Robert sheckley – protection

There’ll be an airplane crash in Burma next week, but it shouldn’t affect me here in New York. And the feegs certainly can’t harm me. Not with all my closet doors closed.

No, the big problem is lesnerizing. I must not lesnerize. Absolutely not. As you can imagine, that hampers me.

And to top it all, I think I’m catching a really nasty cold.

The whole thing started on the evening of November seventh. I was walking down Broadway on my way to Baker’s Cafeteria. On my lips was a faint smile, due to having passed a tough physics exam earlier in the day. In my pocket, jingling faintly, were five coins, three keys, and a book of matches.

Just to complete the picture, let me add that the wind was from the northwest at five miles an hour, Venus was in the ascendancy and the moon was decidedly gibbous. You can draw your own conclusions from this.

I reached the corner of 98th Street and began to cross. As I stepped off the curb, someone

yelled at me, “The truck! Watch the truck!”

I jumped back, looking around wildly. There was nothing in sight. Then, a full second later, a truck cut around the corner on two wheels, ran through the red light and roared up Broadway. Without the warning, I would have been hit.

* * * * *

You’ve heard stories like this, haven’t you? About the strange voice that warned Aunt Minnie to stay out of the elevator, which then crashed to the basement. Or maybe it told Uncle Joe not to sail on the Titanic. That’s where the story usually ends.

I wish mine ended there.

“Thanks, friend,” I said and looked around. There was no one there.

“Can you still hear me?” the voice asked.

“Sure I can.” I turned a complete circle and stared suspiciously at the closed apartment windows overhead. “But where in the blue blazes are you?”

“Gronish,” the voice answered. “Is that the referent? Refraction index. Creature of insubstantiality. The Shadow knows. Did I pick the right one?”

“You’re invisible?” I hazarded.

“That’s it!”

“But what are you?”

“A validusian derg.”

“A what?”

“I am – open your larynx a little wider please. Let me see now. I am the Spirit of Christmas Past. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Bride of Frankenstein. The – “

“Hold on,” I said. “What are you trying to tell me – that you’re a ghost or a creature from another planet?”

“Same thing,” the derg replied. “Obviously.”

That made is all perfectly clear. Any fool could see that the voice belonged to someone from another planet. He was invisible on Earth, but his superior senses had spotted an approaching danger and warned me of it.

Just a plain, everyday supernormal incident.

I began to walk hurriedly down Broadway.

“What is the matter?” the invisible derg asked.

“Not a thing,” I answered, “except that I seem to be standing in the middle of the street talking to an invisible alien from the farthest reaches of outer space. I suppose only I can hear you?”

“Well, naturally.”

“Great! You know where this sort of thing will land me?”

“The concept you are sub-vocalizing is not entirely clear.”

“The loony bin. Nut house. Bug factory. Psychotic ward. That’s where they put people who talk to invisible aliens. Thanks for the warning, buddy. Good night.”

* * * * *

Feeling lightheaded, I turned east, hoping my invisible friend would continue down Broadway.

“Won’t you talk with me?” the derg asked.

I shook my head, a harmless gesture they can’t pick you up for, and kept on walking.



Robert sheckley – protection