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Sunday, July 20, 2014
SUNDAY REVIEW / SHORT FICTION FROM TWILIGHT ZONE WRITER
Note: The following short story is from The Project Gutenberg EBook of “The
Beautiful People,” by Charles Beaumont. This eBook
is in the public domain. For more EBooks by Project Gutenberg go to: www.gutenberg.org. Produced by Greg Weeks, Dianna
Adair and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
The Beautiful People
By Charles Beaumont
Mary sat quietly and watched the handsome man's legs blown off;
watched further as the great ship began to crumple and break into small pieces
in the middle of the blazing night. She fidgeted slightly as the men and the
parts of the men came floating dreamily through the wreckage out into the awful
silence. And when the meteorite shower came upon the men, gouging holes through
everything, tearing flesh and ripping bones, Mary closed her eyes.
Mrs. Cuberle glanced up
from her magazine.
"Do we have to wait
"I don't think so.
Mary said nothing but
looked at the moving wall.
Mrs. Cuberle laughed and shook her
head. "That tired old thing. Read a magazine, Mary, like I'm doing. We've
all seen that a million times."
"Does it have to be
"Well, nobody seems
to be watching. I don't think the doctor would mind if I switched it off."
Mrs. Cuberle rose from
the couch and walked to the wall. She depressed a little button and the life
went from the wall, flickering and glowing.
Mary opened her eyes.
Mrs. Cuberle said to a woman sitting beside her, "you'd think they'd try
to get something else. We might as well go to the museum and watch the first
landing on Mars. The Mayoraka Disaster—really!"
The woman replied
without distracting her eyes from the magazine page. "It's the doctor's
Mrs. Cuberle opened her
mouth and moved her head up and down knowingly.
"Ohhh. I should
have known there was some reason. Still, who watches it?"
"The children do.
Makes them think, makes them grateful or something."
Mary picked up a
magazine and leafed through the pages. All photographs, of women and men. Women
like Mother and like the others in the room; slender, tanned, shapely,
beautiful women; and men with large muscles and shiny hair. Women and men, all
looking alike, all perfect and beautiful. She folded the magazine and wondered
how to answer the questions that would be asked.
"Gracious, what is
it now! Can't you sit still for a minute?"
"But we've been
here three hours."
Mrs. Cuberle sniffed.
"Do—do I really
"Now don't be
silly, Mary. After those terrible things you told me, of course you
An olive-skinned woman
in a transparent white uniform came into the reception room.
"Cuberle. Mrs. Zena
"Doctor will see
Mrs. Cuberle took Mary's
hand and they walked behind the nurse down a long corridor.
A man who seemed in his
middle twenties looked up from a desk. He smiled and gestured toward two
THE doctor snapped his
"Of course, I know.
Your daughter. Ha ha, I certainly do know your trouble. Get so many of them
nowadays—takes up most of my time."
asked Mrs. Cuberle. "Frankly, it had begun to upset me."
"Upset? Hmm. Not
good. Not good at all. Ah, but then—if people did not get upset, we
psychiatrists would be out of a job, eh? Go the way of the early M. D. But, I
assure you, I need hear no more." He turned his handsome face to Mary."Little girl, how old are you?"
"Oh, a real bit of
impatience. It's just about time, of course. What might your name be?"
"Charming! And so
unusual. Well now, Mary, may I say that I understand your problem—understand it
Mrs. Cuberle smiled and
smoothed the sequins on her blouse.
"Madam, you have no
idea how many there are these days. Sometimes it preys on their minds so that
it affects them physically, even mentally. Makes them act strange, say
peculiar, unexpected things. One little girl I recall was so distraught she did
nothing but brood all day long. Can you imagine!"
"That's what Mary
does. When she finally told me, doctor, I thought she had gone—you know."
"That bad, eh?
Afraid we'll have to start a re-education program, very soon, or they'll all be
like this. I believe I'll suggest it to the senator day after tomorrow."
"I don't quite
Cuberle, that the children have got to be thoroughly instructed. Thoroughly.
