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Title: Beside the golden door

Author: Henry Slesar

Illustrator: George Schelling

Release date: December 15, 2023 [eBook #72420]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1963

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Illustrated by SCHELLING

Earth was dead, but Liberty still held her torch
aloft. Yet only Deez, the alien, could know whether
it was raised in welcome or in mockery.

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Amazing Stories February 1964.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Devia's voice, like a sweetly tinkling bell in his ear, sounded in Ky-Tann's headpiece, and he chuckled at the urgency of her tone. Wedded less than two years, he still delighted in every nuance of her nature, and this was one of them. She could sound equally urgent about an impending hurricane or an imminent dinner party.

With a sigh, he switched off the electron microscope and touched his Answer button lightly. "Yes, my darling? What is it?"

"Haven't you heard? It's been on every newsray for the past six hours. I thought you'd have called me by now—"

"I never use the newsray during duty hours," he said patiently. "I prefer not to be interrupted." Ky-Tann was a metals stress analyst at the Roa-Pitin Spaceworks.

Devia missed or ignored the implied criticism. "I'm sure you would have wanted to hear this. Your friend Deez just returned from that exploration of his. He came back a hero, too."

"Deez?" Ky-Tann said; shouted in fact. "Deez back? Devia, are you sure you heard it right?"

"Of course I did. And Deez himself called, not more than five minutes ago. He said the Administrators had him and his crew quarantined for the moment, but he plans to break loose tonight. If he can manage it, he'll be here before the second sunset. Isn't it wonderful?"

"It's wonderful, all right. Only where was he? What did he do that made him such a hero?"

"I couldn't gather too much from the newsray, except that he found a world somewhere that has the Archeological Commission excited as children—"

"You mean an inhabited world?" Ky-Tann said skeptically.

"Once inhabited, anyway. Please don't ask me to explain it, Ky, ask newsray or Deez himself, you know how stupid I am about such things."

He chuckled, and said something loving in their private code, and switched off. His curiosity about Deez' discovery rivaled his excitement about seeing his friend again; in a hundred years of exploration, the space vessels of Illyri had merely confirmed the ancient belief that Life was a rare and precious gift. They had found slugs and lichen and moss on rocky, almost-airless worlds; they had seen wild plant growth in steaming alien jungles; the sea creatures of the Planet Vosa, despite their infinite variety, proved utterly lacking in intelligence. Once, on an unnamed world in the Acheos galaxy, the great space pioneer Val-Rion unearthed the artifacts of a dead civilization and stunned the people of Illyri by his announcement. He claimed to have found written language, works of art, implements and weapons. Val-Rion was a brave man and a mighty adventurer, but a poor scholar. In the time it took Illyri's double suns to rise and set, the Archeological Commission completed a study of his findings and declared it a not-too-clever hoax, perpetrated by students of the University of Space Sciences. To the end of his days, even after some of the students came forward to admit their deception, Val-Rion persisted in his belief that the finding was authentic, and squandered his fortune in an attempt to interpret the mysterious language. He failed, of course; the "language" was nonsense. Some of the students had been sensitive enough to regret their hoax; one of them, Deez-Cor, named his ship after the late explorer.

But now the Val-Rion and her crew were home, after an odyssey so long overdue that the Space Commission had officially declared the expedition lost.

Ky-Tann had never mourned for his missing friend. Sense told him that the Val-Rion was gone, atomized by its own engines, shriveled by some alien sun or demolished on the terrain of some unfriendly world. But he refused to make the admission, even after official hope was gone; he continued to envision Deez at the controls of his ship, grinning cockily into space, eyes challenging the void.

He left the spaceworks early and flew his Sked home at just above the legal airspeed. If he had expected to find his wife excited by the prospect of Deez' visit, he was mistaken. Su-Tann had a new tooth, and Devia was more elated by the sight of the little white stump in the baby's mouth than she could be by all the extra-illyrian worlds in the known galaxies. But when Deez arrived as promised, right after the second sunset, she burst into tears at the sight of him.

Ky-Tann himself swallowed hard as he embraced his friend. Deez was gaunt inside his spaceman's coveralls, the bones in his face pronounced. The skin of his right cheek and neck had been burned, and the hair whitened on that side, giving him a strangely off-balance look. He grinned as Deez always grinned, but when he stopped grinning his eyes were weary.

"You must rest, Deez," Devia said sorrowfully. "It must have been awful for you."

