guess the world -
open

Unlike the original Guess The World, which was all my own work, this one is intended 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.

Email your mystery-snippets to me at heritageofdreams@aol.com 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!


2021 April 12th:   

Once he woke up to see something that looked like a bad attempt to squeeze a face out of putty stuck against the rocks.  It was a naturally ugly head, and the way the creature was wobbling something that might have been its lips made it even uglier.  He shuddered, before he saw that it was much too wide to squeeze through.  And the picture of the thing in his mind didn't help his next attempt at sleep.

The next time he snapped out of his nap was when one of them suddenly slapped a tail against the earth and charged angrily at the stones.  They stood up under the assult, by some miracle, even when it kept repeating it.  But the ground shook each time the tail slapped down.

The strange part of it was that any one of them could have come through by turning sideways and flowing through, as they had flowed across the ground behind the tractor.  But this seemed to be against the rules, for some reason.

Dick got up and moved around, working off the numbness.  At his first movement the creatures drew back out of the way.  He noticed that when he moved toward them, they started going around to the side.  When he stood still, they moved away.  But at any other movement, they tried to come through the rocks toward him.  It all fitted the legends he had heard, and it was no easier to believe in person than it had been when it was nothing but an idle story.

He saw Charlie watching him, and went back.  "I don't get it," he admitted.

"Why should you?" Charlie asked.  "You think of 'em as animals.  But they ain't - they're just a bunch of walking plants."

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 April 9th:   

Constantly buffeted by wind and water, we staggered on until at last we came to a comparatively open space which we felt would be far safer than the denser forest.  Here we huddled together with our backs toward the storm, waiting like dumb creatures for the battle of the elements to subside.

Great animals, which ordinarily would have threatened our very existence, passed close by us as they fled before the storm; but we had no fear of them for we knew that they were even more terrified than we, and that hunting and feeding were far from their thoughts.  Aside from the danger from flying branches, we felt comparatively safe; and so were not as alert as customarily, although, as a matter of course, we could have heard or seen little above the storm and the blinding rain.  The crashing thunder, following peal after peal, almost continuously, combined with the howling wind to drown out any other sound.

At the very height of the storm we were suddenly seized from behind by powerful fingers.  Our weapons were wrenched from us and our hands secured behind our backs; then, at last, we saw our captors.  There were fifteen or twenty of them, the largest men I have ever seen.  Even the smallest of them stood fully seven feet in height.  Their faces were extremely ugly, and a pair of great, tusk-like yellow teeth imparted no additional beauty to them...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 April 8th:   

There was nothing moving in sight on the fairly level plane, spawled off by Jupiter's fierce heat when the System was young, whose horizon was a scant mile away.  So they started walking.  Gravitation was surprisingly strong, indicating unusual density.  This fact, plus the intense cold which slows down the dance of the atoms, accounted for the fact that [.....] still retained remnants of an atmosphere.

The hikers even saw traces of water vapor, in form of frost.  Occasionally they passed clumps of mossy or lichenous growth.  Twice they observed colonies of slug-like creatures growing, reproducing, and dying with amazing rapidity...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 April 6th:   

He now saw that some of the larger rocks were strangely angular.  Pushing some around, he noticed more.  Calling Arpad, they explored the area thoroughly.  There were many such angular rocks, and now in several spots they noticed that one or two such were still perched on top of others.  Bruce found a little piece of reddish stuff, plastic of some sort, probably part of a machine, though he couldn't place it.  Arpad turned up some bits of broken material which looked like splinters of a smashed vase or pot.

When they came back to Garcia, and sat around and discussed their findings, they knew they had come across one of the most amazing discovering in interplanetary history.  Clearly there had once been a city standing in this plain...  A city that had crumbled into ruin and dust probably hundreds of thousands of years ago - and a city that defied all the logic of life.

Garcia explained this, "How could life survive here?  There could never have been enough air here, even when this satellite was new and still hot from its creation.  My guess is that this city was a colony planted from somewhere else.  But where and who could it have been that was here so many lost ages ago - back before there were even men on Earth...?"

