The Hated 1958 sci-fi short story

The Hated sci-fi short story by Frederik Pohl

Byron has been to Mars. Now he's not supposed to leave New York and New England. For good reason.

The Hated (1958)

The bar didnít have a name. No name of any kind. Not even an indication that it had ever had one. All it said on the outside was:

Cafe EAT Cocktails

which doesnít make a lot of sense. But it was a bar. It had a big TV set going ya-ta-ta ya-ta-ta in three glorious colors, and a jukebox that tried to drown out the TV with that lousy music they play. Anyway, it wasnít a kid hangout. I kind of like it. But I wasnít supposed to be there at all; itís in the contract. I was supposed to stay in New York and the New England states.

Cafe-EAT-Cocktails was right across the river. I think the name of the place was Hoboken, but Iím not sure. It all had a kind of dreamy feeling to it. I wasó

Well, I couldnít even remember going there. I remembered one minute I was downtown New York, looking across the river. I did that a lot. And then I was there. I donít remember crossing the river at all.

I was drunk, you know.

You know how it is? Double bourbons and keep them coming. And after a while the bartender stops bringing me the ginger ale because gradually I forget to mix them. I got pretty loaded long before I left New York. I realize that. I guess I had to get pretty loaded to risk the pension and all.

Used to be I didnít drink much, but now, I donít know, when I have one drink, I get to thinking about Sam and Wally and Chowderhead and Gilvey and the captain. If I donít drink, I think about them, too, and then I take a drink. And that leads to another drink, and it all comes out to the same thing. Well, I guess I said it already, I drink a pretty good amount, but you canít blame me.

There was a girl.

I always get a girl someplace. Usually they arenít much and this one wasnít either. I mean she was probably somebodyís mother. She was around thirty-five and not so bad, though she had a long scar under her ear down along her throat to the little round spot where her larynx was. It wasnít ugly. She smelled niceówhile I could still smell, you knowóand she didnít talk much. I liked that. Onlyó

Well, did you ever meet somebody with a nervous cough? Like when you say something funnyóa little funny, not a big yockóthey donít laugh and they donít stop with just smiling, but they sort of cough? She did that. I began to itch. I couldnít help it. I asked her to stop it.

She spilled her drink and looked at me almost as though she was scaredóand I had tried to say it quietly, too.

"Sorry," she said, a little angry, a little scared. "Sorry. But you donít have toó"

"Forget it."

"Sure. But you asked me to sit down here with you, remember? If youíre going toó"

"Forget it!" I nodded at the bartender and held up two fingers. "You need another drink," I said. "The thing is," I said, "Gilvey used to do that."


"That cough."

She looked puzzled. "You mean like this?"

"Goddam it, stop it!" Even the bartender looked over at me that time. Now she was really mad, but I didnít want her to go away. I said, "Gilvey was a fellow who went to Mars with me. Pat Gilvey."

"Oh." She sat down again and leaned across the table, low. "Mars."

The bartender brought our drinks and looked at me suspiciously. I said, "Say, Mac, would you turn down the air-conditioning?"

"My name isnít Mac. No."

"Have a heart. Itís too cold in here."

"Sorry." He didnít sound sorry.

I was cold. I mean that kind of weather, itís always cold in those places. You know around New York in August? It hits eighty, eighty-five, ninety. All the places have air-conditioning and what they really want is for you to wear a shirt and tie.

But I like to walk a lot. You would, too, you know. And you canít walk around much in long pants and a suit coat and all that stuff. Not around there. Not in August. And so then, when I went into a bar, itíd have one of those built-in freezers for the used-car salesmen with their dates, or maybe their wives, all dressed up. For what? But I froze.

"Mars," the girl breathed. "Mars."

I began to itch again. "Want to dance?"

"They donít have a license," she said. "Byron, I didnít know youíd been to Mars! Please tell me about it."

"It was all right," I said.

That was a lie.

She was interested. She forgot to smile. It made her look nicer. She said, "I knew a manómy brother-in-lawóhe was my husbandís brotheróI mean my ex-husbandó"

"I get the idea."

"He worked for General Atomic. In Rockford, Illinois. You know where that is?"

"Sure." I couldnít go there, but I knew where Illinois was.

"He worked on the first Mars ship. Oh, fifteen years ago, wasnít it? He always wanted to go himself, but he couldnít pass the tests." She stopped and looked at me.

I knew what she was thinking. But I didnít always look this way, you know. Not that thereís anything wrong with me now, I mean, but I couldnít pass the tests any more. Nobody can. Thatís why weíre all one-trippers.

I said, "The only reason Iím shaking like this is because Iím cold."

