My German co-writer of the futuristic the Higher Ground series and I have shared a different experience, which I'll tell you about later.
In Britain, the military top brass take part in discussions on the media. Retired generals and admirals have seats in the House of Lords and take an active role in public debate, whereas that doesn't occur in Germany.
If only their union could have developed into lasting peace.
Now to the part I want to tell you about. The English, whom I represent in this tale of co-writing, and the Germans are now friends, united in the common goal of telling the truth. Here's a scene set in the future that we wrote between us from Long Doom Calling, where Cerridwen is telling a story to her companions one dark night around the fire.
"I had a dream once," Cerridwen said, "about the before-times. I flew above a battle. In the dusk, many men stood on top of a hill and pointed sticks, which they called rifles. Many others tried to climb the hill, carrying the same weapons. After flashes of bright light and loud bangs, men fell wounded and dying on both sides of the open ground between them."
"Why did the men want to kill each other?" Hugo asked.
"I wondered that. Then, I found myself understanding one man on the top of the hill. He was called Freddy and he didn't know why he was fighting on this night. Everyone around him had to do the same: fire at the enemy. Kill them to prevent them from storming up the hill. Or else they might try to take power in Freddy's own land of England."
Hugo leaned forward. "Aren't they fighting in their own land?"
"No. They were over the sea far from home. While Freddy fired his rifle and watched his companions die, he thought about the special feast the next day and his family back home. His wife would set out presents for his two little children to find when they woke up in the morning. How he wanted to be there with them to celebrate the birth of Jeeves."
"Oh, that's the man in Saint Eyes," Hugo said.
"No. He was named after the man born long ago in a place called Lehem, in a distant land. The holy Jeeves became a gentle man, who taught love and understanding, and spoke about his father in heaven." Cerridwen paused. "That's the creator who I think of as the Highest—"
"And I call the Lord." Hugo grinned and rocked back and forward.
"Anyway, Freddy just wanted to lay his rifle down at this special time. When I looked at the men below, their shoulders were drooping and some rubbed their eyes. The dark settled over the area and stars twinkled. One man dropped his rifle and lowered his head. I remember feeling sorry for him too. In a flash I joined with him, the way you do in dreams without any explanation of why it's happening."
"Yeah. It's strange," Hugo said.
"His name was Hans. He didn't want to think about killing the enemy. He didn't know why he should do what the man in charge told him he must. He was thinking of his new wife and his parents back home. He imagined them getting together for a feast on this special day, and he longed to be with them. He called to the man next to him and pointed at the stars. His friend nodded in understanding."
"Why the stars?" Hugo asked.
"The stars had a special meaning on this holy day." Cerridwen searched her memory. "Back with Freddy, I saw the men murmuring in prayer together. Then they burst into song. Silent night, holy night... Below, enemies joined in, singing the same melody but the words sounded different: Stille Nawkt, high lee gue Nawkt... Freddy said, 'I don't want to fight on this special day. What do you think they would do if we went downhill to join with them in peace'?
One of the other men said, 'Let's give it a try'.
'They might shoot us', one man grumbled.
'I don't care', Freddy said. 'We shouldn't kill each other at Christmas. Listen. They're singing another song. I'm going out'. Freddy left his rifle on the ground, climbed to his feet and started towards the men below. He expected to feel a sharp pain in his body at any moment, but no one shot him. Some of his hesitant friends joined him, faces serious. But not a bang echoed in the night."
Hugo sat with his mouth open. Hasid smiled.
"One by one, the men below left their cover and walked towards them, hands empty of weapons. When they met, they laughed and nudged each other. They couldn't understand what the other men said, but when Freddy met Hans, they pointed to the stars. Hans reached into his pocket. He brought out a little parcel of food and held it out to Freddy, smiling and nodding. Freddy took a packet of food from his own pocket and passed that to Hans. All the men swapped food and drink. They joined together in singing until the dawn light. Finally, they all went back to their original spots. Freddy settled down to sleep, thinking about the picture Hans had shown him of his wife. He understood that they both lived similar lives, followed similar dreams and shouldn't be killing each other."
"Great story," Hugo said. "I guess that ended the war."
Cerridwen sighed. "I'm afraid not. Freddy knew the whole time they'd be killing each other again the next day. Or be shot by their own headman. Once a war breaks out, it's hard to stop. Like an awful disease that spreads from one person to the other."
"Oh, that's terrible." Hugo looked down at his hands to hide his disappointment.