Ripeness Is All
By JESSE ROARKE
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Fantastic Stories
of Imagination May 1962. Extensive research
did not uncover
evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication
_Shakespeare wrote it, in the tragedy
of King Lear--a phrase
to live by:
Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;_
He was disturbed, but he did not know it. Murky, agitated waters crept
up in his vast subconscious world, and sought the threshold, the mouth
of the pit, the slope of the clean shore; little rainbows of light
now and then flashed over the waters. They heaved, and against the
sluice-gates they beat, sullenly. There was a yielding, but the great
force was contained.
He left his Pad, curiously
mopping his brow a little, and furrowing it
between the eyes. It came to him that he was hungry. He stepped to the
curb, pushed the button, and leaned against the post, as if waiting, or
in thought. Almost immediately a Car appeared, in a cheery
green. He almost shuddered, and he almost knew that he did so. Then he
brightened, stepped into the car, and voiced his desire.
He was carried at a moderate
pace through clean, broad streets and past
bright, shiny buildings and smiling parks and gardens. He came to the
top of a high hill, saw the sparkling blue bay in the distance, and
of sailing upon it. On his face he felt a brisk spray,
and the air was tanged with salt. Then a warmed, faintly
glow dried and composed
him, and the Car shut off all its machinery
and glided to a stop. He got out, ever so comfortable, and entered a
luxurious Kitchen, in which he had not dined for several days.
The doors opened automatically, and a smiling android, gaily featured
and clothed, conducted him to a table. She was a soothing sight: yes,
that's what it was. He ordered a sumptuous
meal, rubbing his ample
waistline in anticipation.
"Dig dig!" crooned the waitress.
He patted good-naturedly her well-moulded behind as she turned; she
back over her soft and delicate
shoulder. He wondered if
Meg was enough, and decided
that, well, for the time being, he guessed
she was. No use hurrying things. The waitress returned and served the
meal. As always, it was excellent. He finished with a leisurely
of wine and a cigar, pinched the waitress's firm yet ever so yielding
thigh, and departed.
Then a deep stirring
almost took hold upon him. Yes, that was what
he needed. It had been several months now. He pushed another button,
and a rosy pink Car appeared to his service. "Take me to a House, you
know what I mean?" he said, as he arranged himself upon the pearl grey
cushions. The Car glided away.
* * * * *
On and on along the shore of the ocean they pleasantly
length they turned into a rich garden bower, and stopped in front of
a great mansion
overlooking the waves. He alighted; the Car departed.
Profusely bloomed scarlet
and golden and azure flowers, everywhere;
succulent and bright was the lavish
green. The doors opened, and a Woman
received him. She was past child-bearing, motherly, and smiling.
He smiled back, and said, "You got one, huh?"
"Of course," she answered.
He sat down to wait.
And while he waited, he almost thought. Meg was good, all right, but
why wasn't she enough, sometimes? He tapped his thumb-nail against his
teeth in a few moments of near perplexity, and then desisted. Soon a
bevy of charming
Girls entered the room and paraded for him, laughing
and smiling. He settled upon a petite brunette with cherry
stripped him of his clothes, and they went walking in a private garden.
In an inner bower they sat down to a rustic
table, and were served by
robot with a heady aphrodisiac wine. On the grasses and the petals
of flowers, overlooking the sea, they entwined their limbs and their
bodies, and he nearly enjoyed her. He thought that once he had enjoyed
this activity indeed, and wondered whether it were so.
He sat looking over the waters, trying
to muse. The androids were
physically perfect, flesh meeting flesh, clinging to it, thrilling with
it. They were warm, they whispered, they strained and cried. They were
freely available, for every man and woman. None need be unsatisfied.
But he did not know all of this, history and psychology
were lost to
him and he could never keep a connected train of thought; his being
unsatisfied could not penetrate
to his consciousness. He did not quite
know that flesh cried out for something more than flesh, and had
always done so. He did know, more or less, that there was the matter
of population, and that real men and real women had, at mysterious
intervals, to copulate. That was the way it was. He had once spent some
time in a House himself, meeting the requirements of an endless variety
of Girls. He supposed
that some of them had borne the issue of his seed,
though he did not suppose it in these terms. But it was better not to
know these things for certain, and not to have anything to do with
the rearing of children, after the early mother-feeling was over. The
Schools could take care of that better than people could.