"No," Deez answered. "I want to talk, Devia, I can't tell you how much I've wanted to see you both, to tell you about it."

Ky-Tann said: "The Administrators must have given you a rough time."

"I've turned over all our film records to them, and the artifacts we stored aboard. But I haven't really talked to anyone." He licked his dry lips, and brushed a hand over the whitened side of his hair. "The baby," he said softly. "Could I see the baby?"

"What?" Ky-Tann seemed surprised at the request.

Devia leaped to her feet. "Of course, Deez, I'll bring her." To Ky-Tann, she said: "Ky, you idiot, get Deez a drink or something."

"I just want to see the baby. It's a girl, isn't it?"

"Her name is Su-Tann," Devia said.

When the baby was brought into the room, cooing softly and trying her new tooth against a thumbnail, Deez took the infant into his lap and studied its small, chubby face with an air of solemnity that troubled Ky-Tann and his wife. After a moment, Deez smiled painfully. "What luck," he said. "She looks like you, Devia. It would have been awful if she had looked like Ky."

Devia laughed, but they could see that Deez had labored to make the joke. She took the infant from him, and let Su-Tann crawl about the heated floor. Deez watched her progress and then looked up, flashing his old grin. "But I suppose you're waiting to hear about my great Discovery? Think of it, Ky! A dead planet, a genuine lost civilization! Not a hoax this time...." He spoke avidly, but his eyes were bewildered, the eyes of a man injured in battle.

"It can wait," Ky-Tann said. "You're tired, Deez."

"I'll tell you now," Deez said.

"It was in the second quadrant of the galaxy as charted by Roa-Pitin, the outer spiral arm we call Evarion; our hydrogen radiation equipment had been receiving an exciting pattern of signals since our journey had begun. Of course, we weren't the first exploration team to be lured by those signals, countless others had dashed themselves to pieces for that electronic siren song. We employed every navigational device we knew to put us within range of the strongest beams, but the fact that we succeeded can only be described as an accident—or the will of a power greater than anything we know."

Ky-Tann looked narrow-eyed. "A Super-Being?"

"A Super-Memory," Deez said. "Let's call it that. At any rate, our equipment fixed on a star of low magnitude with a nine-planet system. Simple calculation of distances and spectroscopic readings eliminated all but one of the worlds as suitable for exploration. It was the third planet in relative distance from its sun. But we felt no unusual expectation as we prepared for landfall; the closer we came, the more we recognized the bleak, airless type of world that has become so familiar to the exploration ships of Illyri that we call them nothing more than cosmic debris.

"We made our landing on the ledge of a gigantic basin that might once have been the container for a vast ocean. Gi-Linn, our ship's scientist, was convinced by the configuration of its floor that the planet had once been blessed with water, air, and in all probability, some form of life. He speculated that the vanished ocean might have once teemed with creatures as those we discovered on Vosa. He was doubtful, however, that life forms had become more advanced than Vosa's. Gi-Linn has a way of leaping to conclusions, a smug fellow. I was pleased to see him proved wrong.

"We skedded across this dry ocean floor a distance of some two to three thousand amfions, and found its peaks and valleys marvelous to behold but utterly devoid of vegetation. Gi-Linn made some cursory examinations of mineral specimens during our flight, and reported that the planet's crust was an astonishing mixture of various layers, ranging in geological age from millions of years to mere thousands. It was further evidence that this world hadn't always been a barren rock, that a cataclysmic volcanic upheaval had altered its terrain, sifted and blended its strata, had dried its oceans and swallowed its continents. For the first time, we began to look upon this particular planet with more than routine interest.

"And then we saw it.

"At first, Totin, our navigator, swore it was only an optical trick, an illusion of the sort we had encountered on other worlds. Once, on a planet in the Casserian system, we had each of us seen a herd of cattle grazing peacefully in a green field—this on a planet of interminable yellow dust. But there was nothing dreamlike about the great metallic ruin that came into our sight, this giant who seemed to lift its shattered arm to us in greeting.

"I have seen terrors, and beasts, and horrors of the flesh, but I tell you now that never before have I experienced such a pounding of the heart as when that alien monument came into view. For not only was it plainly a remnant of a forgotten civilization, the first we had ever found, but it was also apparent that the ancients who had lived—and died—on this world had been cut from the same evolutionary cloth as we of Illyri.

"The figure was that of a woman."

