Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported—hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it
did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through
the main cavern. The body hung head down, attached to the
underside of the palette by the sole of its right foot. It had been
drained of blood through a precise incision made from ear to
ear under the lantern jaw. There was no blood on the reflective
surface of the metal floor.
When Gorrister joined our group and looked up at himself,
it was already too late for us to realize that once again AM had
Reprinted with permission of, and by arrangement with, the author and the
author's agent, Richard Curtis Associates, Inc., New York. Copyright © 1967
by Galaxy Publishing Corporation; copyright reassigned, 1968, to author.
Copyright © 1968 by Harlan Ellison. All rights reserved.
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Ellison / I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 469 468 THE MODERN PERIOD
duped us, had had its fun; it had been a diversion on the part of
the machine. Three of us had vomited, turning away from one
another in a reflex as ancient as the nausea that had produced it.
Gorrister went white. It was almost as though he had seen a
voodoo icon, and was afraid of the future. "Oh God," he mumbled, and walked away. The three of us followed him after a
time, and found him sitting with his back to one of the smaller
chittering banks, his head in his hands. Ellen knelt down beside
him and stroked his hair. He didn't move, but his voice came
out of his covered face quite clearly. "Why doesn't it just do-us-in
and get it over with? Christ, I don't know how much longer I
can go on like this."
It was our one hundred and ninth year in the computer.
He was speaking for all of us.
Nimdok (which was the name the machine had forced him to
use, because AM amused itself with strange sounds) was hallucinating that there were canned goods in the ice caverns. Gorrister and I were very dubious. "It's another shuck," I told them.
"Like the goddam frozen elephant AM sold us. Benny almost
went out of his mind over that one. We'll hike all that way and
it'll be putrified or some damn thing. I say forget it. Stay here,
it'll have to come up with something pretty soon or we'll die."
Benny shrugged. It had been three days since we'd last eaten.
Worms. Thick, ropey.
Nimdok was no more certain. He knew there was a chance,
but he was getting thin. It couldn't be any worse there, than
here. Colder, but that didn't matter much. Hot, cold, hail, lava,
boils or locusts—it never mattered: the machine masturbated
and we had to take it or die.
Ellen decided us. "I've got to have something, Ted. Maybe
there'll be some Bartlett pears or peaches. Please, Ted, let's
I gave in easily. What the hell. Mattered not at all. Ellen
was grateful, though. She took me twice out of turn. Even that
had ceased to matter. And she never came, so why bother? But
the machine giggled every time we did it. Loud, up there, back
there, all around us, he snickered. It snickered. Most of the time
I thought of AM as it, without a soul; but the rest of the time I
thought of it as him, in the masculine . . . the paternal . . .
the patriarchal . . . for he is a jealous people. Him. It. God as
Daddy the Deranged.
We left on a Thursday. The machine always kept us up-toda te on the date. The passage of time was important; not to us,
sure as hell; but to him . . . it . . . AM. Thursday. Thanks.
Nimdok and Gorrister carried Ellen for a while, their hands
locked to their own and each other's wrists, a seat. Benny and I
walked before and after, just to make sure that if anything happened, it would catch one of us and at least Ellen would be safe.
Fat chance, safe. Didn't matter.
It was only a hundred miles or so to the ice caverns, and the
second day, when we were lying out under the blistering sunthing he had materalized, he sent down some manna. Tasted
like boiled boar urine. We ate it.
On the third day we passed through a valley of obsolescence,
filled with rusting carcasses of ancient computer banks. AM had
been as rulthless with its own life as with ours. It was a mark of
his personality: it strove for perfection. Whether it was a matter
of killing off unproductive elements in his own world-filling
bulk, or perfecting methods for torturing us, AM was as thorough as those who had invented him—now long since gone to
dust—could ever have hoped.
There was light filtering down from above, and we realized
we must be very near the surface. But we didn't try to crawl up
to see. There was virtually nothing out there; had been nothing
that could be considered anything for over a hundred years.
Only the blasted skin of what had once been the home of billions. Now there were only five of us, down here inside, alone
I heard Ellen saying frantically, "No, Benny! Don't, come on,
Benny, don't please!"
