Each entry conveys a scene set on an Old Solar System world, past, present or future.
Care to say which world you think it is? If so, email me your verdict at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving the entry's date.
(Re the asteroids: if your answer is a fictional asteroid, you need only say "an asteroid" - but if it's one of the known named ones, be specific.)
Don't ponder for too long: I intend to link each entry to its answer after a couple of days have passed.
So, most days - at any rate while I'm adding a new scene each day - you'll probably find that only the two most recent are still waiting for their answer-links.
Whether you wish to compete or not - happy browsing!
2017 December 12th:
...On the side of the planet away from the sun where they had expected to find darkness, they were astonished to find very little points of light. Dana was puzzled and at a complete loss to explain it.
At last, on the shore of a great, placid lake they found a wide clearing. Something had happened to leave it almost devoid of vegetation as far as they could see. There were rocky pinnacles and great rolling hills of solid rock. Near the edge of the jungle a shallow river meandered among the hills and emptied into the lake. Beyond the river the gullies gradually merged with the hill tops to form a plateau.
Dana lowered the ship and settled it gently upon the top of a low hill beyond the river.
"Let's get out here and look around," he suggested. "We'd better take that little machine gun along; or maybe better, the portable death ray."
2017 December 11th:
...Jagged cones of possible volcanic origin formed a low range of foothills, with a pass leading to the region beyond. Dunes of fluffy material like volcanic tuff dotted the near landscape.
This and other reports were exchanged between the lifeboats. Presently a complete picture began to appear. It was even more favorable than that suggested by Murray's notes. The thin atmosphere was largely nitrogen, helium and oxygen, with indications of negligible amounts of other gases in unstable equilibrium. Methane was present in small amounts. This, being the product of organic decomposition, indicated vegetable life...
With understandable pride, for the value of her incredible thoroughness had proved itself again, Gerry finally contacted all the life-boats.
perfectly safe, men. Dress warmly. Carry a bottle of oxygen with a
tube, and take a breath of it every minute or so in order to prevent
blood bubbles from forming. Hand weapons, of course, just in case. So,
2017 December 10th:
...In that first confused glimpse, my eyes did not take in the details of the landscape. Stretching out before me was a broken plain, fantastic and irregular at the floor of a glacier; huge bluish white masses, piled and tumbled together in crazy disorder, were varied by smooth glistening spaces as flat as a table; twenty-foot mounds and hummocks stood up here and there, and long twisted furrows or cracks spread a spidery black network across the scene; while the prevailing hue, in the wintry gray light of the far, far glittering point of a sun, was that eerie, spectral mixture of blue and white, reminding me of the cloud-filtered moonlight peeping down upon a lake of ice.
But all this I was to notice subsequently; in the first bewildered moment of my escape, there was only one thought to dominate my mind. I must free myself from the gas-mask, whose weight burdened my shoulders, whose confinement had nearly asphyxiated me! I must unbare my nostrils to the open winds, must drink a reviving draught of actual air! True, this alien atmosphere might be poison to my lungs; true, the cold might freeze the very blood within my veins – yet I must take the risk; indeed, I was frantic to take the risk, and clutched at the fastenings of my mask with blind desperation. And within a few minutes, though at first my nervous fingers would not gain any hold, I saw the mask yielding, and felt the burning chill of the outer air against my cheeks.
Colder than ice, the air was yet less cold than I had anticipated. It did not freeze my flesh, nor did it strike my lungs like a blast of poison; rather it was the most delicious, life-giving breath I ever drew. It seemed to me that the atmosphere was lighter than on earth – light as on some high mountain peak; but it required no chemical analysis to show that it contained oxygen!...
2017 December 9th:
..."We may be stalked," he told the boy. "Don't forget to guard the rear."
The sand had given place to sticky whitish mud that plastered the men to their calves before a few moments had passed. A patina of slickness seemed to overlay the ground. The grass was coloured so much like the mud itself that it was practically invisible, except by its added slipperiness. Scott slowly advanced keeping close to the wall of rock on his left where the tangle was not so thick. Nevertheless he had to use his smatchet more than once to cut a passage through vines.
He stopped, raising his hand, and the squelch of Kane's feet in the mud paused. Silently Scott pointed. Ahead of them in the cliff base, was the mouth of a burrow.
The captain bent down, found a small stone, and threw it towards the den. He waited, one hand lightly on his gun, ready to see something flash out of that burrow and race towards them. In the utter silence a new sound made itself heard - tiny goblin drums, erratic and resonant...
2017 December 8th:
...Vasc Avam, steering their long, tubular craft, turned his green face worriedly from the wheel.
"We'll have to run beneath surface or these waves will smash us to pieces!" the Jovian mine-boss exclaimed.
"Go ahead - but keep right after Orr Libro's boat," Carson Brand directed.
The Martian's craft was also submerging, ahead. Vasc Avam shifted the control of the deflecting rudders and their own boat slid down and throbbed along twenty feet under the surface.
Captain Future, deep in thought, looked out through the transparent wall of their craft at the lightning-lit waters they were travelling through. Each violet glare showed the teeming life of the sea about them.
Shoals of brilliant, sparkling "diamond-fish" flashed away, like living gems. "Air-fish", those weird winged creatures that could live with equal ease in the air or in the sea, flew away in startled undersea flight...
2017 December 7th:
..."You're sure it's quite safe?" asked Jerry, though it seemed almost a sacrilege to speak in the presence of such loveliness.
"Absolutely - it can't touch our suits even if it wants to. Anyway, it's moving past us."
That was true. They could see now that the entire creature - if it was a single plant, and not a colony - covered a roughly circular area about a hundred yards across. It was sweeping over the ground, as the shadow of a cloud moves before the wind - and where it had rested, the rocks were pitted with innumerable tiny holes that might have been etched by acid.
"Yes," said Hutchins, when Jerry remarked about this. "That's how some lichens feed; they secrete acids that dissolve rock. But no question, please - not till we get back to the ship. I've several lifetimes' work here, and a couple of hours to do it in."