Devia, who had been listening open-mouthed, said:

"A woman! Deez, how thrilling! It's like some marvelous old fable—"

"She stood some ninety amfs high," Deez said, "buried to the shoulder in the arid soil of the planet. Her right arm was extended towards the heavens, and clutched within her hand was a torch plainly meant to symbolize the shedding of light. Her headpiece was a crown of spikes, her features noble and filled with sadness. She was blackened with the grime of centuries, battered by time, and yet still wonderfully preserved in the airless atmosphere.

"We were thrilled by the sight of this ancient wonder, and speculated about its builders. Had they been giants her size, or had they erected her as a Colossus to celebrate some great deed or personage or ruler? What did she mean to her builders, what did her uplifted torch signify? What aspirations, hopes, dreams? Could we find the answer beneath that dry soil?"

"Did you dig?" Ky-Tann said, his eyes shining with excitement. "You weren't equipped for any major excavation work, were you?"

"No; the most we could have done was scratch the surface of the planet, perhaps enough to free the entire figure of the Colossus. But that wasn't enough; we burned with curiosity to know what lay under our feet, what buried cities, people, histories.... Totin set up a signal station, and beamed our message to the space station on Briaticus. After a few days, we made contact, and relayed our story. There was skepticism at first, but they finally agreed to dispatch all available manpower and excavation equipment to the planet Earth."

"The planet what?" Devia said.

"Earth," Deez said, with a wan smile. "That was its name, eons ago, and the builders, who were called Earthmen, lived within natural and artificial boundaries called nations, empires, states, dominions, protectorates, satellites, and commonwealths. That empty globe had once housed as many as three billion of these Earthmen, and their works were prodigious. Their science was advanced, and they had already thrust their ships into the space of their own solar system...."

Ky-Tann was plainly startled.

"Deez, you're really serious about this? It's not another hoax?"

"I've seen the ruins of their cities, I've touched their dry bones, I've turned the pages of their books...." Deez' eyes glowed, pulsating eerily. "We found libraries, Ky, great volumes of writing, in languages astonishingly varied and yet many that were swiftly encodable.... We've seen their machines and their houses, their working tools and their play-things. We found their histories, records of their bodies and voices, their manners and morals and sometimes mad behavior ... Ky!" Deez said, his voice choked. "It'll take a hundred years to understand all we've found!"

Devia rose quickly at the sound of his agitated voice, and went to his side. "Try not to overexcite yourself," she said. "I know how you must feel...."

"You can't. You can't possibly," Deez muttered. "To know the overwhelming—greediness I felt—turned loose in an archeological treasure house—I began waking up at night, sweating at the thought that I might die before I had seen all there was to see on that planet, read all its books, learned all its secrets—"

"And what did you learn?" Ky-Tann said.

Deez stood up slowly. He crossed the room to the view-glass, but they knew his eyes looked out at nothing.

"I learned," he said bitterly, "that it was a world which deserved to die."

On a balmy June evening, in the Spring of 1973, Dr. Carl Woodward opened his front door on a new era. The man who stood on his doorstep—Woodward never thought of Borsu as anything but a "man"—wore a sleeveless tunic that glistened like snake-skin. He was holding something in his hands, as if proferring it, a foot-square metallic box with rounded corners and a diamond-shaped screen that showed a moving tracery of spidery-thin lines.

Woodward was sixty-one. He had been a naval surgeon in two wars, and had lost a leg during the Inchon landing. He had survived the loss, but a treacherous heart condition forced his retirement. He chose a small village in Eastern Pennsylvania. He lived with a dog and a thousand books. Borsu, the alien, could not have chanced on a better host that night.

"Yes, what is it?" Woodward said. When no answer came, the doctor realized that his visitor expected him to watch the screen. He did. The lines wavered, shifted, blurred in their excitation, but conveyed nothing. Panacea, Woodward's aging beagle, finally came out of his warm bed near the furnace and set up a furious barking.

"Pan!" Woodward snapped. "Shut up, you mutt! Look, mister, perhaps if you came inside—"

Then his eyes became adjusted to the diamond-shaped screen; he saw a picture. The scene was a forest; there was the gleam of crumpled metal, and a prostrate figure lying on the leaf-strewn floor. It was the portrait of an accident, and Woodward was intuitive enough to know that the man in the doorway had come for help.

"You want me to come with you, is that it?" he said. "Is your friend hurt? How did it happen?"