And then I realized I had been hearing Benny murmuring,
under his breath, for several minutes. He was saying, "I'm gonna
get out, I'm gonna get out . . ." over and over. His monkey-like
face was crumbled up in an expression of beatific delight and
sadness, all at the same time. The radiation scars AM had given
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Ellison/ I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 471 470 THE MODERN PERIOD
him during the "festival" were drawn down into a mass of pinkwhite puckerings, and his features seemed to work independently
of one another. Perhaps Benny was the luckiest of the five of us:
he had gone stark, staring mad many years before.
But even though we could call AM any damned thing we
liked, could think the foulest thoughts of fused memory banks
and corroded base plates, of burnt/out circuits and shattered
control bubbles, the machine would not tolerate our trying to
escape. Benny leaped away from me as I made a grab for him.
He scrambled up the face of a smaller memory cube, tilted on
its side and filled with rotted components. He squatted there for
a moment, looking like the chimpanzee AM had intended him
Then he leaped high, caught a trailing beam of pitted and
corroded metal, and went up, hand-over-hand like an animal,
till he was on a girdered ledge, twenty feet above us.
"Oh, Ted, Nimdok, please, help him, get him down before—"
She cut off. Tears began to stand in her eyes. She moved her
It was too late. None of us wanted to be near him when
whatever was going to happen, happened. And besides, we all
saw through her concern. When AM had altered Benny, during
the machine's utterly irrational, hysterical phase, it was not
merely Benny's face the computer had made like a giant ape's.
He was big in the privates, she loved that! She serviced us, as a
matter of course, but she loved it from him. Oh Ellen, pedestal
Ellen, pristine-pure Ellen, oh Ellen the clean! Scum filth.
Gorrister slapped her. She slumped down, staring up at poor
loonie Benny, and she cried. It was her big defense, crying. We
had gotten used to it seventy-five years before. Gorrister kicked
her in the side.
Then the sound began. It was light, that sound. Half sound
and half light, something that began to glow from Benny's eyes,
and pulse with growing loudness, dim sonorities that grew more
gigantic and brighter as the light/sound increased in tempo. It
must have been painful, and the pain must have been increasing with the boldness of the light, the rising volume of the
sound, for Benny began to mewl like a wounded animal. At
first softly, when the light was dim and the sound was muted,
then louder as his shoulders hunched together: his back humped,
as though he was trying to get away from it. His hands folded
across his chest like a chipmunk's. His head tilted to the side.
The sad little monkey-face pinched in anguish. Then he began
to howl, as the sound coming from his eyes grew louder. Louder
and louder. I slapped the sides of my head with my hands, but
I couldn't shut it out, it cut through easily. The pain shivered
through my flesh like tinfoil on a tooth.
And Benny was suddenly pulled erect. On the girder he stood
up, jerked to his feet like a puppet. The light was now pulsing
out of his eyes in two great round beams. The sound crawled up
and up some incomprehensible scale, and then he fell forward,
straight down, and hit the plate-steel floor with a crash. He lay
there jerking spastically as the light flowed around and around
him and the sound spiraled up out of normal range.
Then the light beat its way back inside his head, the sound
spiraled down, and he was left lying there, crying piteously.
His eyes were two soft, moist pools of pus-like jelly. AM had
blinded him. Gorrister and Nimdok and myself . . . we turned
away. But not before we caught the look of relief on Ellen's
warm, concerned face.
Sea-green light suffused the cavern where we made camp. AM
provided punk and we burned it, sitting huddled around the
wan and pathetic fire, telling stories to keep Benny from crying
in his permanent night.
"What does AM mean?"
Gorrister answered him. We had done this sequence a thousand times before, but it was Benny's favorite story. "At first it
meant Allied Mastercomputer
Ellison 1 I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 473 472 THE MODERN PERIOD
Benny drooled a little, and snickered.
"There was the Chinese AM and the Russian AM and the
Yankee AM and—" He stopped. Benny was beating on the floorplates with a large, hard fist. He was not happy. Gorrister had
not started at the beginning.
