guess the world -

Unlike the original Guess The World, which was all my own work, this one is going to be kept going by you, the readers - as regularly, or irregularly, as you like.  The point is, it's now open to all of you to set the quiz entries, though I may still contribute one occasionally.

Email your mystery-snippets to me at and, either at the same time or later, the answer for each question, "Which world was this scene on?"  (If you want to include me in the test, naturally you'll withhold the answers for a day or two.)

Make it easy or hard - I don't mind!  Just don't make it completely obvious, as in, "I was ambling along the canal bank under the light of the two moons..." or "We camped beside the Great Red Spot and toasted our supper on the fringe of the lava..."  If a passage is almost right except for some tell-tale element, you can simply elide that part of it (...), as I did many times in the old Guess The World.  I hope you have as much fun as I did in selecting passages.  The field is open wide!

2018 February 16th:   

"Well, here we are...  The first Earthmen to set foot alive on the Enchanted World!  I guess I got part of what I wanted anyway, didn't I?  But with what equipment we've got to keep alive with, we might just as well be buried with the RQ257!  Funny I'm not scared.  I guess I don't realize..."

His bitterly humorous tone faded away in vague awe.

Still lying prone the two men looked around them, at the hellish, utterly desolate scene.  The hills brooded there under the blue-black sky and tenuous, heatless sunshine.  A rock loomed up from a heap of sand.  It was a weathered monolith with weird carvings on it...  A curious pulpy shrub, ugly and weird, grew beside the monolith.  A scanty breath of breeze stirred up a little ripple of dust.

That and the stillness.  The stillness of a tomb.  Harwich could hear the muted rustle of the pulses in his head.  Everything here seemed to emphasize the plain facts.  The Forbidden Moon was a trap to them now.  A pit from which they could expect no rescue...

[contributed by Robert Gibson]

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2018 February 11th:   

..."What can we do?" I said hopelessly.  "They watch our every move by day, and at night cage us in that prison-pen that nothing could escape from."

"Just the same, I'm not going to die here toiling like a beast," said Kurdley, taut, and was silent thenceforward.

When the feeble little sun sank from sight, and the green sky began to darken, work was halted.  Our tools were checked in and then we exhausted prisoners were marched by the armed guards toward the metal buildings of the colony's heart.  We trudged wearily on the load-soled shoes that held us down against _______'s lesser gravity.

A few officers off duty watched idly as we were marched through the colony.  And as usual there were a few _______s, come as friendly visitors from the surrounding jungles.  Big, green, rotund creatures with bulbous heads, watching us with their huge, faintly glowing eyes, their flipper-hands holding the short spears they used for hunting...

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 January 31st:   

...she told me about the weird, dog-like creatures.  The male, exuding a scent - if you could call it that - a vapor which in the air bursts into spontaneous combustion as it combines with the atmospheric oxygen.

How long we ran through what proved to be a maze of passages in the honey-combed ground, I have no idea.  Several Earth miles, doubtless.  Several times we stopped to rest, with the breezes tossing about us as I listened, tense, to be sure the Orgs were not coming.  Then at last we emerged; and at the rocky exit I stood staring, amazed.

...From where we stood the ground sloped down so that we were looking out over the top of a wide spread of lush, tangled forest.  Weird jungle, rank and wild with spindly trees of of fantastic shapes, heavy with pods and exotic flowers and tangled with masses of vines.  Beyond it, far ahead of us there seemed a line of little metal mountains at the horizon; and to the left an Earth-mile or so away, the forest was broken to disclose a winding thread of little river.  It shone phosphorescent green in the half light.  The storm was over now, but still the colors lingered in the cloud sky - a glorious palette of rainbow hues up there that tinted the forest-top...

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 January 28th:   

Fraser began to walk again. He walked a lot at night. The days were ugly and depressing and he spent them inside, working. But the nights were glorious. Not even the driest desert of Earth could produce a sky like this, where the thin air hardly dimmed the luster of the stars. It was the one thing he would miss when he went home.

He walked, dressed warmly against the bitter chill. He brooded, and he watched the stars. He thought about his diminishing whisky supply and the one hundred and forty six centuries of written history gone into the dust that blew and tortured his sinuses, and after a while he saw the shadow, the dark shape that moved against the wind, silent, purposeful, swift.