The screen refocused. Now Woodward saw the injured "man" more closely, saw the face blue in the moonlight, saw the lacerations on his cheek and forehead. Then the "camera" traveled downwards, towards the ribs, almost as if it were exploring the extent of the injuries for diagnosis (later, he learned this was true).

"Well, come on," he said gruffly. He took his coat and instrument bag from the hall closet, and shut the door on Panacea's hysteria. When he was outside with his visitor, he saw his face for the first time. Then he knew that the face he had seen in the tiny screen hadn't merely looked blue in the moonlight. It was blue. A smoky, almost lavender blue. Those who came to hate the aliens described it as purple, but Borsu, his dying companion, and all the aliens who followed were blue-skinned.

Woodward was in a fever of excitement by the time he reached the scene of the crash, in the woods some five hundred yards from his home. He understood its significance by now, knew that the fallen vessel had been some kind of space craft, that its dual occupants were visitors from another world. The fact that he had been first on the scene thrilled him; the fact that he was a doctor, and could help, gratified him.

But there was nothing in his black bag which could aid the crash victim. His black-pupiled eyes rolled in the handsome blue head, and his fine-boned blue hand reached for the touch of his companion's fingers in a gesture of farewell. Then he was dead.

"I'm sorry," Woodward said. "Your friend is gone."

There was no grief evident in the placid blue face that looked down at the body. Once again, the alien lifted the metal box and forced the doctor's attention on the diamond-shaped screen.

The picture was that of Woodward's house.

"You want to come home with me?" Woodward said. Then he gasped as he saw himself on the screen, entering the house, alone. Then he realized that the scene typified a request—or a command. The man from space wanted the doctor to return home.

"All right," he said reluctantly. "I'll go home, my friend. But I can tell you right now—don't expect me to keep all this a secret."

He turned, and limped through the woods.

Woodward had just entered the house when the woods burst with light, one incredible split-second of white fire that lit the world for miles. It was the alien's funeral pyre.

Then the alien came back. When the doctor answered the door, he strode into the room purposefully, and placed his strange visual aid on a table top. He looked squarely at Woodward, and then placed a finger in the center of his smooth blue forehead.

"Borsu," he said.

The doctor hesitated. Was the alien identifying himself by name? Indicating himself by the most vital organ, his brain?

The doctor pointed to his own forehead.

"Carl," he said.

Then he looked about, and his eyes fell on the book he had been reading. He picked it up, and tapped its cover.

"Book," he said.

The stranger took it from his hand.

"Book," he said. "Borsu, Carl. Book."

And the alien smiled.

Woodward handled his request to see Ridgemont, Secretary of Science, with extreme care. He understood the functions and fears of the bureaucrat, the ever-present concern about wasting time on crackpots, lobbyists, representatives of various useless or lunatic fringe groups. He had arranged the meeting through the Secretary of the Navy, and made certain that Ridgemont knew of his good service record, that he was convinced that Woodward was a man of sound mind and character. Only then did he make the appointment.

Yet despite his precautions, Ridgemont looked at Woodward exactly as the doctor knew he would.

"A man from where?" he said.

"From outer space," Woodward said quietly. "Not from our own solar system, but from another. Their world exists no longer. Borsu and the others recall nothing about it, but that was a case of deliberate Forgetting; I'll tell you about that later. The important thing is—"

"The important thing," Woodward said icily, "is for you to see the right person. Frankly, this department isn't concerned with—extra-terrestrial matters. Perhaps the Department of Defense—"

"I've thought about this for some time," Woodward persisted. "I believe you're the one person most capable of both understanding and helping. Please don't disappoint me."

Perhaps Ridgemont was flattered; at any rate, he calmed down and let the doctor speak.

"Borsu and a companion came to Earth about a month ago, their descent undetected except by the astronomical observatory at Clifton; if you check with meteor landing. But it wasn't a meteor. It was a space vessel, and its crash killed Borsu's friend. You won't find traces of it, either, because Borsu followed his people's tradition of totally annihilating the remains. No, it wasn't a secret weapon of any kind; he merely triggered the ship's atomic reactor.

"Borsu came to me by chance. But when he discovered I was sympathetic, he allowed me to become his mentor and teacher of language. I couldn't have wanted a better student; he's already read and digested half the books I own.