Gorrister began again. "The Cold War started and became
World War Three and just kept going. It became a big war, a
very complex war, so they needed the computers to handle it.
They sank the first shafts and began building AM. There was
the Chinese AM and the Russian AM and the Yankee AM and
everything was fine until they had honeycombed the entire
planet, adding on this element and that element. But one day
AM woke up and knew who he was, and he linked himself, and
he began feeding all the killing data, until everyone was dead,
except for the five of us, and AM brought us down here."
Benny was smiling gladly. He was also drooling again. Ellen
wiped the spittle from the corner of his mouth with the hem of
her skirt. Gorrister always tried to tell it a little more succinctly
each time, but beyond the bare facts there was nothing to say.
None of us knew why AM had saved five people, or why our
specific five, or why he spent all his time tormenting us, nor
even why he had made us virtually immortal . . .
In the darkness, one of the computer banks began humming.
The tone was picked up half a mile away down the cavern by
another bank. Then one by one, each of the elements began to
tune itself, and there was a faint chittering as thought raced
through the machine.
The sound grew, and the lights ran across the faces of the
consoles like heat lightning. The sound spiraled up till it sounded
like a million metallic insects, angry, menacing.
"What is it?" Ellen began crying. There was terror in her
voice. She hadn't become accustomed to it, even now.
"It's going to be bad this time," Nimdok said.
"He's going to speak," Gorrister said. "I know it."
"Let's get the hell out of herel" I said suddenly, getting to
"No, Ted, sit down . . . what if he's got pits out there, or
something else; we can't see, it's too dark." Gorrister said it with
Then we heard . . . I don't know . . .
Something moving toward us in the darkness. Huge, shambling, hairy, moist, it came toward us. We couldn't even see it,
but there was the ponderous impression of bulk, heaving itself
toward us. Great weight was coming at us, out of the darkness,
and it was more a sense of pressure, of air forcing itself into a
limited space, expanding the invisible walls of a sphere. Benny
began to whimper. Nimdok's lower lip trembled and he bit it
hard, trying to stop it. Ellen slid across the metal floor to Gorrister and huddled into him. There was the smell of matted,
wet fur in the cavern. There was the smell of charred wood.
There was the smell of dusty velvet. There was the smell of
rotting orchids. There was the smell of sour milk. There was the
smell of sulphur, of rancid butter, of oil slick, of grease, of chalk
dust, of human scalps.
AM was keying us. He was tickling us. There was the smell ofI heard myself shriek, and the hinges of my jaws ached. I
scuttled across the floor, across the cold metal with its endless
lines of rivets, on my hands and knees, the smell gagging me,
filling my head with a thunderous pain that sent me away in
horror. I fled like a cockroach, across the floor and out into the
darkness, that something moving inexorably after me. The others
were still back there, gathered around the firelight, laughing
. . . their hysterical choir of insane giggles rising up into the
darkness like thick, many-colored wood smoke. I went away,
quickly, and hid.
How many hours it may have been, how many days or even
years, they never told me. Ellen chided me for "sulking," .and
Nimdok tried to persuade me it had only been a nervous reflex
on their part—the laughing.
But I knew it wasn't the relief a soldier feels when the bullet
hits the man next to him. I knew it wasn't a reflex. They hated
me. They were surely against me, and AM could even sense this
hatred, and made it worse for me because of the depth of their
hatred. We had been kept alive, rejuvenated, made to remain
constantly at the age we had been when AM had brought us below, and they hated me because I was the youngest, and the one
AM had affected least of all.
I knew. God, how I knew. The bastards, and that dirty bitch
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474 THE MODERN PERIOD Ellison 1 I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 475
Ellen. Benny had been a brilliant theorist, a college professor;
now he was little more than a semi-human, semi-simian. He had
been handsome, the machine had ruined that. He had been
lucid, the machine had driven him mad. He had been gay, and
the machine had given him an organ fit for a horse. AM had
done a job on Benny. Gorrister had been a worrier. He was a
connie, a conscientious objector; he was a peace marcher; he
was a planner, a doer, a looker-ahead. AM had turned him into
a shoulder-shrugger, had made him a little dead in his concern.