Out of the northern desert someone was riding…

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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2018 January 27th:   

“Oh, ‘tanstaafl.’ Means ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’ And isn’t,” I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across the room, “or these drinks would cost half as much. Was reminding her that anything free costs twice as much in the long run, or turns out worthless.”

“An interesting philosophy.”

"Not philosophy, fact. One way or other, what you get, you pay for.” I fanned air. “Was Earthside once and heard expression ‘Free as air.’ This air ain’t free, you pay for every breath.”

“Really? No one has asked me to pay to breathe.” He smiled. “Perhaps I should stop.”

“Can happen, you almost breathed vacuum tonight. But nobody asks you because you’ve paid. For you, is part of round-trip ticket, for me it's a quarterly charge. I started to tell how my family buys and sells air to community co-op, decided it was too complicated. But we both pay.”

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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2018 January 26th:   

It was a house, of course!

He shouted wildly and no one answered, but it was a house, a spark of reality blinking at him through the horrible, nameless wilderness of the last hours. He turned off the road and went plunging cross-country, across ditches, around trees, through the underbrush, and over a creek.

Queer thing! Even the creek glowed faintly - phosphorescently! But it was only the tiniest fragment of his mind that noted it.

Then he was there, with his hands reaching out to touch the hard white structure. It was neither brick nor stone nor wood, but he never paid that the least mind. It looked like a dull, strong porcelain, but he didn’t give a hoot. He was just looking for a door, and when he came to it and saw no bell, he kicked and yelled like a demon.  

He heard the stirring inside and the blessed, lovely sound of a human voice other than his own. He yelled again.

There was a faint, oiled whir, and the door opened. A woman emerged, a spark of alarm in her eyes. She was tall and wiry, and behind her was the gaunt figure of a hard-faced man in work clothes… No, not work clothes. Actually they were like nothing Schwartz had ever seen, but, in some indefinable way, they looked like the kind of clothes men worked in.

But Schwartz was not analytical. To him they, and their clothes, were beautiful; beautiful only as the sight of friends to a man alone can be beautiful.

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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2018 January 25th:   

...It was raining when they set out the next day, warm rain that came down in sudden, smothering deluges that lasted a few minutes before easing off, only to deliver another barrage ten or fifteen minutes later. Within a few hours, they were in the swamp proper, and finding a way with ground solid enough and water not too deep for the lizard became a full-time task for Vinnie, even with the tall bronze way markers that had been hammered deep into the ground to show the path to the Lepers’ territory.

    Only a few kilometers into the Swamp, the treelike green caps gave way to a profusion of clusters of smaller fungi, in many different colors, some of them mobile. There were also rabbit-sized lizard-things, and insectoid critters that swam and jumped and chattered, and early on the afternoon of the first day, something shadowy and huge loomed ahead in the fog. Vinnie backed the lizard off and all three of them readied their heat-beams before it continued on its way…

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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2018 January 24th:   

Lucky ran forward eagerly in the steady stride which he could maintain for hours without feeling unduly tired. Under the circumstances, he felt he could have maintained such a stride even under Earth’s gravity.

And then, with no warning, no premonitory glow in the sky, no hint of any atmosphere, there was the Sun!

Rather, there was a hairline that was the Sun. It was an unbearable line of light edging a notch of broken rock on the horizon, as though some celestial painter had outlined the gray stone in brilliant white...

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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2018 January 23rd:   

When Colin Sherrard opened his eyes after the crash, he could not imagine where he was. He seemed to be lying, trapped, in some sort of vehicle, on the summit of a rounded hill, which sloped steeply away in all directions. Its surface was seared and blackened, as if a great fire had swept over it. Above him was a jet-black sky, crowded with stars; one of them hung like a tiny, brilliant sun low down on the horizon.

Could it be the sun? Was he so far from Earth? No - that was impossible. Some nagging memory told him that the sun was very close - hideously close - not so distant so distant that it had shrunk to a star. And with that thought, full consciousness returned. Sherrard knew exactly where he was, and the knowledge was so terrible that he almost fainted again...

[contributed by Dylan Jeninga]

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