[ + links to: Guess The World entries 1-100 - Guess The World entries 101-200 -
Guess The World scene-counts ]
It is open to anyone to set the quiz entries. Email your mystery-snippets of OSS literature to me at
email@example.com, with the
answer for each question, "Which world was this scene on?", plus the name of the author and the tale, and the issue of the magazine in which it appeared or, in the case of a novel, the date it was published.
Make it easy or hard - I don't mind! Just don't send excerpts that are too obvious, such 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 have done many times in the entries I've contributed.
I hope you have as much fun as I have had in selecting passages. The field is open wide!
2023 June 3rd:
Hans stopped suddenly.
“Dragonfly. Hear it?” Charlie listened, heard the high, motor-like hum he had heard the night before. “There it is,” Hans said quickly. “Hang onto Nixie and be ready to beat it off. I’m going to attract its attention.”
Charlie felt that attracting its attention was in a class with teasing a rattlesnake, but it was too late to object; Hans was waving his arms.
The fly hesitated, veered, headed straight for him. Charlie felt a moment of dreadful anticipation—then saw Hans take one swipe with his machete. The humming stopped; the thing fluttered to the ground.
Hans was grinning. The dragonfly jerked in reflex, but it was dead, the head neatly chopped off. “Didn’t waste a bit,” Hans said proudly.
“That’s lunch. Cut some of that oil weed behind you.” Hans squatted down. In three quick slices he cut off the stinger and the wings; what was left was the size of a medium lobster. Using the chrome-sharp machete as delicately as a surgeon’s knife, he split the underside of the exoskeleton, gently and neatly stripped out the gut. He started to throw it away, then paused and stared at it thoughtfully.
Charlie had been watching in queasy fascination. “Trouble?”
“Egg sac is full. They’re going to-swarm.”
“That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“Some. They swarm every three, four years.” Hans’ hesitated. “We’d better skip seeing my land. Got to tell Paw, so they’ll keep the kids in.”
“Okay, let’s get
entry 275 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 May 24th:
…The long façade of the great building, whose roof he had looked down upon before, was now receding in perspective. He recognised the roof. In front of the façade was a terrace of massive proportions and extraordinary length, and down the middle of the terrace, at certain intervals, stood huge but very graceful masts, bearing small shiny objects which reflected the setting sun… The terrace overhung a thicket of the most luxuriant and graceful vegetation, and beyond this was a wide grassy lawn on which certain broad creatures, in form like beetles but enormously larger, reposed. Beyond this again was a richly decorated causeway of pinkish stone; and beyond that, and lines with dense red weeds, and passing up the valley exactly parallel with the distant cliffs, was a broad and mirror-like expanse of water. The air seemed full of squadrons of great birds, manoeuvring in stately curves; and across the river was a multitude of splendid buildings, richly coloured and glittering with metallic tracery and facets, among a forest of moss-like and lichenous trees. And suddenly something flapped repeatedly across the vision, like the fluttering of a jewelled fan or the beating of a wing, and a face, or rather the upper part of a face with very large eyes, came as it were close to his own and as if on the other side of the crystal…
entry 274 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 May 7th:
Furtively Alan Sarett peered through the heavy murk of the [……….] prison pit. A cloud of yellow stream writhed upward from the boiling spring at his feet, obscuring everything with choking sulphurous veil. He caught a hazy glimpse of Jon Cory, lank, and raw-bones, stripped to the waist, toiling steadily on the opposite bank of the pool. Then a shrill, peremptory note came from the throat of the [……….] guard and a wire-thin tentacle lashed viciously across his naked back, cutting deep. Alan's face wrinkled like the snout of a snarling dog; and he bent over the bubbling spring, tearing savagely with a long, claw-tipped instrument at the crust of sulphur forming continuously on the hip of the caldron. A heap of the lemon yellow fragments lay behind him.
Through slitted lids he glared up at the mighty figure of the [……….], hatred burning in his eyes. Damned sluur – he'd pay for that – and soon! They'd planned everything – he and Cory and Parker, and the Uranian, Tull – and before many minutes passed, they'd hear the signal. … The signal, the roar of the supply ship from [……….] – and this sluur would boil in the sulphur pool, and they'd be heading for freedom! Freedom – and Max Brodeur!
His ears strained for the first sound of the supply ship's rockets, a tenseness creeping through him. And even as he labored, he watched the yellow-skinned guard, to be ready when the signal came. Formidable antagonists, these giant brutes with their tremendous muscles. It was no joke for two Terrestrials – or even a half dozen – to attack one of them. Ten feet above the obsidian surface of the Pit this sluur towered, his great bulbous body supported by three mighty, multi-joined limbs terminating in immense sucker-discs. His head, if it could be called a head, was merely an elongation of his body; and the bare expanse of flesh was broken only by a single huge eye, faceted like insect's, and an enormous, toothless mouth. From the top of his head projected six long, wiry tentacles – and with these that Alan feared most. For in them lay the strength of spring steel.
entry 273 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 April 30th:
entry 272 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 April 22nd:
Asir bowed his head. “I have come to plead with you, Senior Kinsman.”
Welkir snorted disgust. “Against the mercy we have shown you?”
He looked up quickly, shaking his head. “No! For that I am grateful.”
“As a thief, I gained much wisdom. I know that the world is dying, and the air is boiling out of it into the sky. I wish to be heard by the council. We must study the words of the ancients and perform their magic, lest our children’s children be born to strangle in a dead world.”
Welkir snorted again. He picked up the lamp. “He who listens to a thief’s wisdom is cursed. He who acts upon it is doubly cursed and a party to the crime.”
“The vaults,” Asir insisted. “They key to the Blaze of the Winds is in the vaults. The god Roggins tells us in the words – ”
“Stop! I will not hear!”
“Very well, but the blaze can be rekindled, and the air renewed. The vaults – ” He stammered and shook his head. “The council must hear me.”
“The council will hear nothing, and you shall be gone before dawn…”
entry 271 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 April 17th:
It seemed to Salvor-Jones that he had been up there forever, with one leg draped over a brace, clumsily working with his heavy gloves. The cold was seeping in more and more in spite of the fact that it could not have been more than half an hour from the time of his ascent.
He clambered down at last, beating his hands together to restore circulation.
Knucklebone Smith, who had done nothing, leaned against the tower on the storm side. He was staring fixedly at something out in that perpetual night. But there was nothing to see. Only the faint glow of the bluish-white methane crystals, swirling through the frozen gullies of the rugged terrain; sweeping around the dark ridges as they were agitated by the driving interstellar dust.
“You’ll be killed out there,” Salvor-Jones said into his mike. “Get behind something, quick!”
Smith said nothing. He just stood there, with his back to Salvor-Jones, contemplating the horizon as the storm rippled his uniform…
entry 270 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 April 9th:
For over an hour the ship had been propelled swiftly, irresistibly toward the center of [____________]. It had been up about forty thousand feet. Now, with a jerk that sent both men reeling, it had been drawn down to within fifteen thousand feet of the surface; and the sight that was now becoming more and more visible was incredible.
Beneath was a vast, orderly checkerboard. Every alternate square was covered by what seemed a jointless metal plate. The open squares, plainly land under cultivation, were surrounded by gleaming fences that hooked each metal square with every other one of its kind as batteries are wired in series. Over these open squares progressed tiny, two legged figures, for the most part following gigantic shapeless animals like figures out of a dream. Ahead suddenly appeared the spires and towers of an enormous city!
Metropolis and cultivated land! It was as unbelievable, on that raw new planet, as such a sight would have been could a traveler in time have observed it in the midst of a dim Pleistocene panorama of young Earth.
It was instantly apparent that the city was their destination. Rapidly the little ship was rushed toward it; and, realizing at last the futility of its laboring, Brand cut off the atomic motor and let the shell drift.
Over a group of squat square buildings their ship passed, decreasing speed and drifting lower with every moment. The lofty structures that were the nucleus of the strange city loomed closer. Now they were soaring slowly down a wide thoroughfare; and now, at last, they hovered above a great open square that was thronged with figures.
Lower they dropped. Lower. And then they settled with a slight jar on a surface made of reddish metal; and the figures rushed to surround them.
Looking out the glass panel at these figures, both Brand and Dex exclaimed aloud and covered their eyes for a moment to shut out the hideous sight of them. Now they examined them closely.
Manlike they were: and yet like no human being conceivable to an Earth mind. They were tremendously tall—twelve feet at least—but as thin as so many animated poles. Their two legs were scarce four inches through, taper-less, boneless, like lengths of pipe; and like two flexible pipes they were joined to a slightly larger pipe of a torso that could not have been more than a foot in diameter. There were four arms, a pair on each side of the cylindrical body, that weaved feebly about like lengths of rubber hose.