"I have had long conversation with Borsu, about his past and his future hopes; indeed, the hopes of his entire race. When I learned his story, and understood why he came to our world, I decided to act as his emissary. Borsu has a mortal—and understandable—fear of being treated like a freak or a guinea pig. I'm here to pave the way for him, and the others."

Ridgemont must have been aware of Woodward's sincerity; he looked astonished.

"You really mean this, don't you?" he said. "A man from another planet is here, with you?"

"Yes," Woodward said firmly. "In my own home. But I cannot give you the name of his world, and neither can Borsu. At the moment, their way-station is an airless asteroid in our solar system, where they are living in an artificial atmosphere and surviving on synthetic food. There are fewer than ten thousand of them, refugees from a world which suffered a fate so terrible that they have allowed themselves to forget everything about it."

"Forget? What do you mean?"

"They have a belief, an ancient conviction, about Forgetting. I don't know whether it's cultural, or religious, or scientific in origin; but each generation conceals the past from the new generation, especially those things in the past which have been unpleasant or hurtful. They are future-minded; they believe their children are sounder mentally if they know nothing of past evils. Whatever happened on the world of their birth is a story only their dead ancestors knew. Their interest is only in tomorrow."

"And just what kind of tomorrow do they have in mind?"

Woodward took a deep breath.

"They wish to migrate to Earth, Mr. Ridgemont. All of them. Their evolutionary development was virtually identical to ours; when I marveled at this, Borsu laughed heartily at me. It is the belief of their science—or perhaps their theology—that the physical form both races share is the only one possible to the intelligent beings of the universe. So you see," Woodward said wryly, "perhaps the old prophets were right, when they said that God made Man in his own image. Perhaps it's the only possible image in the cosmos."

"Then they look like us? Exactly like us?"

"Not exactly, no. There are some—surface differences. I know nothing of Borsu's interior construction, only X rays could tell us that."

Ridgemont said, suspiciously: "What surface differences?"

"They are somewhat more angular than we are, a bit taller. Their craniums are larger, their shoulders narrower and bones finer. Borsu told me that they have no tonsils or appendix. In a way, they might be one lateral step higher on the evolutionary scale than the people of Earth. Their science is slightly more advanced in some areas, behind us in others. And of course, the number of their scientists and technicians is greatly limited." Woodward paused. "And they are blue. A soft, pleasant shade, but unmistakably—blue."

The Secretary's chair creaked.

"And they want to settle here? Among us?"

"They feel sure that our races will be compatible, sharing as we do our evolutionary heritage, that—"

"One moment," Ridgemont said sharply. "When you say compatible—are you implying that these creatures can interbreed with us?"

The doctor winced at the word "creatures." But his reply was soft.

"No," he said. "That coincidence would be too great. But they have no such desires; they will be happy to produce their own future generations of citizens. They have deliberately controlled their birthrate until they could find a home. Earth can be that home, Mr. Ridgemont, but they wish to be sure of a welcome."

The Secretary stood up, and came to the front of the desk to face the doctor.

"Dr. Woodward," he said, "your story is an incredible one, but for the moment I'll assume that everything you've said is true. Naturally, visitors from another planet—who mean us no harm, and who can impart knowledge to us—would be more than welcome on Earth. They would be celebrated by every man of Science on this planet."

"Borsu understands that. But it's not the scientists whose welcome they seek. It's the people of Earth."

"Doctor, I cannot speak for the people of Earth." Ridgemont frowned, and rubbed his forehead. "Where would these aliens of yours want to live? How would they live? Assimilated among the peoples of Earth? In their own community, a nation reserved for them alone?"

"I can't say. These are questions to be decided by others—"

"Does this Borsu expect us to guarantee this welcome? To assure them that they will be received with open arms? People are strange. Once the initial excitement of their arrival is over, who can say how ordinary citizens will react?"

"You must understand that they come in peace and friendship. They are tired, weary of searching for a home. They need our help—"

"You say they're blue, doctor." Ridgemont's eyes were penetrating. "Do you think the world can withstand still another race problem? Do you?"

"I don't know," Woodward said miserably. "I'm only Borsu's friend, Mr. Ridgemont, his emissary. I can't answer questions like this. I thought that you, a man of science—"

"As a scientist, your Borsu fascinates me, of course. I'd like to interrogate him for years. I'd like to dissect his mind and body until I know everything about him and his people. But you're asking me a different question. You're asking—do I want Borsu as a neighbor?"

