Unicorn Trade by Anderson, Poul. Part six




(D.March 1958)

Yours not this August; yours no set of days Demarked by solstice or by lunar phase; Yours, now unalmanacked Eternity.

Takeoff to everywhere and everywhen, To space-time spread continuous in your ken; Cosmos and atom ranged in unity.

The explorers of the variousness of life,

Their growth and death, their thought and love

and strife,

All are yourself, and you are all who be.

We living yet in days and limits make Each what he can of what ways he can take That share of glory which you made him see.

—Karen Anderson



A strong, loud wind drove grizzly clouds low above Oceanus. The waves that rumbled before it were night-purple in their troughs, wolf-gray on their crests, and the foam lacing them blew off in a salt mist of spindrift. But where Hermes hurried was a radiance like sunlight.

Otherwise the god willed himself invisible to mortals. This required him to skim the water, though damp and the gloom of a boreal autumn were not to his liking. He had started at a sunny altitude but descended after his third near collision with an aircraft.

/ should have inquired beforehand, he thought, and then: Of whom? Nobody lives in this islandless waste. —Well, someone could have told me, someone whose worshipers still ply the seas.

Or I should have reasoned it out for myself, he continued, chagrined since he was supposed to




be the cleverest of the Olympians. After all, we see enough flyers elsewhere, and hear and smell them. It stands to reason mortals would use them on this route.

But so many!

The ships, too, had multiplied. They were akin to those engine-driven vessels which Hermes often observed on the Midworld. He sighed for the white-winged stateliness of the last time he passed this way, two centuries ago.

However, he was not unduly sentimental. Unlike most gods, including several in his own pantheon, he rather enjoyed the ingenuity of latter-day artisans. If only they were a bit less productive. They had about covered the earth with their machines and their children; they were well along toward doing likewise for the great deep, and the firmament was getting cluttered.

Eras change, eras change. And you ‘d better check on how they’ve been changing in these parts, my lad. Hermes tuned his attention to the radio spectrum and caught the voice of an English-speaking military pilot. “—Roger.” For a moment he was jolted. Two centuries ago, no gentleman would have said that where any lady might be listening. Then he recalled hearing the modern usage in the Old World.

We really should have been paying closer attention to mortal affairs. Especially in the New World. Sheer laxity to ignore half the globe this long a while.

Immortals got hidebound, he reflected. And once humans stopped worshiping them, they


The Unicorn Trade

got—might as well be blunt— lazy. The Olympians had done little in Europe since the Renaissance, nothing in America since the birth of Thomas Jefferson. The fact that they had never been served by the American people, and thus had no particular tradition of interest in the affairs of that folk, was no excuse.

Certainly Hermes, the Wayfarer, ought to have paid frequent visits. But at least he was the one who had discovered the need for an investigation.

A prayer, startling him to alertness, and in that heightened state, the sudden faint sense of something else, of a newborn god.. ..

He peered ahead. At his speed, the western horizon had begun to show a dark line which betokened land. The wings on his helmet and sandals beat strongly. Men aboard a coastwise freighter thought they glimpsed a small cyclone race by, yelling, kicking up chop and froth, lit by one brass-colored sunset ray.

Yet, despite his haste, Hermes traveled with less than his olden blitheness. If nothing else, he was hungry.

Vanessa Talbott had not called on Aphrodite that Saturday because she was a devotee. In fact, earlier she had invoked the devil. To be precise, she had clenched her fists and muttered, “Oh, hell damn everything, anyway,” after she overcame her weeping.

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