Too much is taken for granted and childish minds somehow refuse to accept
things without definite reason. Children have become far too intellectual,
which, as I trust I needn't remind you, is a dangerous thing."
"Yes, but what has
this to do with—"
Everything, of course. Mary, like half the sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year
olds today, has begun to feel acutely self-conscious. She feels that her body
has developed sufficiently for the Transformation—which of course it has not,
not quite yet—and she cannot understand the complex reasons that compel her to
wait until some future date. Mary looks at you, at the women all about her, at
the pictures, and then she looks into a mirror. From pure perfection of body,
face, limbs, pigmentation, carriage, stance, from simon-pure perfection, if I
may be allowed the expression, she sees herself and is horrified. Isn't that
so, my dear child? Of course—of course. She asks herself, why must I be
hideous, unbalanced, oversize, undersize, full of revolting skin eruptions,
badly schemed organically? In short, Mary is tired of being a monster and is
overly anxious to achieve what almost everyone else has already achieved."
"This much you
understand, doubtless. Now, Mary, what you object to is that our society offers
you, and the others like you, no convincing logic on the side of waiting until
age nineteen. It is all taken for granted, and you want to know why! It is that
simple. A non-technical explanation will not suffice—mercy no! The modern child
wants facts, solid technical data, to satisfy her every question. And that, as
you can both see, will take a good deal of reorganizing."
"The child is
upset, nervous, tense; she acts strange, peculiar, odd, worries you and makes
herself ill because it is beyond our meagre powers to put it across. I tell
you, what we need is a whole new basis for learning. And, that will take doing. It will take doing, Mrs. Cuberle.
Now, don't you worry about Mary, and don't you worry, child.
I'll prescribe some pills and—"
"No, no, doctor!
You're all mixed up," cried Mrs. Cuberle.
"I beg your pardon,
"What I mean is,
you've got it wrong. Tell him, Mary, tell the doctor what you told me."
Mary shifted uneasily in
"It's that—I don't
well-proportioned jaw dropped.
"Would you please
"I said, I don't
want the Transformation."
"You see? She told
me. That's why I came to you."
The doctor looked at Mary
impossible! I have never heard of such a thing. Little girl, you are playing a
Mary nodded negatively.
"See, doctor. What
can it be?" Mrs. Cuberle rose and began to pace.
THE DOCTOR clucked his
tongue and took from a small cupboard a black box covered with buttons and
dials and wire.
"Oh no, you don't
think—I mean, could it?"
"We shall soon
see." The doctor revolved a number of dials and studied the single bulb in
the center of the box. It did not flicker. He removed handles from Mary's head.
"Dear me," the
doctor said, "dear me. Your daughter is perfectly sane, Mrs.
"Well, then what is
"Perhaps she is
lying. We haven't completely eliminated that factor as yet; it slips into
More tests. More
machines and more negative results.
Mary pushed her foot in
a circle on the floor. When the doctor put his hands to her shoulders, she
looked up pleasantly.
said the handsome man, "do you actually mean to tell us that you prefer that
"May I ask
"I like it.
It's—hard to explain, but it's me and that's what I like. Not the looks, maybe,
but the me."
"You can look in
the mirror and see yourself, then look at—well, at your mother and be
Mary thought of her reasons; fuzzy, vague, but very definitely there. Maybe she
had said the reason. No. Only a part of it.
Cuberle," the doctor said, "I suggest that your husband have a long
talk with Mary."
"My husband is
dead. That affair near Ganymede, I believe. Something like that."
Rocket man, eh? Very interesting organisms. Something always seems to happen to
rocket men, in one way or another. But—I suppose we should do something."
The doctor scratched his jaw. "When did she first start talking this
way," he asked.
"Oh, for quite some
time. I used to think it was because she was such a baby. But lately, the time
getting so close and all, I thought I'd better see you."
"Of course, yes,
very wise. Er—does she also do odd things?"
"Well, I found her
on the second level one night. She was lying on the floor and when I asked her
what she was doing, she said she was trying to sleep."