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 March 10th:   

He withdrew his knife from his pack and examined the nearest fungus. Of course, it wasn’t truly a fungus, that was an earthly form of life, but this... blurred the line between single organisms and colonies... resembled a mesh between the two... Should one be hurt or damaged, the others could pick up its slack until it was healed, as each possessed the necessary biological machinery.
    
This, incidentally, was what made the zuff so fearsome. As its unfortunate discoverer, Viron Zuff, had learned, a bullet would not stop it as long as enough of its “nodes” remained unharmed. Some of those nodes, particularly its thrasher-tentacles, were devastatingly dangerous.
     
Cutting into the fungus, he managed to remove a piece that seemed suitably dry for burning. Since he had no idea what growth would most easily light, he decided to hedge his bets and collect some of everything, the grass, the shrubs, a crawling vine and some others, and test each one with his magnesium lighter.
    
An hour later the sun was plunging below the horizon, and the ground was covered in a thin frost everywhere except a wide circle around Raker’s crackling fire. Sitting near it made him feel secure, and as he lay with his head resting on his pack he thought again of the situation the Patrol had left him in. I hope there’s open water somewhere out here; so far everything seems to get its water from the ground, or perhaps the air, neither of which do me any good. But I can’t waste time every day searching for springs, not when the sun’s only up for four hours. Or perhaps nobody survives this test and the Patrol is staffed by corpses. He grinned, remembering some of his colder, less animated instructors...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 March 9th:  

They had progressed not more than twenty paces into the dense undergrowth when the gleaming wall of the Tritu Anu was entirely hidden from view.  The artificial sunlight seeped through the mass of vegetation overhead, a ghostly green twilight that made death masks of their faces.  But of the lights themselves, of the great latticed columns, of the enormous sponge-like blossoms of the upper surface of the jungle sea, nothing could be seen.  They were deep in a tangled maze of translucent flora that was like nothing so much as a forest of giant seaweed transplanted from its natural element.  The moss-like carpet beneath their feet was slushy wet and condensed moisture rained steadily from the matted fronds and tendrils above.  The air they breathed was hot and stifling; laden with rank odors and curling mists that assailed throat and head passages with choking effect.

Weird whisperings there were from above and all about them.  It seemed almost that the uncanny, weaving green things were alive and voicing indignant protest over the intrusion of the three humans.

Ankle deep in the rain-soaked moss, their clothing drenched and steaming, they pressed ever deeper into the tangle.  All sense of direction was lost.

"Guess we'd better rest now," said Blaine, seeing that Ulana was gasping from her exertions.  "They'll never trail us here."

"How about this crystal thing - the searching ray?" Tommy ventured.

"It cannot follow us," the girl explained.  "Certain juices of the plants provide an insulator against the ray.  In fact, it was an extract of these that was used in protecting the underground laboratory we just left.  We are safe now and I am very tired."

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 March 8th:  

...there was a fleeting glimpse of sun-lit spires of mountains, shadowed valleys, and mysterious crevasses from which clouds of steam and yellow vapour curled.  Still it seemed they must crash against one of those slender pinnacles.  Nearer it came like a flash; a dizzying blur, now, that drove directly in their straining faces.

And then, abruptly, it was gone.  Already thousands of miles astern, the danger was past...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 February 9th:  

Without warning the darkness flickered into grey twilight.  He struggled to reach the observation window so that he could see the Citadel colony from the air, but it was already too late; the gyrojet was immersed in the impenetrable bacterial cloud mass - but only for a few minutes.  They emerged into intense blazing sunshine reflecting with almost incandescent violence from the cloud surface - an immense field of dazzling white snow receding on all sides to the horizon.

