I read this, I think, in an unremembered anthology about 25 years ago but the style/language made me think of the early 1960s.

The tale begins with a mid-teens protagonist deciding if he can be bothered raping anybody today. The backstory is then revealed, we are in a post-nuclear war community set amongst a vast system of bunkers, caves and tunnels, with open bush country between them all.

The boys all seem to get raped often throughout their childhood until they're big enough to fight back - the girls just endure. When the boys get bigger, they themselves then begin to prey in the same way on the younger kids.

The current ruler of this area is 'Buddy', a fearsome bully. He spends most days glowering at anyone who goes near the cooking pots. These are tended by older men and women (commonly known as 'creeps') who live under Buddy's rule for a peaceful life. The pots are constantly stocked with grain and root vegetables farmed by other 'creeps' - and some 'creep' hunters who trap possums and squirrels etc.

Buddy is known for suddenly killing a person and throwing them to the 'creeps' to stock the stewpots up. No meat gets wasted in this harsh life. The boy witnessed him one day when a 3 year old girl innocently walked right up to the cooking pots to speak to a stirring woman, he picked the child up and plunged her alive into the bubbling mix, there was extra meat for all that day but the brutal lesson lingered.

Anyways, the teen boy decides he'll go see the 'funny guy' again and he sneaks away down long deserted tunnels until he reaches a big rock fall. He first found this place as a young kid hiding from a rape gang. He slithers through tight places and emerges in a pitch-black room, feeling about he finds an ancient light switch and reveals a battered computer console with a human head mounted on it. He gives it a "Like, start talking, man".

A second backstory reveals the head is of a scientist, he and his team were in a nuke bunker in the caves, waiting for www3 to commence, and came up with an idea to hand knowledge down to the survivors. They drew lots (I think) to select him, then set his head up in the console and loaded it with life preservation stuff.

However the blast brought down the rockfall and left him there alone for countless decades until the boy found him. The boy has visited several times but finds his donnish way of speaking very boring. Also the scientist is appalled at the beatnik speech of the boy.

He has to tell the boy, yet again, what bombs are, but again he realises all the boy wants is a way to get a bomb, kill Buddy, and seize power.

He tries a bit of Bible preaching but the boy says "that's s**t man" and goes to leave, saying over his shoulder that he probably won't ever be back because he's getting too big for the crawling space.

I think it ends with the head desperately pleading for the light to be left on, he doesn't want to spend millenia in the dark. No use; the teen casually flicks off the light and crawls away through the gaps

Update in March 23: I've had this same question posted on other sites but no luck with an answer, I can't remember anything else so I'm going to post a bounty - hopefully there's a newbie since I asked who might recognise it

  • 4
    Whatever the story is, it sounds vile.
    – Buzz
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 2:28
  • 2
    The story's themes seem awfully dark for most writers from the 1960s; perhaps this is something by Harlan Ellison? Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 14:03
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    The idea of removing a head/brain and keeping it alive crops up a lot in science fiction between, say, 1950 and 1970 (I am not sure of the years). I believe actually head transplant research started around that time - I have vague memories of one of those science fact shows, like 21sr Century (Walter Cronkite) actually showing this kind of unpleasantness. Not that there is a not an actual application, but I am hoping we have better ways of unparalyzing people than a "body"/head transplant soon.
    – releseabe
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 13:21
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    It feels like you've conflated something with Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" -- have you tried the prequel and followup stories "Eggsucker" and "Run, Spot, Run"?
    – Spencer
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 14:18
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    Hi Danny, we're racking our still-connected brains. If you can't find it, it's looking pretty difficult! The only disconnected-head story I remember is a man who collects all his memories, and tells the woman in charge of some device "I'll see you later", and she says, "No, I'll be seeing you later." Which means she'll be seeing his preserved brain. Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 15:03

1 Answer 1


The Head by Robert Bloch.

You've misremembered it a bit. The protagonist is Jon and the story starts with him wondering if he should kill anyone not rape them:

One morning, when Jon was ten years old, it was raining too hard for him to go out and kill anybody.

The bad guy is Grope not Buddy:

The kids never went to the cooking fires alone. Jon remember one time he was little, Grope find a kid try to rip off food from a pot. Grope juss pick the kid up and smash her brains out on the side of a rock. So she end up in the cook-pot herself. All the other kids laugh, ha ha, but they diden forget. And after that they kepp away from the fires excep at feeding times.

Jon finds the head in a cave:

A big head, all wrinkle and hairy. Eyes shut tight, mouth shut too. Dead.
Until Jon twist knobs like he done the first time. Now the sparks jump from long thin things.
The eyes open, look at him. The mouth open too.
And the head say, “Good morning, Jon.”

The story ends:

Jon was reaching for the knob now. Reaching, bored and impatient.

He was powerless to prevent it. Only God had that power. Salvation. Salvation through prayer. Yes, that was the way.

He spoke then. Spoke the only words that would save the world, the words that never failed, the words of wisdom, the words of the ages, the words of God.

“The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul—”

Jon was listening now. Did he understand? Was there enough humanity left in this creature to comprehend the truth? The answer would decide his fate forever, Jon’s fate, the fate of the world, the fate of God.

Then Jon smiled and the answer came.

“That’s shit, man,” Jon said.

And turned him off

  • Thanks @John Rennie, that's bugged me for decades!
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 8:14
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    Sorry it took so long. The mis-remembered name had been leading me astray, but for some reason I suddenly remembered the "that's shit, man". Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 8:28
  • Wow, I have a Bloch collection with this in it, but I have zero remembrance of the story. Well done. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 13:46

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