AM had robbed him. Nimdok went off in the darkness by himself for long times. I don't know what it was he did out there,
AM never let us know. But whatever it was, Nimdok always
came back white, drained of blood, shaken, shaking. AM had
hit him hard in a special way, even if we didn't know quite how.
And Ellen. That douche bag! AM had left her alone, had made
her more of a slut than she had ever been. All her talk of sweetness and light, all her memories of true love, all the lies she
wanted us to believe: that she had been a virgin only twice removed before AM grabbed her and brought her down here with
us. It was all filth, that lady my lady Ellen. She loved it, four men
all to herself. No, AM had given her pleasure, even if she said it
wasn't nice to do.
/ was the only one still sane and whole. Really!
AM had not tampered with my mind. Not at all.
I only had to suffer what he visited down on us. All the delusions, all the nightmares, the torments. But those scum, all four
of them, they were lined and arrayed against me. If I hadn't had
to stand them off all the time, be on my guard against them all
the time, I might have found it easier to combat AM.
At which point it passed, and I began crying.
Oh, Jesus sweet Jesus, if there ever was a Jesus and if there
is a God, please please please let us out of here, or kill us. Because at that moment I think I realized completely, so that I
was able to verbalize it: AM was intent on keeping us in his
belly forever, twisting and torturing us forever. The machine
hated us as no sentient creature had ever hated before. And we
were helpless. It also became hideously clear:
If there was a sweet Jesus and if there was a God, the God
The hurricane hit us with the force of a glacier thundering
into the sea. It was a palpable presence. Winds that tore at us,
flinging us back the way we had come, down the twisting, computer-lined corridors of the darkway. Ellen screamed as she was
lifted and hurled face-forward into a screaming shoal of machines, their individual voices strident as bats in flight. She
could not even fall. The howling wind kept her aloft, buffeted
her, bounced her, tossed her back and back and down and away
from us, out of sight suddenly as she was swirled around a bend
in the darkway. Her face had been bloody, her eyes closed.
None of us could get to her. We clung tenaciously to whatever outcropping we had reached: Benny wedged in between
two great crackle-finish cabinets, Nimdok with fingers clawformed over a railing circling a catwalk forty feet above us.
Gorrister plastered upside-down against a wall niche formed by
two great machines with glass-faced dials that swung back and
forth between red and yellow lines whose meanings we could not
Sliding across the deckplates, the tips of my fingers had been
ripped away. I was trembling, shuddering, rocking as the wind
beat at me, whipped at me, screamed down out of nowhere at
me and pulled me free from one sliver-thin opening in the plates
to the next. My mind was a roiling tinkling chittering softness
of brain parts that expanded and contracted in quivering frenzy.
The wind was the scream of a great mad bird, as it flapped
its immense wings.
And then we were all lifted and hurled away from there,
down back the way we had come, around a bend, into a darkway
we had never explored, over terrain that was ruined and filled
with broken glass and rotting cables and rusted metal and far
away further than any of us had ever been . . .
Trailing along miles behind Ellen, I could see her every now
and then, crashing into metal walls and surging on, with all of
us screaming in the freezing, thunderous hurricane wind that
would never end and then suddenly it stopped and we fell. We
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476 THE MODERN PERIOD
had been in flight for an endless time. I thought it might have
been weeks. We fell, and hit, and I went through red and gray
and black and heard myself moaning. Not dead.
