One can't be too cautious about the
people one meets in Tangier. They're all
weirdies of one kind or another.
I'm A Stranger
By MACK REYNOLDS
The Place de France is the
town's hub. It marks the end
of Boulevard Pasteur, the main
drag of the westernized part of
the city, and the beginning of
Rue de la Liberté, which leads
down to the Grand Socco and
the medina. In a three-minute
walk from the Place de France
you can go from an ultra-modern,
California-like resort to the
Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid.
It's quite a town, Tangier.
King-size sidewalk cafes occupy
three of the strategic
corners on the Place de France.
The Cafe de Paris serves the
best draft beer in town, gets all
the better custom, and has three
shoeshine boys attached to the
establishment. You can sit of a
sunny morning and read the
Paris edition of the New York
Herald Tribune while getting
your shoes done up like mirrors
for thirty Moroccan francs
which comes to about five cents
at current exchange.
You can sit there, after the
paper's read, sip your expresso
and watch the people go by.
Tangier is possibly the most
cosmopolitan city in the world.
In native costume you'll see
Berber and Rif, Arab and Blue
Man, and occasionally a Senegalese
from further south. In
European dress you'll see Japs
and Chinese, Hindus and Turks,
Levantines and Filipinos, North
Americans and South Americans,
and, of course, even Europeans—from
both sides of the
In Tangier you'll find some of
the world's poorest and some of
the richest. The poorest will try
to sell you anything from a
shoeshine to their not very lily-white
bodies, and the richest will
avoid your eyes, afraid you
might try to sell them something.
In spite of recent changes, the
town still has its unique qualities.
As a result of them the permanent
smugglers and black-marketeers,
fugitives from justice and international
con men, espionage
and counter-espionage agents,
homosexuals, nymphomaniacs, alcoholics,
drug addicts, displaced
persons, ex-royalty, and subversives
of every flavor. Local law
limits the activities of few of
Like I said, it's quite a town.
I looked up from my Herald
Tribune and said, "Hello, Paul.
Anything new cooking?"
He sank into the chair opposite
me and looked around for
the waiter. The tables were all
crowded and since mine was a
face he recognized, he assumed
he was welcome to intrude. It was
more or less standard procedure
at the Cafe de Paris. It wasn't
a place to go if you wanted to
Paul said, "How are you,
Rupert? Haven't seen you for
The waiter came along and
Paul ordered a glass of beer.
Paul was an easy-going, sallow-faced
little man. I vaguely remembered
somebody saying he
was from Liverpool and in
"What's in the newspaper?"
he said, disinterestedly.
"Pogo and Albert are going
to fight a duel," I told him, "and
Lil Abner is becoming a rock'n'roll
"Oh," I said, "the intellectual
type." I scanned the front page.
"The Russkies have put up
another manned satellite."
"They have, eh? How big?"
"Several times bigger than
anything we Americans have."
The beer came and looked
good, so I ordered a glass too.
Paul said, "What ever happened
to those poxy flying
"What flying saucers?"
A French girl went by with a
poodle so finely clipped as to look
as though it'd been shaven. The
girl was in the latest from
Paris. Every pore in place. We
both looked after her.
"You know, what everybody
was seeing a few years ago. It's
too bad one of these bloody manned
satellites wasn't up then.
Maybe they would've seen one."
"That's an idea," I said.
We didn't say anything else for
a while and I began to wonder
if I could go back to my paper
without rubbing him the wrong
way. I didn't know Paul very
well, but, for that matter, it's
comparatively seldom you ever
get to know anybody very well
in Tangier. Largely, cards are
played close to the chest.
My beer came and a plate of
tapas for us both. Tapas at the
Cafe de Paris are apt to be
potato salad, a few anchovies,
olives, and possibly some cheese.
Free lunch, they used to call it
in the States.
Just to say something, I said,
"Where do you think they came
from?" And when he looked
blank, I added, "The Flying
He grinned. "From Mars or
Venus, or someplace."
"Ummmm," I said. "Too bad
none of them ever crashed, or
landed on the Yale football field
and said Take me to your cheerleader,
Paul yawned and said, "That
was always the trouble with those
crackpot blokes' explanations of
them. If they were aliens from
space, then why not show themselves?"
I ate one of the potato chips.
It'd been cooked in rancid olive
I said, "Oh, there are various
answers to that one. We could
probably sit around here and
think of two or three that made
Paul was mildly interested.
"Well, hell, suppose for instance
there's this big Galactic League
of civilized planets. But it's restricted,
see. You're not eligible
for membership until you, well,
say until you've developed space
flight. Then you're invited into
the club. Meanwhile, they send
secret missions down from time
to time to keep an eye on your
Paul grinned at me. "I see you
read the same poxy stuff I do."
