The New Adam - Stanley G. Weinbaum - ebook

The New Adam ebook

Stanley G. Weinbaum

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Opis

Edmund Hall, born a mutant with too many joints in his fingers and a double mind, tries to find a purpose in a society of humans. This superman is no caped crusader fighting for justice though. Rather, he is a dual-brained super-intellect with an IQ so far off the charts that normal human beings appear as Neanderthals next to him. In this story, our evolved human is born into modern society without anyone knowing his nature. While pondering whether he’s a superman or the devil, he explores pleasure, power, and passion. Slowly he realizes the differences between himself and contemporary humans, and therein lies a fascinating story.

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Liczba stron: 272

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Contents

Prologue

Introduction

01. Dawn On Olympus

02. Morning On Olympus

03. Introspection

Book I. The Pursuit Of Knowledge

01. Traffic With Nature

02. Commerce

03. Market

04. Puzzlement

05. The Seed Of Power

06. Friendship And Humor

07. The Study Of Man

08. Guinea Pig

09. Futility

10. Lucifer

Book II. Power

01. The Brief Pursuit Of Power

Book III. The Pursuit Of Pleasure

01. The Seed Planted

02. The Seed Sprouts

03. The Plant Flowers

04. Jupiter And Leda

05. Fruition

06. Olympian Love

07. A Honeymoon Of Dream

08. Old Eve

09. Old Eve Rebels

10. The Apple In Eden

11. Conversation On Olympus

12. Satan

13. Lilith And Adam

14. Eve And Lilith

15. The Loss Of Beauty

16. In Which Edmond Refuses Longer To Follow His Fancy

17. Conversation On Earth

18. Edmond Again Follows His Fancy

19. Return To Olympus

20. Living

21. Sarah

22. Diminuendo

23. Evening On Olympus

24. Night On Olympus

PROLOGUE

THIS is a story of a superman. It details his origin, his search for happiness, his loves, and finally, his success or failure, of which you alone can judge. It is a story perhaps fantastic, but a story based, nevertheless, on possibilities.

A superman is not a man, not a creature of the species Homo Sapiens; this is the fallacy of Nietzsche, the fallacy of H. G. Wells. These, like others who deal with the matter, have believed that a man, a human being, raised to the nth degree, represents the superman. Nietzsche picked one set of qualities–those of fitness, potency, power–Wells chose another set, the contemplative, the serene, the intellectual. So probably, a Neanderthaler in his filthy cave, using his embryonic imagination, might have pictured his superman as a giant in strength and size, a mighty hunter, one whose meat-pot and belly is never empty. Certainly he never considered a race whose very thoughts were partly beyond his conception, and he saw nothing ironical in freezing to death upon a ledge of coal. As we are to the cave man, superman must be to us. His coming is surely a possibility; perhaps it is inevitable.

For not everything in the world is subject to mathematics. Not every factor in this particular sector of the cosmic whirl can be reduced to formula, expressed in calculus, integrated, packed into nicely labeled bundles, and filed away in a book. Because one rises from the dinner table and announces his intention to go across the hall to the library, it does not inevitably follow that he will arrive there. There’s a chance factor in the universe–entropy, luck, free will, or what you wish– but an x- factor that prohibits exact calculation. Nothing is ever quite certain, and behind every cause lies another more obscure. A housewife puts a kettle of water on the fire to boil; it will almost certainly boil, but there is a chance, a very slight one, that it will freeze. For even the transfer of heat is a random process, and the water may dissipate its warmth to the fire.

Mendel packed heredity in a neat mathematical box; Freud and Jung labeled and filed environment. Yet variations creep in. Sometimes an offspring possesses qualities which neither parent could possibly have transmitted; biologists call these beings ‘sports’; evolutionists speak of ‘mutations’. These odd individuals are common enough in the plant kingdom and the insect world; their discovery creates not a ripple of scientific excitement, and day by day the curious natural experiments are born and work out their destinies. Sometimes, if the variants possess inherent advantages, they survive and breed true as a new species, sometimes they breed back into the mass and are lost, and sometimes they die. A commonplace of Nature among plants and insects; it is seldom that a scientist thinks of the phenomenon in terms of humanity.

