Two world wars have come and gone. I honor the dead and pray such a terrible loss of lives will never happen again. My life might have been so different. Perhaps I wouldn't have met German my co-writer Edith Parzefall. Nobody from those times would envisage such a friendship between the descendants of their enemies conducted over a connection to the cloud.
Today I have internet connection problems and can't post at my usual early hour.
Here's an excerpt from Long Doom Calling, the forth in the Higher Ground series set in the future after the Great Flood.
“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 to prevent the enemy 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 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 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 both 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 dawn. 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 breathed a sigh of relief. “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.
“If someone wants to take what doesn't belong to them, we should try to talk to them and understand what's going on. War should be the last choice if all negotiations fail.”
She gazed at Trevly. Their eyes locked. He said, “We'll have to remember when we run into folks about to start a war.”
My prayer is to have no more wars.