Woodward stood up. His face was pale, and the leg that wasn't there throbbed with pain. He was sweating, a gray sweat that coursed down his seamed cheek and soiled the collar of his shirt.

"I don't feel well," he said. "If you'd excuse me—"

"Of course," Ridgemont said solicitously. "We can talk more about this later, when you feel up to it...."

"Yes," Woodward said.

That night, in a hotel room in Washington, Dr. Carl Woodward died of a coronary thrombosis.

Secretary of Science Ridgemont, however, was curious enough about the doctor's story to send a deputation to his home in Pennsylvania. As a simple precaution, one of the men in the party was an armed policeman named Sergeant Kemmer. At the first sight of the blue-skinned man, Kemmer became alarmed enough to draw his gun. Borsu recognized the weapon, and its dangerous potential, from his reading. Frightened, he tried to flee through the front door, and Kemmer misinterpreted his movement as an attack. He fired three times. One of the bullets penetrated Borsu's temple, and killed him instantly.

Three months passed before the next delegation from the aliens appeared on Earth. This time, their arrival was detected, and the visitors were brought safely to the local authorities in the Nebraska community where their vessel landed. Their names were Cor, Basuc, and Stytin. Stytin was a female, lovely in her blue-skinned shapeliness.

A team of scientists were dispatched from Washington, Tokyo, and London to take charge of the alien trio. It was another two weeks before their marvelous facility with language permitted them to talk intelligently to their examiners.

On November 8, 1973, Stytin, the blue female, was found assaulted, mutilated, and murdered in the woods near the town of Ponchi. The brutal slaying shocked the scientists, who tried to assure Cor and Basuc that the episode had not been typical of the behavior of the people of Earth. But Cor and Basuc, who had no memory-record of killing, became terrified, and fled. Cor was shot and killed by a farmer, and Basuc was accidently drowned while forging a stream during his escape.

The death of the four aliens, however, didn't prevent the migration from beginning. Hunger—not for food alone, but for the blessed green promise of the Earth—drove the blue aliens to make the journey before receiving assurance of their welcome. Their tiny two, three, and four-man craft began dotting the heavens, filling the world with fears and panics that were only partially allayed by the repeated assurances of the world's leaders. Despite explanations and pleas for order, the blue people were frequently slain the moment their ships touched Earth. There was never an official estimate of the deaths, but it was certain that well over three thousand of the aliens lost their lives before ever tasting a drop of cool Earth water, or knowing the shade of an Earth tree, the peaceful blue of an Earth sky.

Finally, the killings were over. Less than seven thousand Blues survived the perilous journey, protected upon their arrival by contingents of armed soldiers, sped to the scene of the landings in time to stop the citizens from their slaughter.

It was Mostyn Herbert, Secretary-General of the United Nations, who made the first speech of welcome, before the general assembly.

"The world," he said, "has seen a new migration in these past months, an event which has brought new hours of infamy to the human race. The savagery of man to beast, the bestiality of man to man, has now been exceeded by our shameful record of cruelty towards these homeless wanderers from a forgotten world. We have slain almost a third of their number wantonly and without cause. They proffered to us the wisdom and knowledge of their own civilization, and asked for nothing in return but sanctuary. We have answered them with murder, and rape, and a bigotry that has exceeded all others in the long and reeking history of human injustice. It is time for the human race to call a halt; not merely for the sake of our alien visitors, but for the sake of the almighty soul of Man. We must hold out our hand, and say 'Welcome. Welcome to Earth!'"

Moved by the plea of the Secretary-General, the assembly voted to form a 12-nation commission to study the problem. Many governments made offers of hospitality to the aliens; the United States, Canada, Australia, the Scandinavian and Low Countries, all expressed a willingness to set aside land areas for the exclusive use of the aliens. The U.S.S.R. made no offer of land, but suggested that the Blues could be completely integrated into Russian society. The choice was left to the Blues and their leader, an Elder named Trecor.

The wisdom of Trecor's decision became a subject of debate for generations to come. He declined to isolate his people as a "nation," separate and apart from the human race. He declined to have them as boarders within any one sovereign state. Instead, he asked that the Blues be divided into small communities and dispersed over the world, where each could work out their individual destiny. His purpose was a noble one: he wished to make his people truly the neighbors, even the partners, of the Earthmen.

And so it was.

