Far, far away behind the stars, everything is very different from here. And even farther out there, everything is even more different from there, where everything is very different from here. But if you flew far away, very far away into the distance, to the place where everything is completely different from everywhere else, maybe there it would be almost exactly like here.
Maybe, in this faraway region, there’s a planet as big as our Earth, and maybe people live on this planet, people who look almost exactly like us, except that they’re blue and can fold up their ears when they don’t want to hear anything.
And perhaps a war broke out on this faraway planet, and ever so many blue people died. A lot of orphans had been left behind, and in the ruins of one of the houses that the bombs had destroyed, sat a little blue boy who was crying because he had lost his father and his mother. For a long time he sat there like that and cried, but then he stopped because he had cried all the tears that were in him. He pulled up his collar, put his hands in his pockets, and went away. When he saw a rock, he kicked at it, and when he saw a flower, he stepped on it.
A little dog came up to him, looked at him, and started wagging its tail. Then it turned around and began walking alongside the boy, as though it had decided to keep him company.
“Go away!” said the boy to the dog. “You have to go away. If you stay with me, I’ll have to love you, and I never want to love anyone again in my whole life.”
The dog looked at him and wagged its tail cheerfully. Then the boy found a gun that was lying next to a dead soldier. He picked up the gun and showed it to the dog. “This gun can shoot you to death!” he said angrily. So the dog ran away.
“I’m going to take you with me!” the boy said to the gun. “You’ll be my good friend.” And with his gun he fired a shot at a dead tree.
Then he found a flying scooter that had just been left lying around in a field. He got on it and tried to start it. The flying scooter worked.
“Now I have a gun and a flying scooter,” said the boy. “They will be my family. I could have had a dog too, but he might be killed, and then I would have to die from crying.”
He flew around on his flying scooter until he saw a house with smoke coming out of it. “Someone’s still living there,” said the boy. He circled around the house and looked through the windows. Inside, there was only an old woman, who was cooking something.
The boy parked his flying scooter in front of the house, took his gun and went inside. “I have a gun!” he said to the old woman. “You’ve got to give me something to eat!”
“Come on, I would give you something anyway,” said the old woman. “You can go ahead and put your gun away.”
“I don’t want you to be nice to me!” the boy said crossly. “My gun can kill you!”
So the old woman gave him something to eat, and he flew off.
That’s how the boy was living now. He set up a hiding place in an abandoned house. When he got hungry, he flew somewhere where there were people, and with his gun he forced them to give him something to eat.
At other times he flew over the deserted battlefields and collected parts from weapons and tanks and trucks that had been left there. He took all of these things to his hiding place.
“I’ll build a giant armored robot!” he said to himself. “It’ll be a hundred yards tall, and it’ll weigh a hundred thousand tons, and way up in its head I’ll have my controls in a cab. Then I’ll have power and no one can do anything to me.”
One day a girl came by his hiding place. The boy went outside with his gun and said: “You’ve got to go away! My gun can shoot you!”
“I don’t want to bother you,” said the girl. “I’m just looking to see if the mushrooms have started growing again.”
“You’ve got to go away!” said the boy. “I don’t want anyone around me!”
“Are you all by yourself?” asked the girl.
“No,” said the boy. “I have a gun and a flying scooter. They’re my family. And one day I’ll have a giant armored robot!”
“Don’t you have anybody real?”
“I could have had a dog. But if someone had killed it, I would have had to die from crying.”
“I don’t really have anybody either,” said the girl. “We could stay together.”
“I don’t want to have anyone who could be shot by a gun!”
“Then I guess you’ll just have to find someone who can’t be shot by a gun!” said the girl and she went away.
But the boy built a giant armored robot and got inside. He sat down way at the top in the robot’s head, where he had built the cab with the controls.
Then he set out and drove around the country in his giant armored robot.
Everywhere the people screamed when they saw him coming, and they wanted to run away. But they couldn’t escape the giant armored robot.
The boy had a microphone in his cab, and everything he said into the microphone came roaring out of the robot’s mouth. “Is there someone here who can’t be killed by a gun?” yelled the robot. But wherever he came, people just ran away from him, and he never found anyone who couldn’t be killed by a gun.
One day, however, he could see from up above in his cab where he was sitting that someone down there wasn’t running away from him but just stood there and shouted something up to him. But he was so high up that he couldn’t understand what the person was saying.
“Maybe that’s someone who can’t be killed by a gun?” the boy thought and climbed down. But it was the old woman who had cooked a meal for him a while ago. “Did you want to say something to me?” the boy asked.
“Yes,” said the old woman. “I heard about somebody who can’t be killed by a gun. I thought I should tell you about him.”
“And who is that?” asked the boy.
“He’s an old man who lives up there on the moon.”
“Then I’ll have to look for him,” said the boy, “because I don’t want to have anyone around me who can be killed by a gun.” And he pulled a switch and his giant armored robot transformed itself into a giant armored rocket and he flew in it to the moon.
Up there on the moon, the boy had to search for a long time. But finally he found the old man. He was sitting behind a telescope and looking down on the blue planet.
“Are you the man who can’t be killed by a gun?” the boy asked the old man.
“I guess so,” the old man said.
“And what are you looking at in your telescope?”
“I’m studying the people on the planet down there.”
“Do you think I could stay with you?” the boy asked.
“Maybe,” said the old man. “What’s so special about me?”
“Because I don’t want to stay with someone who can be shot to death. When my parents died, I cried all the tears that I had in me. I could have had a dog, but if someone had killed it, I would have had to die from crying. And I could have stayed with an old woman or with a little girl. But they weren’t bulletproof, and if they had been killed, I would have had to die from crying.”
“It’s all right,” said the old man, “you can stay with me. No one can shoot me dead because there aren’t any guns here.”
“Is that the only reason?” the boy asked.
“Yes, that’s it,” said the old man.
“But I brought my gun with me.”
“Too bad,” said the old man, “now you can’t stay with me. Your gun could shoot me dead.”
“Then I’ll just have to go back,” said the boy.
“Yes,” said the old man.
“Too bad,” said the boy.
“Are you sorry?” the old man asked.
“Yes,” said the boy, “I would have liked to stay here.”
“Maybe you could throw your gun away?” said the old man.
“Maybe,” said the boy.
“And then you could stay with me after all,” said the old man.
“Maybe,” said the boy. “And what would I do then?”
“You could look through this telescope. Then maybe you could find out why those people down there are always fighting wars.”
“And why do they fight wars?”
“Well, I don’t know that either. I suppose it has something to do with not knowing enough about each other. There are so many of them, and their lives are so complicated that they don’t know how their actions will affect others. I guess they don’t know where the meat that they eat comes from or where the bread goes that they bake. I suppose they don’t know whether the iron that they dig up from the earth is used to make bulldozers or cannons. Maybe they don’t know if the meat they’re eating isn’t being taken away from other people. If they could see themselves from up above, maybe they would understand many things a lot better.
“Then somebody ought to show it to them?” said the boy.
“Maybe,” said the old man, “but I’m too old and too tired for that.”
It wasn’t until then that the boy let his gun fall, and it fell down through space, down to the planet, and there it broke into pieces.
But the boy stayed a long, long time with the old man on the moon and looked through the telescope and studied the people down there. And perhaps one day he flew down there and explained to them what they were doing wrong.