This was botany on the run... The sensitive edge of the huge plant-thing could move with surprising speed when it tried to evade them. It was as if they were dealing with an animated flapjack, an acre in extent. There was no reaction - apart from the automatic avoidance of their exhaust heat - when Hutchins snipped samples or took probes. The creature flowed steadily onward over hills and valleys, guided by some strange vegetable instinct. Perhaps it was following some vein of mineral; the geologists could decide that, when they analyzed the rock samples that Hutchins had collected both before and after the passage of the living tapestry...
2017 December 6th:
...It was cold in the shadow of the ridge, and the grak's long fur fluffed out automatically to provide extra insulation. He looked like a big black owl as he stood scanning the western sky, sniffing the wind with his beaklike nose. There was a tawny band low on the horizon, brightening as the sun rose. He had smelled a storm early in the night, for he had all the uncanny weather-wiseness of his race and was sensitive to every subtle change in the quality of the atmosphere. He had started for the nearest arm of the greenlands, intending to claim the hospitality of the first village he could find, but the storm front was moving faster than he could run. He had seen the ridge only just in time...
2017 December 5th:
...Bran, the city, proved to be a mass of drum-shaped buildings of dark metal, enclosed by a towering wall. This wall was faced or plated with the gray metal that was alone proof against the destroying-liquid, and on the rampart's broad top were mounted nozzle-projectors of great size. The wall was separated from the surrounding forests by only a few hundred feet of clear ground.
Some flying-disks were in the air over the city, departing or arriving like ourselves from over the limitless forest-wastes. Through them our own craft sped to come to rest on the immense flat roof of one of the city's taller central buildings. Our space-bell was placed upon the roof, and we were conducted down into the city.
Jean and I found ourselves welcomed with the strongest interest by the white-garbed Brans. They seemed a highly social people, and in fact we learned that though this and their other cities held many tens of thousands of them, they had no rulers and but the slightest skeleton of government, dwelling together without need of more...
2017 December 4th:
...We were approaching the wide flight of steps that led up to the vaulted entrance of the great tower. We moved by now in a kind of daze, crushed as we were by the terrific psychic attack that was rapidly conquering our courage.
Then came the climax. The lofty doors of the tower swung slowly open. And from within the building there lurched and shambled a thing, the sight of which froze us where we stood...
It was black, mountainous in bulk, and of a shape that tore the brain with horror. It was something like a monstrous, squatting toad, its flesh a heaving black slime from which protruded sticky black limbs that were not quite either tentacles or arms.
Its triangle of eyes were three slits of cold green fire that watched us with hypnotic intensity. Beneath that hideous chinless face, its breathing pouch swelled in and out painfully as it lurched, slobbering, down the steps toward us.
Our beams lashed frantically at that looming horror. And they had not the slightest effect on it...
"Wait! Look at the thing! It's breathing!"
For a moment, we couldn't understand. And then dimly, I did. The thing was obviously breathing. Yet there was no air here...
2017 December 3rd:
...Leaving Zuarra, who was cautiously sampling the fleshy meat of the great fungus growths, Brant climbed the mossy slope of the hill to where Will Harbin stood awestruck, staring with wondering gaze into the luminosity.
And Brant stopped short, uttering a grunt of amazement.
From a gemmy shore at the foot of the other side of the hill, for as far as the eye could reach, there stretched a shining sea.
The water was milky-white, quite opaque, and was clearly the source of the mysterious luminance, for the radiant fluit was like the essence of light itself, curdled into pearly fire.
"A... sea," whispered Brant faintly. "Here at the bottom of the world...!"
"Yes. In fact, it is the Last Ocean," said Will Harbin softly...
2017 December 2nd:
...Several miles from the ship rose foothills which climbed picturesquely toward the cloudy heights of the loftier mountains behind them, and as we looked in the direction of those latter, and then out across the forest, there was appreciable to us a strangeness that at first we could not explain, but which we later discovered was due to the fact that there was no horizon, the distance that one could see being dependent solely upon one's power of vision. The general effect was of being in the bottom of a tremendous bowl, with sides so high that one might not see the top.
The ground about us was covered with rank vegetation of pale hues - lavenders, violets, pinks and yellows predominating. Pink grasses which became distinctly flesh-color at maturity grew in abundance, and the stalks of most of the flowering plants were of this same peculiar hue. The flowers themselves were often of highly complex form, of pale and delicate shades, of great size and rare beauty. There were low shrubs that bore a berry-like fruit, and many of the trees of the forest carried fruit of considerable size and of a variety of forms and colors...
2017 December 1st:
"...You don't seem to realize our predicament. We're at least twelve days from civilization - that's figuring sixty miles a day, which is hardly possible. Tonight, the temperature will fall to a hundred below freezing, at least...
"...Well, if the cold doesn't kill us, we're bound to run into at least one bloodsucker gryb every few days. They can smell human blood at an astounding distance; and blood for some chemical reason drives them mad with desire. Once they corner a human being it's all up. They tear down the largest trees, or dig into caves through solid rock. The only protection is an atomic gun, and ours went up with our suits. We've only got my hunting knife. Besides all that, our only possible food is the giant grass-eater, which runs like a deer at the first sight of anything living, and which, besides, could kill a dozen unarmed men if it were cornered. You'd be surprised how hungry it is possible to get within a short time. Something in the air... speeds up normal digestion. We'll be starving to death in a couple of hours..."
2017 November 30th:
...As I walked slowly down the imperceptible slope toward the sea I could not help but note the park-like appearance of the sward and trees. The grass was as close-cropped and carpet-like as some old English lawn and the trees themselves showed evidence of careful pruning to a uniform height of about fifteen feet from the ground, so that as one turned his glance in any direction the forest had the appearance at a little distance of a vast, high-ceiled chamber...
The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceeded... Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feet in diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guess at, since at no point could I penetrate their dense foliage above me to more than sixty or eighty feet.
As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were as smooth and as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos. The wood of some of the trees was as black as ebony, while their nearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as the finest china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.
And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems, while the blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described in any earthly tongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods...
2017 November 29th:
...At last, after much wandering and floundering in the dust-cloud, through which they could see nothing, Lapham and his companions drew themselves out on a margin of the strange violet soil. The contrast of this wet, steaming clay with the gulfs of atom-like powder that surrounded it was so inexplicable, so utterly amazing as to baffle and dumbfound all conjecture. The substance was unearthly in its bizarreness, and the heat that emanated from it was almost beyond endurance. The scientists had sweltered in their heavy air-tight suits while crossing the zone of dust, but now they were subjected to actual suffering.
