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I'm looking for the title and anthology/source of a short story published at least 20 years ago, probably even further in the past.

My memory says the title was "He Who Cried", but I can't find any reference to that exact title.

Plot outline (hazy in most parts): Man gets captured by hostile aliens. He's in a room with several aliens and they decide to kill him. As they advance to do the deed, the man bursts into tears and starts pleading with them. To his surprise, they drop dead.

Some time later, another alien comes into his cell to kill him, and again he bursts into tears and again the alien drops dead. The man realizes that somehow his tears are lethal to these aliens.

So the next time an alien (who is a heroic volunteer in the aliens' eyes) comes into his cell, the man confidently waits for his tears to kill the alien. The problem is, he's not afraid any longer, so the tears do not manifest, and the alien is able to kill the man. The alien exits the cell and receives the accolades of his people.

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  • I have to wonder how deadly a tear on a person's cheek is likely to be fatal to a alien with a knife, sword, or ray gun standng a few feet away. Your description doesn't say how the tears came into contact with the aliens. There doesn't seem anything heroic to me about volunteering to kill a prisoner in a cell at the risk of one's own life, since there is no need to kill someone who is locked up in a cell. And it is a fact that some persons can cry without feeling sad or scared. Some adult and child actors can cry on cue, while others have to work themselves into the necessary mood. – M. A. Golding Mar 14 at 15:45
  • @RSB - Welcome to the site. If anyone correctly identifies the story you're looking for, please upvote that answer and mark it as accepted by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons. Or if the only answers posted are incorrect, please indicate that with a comment so we know to keep looking. Thank you. – LogicDictates Mar 15 at 12:18
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The plot device (as well as the epilogue) is so very similar to William Tenn's The Flat-Eyed Monster (available online on Baen) that I wonder whether you might not be mis-remembering.

The chief (I'd venture to say the only) appreciable difference is that in Tenn's story, the method of killing involves telepathy; but even then, it is described as "something coming out of the eyes":

“Srin! The monster—Do—do you see what’s coming out of his eyes? He’s—he’s—”

The ending is just as you remember:

The zigzag aperture widened and Rabd bounced into the cabin, looking like a series of long balloons in his spacesuit. He glanced at the recumbent Tekt and then turned desperately, pointing his curlicued blaster at Manship.

“Poor guy,” Manship was thinking. “Poor, dumb, narrow-minded hero type. In just a second, you’ll be nothing but goo.” He waited, full of confidence.

He was so full of confidence, in fact, that he wasn’t a bit frightened.

So nothing came out of his eyes, nothing but a certain condescending sympathy.

So Rabd blasted the ugly, obscene, horrible, flat-eyed thing down where it stood. And scooped up his bride with loving tentacles. And went back home to a hero’s reception.

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    LSerni, you hit it on the nail. That's the story I remember, and I just finished re-reading it. Thanks so much for identifying it and also for providing the link to it. – RSB Mar 18 at 2:29
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    @RSB If you are the OP, you appear to have lost your original account. You should merge your accounts so you can properly accept the answer. – DavidW Mar 18 at 2:38

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