We've often wondered what would happen if Robert Young should cease to be
a lyrically intense writer for a story or two, forsaking the bright, poetic worlds
of MISS KATY THREE and THE FIRST SWEET SLEEP OF NIGHT to become dispassionately
analytical on a cosmic scale. Now we know! He'd chill us to the
bone by setting two squixes to brooding over a never-to-be born Earth, exactly
as he has done here. And thrill us, too—with the liveliest kind of entertainment.
by ... Robert F. Young
Very trivial things can go into the weaving
of a nest. The human race, for instance—
The condensation of the histories
of ten thousand races into
a text concise enough to fit into a
single volume had been a task of
unprecedented proportions. There
had been times when the Galactic
Historian had doubted whether
even his renowned abilities were up
to the assignment that the Galactic
Board of Education had so lightly
tossed his way, times when he had
thrown up his hands—all five of
them—in despair. But at last the
completed manuscript lay before
him on his desk with nothing but
the final reading remaining between
it and publication.
The Galactic Historian repeatedly
wiped his brows as he turned the
pages. It was a warm night, even
for Mixxx Seven. Now and then,
a tired breeze struggled down from
the hills and limped across the lowlands
to the Galactic University
buildings. It crept into the Galactic
Historian's study via the open door
and out again via the open windows,
fingering the manuscript each
time it passed but doing nothing
whatsoever about the temperature.
The manuscript was something
more than a hammered-down history
of galactic achievement. It was
the ultimate document. The two
and seventy thousand jarring texts
that it summarized had been systematically
destroyed, one by one,
after the Galactic Historian had
stripped them of their objective information.
If an historical event
was not included in the manuscript,
it failed as an event. It ceased to
The responsibility was the Galactic
Historian's alone and he did not
take it lightly. But he had a lot on
his minds and, of late, he hadn't
been sleeping well. He was overworked
and over-tired and over-anxious.
He hadn't seen his wives
for two Mixxx months and he was
worried about them—all fifty of
He never should have let them
take the Hub cruise in the first
place. But they'd been so enthusiastic
and so eager that he simply
hadn't had the hearts to let them
down. Now, despite his better
judgments, he was beginning to
wonder if they might not be on the
make for another coordinator.
Wives trouble, on top of all his
chronological trouble, was too
much. The Galactic Historian could
hardly be blamed for wanting to
see the last of the manuscript, for
wanting to transmit it to his publishers,
potential hiatuses and all,
and take the next warp for the
But he was an historian—the
historian, in fact—and he persisted
heroically in his task, rereading
stale paragraphs and checking
dreary dates, going over battles and
conquests and invasions and interregnums.
Despite his mood and
despite the heat, the manuscript
probably would have arrived at his
publishers chronologically complete.
So complete, in fact, that
schoolteachers all over the galaxy
would have gotten the textbook
they had always wanted—a concise
chronicle of everything that had
ever happened since the explosion
of the primeval atom, a history
textbook that no other history textbook
could contradict for the simple
reason that there were no other
As it was, they got the textbook,
but it did not contain everything
that had ever happened. Not quite.
Two factors were responsible for
the omission. The first was an
oversight on the part of the Galactic
Historian. With so much on his
minds, he had forgotten to number
the pages of the manuscript.
The second factor was the breeze.
The breeze was the ultimate archfiend
and there can be no question
as to its motivation. Nothing short
of sheer malice could have caused
it suddenly to remember its function
after neglecting that function
All evening it had been tiptoeing
down the hillsides and across the
lowlands as though it was afraid
of disturbing a single blade of grass
or a single drooping leaf. And
then, at the crucial moment, it
huffed and puffed itself up into a
little hurricane, charged down upon
the Galactic University buildings
and whooshed through the Galactic
Historian's study like a band of
Unfortunately, the Galactic Historian
had begun to wipe his brows
at the very moment of the breeze's
entry. While the act was not a complicated
one, it did consume time
and monopolize attention. It is not
surprising, therefore, that he failed
to witness the theft. Neither is it
surprising that he failed to notice
afterwards that the page he had
been checking was gone.
He was, as previously stated,
overworked, over-tired, and over-anxious
and, in such a state, even
a Galactic Historian can skip a
whole series of words and dates
and never know the difference. A
hiatus of twenty thousand years is
hardly noticeable anyway. Galactically
speaking, twenty thousand
years is a mere wink in time.
The breeze didn't carry the page
very far. It simply whisked it
through a convenient window, deposited
it beneath a xixxix tree and
then returned to the hills to rest.
But the choice of a xixxix tree is
highly significant and substantiates
the malicious nature of the breeze's
act. If it had chosen a muu or a
buxx tree instead, the Galactic Historian
might have found the page
in the morning when he took his
constitutional through the university
However, since a xixxix tree was
selected, no doubt whatever can remain
as to the breeze's basic motivation.
Articles of a valuable nature
just aren't left beneath xixxix trees.
Everybody knows that squixes live
in xixxix trees and everybody
knows that squixes are collectors.
They collect all sorts of things,
buttons and pins and twigs and
pebbles—anything at all, in fact,
that isn't too big for them to pick
up and carry into their xixxix tree
They have been called less kind
things than collectors. Thieves, for
example, and scavengers. But collectors
are what they really are.
Collecting fulfills a basic need in
their mammalian makeup; the possession
of articles gives them a
feeling of security. They love to
surround their little furry bodies
with all sorts of odds and ends, and
their little arboreal houses are
stuffed with everything you can
And they simply adore paper.
They adore it because it has a practical
as well as a cultural value.
Specifically, they adore it because
it is wonderful to make hammocks
When the two squixes in the
xixxix tree saw the page drift to the
ground, they could hardly believe
their eyes. They chittered excitedly
as they skittered down the trunk.
The page had hardly stopped fluttering
before it was whisked aloft
again, clenched in tiny squix
The squixes wasted no time. It
had been a long while since the
most cherished of all collector's
items had come their way and they
needed a new hammock badly.
First, they tore the page into strips,
then they began to weave the strips
—1456, Gut. Bi. pr.; 1492, Am.
dis.; 1945, at. b. ex. Almgdo.;
1971, mn. rchd., they wove.
—2004, Sir. rchd.; 2005-6, Sir.—E.
wr.; 2042, Btlgs. rchd.;
2043-4, Btlgs.—E. wr.
They wove and wove and wove.
15,000, E. Emp. clpsd.; 15,038,
E. dstryd.; Hist. E., end of.
It was a fine hammock, the best
the two squixes had ever wove. But
they didn't sleep well that night.
They twisted and turned and tossed,
and they dreamed the most
Which isn't particularly surprising,
considering what they were
sleeping on. Sleeping on the history
of Earth would be enough to
give anybody nightmares.
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe September 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.