Slaughterhouse Five


PAGE 9


its boxcars were kept locked tight. Nobody
was to get off until the final destination. To the guards who walked up and down outside,
each car became a single organism which ate and drank and excreted through its
ventilators. It talked or sometimes yelled through its ventilators, too. In went water and
loaves of blackbread and sausage and cheese, and out came shit and piss and language.

Human beings in there were excreting into steel helmets, which were passed to the
people at the ventilators, who dumped them. Billy was a dumper. The human beings also
passed canteens, which guards would fill with water. When food came in, the human
beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared.

Human beings in there took turns standing or lying down. The legs of those who stood
were like fence posts driven into a warm., squirming, fatting, sighing earth. The queer
earth was a mosaic of sleepers who nestled like spoons.

Now the train began to creep eastward.

Somewhere in there was Christmas. Billy Pilgrim nestled like a spoon with the hobo
on Christmas night, and he fell asleep, and he traveled in time to 1967 again-to the night
he was kidnapped by a flying saucer from Tralfamadore.

Four

Billy Pilgrim could not sleep on his daughters wedding night. He was forty-four. The
wedding had taken place that afternoon in a gaily striped tent in Billy's backyard. The
stripes were orange and black.

Billy and his wife, Valencia, nestled like spoons in their big double bed. They were
jiggled by Magic Fingers. Valencia didn�t need to be jiggled to sleep. Valencia was
snoring like a bandsaw. The poor woman didn�t have ovaries or a uterus any more.

They had been removed by a surgeon� by one of Billy's partners in the New Holiday
Inn.

There was a full moon.

Billy got out of bed in the moonlight. He felt spooky and luminous felt as though he
were wrapped in cool fur that was full of static electricity. He looked down at his bare
feet. They were ivory and blue.

Billy now shuffled down his upstairs hallway, knowing he was about to be kidnapped
by a flying saucer. The hallway was zebra-striped with darkness and moonlight. The
moonlight came into the hallway through doorways of the empty rooms of Billy's two
children, children no more. They were gone forever. Billy was guided by dread and the
lack of dread. Dread told him when to stop. Lack of it told him when to move again. He
stopped.



He went into his daughter's room. Her drawers were dumped, her closet was empty.
Heaped in the middle of the room were all the possessions she could not take on a
honeymoon. She had a Princess telephone extension all her own-on her windowsill Its
tiny night light stared at Billy. And then it rang.

Billy answered. There was a drunk on the other end. Billy could almost smell his
breath-mustard gas and roses. It was a wrong number. Billy hung up. There was a soft
drink bottle on the windowsill. Its label boasted that it contained no nourishment
whatsoever.

Billy Pilgrim padded downstairs on his blue and ivory feet. He went into the kitchen,
where the moonlight called his attention to a half bottle of champagne on the kitchen
table, all that was left from the reception in the tent. Somebody had stoppered it again.
Drink me,' it seemed to say.

So Billy uncorked it with his thumbs. It didn�t make a pop. The champagne was dead.
So it goes.

Billy looked at the clock on the gas stove. He had an hour to kill before the saucer
came. He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the
television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then
forwards again. It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and
the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from
an airfield in England. Over France a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards,
sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the
same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards
to join the fonnation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers
opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires,
gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of
the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had
miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck
more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded
Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though,
German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks
and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night
and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals.
Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to
specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide
them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler
turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was
extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception,
conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed.

Billy saw the war movies backwards then forwards-and then it was time to go out into
his backyard to meet the flying saucer. Out he went, his blue and ivory feet crushing the



wet salad of the lawn. He stopped, took a swig, of the dead champagne. It was like 7-Up.
He would not raise his eyes to the sky, though he knew there was a flying saucer from
Tralfamadore up there. He would see it soon enough, inside and out, and he would see,
too, where it came from soon enough-soon enough.

Overhead he heard the cry of what might have been a melodious owl, but it wasn�t a
melodious owl. It was a flying saucer from Tralfamadore, navigating in both space and
time, therefore seeming to Billy Pilgrim to have come from nowhere all at once.
Somewhere a big dog barked.