It was impossible to estimate speed, for there were no landmarks on which the eye could fix.  All he could see was the slender dart-shaped shadow of the plane apparently motionless on the clouds - now far below - like some hovering insect, or a black-ink stain.  The pilot was evidently navigating by instruments, or flying on a radar beam; indeed, Macklin could see no other way in which point-to-point air transport would be possible over terrain permanently obscured by dense living fog...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2021 January 9th:   

The first living thing they encountered was a bird, not much bigger than a skylark, but more like an owl in appearance; for it was grey in colour, its downy feathers like fur at a distance, and each eye was surrounded by a ruff, or several rows of stiff concentric feathers.  It differed from an owl, however, in having a straight beak; and differed from any bird on earth in the manner of its flight.  Pointing its beak vertically upwards, it rose as straight as a stone sinks, and when it had reached a point about two-thirds the height of the grotto, gyrated swiftly on its own axis.  It descended in a corkscrew motion and invariably took up its perch on a ledge about six feet from the ground.  Another peculiarity was that it showed not the slightest sign of fear at the approach of Olivero and the Green Child, and would, indeed, freely allow itself to be touched and fondled.  It was comparatively rare in distribution, and except during the mating season, solitary in its habits.

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 December 26th:   

...I was watching a strange, unearthly scene.  There was a whole crowd of men such as the one I had met.  They were gathered around what looked like a huge wheel, at least fifty feet in diameter.  This wheel was attached to a great mass of machinery by means of a large axle.

Hanging on the bottom of a wheel was a small egg-shaped vehicle.  Set in the side of this was a circular doorway whose thick metal door was open.  Before this was a being whom I instantly knew to be he whom I had met.  The other people were gathering around him talking in an utterly incomprehensible tongue.

This whole scene was set in a huge clearing before what looked to be a small city of curious hemispherical buildings.  The horizon of this strange world was very close.  The curvature could be distinctly made out.  The sky was a deep blue, and overhead, filling most of it, was a vast greenish sphere...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 December 2nd:   

...The day that it all happened, he and Terza were outside the dome.  They had been pushing loudies around.

Loudies were not dangerous unless you killed them.  You could knock them down, push them out of the way, or tie them up; after a while, they slipped away and went about their business.  It took a very special kind of ecologist to figure out what their business was.  They floated two meters high, ninety centimeters in diameter, gently just above the land...  eating microscopically.  For a long time, people thought there was radiation on which they subsisted.  They simply multiplied in tremendous numbers.  In a silly sort of way, it was fun to push them around, but that was about all there was to do.

They never responded with intelligence.

Once, long before, a loudie taken into the laboratory for experimental purposes had typed a perfectly clear message on the typewriter.  The message had read, "Why don't you Earth people go back to Earth and leave us alone?  We are getting on all - "

And that was all the message that anybody had ever got out of them in three hundred years.  The best conclusion was that they had very high intelligence if they ever chose to use it, but that their volitional mechanism was so profoundly different from the psychology of human beings that it was impossible to force a loudie to respond to stress as people did on Earth.

The name loudie was some kind of word in the old Chinesian language.  It meant the "ancient ones"...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 September 13th:   

...Then the trees thinned out and they found themselves in a glade, an "island" of deep grass surrounded on all sides by the green walls of the jungle.  It was good to stand in clear sunlight again, after the green, perfumed twilight of the jungle paths.  The glade was empty, save for six strange plants, each standing about six feet tall, with barrel-shaped trunks of thick flesh rising to a wide opening lined with wet tissue from which eight long fronds hung down.  Karm Karvus had never seen their like.

"Shall we rest for a moment, Karm Karvus?" Sumia asked, leaning against one of the fungoid trunks.

Something deep within the Tsargolian cried silent warning.  His hair prickled at the nape of his neck and the muscles about his mouth twitched.  He felt a chill wind of uneasiness blowing across his nerves.  But, looking around, he could perceive no visible cause for this feeling of danger...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 July 9th:   

He made himself breathe slowly and evenly, counting.  One, two.  In, out.  The weed waved with gentle grace along the edges of the light.  His body waved too, giving itself to the massive rhythm of the sea.  One, two.  In, out.  And nothing came, nothing showed itself.

Then he saw them.