Set directly on the pipe-like body, as a pumpkin might be balanced on a pole, was a perfectly round cranium in which were glassy, staring eyes, with dull pupils like those of a sick dog. The nose was but a tab of flesh. The mouth was a minute, circular thing, soft and flabby looking, which opened and shut regularly with the creature's breathing. It resembled the snout-like mouth of a fish, of the sucker variety; and fish-like, too, was the smooth and slimy skin that covered the beanpole body.
entry 269 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 April 6th:
When the Venjisk
had descended to within a couple of yards of the surface, the order was
given to lower the land-anchors: wired weights which could, at a
signal, fire oblique prongs into soil or rock; but since the wind
was scant and the ship thus unlikely to drift at its mooring, Captain
Tarven Namaksa deemed it safest to stabilise by weight alone, rather
than risk what might ensue from piercing this terrain.
a similar reason, when he appeared at the exit hatch his right hand
gripped a ceremonial sword rather than an energy or projectile weapon.
If necessary he could draw laser, but only as a last resort. Where
possible, ground-damage should be avoided amidst the Wobbly Mountains.
A rope ladder was paid out and he descended to the surface, followed by a dozen guards and investigators selected from the crew, including Interrogator Eyol Mnand - all provided with swords which they carried with varying degrees of self-consciousness.
having disembarked the captain and his party, the airship rose again,
to an altitude of about seventy yards, from which the First Officer,
Oren Xecal, could hope to stand sentinel against all comers.
Meanwhile the grounded personnel formed a circle, facing every way, watching out for signs of unusual movement. The bowl-shaped depression in which they stood was a land of silence except for the barely audible creak of the swaying mountains...
entry 268 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 April 2nd:
There was no real road over the hills, but ages ago all irregularities had been worn away so that the ground was perfectly smooth. Here and there a few stubborn boulders still jutted above the surface, displaying a fantastic riot of colour and shape, but these obstacles were easily avoided. Once or twice they passed small trees - if one could call them that - of a type which Gibson had never seen before. They looked rather like pieces of coral, completely stiff and petrified. According to their driver they were immensely old, for though they were certainly alive no one had yet been able to measure their rate of growth. The smallest value which could be derived from their age was fifty thousand years, and their method of reproduction was a complete mystery.
Towards mid-afternoon they came to a low but beautifully coloured cliff - 'Rainbow Ridge', the geologist called it - which reminded Gibson irresistibly of the more flamboyant Arizona canyons, though on a much smaller scale. They got out of the Sand Flea and, while the driver chipped off his samples, Gibson happily shot off half a reel of the new Multichrome film he had brought with him for just such occasions. If it could bring out all those colours perfectly it must be as good as the makers claimed: but unfortunately he'd have to wait until he got back to Earth before it could be developed...
entry 267 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 28th:
She led him to one of the flowing roadways; as they were carried through the city he noticed a boat-shaped hull built of bright metal with four wheels and a transparent-domed compartment.
He pointed. "What is that?"
"It is a magic car. When a certain lever is pressed the wizardry of the older times gives it great speed. Rash young men ride them along the streets... See there," and she pointed to a somewhat similar hull toppled into the basin of a long, dry fountain. "That is another one of the ancient wonders - a craft with the power to fly through the air. There are many of them scattered through the city - on the towers, on high terraces, and sometimes, like this one, fallen into the streets."
"And no one flies them?" asked Ulan Dhor curiously.
"We are all afraid."
Ulan Dhor thought, what a marvel to own one of these air-cars! He stepped off the flowing road....
entry 266 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 25th:
entry 265 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 22nd:
As Farr approached, the willowy branches of the shrubs whipped into sudden action, flicking gobs of black, gooey matter directly at the surprised spaceman. He dodged aside with a cry of dismay, barely averting contact with the stuff. Several of the viscid wads plopped against the bole of a tree and began eating furiously into the bark.
Eyes bulging, Farr turned and fled, putting distance between himself and the deadly bushes. No wonder there hadn’t been much left of that second heap of bones! The shrubs were living acid manufactories, remaining dormant until the approach of a victim, then to spring into life and bombard the prey with gobs of the fatal stuff.
And those blanched remains back there - they had once been living men, like himself, in search of the legendary life secret. But unlike him, they had not been clever enough to elude the pitfalls of the jungle, and had died agonizing deaths, miles short of the goal. Farr was glad it was so, else the secret would not now be there for him to pluck from its pedestal and mold to his own use.
Many hours later, Farr emerged from the jungle to stand at last at the entrance to a desolate canyon. Aching in every muscle, battered, bruised and hardly able to stay on his feet, he felt a surge of new energy as he spied his objective, near the center of the valley.
The temple was old, very old. Its walls were drab gray, as if with the grayness of age, and a great silence hung over it, unbroken by even the strident sounds of insect life. But in spite of its gloomy, tomb-like appearance, there was an air of magnificence about the temple, a faint aura of greatness once known, but long since gone. It was at once beautiful and foreboding, guardian of the heritage left by the Ancients to those with courage and intelligence enough to win it.
entry 264 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 17th:
entry 263 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 12th:
entry 262 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 March 8th:
….The men hesitated to go around. What could this enigmatic wall be doing on this frigid world? The instruments showed the temperature to be many hundred degrees below zero Fahrenheit. What beings could have built this great wall? What could it mean?
But at last they did go round the edifice, flashing their lights before them. And nearly collapsed from the shock of what they saw: a broad paved street on which bordered many stone houses whose glass windows reflected the dim glow of the stars above. The tiny sun cast a faint illumination on it all.
“People!” gasped Mullins.
There were. Standing on the streets and in the doors of the houses were the dim figures of men. Unmistakably human in form.
“They’re not alive,” observed Rokesmith.
“At least, they are not moving,” replied Barth quickly.
“Come on, then. Why are we waiting? Are you afraid of a lot of statues?” Captain Wanderman suited action to his words as he strode forward, stopping directly before the first of the standing figures. He cast his beam over it from head to foot.
Unmistakably, it was a man. Clad in clothes and undeniably human. Its features were perfectly normal, bore the flush of life. The feet and entire body were set in attitude of taking a step. But it was motionless.
“Some statue!” breathed Opp. “I would swear it was a real man.”
“It is a real man,” said Barth, softly. He bent close to the face. “It has the pores and tiny hairs that can only be on a true body.”
“Then he must have been alive once,” murmured Weber. “What do you suppose happened to him? Is he petrified or only frozen solid?”
“Frozen, I think,” said Barth. “Yet, it is very strange. His flesh is still soft and resilient; it is not natural.”
entry 261 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 March 4th:
We were in the heart of the Crystal Mountains! They towered round us on every side, and stretched away in interminable ranges of shining pinnacles. Such shapes! Such colors! Such flashing and blazing of gigantic rainbows and prisms! There were mountains that looked to my amazed eyes as lofty as Mont Blanc, and as massive, every solid mile of which was composed of crystalline ice, refracting and reflecting the sunbeams with iridescent splendor. For now we could begin to see a part of the orb of the sun itself, prodigious in size, and poised on the edge of the gem-glittering horizon, where the jeweled summits split its beams into a thousand haloes.
There was one mighty peak, still ahead of us, but toward which we were rushed sidewise by the wind, which surpassed all the others in marvelousness. It towered majestically above our level—a superb, stupendous, coruscating Alp of Light! On every side it darted blinding rays of a hundred splendid hues, as if a worldful of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds had been heaped together in one gigantic pile and transfused with a sunburst.
entry 260 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 February 28th:
“…We were an active race; then as our world and the primary cooled we used our bodies less and less. Nature, ever adaptable, gave us bodies that were able to deal with the changing conditions, until there came the final species of hydrogen breathers, like me. I am the last. Intelligence of surpassing power – but physical ability nearly gone. Held in place only until I master it.”
“You want to die?” Clark demanded.
“One day. I shall stay here and brood until the time when I detach mind from body, limb by limb, organ by organ. That may mean ages; it may be tomorrow.”
…There was another silence and the three stood looking at each other. They were each thinking the same thing – the possibility of earthly life perhaps ending in such a creature as this – hideous, incredibly intelligent, impartial, brooding alone in a forgotten cave amid sub-zero cold. There was something terrifying about the thought. The pooling of endless ages of knowledge and culture into the brain pan of a gargoyle.
Henshaw broke the silence with a comment. “What d’you say we call him ‘Zero’?” he suggested, grinning. “A step removed from Nero, who fiddled instead of brooding. Huh?”
“Good name, but this is no time for levity,” Clark answered seriously. “Zero here brings home pretty forcibly the pointlessness of earthly struggle – of anybody’s struggle, for that matter. And besides – “
He broke off and twisted round at a sudden noise. He stared unbelievingly at the cave entrance, seeing for the first time that it was blocked with stunted, hideous creatures, all mouth and ears, on blocky legs with short bodies. Wicked little eyes glinted in the torchlight. Every head was totally bald.
“Magnified germs, so help me!” Henshaw gasped – and his simile was oddly accurate. The things certainly looked like the real thing from a preventative advertisement.
“The others of my race – de-evolved,” stated Zero placidly…
entry 259 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 February 25th:
From what they could see of the surface of [……….] it seemed to be a dead level, greyish brown in colour, and not divided into oceans and continents. In fact there were no signs whatever of water within range of their telescopes. There was nothing that looked like cities, or any human habitations, but the ground, as they got nearer to it, seemed to be covered with a very dense vegetable growth, not unlike gigantic forms of seaweed, and of somewhat the same colour. In fact, as Zadie remarked, the surface of […………] was not at all unlike what the floors of the ocean of the Earth might be if they were laid bare.