Mary flinched. She was
sorry, in a way, that Mother had found that out.
"To—did you say
"Now where could
she have picked that up?"
"Mary, don't you
know that nobody sleeps anymore? That we have an infinitely greater life-span
than our poor ancestors now that the wasteful state of unconsciousness has been
conquered? Child, have you actually slept? No one knows how
"No sir, but I
The doctor sighed.
"But, it's unheard of! How could you begin to try to do something people
have forgotten entirely about?"
"The way it was
described in the book, it sounded nice, that's all." Mary was feeling very
uncomfortable now. Home and no talking man in a foolish white gown....
"Book, book? Are
there books at your Unit, Madam?"
"There could be—I
haven't cleaned up in a while."
"That is certainly
peculiar. I haven't seen a book for years. Not since '17."
Mary began to fidget and
stare nervously about.
"But with the
tapes, why should you try and read books—where did you get them?"
"Daddy did. He got
them from his father and so did Grandpa. He said they're better than the tapes
and he was right."
Mrs. Cuberle flushed.
"My husband was a
little strange, Doctor Hortel. He kept those things despite everything I said.
"Dear me, I—excuse
black-haired doctor walked to another cabinet and selected from the shelf a
bottle. From the bottle he took two large pills and swallowed them.
want the Transformation—Mrs. Cuberle, my dear good woman, this
is grave. Doesn't want the Transformation. I would appreciate it if you would
change psychiatrists: I am very busy and, uh, this is somewhat specialized. I
suggest Centraldome. Many fine doctors there. Goodbye."
The doctor turned and
sat down in a large chair and folded his hands. Mary watched him and wondered
why the simple statements should have so changed things. But the doctor did not
move from the chair.
Mrs. Cuberle and walked quickly from the room.
The man's legs were
being blown off again as they left the reception room.
MARY considered the
reflection in the mirrored wall. She sat on the floor and looked at different
angles of herself: profile, full-face, full length, naked, clothed. Then she
took up the magazine and studied it. She sighed.
"Mirror, mirror on
the wall—" The words came haltingly to her mind and from her lips. She
hadn't read them, she recalled. Daddy had said them, quoted them as he put it. But they too were lines from a book—"who is the
A picture of Mother sat
upon the dresser and Mary considered this now. Looked for a long time at the
slender, feminine neck. The golden skin, smooth and without blemish, without
wrinkles and without age. The dark brown eyes and the thin tapers of eyebrows,
the long black lashes, set evenly, so that each half of the face corresponded
precisely. The half-parted-mouth, a violet tint against the gold, the white,
white teeth, even, sparkling.
Transformed Mother. And back again to the mirror.
The image of a rather
chubby girl, without lines of rhythm or grace, without perfection. Splotchy skin
full of little holes, puffs in the cheeks, red eruptions on the forehead.
Perspiration, shapeless hair flowing onto shapeless shoulders down a shapeless
body. Like all of them, before the Transformation.
Did they all look
like this, before? Did Mother, even?
Mary thought hard,
trying to remember exactly what Daddy and Grandpa had said, why they said the
Transformation was a bad thing, and why she believed and agreed with them so
strongly. It made little sense, but they were right. Theywere right!
And one day, she would understand completely.
Mrs. Cuberle slammed the
door angrily and Mary jumped to her feet. She hadn't forgotten about it.
"The way you upset Dr. Hortel. He won't even see me anymore, and these
traumas are getting horrible. I'll have to get that awful Dr. Wagoner."
Mrs. Cuberle sat on the
couch and crossed her legs carefully.
"What in the world
were you doing on the floor?"
"Now, I won't hear
of it! You've got to stop it! You know you're not insane. Why
should you want to do such a silly thing?"
"The books. And
Daddy told me about it."
"And you mustn't
read those terrible things."
"Why—is there a law
"Well, no, but
people tired of books when the tapes came in. You know that. The house is full
of tapes; anything you want."
Mary stuck out her lower
"They're no fun.
