"The wub, sir," Peterson said. "It spoke!"
BEYOND LIES THE WUB
By PHILIP K. DICK
The slovenly wub might well have said: Many men
talk like philosophers and live like fools.
They had almost finished with the
loading. Outside stood the Optus, his
arms folded, his face sunk in gloom.
Captain Franco walked leisurely down the
"What's the matter?" he said. "You're
getting paid for all this."
The Optus said nothing. He turned away,
collecting his robes. The Captain put his
boot on the hem of the robe.
"Just a minute. Don't go off. I'm not
"Oh?" The Optus turned with dignity. "I
am going back to the village." He looked
toward the animals and birds being driven
up the gangplank into the spaceship. "I
must organize new hunts."
Franco lit a cigarette. "Why not? You
people can go out into the veldt and track
it all down again. But when we run out
halfway between Mars and Earth—"
The Optus went off, wordless. Franco
joined the first mate at the bottom of the
"How's it coming?" he said. He looked
at his watch. "We got a good bargain
The mate glanced at him sourly. "How
do you explain that?"
"What's the matter with you? We need
it more than they do."
"I'll see you later, Captain." The mate
threaded his way up the plank, between the
long-legged Martian go-birds, into the ship.
Franco watched him disappear. He was just
starting up after him, up the plank toward
the port, when he saw it.
"My God!" He stood staring, his hands
on his hips. Peterson was walking along
the path, his face red, leading it by a string.
"I'm sorry, Captain," he said, tugging at
the string. Franco walked toward him.
"What is it?"
The wub stood sagging, its great body
settling slowly. It was sitting down, its eyes
half shut. A few flies buzzed about its flank,
and it switched its tail.
It sat. There was silence.
"It's a wub," Peterson said. "I got it from
a native for fifty cents. He said it was a
very unusual animal. Very respected."
"This?" Franco poked the great sloping
side of the wub. "It's a pig! A huge dirty
"Yes sir, it's a pig. The natives call it a
"A huge pig. It must weigh four hundred
pounds." Franco grabbed a tuft of the
rough hair. The wub gasped. Its eyes
opened, small and moist. Then its great
A tear rolled down the wub's cheek and
splashed on the floor.
"Maybe it's good to eat," Peterson said
"We'll soon find out," Franco said.
The wub survived the take-off, sound
asleep in the hold of the ship. When
they were out in space and everything was
running smoothly, Captain Franco bade his
men fetch the wub upstairs so that he might
perceive what manner of beast it was.
The wub grunted and wheezed, squeezing
up the passageway.
"Come on," Jones grated, pulling at the
rope. The wub twisted, rubbing its skin off
on the smooth chrome walls. It burst into
the ante-room, tumbling down in a heap.
The men leaped up.
"Good Lord," French said. "What is it?"
"Peterson says it's a wub," Jones said.
"It belongs to him." He kicked at the wub.
The wub stood up unsteadily, panting.
"What's the matter with it?" French came
over. "Is it going to be sick?"
They watched. The wub rolled its eyes
mournfully. It gazed around at the men.
"I think it's thirsty," Peterson said. He
went to get some water. French shook his
"No wonder we had so much trouble taking
off. I had to reset all my ballast calculations."
Peterson came back with the water. The
wub began to lap gratefully, splashing the
Captain Franco appeared at the door.
"Let's have a look at it." He advanced,
squinting critically. "You got this for fifty
"Yes, sir," Peterson said. "It eats almost
anything. I fed it on grain and it liked that.
And then potatoes, and mash, and scraps
from the table, and milk. It seems to enjoy
eating. After it eats it lies down and goes
"I see," Captain Franco said. "Now, as
to its taste. That's the real question. I doubt
if there's much point in fattening it up any
more. It seems fat enough to me already.
Where's the cook? I want him here. I want
to find out—"
The wub stopped lapping and looked up
at the Captain.
"Really, Captain," the wub said. "I suggest
we talk of other matters."
The room was silent.
"What was that?" Franco said. "Just
"The wub, sir," Peterson said. "It spoke."
They all looked at the wub.
"What did it say? What did it say?"
"It suggested we talk about other things."
Franco walked toward the wub. He went
all around it, examining it from every side.
Then he came back over and stood with the
"I wonder if there's a native inside it,"
he said thoughtfully. "Maybe we should
open it up and have a look."
"Oh, goodness!" the wub cried. "Is that
all you people can think of, killing and cutting?"
Franco clenched his fists. "Come out of
there! Whoever you are, come out!"