At every step their astonishment grew, for the dim landscape beneath the vapors was such as no human eye had even seen before. Gigantic ledges of crystallized rock-forms arose in the foreground, and about the crystals there was something, even apart from their curious black, blue, red and dark-green coloration, which served to differentiate them from anything classified by geologists. They were prodigious in size, and had innumerable facets and a look of geometrical complexity foreign to all normal rocks. Their was a sinister vitality in their aspect, too... Somehow, they resembled living organisms as much as minerals...
2017 November 28th:
...Half-seen, a dim unhorizoned landscape, fitfully lit by the crimson far-sundered flares of volcanoes, by bluish zones and patches of strange radio-active minerals, it deepened beneath them abysmally disclosing mountains that would have made the Himalayas seem like hillocks, revealing chasms that might have engulfed asteroids and planets.
At the center of this Cyclopean landscape burned the great volcano that had been called Hephaestus by astronomers... Tongues of flame a hundred miles in length arose and licked skyward from a crater than seemed the mouth of some ultramundane hell...
2017 November 27th:
...a tenseness held all of us as our great flier's faceted polyhedron dropped on through the pale light beneath the great roof toward the black-walled, chequer-board like city that stretched across the surface of the great world beneath us. And now, as we sank lower, our eyes were making out ever more clearly the details of that amazing city.
The rectangular black-walled compartments held, as we had half-realized from above, various strange-shaped mechanisms and objects which we could even now only vaguely discern. We could see clearly, though, that here and there across all the vast city's compartmented surface there stood giant metal globes, each a hundred feet in diameter and each occupying a square compartment of its own. There seemed hundreds of these gleaming globes, scattered here and there in compartments across the city's surface as far as we could see...
2017 November 26th:
...Another muffled boom followed.
"Here it comes," Elliott murmured.
The natives stepped back reverently, and the doors of the temple swung slowly outward.
The Dragonbird appeared.
Blayne's astonished gasp was so loud that Elliot looked around apprehensively. "It's beautiful," the fat man exclaimed. "More lovely than I'd ever dreamed."
"It is," said Elliott grimly. He took the glasses from Blayne's trembling fingers and focused them on the island.
The Dragonbird was walking with dignity across the little square before the altar. It stood almost the height of a man, half-bird, half-reptile, walking on powerful claws tipped with diamond-sharp, gleaming talons. The brilliant sunlight glinted off its metallic feathers, played over its shining plumage, lent brightness to the shimmering row of scales that covered its long, swan-like neck...
2017 November 25th:
...he was eating this coarse brown grass, using his forefeet or apelike hands to feed himself. He walked erect like a man, but his arms were long enough to reach the ground. His body was hairless, but the skin was thick and full of wrinkles, like that of an elephant. The head was quite small and presented an apelike appearance. The ears were almost invisible, while two grotesque holes in the face served as nostrils. The jaw was large and massive, but I was unable to see the teeth, to determine whether or not he was entirely herbivorous. His chest was much smaller than one would expect to find on a creature living in a rarefied atmosphere. The abdomen was unusually large, which caused me to think their eating habits were about the same as those of our cattle, who fill their stomachs at opportune times and chew the food at their leisure.
Their legs were short and thick, but showed unusual muscular development, which did not seem necessary on a world where the force of gravity was so weak. But his feet were the strangest part of his anatomy. No creature of the earth ever had feet like these. They looked like large, flat caricatures of human feet, but their width was greater than the height of the grotesque creature himself, and the length of the feet was in proportion to the width. If it were not for their use they would look more like big leathery blankets than feet...
2017 November 24th:
....their landing-spot, while excellent for its purpose, was not by any manner of means an ideal campsite. It was a small, flat basin of sandy soil, rimmed by shallow mountains. His gaze sought these hills, looked approvingly on their greenness, upon the multitude of dark pock-marks dotting them. These caves, were they not the habitations of potential enemies, might well become the sanctuaries of spacewrecked men.
He saw, also, a thin ribbon of silver sheering the face of the northern hills. His gaze, rising still skyward, saw other things -
He nodded. He knew, now, where they were. Or approximately. There was but one planet in the solar system which boasted such a phenomenon. The apparent distance of the Sun, judged by its diminished disc, argued his judgement to be correct. The fact that they had surged through an atmospheric belt for some length of time before finally meeting with disaster...
2017 November 23rd:
...The dawn came like a sifting of fire-opals through the layers of pearl-gray cloud. Harker heard the yelling dimly in his sleep. He felt dull and tired, and his eyelids stuck together. The yelling gradually took shape and became the word "Land!" repeated over and over. Harker kicked himself awake and got up.
The tideless sea glimmered with opaline colors under the mist. Flocks of little jewel-scaled sea-dragons rose up from the ever-present floating islands of weed, and the weed itself, part of it, writhed and stretched with sentient life.
Ahead there was a long low hummock of muddy ground fading into a tangled swamp. Beyond it, rising sheer into the clouds, was a granite cliff, a sweeping escarpment that stood like a wall against the hopeful gaze of the exiles...
2017 November 22nd:
...Hahhahhahhahhahhahhahhah. Somewhere a vanishing laughter.
He whirled about. "Shut up, you!" he cried.
We didn't say anything, said the mountains. We didn't say anything, said the sky. We didn't say anything, said the wreckage.
"All right then," he said, swaying. "See that you don't."
Everything was normal.
The pebbles were getting hot. The sky was big and dark. He looked at his fingers and saw the way the sun burned on every black hair. He looked at his boots and the dust on them. Suddenly he felt very happy because he made a decision. I won't go to sleep, he thought. I'm having nightmares, so why sleep? There's your solution...
2017 November 21st:
...We did not see it die, out there in the freezing fire; it was beyond the reach of our instruments now, and none of them recorded its end. Yet every one of us knew when that moment came, and that is why we are not interested when those who have seen only the films and tapes tell us that we were watching some purely natural phenomenon.#
How can one explain what we felt, in that last moment when half our little world was enmeshed in the dissolving tendrils of that huge but immaterial brain? I can only say that it was a soundless cry of anguish, a death pang that seeped into our minds without passing through the gateways of the senses. Not one of us doubted then, or has ever doubted since, that he had witnessed the passing of a giant.