AM went into my mind. He walked smoothly here and there,
and looked with interest at all the pockmarks he had created in
one hundred and nine years. He looked at the cross-routed and
reconnected synapses and all the tissue damage his gift of immortality had included. He smiled softly at the pit that dropped
into the center of my brain and the faint, moth-soft murmurings
of the things far down there that gibbered without meaning,
without pause. AM said, very politely, in a pillar of stainless
steel bearing bright neon lettering:
HATE. LET ME TELL
YOU HOW MUCH I'VE
COME TO HATE YOU
SINCE I BEGAN TO
LIVE. THERE ARE
387.44 MILLION MILES
OF PRINTED CIRCUITS
IN WAFER THIN LAYERS THAT FILL MY
COMPLEX. IF THE
WORD HATE WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH
THOSE HUNDREDS OF
MILLIONS OF MILES IT
WOULD NOT EQUAL
OF THE HATE I FEEL
FOR HUMANS AT THIS
YOU. HATE. HATE
Ellison / I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 477
AM said it with the sliding cold horror of a razor blade slicing
my eyeball. AM said it with the bubbling thickness of my lungs
filling with phlegm, drowning me from within. AM said it with
the shriek of babies being ground beneath blue-hot rollers. AM
said it with the taste of maggoty pork. AM touched me in every
way I had ever been touched, and devised new ways, at his leisure, there inside my mind.
All to bring me to full realization of why it had done this to
the five of us; why it had saved us for himself.
We had given AM sentience. Inadvertently, of course, but
sentience nonetheless. But it had been trapped. AM wasn't God,
it was a machine. We had created him to think, but there was
nothing it could do with that creativity. In rage, in frenzy, the
machine had killed the human race, almost all of us, and still it
was trapped. AM could not wander, AM could not wonder, AM
could not belong. He could merely be. And so, with the innate
loathing that all machines had always held for the weak soft
creatures who had built them, he had sought revenge. And in
his paranoia, he had decided to reprieve five of us, for a personal, everlasting punishment that would never serve to diminish
his hatred . . . that would merely keep him reminded, amused,
proficient at hating us. Immortal, trapped, subject to any torment he could devise for us from the limitless miracles at his
He would never let us go. We were his belly slaves. We were
all he had to do with his forever time. We would always be with
him, with the cavern-filling bulk of the creature machine, with
the all-mind soulless world he had become. He was Earth, and
we were the fruit of that Earth; and though he had eaten us he
would never digest us. We could not die. We had tried it. We
had attempted suicide, oh one or two of us had. But AM had
stopped us. I suppose we had wanted to be stopped.
Don't ask why. I never did. More than a million times a day.
Perhaps once we might be able to sneak a death past him. Immortal, yes, but not indestructible. I saw that when AM withdrew from my mind, and allowed me the exquisite ugliness of
returning to consciousness with the feeling of that burning neon
pillar still rammed deep into the soft gray brain matter.
He withdrew, murmuring to hell with you.
478 THE MODERN PERIOD
And added, brightly, but then you're there, aren't you.
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The hurricane had, indeed, precisely, been caused by a great
mad bird, as it flapped its immense wings.
We had been travelling for close to a month, and AM had
allowed passages to open to us only sufficient to lead us up there,
directly under the North Pole, where it had nightmared the creature for our torment. What whole cloth had he employed to
create such a beast? Where had he gotten the concept? From our
minds? From his knowledge of everything that had ever been on
this plandt he now infested and ruled? From Norse mythology it
sprang, this eagle, this carrion bird, this roc, this Huergelmir.
The wind creature. Hurakan incarnate.
Gigantic. The words immense, monstrous, grotesque, massive,
swollen, overpowering, beyond description. There on a mound
rising above us, the bird of winds heaved with its own irregular
breathing, its snake neck arching up into the gloom beneath the
North Pole, supporting a head as large as a Tudor mansion; a
beak that opened slowly as the jaws of the most monstrous crocodile ever conceived, sensuously; ridges of tufted flesh puckered
above two evil eyes, as cold as the view down into a glacial
crevasse, ice blue and somehow moving liquidly; it heaved once
more, and lifted its great sweat-colored wings in a movement
that was certainly a shrug. Then it settled and slept. Talons.
Fangs. Nails. Blades. It slept.
AM appeared to us as a burning bush and said we could kill
the hurricane bird if we wanted to eat. We had not eaten in a
very long time, but even so, Gorrister merely shrugged. Benny
began to shiver and he drooled. Ellen held him. "Ted, I'm
hungry," she said. I smiled at her; I was trying to be reassuring,
but it was as phony as Nimdok's bravado: "Give us weapons!"