There were two of them.  There must have been a third one with the light, unless it was resting on a ledge of rock, but two were all that Kerrick saw.  They swam toward him through the brilliant water, their bodies all shining gold.  They were man-shaped except that their hands and feet were modified for swimming, and except that they must have been fully nine feet tall, slender, sleek, and terribly strong.  They were obviously air-breathers, and warm-blooded.  They looked at Kerrick with great black luminous eyes, full of a quick but quite alien intelligence, and Kerrick shuddered a little where he stood, as though something cold had brushed across him...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 June 25th:   

...Flying slowly at an altitude of two hundred feet, he passed over level areas covered with velvety stretches of gray vegetation that resembled mosses and lichens, and over hills and valleys clothed with forests of weird, grotesque growths.

There were fungi shaped like saucers, umbrellas, cones, spearheads, and even upraised hands, all rusty black in color.  There were black stalks, fully fifty feet in height, topped by five-pointed purple stars, huge gray pear-shaped growths from which there curled sinuous branches that resembled the tentacles of cuttle fish, and black trees, some of which were a hundred feet in height, with branches that unrolled like the leaves of sword-ferns.

Disposed to view some of these wonders at closer range, Ted lowered his craft to the ground.  A glance at his exterior thermometer showed the outside temperature to be 210° above zero, Fahrenheit, almost the boiling point of water at sea level on earth!  He accordingly closed his visor and turned on the valve of his insulated compressed air tank before opening the door of his turret.  Slamming this quickly behind him, he stepped down from his craft, sinking ankle deep in the soft, gray moss that coated the forest floor...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 June 11th:   

...In their favor, they had the low gravity and the loose, friable earth; against them was the same crumbly texture, with its tendency to collapse, and the incredible dryness.  Ordinary concrete wouldn't set decently, before it had dried the ravenous dust had sucked half the water from it and you got a flimsy stuff which the erosion of temperature extremes would soon ruin.  So you devised molds of plastic board which would act as a shield till the concrete was properly set.  One of the furtive, tiny animals chewed the insulation off power lines, so you had to bury them in concrete too.  Then you ran out of cement and had to scout round looking for some local substitute: a clay which mixed with water and baked into bricks.

But you couldn't spend water that lavishly, so you had to find it elsewhere, you had to extract it from the fluid-hoarding cells of certain trees.  Quickly growing rootlets with some unknown dowsing sense would split open any pipe or container with moisture in it, so you had to eradicate all plants for miles around and lay the pipes in open tunnels where they could be inspected.  And so on, and on, and on.

And slowly the base was growing...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 May 29th:   

...The whirling rotary clouds were at times close over us - green and red vapor masses, hurling rain and wind heavy with sulphur.

The clouds sometimes rifted into great vertical funnels through which the clear daylight of the sky was visible.  It brightened the scene, and the bleak, desolate landscape beneath us was at those moments clearly shown as great rippled sheets of metallic plateau, drenched with water - shining coppery, then cast with green - or blinding red when the lightning puffed - or again, a wild, broken area with spires and crags and boulders strewn as though some frenzied Titan had flung them.

And we swept over tiny valleys where soil had collected and trees and verdure had sprung up.  The trees bent low in the wind; the rain-sheet blurred our vision of them as we struggled past...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 May 7th:   

For a million years the bubble had been growing, like a vast abscess, below the root of the mountains... forcing itself along lines of weakness, accumulating in cavities...  

...the smooth plain puckered like a navel.  The Sea was alive and moving, stirred by the forces that had woken it from its age-long sleep.  The centre of the disturbance deepened into a funnel, as if a giant whirlpool was forming in the dust... the boat was sliding and skittering far down that impossible slope.  Its own momentum, and the accelerating flow of the dust beneath it, was carrying it headlong into the depths.  There was nothing he could do but attempt to keep on an even keel, and to hope that their speed would carry them up the far side...

The straining motors were making some headway, but not enough.  The falling dust was gathering speed - and, what was worse, it was rising outside the walls of the cruiser.  Now it had reached the lower edge of the windows; now it was creeping up the panes...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>> here's where this is

2020 March 30th:   

My route now carried me smoothly towards the incandescent area...  I approached the iridescent region and then was suddenly inside it.  The sensation was of being inside a glorious world of light and colour, and with this sensation came the certainty that someone was talking to me.  Although I was not conscious of hearing any known words, I knew that I could remove my headpiece.  I moved on closer, gliding through the sea of shimmering light.  Voices spoke at me now from every side.  It wasn't like ordinary speech.  It was more like the voices of music.  I felt I knew something both beautiful and profound was being said, but that I lacked a knowledge of the language.  The sounds became louder as I proceded.

