Forever Free

Forever Free

Forever Free

Men stop war to make gods

sometimes. Peace gods, who would make

Earth a haven. A place for men to

think and love and play. No war

to cloud their minds and hearts. Stop,

somehow, men from being men.

Gods make war to stop men

from becoming gods.

Without the beat of drums to stop

our ears, what heaven we could make

of Earth! The anchor that is war

left behind? Somehow free to

stop war? Gods make men to

be somewhat like them. So men

express their godliness in war.

To take life: this is what gods

do. Not the womanly urge to make life.

Nor the simple sense to stop.

War-men make gods. To stop

those gods from raging, we have to

find the heart and head to make

new gods, who don’t take men

in human sacrifice. New gods,

who find disgust in war.

Gods stop, to make men war

for their amusement. We can stop

their fun. We can make new gods

in human guise. No need to

call to heaven. Just take plain men

and show to them the heaven they could make!

To stop God’s wars! Men make

their own destiny. We don’t need war

to prove to anyone that we are men.

But even that is not enough. To stop

war, we have to become more. To

stop war, we have to become gods.

-To stop war, make men gods.


book one



Chapter one

Winter is a long time coming on this god-forsaken planet, and it stays too long, too. I watched a sudden gust blow a line of cold foam across the grey lake and thought about Earth, not for the first time that day. The two warm winters in San Diego when I was a boy. Even the bad winters in Nebraska. They were at least short.

Maybe we were too quick to say no, when the magnanimous zombies offered to share Earth with us, after the war. We didn’t really get rid of them, coming here.

Cold radiated from the windowpane. Marygay cleared her throat behind me. “What is it?” she said.

“Looks like weather. I ought to check the trotlines.”

“Kids will be home in an hour.”

“Better I do it now, dry, than all of us stand out in the rain,” I said. “Snow, whatever.”

“Probably snow.” She hesitated, and didn’t offer to help. After twenty years she could tell when I didn’t want company. I pulled on wool sweater and cap and left the rain slicker on its peg.

I stepped out into the damp hard wind. It didn’t smell like snow coming. I asked my watch and it said 90 percent rain, but a cold front in the evening would bring freezing rain and snow. That would make for a fun meeting. We had to walk a couple of klicks, there and back. Otherwise the zombies could look through transportation records and see that all of us paranoids had converged on one house.

We had eight trotlines that stretched out ten meters from the end of the dock to posts I’d sunk in the chest-deep water. Two more had been knocked down in a storm; I’d replace them come spring. Two years from now, in real years.

It was more like harvesting than fishing. The blackfish are so dumb they’ll bite anything, and when they’re hooked and thrash around, it attracts other blackfish: “Wonder what’s wrong with that guy–oh, look! Somebody’s head on a nice shiny hook!”

When I got out on the dock I could see thunderheads building in the east, so I worked pretty fast. Each trotline’s a pulley that supports a dozen hooked leaders dangling in the water, held to one-meter depth with plastic floaters. It looked like half the floaters were down, maybe fifty fish. I did a mental calculation and realized I’d probably just finish the last one when Bill got home from school. But the storm was definitely coming.

I took work gloves and apron off a hook by the sink and hauled the end of the first line up to the eye-level pulley wheel. I opened the built-in freezer–the stasis field inside reflected the angry sky like a pool of mercury–and wheeled in the first fish. Worked it off the hook, chopped off the head and tail with a cleaver, threw the fish into the freezer, and then rebaited the hook with its head. Then rolled in the next client.

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Categories: Haldeman, Joe