She snuggled against him.
"What say, Man?" she said: "What's eatin yuh?"
He did not know how to answer. He tried to talk, tried to break through,
"What's it, huh?" he nearly pleaded. "All this, I mean. Like what's it
She stretched out on the grass and looked at him a moment.
"Search me," she ventured. "I guess maybe what you need's a Bed."
He guessed she was right.
* * * * *
They went back to the mansion
through the twilight, and established
themselves in one of the rooms. The soft curtains were drawn, the Bed
was large, the sheets were silky and creamy. She reclined on her back,
and the mattress
moulded itself perfectly
to her form.
He lay down beside her, and caressed her. She clasped him tight to
her breast. And he was clasped also by an invisible
but very palpable
field of energy, that directed his movements and charged him with an
inexhaustible and ceaseless
power. He held her tight, and the force
entwined them. They were one throbbing ecstasy, and only at the very
last endurable moment were they given release.
Then the Bed slowly soothed them, massaged them, and invigorated them
once again. Throughout the night it continued, activity and repose,
until toward the dawn he fell into a dead sleep, which lasted until the
He did not know that he dreamed. He did not consciously remember any
of it. He only knew, as he ate his ample breakfast, that he was not so
thoroughly at peace as he should have been. And he knew that it was
useless to ask the Woman, or one of the Girls.
But the Woman's androids did well by her, it seemed. Maybe he had better
go home to Meg.
"What the square, anyhow?" he said to himself. A little more rest in his
familiar surroundings, and he would be all right. A Bed always took a
lot out of a man. He arose to go.
"Goodbye, dear," the Woman said, as he came to the head of the main
path. She was serene
He adjusted his tunic, and smiled in reply. Yes sir, the old world was
in good shape, just like always. He signaled for a Car. The bright ocean
again passed by him, and the broad sands, and he dozed.
* * * * *
The dreams were more importunate, this time. When he awoke, with a blank
start, the Car was cruising aimlessly. He looked around, and broke into
a sweat. There was a button
he had to push, somewhere, there was a
handle he had to take hold of. He stammered out "Stop--now!" and stepped
onto the curb. The car sped away, to another summons. He was before an
Emporium, but he did not enter. Instead, he did an unprecedented
he went for a walk, through the streets of the City. This was not done,
and none of the occupants of the passing cars observed him.
He was really wondering, now. Could something be wrong? This
possibility, with all its full horror, had never entered his mind
before; indeed, he did not even have the conceptions of rightness
and wrongness, and yet there was the inescapable word, "wrong". His
agitation increased. He found himself with the hardly formulated idea
that a school was a place where one learned
something, and he did not
know what this could mean.
He thought of the School that he had attended. All the young people of
the District of Fransco attended it: they had been told that there were
other Schools, in other districts, and that they were all the same.
He had believed it, and forgotten about it. What did it matter? One
district was as good as another. He had never travelled. He knew a Man
who had gone to the District of Shasta, but he had not been interested
about it. He remembered that the Man had said it was all the
same thing, not worth the bother. One had everything he needed, in his
own place. But now it seemed that he needed something more, something
nobody had ever heard of. He walked on, thinking about the School.
Everybody was born in a House, and kept there till he was weaned, and
could walk. Then he was taken to the School. There he grew up in an
atmosphere of Group Living, and was gradually showed everything that he
needed--everything that there was. The hes and shes played together;
they were instructed in the Ways of Life.
As they grew older, they were taken around the City. They were showed
the places that the Cars could take them; they were showed how to push
the buttons. Of course the robots did a perfect job of instruction.
There were Kitchens, in which one could eat. There were parks and
gardens, in which one could stroll
and lounge. There were Emporiums, in
which one could get clothes and things. It was all--as it was.
When one reached puberty, he was taken from the School, and given a
Pad. There he lived, listening to the soft music that came from the
walls, eating and sleeping. And doing. He selected his android from an
Emporium, and did her as he pleased. She was his company, the Warmth of
his Pad. She shopped in the Emporium for him, she fixed him cozy little
meals, and brought him his pipe or his cigar. She spread the depilatory
cream upon his face in the morning, and wiped, with so soft a touch, his
beard away; and she bathed him, in the scented waters.
