by Forrest J. Ackerman
For twenty years—for twenty long, horror filled, war laden years the
Earth had not known peace.
Hovering over the metropolises of the world came long, lean battle
projectiles, glinting silver in the sunlight or coming like gaunt
mirages of grey out of the midnight sky to blast man's civilization from
its cultural foundations. Man against man, ship against ship—a
ceaseless and useless orgy of slaughter. Men, at their battle stations
in the ships, pressed buttons, releasing radio bombs that blistered
space and lifted whole cities up in shattered pieces and flung them
down, grim ruins, reminders of man's ignorant hatreds and suspicions.
And gas—thick black clouds of it—billowing over the cities, seeking
every possible egress, pushed forward by colossal Wind machines. But
even when Victory came for the one side, often Nature, in one of her
vengeful moments, would send the black gas flowing back to annihilate
Rays cut the air! Power bombs exploded incessantly! Evaporays robbed the
Earth of its water—shot it up into the atmosphere and made of it a fog
that condensed only after many months. And heat rays made deserts out of
Rays that hypnotized caused even the strong minded to commit suicide or
reveal military secrets. Rays that effected the optical nerves swept
cities and left the population groping and blind, unable to find food.
It was a war that destroyed almost all of humanity. And why were they
fighting? For pleasure and amusement!
In the middle of the twenty-second century, every nation had a standard
defense. The weapons of war of each were equal—not in proportion to
size, but actually, since man-power no longer counted high. Pacifism had
done its best, but the World was armed to the hilt. And now—though
illogically—it felt safe—for every nation meant the same as if all had
Another thing—there was no work to be done. Robots did it. And there
seemed nothing left to discover, invent or enjoy. Art was at its
perfection, poetry was mathematically correct and unutterably
beautiful—worked out by the Esthetic machines. Sculptoring had been
given the effect complete, artists hands guided by wonderful pieces of
machinery. Huge museums were crammed with art put out synthetically.
And thus it was with the many Arts and their creators who grew stagnent
in their perfection. And it was that way with the many sciences
Paleontologists had found, and articulated, and catalogued every fossil.
The ancestor of the Eohippus, the little four-toed Dawn Horse, was
discovered; the direct line between man and ape established in skeletal
remains; the seat of life itself definitely proved Holarctica. And
great bio-chemists, skilled in the science of vital processes, had
created synthetic tissues and muscles and flesh, built upon the frames
that had been recovered bodies with skillful modeling ... even supplied
them with blood and given them the spark of LIFE ... so that
Paleobotonists recreated the flora of a prehistoric era. Again the
ponderous amphibious brontosaur pushed through marshes. Fish emerged
upon the land, and the first bird archaeopteryx tried his imperfect
wings for flight. In the regulated climates of long dead ages, fish,
amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals lived again for the edification
of those interested in the very ancient—or who were amused with queer
But that was only paleontologically speaking. There were the heavens to
be considered. They had been: the stars and planets weighed and
measured, their composition noted, courses plotted with super-accuracy.
Every feature had been mapped—every climactic condition recorded. Life
had been named and numbered ... then photographed. And these were but
first considerations. Actually, what wasn't known about the Solar System
had not occurred as yet. But that would probably be remedied by a
machine to view the future.
There was physics, biology, anthropology, zoology, geology,
bacteriology, botany—and 'ologies' and 'otonies' and 'onomies' such as
ran into figures which only machines could calculate.
A book could indeed have been written of the accomplishments of super
race. But this is of the WAR itself, and how it came about, and how
it all ended.
Stated simply, in 2150 the point of DIMINISHING UTILITY had been
reached. To the hungry man, the first course of dinner is wonderfully
delicious, the second good, the third satisfying. Through the ages
people have hungered after luxury and leisure—but when he finds his
food, a lot of it, MAN finds suddenly that it no longer appeals to him.
In fact, too much is bound to make him sick and often disagreeable. He
looks around for something else. So did the people of the 22nd Century.
They had all of the pleasurable amusements they wanted, but it was all
so intellectual. Everything was culture. They had surfeited with it. And
suddenly they wanted to forget it. All play and no work made MAN a
discontented citizen. A reaction set in. Man was not completely
civilized as yet——THE WAR!
Twenty-one years the war raged. And scarcely a million survived. Bit by
bit this million was whittled down by the weapons of destruction to
ragged handfuls of things that once had been cultured. Finally only one
hundred humans remained alive—and they kept fighting blindly, none of
them realizing how close to oblivion they were crowding themselves and
the future of humanity—and they went on killing, killing, killing!
It is doubtless but what the entire human race would have vanished,
leaving the world to the more competent, though half-ignorant, hands of
the beasts, who fought and killed one another for self-preservation and
for food—not because of madness ... and who did not have books and talk
and have culture. The human race would have gone, had it not been for
The fighters of WAR'S END, leaving their machines and countries to
congregate for personal combat, were engaging in hand-to-hand attacks in
the ruins of what once had been a tall and powerful city in the
Twentieth Century, but now lay crumbling, its proud buildings falling to
the ground, sticking out iron-rusted skeletons to the sky—and the city
was LOS ANGELES!
HEDRIK HUNSON was fighting with phosphorized fists—hand inclosed in
chemically treated gloves that burned as they struck the antagonist,
insulated on the interior for the wearer—when suddenly the two of them
were caught by a spreader. The other man died instantly, but Hedrik got
it in the side and was whirled about sickeningly, and survived.
He was lying painfully on something when he came to, but felt too dizzy
and sick to move. At last, when his head had cleared a bit, he rolled
over into a sitting position and reached out his arms to grasp—a
Big things came in small packages in the days of 2171, and a portable
phonograph might well be taken for a weapon of some sort—which was
exactly what Hedrik thought! And you can hardly blame him, because no
one in that generation had ever seen one of the things.
There was a curious story connected with the dying of music, concerning
the days of 2050 when there was a movement to stamp out all symphonies
and songs and things even slightly sentimental.
—but back to Hedrik!
Hedrik found the crank that wound the portable, turned it, reasoning
that perhaps it gave power—and then—holding it away from him—he
waited for rays to spurt out or something to explode. Nothing happened!
Hedrik was disappointed. After an agony of perspiration and puzzlement
he finally accidentally placed the needled arm onto the disk. The disk,
he noticed, was black and filled with little undulations. The disk was
like a wheel—so Hedrik thought—it should revolve like one, shouldn't
it? He pushed the starter thoughtfully and was more than surprised when
the disk started spinning.
From the phonograph came music—music and singing! The lost Art had
returned! The Art banished under compulsion had made a comeback.
Some man was singing on the record—in a queerly interesting and
familiar tongue, the ancient English. The singer seemed sad, almost
crying. And Hedrik was thrilled as he played it over and over again,
drinking in the new experience like wine on the lips of a connoisseur.
The voice rose, fell, lingered. And Hedrik suddenly didn't feel like
The music floated out over the tumbled ruins, descended to the ears of
the other people. AND THE FIGHTING CEASED! They were transformed. They
came running to crowd about the machine.
And there in that aged music shop they stood enthralled—music filled
their souls. It was exactly what they had needed and wanted for many
years. And it had been denied them. Music was the balancing force ...
the force that would help them struggle ahead rebuilding the world. And
next time they would be saner ... they knew ... the lesson of luxury had
been learned and learned well. Never again would they leave all of the
work to the machines. Now they would work and sing and play.
It would be work ... hard work ... for some time to come. But they had
found music again, and that would anchor them to sanity.
And thus was mankind saved through a record—SONNY BOY!