A Moorish girl went by dressed
in a neatly tailored gray
jellaba, European style high-heeled
shoes, and a pinkish silk
veil so transparent that you
could see she wore lipstick. Very
provocative, dark eyes can be
over a veil. We both looked
I said, "Or, here's another
one. Suppose you have a very
advanced civilization on, say,
"Not Mars. No air, and too
bloody dry to support life."
"Don't interrupt, please," I
said with mock severity. "This
is a very old civilization and as
the planet began to lose its
water and air, it withdrew underground.
Uses hydroponics and
so forth, husbands its water and
air. Isn't that what we'd do, in
a few million years, if Earth lost
its water and air?"
"I suppose so," he said. "Anyway,
what about them?"
"Well, they observe how man
is going through a scientific
boom, an industrial boom, a
population boom. A boom, period.
Any day now he's going to have
practical space ships. Meanwhile,
he's also got the H-Bomb and
the way he beats the drums on
both sides of the Curtain, he's
not against using it, if he could
get away with it."
Paul said, "I got it. So they're
scared and are keeping an eye on
us. That's an old one. I've read
that a dozen times, dished up
I shifted my shoulders. "Well,
it's one possibility."
"I got a better one. How's
this. There's this alien life form
that's way ahead of us. Their
civilization is so old that they
don't have any records of when
it began and how it was in the
early days. They've gone beyond
things like wars and depressions
and revolutions, and greed for
power or any of these things
giving us a bad time here on
Earth. They're all like scholars,
get it? And some of them are
pretty jolly well taken by Earth,
especially the way we are right
now, with all the problems, get
it? Things developing so fast we
don't know where we're going
or how we're going to get there."
I finished my beer and clapped
my hands for Mouley. "How do
you mean, where we're going?"
"Well, take half the countries
in the world today. They're trying
to industrialize, modernize,
catch up with the advanced countries.
Look at Egypt, and Israel,
and India and China, and Yugoslavia
and Brazil, and all the
rest. Trying to drag themselves
up to the level of the advanced
countries, and all using different
methods of doing it. But look
at the so-called advanced countries.
Up to their bottoms in
problems. Juvenile delinquents,
climbing crime and suicide rates,
the loony-bins full of the balmy,
unemployed, threat of war,
spending all their money on armaments
instead of things like
schools. All the bloody mess of
it. Why, a man from Mars would
be fascinated, like."
Mouley came shuffling up in
his babouche slippers and we
both ordered another schooner
Paul said seriously, "You
know, there's only one big snag
in this sort of talk. I've sorted
the whole thing out before, and
you always come up against this
brick wall. Where are they, these
observers, or scholars, or spies
or whatever they are? Sooner
or later we'd nab one of them.
You know, Scotland Yard, or
the F.B.I., or Russia's secret
police, or the French Sûreté, or
Interpol. This world is so deep
in police, counter-espionage outfits
and security agents that an
alien would slip up in time, no
matter how much he'd been
trained. Sooner or later, he'd slip
up, and they'd nab him."
I shook my head. "Not necessarily.
The first time I ever considered
this possibility, it seemed
to me that such an alien would
base himself in London or New
York. Somewhere where he could
use the libraries for research,
get the daily newspapers and
the magazines. Be right in the
center of things. But now I don't
think so. I think he'd be right
here in Tangier."
"It's the one town in the world
where anything goes. Nobody
gives a damn about you or your
affairs. For instance, I've known
you a year or more now, and I
haven't the slightest idea of how
you make your living."
"That's right," Paul admitted.
"In this town you seldom even
ask a man where's he's from. He
can be British, a White Russian,
a Basque or a Sikh and nobody
could care less. Where are you
"California," I told him.
"No, you're not," he grinned.
I was taken aback. "What do
"I felt your mind probe back
a few minutes ago when I was
talking about Scotland Yard or
the F.B.I. possibly flushing an
alien. Telepathy is a sense not
trained by the humanoids. If
they had it, your job—and mine—would
be considerably more
difficult. Let's face it, in spite of
these human bodies we're disguised
in, neither of us is
humanoid. Where are you really
"Aldebaran," I said. "How
"Deneb," he told me, shaking.
We had a laugh and ordered
"What're you doing here on
Earth?" I asked him.
"Researching for one of our
meat trusts. We're protein
eaters. Humanoid flesh is considered
quite a delicacy. How
"Scouting the place for thrill
tourists. My job is to go around
to these backward cultures and
help stir up inter-tribal, or international,
to how advanced they
are. Then our tourists come in—well
shielded, of course—and get
their kicks watching it."
Paul frowned. "That sort of
practice could spoil an awful
lot of good meat."
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories December 1960.
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.