In the United States, a Blue community began a collective farming project on acreage deeded to them by the government in Kansas. Within three years, the crops of winter wheat and corn produced on the Blue farmlands were so superior in quality that they provoked the admiration, and envy, of every farmer in the district. In '77, the year of the Terrible Twisters, only the Blue farmlands were miraculously spared the destruction of their fields. The ignorant claimed that some spiritual agency had helped the Blues; the more enlightened credited the sturdiness of their crops. But both became united in a sullen resentment of the Blues, the strangers who had committed the unpardonable sin of prospering in a season of want. From these beginnings came the illicit organization of terrorists who called themselves the Dom-Dom, a name originally meaning Defenders of Mankind. Between the years 1977 and 1991, the Dom-Dom could take the blame for the violent deaths of more than a thousand Blues.

In New Zealand, another farming community of Blues fared better than their fellows in Kansas. But in the year 1982, they fell victim to the still-unnamed plague which Earthmen merely called the Blue Disease. It seemed to strike only the aliens, but it resembled typhoid in its symptoms and deadly progress. The Blues themselves became unable to cope with the disease; their pleas for outside medical help brought only a handful of Earth physicians. When one of them, a Dr. Martin Roebuck, died of a seizure that the Blues swore was unrelated to the plague, the others fled in fear of contagion. Their statement to the world press claimed that the biological differences between Earthmen and Blues were too great for Earth medicine to be of value. And so the Blues of New Zealand died. The white flash of their funeral pyres lit the night again and again.

In Russia, a non-farming community of Blues, composed mainly of artists and scientists, lived in a government-constructed "city" and were carefully nurtured and pampered like talented, precocious children. After five years of this treatment, the Blues sickened of it and yearned for a freer life. With the eyes of the world upon them, the Russians quickly agreed to the Blue demands. Yes, they could do as they please, live as they please, work as they please. One by one, their privileges were withdrawn. The Blues found that they had to provide their own food, their own clothing, maintain their own shelters; the Russians had given them independence with a vengeance. They found themselves unable to care for their own elementary needs; they were like helpless children; they began quarreling among themselves. For the first time in the remembered history of the race, a Blue killed another Blue; it was said that the shame of this episode was the cause of the Elder Trecor's death. Eventually, the Blues surrendered; they preferred the easy comforts of their prison, and begged their jailers to lower the bars again.

In the thirty-six years of the Blues' residence on Earth, only four thousand births were recorded; while ten thousand of the race perished.

It was in the year 2009, following the Kansas City Massacre by the Dom-Dom, in which eight hundred Blues died under the flamethrowers of the terrorists, that the Decision was reached. It was relayed to the world by an Elder named Dasru, whose prepared statement was read to the United Nations.

"We came to your world unbidden and unwelcome," the statement said. "We came to your world asking no privilege, bearing no arms, wishing for no more than forbearance for our differences, patience for our ignorance, and sympathy for our homelessness. We offered love and received hatred. We came in peace and died in war.

"We love the sweet green fields of your planet, its clear water and skies, its generous soil. But you have never permitted Earth to become our home, and so we leave you. We leave you, people of the cruel planet. Rather than suffer your bigotry, and yes, your tolerance, we leave you. We go to seek another homeland, and in the minds of our future generations no memory of this hated visit shall remain. We shall Forget you, Earth; but may you always remember, what drove us from your world."

Then the exodus began. One by one, the small spacecraft of the Blues began to rise towards the heavens. Before the next Spring came to Earth, the Blues were gone.

Ky-Tann cleared his throat, and looked at his young wife. Devia stared at Deez.

"How long ago?" Ky-Tann asked. "When did this happen?"

"Perhaps three, four thousand years ago," Deez said. "They left the Earth to its fate, and eventually that fate was extinction. Some defect in its sun caused an outburst of nuclear fire, and shriveled the planet to what it has become. But still she stands, their goddess of welcome, lifting her torch to the empty skies.

"When we dug up that statue, do you know what we found? There was an inscription on the base. When we learned the story of that planet's past, the irony of those words was poignant."

"Do you remember them?"

"I could never forget them," Deez said, and his eyes were dark. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

There was silence. Ky-Tann became aware of his wife's tears.

He went to her, and she wiped her eyes. "I'd better put Su-Tann to bed," she said, trying to smile at Deez. "Did you see her tooth, Deez? It's her very first."

Ky-Tann took his wife's blue hand, and kissed her blue cheek. "A beautiful tooth," he said.