A race of mutants that evolved from scientists and scholars just before the third World War survived in their underground labs and factories as the humans above destroyed the Earth’s surface. Two hundred years later these subsurface dwellers periodically venture up to capture saps (as they call their unevolved Homo Sapien ancestors) to use for manual labor. Young Harl has just learned what the saps actually are and when he finds out his father Ed is planning a surface raid for saps he demands to tag along.
The crew is equipped with screens that render them invisible and once aboveground they are able to observe the saps in their primitive tribal existence. Harl is enamored with a young sap woman, and when she is alone he disables his screen in an attempt to make contact. She runs in fear, alerting the others in the tribe and prematurely ending the raid.
In a narrative gimmick Dick often used in his stories around this time, he ends with a change in the point of view, in this case switching to the tribe’s perspective, and with names like Julie, Ken and Mr. Stebbins perhaps they aren’t the savages they seem to be. Julie describes to the others the pale, sickly apparition she saw, and Mr. Stebbins informs her she saw a goblin, the creatures like men, but not men, who live and dig tunnels underground.
Cast of characters
- Harl Boynton – a member of the Youth League
- Edward Boynton – Harl’s father planning the surface raid
- Robin Turner – Ed’s assistant
- Fashold – a Youth League leader
- Julie, Ken, Mr. Stebbins – aboveground Homo Sapiens