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The Ties That Bind   By: (1923-1996)

The Ties That Bind by Walter M. Miller

First Page:


By Walter Miller, Jr.

Illustrated by Kelly Freas

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction May 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: The Earth was green and quiet. Nature had survived Man, and Man had survived himself. Then, one day, the great silvery ships broke the tranquillity of the skies, bringing Man's twenty thousand year lost inheritance back to Earth.... ]

" Why does your brand sae drop wi' blude, Edward, Edward? Why does your brand sae drop wi' blude, And why sae sad gang ye, O?" "O I hae kill'd my hawk sae gude, Mither, mither; O I hae kill'd my hawk sae gude, And I had nae mair but he, O. "


The Horde of sleek ships arose in the west at twilight gleaming slivers that reflected the dying sun as they lanced across the darkling heavens. A majestic fleet of squadrons in double vees, groups in staggered echelon, they crossed the sky like gleaming geese, and the children of Earth came out of their whispering gardens to gape at the splendor that marched above them.

There was fear, for no vessel out of space had crossed the skies of Earth for countless generations, and the children of the planet had forgotten. The only memories that lingered were in the memnoscripts, and in the unconscious kulturverlaengerung , of the people. Because of the latter half memory, the people knew, without knowing why, that the slivers of light in the sky were ships, but there was not even a word in the language to name them.

The myriad voices of the planet, they cried, or whispered, or chattered in awed voices under the elms....

The piping whine of a senile hag: "The ancient gods! The day of the judging! Repent, repent...."

The panting gasp of a frightened fat man: "The alien! We're lost, we're lost! We've got to run for the hills!"

The voice of the child: "See the pretty birdlights? See? See?"

And a voice of wisdom in the councils of the clans: "The sons of men they've come home from the Star Exodus. Our brothers."

The slivers of light, wave upon wave, crept into the eclipse shadow as the twilight deepened and the stars stung through the blackening shell of sky. When the moon rose, the people watched again as the silhouette of a black double vee of darts slipped across the lunar disk.

Beneath the ground, in response to the return of the ships, ancient mechanisms whirred to life, and the tech guilds hurried to tend them. On Earth, there was a suspenseful night, pregnant with the dissimilar twins of hope and fear, laden with awe, hushed with the expectancy of twenty thousand years. The stargoers they had come home.

" Kulturverlaengerung! " grunted the tense young man in the toga of an Analyst. He stood at one end of the desk, slightly flushed, staring down at the haughty wing leader who watched him icily from a seat at the other end. He said it again, too distinctly, as if the word were a club to hurl at the wingsman. " Kulturverlaengerung , that's why!"

"I heard you the first time, Meikl," the officer snapped. "Watch your tongue and your tone!"

A brief hush in the cabin as hostility flowed between them. There was only the hiss of air from the ventilators, and the low whine of the flagship's drive units somewhere below.

The erect and elderly gentleman who sat behind the desk cleared his throat politely. "Have you any further clarifications to make, Meikl?" he asked.

"It should be clear enough to all of you," the analyst retorted hotly. He jerked his head toward the misty crescent of Earth on the viewing screen that supplied most of the light in the small cabin. "You can see what they are, what they've become. And you know what we are... Continue reading book >>

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