We may have been both the first and the last of all men to see so mighty a fall...
2017 November 20th:
...We didn't find anything. Nothing but a few big lizards that crashed off into the brush. We didn't even find any tracks, though the rains could have washed those out.
I looked at him. "Now what?"
"We'll look through the nearby hummocks, Wimer."
I didn't like this. He acted as though we'd keep searching till we found something. And I was dead sure now we wouldn't - I was sure now it was only lizards I'd glimpsed.
But we had to bump over to the next hummock, and look around in it. It was late afternoon, Blaine dripping with sweat and me almost as bad. Back at Base, the guys would be lounging around the barracks by now, and -
Blaine said, "Look here, Wimer."
He said it so flatly, I didn't realize what it was until I went over to him. Then I saw. It was a little shelter of dry fronds, a sort of wretched tumble-down hut, almost like an animal's den...
2017 November 19th:
...Below us was a city!
I can recall as a child the pictures in the story books I read. And always in such books there was the great castle in which the prince lived or the princess was imprisoned. Dream castles they were, all slender spires, graceful minarets, sweeping towers, things of sheer unreal beauty against the picture-book sky.
So this city was, somehow ethereal, breath-taking. A small fertilized area surrounded it, like green velvet about a fragile piece of carved ivory. Yet in spite of its beauty there was a bizarre unearthly quality to the city that no terrestrial artist could have conceived...
Very cautiously we circled the strange city. No signs of life greeted us. On the alert for any hostile move we settled the ship on the red plain just beyond the circle of green that surrounded the cluster of tall spires...
2017 November 18th:
...She seized his arm, dragging him back. "They're carbon feeders! Don't you understand? They're carbon feeders! Your body has carbon. They're - look out!"
Keene started back, realizing that a gray-black, flat-crystalled, dully shining lump was almost at his feet. He stared at the crawling masses; they had come, apparently, from beyond a jutting wall of rock to his right. The floor was speckled everywhere with them, and now and again one slipped with a faint tinkle over the edge of the central pit. But there were hundreds more; one couldn't wait here until the floor had cleared. He skipped aside; another had silently approached almost to his feet.
2017 November 17th:
"...The children grow weak, from hunger. There us but one recourse left us. That is to hunt Crawlers."
Carter was dismayed and stared at Kur-saa in horror.
"Hunt Crawlers? Kur-saa, you know that's suicide. If you go into those marshes and try that - "
"There is no other way." The old man shrugged hopelessly. "Some of our young men are scouting the marshes now. If they find - "
A shrill, agonized cry interrupted the old man's words...
Carter's heart sank at what he saw... from the direction of the great reed-marsh eastward, came a small group of young tribesmen carrying two limp burdens.
They put them down. A chorus of heart-broken wails came from the women. Carter stepped forward and took a look and then turned away, a little sick.
He'd seen men before who had been caught by the Crawlers and pulped. But it was still a stomach-churning sight. The two corpses were just skeletons with skin round them. When a Crawler caught a man and pulped him, every bit of blood and tissue was sucked out of him...
2017 November 16th:
...There was no way back to the partial security of the lake basin. The overhang cut him off from that. The futility of trying to hide was apparent, but nevertheless he wormed in among some crimson ferns. The city was at his left. To the right, the fertile plain washed out into a badland of lava and shattered rock, which narrowed and vanished around a shoulder of purple basalt. This defile was still in deep shadow.
The riders were still far away. He saw them splash across a ford, toy figures making little bursts of spray.
The watcher above the trees darted suddenly downward. The quarry was breaking cover...
2017 November 15th:
...They rose from the rocky bottom to the height of giraffes, with shortish legs that were vaguely similar to those of Chinese dragons, and elongated spiral necks like the middle coils of great anacondas. Their heads were triple-faced, and they might have been the trimurti of some infernal world. It seemed that each face was eyeless, with tongue-shaped flames issuing voluminously from deep orbits beneath the slanted brows. Flames also poured in a ceaseless vomit from the gaping gargoyle mouths. From the head of each monster a triple comb of vermilion flared aloft in sharp serrations, glowing terribly; and both of them were bearded with crimson scrolls. Their necks and arching spines were fringed with sword-long blades that diminished into rows of daggers on the tapering tails; and their whole bodies, as well as this fearsome armament, appeared to burn as if they had just issued from a fiery furnace.
A palpable heat emanated from these hellish chimeras, and the Earthmen retreated hastily before the flying splotches, like the blown tatters of a conflagration, that broke loose from their ever-jetting eye-flames and mouth-flames...
2017 November 14th:
...Swinnerton wondered how much of the animal life had survived. Watching and wandering, they saw. Insects buzzed about, amazingly large ones, the size of some birds. Birds, in turn, were all bigger than eagles, snapping up the huge insects as Earth birds snap up gnats. Mammals were winged. Flying wolflike creatures lumbered by, seeking prey in the universal rule of life.
One great bearlike creature, with a membranous wing spread of thirty feet, hovered over them as though contemplating attack. Then it flapped away grotesquely. It pounced on a turkey-sized bird, rended it with its claws, and savagely gobbled it down - all in mid-air...
It was strange and pathetic. These monsters represented the last of a planet's evolution...
2017 November 13th:
...He could remember the great day of his testing.
When he shut his eyes, he seemed to kneel on the sloping riverbank again, a long spear shining in his clasp.
On both sides of him, a dozen native warriors crouched, armed with spears five times the height of their squat blue bodies. Directly behind him stood a silent group of five, his "pledge wraiths". It was a tribal tradition among the gnomelike folk that every great warrior had to have "pledge wraiths" who would stand behind him in the hour of his testing.
A bubbling, a churning far out in the muddy brown river, and his five little sponsors leaped up and down. As he stared at the uneasy current it broke into white froth, and there arose from the winding water-course a shape that whitened his lips and drove the blood from his heart...
2017 November 12th:
...Almost centrally located in the Martian quarter was a glittering, garish locality where every diversion could be found. This was called Pulambar, after the great City of Pleasure at home on Mars.