All about the Wars and the colonizations."
"And I suppose
books are fun?"
"And that's where
you got this idiotic notion that you don't want the Transformation, isn't it? Of
course it is. Well, we'll see to that!"
MRS. CUBERLE rose
quickly and took the books from the corner and from the closet and filled her
arms with them. She looked everywhere in the room and gathered the old rotten
These she carried from
the room and threw into the elevator. A button guided the doors shut.
"I thought you'd do
that," Mary said. "That's why I hid most of the good ones. Where
you'll never find them."
Mrs. Cuberle put a satin
handkerchief to her eyes and began to weep.
"Just look at you.
Look. I don't know what I ever did to deserve this!"
Mother? What am I doing that's so wrong?" Mary's mind rippled in a
Cuberle screamed, "What! Do you think I want people to
point to you and say I'm the mother of an idiot? That's what they'll say,
you'll see. Or," she looked up hopefully, "have you changed your
vague reasons, longing to be put into words.
"It doesn't hurt.
They just take off a little skin and put some on and give you pills and
electronic treatments and things like that. It doesn't take more than a
"Don't you want to
be beautiful, like other people—like me? Look at your friend Shala, she's
getting her Transformation next month. And she's almost pretty
"Mother, I don't
"If it's the bones
you're worried about, well, that doesn't hurt. They give you a shot and when
you wake up, everything's moulded right. Everything, to suit the
"I don't care, I
"I like me the way
I am." Almost—almost exactly. But not quite. Part of it, however. Part of
what Daddy and Grandpa meant.
"But you're so
ugly, dear! Like Dr. Hortel said. And Mr. Willmes, at the factory. He told some
people he thought you were the ugliest girl he'd ever seen. Says he'll be
thankful when you have your Transformation. And what if he hears of all this,
what'll happen then?"
"Daddy said I was
"Well really, dear.
You do have eyes."
"Daddy said that
real beauty is only skin deep. He said a lot of things like that and when I
read the books I felt the same way. I guess I don't want to look like everybody
else, that's all." No, that's not it. Not at all it.
"That man had too
much to do with you. You'll notice that he had his Transformation,
"But he was sorry.
He told me that if he had it to do over again, he'd never do it. He said for me
to be stronger than he was."
"Well, I won't have
it. You're not going to get away with this, young lady. After all, I am your
A bulb flickered in the
bathroom and Mrs. Cuberle walked uncertainly to the cabinet. She took out a
little cardboard box.
Mary nodded. That was
another thing the books talked about, which the tapes did not. Lunch seemed to
be something special long ago, or at least different. The books talked of
strange ways of putting a load of things into the mouth and chewing these
things. Enjoying them. Strange and somehow wonderful.
"And you'd better
get ready for work."
THE office was quiet and
without shadows. The walls gave off a steady luminescence, distributed the
light evenly upon all the desks and tables.
And it was neither hot nor cold.
Mary held the ruler
firmly and allowed the pen to travel down the metal edge effortlessly. The new
black lines were small and accurate. She tipped her head, compared the notes
beside her to the plan she was working on. She noticed the beautiful people
looking at her more furtively than before, and she wondered about this as she
made her lines.
A tall man rose from his
desk in the rear of the office and walked down the aisle to Mary's table. He
surveyed her work, allowing his eyes to travel cautiously from her face to the
Mary looked around.
said the man.
"Thank you, Mr.
have anything to complain about. That crane should hold the whole damn
"It's very good
"Yeah. Say, kid,
you got a minute?"
"Let's go into
The big handsome man led
the way into a small cubby-hole of a room. He motioned to a chair and sat on
the edge of one desk.
"Kid, I never was
one to beat around the bush. Somebody called in little while ago, gave me some
crazy story about you not wanting the Transformation."
"Oh." Daddy had said it would have to happen, some day. This must be
what he meant.
"I would've told
them they were way off the beam, but I wanted to talk to you first, get it
"Well, sir, it's
true. I don't. I want to stay this way."