It was evident that the life of this portion of [……….] was not what, for want of a more exact word, might be called terrestrial. Its inhabitants, however they were constituted, floated about in the depths of this semi-gaseous ocean as the denizens of earthly seas did in the terrestrial oceans. Already their telescopes enabled them to make out enormous moving shapes, black and grey-brown and pale red, swimming about, evidently by their own volition, rising and falling and often sinking down on to the gigantic vegetation which covered the surface, possibly for the purpose of feeding.
entry 258 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 February 12th:
…Between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars they made a most valuable economy by landing on [..........], and travelling about fifty million miles on her towards the orbit of the Earth without any expenditure of force whatever. They found that the tiny world possessed a breathable atmosphere and a fluid resembling water, but nearly as dense as mercury. A couple of flasks of it form the greatest treasures of the British Museum and the National Museum at Washington. The vegetable world was represented by coarse grass, lichens, and dwarf shrubs, and the animal by different species of worms, lizards, flies, and small burrowing animals of the rodent type…
entry 257 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 February 4th:
Walking aimlessly, Rusty left the deserted clearing, plodded up a sparkling path. He wandered amid the ghastly spangled crags, neither knowing nor caring where he went. It did not matter and nothing mattered, for he was dead inside. The three moons of [..........] hung low in the east and the enormous Great Moon, the nearby satellite of the planet, arose beside their departing light, a darker green.
Soon, another day. The cold wind. The Bugs. Haunted, restless sleep. The scream of a lonely soul in dreaming delirium. But what matter the cold and the Bugs? They could bring death. Was it not better so?
Rusty came to a long declivity, the rocks sloping down to a wide crater. In the center was a pale wall of lichen, smoothly white on the side of a towering peak. It was White Cliff. Largest landmark on the narrow-horizoned planet, it reared for hundreds of feet into the thin air. Upon its vast sides was a thick blanket of the plants, giving the cliff an unbroken, white distinctiveness and its name. Never visited by day because of the Bugs, it was rarely approached even at night. The reflecting vegetation surrounding it in a dim glow, the Bugs lingered even then. Foot-long obscenities of fuzzy yellow, razor-tipped tendrils before formless maws, by day they swarmed from every crevice of the distorted terrain. Subsisting chiefly upon the rabbit-like veedles, they would also eat a man.
entry 256 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 January 31st:
As they approached, [..........] filled their window, a great smooth curve, its blue color lightening to green. Norman switched off the counteractive and cut in the landing rockets.
When Keren's exotic perfume entered the room again, the land below was a map of verdant plains, rolling mountains and glassy seas. Quickly it swelled to jungle and flashing water and, with a champagne tingle in his blood, Norman dropped toward an open well of meadow in the trees.
His excitement, however, was tinged with sadness. Johnny should be here now. They had dropped upon a score of unknown worlds together. Now he landed without his partner, in a last-hope venture to save that partner's life.
The green vegetation was a colorful contrast against the bright yellow of dead grass. They would have to be careful about fire, Norman knew. He'd seen that thick grass on other Sun-tropical worlds; it burned fast as gunpowder.
This close to the Sun, [..........] probably had a constant wind. The gravity seemed approximately the same as Earth's. He plugged in the spectroscope to test the air and as he glanced out the window at the intake valve a slow chill trickled down his back.
It wasn't only the wind moving the grass outside. The grass was growing.
Dorothy and Keren came to the window. As they watched, the grass beside the hull rose two inches.
entry 255 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 January 28th:
…It lay, as nearly as they could judge, some two thousand miles beneath them, a distance which the telescopes reduced to less than twenty; and they saw for a few moments the world that was in the making. Through floating seas of misty steam they beheld what seemed to them to be vast continents shape themselves and melt away into oceans of flames. Whole mountain ranges of glowing lava were hurled up miles high to take shape for an instant and then fall away again, leaving fathomless gulfs of fiery mist in their place.
Then waves of molten matter rose up again out of the gulfs, tens of miles high and hundreds of miles long, surged forward, and met with a concussion like that of millions of earthly thunder-clouds. Minute after minute they remained writhing and struggling with each other, flinging up spurts of flaming matter far above their crests. Other waves followed them, climbing up their bases as a sea-surge runs up the side of a smooth, slanting rock. Then from the midst of them a jet of living fire leapt up hundreds of miles into the lurid atmosphere above, and then, with a crash and a roar which shook the vast [..........] firmament, the battling lava-waves would split apart and sink down into the all-surrounding fire-ocean, like two grappling giants who had strangled each other in their final struggle.
entry 254 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 January 25th:
“…The conception of an illogical machine seems to be a contradiction in terms. If you deliberately produce such a thing, what have you? Something that never existed in nature. Something alien. What you have done is to produce madness without mind. You have made unreason animate, and set it loose. That is a very frightening thing to think about…
“But here, among these not-quite-machines that were scuttering about the crater floor like water-boatmen on a pond, there was a controlling thread of ultimate purpose running through the artificial madness. Their immediate actions were unpredictable, insane, but their final intention was just as sure as the bomb that each was carrying in its metal belly. Think of a maniac, a gibbering idiot, with one single continuing thread of intention – to murder…
“That is what those machines were. And they kept on coming with short, or very short, or not so short crazy rushes. They darted and dodged forward, sideways, backwards, obliquely, straight, or in a curve; one never knew what would be next – only that, after a dozen moves, they would be just a little closer.
“Our rocket men opened fire at about five kilos. A sheer waste of course; one could as well have hoped to hit a fly on the wing with a peashooter…”
entry 253 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 January 19th:
…I broke open a packet of rations, and ate some food. I felt no hunger, but the familiarity of the simple act of eating held some comfort. The food did me good, too. It gave me strength, and I felt better able to resist. Then, suddenly, I became aware of silence…
Looking out of the window again, I saw that the flare of the rocket-tube had vanished. There was nothing but blackness and the stars. All sound had ceased, and left such a silence as was never known on Earth. Nor was it just that, not just the negative absence of sound; the silence was hard, positive, a quality of eternity itself. It rang in one’s ears until they sought relief by hearing sounds that did not exist; murmurings, far-off bells, sighs not so far off, tickings, whispers, faint ululations…
A bit of verse, that my grandfather used to quote came into my mind:
I heard their thin gnat-voices cry
Star to faint star across the sky,
and I seemed to hear them, too; they had no words, they were on the threshold of sound, but they encouraged me…
And, God knows, I needed encouragement, crouched there in my flimsy dome…
The voices cry – but the elemental terrors prowl. We need numbers to sustain us; in numbers we can dispel the terrors; alone, we are weak, mutilated. Taken from our pool of corporate strength we gasp, we wriggle defencelessly while the terrors circle round, slowly closing in…
entry 252 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 January 10th:
“…I still can’t make any sense of the white area. It starts at an absolutely sharp-edged boundary, and shows no surface detail at all. It could even be a liquid – it’s flat enough. I don’t know what impression you’ve got from the videos I’ve transmitted, but if you picture a sea of frozen milk you’ve got the idea exactly.
“It could even be some heavy gas – no, I suppose that’s impossible. Sometimes I get the feeling that it’s moving, very slowly; but I can never be sure…
“…I’m over the white area again, on my third orbit. This time, I hope to pass closer to that mark I spotted at its very centre, when I was on my way in. If my calculations are correct, I should go within fifty miles of it – whatever it is.
“…Yes, there’s something ahead, just where I calculated. It’s coming up over the horizon – and so is [..........], in almost the same quarter of the sky. I’ll move to the telescope…
“Hello! – it looks like some kind of building – completely black – quite hard to see. No windows or any other features. Just a big, vertical slab – it must be at least a mile high to be visible from this distance…”
entry 251 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 December 20th:
...In front and to the left smooth water spread like a silk sheet to the horizon. A mile or more to the right lay a low embankment with yellow red sand showing through rush-like tufts of skimpy bushes. Far in the background rose the white crowns of purple mountains.
In the mild warmth of noon Bert let his boat carry him along. Behind him, a fan of ripples spread gently and then lapsed back into placidity. Still further back the immense silence closed in again, and nothing remained to show that he had passed that way. The scene had scarcely changed for several days and several hundred miles of his quietly chugging progress...
entry 250 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 December 17th:
A brooding atmosphere seemed to rest over the scene as twenty vac-suited figures stepped from the two ships toward the black cave mouth at the nearest cliff’s base. A ridiculously tiny sun overhead barely dispelled a deep gloom in the miniature valley. Age-old, untouched by natural life, the ancient surroundings were an utterly alien motif against an unfamiliar blue-black sky.
Shelton cautiously led his party to the side of the cave mouth, approaching it along the cliff face. Traft’s giant figure followed him eagerly, convinced it was a pirate’s nest that must be cleaned out. Myra Benning’s smaller form was at his back, flanked by Ranger men, ready for any emergency. Shelton had told them the salient points about the whole affair.
Stooping, they were able to gain the high lip of the cave and crouch behind it. Then, carefully, heads were raised and eyes peered through visors into the cave. There was not much to be seen except that it was huge and stretched out interminably. Deep shadows hung on all sides, obscuring detail.