It wasnít true, of course. It was that cough of Gilveyís. I didnít like to think about Gilvey, or Sam or Chowderhead or Wally or the captain. I didnít like to think about any of them. It made me shake.

You see, we couldnít kill each other. They wouldnít let us do that. Before we took off, they did something to our minds to make sure. What they did, it doesnít last forever. It lasts for two years and then it wears off. Thatís long enough, you see, because that gets you to Mars and back; and itís plenty long enough, in another way, because itís like a strait-jacket.

You know how to make a baby cry? Hold his hands. Itís the most basic thing there is. What they did to us so we couldnít kill each other, it was like being tied up, like having our hands held so we couldnít get free. Well. But two years was long enough. Too long.

The bartender came over and said, "Pal, Iím sorry. See, I turned the air-conditioning down. You all right? You look soó"

I said, "Sure, Iím all right."

He sounded worried. I hadnít even heard him come back. The girl was looking worried, too, I guess because I was shaking so hard I was spilling my drink. I put some money on the table without even counting it.

"Itís all right," I said. "We were just going."

"We were?" She looked confused. But she came along with me. They always do, once they find out youíve been to Mars.

In the next place, she said, between trips to the powder room, "It must take a lot of courage to sign up for something like that. Were you scientifically inclined in school? Donít you have to know an awful lot to be a space-flyer? Did you ever see any of those little monkey characters they say live on Mars? I read an article about how they lived in little cities of pup-tents or something like thatóonly they didnít make them, they grew them. Funny! Ever see those? That trip must have been a real drag, I bet. What is it, nine months? You couldnít have a baby! Excuse meó Say, tell me. All that time, howíd youówell, manage things? I mean didnít you ever have to go to the you-know or anything?"

"We managed," I said.

She giggled, and that reminded her, so she went to the powder room again. I thought about getting up and leaving while she was gone, but what was the use of that? Iíd only pick up somebody else.

It was nearly midnight. A couple of minutes wouldnít hurt. I reached in my pocket for the little box of pills they give usóit isnít refillable, but we get a new prescription in the mail every month, along with the pension check. The label on the box said:

Use only as directed by physician. Not to be taken by persons suffering heart condition, digestive upset or circulatory disease. Not to be used in conjunction with alcoholic beverages.

I took three of them. I donít like to start them before midnight, but anyway I stopped shaking.

I closed my eyes, and then I was on the ship again. The noise in the bar became the noise of the rockets and the air washers and the sludge sluicers. I began to sweat, although this place was air-conditioned, too.

I could hear Wally whistling to himself the way he did, the sound muffled by his oxygen mask and drowned in the rocket noise, but still perfectly audible. The tune was Sophisticated Lady. Sometimes it was Easy to Love and sometimes Chasing Shadows, but mostly Sophisticated Lady. He was from Juilliard.

Somebody sneezed, and it sounded just like Chowderhead sneezing. You know how everybody sneezes according to his own individual style? Chowderhead had a ladylike little sneeze; it went hutta, real quick, all through the mouth, no nose involved. The captain went Hrasssh; Wally was Ashoo, ashoo, ashoo. Gilvey was Hutch-uh. Sam didnít sneeze much, but he sort of coughed and sprayed, and that was worse.

Sometimes I used to think about killing Sam by tying him down and having Wally and the captain sneeze him to death. But that was a kind of a joke, naturally, when I was feeling good. Or pretty good. Usually I thought about a knife for Sam. For Chowderhead it was a gun, right in the belly, one shot. For Wally it was a tommy gunójust stitching him up and down, you know, back and forth. The captain I would put in a cage with hungry lions, and Gilvey Iíd strangle with my bare hands. That was probably because of the cough, I guess.

She was back. "Please tell me about it," she begged. "Iím so curious."

I opened my eyes. "You want me to tell you about it?"

"Oh, please!"

"About what itís like to fly to Mars on a rocket?"


"All right," I said.

Itís wonderful what three little white pills will do. I wasnít even shaking.

"Thereís six men, see? In a space the size of a Buick, and thatís all the room there is. Two of us in the bunks all the time, four of us on watch. Maybe you want to stay in the sack an extra ten minutesóbecause itís the only place on the ship where you can stretch out, you know, the only place where you can rest without somebodyís elbow in your side. But you canít. Because by then itís the next manís turn.

"And maybe you donít have elbows in your side while itís your turn off watch, but in the starboard bunk thereís the air-regenerator master valveóI bet I could still show you the bruises right around my kidneysóand in the port bunk thereís the emergency-escape-hatch handle. That gets you right in the temple, if you turn your head too fast.