Introduction

1. DAWN ON OLYMPUS

ANNA HALL died as stolidly as she had lived, died unimagitively in childbirth; and was perhaps spared some maternal pangs, for her strange son lived. Nor did grim middle-aged John Hall waste his emotional strength in either futile regrets or useless recriminations of the child. This business of living was a stern, pitiless affair; one took what befell and did not argue. He accepted the infant, and named it after his own father, old Edmond.

It must have been a rare accident of genes and determinants that produced Edmond Hall–a spindly infant, straight-legged from birth, with oddly light eyes. Yet his strangest abnormality, one that set brisk Doctor Lindquist muttering, was his hands, his tiny slim fingers, for each of these possessed an extra joint. He clenched his three-knuckled thumb against his four-knuckled fingers into a curious little fist, and stared tearlessly with yellowish gray gaze.

‘She would not have a hospital,’ Doctor Lindquist was muttering. ‘This is what comes of home births.’ One doubted that he meant only Anna’s demise; his eyes were on her son.

John Hall said nothing; there was little, indeed, that he could say. Without cavil and in grim acceptance of little Edmond, he did what was to be done; he arranged for a nurse to care for the child, and returned somberly to his law practice. John was a good lawyer, industrious, methodical, earnest, and successful.

Certainly he missed Anna. He had liked to talk to her of an evening; not that she contributed much to the conversation, but she was a quiet and attentive audience. The vocal formulating sometimes served to clarify his thoughts. There was a loneliness, too, in his solitary evenings; the baby slept or lay quiet in an upstairs room, and Magda in the kitchen made only a distant clatter. He smoked and read. For many weeks he threaded the idealistic maze of Berkeley, and turned as counter-irritant to Hume.

After a while he took to addressing the child. It was as quiet and possibly as understanding as Anna. Queer little brat! Tearless, almost voiceless, with eyes beginning to show peculiarly amber. It gurgled occasionally; he never heard it cry. So he talked to it by evenings, sending the nurse away glad enough for the moments of liberty. She was puzzled by the little whelp; abnormal hands, abnormal mind, she thought; probably imbecilic. Nevertheless, she was kind enough, in a competent, professional manner. The child began to recognize her presence; she was his refuge and source of comfort. Perhaps this thin, dark, nervous maternal substitute influenced the infant more than he was ever to realize.

John was startled when the child’s eyes began to focus. He swung his watch before it; the pale eyes followed the movement with an intensity of gaze more kitten-like than human. A wide, unwinking stare. Sometimes they looked straight into John’s own eyes; the little being’s gaze was so curiously intent that he was a trifle startled.

Time passed quietly, uneventfully. Now little Edmond was observing his immediate world with a half purposeful expression; now he was grasping at objects with his odd hands. They were agile little hands, unusually apt at seizing what was within their reach. The fingers closed like small tentacles about John’s swinging watch, and tugged it, strangely and precociously, not toward the thin-lipped mouth, but before the eyes for examination.

And time dragged on. John gave up his office in the Loop, moving it to his home on Kenmore. He installed a desk in the living room, and a wall telephone; just as good as being downtown, he thought, and it saved the street car ride. He had the house wired for electric light; everybody was abandoning the hot gas-burners. His practice was well-established, and clients quickly learned of his new business quarters. And at this time a new company was being formed to manufacture gasoline automobiles; he bought a few shares as a speculation, believing the devices due for a wave of popularity. And the ‘L’ nosed northward block by block. This was Chicago of the first decade, sprawling in its mud and glitter. No seer nor sorcerer whispered that the young city had spawned an egg whose maturity was as yet inconceivable.