There were shapes too, showing more clearly the forming and reforming process I'd seen from the outside.

The voices drew me on even further, and the further I travelled the clearer the shapes became and the more distinctive the sounds.  The language seemed not only accessible but immediately within my grasp.  Suddenly I knew the language would indeed become clear - but only if I were to proceed beyond the threshold of my own being...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 March 29th:   

The robot's metal hand pointed toward a ripple that was approaching them through the moonlit water - a ripple that was ominously deliberate and steady in its advance.

"It's a bibur - one of the greatest and most terrible sea-monsters of our world!" yelled Tharb.  "Paddle away!"

But their attempt at retreat was too slow to be of any avail.  That rippling came closer, and they could clearly see it was caused by an enormous body swimming beneath the surface.

Then out of the moonlit sea a huge living thing broke surface.  It was of brontosaurus bulk, its immense, sleek, wet, furry body urged forward by webbed paws, its snaky neck ending in a snarling head of great fangs and blazing red eyes...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 March 6th:   

"...If it is the glare that made them draw back it must be that they have some organs so sensitive to light that quite possibly they can see!  I must find out about this."

Thereupon he began questioning the lillies again to discover how much they could tell him of their sense of vision.  He shot his hand out and asked them if they knew what movement he had made.  Every time (though they had no idea of what he was trying to find out) they told him precisely what he had done.  Then going close to one large flower he passed his hand all round it; and the blossom turned its head and faced the moving hand all the way round the circle.

There was no doubt in our minds whatever, when we had finished our experiments, that the Vanity Lillies could in their own way see - though where the machinery called eyes was placed in their anatomy we could not as yet discover.

The Doctor spent hours and days trying to solve this problem.  But, he told me, he met with very little success.  For a while he was forced to the conclusion (since he could not find in the flowers any eyes such as we know) that what he had taken for a sense of vision was only some other sense, highly developed, which produced the same results as seeing...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 February 20th:   

They did not realize the full strangeness before they donned spacesuits and went outside.  Then, saying very little, they wandered about looking and feeling.  Their brains were slow to develop the gestalts which would allow them readily to see what surrounded them.  A confused mass of detail could not be held in the memory, the underlying form could not be abstracted from raw sense impressions.  A tree is a tree, anywhere and anywhen, no matter how intricate its branching or how oddly shaped its leaves and blossoms.  But what is a -

- thick shaft of gray metal, planted in the sand, central to a labyrinthine skeleton of straight and curved girders, between which run still more enigmatic structures embodying helices and toruses and Moebius strips and less familiar geometrical elements; the entire thing some fifty feet tall; flaunting at the top several hundred thin metal plates whose black sides are turned toward the sun?

When you have reached the point of being able to describe it even this crudely, then you have apprehended it.

Eventually Darkington saw that the basic structure was repeated, with infinite variation of size and shape, as far as he could see.  Some specimens tall and slender, some low and broad, they dominated the hillside.  The deeper reaches were made gloomy by their overhang, but sun speckles flew piercingly bright within those shadows as the wind shook the mirror faces of the plates.  That same wind made a noise of clanking and clashing and far-off deep booming, mile after metal mile.

There was no soil, only sand, rusty red and yellow.  But outside the circle which had been devastated by the boat's jets, Darkington found the earth carpeted with prismatic growths, a few inches high, seemingly rooted in the ground.  He broke one off for closer examination and saw tiny crystals, endlessly repeated, in some transparent siliceous material: like snowflakes and spiderwebs of glass.  It sparkled so brightly, making so many rainbows, that he couldn't well study the interior.  He could barely make out at the centre a dark clump of... wires, coils, transistors?  No, he told himself, don't be silly...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 February 19th:   

"Impossible," muttered Russ.  "Life can't exist here."