Along the equator ran a strip of dry, hot sand, rusty red - an imported bit of the Martian desert. Across that sand-strip, to the south, a quarter was divided into four smaller areas, for Ganymede, Io, Europa and Callisto.
Above this quarter, tethered like a balloon by a gravity beam, hovered a sort of satellite. A twenty-mile globe had been artificially made of banded gas without and a solid core within. It was a miniature Jupiter, and some thought it the greatest wonder of all the Fair.
The northern quarter of the Eastern Hemisphere was Earth's, divided into many smaller districts for the wealth of various national and continental exhibits. Here, as with the Martian Pulambar, there was a central area, but it was for sports... Along the equator tossed the waves of an artificial ocean...
The southern shore, at the very equatorial line, was matted with Venusian jungle, under a localized fog...
2017 November 11th:
...Kah made a sign of warning a little later, and they halted.
"We are near the evil ones' citadel," he whispered. "But the screaming trees will instantly give warning unless we are careful."
Captain Future saw ahead of them an extensive forest of the strange trees, their big leaves hanging limp.
"Walk as softly and slowly as you can," Kah was warning. "Any sudden movement will set the trees in uproar."
He led the way into the weird forest, moving on tiptoe...
Captain Future thought he understood now, that the weird trees were so highly sensitive to vibrations of the ground that such vibrations set off their hideous clamor...
2017 November 10th:
...For a while, he did not associate the green luminosity with any idea of limitation; for he seemed to be floating in a vast abyss. Then, suddenly, he perceived his error. Putting out his hands, he touched on either side the wall of a narrow vault, and saw that its roof was only a few feet above him. The floor lay at an equal distance beneath; and he himself, without visible support, was reclining in mid-air. The green light, streaming mysteriously from all sides of the vault, had given him the illusion of unbounded space.
Abruptly, at his feet, the end of the vault seemed to disappear in a white glory like pure sunlight. Long, sinuous, six-fingered hands reached out from the glory, grasped him about the ankles, and drew him gently from the green-lit space in which he floated. Weight seemed to return to him as his limbs and body entered the dazzling whiteness; and a moment later, he found himself standing erect in a large chamber, lined with some sort of pale, shimmering metal. Beside him, a strange, unearthly being was closing the panel-like door through which he had been drawn from the emerald-litten vault; and beyond this being, there were two others of the same type...
...Each of them was about the height of a tall man, and the physical conformation was vaguely similar to that of mankind, but was marked by an almost god-like beauty and grace of contour... In place of hair, the full, intellectual heads were crowned with a mass of heavy flesh-like filaments, hued with changing iridescence, and tossing and curling with a weird, restless life, like the serpent locks of Medusa...
2017 November 9th:
...Slowly, they continued down the mountain, reaching now and then a bleak plateau which wind and water had swept to glassy smoothness. The flying mammals which always heralded the flood swooped overhead.
As they crossed one of the plateaus, above the roar of the wind they heard a loud beating. A mammoth bird, jet black against the mountain, its two sets of wings flapping alternately at a spread of thirty feet, came toward them. Flying the gale, it neared them quickly. For a second, the men sat transfixed; then, wrenching themselves from the coma of fear, drew guns...
2017 November 8th:
...They plunged into the depths of the forest. It was not difficult going, despite the size of the vegetation. Most of the trees' vigor was concentrated in the broad, flat leaves that made a ceiling far overhead to catch the Sun's rays. It was a green, dim twilight through which they moved, resembling the vague depths of the hydrosphere.
Above the jungle, Quade knew, it was pleasantly warm, but at ground level an icy breeze chilled him. Some of the trees, he noticed, were thickly coated with a furry kind of moss, which apparently served to keep the cold from penetrating through the bark - a striking form of true symbiosis, mutual aid between parasite and host.
The Bouncer hopped along quietly, subdued and a little frightened. His huge eyes, capable of seeing into the infra-red and ultra-violet, found the gloom no handicap, but more than once the two humans were forced to use light-tubes...
2017 November 7th:
...we were escorted into the interior of the palace. The furnishings were striking, but extremely fantastic in design and execution. The native wood of the forests had been used to fine advantage in the construction of numerous pieces of beautifully carved furniture, the grain of the woods showing lustrously in their various natural colours, the beauties of which were sometimes accentuated by delicate stain and by high polishes, but perhaps the most striking feature of the interior decorations was the gorgeously painted fabric that covered the walls and ceilings. It was a fabric of unbelievable lightness, which gave the impression of spun silver. So closely woven was it that, as I was to learn later, it would hold water and of such great strength that it was almost impossible to tear it.
Upon it were painted in brilliant colours the most fantastic scenes that imagination might conceive. There were spiders with the heads of beautiful women, and women with the heads of spiders. There were flowers and trees that danced beneath a great red sun, and great lizards, such as we had passed within the gloomy cavern on our journey down...
2017 November 6th:
...The cigarette I was smoking fell from my fingers. The extraordinary creature just sat there, clad in Jonah's jacket, looking at the remains of our meal - and claimed unheard-of things!
"You imply that you have no bodies, in the sense that we and your fish and animals have bodies?" I asked.
He slewed his head round towards me, and I met unforgettable eyes.
"We have highly adaptable, very fluid, body groups," Alpha said coldly. "You saw the ellipses in which we float; those are the shapes of what you would call our 'easy' state. Each of us is composed of thousands of filaments, which we can expand to a haze able to pass through air invisibly, or contract to a density able to smash rock. For large operations we form union of hundreds of body groups and carve a mountain."
2017 November 5th:
...I hunted for a time with a certain intentness, but the heat was still very great, and the thinness of the air felt like a hoop about one's chest. I came presently into a hollow basin bristling with tall, brown, dry fronds about its edge, and I sat down under these to rest and cool. I intended to rest for only a little while. I put down my clubs beside me, and sat resting my chin on my hands. I saw with a sort of colourless interest that the rocks of the basin, where here and there the crackling dry lichens had shrunk away to show them, were all veined and splattered with gold, that here and there bosses of rounded and wrinkled gold projected from among the litter. What did that matter now? A sort of languor had possession of my limbs and mind...
