Awk, awk, Feghoot (Feghoot No. XXII)

This Feghoot is by Reginald Bretnor writing under the pseudonymn of Grendel Briarton.

It was Ferdinand Feghoot’s inflexible logic which, in 3938, succeeded in tempering the barbarous colonial oppressions of Chunder-ud-Din, the All-Powerful Lord… of Hindustan, Earth, and the Outlying Worlds, The Son of the Prophet, and The Official Reincarnation of Pandit Nehru, Maria Callas, and Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam.

On the conquered planet Saddhu XVI, which was singularly earthlike, this Autocratic Ruler saw the important role played in the conquered culture by the Great Auks, which were by no means extinct. The natives buried their dead in large cairns with lids of baked clay, and in the hurricane season this gave rise to mournful organ-like sounds which were blamed on spirits lamenting the presence of insects infesting their graves. Therefore, families who could afford it hung a Great Auk in a cage under the lid of their cairn, feeding it regularly. The birds were fair wind-stoppers, but the tribal elders believed that they went down at night and picked bugs off the corpses.

As Grand Vizier, Feghoot explained all this very carefully. But the great ruler was outraged. “Why don’t they expose their dead for the vultures to eat, like civilized people?” he cried out. “Wipe them out! There’s no precedent for this sort of custom.”

“Precedent?” exclaimed Ferdinand Feghoot. “0 Thrice-Born, have you not heard about . . . ‘Great Auks from lid allay cairn’s groan?”‘

(Copyright © 1960 by Mercury Press. First published in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, January 1960)

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