* * * * *
He remembered that after a year or two, he had felt almost restless.
From his touch, Meg had understood. She had whispered "House" to him,
and he had gone out and instructed a Car. That had been his first
experience of a Girl. He supposed
that it had been the same with the
others. He had never inquired. In the garden bower the idea of children
had come to him, and his mind had been at rest. He had not tried a Bed
until the fifth or sixth time. He had, he supposed, taken for granted
that the Girls lived in the same way that he did. They had their own
androids, their own Pads. They never associated with the Men, except in
a House. Men got together sometimes, and ate and drank, and had android
orgies; no doubt the Girls did likewise.
With a great effort, aided by hints from what he could remember of Life,
he pieced an idea together, not knowing
what he had done. Of course
human copulation was too dangerous: it might make one unhappy. He had
learned, in the bowers, that Man and Girl were not of the same temper,
and that their union was not always perfect. Somehow it was better, even
so, but it was too difficult. It tended to be--painful.
He did not know the word. He did not know any of the words for these
strange thoughts of his, but they were now very palpable to him, and
very urgent. His android was his, and was never dissatisfied; and so,
neither was he. It was a perfect and complete system. And what was
happening to him? The word "happiness" came upon him, and he shuddered,
almost in terror. What did it mean? Too many things were happening, all
* * * * *
He turned into a street, and stopped. He had never seen it before.
But why should this disturb
him? The District was a big place. But he
thought he had better get out of this street. Maybe pick up another
android, maybe even take her home: have a redhead for awhile, maybe. Meg
wouldn't mind. How could she? What was the matter with him? Other Men
changed readily, or kept a whole Padful. The waitresses were much in
demand. One did not even have to take them home: there were convenient
rooms in every Kitchen.
Then suddenly all this was shaken
from him. He was standing
large building, and he did not know what it was.
He stood for a long time, looking at it. Now and then a Man seemed
to pass, but he could not be sure. It was like a shadow, like the
flickering of a breeze. He wondered what the building could be.
At length he seemed to hear a murmur as of the waters, and at last a
voice broke upon him.
"This is a library," it said. "There are books here, and teachers, from
whom you can learn."
It was too much. He screamed, and ran down the street.
After a few blocks he became calmer; forgetfulness
rescued him. He
pushed a button, and a Car conveyed him to his Pad.
Meg met him, all warmth
and smiles. He sat down, and she brought him his
slippers and a cold bottle of beer. He drank deeply. She sat on the arm
of his chair, caressed him, and asked if he would like some dinner. She
He cut her short.
"Meg, honey," he said, "I'm a little tired, that's how. You go to bed
now, huh, put on some of that jasmine perfume? You dig?"
"Sure, honey! Dig dig!" she replied.
The dark waters rose, and beat against him.
He finished his beer, and got himself another.
Meg whispered, "Say, honey!" The bed rustled softly.
He fought down his mind, and rapidly drank his beer. Almost as ever,
he embraced the Warmth, and slid into a comfortable oblivion. Meg lay
beside him in the darkness.
* * * * *
He awoke early, and she laid her hand upon him.
Abruptly, he squirmed away.
"Don't do that!" His voice was loud. "It's no good, all that stuff!
He jumped out of bed, and began rapidly to put on his clothes.
Meg lay still for a moment. Her circuits were not built for such things.
There was nothing wrong, and nothing registered. Then the cheery
music started out of the wall, soothing and bright, and she began to hum
with it. She arose, went lightly
to her dressing, freshly
tripped into the kitchen.
"Scrambled eggs, honey?" she asked, in the most caressive of tones.
He had all but forgotten his outburst.
"Yeh, sure honey", he answered.
He ate copiously, and drank several cups of black coffee.
"Fine day!" he said, belching his appreciation.
He patted his companion
good morning, exceptionally
went out into the street.
There he met an old friend and drinking companion. He lived next door,
it seemed. They were neighbors! He had seldom been so glad to see
anyone, as this old friend.