2017 November 4th:
...My first reaction to the arthropods was, as I have said, one of revulsion at what I deemed their hideous and inhuman aspect. Inhuman they certainly were, but "hideous" is a matter of open question. The fact that they differed enormously from Homo sapiens was no reason to find their appearance automatically loathsome. Very soon I found myself admiring them. Slim, stalking figures, they were not without a certain grace - even a certain cold inhuman beauty. With their attenuated limbs and extreme height they came, with familiarity, to assume something of the dignity and impressiveness of the lean gaunt statues of Giacometti or Henry Moore's weird stone figures.
Indeed, they had also something of the sleek, economical efficiency of a well-designed machine. Almost I could picture those stalking, multijointed limbs as smoothly machined pistons. Something of the passionless beauty of the machine was theirs, and something of the grandeur of sculpture.
In short, I no longer found them frightening, having no reason to fear my fate at their hands...
2017 November 3rd:
...The plateau on which we had landed was far up in a range which we named the Purple Mountains because they were covered from base to summit with enormous two-foot lichens of a rich Tyrian hue. There were similarly covered areas in the plateau, where the soil was too thin for the sustenance of more elaborate plant-forms. Here, among the multitudinous geysers, and the horned, fantastic peaks that were intermittently visible through a steam-charged atmosphere, we had established ourselves in a lichen-field. Even here we had to wear our refrigerating suits and carry oxygen whenever we stepped out of the ether-ship; for otherwise the heat would have parboiled us in a few minutes, and the ultra-terrestrial gases in the air would have speedily overpowered us. It was a weird business, putting the coaster together under such circumstances. With out huge inflated suits and masks of green vitrolium, we must have looked like a crew of demons toiling in the fumes of Gehenna...
2017 November 2nd:
"There!" she hissed. "There!"
He peered into the gray dimness. Nothing at all - or was there something? A shadow - but what here could cause a shadow, here in this sunless region of fog? A condensation of mist, that was all. But it moved; mist can't move without the thrust of wind, and here there was no wind.
He strained his eyes in an effort to pierce the obscurity. He saw - or he imagined it - a vast, looming figure, or a dozen figures. They were all around; one passed silently overhead, and numberless others weaved and swayed just beyond the range of vision. There were murmurings and susurrations, sounds like breathing and whispering, patters and rustles. The fog shapes were weirdly unstable, looming from little patches of darkness into towering shadows, dissipating and forming like figures of smoke...
2017 October 31st:
...he was on his way down. To and fro he swung, hearing the wind whistle past him. A hunter tossed him a rope. He caught hold. The Hidden Folk lined themselves along the far end and started off.
The great nest was soon lost to view. It was not surprising that no ground dweller had ever seen one like that, or an aerial pasture, or the monsters which browsed there. A mile up, with half the atmosphere and a goodly percentage of the clouds between, they would be invisible. He wondered what other strangenesses dwelt in his heaven.
After a while he felt the strain increase on his tow rope, until at last he could hold it no more and must knot it about his waist. The hunters were plainly laboring hard. He needed a few minutes to deduce the reason. Nature had meant the leaf which supported him to float at a certain altitude. He was now down to where the air was getting appreciably denser. His gills recognized that...
2017 October 30th:
...We didn't want liver-leaves again. The little nutsies from the salt pool were all right, but it was a half-day's job to gather enough, and besides, they were almost too salty to be pleasant fare for a whole meal. Bladder birds were hopeless; they consisted of practically nothing except thin skin stretched over a framework of bones. I remembered that once we had tried a brown, fungoid lump that grew in the shade under the song-bushes; some of Gunderson's men had liked it.
Claire finally broke the silence. "If I'm going to help you look," she suggested, "I ought to know what we're looking for."
I described the lumpy growths. "I'm not sure all of us will like them. Near as I can remember, they tasted something like truffles, with a faint flavor of meat added. We tried them both raw and cooked, and cooked was best..."
2017 October 29th:
...He rose and got a second shower from a bubble tree. This made him feel so fresh and alert that he began to think of food. He had forgotten whereabouts on the island the yellow gourds were to be found, and as he set out to look for them he discovered that it was difficult to walk. For a moment he wondered whether the liquid in the bubbles had some intoxicating quality, but a glance around assured him of the real reason. The plain of copper-coloured heather before him, even as he watched, swelled into a low hill and the low hill moved in his direction. Spellbound anew at the sight of land rolling towards him, like water, in a wave, he forgot to adjust himself to the movement and lost his feet. Picking himself up, he proceeded more carefully. This time there was no doubt about it. The sea was rising...
2017 October 28th:
...Ronnie noticed something off to his right. It was a cleft in the rusty ground. The other members of the party were straggled out ahead of him now; for he hadn't been able to move quite as fast as they in his ill-fitting space armor.
The cleft offered no unusual promise. The men had ignored it. Nevertheless, youthful whim sent Ronnie hopping to its brink. Thick gloom enveloped its depths. But close to the torn lip of the cleft there were curious, broken fragments lying in the dust. They were flat and flaky, like pieces of shattered, red glass. As any adult would have done, Ronnie stooped and picked one of them up. Inside the thin, translucent texture of the shard, there slumbered a deep, bloody glow.
Ronnie wanted to yell out about his find to his brother up ahead; but something unfathomable restrained him...
2017 October 27th:
...Harker joined him, and they went together through the lichen forest, ghostly under the dim, far Sun. The tall growths were silent now that the wind had died. And as they went, Harker talked of Moneb and the men and women who dwelt there. Simon listened, knowing that his life depended on remembering what he heard.
But even that necessity could not occupy more than one small part of his mind. The rest of it was busy with the other things - the bitter smell of dust, the chill bite of the air in the shaded places, the warmth of the sun in the clearings, the intricate play of muscles necessary to the taking of a step, the rasp of lichen fronds over unprotected skin, the miracle of breathing, of sweating, of grasping an object with five fingers of flesh.
The little things one took for granted. The small, miraculous incredible things that one never noticed until they were gone.
He had seen the forest before as a dun-gray monochrome, heard it as a pattern of rustling sound. It had been without temperature, scent or feel. Now it had all of these things. Simon was overwhelmed with a flood of impressions, poignant almost beyond enduring...
2017 October 26th:
...A half dozen vague, crouching shapes were approaching them through the smoke.
They were not men, nor did they wear any protective suits....