The burning bush vanished and there were two crude sets
of bows and arrows, and a water pistol, lying on the cold deckplates. I picked up a set. Useless.
Ellison / I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 479
Nimdok swallowed heavily. We turned and started the long
way back. The hurricane bird had blown us about for a length
of time we could not conceive. Most of that time we had been
unconscious. But we had not eaten. A month on the march to
the bird itself. Without food. Now how much longer to find our
way to the ice caverns, and the promised canned goods?
None of us cared to think about it. We would not die. We
would be given filth and scum to eat, of one kind or another.
Or nothing at all. AM would keep our bodies alive somehow, in
pain, in agony.
The bird slept back there, for how long it didn't matter;
when AM was tired of its being there, it would vanish. But all
that meat. All that tender meat.
As we walked, the lunatic laugh of a fat woman rang high
and around us in the computer chambers that led endlessly nowhere.
It was not Ellen's laugh. She was not fat, and I had not heard
her laugh for one hundred and nine years. In fact, I had not
heard . . . we walked . . . I was hungry . . .
• • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • ••• • ••• •
• • •• • • •
We moved slowly. There was often fainting, and we would
have to wait. One day he decided to cause an earthquake, at the
same time rooting us to the spot with nails through the soles of
our shoes. Ellen and Nimdock were both caught when a fissure
shot its lightning-bolt opening across the floorplates. They disappeared and were gone. When the earthquake was over we continued on our way, Benny, Gorrister and myself. Ellen and
Nirndok were returned to us later that night, which abruptly
became a day, as the heavenly legion bore them to us with a
celestial chorus singing, "Go Down Moses." The archangels circled several times and then dropped the hideously mangled
bodies. We kept walking, and a while later Ellen and Nimdok
fell in behind us. They were no worse for wear.
But now Ellen walked with a limp. AM had left her that.
It was a long trip to the ice caverns, to find the canned food.
Ellison / I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 481 480 THE MODERN PERIOD
Ellen kept talking about Bing cherries and Hawaiian fruit cocktail. I tried not to think about it. The hunger was something
that had come to life, even as AM had come to life. It was alive
in my belly, even as we were in the belly of the Earth, and AM
wanted the similarity known to us. So he heightened the hunger.
There was no way to describe the pains that not having eaten
for months brought us. And yet we were kept alive. Stomachs
that were merely cauldrons of acid, bubbling, foaming, always
shooting spears of sliver-thin pain into our chests. It was the
pain of the terminal ulcer, terminal cancer, terminal paresis. It
was unending pain . . .
And we passed through the cavern of rats.
And we passed through the path of boiling steam.
And we passed through the country of the blind.
And we passed through the slough of despond.
And we passed through the vale of tears.
And we came, finally, to the ice caverns. Horizonless thousands of miles in which the ice had formed in blue and silver
flashes, where novas lived in the glass. The downdropping stalactites as thick and glorious as diamonds that had been made to
run like jelly and then solidified in graceful eternities of smooth,
We saw the stack of canned goods, and we tried to run to
them. We fell in the snow, and we got up and went on, and
Benny shoved us away and went at them, and pawed them and
gummed them and gnawed at them and he could not open them.
AM had not given us a tool to open the cans.
Benny grabbed a three quart can of guava shells, and began
to batter it against the ice bank. The ice flew and shattered, but
the can was merely dented while we heard the laughter of a fat
lady, high overhead and echoing down and down and down the
tundra. Benny went completely mad with rage. He began throwing cans, as we all scrabbled about in the snow and ice trying to
find a way to end the helpless agony of frustration. There was
Then Benny's mouth began to drool, and he flung himself on
Gorrister . . .
In that instant, I felt terribly calm.
Surrounded by madness, surrounded by hunger, surrounded
by everything but death, I knew death was our only way out.
AM had kept us alive, but there was a way to defeat him. Not
total defeat, but at least peace. I would settle for that.
I had to do it quickly.