But they trudged on, across the barren flat to a ridge of rock.  Here they found what they had thought to be impossible.  Clustered along the side of the ridge, in the faint light of the distant and tiny Sun, was a series of thin, blue stalks, about half a foot in height.  On each stalk was a flat scalloped top like a little umbrella.  It was sometimes bright blue, and sometimes violet.  As they drew nearer, these little stalks began to sway, and turned their tops toward them.

"They look like plants," said Burl.  "Plants made of something glassy and plastic."

As Russ studied the strange growths, something moved across the dusty tract behind them.  It was long and thin and wiggly, with a ridge of tiny crystalline hairs along its back.  It was like a snake perhaps, but one made of some unbelievably delicate glasswork.

It slid among the plants and wrapped itself around one.  The growth stopped suddenly, and then was absorbed by the creature.

Russ shook his head in amazement.  "This is a great discovery...   life designed to exist among liquid gases and frozen air - life which can't have anything in common with protoplasm.  Apparently it couldn't exist even on Saturn's moons - they were too hot for it!"

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 February 18th:   

It had almost no atmosphere, just a thin layer of the heavier gases.  It was a belted world, without clearly defined continents or surface markings.  Its equatorial zone was one vast, featureless belt of darkish-gray.  Its temperate zones were white, with patches of yellow here and there.  But its poles were gray again.

"The satellite's like a huge ball of thin mud that's never hardened," said Burl as they studied the strange terrain.

"The equator's the softest - it seems to be a river of muddy water, hundreds of miles wide - only it can't be water.  Probably semisolidified gases holding dust and grains of matter in suspension," said Russ.  "The temperate zones are the same stuff, only colder, and therefore more stable.  A thin crust of frozen gases over a planet-wide ocean of semiliquid substance."

"The Sun-tap station's on the southern pole," said Burl.  "That must be solid."

It was.  The poles... were actually two continent-sized islands of shell.  Dry, mudlike stuff, hard as rock, floating on the endless seas of the semiliquid planet...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 19th:   

White lichens towered above them like a grotesque forest.  On the rock ledges above them he saw enormous bat-like creatures, their scaly white wings folded about them in sleep.

Following the guidance of the radite-compass needle, Captain Future entered the first tunnel that diverged north-eastward.  A larger underground stream ran through it, broiling downward.  The two intrepid adventurers pressed on.

"How much farther do we have to go, chief?" Grag demanded.

"Plenty far," was Curt's unpromising answer.  "The intensity gauge on the radite-compass shows the deposit is still a long way off.  And moderate that bellowing voice of yours, will you?" he added warningly.  "The People of Darkness range through all these caverns."

"The cave-people they warned us about?" Grag said.  "Who's afraid of them?  They might have scared other explorers, but not me."

The connecting caverns seemed endless as Curt and the robot penetrated ever deeper...

He and Grag were moving down a dim chasm beside the waters of a racing little river, when Curt glimpsed something rushing towards them.

"Cave-spider!" he yelled, and grabbed for his proton pistol.

"Holy sun-imps!" gasped Grag...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 17th:   

One of the Three held in his supple, nine-fingered hand a glittering thing.  A hoop of pure crystal, struck across with crystal bars from which hung tiny rings of glassy stuff.  A crossbar and a handle, also of crystal, completed the curious instrument.  It reminded me of the mystic crux ansata, the Looped Cross, which the ancient Egyptians called the ankh, the Cross of Life.  It reminded me also of the sistrum used by the priests of the Nile in certain ceremonies...

We said nothing to each other.

We knew who the three gaunt mummies frozen in the misted amber expanse of crystal were - or who they had been aeons before.

The Timeless Ones...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 16th:   

Dentro al cristallo che 'l vocabol porta           [Within the crystal which bears the
                                                                       name,
    cerchiando il mondo, del suo chiaro duce       circling the world, of its famous
                                                                        chief
    sotto cui giacque ogni malizia morta,             under whom all wickedness lay
                                                                         dead,
di color d'oro in che raggio traluce                  of the colour of gold in which rays
                                                                       flash
    vid' io uno scaleo eretto in suso                     I saw a ladder reaching up

    tanto, che nol seguiva la mia luce.                  so far, that my sight could not
                                                                          follow it.
Vidi anche per li gradi scender giuso               I also saw, descending by the
                                                                       steps,
    tanti splendor, ch' io pensai ch'ogni lume        so many splendours that I
                                                                         thought every light
    che par nel ciel quindi fosse diffuso.               that appears in heaven had
                                                                         been poured out there.]