The man looked at Mary
and then coughed, embarrassedly.
hell—excuse me, kid, but—I don't exactly get it. You, uh, you saw the
"Yes sir. I'm not
insane. Dr. Hortel can tell you."
"I didn't mean
anything like that. Well—" the man laughed nervously. "I don't know what
to say. You're still a cub, but you do swell work. Lot of good results, lots of
comments from the stations. But, Mr. Poole won't like it."
"I know. I know
what you mean, Mr. Willmes. But nothing can change my mind. I want to stay this
way and that's all there is to it."
"But—you'll get old
before you're half through life."
Yes, she would. Old,
like the Elders, wrinkled and brittle, unable to move right. Old. "It's
hard to make you understand. But I don't see why it should make any
"Don't go getting
me wrong, now. It's not me, but, you know, I don't own Interplan. I just work
here. Mr. Poole likes things running smooth and it's my job to carry it out.
And soon as everybody finds out, things wouldn't run smooth. There'll be a big
stink. The dames will start asking questions and talk."
"Will you accept my
resignation, then, Mr. Willmes?"
"Sure you won't
change your mind?"
"No sir. I decided
that a long time ago. And I'm sorry now that I told Mother or anyone else. No
sir, I won't change my mind."
"Well, I'm sorry,
Mary. You been doing awful swell work. Couple of years
you could be centralled on one of the asteroids, the way you been working. But
if you should change your mind, there'll always be a job for you here."
"Okay then. You've
got till March. And between you and me, I hope by then you've decided the other
Mary walked back down
the aisle, past the rows of desks. Past the men and women. The handsome, model
men and the beautiful, perfect women, perfect, all perfect, all looking alike.
Looking exactly alike.
She sat down again and
took up her ruler and pen.
MARY stepped into the
elevator and descended several hundred feet. At the Second Level she pressed a
button and the elevator stopped. The doors opened with another button and the
doors to her Unit with still another.
Mrs. Cuberle sat on the
floor by the T-V, disconsolate and red-eyed. Her blond hair had come slightly
askew and a few strands hung over her forehead. "You don't need to tell
me. No one will hire you."
Mary sat beside her
mother. "If you only hadn't told Mr. Willmes in the first place—"
thought he could beat a little sense into you."
The sounds from the T-V
grew louder. Mrs. Cuberle changed channels and finally turned it off.
"What did you do
today, Mother?" Mary smiled.
"Do? What can I do,
now? Nobody will even come over! I told you what would happen."
"They say you
should be in the Circuses."
Mary went into another
room. Mrs. Cuberle followed. "How are we going to live? Where does the
money come from now? Just because you're stubborn on this crazy idea. Crazy
crazy crazy! Can I support both of us? They'll be firing me,
"Why is this
"Because of you,
that's why. Nobody else on this planet has ever refused the Transformation. But
you turn it down. Youwant to be ugly!"
Mary put her arms about
her mother's shoulders. "I wish I could explain, I've tried so hard to. It
isn't that I want to bother anyone, or that Daddy wanted me to. I just don't
want the Transformation."
Mrs. Cuberle reached
into the pockets of her blouse and got a purple pill. She swallowed the pill.
When the letter dropped from the chute, Mrs. Cuberle ran to snatch it up. She
read it once, silently, then smiled.
"Oh, I was afraid
they wouldn't answer. But we'll see about this now!"
She gave the letter to
Mrs. Zena Cuberle
Unit 451 D
Levels II & III
In re your letter of Dec
3 36. We have carefully examined your complaint and consider that it requires
stringent measures. Quite frankly, the possibility of such a complaint has never
occurred to this Dept. and we therefore cannot make positive directives at the
However, due to the
unusual qualities of the matter, we have arranged an audience at Centraldome,
Eighth Level, Sixteenth Unit, Jan 3 37, 23 sharp. Dr. Elph Hortel has been
instructed to attend. You will bring the subject in question.
Mary let the paper flutter
to the floor. She walked quietly to the elevator and set it for Level III. When
the elevator stopped, she ran from it, crying, into her room.