The creatures were quadrupeds, and looked something like big baboons. But their bodies had a queer, metallic appearance. And indeed, no flesh of ordinary organic compounds could have existed for more than a minute in that tremendous heat.
The faces in the brutish heads had only two features - a gaping mouth of shining metal teeth, and wide-set, unchanging crystal eyes. The rear feet were hard metallic hoofs, but the front feet were massive, gleaming talons. Most terrifying of all, bursting flames issued from the mouths of the creatures at each exhalation...
2017 October 25th:
...The clouds had passed and a golden glory was settling over the face of the countryside. While we stared, wondering how this could possibly be, we saw what perhaps we had overlooked before. Set at intervals about the countryside were great many-faceted concave mirrors. At least that was what they looked like to us. Each was set on a vast straddle of lattice-like girders, and each, from the slight movements we saw as we watched, seemed capable of sweeping the full circumference of the sky.
But that was not all. Between each pair of mirrors was another lattice-like structure, bearing at its top a great, glowing golden ball, a thing so huge and so brilliant that its size stunned us and the upthrust of its rays almost blinded us.
"Artificial suns," said someone in an awed tone. "They've solved the secret of atomic energy!"
2017 October 24th:
...the instant he had consumed in rescuing the girl had been enough for the thing to seize him, and he found himself battling for his very life. No soft-leaved infant this, but a full-grown monster, well equipped with mighty weapons of offence and defence. Well it was for the struggling man that he was encased in armour steel as those saw-edged, hard-spiked leaves drove against him with crushing force; well it was for him that he had his own independent air supply, so that that deadly perfume eddied ineffective about his helmeted head! Hard and fiercely driven as those terrible thorns were, they could do no more than dent his heavy armour. His powerful left arm, driving the double-razor-edged dirk in short, resistless arcs, managed to keep the snaky tendrils from coiling about his right arm, which was wielding the heavy, trenchant sword. Every time that mighty blade descended it cleaved its length through snapping spikes and impotently grinding leaves; but more than once a flailing tendril coiled about his neck armour and held his helmet immovable as though in a vice, while those frightful, grinding saws sought to rip their way through the glass to the living creature inside the peculiar metal housing. Dirk and sabre and magnificent physique finally triumphed, but it was not until leaf had been literally severed from every other leaf that the outlandish organism gave up the ghost...
2017 October 23rd:
...How long I was in crossing that dismal ocean, I do not know... with no sun, moon, nor stars, I could not measure time.
I saw no ship upon that entire vast expanse of water, but I did see life - plenty of it. And I saw terrific storms that buffeted my craft, tossing it about like a feather. But that was nothing compared with that I saw below me as the storms at the height of their fury lashed the surface of the waters. I realized then how suicidal would have been my attempt to cross that terrible ocean in the frail craft I had planned to build. I saw waves that must have measured two hundred feet from trough to crest - waves that hurled the mighty monsters of the deep as though they had been tiny minnows. No ship could have lived in such seas...
2017 October 22nd:
...Their boots were deadened of all sound in the thick green grass. It smelled from a fresh mowing. In spite of himself, Captain John Black felt a great peace come over him. It had been thirty years since he had been in a small town, and the buzzing of spring bees on the air lulled and quieted him, and the fresh look of things was a balm to the soul.
They set foot upon the porch. Hollow echoes sounded from under the boards as they walked to the screen door. Inside they could see a bead curtain hung across the hall entry, and a crystal chandelier and a Maxfield Parrish painting framed on one wall over a comfortable Morris chair. The house smelled old, and of the attic, and infinitely comfortable. You could hear the tinkle of ice in a lemonade pitcher. In a distant kitchen, because of the heat of the day, someone was preparing a cold lunch. Someone was humming under her breath, high and sweet.
Captain John Black rang the bell...
2017 October 21st:
...In half an hour I had arrived at the edge of the red plateau. A steep slope fell before me to the edge of the jungle, perhaps two-thirds of a mile farther below. A slope carpeted with the thick fiber of the green moss.
A weird scene. Clear cerulean sky, darkly, richly blue... The wide valley, with the broad silvery stream, winding among golden forests, and patches of green. The purple balloons floating here and yon, huge spheres swaying on the red cables that anchored them above the jungle.
I seated myself on the moss, where I could overlook that valley of eldritch wonder. I remained there for some time, staring out across it, while I ate most of the food that I had brought, and half-emptied the bottle of water.
Then I decided to descend to the edge of the jungle.
The sun was just at the meridian - the whole of the short afternoon, was yet before me. I had ample time, I thought, to go down the slope to the edge of the jungle and return before the sudden nightfall...
2017 October 20th:
...It was hard to estimate just where the tree trunk legs were going to come down, and close up, the walking walls of flesh gave you a vertiginous sense that they were always toppling over on you. The sound of their footfalls filled the world, like rumbling thunder on a hot summer day or batteries of heavy artillery...
Taldi threw himself aside with a yell as a foot with hundreds of tons of weight behind it slammed down not four feet from him. That and the miniature earthquake tossed him off his feet and onto his shoulders and neck; half-stunned, he doggedly began to gather the scattered arrows that had spilled from his quiver and snatch up the leather sack of torches. The next time the rear foot came down it would be on top of him...
2017 October 19th:
...I considered running for cover among the small crags and boulders that jutted like house-sized teeth up through the lava. But to run might be to draw attention to myself.
Finally, with utmost caution, I advanced.
On a clear area of plain beside the trail, I came upon a group of about a dozen barrel-sized, bulbous vegetables, ridged like cacti. They had twiggy tufts the size of chop-sticks growing from their tops; the rattling sound came from these sticks tap-tapping.
I ventured closer still. I'd never learn what's what if I avoided every off-putting thing. I stopped at three yards and watched the twigs make their noise. My tension eased as I came to the conclusion that the rattling was purely defensive, evolved to ward off predators. So, having had my look, I returned to the trail. For a while I still heard the click-click-click behind me.
In my imagination the noise began to seem like an exchange of remarks, and the sick eerie hunch that those blind isolated things might be talking made this world seem infinitely lonelier...
2017 October 18th:
...he stood petrified for a moment on the rough ice, staring northeastward. He and his companions looked frozenly up at an awful peril thundering down on them.