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 15th:   

Captain Future uttered a relieved exclamation.

"Ah, there's what we're looking for - Skal Kar's stockade."

Ahead yawned a thousand-foot clearing that had been hacked from the jungle.  It was surrounded by a wire stockade, to which were connected cables from a squat atomic electric-generator.  The generator kept the wire stockade charged, and the gliding white gas-beasts that swarmed outside dared not approach it.

At the center of the clearing looked the mysterious laboratory of the murdered scientist.  It was a black cement tower, windowless, cylindrical in shape.  Curt brought the Comet down to an expert landing inside the stockade.  He cut the cycs, then rose to his feet.

"Looks like the place is deserted," he told the Futuremen, "but we'll take no chances.  Be ready for a scrap in there..."

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 14th:   

A level space, nearly circular, a mile wide.  Surrounded with a curving ridge, it was scattered with heaps of crumbled stone.  The piles, Ellis thought, were too regular to be anything save remains of buildings, but buildings that had been ruins five hundred thousand years, or a million.  Where had the survivors gone - if there had been survivors?

The question was answered without words.

The silent music swept them on... across the dead mounds, towards the cyanic-shining, vertical wall of the pit.  It carried them out of the ruins, upon a worn and ancient road.  And the road sloped downward, curved into a vast crevice whose jagged walls glowed with light of sapphires.

From the crevice they passed into lofty and interminable vaulted caverns, whose smoothed walls yet bore the mark of tools.  Dust of eons lay thick upon the floor, swirled up chokingly about them.

The compelling, noiseless chords led them downward once more, and into a lower system of artificial caverns.  Here the rock was brighter still, glowing with radiance softly electric-blue, shadowless and unearthly.  The air was heavier here, and warmer, and the floor was clear of dust.

They were drawn into a colossal space, blue-walled, domed and circular, and far out across its floor.  The mad music abruptly ceased its throbbing in their brains.  The journey was ended.

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 13th:   

Ul Quorn's column trudged into its own cellhouse, down a bleak cement corridor lighted by krypton bulbs.  The hard-eyed guards watched as each prisoner entered his own little cell.

"Lock up!" barked the captain of guards.

The guards came along the corridor, flashing the tiny ray of their vibration-keys on each door-lock, thus sealing it electrically.

"Aura on!" came the final order of the officer.

A soft glow filled the corridor, emanating from flat plates in the ceiling...

Quorn heard the guards depart...  There was soon no sound except the soft beat-beat of the ventilation system.

Ul Quorn finally rose softly and went to the ventilator-shaft of his cell.  It was a six-inch opening covered by a barred grating.  Deftly, he removed the grating and drew up four objects suspended in the shaft by cords...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is


2020 January 12th:   

He visited the laboratories and the power receiving and transforming stations.  He went through the crowded levels of the dwellers.  He saw a slow dance performed before a packed theater crowd by a serpentine... woman, utterly ugly to his human standards, yet with an unearthly beauty of her own.  He listened to sad, cold music, like the complaint of proud demons.

Avidly he drank it all in, absorbing the strange life of these strange beings.  But behind every other feeling was the desperate seeking for a way of escape.  Even when he was undergoing some psychological test for Lu Tzo, who was his attentive and coldly interested shadow at all times, the deeper levels of his mind were fermenting and seething with plans for flight...

Together they went to the top level of Li-Kar where the space ships had their berths.  The sun should have been shining... but Li-Kar was in twilight, a queer, dark twilight with faint stars showing in a blue patch directly above.  Outside this patch there seemed to be a somber sky, deeply purple, without a relieving glimmer of light.  He would have been mystified if he had not known that he was looking on the towering sides of the abyss which contained Li-Kar, and not on the sky at all...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2020 January 11th:   

It was Mari who first noticed the disturbing instability of the terrain beneath them.  Curiously soft and flexible, it cushioned their footsteps, giving them the illusion that they were traversing an air-inflated rubber mattress...