The child Edmond was speaking a few words now. ‘Light,’ he said, when the yellow carbon-filament flashed on. He toddled around the office, learned the sound of the telephone bell. His nurse dressed him in little shirted suits that went unharmoniously with his pinched and precocious features; he looked like a waxen elf or a changeling. Yet, from a parental standpoint he was a model child; mischief seemed absent from his make-up. He was strangely content to be alone, and happily played meaningless games with himself. John still talked to him at evening. He listened owlishly solemn, and seldom questioned, and seasons came and vanished.

Nothing ever disturbed his poise. John’s equally grim and never friendly brother Edward (also named for that old father of both) came once or twice to call in the early years.

‘The brat’s lonesome,’ he stated baldly. ‘You’ll bring him up queer unless you get him some friends.’

The four-year-old Edmond answered for himself in a piping voice: ‘I’m not lonesome.’

‘Eh? Who do you play with?’

‘I play with myself. I talk with myself. I don’t need any friend.’

His uncle laughed. ‘Queer, John, like I told you.’

Queer or not, the imp developed. At six he was a silent slender child with curious amber eyes and nondescript brown hair, and a habit of spending many hours alone at the window. He betrayed none of the father-worship common to sons, but he liked the slowly aging John, and they got along well together in a distant way. His curious hands had long ago ceased to bother his father; they were at least as useful as normal members, and at times unusually apt and delicate. The child built things–tall houses of cards that John’s steadiness could not duplicate, intricate bits of machinery from a mechanical building toy, and sometimes neat little sailing planes of paper, matches, and glue.

At this age Edmond’s quiet way of living was rather ruthlessly upset. John chose to enter him in school.

2. MORNING ON OLYMPUS

THERE was a public school at the time not more than a block and a half from the house on Kenmore. John placed young Edmond there, disregarding the Kindergarten and starting him in the first grade. The nurse, more or less of an ornament the last two years, dropped out of the boy’s sphere. His father took him the short distance to school for a week or so, and thereafter he trudged it himself, as he had often watched others from his window.

For the first time in his short life his world impinged on that of others. He was thrust willy-nilly out of his privacy into the semi-public ordeal of grade school. His first day was something of a trial; he was stared at, and stared back, and stood for the most part quietly waiting for instructions. A few young sophisticates who had come up from Kindergarten grouped together, calling each other by name, and definitely dividing themselves from the others. However, there were many newcomers like Edmond who stood at a loss; some of them cried, and some waited aimlessly for the assignment of seats.

And that stage passed. The strange child refused association with others; he came and left alone, and spent his recesses wandering by himself about the school-yard. He did not seem unusually bright. The goad of competition simply slipped off his hide; he flatly and definitely refused to compete. Questions put by the teacher were answered with unvarying correctness, but he never volunteered. On the other hand, his memory was faultless, and his grasp of explanations rather remarkable. And so the strange child moved in a world as frictionless as he could contrive and the grades slipped by with the lengthy seasons of childhood. He seemed to learn with acceptable facility. He was never late, seldom early, and still pursued as solitary a course as conditions permitted.

In fourth grade he encountered a physical training instructress who had taken a summer course in the psychology of morbid children. She singled Edmond out; here, she thought, is both a good specimen and an opportunity to help. Introverted, repressed, feeling of inferiority–these were the tags she applied to him.

She arranged games during the gymnasium hour, and attempted to arouse Edmond to compete. She paired him with one or another of the children in races, jumping contests, competitions of various sorts. She appointed him to drop the handkerchief when that game was in progress, and in various ways tried to direct him in paths she thought proper from her three-months study of the subject.

Edmond realized the situation with some disfavor. He promptly and coolly obtained an excuse from physical training, displaying his curious hands as a reason. In some ways he paid for his privilege; the excuse drew the attention of his classmates to his manual deformity. They commented on it in the blunt manner of ten-year-olds, and were continually asking to see the questionable fingers. Edmond obligingly wriggled them for their amusement; he saw in this the easiest attainment of the privacy he desired. And after a while interest did fade; he was permitted again to come and go alone.

He was not, of course, spared entirely in the fierce savagery of childhood. Often enough he was the butt of gibes, the recipient of challenges to fight, or the bearer of a derisive, though usually short-lived, sobriquet. He faced all of these ordeals with a stony indifference. He came and went as he had always done–alone. If he held any resentment, he never showed it, with but possibly one exception.