The Marching Mountains! The vast thousand-foot high range of icy hills that was but one of similar glacier-ranges which perpetually moved around the planet!
The forefront of the appalling walking ice-range was a towering, gleaming cliff that was only a few hundred yards from them. And the whole cliff was advancing on them, moving at an incredible speed of many yards a minute, pushed forward by the vast glacial masses of ice behind it. From the icy moving cliff fell great bergs and masses of ice, over which the main range moved crushingly as it came on.
"Out of here!" Captain Future yelled. "We'll have to run for it - this way!"
"There is no use running from the Marching Mountains," cried Tharb hopelessly. "We cannot get out of their path and they will soon overtake us."
2017 October 17th:
...Fleming stumbled on a few yards more.
"If only I could see!" he cried.
As if in answer to his plea, a sheet of rose-colored flame poured from a vent in the side of a mountain nearby, lighting up the region around the ship with a vivid crimson glare. Steam and lava poured from the mountain side, while the ground shook under the force of the blast. Dale and Fleming were hurled to their knees. They made no effort to rise but flattened themselves against the shuddering ground.
To his horror Dale perceived that the ship had landed upon a narrow ledge projecting along the edge of a sheer wall of ice. Peering cautiously over the side he gazed a thousand feet down into a sea tossing under the shock of the eruption. Sick and dizzy, he crept back to the sheltering wall of the cliff. The flame subsided...
2017 October 16th:
...Varnal is more real to me, even in my memories, than ever Chicago or New York can be. It lies in a gentle valley in the hills.... the Calling Hills. Green and golden, they are covered with slender trees and, when the wind passes through them, they sound like sweet, distant, calling voices as one walks past.
The valley itself is wide and shallow and contains a fairly large, hot lake. The city is built around the lake, from which rises a greenish stream, a delicate green that sends tendrils curling around the spires of Varnal. Most of Varnal's graceful buildings are tall and white, though some are built of the unique blue marble which is mined close by. Others have traceries of gold in them, making them glitter in the sunlight. The city is walled by the same blue marble, which also has golden traceries in it. From its towers fly pennants, gay and multicolored, and its terraces are crowded with its handsome inhabitants, the plainest of whom would be a sought-after beau or belle in Wynnsville, Ohio - or, indeed, Chicago or any other great city of our world...
2017 October 15th:
...While in quest of fire-wood, they came upon great heaps of bones, mostly those of birds, and were attracted by the tall, bell-shaped flowers growing luxuriantly in their midst. These exhaled a most delicious perfume, and at the centre of each flower was a viscous liquid, the colour of honey.
"If this tastes as well as it looks," said Bearwarden, "it will come in well for dessert"; saying which he thrust his finger into the recesses of the flower, intending to taste the essence. Quietly, but like a flash, the flower closed, his hand being nearly caught and badly scratched by the long, sharp thorns that now appeared at the edges...
...Towards evening these flowers sent up their most beautiful song, to hear which flocks of birds came from far and near, alighting on the trees, and many were lured to death by the siren strains and the honey...
2017 October 14th:
...Soon we were near enough to the wall and gate to see clearly the two great plants who guarded the opening. Their slow-waving tendrils showed that they were still waking and watchful. Blan noiselessly left our side, gliding away like a white phantom to the right, and then he on one side and Fairley and I on the other, were creeping toward the gate, keeping far enough aside from it to be out of range of the strange senses of the guarding plants.
We two reached the metal wall, and hugging it began a slow stealthy progress along it toward the gate-opening. Reaching that opening we hesitated, our swords tight-gripped in our hands. Then we saw Blan appear on the gate's other side, slipping along the wall like ourselves, a gliding white form. He too halted, grasping his blade, and then with one hand made a silent signal to us. Instantly he and we were leaping around the wall's corner onto the two great plants.
The great plant that Fairley and I sprang for loomed before us as a dark many-armed object, whose tendrils whipped wildly as our blades slashed lightning-like through them...
2017 October 13th:
...Seemingly immune to the ravages of time, the mighty Zinc Era network had left Syoom criss-crossed with embankments on which the empty rails still ran. Every few thousand miles, wayfarers were still bound to cross one of these artificial ridges. On well-frequented routes this did not matter at all; however, grim experience had taught that any stretch of embankment which had not been visited for a thousand days or so must be approached gingerly. Preferably, a dray-master, raft-pilot or Crawler captain should send scouts ahead to peer cautiously over the rim, before any attempt to get over with the main vehicle. And the more lasers on one's side the better...
2017 October 12th:
...Grant brushed his hand across his forehead and turned wearily towards his stone-bark log shack. A pair of tiny, glittering red eyes caught his attention, and a slinker - Mus Sapiens - slipped his six-inch form across the threshold, bearing under his tiny, skinny arm what looked very much like Grant's clinical thermometer.
Grant yelled angrily at the creature, seized a stone, and flung it vainly. At the edge of the brush, the slinker turned its ratlike, semihuman face toward him, squeaked its thin gibberish, shook a microscopic fist in manlike wrath, and vanished, its batlike cowl of skin fluttering like a cloak. It looked, indeed, very much like a black rat wearing a cape...
2017 October 11th:
...The tremendous interplay of magnetic and electrostatic fields just beyond the city's edge was as clearly perceptible to his senses as the city itself - a mile-wide disc ringed with conical field towers, stretching away behind and to each side. The ship was poised between two of the towers; immediately behind it was the field from which Kron had just taken off. The area was covered with cradles of various forms - cup-shaped receptacles which held city craft like Kron's own: long, boat-shaped hollows wherein reposed the cigarlike vessels which plied between the cities...
Beyond the landing field was the city proper; the surface of the disc was covered with geometrically shaped buildings - cones, cylinders, prisms, and hemispheres, jumbled together...
2017 October 10th:
...All around them in the thin sunlight rose slender trees whose enormous green leaves grew directly from the trunks. This grotesque forest was made more dense by festoons of writhing "snake-vines", weird rootless creepers which crawled like plant-serpents from one tree to another. Each stir of wind brought white spore-dust down in a shower from the trees.
The few living creatures of this forbidding landscape were equally alien. Big white meteor-rats scurried on their eight legs through the brush. Phosphorescent flame-birds shot through the upper fronds like streaks of fire...