Nothing stirred. The men stood together,
their faces blank, staring at the wub. The
wub swished its tail. It belched suddenly.
"I beg your pardon," the wub said.
"I don't think there's anyone in there,"
Jones said in a low voice. They all looked
at each other.
The cook came in.
"You wanted me, Captain?" he said.
"What's this thing?"
"This is a wub," Franco said. "It's to be
eaten. Will you measure it and figure out—"
"I think we should have a talk," the wub
said. "I'd like to discuss this with you,
Captain, if I might. I can see that you and
I do not agree on some basic issues."
The Captain took a long time to answer.
The wub waited good-naturedly, licking the
water from its jowls.
"Come into my office," the Captain said
at last. He turned and walked out of the
room. The wub rose and padded after him.
The men watched it go out. They heard it
climbing the stairs.
"I wonder what the outcome will be," the
cook said. "Well, I'll be in the kitchen. Let
me know as soon as you hear."
"Sure," Jones said. "Sure."
The wub eased itself down in the corner
with a sigh. "You must forgive me," it
said. "I'm afraid I'm addicted to various
forms of relaxation. When one is as large
The Captain nodded impatiently. He sat
down at his desk and folded his hands.
"All right," he said. "Let's get started.
You're a wub? Is that correct?"
The wub shrugged. "I suppose so. That's
what they call us, the natives, I mean. We
have our own term."
"And you speak English? You've been in
contact with Earthmen before?"
"Then how do you do it?"
"Speak English? Am I speaking English?
I'm not conscious of speaking anything in
particular. I examined your mind—"
"I studied the contents, especially the
semantic warehouse, as I refer to it—"
"I see," the Captain said. "Telepathy. Of
"We are a very old race," the wub said.
"Very old and very ponderous. It is difficult
for us to move around. You can appreciate
that anything so slow and heavy would be
at the mercy of more agile forms of life.
There was no use in our relying on physical
defenses. How could we win? Too heavy to
run, too soft to fight, too good-natured to
hunt for game—"
"How do you live?"
"Plants. Vegetables. We can eat almost
anything. We're very catholic. Tolerant,
eclectic, catholic. We live and let live. That's
how we've gotten along."
The wub eyed the Captain.
"And that's why I so violently objected
to this business about having me boiled. I
could see the image in your mind—most
of me in the frozen food locker, some of
me in the kettle, a bit for your pet cat—"
"So you read minds?" the Captain said.
"How interesting. Anything else? I mean,
what else can you do along those lines?"
"A few odds and ends," the wub said
absently, staring around the room. "A nice
apartment you have here, Captain. You
keep it quite neat. I respect life-forms that
are tidy. Some Martian birds are quite tidy.
They throw things out of their nests and
"Indeed." The Captain nodded. "But to
get back to the problem—"
"Quite so. You spoke of dining on me.
The taste, I am told, is good. A little fatty,
but tender. But how can any lasting contact
be established between your people and
mine if you resort to such barbaric attitudes?
Eat me? Rather you should discuss questions
with me, philosophy, the arts—"
The Captain stood up. "Philosophy. It
might interest you to know that we will be
hard put to find something to eat for the
next month. An unfortunate spoilage—"
"I know." The wub nodded. "But
wouldn't it be more in accord with your
principles of democracy if we all drew
straws, or something along that line? After
all, democracy is to protect the minority
from just such infringements. Now, if each
of us casts one vote—"
The Captain walked to the door.
"Nuts to you," he said. He opened the
door. He opened his mouth.
He stood frozen, his mouth wide, his eyes
staring, his fingers still on the knob.
The wub watched him. Presently it
padded out of the room, edging past the
Captain. It went down the hall, deep in
The room was quiet.
"So you see," the wub said, "we have
a common myth. Your mind contains many
familiar myth symbols. Ishtar, Odysseus—"
Peterson sat silently, staring at the floor.
He shifted in his chair.
"Go on," he said. "Please go on."
"I find in your Odysseus a figure common
to the mythology of most self-conscious
races. As I interpret it, Odysseus wanders
as an individual, aware of himself as
such. This is the idea of separation, of
separation from family and country. The
process of individuation."
"But Odysseus returns to his home."
Peterson looked out the port window, at the
stars, endless stars, burning intently in the
empty universe. "Finally he goes home."
"As must all creatures. The moment of
separation is a temporary period, a brief
journey of the soul. It begins, it ends. The
wanderer returns to land and race...."
The door opened. The wub stopped, turning
its great head.
Captain Franco came into the room, the
men behind him. They hesitated at the door.
"Are you all right?" French said.
"Do you mean me?" Peterson said, surprised.