"And you canít really sleep, I mean not soundly, because of the noise. That is, when the rockets are going. When they arenít going, then youíre in free-fall, and thatís bad, too, because you dream about falling. But when theyíre going, I donít know, I think itís worse. Itís pretty loud.

"And even if it werenít for the noise, if you sleep too soundly you might roll over on your oxygen line. Then you dream about drowning. Ever do that? Youíre strangling and choking and you canít get any air? It isnít dangerous, I guess. Anyway, it always woke me up in time. Though I heard about a fellow in a flight six years agoó

"Well. So youíve always got this oxygen mask on, all the time, except if you take it off for a second to talk to somebody. You donít do that very often, because what is there to say? Oh, maybe the first couple of weeks, sureóeverybodyís friends then. You donít even need the mask, for that matter. Or not very much. Everybodyís still pretty clean. The place smellsóoh, letís seeóabout like the locker room in a gym. You know? You can stand it. Thatís if nobodyís got space sickness, of course. We were lucky that way.

"But thatís about how itís going to get anyway, you know. Outside the masks, itís soup. It isnít that you smell it so much. You kind of taste it, in the back of your mouth, and your eyes sting. Thatís after the first two or three months. Later on, it gets worse.

"And with the mask on, of course, the oxygen mixture is coming in under pressure. Thatís funny if youíre not used to it. Your lungs have to work a little bit harder to get rid of it, especially when youíre asleep, so after a while the muscles get sore. And then they get sorer. And thenó


"Before we take off, the psych people give us a long doo-da that keeps us from killing each other. But they canít stop us from thinking about it. And afterward, after weíre back on Earthóthis is what you wonít read about in the articlesóthey keep us apart. You know how they work it? We get a pension, naturally. I mean thereís got to be a pension, otherwise there isnít enough money in the world to make anybody go. But in the contract, it says to get the pension we have to stay in our own area.

"The whole countryís marked off. Six sections. Each has at least one big city in it. I was lucky, I got a lot of them. They try to keep it so every manís home town is in his own section, butówell, like with us, Chowderhead and the captain both happened to come from Santa Monica. I think it was Chowderhead that got California, Nevada, all that Southwest area. It was the luck of the draw. God knows what the captain got.

"Maybe New Jersey," I said, and took another white pill.

We went on to another place and she said suddenly, "I figured something out. The way you keep looking around."

"What did you figure out?"

"Well, part of it was what you said about the other fellow getting New Jersey. This is New Jersey. You donít belong in this section, right?"

"Right," I said after a minute.

"So why are you here? I know why. Youíre here because youíre looking for somebody."

"Thatís right."

She said triumphantly, "You want to find that other fellow from your crew! You want to fight him!"

I couldnít help shaking, white pills or no white pills. But I had to correct her.

"No. I want to kill him."

"How do you know heís here? Heís got a lot of states to roam around in, too, doesnít he?"

"Six. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Marylandóall the way down to Washington."

"Then how do you knowó"

"Heíll be here." I didnít have to tell her how I knew. But I knew.

I wasnít the only one who spent his time at the border of his assigned area, looking across the river or staring across a state line, knowing that somebody was on the other side. I knew. You fight a war and you donít have to guess that the enemy might have his troops a thousand miles away from the battle line. You know where his troops will be. You know he wants to fight, too.

Hutta. Hutta.

I spilled my drink.

I looked at her. "Youóyou didnító"

She looked frightened. "Whatís the matter?"

"Did you just sneeze?"

"Sneeze? Me? Did Ió"

I said something quick and nasty, I donít know what. No! It hadnít been her. I knew it.

It was Chowderheadís sneeze.

Chowderhead. Marvin T. Roebuck, his name was. Five feet eight inches tall. Dark-complected, with a cast in one eye. Spoke with a Midwest kind of accent, even though he came from Californiaó"shrick" for "shriek," "hawror" for "horror," like that. It drove me crazy after a while. Maybe that gives you an idea what he talked about mostly. A skunk. A thoroughgoing, deep-rooted, mother-murdering skunk.

I kicked over my chair and roared, "Roebuck! Where are you, damn you?"

The bar was all at once silent. Only the jukebox kept going.

"I know youíre here!" I screamed. "Come out and get it! You louse, I told you Iíd get you for calling me a liar the day Wally sneaked a smoke!"

Silence, everybody looking at me.

Then the door of the menís room opened.

He came out.

He looked lousy. Eyes all red-rimmed and his hair falling outóthe poor crumb couldnít have been over twenty-nine. He shrieked, "You!" He called me a million names. He said, "You thieving rat, Iíll teach you to try to cheat me out of my candy ration!"

He had a knife.

I didnít care. I didnít have anything and that was stupid, but it didnít matter. I got a bottle of beer from the next table and smashed it against the back of a chair. It made a good weapon, you know; Iíd take that against a knife any time.

