabbling in his mind, stirring up its mud.
Casey batted abstractedly across the tip of his nose to dislodge a fly. "Too bad," he said. "I used to think you could get some fascinating things out of, say, rats. Well, maybe not fascinating, but then not as boring as the stuff you would get out of our somewhat-human beings. I used to think—"
Polen remembered what he used to think.
Casey said, "Damn this DOT. The flies feed on it, I think. You know, I'm going to do graduate work in chemistry and then get a job on insecticides. So help me. I'll personally get something that will kill the vermin."
They were in Casey's room, and it had a somewhat keroseny odor from the recently applied insecticide.
Polen shrugged and said, "A folded newspaper will always kill."
Casey detected a non-existent sneer and said instantly, "How would you summarize your first year's work, Polen? I mean aside from the true sum¬mary any scientist could state if he dared, by which I mean: 'Nothing.' "
."< "Nothing," said Polen. "There's your summary."
"Go on," said Casey. "You use more dogs than the physiologists do and I bet the dogs mind the physiological experiments less. I would."
"Oh, leave him alone," said Winthrop. "You sound like a piano with 87 keys eternally out of order. You're a bore!"
You couldn't say that to Casey.
He said, with sudden liveliness, looking carefully away from Winthrop, "I'll tell you what you'll probably find in animals, if you look closely enough. Religion."
"What the dickens!" said Winthrop, outraged. "That's a foolish remark."
Casey smiled. "Now, now, Winthrop. Dickens is just a euphemism for devil and you don't want to be swearing."
"Don't teach me morals. And don't be blasphemous."
"What's blasphemous about it? Why shouldn't a flea consider the dog as something to be worshipped? It's the source of warmth, food, and all that's good for a flea."
"I don't want to discuss it."
"Why not? Do you good. You could even say that to an ant, an anteater is a higher order of creation. He would be too big for them to comprehend, too mighty to dream of resisting. He would move among them like an unseen, inexplicable whirlwind, visiting them with destruction and death. But that wouldn't spoil things for the ants. They would reason that destruc¬tion was simply their just punishment for evil. And the anteater wouldn't even know he was a deity. Or care."
Winthrop had gone white. He said, "I know you're saying this only to annoy me and I am sorry to see you risking your soul for a moment's amusement. Let me tell you this," his voice trembled a little, "and let me say it very seriously. The flies that torment you are your punishment in this life. Beelzebub, like all the forces of evil, may think he does evil, but it's only the ultimate good after all. The curse of Beelzebub is on you for your good. Perhaps it will succeed in getting you to change your way of life before it's too late."
He ran from the room.
Casey watched him go. He said, kughing, "I told you Winthrop believed in Beelzebub. It's funny the respectable names you can give to superstition." His laughter died a little short of its natural end.
There were two flies in the room, buzzing through the vapors toward him.
Polen rose and left in heavy depression. One year had taught him little, but it was already too much, and his laughter was thinning. Only his ma¬chines could analyze the emotions of animals properly, but he was already guessing too deeply concerning the emotions of men.
He did not like to witness wild murder-yearnings where others could see only a few words of unimportant quarrel.
Casey said, suddenly, "Say, come to think of it, you did try some of my flies, the way Winthrop says. How about that?"
"Did I? After twenty years, I scarcely remember," murmured Polen.
Winthrop said, "You must. We were in your laboratory and you com¬plained that Casey's flies followed him even there. He suggested you analyze them and you did. You recorded their motions and buzzings and wing-wiping for half an hour or more. You played with a dozen different flies."
Polen shrugged.
"Oh, well," said Casey. "It doesn't matter. It was good seeing you, old man." The hearty hand-shake, the thump on the shoulder, the broad grin— to Polen it all translated into sick disgust on Casey's part that Polen was a "success" after all.
Polen said, "Let me hear from you sometimes."
The words were dull thumps. They meant nothing. Casey knew that. Polen knew that. Everyone knew that. But words were meant to hide emo¬tion and when they failed, humanity loyally maintained the pretense.
Winthrop's grasp of the hand was gentler. He said, "This brought back old times, Polen. If you're ever in Cincinnati, why don't you stop in at the meeting-house? You'll always be welcome."
To Polen, it all breathed of the man's relief at Polen's obvious depression. Science, too, it seemed, was not the answer, and Winthrop's basic and ineradicable insecurity felt pleased at the company.
"I will," said Polen. It was the usual polite way of saying, I won't.
He watched them thread separately to other groups.
Winthrop would never know. Polen was sure of that. He wondered if Casey knew. It would be the supreme joke if Casey did not.
He had run Casey's flies, of course, not that once alone, but many times. Always the same answer! Always the same unpublishable answer.
With a cold shiver he could not quite control, Polen was suddenly con¬scious of a single fly loose in the room, veering aimlessly for a moment, then beating strongly and reverently in the direction Casey had taken a moment before.
Could Casey not know? Could it be the essence of the primal punishment that he never leam he was Beelzebub?
Casey! Lord of the Flies!
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Flies importans
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