“See anything, men?” asked Shelton, his audio-vibrator carrying his voice to all of them.
A series of negatives was his response, and Shelton felt a queer sense of disappointment.
“There is something in that cave!” Myra Benning’s voice was low, half breathless. “I can’t see anything, but I can feel it! Something is waiting there, waiting – “
entry 249 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 December 14th:
The scene I now contemplated was exceedingly novel and striking. The sky, instead of the brilliant azure of a similar latitude on earth, presented to my eye a vault of pale green, closely analogous to that olive tint which the effect of contrast often throws over a small portion of clear sky distinguished among the golden and rose-coloured clouds of a sunset in our temperate zones.
The vapours which still hung around the north-eastern and south-eastern horizon, though dispelled from the immediate vicinity of the Sun, were tinged with crimson and gold much deeper than the tints peculiar to an earthly twilight. The Sun himself, when seen by the naked eye, was as distinctly golden as our harvest moon; and the whole landscape, terrestrial, aerial, and celestial, appeared as if bathed in a golden light, wearing generally that warm summer aspect peculiar to Tellurian landscapes when seen through glass of a rich yellow tint. It was a natural inference from all I saw that there takes place in the [..........] atmosphere an absorption of the blue rays which gives to the sunlight a predominant tinge of yellow or orange. The small rocky plateau on which I stood, like the whole of the mountainside I had descended, faced the extremity of the range of which this mountain was an outpost; and the valley which separated them was not from my present position visible. I saw that I should have to turn my back upon this part of the landscape as I descended farther, and therefore took note at this point of the aspect it presented. The most prominent object was a white peak in the distant sky, rising to a height above my actual level, which I estimated conjecturally at 25,000 feet, guessing the distance at fifty miles. The summit was decidedly more angular and pointed, less softened in outline by atmospheric influences, than those of mountains on Earth. Beyond this in the farthest distance appeared two or three peaks still higher, but of which, of course, only the summits were visible to me. On this side of the central peak an apparently continuous double ridge extended to within three miles of my station, exceedingly irregular in level, the highest elevations being perhaps 20,000, the lowest visible depressions 3000 feet above me. There appeared to be a line of perpetual snow, though in many places above, this line patches of yellow appeared, the nearer of which were certainly and the more distant must be inferred to be covered with a low, close herbaceous vegetation. The lower slopes were entirely clothed with yellow or reddish foliage. Between the woods and snow-line lay extensive pastures or meadows, if they might be so called, though I saw nothing whatever that at all resembled the grass of similar regions on Earth. Whatever foliage I saw—as yet I had not passed near anything that could be called a tree, and very few shrubs—consisted distinctly of leaves analogous to those of our deciduous trees, chiefly of three shapes: a sort of square rounded at the angles, with short projecting fingers; an oval, slightly pointed where it joined the stalk; and lanceolate or sword-like blades of every size, from two inches to four feet in length. Nearly all were of a dull yellow or copper-red tinge. None were as fine as the beech-leaf, none succulent or fleshy; nothing resembling the blades of grass or the bristles of the pine and cedar tribes was visible.
entry 248 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 December 10th:
entry 247 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 December 7th:
entry 246 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 December 3rd:
…It came in an orange glow in the south, and the glow was quickly shrouded by an expanding white cloud. Then, minutes later the ground pulsed beneath them, quivered and shook. The quake subsided, but remained as a hint of vibration. Then after a long time, they heard the dull-throated roar thundering across the [……….] desert. The roar continued steadily, grumbling and growling as it would for several hundred years.
There was only a hushed murmur of awed voices from the crowd. When the wind came, some of them stood up and moved quietly back to the trucks, for now they could go back to a city for reassignment. There were other tasks to accomplish before their contracts were done.
But Manue Nanti still sat on the ground, his head sunk low, desperately trying to gasp a little of the wind he had made, the wind out of the ground, the wind of the future. But lungs were clogged, and he could not drink of the racing wind. His big calloused hand clutched slowly at the ground, and he choked a brief sound like a sob.
A shadow fell over him. It was Kinely… he said nothing for a moment as he watched Manue’s desperate Gethsemane.
“Some sow, others reap,” he said.
“Why?” the Peruvian choked.
The supervisor shrugged. “What’s the difference? But if you can’t be both, which would you rather be?”
Nanti looked up into the wind… It was a good sensible question. Which would he rather be – sower or reaper?
Pride brought him slowly to his feet, and he eyed Kinley questioningly. The supervisor touched his shoulder.
“Go on to the trucks.”
Nanti nodded and shuffled away…
entry 245 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 30th:
“We are passing now the fungoid plantations where the agricultural cyborgs are welded to their machines, similar to the pilot. It is a pity you can’t see them now, but you can trust my word, and I’ll happily show you some illustrations when we get to the Capital; we are proud here on [……….] of our mechanistic efficiency.”
“I’m eager to see.”
Diego dozed; time-dilation caused the worst sort of jet lag. He awoke as the doors opened, and he looked outside in the frigid air. Craggy mountains, red and white; the odd fungoid masses further out and what appeared to be agricultural workers, on stilts and augmented bone structures, loading the seashell-shaped masses into the open gondolas of freight cars. The skyscrapers, the same colors as the mountains, blood red and snow white, but without a single window, reaching upwards into the sky.
“That’s enough looking around, professor, you’ll catch a cold with your warm, human blood,” scolded Captain Draque. “Let’s go to the library where you can learn all about [……….].”
“Hmm, okay; I always prefer to form my own impressions first and then do book research,” mumbled Diego.
“That is ill-advised here,” said Captain Draque sympathetically, “I understand you have your scientific method you so treasure, but we too here have our… political realities, and it is safer for you to read the material that we have prepared for you.”
“Ah… of course,” replied Diego, a chill running down his spine. They entered into a smaller windowless trolley, which was crowded with pale [……….] bodies, all of them hairless and with beady wide-spaced small black eyes…
entry 244 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 26th:
…Now in the fullness of time, about three hundred million terrestrial years after the solar collision, a certain minute, hairless, rabbit-like creature, scampering on the polar grasslands, found itself greatly persecuted by a swift hound from the south. The subhuman rabbit was relatively unspecialized, and had no effective means of defence or flight. It was almost exterminated. A few individuals, however, saved themselves by taking to the dense and thick-trunked scrub, whither the hound could not follow them. Here they had to change their diet and manner of life, deserting grass for roots, berries, and even worms and beetles. Their forelimbs were now increasingly used for digging and climbing, and eventually for weaving nests of stick and straw. In this species the fingers had never grown together. Internally, the forepaw was like a minute clenched fist from the elongated and exposed knuckles of which separate toes protruded. And now the knuckles elongated themselves still further, becoming in time a new set of fingers. Within the palm of the new little monkey-hand there still remained traces of man’s ancient fingers, bent in upon themselves.
As of old, manipulation gave rise to clearer percipience. And this, in conjunction with the necessity of frequent experiments in diet, hunting, and defence, produced at length a real versatility of behaviour and suppleness of mind. The rabbit throve, adopted an almost upright gait, and continued to increase in stature and in brain. Yet, just as the new hand was not merely a resurrection of the old hand, so the new regions of the brain were no mere revival of the atrophied human cerebrum, but a new organ, which overlaid and swallowed up that ancient relic. The creature’s mind, therefore, was in many respects a new mind, though moulded to the same great basic needs. Like his fore-runners, of course, he craved food, love, glory, companionship. In pursuit of these ends he devised weapons and traps, and built wicker villages. He held pow-wows. He became the Tenth Men.
entry 243 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 22nd:
…In the far distance, a few hundred miles off, loomed the hazy outlines of trapezoidal mountains. Apart from them, the scene was one of grass, grass, grass, interspersed every few miles by a dense hunk of taller, darker vegetation…
…He remembered he had landed deliberately at the border of the brighter patch of grass. Well, before he left, he could at least walk over and have a look at that slightly different area…
…he stopped for a while and listened to the ringing silence around him. It was extremely important for him, just then, to look back and reassure himself that Jumbo was where he had left it, and that no other additions to the landscape had appeared within his 360-degree field of view.
For now he strongly suspected that he had come upon a secret.
The realm of brighter grass was inhabited.
Semi-transparent humanoids, multitudes of them, six inches high, swarmed almost weightlessly over the grass-blades, hardly depressing them as they leaped from one to another. Their bodies were a very light blue, but they looked quite human.
They were leaping all the more urgently because they had seen him. Suddenly the edge of the bright area bristled with what looked to him like little pop-guns, made of stuff that looked solider than the folk who had constructed them…
entry 242 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 19th:
Excerpt from Professor Diego Kraken’s The Cetacean Myths of [..........]:
Once upon a time, there was a pod of [..........]ian porpoises that lived outside the deep sea crevice called The Great Depths. Now, [..........] is very far from the sun, and is covered almost entirely in water. Life there has developed differently. The main source of heat energy on [..........] is its enormous molten core which bubbles up here and there in vents. Chemosynthetic bacteria cleave to these vents and so do ecological producers who transform the heat and oxygen dissolved in the water into what we may as well call plants, or more precisely seaweed. Fish feed on these plants, and plankton feeds on the bacteria. The convection of the hot water rising brings the plankton towards the surface, and the fourteen moons of [..........] make waves that mix in oxygen. Life on [..........] tends to cluster around deep sea crevices, because that is where the source of life emerges. And so, like everywhere else in the solar system, life abounds.
