Far from home, on the planet Caratax, the narrator’s unit of Sethorians, receive an offer from their commander:
“Bring me the severed head of a Corgolian, and I will provide nanobots that let you see the color purple.”
Well, yeah, that is pretty brutal. The soldiers understand that. They’re supposed to be winning this war, and how does taking heads speak to winning? But purple! None of the Sethorians can see that far into the spectrum. Wouldn’t it be great?
The author says this story was written to reflect how, even in the future, the inhumanity inherent in war will find ways to show through. I don’t dispute this, but I saw something else besides. The soldiers have little choice but to fight. When challenged, they kill.
The thing they seek has no inherent market value. It’s not for greed they wish to see purple. The narrator admits the shame of cutting off heads. At first, their wish to do so—aside from an understandable childlike wonder—makes little sense. And why would the commander’s be interested in expanding their color vision? Why would they be interested in the heads of the enemy? They’re winning the war, right?
While it isn’t spoken of directly, it’s clear the soldiers are manipulated by the commanders. They are willing participants in this manipulation, acknowledged or not. What is the advantage?
The ending is not a surprise, but it speaks to the prerequisite of making the enemy into something non-human in a successful war.
The title is a nod to the 1974 Peckinpah film Bring me The Head of Alfredo Garcia.
According to his blurb, author Don Plattner is a former chemist who wrote jokes for The Onion‘s ClickHole website. What little I know of ClickHole amounts to 1) it parodies the omnipresent clickbait, and 2) The Onion no longer owns it.
Plattner is on Twitter @dehydrogenation. (I’m not enough of a chemistry nerd to get the joke, but I imagine it has to do with removing hydrogen and making things more explosive.)
The story can be read here.
Title: “Bring Me The Head”
Author: Don Plattner
First published: Daily Science Fiction, April 27, 2020