He was in the sixth grade, and just twelve years old. In every grade, as he had noticed, there had been one leader, one boy who assumed mastery, and whom the others obeyed with a sort of loose discipline. For two years this leader had been Paul–Paul Varney, son of an English professor at nearby Northwestern University, a fine blond youngster, clean-featured, large for his age, intelligent, and imaginative. Very grown up was Paul; he dated with little Evanne Marten in the fifth grade in Platonic imitation of his elders. It was his custom and his privilege to walk home each afternoon with Vanny, who had the blackest hair in school. And it was Paul who coined the sobriquet ‘Snake-fingers’, which pursued Edmond most of a week. At the beginning the name gave Edmond a day of torment–not that he minded the epithet, but he hated with a fierce intensity the attention it centered on him. He stalked icily out of the door that afternoon. The nick-name followed him, taken up by others in the cruel hunting-pack of children. A group trailed him, headed by Paul.

At the sidewalk he encountered little black-haired Vanny of the fifth; she took in the situation instantly, and seized his arm.

‘Walk with me, Edmond.’

There was a cessation of sound from behind him; this situation was up to Paul. And Paul strode up to Edmond; he was a head taller than his slight opponent.

‘Vanny’s walking with me!’ he said.

‘I’ll walk with whom I please, Paul Varney!’ Vanny cut in.

‘This guy won’t be able to walk in a minute!’ He advanced toward Edmond.

‘All right,’ said the latter coldly, with a curious intense light in his amber eyes. He doubled the troublesome fingers into curious fists.

‘Sure, you’re bigger’n Edmond. Bully!’ Vanny taunted Paul. He stopped; whether Vanny’s gibe or Edmond’s defiance had halted him was not evident.

‘Can’t fight with girls around,’ was his comment, as he swung on his heel. The pack, leaderless, watched the quarry depart.

‘Why do they call you Evanne?’ asked Edmond as they walked on.

‘One grandma’s name was Eva and the other’s name was Anne,’ sang Vanny. She had answered the same question numerous times. Her mind reverted to the scene of a moment before. ‘Why don’t you get mad at Paul once in a while? He rides you too much.’

‘Perhaps,’ said Edmond. ‘Sometimes.’ He fell silent, and they walked on until they reached Vanny’s home.

‘Goodbye, Edmond.’ She took the books he had carried for her and skipped into the house. Edmond trudged on alone.

In the morning the quarrel had been forgotten; at least, Paul did not refer to it, and Edmond saw no reason to revive it. Paul walked home with Vanny as usual that afternoon, and every afternoon following. Edmond was satisfied, he sought no further meeting with the girl, but he felt a slight thrill of pleasure to have her smile and greet him thereafter when they met in the hall or on the playground. He always smiled a thin, youthfully sardonic smile in answer. It was the friendliest grimace he could manage with what features he had available.

The years in the grades dragged on–futile, stupid years, the boy thought. For, though no one had realized it, Edmond never studied. True, he handed in the usual themes and exercises when these were required, and he purchased the usual text books, but these were never perused. The explanations of the teacher, the little drill he had in class, were all he required; his almost infallible memory served him sufficiently to render needless any further study.

In these awakening years he was beginning to appreciate something else–that there was a difference between the beings about him and himself. Not the minor physical differences that he had always known, but a mental and emotional gap that he was unable to bridge. This realization was slow in dawning. He began by recognizing a slightly superior feeling, a mild contempt, for his class-mates; they were stupid, slow, plodding; they worked over problems that yielded instantly to his perceptions. Even Paul, who was incessantly being called on for answers when others failed, and who always made the highest marks, seemed merely a less complete dullard than the rest.

But the vital difference was of another sort, a variation not of degree but of nature. This condusion came to him as the culmination of many semesters of reprimands by his various teachers; and the accumulated repetitions of an adage that seemed meaningless to him. He was in seventh grade when the realization dawned, and it came about in this fashion.

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