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The Next Time We Die   By: (1907-1977)

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The Next Time We Die


[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories February 1957. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: We journey to far places, driven on by ideals. We fight for lost causes, sacrificing our lives because the things we fight for seem worthwhile. But are we right? Are they worth being killed over? Perhaps. Then again, maybe we'll know better The Next Time We Die ]

Now in the nooning, with the sun high overhead and the shadows huddling dispiritedly at their sides, the threat that existed in this wild desert was completely invisible.

The girl, Nora Martin, said, "What I don't understand is why we were so stupid as to come here in the first place. We could have stayed on Earth and had homes and families." Becoming conscious of what she had said, she hastily corrected herself. "I mean, each of us could have had a home and a family."

Pike McLean shifted the muzzle of the Rangeley just a trifle, adjusting it so that the cross hairs in the periscope sight covered the exact spot where he expected, and hoped, the next native would appear. He tried to dig the sand out of his eyes. Since he had sand on his hands, this only got more of the gritty particles into his eyes. He wished fervidly for a deep satisfying breath of the thick muggy air of Earth before he died.

"This air, there's not anything to it," he muttered.

The girl glanced sharply at him. She had eyes that were as blue as the skies of Earth on a sunny day. The dirt on her nose made her look human. At this moment, the eyes had anger in them. Back of the anger were unshed tears.


"Did you hear what I said?" she repeated.

McLean shifted his long body so that it lay a little lower in the depression in the sand. "I guess you came here because you're an archeologist and you're getting paid to examine ruins. I came here because I'm a roustabout who is supposed to be able to do anything, which is what I'm getting paid for." He paused and removed an offending grain of sand from his right eyelid. "Dying is not much," he continued. "Why are you so frazzled about it? It doesn't even hurt, when you really get to it, that is."

"You talk as if you have died before!"

"Why, I have," he answered, surprise in his voice. "Hundreds of times. Since we first crawled out on the mud flats and grew feet and left our gills behind us, that's a long time. We've been dying ever since, that's for sure. And probably for a much longer time."

"I thought you were talking about reincarnation," the astonished archeologist said.

"So I was," the roustabout answered. "They're only different approaches and aspects of the same problem. We reincarnate in order to take another crack at the puzzle of evolution. Some day we'll solve it! Then we will fall heir to the farther stars instead of just this little old duck pond of a solar system."

"You sound very sure of yourself. What proof "

"It's in the book," McLean answered. "We're homo sapiens . And that means something. The mud flats didn't stop us. We crawled off of them and on to the high ground and into the forests and overran a planet. The atom bomb didn't hold us up too long, even when we got to using it on each other. Where in all that space " His hand swept upward in an arc that included all the vast expanse of stars dimly seen here on this world even at high noon. " is anything that can stop us, when we can keep coming back to take another crack at the problem? Any problem, I don't care what it is, can be solved if we can keep working at it long enough!" Enthusiasm sounded in his voice, then faded out. He drew his hand down. Two of the fingers were missing.

McLean stared at the ooze of blood and plasma and set his lips against the pain. "That damned needle ray can sure knock a hunk out of a man," he said... Continue reading book >>

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