But the illusion was tinged with horror, so alien was the experience and so far were they from the security of the known.

Mari's feet tingled as the soil heaved and pulsated with a startling life of its own.  Frantically her grasp tightened on Bregge's arm.

"Jac, the ground is moving!  Do you feel it?  It is moving beneath us, Jac!"

Bregge stopped abruptly in his tracks.  He sucked in his breath sharply.  For an instant he remained unstably poised...  His feet twisted about despite the frantic commands of his brain.

Beneath them the ground was unmistakably heaving.  Surging up yeastily about them...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>> here's where this is

2019 December 4th:   

"I was born in Nefertem, a small town not far from Trismegistus in the Tropic of Gemini, the temperate zone...  My parents raised dragons.  Most everyone in Nefertem did..."

...She told us what they looked like...  Komodo dragons crossed with zebras crossed with otters, with the personality of a drunken grand-dad set in his ways...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2019 October 7th:   

Jaro stared about him in amazement.  The narrow dimlit way was jammed with revelers.  The women wore the historic costume, a short skirt low on bare hips and a diminutive jacket with squared sleeves.  Their black hair was done up on top of their heads with blossoms of the red egalet that only blooms during the Rains.  Wooden clogs were fastened to their feet.  The men wore gaudy, loose trousers and cummerbunds of green.  Their chests were bare, and many bands of hammered silver ornamented their arms...

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

2019 August 18th:  

Even before the storm set in, Ivan had no destination in sight. He picked his way carefully along an endless stretch of cracked road, climbing over the debris of broken-down speeders and fighters left over from the war. The alien metal shimmered a strange green-black even without light. Ivan raised the collar on his duster as if thin fabric would add protection that his chromium shell could not. He couldn't perceive anything beyond a few feet through the curtain of sand and wind that whipped around him, but there was a chirping signal in his quantum processors, clear and immediate over anything else. The satellites had been the first casualties of the invasion, though; there should be no signals.

Further on, Ivan crested a hill. The wind died down and he found himself overlooking the twisted metal carcass that had been Damascus, the first city...

[contributed by Troy Jones III]

>>  here's where this is

2019 August 9th:   

We stepped down onto the island ground, wet and squishy with tiny writhing vermipods.

"I can see why they call it mud."

The goggles were hard to get used to, the freeze-framed images constantly appearing with every lightning flash, lingering and then fading into gaudy shapes of the superimposed temperature patterns. Around us, even protected from the main wind, secondary currents sent sheets of water droplets across the roots, mud, and our suits. In the high atmospheric pressure it felt sluggish to move, not heavy, just thick.

We found tentacle marks on the ground and capillaries rubbed off the vantaroot stems where the tentacles had grasped. The Orska inflate hydrogen sacs along their thorax to move slowly up and down through the three-dimensional landscape like Venusian gorbors or Earthling sloths. But for us to go up,  we'd have to climb...

[contributed by Troy Jones III]

>>  here's where this is

2019 July 27th:   

Beyond the sea was land; such land as none of them had ever seen before. It was a vegetable inferno. It boiled with forests; it seethed with jungle.

Jagged blue treetops beckoned.

Crackling with wild fire, the Alice Liddell plunged into the forest.

Trees, if trees they were, went down in swathes before her. Long tracts of woody sponge she gouged. Writhing groves of luminous spaghetti she sheared. Behind her, foul smoke went up, thickening the soupy air. 

Branches crazed the viewport, ripped scanners from the hull. Tabitha couldn't see anything any more. She screamed something, screamed along with her ship, which screamed as she hit.

She skidded and turned in the pulpy undergrowth, churning everything beneath her. Sap and ichor rained down on the dented hull. All around were outraged hoots and squeals of panic.

And then it was over.

[contributed by Troy Jones III]

>>  here's where this is

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.

"Drinking..."

[contributed by Zendexor]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>> here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is

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]

>>  here's where this is