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قراءة كتاب The Happy Unfortunate

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The Happy Unfortunate

The Happy Unfortunate

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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THE
HAPPY
UNFORTUNATE

By ROBERT SILVERBERG

Dekker, back from space, found great physical changes in the people of Earth; changes that would have horrified him five years before. But now, he wanted to be like the rest—even if he had to lose an eye and both ears to do it.

Rolf Dekker stared incredulously at the slim, handsome young Earther who was approaching the steps of Rolf's tumbling-down Spacertown shack. He's got no ears, Rolf noted in unbelief. After five years in space, Rolf had come home to a strangely-altered world, and he found it hard to accept.

Another Earther appeared. This one was about the same size, and gave the same impression of fragility. This one had ears, all right—and a pair of gleaming, two-inch horns on his forehead as well. I'll be eternally roasted, Rolf thought. Now I've seen everything.

Both Earthers were dressed in neat, gold-inlaid green tunics, costumes which looked terribly out of place amid the filth of Spacertown, and their hair was dyed a light green to match.

He had been scrutinizing them for several moments before they became aware of him. They both spotted him at once and the one with no ears turned to his companion and whispered something. Rolf, leaning forward, strained to hear.

"... beautiful, isn't he? That's the biggest one I've seen!"

"Come over here, won't you?" the horned one called, in a soft, gentle voice which contrasted oddly with the raucous bellowing Rolf had been accustomed to hearing in space. "We'd like to talk to you."

Just then Kanaday emerged from the door of the shack and limped down to the staircase.

The doctor refused to change Dekker, so Dekker was going to change the doctor.

"Hey, Rolf!" he called. "Leave those things alone!"

"Let me find out what they want first, huh?"

"Can't be any good, whatever it is," Kanaday growled. "Tell them to get out of here before I throw them back to wherever they came from. And make it fast."


The two Earthers looked at each other uneasily. Rolf walked toward them.

"He doesn't like Earthers, that's all," Rolf explained. "But he won't do anything but yell."

Kanaday spat in disgust, turned, and limped back inside the shack.

"I didn't know you were wearing horns," Rolf said.

The Earther flushed. "New style," he said. "Very expensive."

"Oh," Rolf said. "I'm new here; I just got back. Five years in space. When I left you people looked all alike. Now you wear horns."

"It's the new trend," said the earless one. "We're Individs. When you left the Conforms were in power, style-wise. But the new surgeons can do almost anything, you see."

The shadow of a frown crossed Rolf's face. "Anything?"

"Almost. They can't transform an Earther into a Spacer, and they don't think they ever will."

"Or vice versa?" Rolf asked.

They sniggered. "What Spacer would want to become an Earther? Who would give up that life, out in the stars?"

Rolf said nothing. He kicked at the heap of litter in the filthy street. What spacer indeed? he thought. He suddenly realized that the two little Earthers were staring up at him as if he were some sort of beast. He probably weighed as much as both of them, he knew, and at six-four he was better than a foot taller. They looked like children next to him, like toys. The savage blast of acceleration would snap their flimsy bodies like toothpicks.

"What places have you been to?" the earless one asked.

"Two years on Mars, one on Venus, one in the Belt, one on Neptune," Rolf recited. "I didn't like Neptune. It was best in the Belt; just our one ship, prospecting. We made a pile on Ceres—enough to buy out. I shot half of it

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