The first living creature in space was a dog, who knew the vast repercussions of that act.
That was the year of the satellites, of the Sputniks. That was the year of the Space Dog. That was the year it all started.
We didn't know what it was that we were starting. None of us as much as guessed — not even the theologians. To the scientists and the engineers it was the Dawn of the Space Age, as it was to most of the millions of newspaper readers. Oh, there were some pessimistic souls who regarded the triumphs of the rocketeers as proof that no place in the world was safe from the intercontinental ballistic missile. They were right — in a way. The launching of that first, unfortunate hound into her closed orbit round the planet did mean the doom of civilization, although in a totally unexpected manner.
Those of you who have never known what it was like before the coming of our insolent, capricious masters will find it hard to envisage things as they were. Even if we are successful in this desperate attempt to overthrow our rulers there can never be any return to the old days and the old ways. It could be that the devils we know may prove preferable to the devils we don't know — but I doubt it. The Power whose aid we hope to enlist may be aloof, and cruel at times, but she has an essential dignity sadly lacking in those other Powers that we so foolishly — albeit unwittingly — invoked. Too, her people have suffered as much as ours under the rule of the beasts.
It wasn't a bad world at all — by present day standards — the year that the trouble started. We grumbled, and we dreaded, at times, the future— but it wasn't a bad world. Even with the ever present threat of atomic war, it wasn't a bad world. We were ruling — or misruling — ourselves. The power was ours, ours, as was the choice. It was up to us to decide whether we lived in Heaven or died in Hell. There had been, during our last big war — it finished some twelve years before the launching of the Space Dog — a lot of talk about the Four Freedoms. They were what we were supposed to be fighting for f Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought No- body mentioned the Fifth Freedom, which is the most important of all, and that's the one that we miss the most. Freedom to go to Hell our own way. We — all of us who can remember the old days — rather resent having been dragged there by outsiders.
It didn't matter what nationality we were — the world was a collection of nations then and not, as now, just two big Empires — we all had that freedom. And we were free to dream, too. We were free to dream of the Earthly paradise that would come with the wise use of automation and atomic power. We were free to dream of ships to the Moon — and how close we were to realizing that dream! — and the planets and, even, the stars. But automation is no more than a legend — all manufactured things are made, now, slowly and painfully by men, women and children. Atomic power is only an old, half-remembered, half-believed story. They saw to it that the power stations and the research establishments were destroyed. They used their powers to make in- effective and useless the stock- piles of atomic weapons, of all weapons. Perhaps they saved the world— but they saved it for their people, not for us — for their purposes.
It was the Russians who launched the first animal into Space. A dog, it was. You'll know all about her. Her statue stands in every village, every town. It stands by the dozen in every city. She died, eventually, out there in the cold and the darkness, in what we thought of, then, as the loneliness. Before she died she must have called — and her call was answered. It wasn't answered at once. After all — a Being to whom Eternity is no more than a normal life span is slow to awaken, is slow, even when awakened, to take action.
|Publisher:||eStar Books LLC|
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