Scott D. Danielson narrates this short short story (320 words) by Fredric Brown. I think it encapsulates much of what Science Fiction is about – teaching by thought experiment. It may be that stories of this kind work almost like an inoculative vaccination, preventing certain mental processes that lead to damaging behavior.
And here’s a |PDF| made from a scan of the original magazine publication in Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1954.
Sentry by Fredric Brown
He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and he was fifty thousand light-years from home.
A strange blue sun gave light and the gravity, twice what he was used to, made every movement difficult.
But in tens of thousands of years this part of war hadn’t changed. The flyboys were fine with their sleek spaceships and their fancy weapons. When the chips are down, though, it was still the foot soldier, the infantry, that had to take the ground and hold it, foot by bloody foot. Like this damned planet of a star he’d never heard of until they’d landed him there. And now it was sacred ground because the aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the Galaxy … cruel, hideous and repulsive monsters.
Contact had been made with them near the center of the Galaxy, after the slow, difficult colonization of a dozen thousand planets; and it had been war at sight; they’d shot without even trying to negotiate, or to make peace.
Now, planet by bitter planet, it was being fought out.
He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and the day was raw with a high wind that hurt his eyes. But the aliens were trying to infiltrate and every sentry post was vital.
He stayed alert, gun ready. Fifty thousand light-years from home, fighting on a strange world and wondering if he’d ever live to see home again.
And then he saw one of them crawling toward him. He drew a bead and fired. The alien made that strange horrible sound they all make, then lay still.
He shuddered at the sound and sight of the alien lying there. One ought to be able to get used to them after a while, but he’d never been able to. Such repulsive creatures they were, with only two arms and two legs, ghastly white skins and no scales.
Posted by Jesse Willis