[..........]ian porpoises look just like Earth porpoises except they are a little bigger and appear purple to our eyes. They catch fish and also need to come up to the surface to breathe air…
entry 241 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 16th:
...Her eyesight was improving... she tried to focus on the beings in front of her... The one in the golden robes stopped talking with the others and came and stood before her...
"...We found what was left of you and your vessel in the wilds of our planet where you were critically injured. We know much about your planet... but we don't have the medical knowledge or the biological material to repair all your neurological functions...
“We adapted the components to rebuild you but... we could not reconnect all your nerves; however you will be able to move around. We added neural training so you can understand and speak our language...” He watched her for her reactions.
The unreality of her situation was too much and her mind snapped and panic broke through her normal discipline. She tried to scream but nothing came out... Her mind was racing to catch up because everything she was seeing and experiencing was impossible! [..........] was a cold gas planet, it didn’t have the lush green landscapes… it didn’t have civilization… She didn’t even know if she had a body any more. It was too much and she lapsed back into the darkness of unconsciousness.
entry 240 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 13th:
…Surrounding him on all sides were hundreds of stark, white monoliths, twice his height and shining like bleached bone in the light of his flash, each possessing the same carven, inhuman eye. An army of cyclopic pillars, arrayed in formations that faded into the inky recesses of their spacious, rocky cavity. Nautilus whirls were drawn into the timeless dust of the floor, circling the statues in an ancient, ethereal dance.
“Incredible,” Patryk breathed. He walked amidst the forest of columns, shining his light over their alabaster surfaces inscribed with thousands of churning, intricate fractals that hurt his head and seemed to imbue the statues with a sort of illusory life.
“Worth the wait, eh?” said Waceera.
“I’ll say,” Patryk said, laying his hand on the nearest monolith. Even gloved he felt the chill of its touch, as if it were rendered in dry ice…
entry 239 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 8th:
…He seemed to stride out into a hellish chaos of sound and light and mist. The mind-shattering explosions of thunder from far up in the cloud-envelope were accompanied by ghastly flares and rivers of lightning that each time illuminated the misty scene about him…
…Drop One was all here, and now began the toiling, urgent work of unloading equipment and setting up the prefab metal Command Hut, hospital, and supply-dumps for the bigger expedition to come. Already metal crates were being swung out of the hatches of their own rocket, and the men in their Walkers were striding clumsily to the task.
Nightmare scene, to Baird’s eyes! The swirling mists, heavy with fumes from the vulcanism eastward. The rockets looming spectral in it, the unhuman shapes of the Walkers stiffly moving about, the men in them showing pale, drawn faces through their faceplates. And above all the thunder, the volleying of titan explosions in the sea of atmosphere above them, the flash of dancing lightning up there that never ceased….
entry 238 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 5th:
…They drove down into a shallow valley that curved in a great arc towards the far side of the mountains: and as they did so, Marvin slowly realized that something very strange was happening in the land ahead.
The sun was now low behind the hills on the right: the valley before them should be in total darkness. Yet it was awash with a cold white radiance that came spilling over the crags beneath which they were driving. Then, suddenly, they were out in the open plain, and the source of the light lay before them in all its glory.
It was very quiet in the little cabin now that the motors had stopped. The only sound was the faint whisper of the oxygen feed and an occasional metallic crepitation as the outer walls of the vehicle radiated away their heat. For no warmth at all came from the great silver crescent that floated low above the far horizon and flooded all this land with pearly light…
entry 237 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 November 2nd:
…The heavy wet air worked havoc with the Earthmen's lungs and the so-called [..........] croup became soon as well-known and much more feared than Martian fever. Men toiling in the thin sunlight were stricken by it. Crane's forces were decimated by it. The fern forests, too, held weird forms of life that proved a problem, some of them disk-shaped things of flesh that enveloped anything living in their bodies and ingested it directly. There were also strange huge worm-like things existing in the oozy soil, and others stranger still. Crane's men had to work with atom-blasts constantly ready to repel these strange predatory forms of life.
Out of the fern forests, too, came to watch the Earthmen hosts of the big, soft-bodied creatures Gillen had called the [..........]. These had bodies eight feet high and six feet around, like big cylinders of hairless brown flesh supported on thick flipper-like limbs, with similar flipper-like arms. Their small round heads had dark mild eyes and mouths from which came their deep bass speech. Crane found they were perhaps as intelligent as the Martians but were rather more peaceful, their only weapons spears with which they fought off the things in the fern forests that attacked them.
They were quite friendly toward the Earthmen and watched their operations with child-like interest...
...Then came the trouble. It began as on Mars – a bad-tempered Earthman at one of the forts beat a flipper-man for some reason and in a brawl that ensued one Earthman and five [..........] were killed. Word must have spread somehow in the fern forests for the [..........] retired from the forts of the earthmen. Jimmy Crane cursed in private but acted, punishing the Earthmen concerned and sending Halkett to the [..........] communities to patch up matters.
Halkett had learned the [..........] language and proved a good ambassador for he was sympathetic with the flipper-men. He did his best to fulfil his mission but could not succeed. The flipper-men told Halkett that they had no hard feelings but would prefer to avoid the Earthmen lest further trouble develop…
entry 236 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 October 29th:
It was with keen interest that
the occupants of the "Meteor" examined the chart which Thard spread
before them. From it they saw that [..........] was mostly covered by water and
that, with the exception of a few small islands, there were but two continents.
These were Dassan and Anurdi, and Thard pointed out that Viljon, which they
were just leaving, was close to the seacost.
So it was that they soon headed over the great sea of Pasara, as it was designated by Thard, with the fleet stringing along behind its tiny flagship. The journey was one of about three thousand miles, as nearly as Ray could estimate from the supposed diameter of [..........], so he set the speed at five hundred miles an hour in order to reach their destination in six hours.
The ocean, strangely, showed a muddy red-brown, instead of the deep greenish-blue of the oceans on earth. Of course the weather was extremely cloudy and that had some effect on the apparent color of the water, but he and Gary decided that it was mainly due to a high concentration of certain minerals in solution or in suspension, possibly iron oxides. The surface was troubled and choppy, though there was very little wind, but Thard did not seem to be concerned about the weather so the Tellurians presumed that conditions were more or less normal for the world they were visiting.
Ray made some tests of the outside atmosphere and found that it was of nearly same density and composition as that of the earth. However he found some peculiarities in the gravity of [..........] which could only be accounted for on the assumption that there was a gravity force separate and distinct from that due to the mass of the body alone. The altimeter depended on normal earth gravity and, while the surface gravity of Thares appeared to be about the same as that of Tora, its indications became widely erroneous when at any considerable altitude. The force did not vary inversely as the square of the distance from the body, but at a much higher rate, thus confirming Ray's previous supposition, that there was a supplementary force which accounted for the high surface gravity of so small a body and its retention of so considerable an atmosphere. Thus they learned later was due to an extremely high percentage of magnetic ores in the interior of the body; the peculiar properties of whose magnetic fields were quite similar to the artificial gravity set up by the G-rays.
When they approached the shores of Dassan the skies were clearing, and soon the sun shone forth weakly, as if it were some infinitely remote body, that seemed scarcely akin to the sun that shone on Earth. But the temperature of the air was nearly eighty degrees, and the two scientists from Tora were forced to the conclusion that it was warmed by the internal heat of the satellite. They later learned that the assumption was nearly correct, although the warm climate of Thares was actually brought about by the presence of huge deposits of radioactive minerals near the surface, rather than by the high temperature of a molten interior. The waters brightened somewhat with the coming of the noon-day sun, though they still retained the red-brown color to a great degree. The sun itself was almost at the zenith, thus indicating that about half of the long [..........] day had passed - half of a day which, in earth time, was the equivalent of more than sixteen and a half days. Darkness would not come for a long time.
entry 235 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 October 26th:
They had entered the atmosphere as they talked and the Nomad was approaching the surface in a long glide with repulsion full on. It was daytime on the side they neared. Pale daylight, but revealing. The great ball that was [..........] hung low on the horizon, its misty outline faintly visible against the deep green of the sky.
The surface over which they skimmed was patchworked with farm-lands and crisscrossed by gleaming ribbons. Roadways! It was like the voice-vision records of the ancient days on Mars and Terra before their peoples had taken to the air. Here was a body where a person could get out in the open; next to nature. They crossed a lake of calm green water fringed by golden sands. At its far side a village spread out beneath them and was gone; a village of broad pavements and circular dwellings with flat rooms, each with its square of ground. A golden, mountain range loomed in the background; vanished beneath them. More fields and roads. Everywhere there were yellows and reds and the silver sheen of the roads. No green save that of the darkening sky and the waters of the streams and ponds. It was a most inviting panorama.