She thought and
remembered and tried to sort out and put together. Daddy had said it, Grandpa
had, the books did. Yes, the books did.
She read until her eyes
burned and her eyes burned until she could read no more. Then Mary went to
sleep, softly and without realizing it, for the first time.
But the sleep was not
gentlemen," said the young-looking, well groomed man, "this problem
does not resolve easily. Dr. Hortel here, testifies that Mary Cuberle is
definitely not insane. Drs. Monagh, Prinn and Fedders all verify this judgment.
Dr. Prinn asserts that the human organism is no longer so constructed as to
create and sustain such an attitude through deliberate falsehood. Further,
there is positively nothing in the structure of Mary Cuberle which might
suggest difficulties in Transformation. There is evidence for all these
statements. And yet we are faced with this refusal. What, may I ask, is to be
Mary looked at a metal
"We have been in
session far too long, holding up far too many other pressing contingencies. The
trouble on Mercury, for example. We'll have to straighten that
Throughout the rows of
beautiful people, the mumbling increased. Mrs. Cuberle sat nervously, tapping
her shoe and running a comb through her hair.
"Mary Cuberle, you
have been given innumerable chances to reconsider, you know."
Mary said, "I know.
But I don't want to."
The beautiful people
looked at Mary and laughed. Some shook their heads.
The man threw up his
hands. "Little girl, can you realize what an issue you have caused? The
unrest, the wasted time? Do you fully understand what you have done?
Intergalactic questions hang fire while you sit there saying the same thing
over and over. Doesn't the happiness of your Mother mean anything to you?"
A slender, supple woman
in a back row cried, "We want action. Do something!"
The man in the high stool
raised his hand. "None of that, now. We must conform, even though the
question is out of the ordinary." He leafed through a number of papers on
his desk, leaned down and whispered into the ear of a strong blond man. Then he
turned to Mary again. "Child,
for the last time. Do you reconsider? Will you accept the Transformation?"
The man shrugged his
shoulders. "Very well, then. I have here a petition, signed by two
thousand individuals and representing all the Stations of Earth. They have been
made aware of all the facts and have submitted the petition voluntarily. It's
all so unusual and I'd hoped we wouldn't have to—but the petition urges drastic
The mumbling rose.
"The petition urges
that you shall, upon final refusal, be forced by law to accept the
Transformation. And that an act of legislature shall make this universal and
binding in the future."
Mary's eyes were open,
wide. She stood and paused before speaking.
The man passed a hand
through his hair.
Another voice from the
crowd, "Seems to be a lot of questions unanswered here."
And another, "Sign
the petition, Senator!"
All the voices,
"Sign it, sign it!"
Mary began to cry. The voices stilled for a moment.
"If you'd only tell
me that. Tell me!"
"Why, it simply
isn't being done, that's all. The greatest gift of all, and what if others
should get the same idea? What would happen to us then, little girl? We'd be
right back to the ugly, thin, fat, unhealthy-looking race we were ages ago!
There can't be any exceptions."
"Maybe they didn't
consider themselves so ugly."
The mumbling began anew.
"That isn't the
point," cried the man. "You must conform!"
And the voices cried
"Yes" loudly until the man took up a pen and signed the papers on his
Mrs. Cuberle patted Mary
on the top of her head.
she said, happily, "Everything will be all right now. You'll see,
Parlor Covered the entire Level, sprawling with its departments. It was always
filled and there was nothing to sign and no money to pay and people were always
waiting in line.
But today the people
stood aside. And there were still more, looking in through doors, TV cameras
placed throughout the tape machines in every corner. It was filled, but not
bustling as usual.
Mary walked past the
people, Mother and the men in back of her, following. She looked at the people.
The people were beautiful, perfect, without a single flaw.
All the beautiful
people. All the ugly people, staring out from bodies that were not theirs.
Walking on legs that had been made for them, laughing with manufactured voices,
gesturing with shaped and fashioned arms.
