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!

2019 January 29th:   

A half-dozen of the bulks stirred uneasily... moving clumsily.  Then, broadside on, they started rolling toward the two men on the most direct line - through the lake of liquid hydrogen.

"They'll drown in that..."

The first one had rolled into the liquid, sending it splashing in rainbow showers of ultra-cold.  It rolled smoothly on into the lake, going deeper and deeper, until it was fully twenty feet deep in the stuff.  Then...  the huge, blunt end of the vast cylinder of apparently brainless flesh split.  As though hinged, an immense, thick flap of leathery hide rolled down, and instead of the leathery, featureless cylinder-end, a whole assortment of organs appeared.

First was a tube, fully two feet in diameter, that shot out like an elephant's trunk, to dip into that inconceivably frigid lake.  The mobile liquid swirled and bubbled, twisting in vortices.  With a tremendous smack, audible even in that thin, chill air, the tube broke contact with the surface of the liquid.


[contributed by Zendexor]

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2019 January 28th:   

Behind the battlements and bastions atop the city’s walls crouched the Golden Amazons of the garrison, loosing their storms of arrows at the swarming besiegers below them.  Other tawny-skinned crews worked the alta-ray tubes that belched blasts of blue flame at regular intervals.  Wherever the blue beams struck, the ground was blackened while the twisted and charred shapes of Scaly Ones writhed in brief agony.  The myriad brazen trumpets of Larr sounded hasty rallying calls, or else tossed staccato signals from one part of the defences to another.

The hordes of Lansa had invested the city on three sides, the marsh-land on the far border of the city protecting that side from direct assault.  Groups of Scaly Ones took shelter behind tree trunks and mounds of earth and any other possible cover, firing their gas-guns up at the battlements in an effort to lessen the arrow fire.  Others crept forward behind movable metal shields.  Heavy-caliber gas-guns inched slowly forward behind wooden mantlets that bristled with arrows, and hurled their larger explosive bullets up at the walls.  Wherever they struck there was a puff of yellow dust and a scarred place on the stones.  Reptilian trumpets beat with a staccato thunder as Lansa kept in touch with his various divisions.  Not all the advantage was with the besiegers, however.  Even as Gerry watched, a blue heat-ray struck full on one of the big gas-guns and blew it up with a shattering crash.

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2019 January 22nd:   

Ciaran felt good. The heat of the sunballs that floated always, lazy in a reddish sky, made him pleasantly sleepy. And after the clamor and crush of the market squares in the border towns, the huge high silence of the place was wonderful.

He and Mouse were camped on a tongue of land that licked out from the Phrygian hills down into the coastal plains of Atlantea. A short cut, but only gypsies like themselves ever took it. To Ciaran's left, far below, the sea spread sullen and burning, cloaked in a reddish fog. To his right, also far below, were the Forbidden Plains...

[contributed by Troy Jones]

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2018 December 21st:   

...The radiant walls lighted their way, and they came to a large room.  In the exact center of this room reared a limpidly transparent cube about twenty feet in diameter.  Big Oaf motioned to it, and Pendrake walked over, aware of the creature puffing along behind him.

"Look down!" said the other, and his voice was almost gentle.

Pendrake had already seen.

At some depth below, a blue-white flame glowed with an intense brightness.  After one glance Pendrake had to look away.  But he kept looking at it with quick additional glances.

"It's been shiny like that," said Big Oaf, "since I came here.  What do you make of it, feller?"

Pendrake said silently, agonizingly, into the cube, "Please rescue me.  I need help!"

From some vast distance in the cube a voice answered into his brain, "Friend, your ability to sense our presence gains you nothing, for it will be long indeed before men can use what we have and know."

"Have mercy," Pendrake said shakily.  "I am about to be murdered..."

"Very well, you may choose.  Join us in here forever."

"You mean - "

"Forever absorbed into the unity, free of all passion and pain forever."

Pendrake shrank.  His instantaneous reaction was total revulsion.  He had no feeling at all that he was being offered freedom...

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 December 16th:   

…The desert valley floor behind them seemed suddenly to have sprouted some tall bushes.  There were possibly a dozen of them standing at intervals of twenty yards.  They were too far away – perhaps one eighth of a mile – for Dynamon to see them very well, but they appeared to consist of a score of leafless branches radiating outward in all directions from a small core.  It was as if a basket ball was bristling with ten-foot javelins. 

“Where did they come from?” Dynamon gasped.  “I didn’t see them when we walked over that ground a few minutes ago.”

“Nor I,” agreed Thamon.  “I can’t imagine where they came from.”

Just then one of the bushes apparently moved a few feet as if blown by the wind.

“Good lord!” exclaimed Thamon.  “Did you see that?  One of those things rolled forward!”

Then another of the fantastic bushes started to roll, and another, and another.  In a moment all twelve of the extraordinary apparitions were rolling rapidly down the wind toward the humans.  Dynamon felt the hair on the back of his neck stiffen…   

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 December 13th:   

..."That bag of stuff, Bill... Who puts it beside the track?"

I'd been wondering if he would show any curiosity.  "A race of small, furry creatures," I answered.  "They're very shy.  They live underground, and dig ore for us."  I grinned at his puzzled expression.  "We don't want the ore, because it's usually only rock.  We're interested in the material of the bags.  It's as thin as paper, completely transparent, and yet it can withstand the weight of tons of rock.  They manufacture it from their own bodies, much the way spiders produce webs.  We can't seem to make them understand that we want only the bags..."

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 March 5th:    

...This particular crater was a small one, and the level floor was only some thirty yards below the rim.  Larry stared in amazement at the creatures who were coming to sit in long rows around a small mound in the center of the crater.  He hardly knew whether to call them men or animals.  They had the hard shell and articulated legs of an insect, but their faces had a semi-human appearance in spite of the pair of long antennae that grew out of their foreheads.  Their feet made a dry rustling sound as they clambered down over the rock, and they carried metal clubs with spiked heads.  Larry saw that they walked with four of their six limbs while the upper pair were equipped with three curved fingers each.  On the top of each antenna was a round ball that glowed with a phosphorescent light...

[contributed by Zendexor]

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2018 March 4th:    

...The men jokingly called them Barber's Delights because of the thick, shaggy coat of hair that covered their log-like bodies.  The B.D.'s either didn't understand, or just didn't care, for they made no objection to their nickname.

There were twenty of the creatures in this group, and more joined them along the way.  They imitated the brisk step of the soldiers with amazing exactness, though they possessed no resemblance whatsoever of feet.  They moved on dense mats of stubby, resilient bristles that grew from the flat bottoms of their column-like bodies, sweeping forward like a horde of self-propelling brooms.  Not wishing to be outdone by the visitors, they had their own sergeant, who moved along importantly at the side of his command, glaring threateningly from the corner of his single, huge eye...

[contributed by Robert Gibson]

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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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