Occasionally they passed a vessel of the air—strange flapping-winged craft that soared and darted like huge birds. Once one of them approached so closely they could see its occupants, seemingly a people similar to the Venusians, small of stature and slender.
entry 234 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 October 21st:
A lift carried them swiftly up through milkily luminescent regions and came to rest at last in a place of complete darkness. Jor Therol led them through devious passages until they emerged into the open.
Ridge Coler stood staring then. They were in an inclosed court on the roof of a tall, circular edifice. In all directions stretched the broad avenues and varicolored structures of the city of Scarta; in all directions literally, for the city was built upon the inner wall of the enormous hollow globe which was [..........]. Overhead, at a distance of nine miles or more, were other avenues and other buildings; inverted, dangling precariously above them, it seemed.
In the exact center of the sphere was an artificial sun, casting its blue-white light uniformly over the entire city. Below them, and as far as the eyes could follow, the up-curving streets were alive with fast-moving traffic; two-wheeled vehicles speeding in the center lanes, moving belts at both sides swarming with foot passengers.
In the air above were darting figures, men and women of Scarta — flying. Strapped between their shoulders were torpedo-shaped things, and these glowed a brilliant phosphorescent green. These were levitators, Jor Therol explained; nullifying gravity; controlling its effect in any desired direction and intensity.
“But,” objected Coler, “what of gravity in the city itself? How is it that overhead the pull is opposite in direction?”
“It is an artificial gravity.” Jor Therol took three levitators from a rack and examined their mechanisms as he spoke. “The energies are in the shell which incloses us. In the center of the sphere the attraction is equal in all directions; therefore our artificial sun needs no support.”
entry 233 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 October 18th:
…here, in this place of eternal bareness and solitude, it seemed that life could never have been. The stark, eroded stones were things that might have been reared by the toil of the dead, to house the monstrous ghouls and demons of primal desolation.
I think we all received the same impression as we stood staring in silence while the pale, sanies-like sunset fell on the dark and megalithic ruins. I remember gasping a little, in an air that seemed to have been touched by the irrespirable chill of death; and I heard the same sharp, laborious intake of breath from others of our party.
"That place is deader than an Egyptian morgue," observed Harper.
"Certainly it is far more ancient," Octave assented. "According to the most reliable legends, the Yorhis, who built Yoh-Vombis, were wiped out by the present ruling race at least forty thousand years ago."
"There's a story, isn't there," said Harper, "that the last remnant of the Yorhis was destroyed by some unknown agency—something too horrible and outré to be mentioned even in a myth?"
"Of course, I've heard that legend," agreed Octave. "Maybe we'll find evidence among the ruins, to prove or disprove it. The Yorhis may have been cleaned out by some terrible epidemic, such as the Yashta pestilence, which was a kind of green mould that ate all the bones of the body, starting with the teeth and nails. But we needn't be afraid of getting it, if there are any mummies in Yoh-Vombis—the bacteria will all be dead as their victims, after so many cycles of planetary desiccation. Anyway, there ought to be a lot for us to learn. The Aihais have always been more or less shy of the place. Few have ever visited it; and none, as far as I can find, have made a thorough examination of the ruins."
The sun had gone down with uncanny swiftness, as if it had disappeared
through some sort of prestigitation rather than the normal process of setting.
We felt the instant chill of the blue-green twilight; and the ether above us
was like a huge, transparent dome of sunless ice, shot with a million bleak
sparklings that were the stars...
...Even in my thick, double-lined bag, I still fell the rigor of the night air; and I am sure it was this, rather than anything else, which kept me awake for a long while and rendered my eventual slumber somewhat restless and broken. Of course, the strangeness of our situation, and the weird proximity of those aeonian walls and towers may in some measure have contributed to my unrest. But at any rate, I was not troubled by even the least presentiment of alarm or danger; and I should have laughed at the idea that anything of peril could lurk in Yoh-Vombis, amid whose undreamable and stupefying antiquities the very phantoms of its dead must long since have faded into nothingness...
entry 232 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 October 15th:
[..........] rushed up before them, a horribly barren world that seemed to encompass all of space. Closer it came, but Kueelo didn't check his drive. They could see vast plains dotted with craters, and huge serrated cliffs reaching up.
At last Kueelo applied his forward thrust, and they levelled out. Half around the planet they raced. A mountain range loomed. The spacer dipped sharply, driving straight at it! Ric was taut, sweat glistening on his brow. No ship could ever brake in time at that suicidal speed! He merely closed his eyes, awaiting the inevitable.
A sudden force sent him reeling. A profound nausea made him retch. Then Kueelo was at his side, touching his shoulder.
"How was that, Earthman?" Kueelo laughed. "Don't worry, we're safe now!"
White-faced and shaken, Ric opened his eyes. They had entered a place of semi-darkness, but were still moving ahead.
"Where are we?"
"Inside the cliffs! We've entered a magnetic field that arrests speed and mass synchronously. We are being slowed in a graduating net of force."
In a few minutes they had come to a complete rest, but Kueelo told them, "Stay where you are! Our trip isn't over yet."
Ric peered into the forward screen. Darkness encompassed them. He turned questioningly. Kueelo grinned and gestured downward.
"You mean we're going inside this planet?"
"Yes. Very far inside. We're on the downward beams now. Patience, Earthman, you'll see many amazing things before we're through."
It took a long time, and there was no telling how far they'd gone or with what speed. They seemed not to be moving at all. But at last a faint blue radiance appeared, and Kueelo opened the lock.
They stepped out onto a ledge which extended perhaps a hundred yards, then dropped sheerly away. The walls curving up were of polished smoothness, and stretched away into unimaginable distances. The soft bluish light came from these walls and seemed to pervade the whole interior of this hollow world. The air was damp but comfortably warm. And the gravity....
Praana clutched at Tal Horan's arm. "This is almost [..........] gravity! But ... where do they get it?"
"Yes, we'll have to look into that later." Tal cautioned her to silence.
A three-wheeled car was waiting for them. Kueelo hurried them into it, and Naric took the controls. Soon they were speeding away, and they gasped as their ledge tapered off into nothingness! They were traversing the inside of the shell itself.
"It's eerie at first," Kueelo told them, "but you'll soon become accustomed to our gravity. Just imagine the space out there as being up. The only difference is that our light comes from the surface instead of overhead."
"What's the interior diameter?" Ric gestured outward.
"About three hundred miles. And you were wondering about our gravity, Tal Horan? It comes from out there!" Kueelo gestured vaguely at the gray-blue interior. "Our power plant is anchored in space at the exact center of [..........]. But it's reverse gravity—that is to say, its force extends outward toward the shell, instead of pulling inward."
Tal saw that the man was communicative. He nodded thoughtfully. "Quite an engineering feat! It must have taken a long time to set up all this!"
"Two generations! It was not done in my time."
"Where are we going now?"
"To the city of the [..........]."
Praana gasped. "Native [..........]? But there are no [..........] left! For three hundred years—"
"That's the popular supposition, and it suits our convenience. Yes, three hundred years ago the war between Mars and [..........] was supposed to have ended. But you shall see! Perhaps Gorak himself will have much to tell you."
"The present [..........] leader! There are only a few thousand [..........] remaining, as there are only a few thousand of your people. Ironic, is it not ... Princess Praana?"
entry 231 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 October 9th:
An hour later they were there, slanting down over a terrain of desert and serrated cliffs. The great ball of [..........] hung behind, filling half the sky, its glow casting just enough light over the satellite to tinge everything with a greenish grotesquerie.
"Lord, that gives me the creeps!" Blake muttered, peering out.
"This little planet must be pretty heavy, though," Janus estimated. "Gravity seems about right."
They passed beyond the cliffs and over a large desert. Then, far ahead, they saw the towering stone edifices of a city, gleaming a ghastly skull-white in the green tinged atmosphere. Devries turned his face away. He recognized the city from the Martian's description.
Before they quite, reached there, however, Blake cried: "Look! Down there!"
Far below them, covering a large section of desert, were row after row of blunt-nosed objects, looking like tiny silvery bugs, except they were motionless. But they weren't bugs. They were space-ships. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them in formidable array.
Ketrik stared, then turned to Devries and exclaimed: "Hah! Thought you said these Proktols stuck close to home! Off-hand I'd say they've got other ideas now. I wonder what? I don't like the look of that fleet down there!"
But now their spacer was gliding in low over the city, settling down into landing cradles.
Janus turned to his men. "If we see a chance, we'd better make a break for it! I'd like to get at the Controls of this ship just once!"
"I'd rather get at our atom-blasts!" Ketrik snapped.
But they had no chance to do either. A score of the Proktols, with flame-pistols alert, came to escort them out. As they marched down a wide avenue thousands of the gathered populace gave vent to prolonged shouting, or rather shrilling. It was definitely unfriendly, and somehow fanatical, anticipatory.
The Earthmen looked at these inhabitants with interest. They seemed to be Proktols too, but in several ways were different from V'Naric and the others. They were smaller, hardly four feet tall, and frailer if that were possible. And they had no antennae. Neither did they wear any raiment that the Earthmen could see—evidence of their semi-savagery. But they seemed to respect the larger Proktols, for although their shrilling continued, they kept their distance and didn't touch the Earthmen.