Franco lowered his gun. "Come over
here," he said to Peterson. "Get up and
There was silence.
"Go ahead," the wub said. "It doesn't
Peterson stood up. "What for?"
"It's an order."
Peterson walked to the door. French
caught his arm.
"What's going on?" Peterson wrenched
loose. "What's the matter with you?"
Captain Franco moved toward the wub.
The wub looked up from where it lay in the
corner, pressed against the wall.
"It is interesting," the wub said, "that
you are obsessed with the idea of eating me.
I wonder why."
"Get up," Franco said.
"If you wish." The wub rose, grunting.
"Be patient. It is difficult for me." It stood,
gasping, its tongue lolling foolishly.
"Shoot it now," French said.
"For God's sake!" Peterson exclaimed.
Jones turned to him quickly, his eyes gray
"You didn't see him—like a statue,
standing there, his mouth open. If we hadn't
come down, he'd still be there."
"Who? The Captain?" Peterson stared
around. "But he's all right now."
They looked at the wub, standing in the
middle of the room, its great chest rising
"Come on," Franco said. "Out of the
The men pulled aside toward the door.
"You are quite afraid, aren't you?" the
wub said. "Have I done anything to you?
I am against the idea of hurting. All I have
done is try to protect myself. Can you expect
me to rush eagerly to my death? I am a
sensible being like yourselves. I was curious
to see your ship, learn about you. I suggested
to the native—"
The gun jerked.
"See," Franco said. "I thought so."
The wub settled down, panting. It put its
paw out, pulling its tail around it.
"It is very warm," the wub said. "I understand
that we are close to the jets.
Atomic power. You have done many wonderful
things with it—technically. Apparently,
your scientific hierarchy is not
equipped to solve moral, ethical—"
Franco turned to the men, crowding behind
him, wide-eyed, silent.
"I'll do it. You can watch."
French nodded. "Try to hit the brain. It's
no good for eating. Don't hit the chest. If
the rib cage shatters, we'll have to pick
"Listen," Peterson said, licking his lips.
"Has it done anything? What harm has it
done? I'm asking you. And anyhow, it's
still mine. You have no right to shoot it. It
doesn't belong to you."
Franco raised his gun.
"I'm going out," Jones said, his face
white and sick. "I don't want to see it."
"Me, too," French said. The men
straggled out, murmuring. Peterson lingered
at the door.
"It was talking to me about myths," he
said. "It wouldn't hurt anyone."
He went outside.
Franco walked toward the wub. The wub
looked up slowly. It swallowed.
"A very foolish thing," it said. "I am
sorry that you want to do it. There was a
parable that your Saviour related—"
It stopped, staring at the gun.
"Can you look me in the eye and do it?"
the wub said. "Can you do that?"
The Captain gazed down. "I can look
you in the eye," he said. "Back on the farm
we had hogs, dirty razor-back hogs. I can
Staring down at the wub, into the gleaming,
moist eyes, he pressed the trigger.
The taste was excellent.
They sat glumly around the table,
some of them hardly eating at all. The only
one who seemed to be enjoying himself was
"More?" he said, looking around. "More?
And some wine, perhaps."
"Not me," French said. "I think I'll go
back to the chart room."
"Me, too." Jones stood up, pushing his
chair back. "I'll see you later."
The Captain watched them go. Some of
the others excused themselves.
"What do you suppose the matter is?"
the Captain said. He turned to Peterson.
Peterson sat staring down at his plate, at
the potatoes, the green peas, and at the
thick slab of tender, warm meat.
He opened his mouth. No sound came.
The Captain put his hand on Peterson's
"It is only organic matter, now," he said.
"The life essence is gone." He ate, spooning
up the gravy with some bread. "I, myself,
love to eat. It is one of the greatest things
that a living creature can enjoy. Eating,
resting, meditation, discussing things."
Peterson nodded. Two more men got up
and went out. The Captain drank some
water and sighed.
"Well," he said. "I must say that this
was a very enjoyable meal. All the reports
I had heard were quite true—the taste of
wub. Very fine. But I was prevented from
enjoying this pleasure in times past."
He dabbed at his lips with his napkin and
leaned back in his chair. Peterson stared dejectedly
at the table.
The Captain watched him intently. He
"Come, come," he said. "Cheer up! Let's
"As I was saying before I was interrupted,
the role of Odysseus in the
Peterson jerked up, staring.
"To go on," the Captain said. "Odysseus,
as I understand him—"
This etext was produced from Planet Stories July 1952. Extensive research
did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on
this publication was renewed.