The Words of Guru by C. M. Kornbluth

that the rest of us were keeping up. Another of them did the same as the first, and we chanted louder for her and still louder for the third. Then, while we still beat our hands and thighs, one of them took up the third, laid her across the altar, and made her ready with a stone knife. The fire’s light gleamed off the chipped edge of obsidian. As her blood drained down the groove, cut as a gutter into the rock of the altar, we stopped our chant and the fires were snuffed out. But still we could see what was going on, for these things were, of course, not happening at all-only seeming to happen, really, just as all the people and things there only seemed to be what they were. Only I was real. That must be why they desired me so. As the last of the fires died Guru excitedly whispered: “The Presence!” He was very deeply moved. From the pool of blood from the third dancer’s body there issued the Presence. It was the tallest one there, and when it spoke its voice was deeper, and when it commanded its commands were obeyed. “Let blood!” it commanded, and we gashed ourselves with flints. It smiled and showed teeth bigger and sharper and whiter than any of the others. “Make water!” it commanded, and we all spat on each other. It flapped its wings and rolled its eyes, which were bigger and redder than any of the others. “Pass flame!” it commanded, and we breathed smoke and fire on our limbs. It stamped its feet, let blue flames roar from its mouth, and they were bigger and wilder than any of the others. Then it returned to the pool of blood and we lit the fires again. Guru was staring straight before him; I tugged his arm. He bowed as though we were meeting for the first time that night. “What are you thinking of?” I asked. “We shall go now.” “Yes,” he said heavily. “Now we shall go.” Then we said the word that had brought us there. The first man I killed was Brother Paul, at the school where I went to learn the things that Guru did not teach me. It was less than a year ago, but it seems like a very long time. I have killed so many times since then. “You’re a very bright boy, Peter,” said the brother. “Thank you, brother.” “But there are things about you that I don’t understand. Normally

I’d ask your parents but-I feel that they don’t understand either. You were an infant prodigy, weren’t you?” “Yes, brother.” “There’s nothing very unusual about that-glands, I’m told. You know what glands are?” Then I was alarmed. I had heard of them, but I was not certain whether they were the short, thick green men who wear only metal or the things with many legs with whom I talked in the woods. “How did you find out?” I asked him. “But Peter! You look positively frightened, lad! I don’t know a thing about them myself, but Father Frederick does. He has whole books about them, though I sometimes doubt whether he believes them himself.” “They aren’t good books, brother,” I said. “They ought to be burned.” * “That’s a savage thought, my son. But to return to your own problem-” I could not let him go any further knowing what he did about me. I said one of the words Guru taught me and he looked at first very surprised and then seemed to be in great pain. He dropped across his desk and I felt his wrist to make sure, for I had not used that word before. But he was dead. There was a heavy step outside and I made myself invisible. Stout Father Frederick entered, and I nearly killed him too with the word, but I knew that that would be very curious. I decided to wait, and went through the door as Father Frederick bent over the dead monk. He thought he was asleep. I went down the corridor to the book-lined office of the stout priest and, working quickly, piled all his books in the center of the room and lit them with my breath. Then I went down to the schoolyard and made myself visible again when there was nobody looking. It was very easy. I killed a man I passed on the street the next day. There was a girl named Mary who lived near us. She was fourteen then, and I desired her as those in the Cavern out of Time and Space had desired me. So when I saw Guru and he had bowed, I told him of it, and he looked at me in great surprise. “You are growing older, Peter,” he said.

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