"Just listen to those devils!" Blake said. "They're waiting, expecting something!"
They reached a vast plaza in the center of the city. Their captors marched them through the mass of shrilling little coppery devils, and into a building; then up a flight of stairs and into a bare stone room with a single tiny window looking out upon the square below...
entry 230 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 September 24th:
…Cautiously, he wiped the snow off the single enormous eye that occupied the center of the idol’s forehead. The eye flashed fire at him; blue-white, transparent, lustrous as a diamond. It had been cut, diamond fashion, in many facets, to resemble the many-lensed, insect-like eyes of the [……….] themselves. The eye was set in a band of cement. Larsen tested that cement with a chisel. He cursed. It was almost as hard as the bort from which the idol had been hewn. He dared take no chances on scratching the Eye. He turned on his torch full blast, and began to cut into the bort around the cement, careful to keep the flame away from the Eye. Sudden heating might crack that mysterious stone.
Larsen worked feverishly, forgetful of time, sweating despite the chill, until he felt a draught on his back; a cold that bit through his space-suit to his very marrow. Snowflakes were swirling around him. The dawn-wind, blowing through the hole in the door! On [……….], the hydrogen atmosphere froze every night.
From either side, winds rushed in to fill the vacuum, but themselves froze before they had gone far.
The Eye seemed loose in its socket. Larsen turned down the torch. Cautiously, he grasped the cement. The Eye came away in his hand. He was used, by now, to the low gravity of [……….], but the lightness of the stone surprised him. It seemed as light as pumice.
Larsen looked up just in time. The [……….] were stirring! The wind, so cold to him, was warm to them; it meant air to them. Those great pale eyes – one to each [……….] – were fixed on him, glaring with a phosphorescent luster. There was no expression on their gargoyle faces. Their cavernous mouths gaped open; toothless, but rimmed with razor-sharp horn, like the jaws of a snapping turtlel. The snow dropped from them; their lobster-segmented shells were dull black, like the bort of the statue. They were closing in on him. He could not tell their numbers; behind those visible, more kept crowding out of the shadows…
entry 229 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 September 17th:
…The croaking noise was so loud now that it drowned even the crackle in Rick’s headphones, and he stared around, hoping against hope that he would see no movement. For some minutes they went on, and then Bruce stopped again.
“Come up here,” he whispered. “I believe they’re beyond this clump. Whatever you do, don’t shake the stems!”
Rick and Maurice crawled up, their bulky suits pressing gently against the gas-leaves. Ahead was a slight rise, and as they came to the top of it the sound rose to a crescendo; at last they were at the summit, and cautiously Rick poked his head through the plant mass. Then he bit back a cry of horror – the sight facing him was something which he had never pictured in his worst dreams.
He was looking into a next of “bugs”. The shallow pit beyond the stems was bare of plants, and seemed to be filled with insects very like the one he had killed, but much larger. Some of them were three or four feet long, and all had the same lizard-like heads, red glinting eyes and sharp teeth; their bodies were striped with black and grey, and they had short, veined wings which whirred like fans as they hovered over the lair. Altogether there must have been several dozens of them, and Rick was almost sick with fear as he stared. The creatures were not only ugly; they were evil as well, while around the nest lay parts of the bodies of luckless dragonflies which had obviously been killed and then dragged back to feed the females and larvae.
“Stars and moons,” came Maurice’s voice in a husky whisper. “This beats the band. Let’s get out of here!”
Bruce drew back. “You’re telling me! I don’t think we’ll bother to say ‘hallo’ to this little lot. If – “
He broke off with a shout. The top of the bank was crumbling beneath his weight…
entry 228 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 September 9th:
[..........] depended for its life upon retaining an
atmosphere by means other than the gravity of mass. Right from its inception
the bio-field must have depended upon complexity as an actual force: the “pull”
of a life-system so varied that it brought hitherto unknown laws into play;
laws which could never be discovered outside its unique zone… The complexity of
the most colourful coral reef on Earth was as nothing compared to the variety found
on [..........], where almost every organism was its own subspecies. Only the highest
forms, the intelligent forms, were stabilized to any marked extent; and even
then, races varied outrageously – some had two sexes, some three, some a larger
number… and some (like Ghilidb’s) were sexless and instead had 'grall', which
meant that individuals could only digest their food with the help of someone of
the opposite 'grall'… The capabilities of individuals varied just as
drastically, some being as keen-sighted as eagles, others as keen-nosed as
dogs, and others telepathic. As for the lower forms, the “ordinary” animals,
they presented such apparent chaos as to drive a Terran biologist insane. Yet
it was this “chaos” that generated the force that kept [..........] alive. The
complexity-force, the gravitation of variety, somehow fenced the air-molecules
into the bio-field, and, closer to ground, pulled at Hurst’s boot-soles as if
he were shod with magnets on a metal path.
This made all the difference to the way he moved; it allowed him a grounded stride instead of the extravagant soaring hops he would otherwise have made; it gave him, in short, a proper world to live on. Admittedly the visual effect, especially when one looked at a crowd, was eerily reminiscent of the motion of seaweed wafting in a current, rather than of “proper” gravity, for solid bodies were “weighted” only within an inch or two of the satellite’s surface…
entry 227 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 September 6th:
Other races have always held a feeling of pity for the [……….]. Yet, in respect to material things, they are not to be pitied. They are the richest race in the solar system, and if they had not insisted on cherishing dreams which, in their hearts, they must have known as futile, and if the slowly coming death of their race had not been looming above them, they would have known complete happiness.
Their government, as might be expected, was anarchistic. They were such a closely unified people, with identical ambitions and hopes, that no other form would have worked as well.
Food was plentiful. They had vast fields of several different types of vegetables which grew rapidly, and needed not even the tiny amount of sunlight they received. There was a minimum of physical labor, since they possessed up-to-date, wholly automatic machinery.
They possessed television sets, a public library fed from book and magazine marts on the other planets. They possessed two or three ships of ancient design, which maintained constant commerce with the rest of the solar system, freighting vast supplies of food exports to the markets, where, being considered delicacies by the inhabitants of the other worlds, they commanded fabulous prices.
As for religion, I doubt if they had one, unless it were one centering about their dreams of empire.
Carrist willingly showed me about the city, and even walked with me to the vast agricultural fields. The city, in its prime, must have been huge…
entry 226 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 August 20th:
Suddenly, Williams felt an icy tingle course through his blood. His hand dropped again to his ray gun, tore it from the holster. He stood erect, fighting an urge to crouch low against the danger.
Along the crest of the sand-swell before him, something was rising. Bright moonlight shimmered as the rays broke against a pale barrier.
To the right, the left, behind him, it was the same. The white mist was rising, surrounding him. Escape was cut off. Even to reach his nearby spaceship was impossible without cutting through. Barry tried to relax. There was nothing to do but wait.
He remembered the words of the old [……….] desert wanderer to whom he’d spoken. This man had once been a chieftain, before the conquest of [……….] by Earth. His keen black eyes had bored into Barry.
“If you wish the answer,” he’d advised, “go into the desert at night. You are different – you may return. I can tell you no more.”
Thicker grew the mist…
entry 225 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 August 16th:
…The white towers of the city pointed at the graying sky like skeleton fingers rising from the dead hands of the buildings. Where smaller houses on the outskirts of the city had nestled there were creeping greeneries and exotic plants. Where great canals had channeled across the land bearing water to all the outposts of the Terrestrial colony there were only the white arms of broken concrete, broken and scarred and crumbled where the trees had pushed themselves up with a great straining and a great heaving, to break through and gasp and rear upwards towards the sky in exhilaration.
The city was a dead city, turning its sightless, ancient eyes to gaze at the creeping bushes and grasses that swarmed over its limbs. And the rains that swept [..........] washed its bones and the winds of [..........] picked them clean through the long years.
This silent and misty afternoon there was not a movement to be seen throughout the whole city, but on the outskirts, from a small and crumbled building, came a plume of smoke, rising and curling steadily upwards from a tall chimney.
Within the building the two sat at the table as they always sat at this time of the day, watching the fire burning in the ancient grate as they had done through the centuries…
entry 224 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 August 9th:
“…From here we’ve a clear view right to [..........], that’s that long mound on the horizon. Now, if we set the lasers at about this level, set them in the face to either side, for example, we’ll be able to cover the ground with cross-fire as well as an almost vertical cone. You agree?”
“It’s hard to say,” Felix squinted through the window, his face pressed against the crystal. “The bulk of the mountain protects the rear but we don’t want to limit the field of fire more than is essential. I’ll have to go outside.”
“Of course.” Crombie was affable. “I’ll have Sergeant Echlan arrange a detail and we can discuss it again after you’ve had a chance to study the ground.” He hesitated. “That is unless you’d rather have a detached detail?”
“No. Not at first, anyway. It’s a military matter and I’d prefer military personnel.”