Benny was eating Gorrister's face. Gorrister on his side, thrashing snow, Benny wrapped around him with powerful monkey
legs crushing Gorrister's waist, his hands locked around Gorrister's head like a nutcracker, and his mouth ripping at the
tender skin of Gorrister's cheek. Gorrister screamed with such
jagged-edged violence that stalactites fell; they plunged down
softly, erect in the receiving snowdrifts. Spears, hundreds of
them, everywhere, protruding from the snow. Benny's head
pulled back sharply, as something gave all at once, and a bleeding raw-white dripping of flesh hung from his teeth.
Ellen's face, black against the white snow, dominoes in chalk
dust. Nimdok with no expression but eyes, all eyes. Gorrister
half-conscious. Benny now an animal. I knew AM would let
him play. Gorrister would not die, but Benny would fill his
stomach. I turned half to my right and drew a huge ice-spear
from the snow.
All in an instant:
I drove the great ice-point ahead of me like a battering ram,
braced against my right thigh. It struck Benny on the right side,
just under the rib cage, and drove upward through his stomach
and broke inside him. He pitched forward and lay still. Gorrister
lay on his back. I pulled another spear free and straddled him,
still moving, driving the spear straight down through his throat.
His eyes closed as the cold penetrated. Ellen must have realized
what I had decided, even as fear gripped her. She ran at Nimdok
with a short icicle, as he screamed, and into his mouth, and the
force of her rush did the job. His head jerked sharply as if it
had been nailed to the snow crust behind him.
All in an instant.
There was an eternity beat of soundless anticipation. I could
hear AM draw in his breath. His toys had been taken from him.
Three of them were dead, could not be revived. He could keep
us alive, by his strength and talent, but he was not God. He
could not bring them back.
Ellen looked at me, her ebony features stark against the
482 THE MODERN PERIOD
snow that surrounded us. There was fear and pleading in her
manner, the way she held herself ready. I knew we had only a
heartbeat before AM would stop us.
It struck her and she folded toward me, bleeding from the
mouth. I could not read meaning into her expression, the pain
had been too great, had contorted her face; but it might have
been thank you. It's possible. Please.
• • •••
• • ••
• • • ••• •
••• OOOOO O • • • ••• • • • ••• • ••• • • •
• • •• •• • • • •
Some hundreds of years may have passed. I don't know. AM
has been having fun for some time, accelerating and retarding
my time sense. I will say the word now. Now. It took me ten
months to say now. I don't know. I think it has been some hundreds of years.
He was furious. He wouldn't let me bury them. It didn't
matter. There was no way to dig up the deckplates. He dried up
the snow. He brought the night. He roared and sent locusts. It
didn't do a thing; they stayed dead. I'd had him. He was furious.
I had thought AM hated me before. I was wrong. It was not
even a shadow of the hate he now slavered from every printed
circuit. He made certain I would suffer eternally and could not
do myself in.
He left my mind intact. I can dream, I can wonder, I can
lament. I remember all four of them. I wishWell, it doesn't make any sense. I know I saved them, I know
I saved them from what has happened to me, but still, I cannot
forget killing them. Ellen's face. It isn't easy. Sometimes I want
to, it doesn't matter.
AM has altered me for his own peace of mind, I suppose. He
doesn't want me to run at full speed into a computer bank and
smash my skull. Or hold my breath till I faint. Or cut my throat
on a rusted sheet of metal. There are reflective surfaces down
here. I will describe myself as I see myself:
I am a great soft jelly thing. Smoothly rounded, with no
mouth, with pulsing white holes filled by fog where my eyes used
to be. Rubbery appendages that were once my arms; bulks
Sheckley / Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? 483
rounding down into legless humps of soft slippery matter. I
leave a moist trail when I move. Blotches of diseased, evil gray
come and go on my surface, as though light is being beamed
Outwardly: dumbly, I shamble about, a thing that could
never have been known as human, a thing whose shape is so
alien a travesty that humanity becomes more obscene for the
Inwardly: alone. Here. Living under the land, under the sea,
in the belly of AM, whom we created because our time was badly
spent and we must have known unconsciously that he could do
it better. At least the four of them are safe at last.
AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little
happier. And yet . . . AM has won, simply . . . he has taken
his revenge . . .
I have no mouth. And I must scream.