I ran toward him, and he came all staggering and lurching toward me, looking crazy and desperate, mumbling and ravingóI could hardly hear him, because I was talking, too. Nobody tried to stop us. Somebody went out the door and I figured it was to call the cops, but that was all right. Once I took care of Chowderhead, I didnít care what the cops did.

I went for the face.

He cut me first. I felt the knife slide up along my left arm but, you know, it didnít even hurt, only kind of stung a little. I didnít care about that. I got him in the face, and the bottle came away, and it was all like gray and white jelly, and then blood began to spring out. He screamed. Oh, that scream! I never heard anything like that scream. It was what I had been waiting all my life for.

I kicked him as he staggered back, and he fell. And I was on top of him, with the bottle, and I was careful to stay away from the heart or the throat, because that was too quick, but I worked over the face, and I felt his knife get me a couple times more, andó


And I woke up, you know. And there was Dr. Santly over me with a hypodermic needle that heíd just taken out of my arm, and four male nurses in fatigues holding me down. And I was drenched with sweat.

For a minute, I didnít know where I was. It was a horrible queasy falling sensation, as though the bar and the fight and the world were all dissolving into smoke around me.

Then I knew where I was.

It was almost worse.

I stopped yelling and just lay there, looking up at them.

Dr. Santly said, trying to keep his face friendly and noncommittal, "Youíre doing much better, Byron, boy. Much better."

I didnít say anything.

He said, "You worked through the whole thing in two hours and eight minutes. Remember the first time? You were sixteen hours killing him. Captain Van Wyck it was that time, remember? Who was it this time?"

"Chowderhead." I looked at the male nurses. Doubtfully, they let go of my arms and legs.

"Chowderhead," said Dr. Santly. "OhóRoebuck. That boy," he said mournfully, his expression saddened, "heís not coming along nearly as well as you. Nearly. He canít run through a cycle in less than five hours. And, thatís peculiar, itís usually you heó Well, I better not say that, shall I? No sense setting up a counter-impression when your pores are all open, so to speak?" He smiled at me, but he was a little worried in back of the smile.

I sat up. "Anybody got a cigarette?"

"Give him a cigarette, Johnson," the doctor ordered the male nurse standing alongside my right foot.

Johnson did. I fired up.

"Youíre coming along splendidly," Dr. Santly said. He was one of these psych guys that thinks if you say itís so, it makes it so. You know that kind? "Weíll have you down under an hour before the end of the week. Thatís marvelous progress. Then we can work on the conscious level! Youíre doing extremely well, whether you know it or not. Why, in six monthsósay in eight months, because I like to be conservativeó" he twinkled at meó"weíll have you out of here! Youíll be the first of your crew to be discharged, you know that?"

"Thatís nice," I said. "The others arenít doing so well?"

"No. Not at all well, most of them. Particularly Dr. Gilvey. The run-throughs leave him in terrible shape. I donít mind admitting Iím worried about him."

"Thatís nice," I said, and this time I meant it.

He looked at me thoughtfully, but all he did was say to the male nurses, "Heís all right now. Help him off the table."

It was hard standing up. I had to hold onto the rail around the table for a minute. I said my set little speech: "Dr. Santly, I want to tell you again how grateful I am for this. I was reconciled to living the rest of my life confined to one part of the country, the way the other crews always did. But this is much better. I appreciate it. Iím sure the others do, too."

"Of course, boy. Of course." He took out a fountain pen and made a note on my chart; I couldnít see what it was, but he looked gratified. "Itís no more than you have coming to you, Byron," he said. "Iím grateful that I could be the one to make it come to pass."

He glanced conspiratorially at the male nurses. "You know how important this is to me. Itís the triumph of a whole new approach to psychic rehabilitation. I mean to say our heroes of space travel are entitled to freedom when they come back home to Earth, arenít they?"

"Definitely," I said, scrubbing some of the sweat off my face onto my sleeve.

"So weíve got to end this system of designated areas. We canít avoid the tensions that accompany space travel, no. But if we can help you eliminate harmful tensions with a few run-throughs, why, itís not too high a price to pay, is it?"

"Not a bit."

"I mean to say," he said, warming up, "you can look forward to the time when youíll be able to mingle with your old friends from the rocket, free and easy, without any need for restraint. Thatís a lot to look forward to, isnít it?"

"It is," I said. "I look forward to it very much," I said. "And I know exactly what Iím going to do the first time I meet oneóI mean without any restraints, as you say," I said. And it was true; I did. Only it wouldnít be a broken beer bottle that I would do it with.

I had much more elaborate ideas than that.

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