The saucer was one hundred feet in diameter, with portholes around its rim. The light
from the portholes was a pulsing purple. The only noise it made was the owl song. It
came down to hover over Billy, and to enclose him in a cylinder of pulsing in purple
light. Now there was the sound of a seeming kiss as an airtight hatch in the bottom of the
saucer was opened. Down snaked a ladder that was outlined in pretty lights like a Ferris
wheel.

Billy's will was paralyzed by a zap gun aimed at him from one of the portholes. It
became imperative that he take hold of the bottom rung of the sinuous ladder, which he
did. The rung was electrified, so that Billy's hands locked onto it hard. He was hauled
into the airlock, and machinery closed the bottom door. Only then did the ladder, wound
onto a reel in the airlock, let him go. Only then did Billy's brain start working again.

There were two peepholes inside the airlock-with yellow eyes pressed to them. There
was a speaker on the wall. The Tralfamadorians had no voice boxes. They communicated
telepathically. They were able to talk to Billy by means of a computer and a sort of
electric organ which made every Earthling speech sound.

'Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim,' said the loudspeaker. 'Any questions?'

Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: 'Why me? �

That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why vow? Why us for that
matter? Why anything ? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs
trapped in amber?'

'Yes.' Billy in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber
with three ladybugs embedded in it.

'Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.�

They introduced an anesthetic into Billy's atmosphere now, put him to sleep. They
carded him to a cabin where he was strapped to a yellow Barca-Lounger which they had
stolen from a Sears & Roebuck warehouse. The hold of the saucer was crammed with
other stolen merchandise, which would be used to furnish Billy's artificial habitat in a zoo
on Tralfamadore.

The terrific acceleration of the saucer as it left Earth twisted Billy's slumbering body,
distorted his face, dislodged him in time, sent him back to the war.

When he regained consciousness, he wasn't on the flying saucer. He was in a boxcar
crossing Germany again.

Some people were rising from the floor of the car, and others were lying down. Billy
planned to lie down, too. It would be lovely to sleep. It was black in the car, and black
outside the car, which seemed to be about two miles an hour. The car never seemed to go



any faster than that. It was a long time between clicks, between joints in the track. There
would be a click, and then a year would go by, and then there would be another click

The train often stopped to let really important trains bawl and hurtle by. Another thing
it did was stop on sidings near prisons, leaving a few cars there. It was creeping across all
of Germany, growing shorter all the time.

And Billy let himself down oh so gradually now, hanging onto the diagonal cross-
brace in the comer in order to make himself seem nearly weightless to those he was
joining on the floor. He knew it was important that he made himself nearly ghostlike
when lying down. He had forgotten why, but a reminder soon came.

�Pilgrim,� said a person he was about to nestle with, 'is that vow?'

Billy didn�t say anything, but nestled very politely, closed his eyes.

'God damn if said the person. 'That is you, isn�t it?' He sat up and explored Billy rudely
with his hands. 'It�s you, all right. Get the hell out of here.'

Now Billy sat up, too-wretched, close to tears.

'Get out of here! I want to sleep!�

'Shut up,' said somebody else.

'I'll shut up when Pilgrim gets away from here.'

So Billy stood up again, clung to the cross-brace. 'Where can I sleep?' he asked
quietly.

'Not with me.�

'Not with me, you son of a bitch,� said somebody else. 'You yell. You kick.'

'I do?�

"You're God damn right you do. And whimper.�

'I do?�

'Keep the hell away from here, Pilgrim.�

And now there was an acrimonious madrigal, with parts sung in all quarters of the car.
Nearly everybody seemingly, had an atrocity story of something Billy Pilgrim had done
to him in his sleep. Everybody told Billy Pilgrim to keep the hell away.

So Billy Pilgrim had to sleep standing up, or not sleep at all. And food had stopped
coming in through the ventilators, and the days and nights were colder all the time.

On the eighth day, the forty-year-old hobo said to Billy, 'This ain't bad. I can be
comfortable anywhere.�

'You can?' said Billy.

On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, 'You think this is bad?
This ain't bad.�

There was something about death and the ninth day. There was a death on the ninth
day in the car ahead of Billy's too. Roland Weary died� of gangrene that had started in his
mangled feet. So it goes.

Weary, in his nearly continuous delirium, told again and again of the Three
Musketeers, acknowledged that he was dying, gave many messages to be delivered to his
family in Pittsburgh. Above all, he wanted to be avenged, so he said again and again the
name of the person who had killed him.

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