What is this short story? Plot summary: It begins with a young lady looking weak and shy, embarking on a spaceship to follow her husband sent on a mission (written in the social context of the 50's, i reckon). After ship propulsion breaks down and it becomes clear that there will be no vital supply for every passenger, she gradually becomes more and more assertive, toughly negotiates with the captain. She argues that being pregnant entitles her to double rations. When rescue eventually reaches the ship, without any hope of finding survivors, they find human bones floating all around the ship. The punchline is thrilling: they find the lady singing a lullaby to her child, and considering them with demented eyes before pronouncing the last word : "food!".

  • I actually came across this story in the form of a radio play podcast. I don't recall the name, but I'll do some digging and see if I can track it down.
    – onewho
    Aug 8, 2017 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


This is John Wyndham's "Survival", first published in 1952 in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1952. Description from this site:

And of course, after the relatively encouraging portrayals of women in the last two stories (even if they are, of course, the only women in each story), we have this bit about a conniving shrew who uses motherhood as a weapon. A ship travelling to the colony on Mars loses the use of its lateral thrusters, marooning them in orbit around Mars until another a rescue mission from Earth can reach them. Food runs out and things go foul among the crew and passengers, who quickly resort to mutiny and cannibalism – space travel here is highly reminiscent of the age of sail, down to navigators and charts and parlance.

There is one woman among said passengers, the seemingly-mousy wife of one of mining colony’s bureaucrats, who the captain singles out as a problem from the very beginning: “Her presence was certainly a possible source of trouble. When it came to the pinch the man would have more strain on account of her-and, most likely, fewer scruples.” As it turns out, she is the one lacking scruples, and although her husband quickly succumbs (off-screen and mostly unremarked), she reveals that she is not only secretly pregnant but that the news media back on Earth have made her the heroine of the story, and so she is untouchable to the other mutinous cannibals. We then cut to an unspecified time later when a rescue crew arrives in an effectively creepy scene of a ship full of floating debris and human bones and a disembodied voice singing “Rock a Bye Baby” before they stumble upon the only survivors: the mother and child. Mom points a pistol at them and says “Look, baby. Look there. Food. Lovely food…”


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