Mary walked slowly,
despite the prodding. In her eyes, in her eyes, was a mounting
confusion; a wide, wide wonderment.
The reason was becoming
less vague; the fuzzed edges were falling away
now. Through all the horrible months and all the horrible moments, the edges
fell away. Now it was almost clear.
She looked down at her
own body, then at the walls which reflected it. Flesh of her flesh, bone of her
bone, all hers, made by no one, built by herself or someone she did not know.
Uneven kneecaps, making two grinning cherubs when they bent, and the old
familiar rubbing together of fat inner thighs. Fat, unshapely, unsystematic
Mary. But Mary.
Of course. Of course!
This was what Daddy meant, what Grandpa and the books meant.
What they would know if they would read the books or hear the
words, the good, reasonable words, the words that signified more, much more,
than any of this.
The understanding heaped
up with each step.
"Where are these
people?" Mary asked half to herself. "What has happened to them and
don't they miss themselves, these manufactured things?"
She stopped, suddenly.
"Yes! That is the
reason. They have all forgotten themselves!"
A curvacious woman
stepped forward and took Mary's hand. The woman's skin was tinted dark. Chipped
and sculptured bone into slender rhythmic lines, electrically created carriage,
stance, made, turned out.
"All right, young
lady. We will begin."
They guided Mary to a
large, curved leather seat.
From the top of a long
silver pole a machine lowered itself. Tiny bulbs glowed to life and cells began
to click. The people stared. Slowly a picture formed upon the screen in the
machine. Bulbs directed at Mary, then redirected into the machine. Wheels
turning, buttons ticking.
The picture was
"Would you like to
Mary closed her eyes,
"It's really very
nice." The woman turned to the crowd. "Oh yes, there's a great deal
to be salvaged; you'd be surprised. A great deal. We'll keep the nose and I
don't believe the elbows will have to be altered at all."
Mrs. Cuberle looked at
Mary and smiled. "Now, it isn't so bad as you thought, is it?" she
The beautiful people
looked. Cameras turned, tapes wound.
"You'll have to
excuse us now. Only the machines allowed."
Only the machines.
The people filed out.
Mary saw the rooms in
the mirror. Saw things in the rooms, the faces and bodies that had been left;
the woman and the machines and the old young men standing about, adjusting,
Then she looked at the
picture in the screen.
A woman of medium height
stared back at her. A woman with a curved body and thin legs; silver hair,
pompadoured, cut short; full sensuous lips, small breasts, flat stomach,
A strange, strange woman
no one had ever seen before.
The nurse began to take
Mary's clothes off.
woman said, "come look at this, will
you. Not one so bad in years. Amazing that we can keep anything at all."
The handsome man put his
hands in his pockets.
"Pretty bad, all
"Be still, child,
stop making those noises. You know perfectly well nothing is going to
"But—what will you
do with me?"
"That was all
explained to you."
"No, no, with me, me!"
"Oh, you mean the
castoffs. The usual. I don't know exactly. Somebody takes care of it."
"I want me!"
Mary cried. "Not that!" She pointed at the screen.
HER chair was wheeled into a semi-dark room. She was naked now,
and the men lifted her to a table. The surface was like glass, black, filmed. A
big machine hung above.
Straps. Clamps pulling,
stretching limbs apart. The screen with the picture brought in. The men and the
woman, more women now. Dr. Hortel in a corner, sitting with his legs crossed,
shaking his head.
Mary began to cry above
the hum of the mechanical things.
"Shhh. My gracious,
such a racket! Just think about your job waiting for you, and all the friends
you'll have and how nice everything will be. No more trouble now."
The big machine hurtling
"Where will I
find me?" Mary screamed, "when it's all over?"
A long needle slid into
rough flesh and the beautiful people gathered around the table.
They turned on the big
Bio:Charles Beaumont, 38, died in 1967 from a brain disorder, according to
newspaper accounts.The zenith of his
career was the decade before his death.He was a screenwriter and author of short stories.Many of his tales were made into TV’s
“Twilight Zone” series.