“Glad to hear it,” beamed the Major. “Technical men are too concerned with engineering problems in terms of supply and construction rather than military necessity. Why, I remember one time when…”
His voice rambled on but Felix wasn’t consciously listening. He stood by the window, looking down at the vista outside, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He was thinking of a certain type of psychotic personality, a symptom of which was a necessity and a delight in looking down from high places…
entry 223 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 31st:
At length the billowing clouds which covered the surface of Vilos could be distinguished. Kneeling at a floor port, Derek watched as the sphere flattened out and reversed curvature. Now it was an enormous bowl of fluffy gray and white vapors. A moment later it was flat, and directly underneath. Derek glimpsed a huge metallic globe drifting just above the clouds not far away; then everything was blotted out by the grayness which enveloped them.
Underneath the clouds was the central palace of Kora. Derek's memory stirred vigorously. Vividly from his submerged consciousness came a picture of frenzied mobs in the plaza, of bloodied marble steps and of a boy who fled screaming from the scene. Deep hatred rose up in him and a cry escaped his lips: "Murderer! Killer!" Then he inhaled deeply of the pink gas and forgot. He smiled up into the narrowed eyes of the pilot.
"Your home," said Chandor. "Remember it?"
Derek shook his head. Things of amazing interest were below. A flood of questions left his lips. Chuckling, the pilot answered them.
Dazzled by the brilliant light from the city, Derek listened. He would find the lighting moderate after they had landed, Chandor told him. Up here it was intense because they directed it against the low clouds for better diffusion below. Artificial illumination was used in Vilos because of the cutting off of the already distance-weakened sunlight by the perpetually hovering vapors.
Kora, a city of twenty million souls, was on the island of the same name, the largest island of the planet. There were no great continents, only the islands, and a vast sea that covered all but one-twentieth of the surface. Derek glimpsed the milky waters of the ocean and remarked that steam was rising from them. "True," agreed Chandor. "The sea is the source of our clouds; its waters are always hot."
Even in the state induced by the pink gas, Derek could reason.
"But the sun is so far away," he objected.
Chandor enlightened him. "We don't depend on the sun but upon Saturn, whose rings radiate tremendous electronic energy. The core of Vilos, of nickel-iron, is heated by these radiations from the mother planet. Through chasms in the sea bottom core and steam is generated, heating the mass of water and bringing warmth to our atmosphere. The steam is also piped to our cities and used for generating electric power."
The tallest spires of Kora were now on a level with the space ship. Directly below them were the broad plazas of the palace area. They nosed down into the central court. A single short rocket blast, a gentle bump, and they had landed...
entry 222 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 July 28th:
[………..] was lit by a tiny sun that cast an ineffectual light across a flat vista of blue-black ice. Crests of white showed white-diamond glints – not really snow, but a rime-ice. Below – somewhere at the end of the radar beam – was Station One.
Station One, doing something unpredictable, no doubt.
They dropped down, following the radar beacon until they saw it.
It had to be seen to be believed.
[………..] is mostly ice. Normally its gravity was enough to keep the ice cold-flowed into a reasonably flat surface. It is too cold to snow, too cold to rain, too cold to hail or sleet or hurricane or much of anything. But it is not too cold to grind together, to thrust one planetary block against another, to cause upthrusting mountain-ranges of ice which in the normal course of events will cold-flow into the resemblance of flatness. These up-thrustings are rare –
Station One had met one of these.
Strain develops slowly; an ounce at a time it builds up over a long period until a tremendous pressure develops. The pressure overcomes everything. Then, with two monstrous forces thrusting against one another, the angle of thrust will begin to change. The vector of force will become more amiable to the forces involved and the whole vista then drives forth along the new direction of resulting motion. In the case of planetary thrust, this direction is upward, causing mountains.
Forty miles high the mountain of cold-flowed ice had risen. Up and up and up in a rising pillar, a rising pyramid until the top, bowed over by some trick of angular force until it leaned sidewise, broke from the mountain top and came tumbling down the side of the slope in a giant avalanche.
There was neither rock nor stone; only ice.
Station One was a huge structure of metal and concrete, driven by an atomic pile contained inside of it. It moved across the face of [………..] on tractor-treads that depressed acres with each planting of a monstrous foot. It left behind it a trail that might someday amaze some visitor from somewhere-else...
entry 221 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 24th:
We skirted an expanse of pumice – a desolation of rough grey stone, light and porous but with sharp edges that would have played havoc with our shoes. And what were we going to use to protect our feet once our shoes had worn out?
“I was thinking, Stuart,” the girl said. “That fern thing… We know it was only a fern. But the way it came at me, almost as if it knew what it was doing; as if it could see.”
“It only came your way by chance. Don’t forget it had to pass over me to get to you.” But I had been in a hollow; she had been standing on the crest.
“Could it have been alive in some way, Stuart? I mean, alive like an animal?”
“A cross between a plant and a bird.” I smiled at her troubled expression. “Seeds or eggs?”
“No.” She shook her head a little crossly. “A plant on the way to becoming a bird. They say we were once apes. And before that, something that crawled out of the water.”
“I did enough biology at school to know that animal cells and vegetable cells are two very different things. They can’t mix.” I hoped I was right. “It has to be one or the other.”
“That was in our world,” she said. “Things may be very different here.”
entry 220 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 21st:
“I think I’ve got the answer,” said Brender, “but first I wish to see the time lock. Let’s climb.”
They rose into the sky, dipping over the lip of the building. Brender saw a vast flat expanse; and in the centre - He caught his breath!
The meagre light from the distant sun of [……….] shone down on a structure located at what seemed the exact centre of the great door. The structure was about fifty feet high, and seemed nothing less than a series of quadrants coming together at the centre, which was a metal arrow pointing straight up.
The arrow head was not solid metal. Rather it was as if the metal had divided in two parts, then curved together again. But not quite together. About a foot separated the two sections of metal. But that foot was bridged by a vague, thin, green flame of ieis force.
“The time lock!” Brender nodded. “I thought it would be something like that, though I expected it would be bigger, more substantial.”
“Do not be deceived by its fragile appearance,” answered the thing. “Theoretically, the strength of ultimate metal is infinite; and the ieis force can only be affected by the universal I have mentioned. Exactly what the effect will be, it is impossible to say as it involves the temporary derangement of the whole number system upon which that particular area of space is built. But now tell us what to do.”
“Very well.” Brender eased himself onto a bank of sand, and cut off his antigravity plates. He lay on his back, and stared thoughtfully into the blue-black sky…
entry 219 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 18th:
Small as it was, […………] had a tiny satellite. It was a silvery object that circled the [……….] in a regular orbit. Curt only glanced at the object, which was now on the opposite site. [……….] grew into a large, yellowish bulk as the Comet dropped in toward it. Thin air whistled outside, for one of the marvels of this tiny world was the fact that it was able to hold an atmosphere.
Curt flew above the sunlit side of the oblong [……….], keeping well away from the black hills at its western end. He knew from his previous visit that so-called Magnet Mountains could tear every atom out of a ship that approached too closely.
They flew over a rolling plain covered with tawny grass, crossed above a river that flowed in a deep canyon around the [………..], and then found themselves above a great forest of giant growths that looked for all the world like exaggerated mushrooms.
“That's the eastern Fungus Forest”, noted the Brain, his lenslike eyes peering closely. “The biggest [……….] town is just north of it”.
“I remember. We'd better land by the town and we'd better do it before that queer gravitation field starts affecting us.”
He sent the Comet scudding down on throttled rockets over the crowded yellow fungi of the weird forest. At its northern edge lay a small town of pale stone structures, curiously minareted edifices in which dwelt the human […………] native to this little world. Captain Future landed the ship in the concealment of the towering fungi nearest this town...
entry 218 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 July 15th:
They donned their spacesuits, hurried through the air lock, and swung down the ladder to the rocky surface below. The view was not encouraging. They appeared to be near the center of a vast crater, similar in structure to one of the giant walled plains on the moon, such as Theophilus or Ptolemaeus. Line many of the lunar craters, too, there was an irregular peak at the center which towered almost to the level of the surrounding wall.
“Wonder whatever caused Dearborn to select this spot for his camp?” Dale said, surveying the bleak landscape.
“Doubtless he had his reasons,” Fleming murmured. “Are you sure this is it?”
“Must be,” said Dale. “Everything checks. There are the three craterlets in a row with the long crack running along beside them. Although I don’t see any signs of the camp itself.”
“The most likely spot would be in one of these caves at the base of the central peak,” Fleming suggested. “Suppose we wander over in that direction and take a look around.”
They began picking their way over the pulverized rock that littered the crater floor. The debris was of a uniform brownish tint, appearing to have undergone extensive chemical action.
"The closer we get to [..........] the less I like it," Fleming said, gazing with troubled eyes at the giant globe looming on the horizon ahead of them. The planet appeared suspended in space above the crater rim like a swollen Easter egg that had been badly streaked and mottled in the dyeing bath...
entry 217 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 12th:
The most remarkable feature of the following two days was the fact that we survived them. We found food in plenty; and as we were always near the river, we never suffered for lack of water; but by day and by night we were constantly in danger of attack by the roving flesh-eaters.
We always sought to save ourselves by climbing into trees, but upon three occasions we were taken by surprise; and I was forced to fall back upon my sword, which had seemed to me a most inadequate weapon of defense against some of the ferocious beasts that assailed us.
However, in these three instances, I managed to kill our attackers, although, I must confess, that it seemed to me then, and still does, wholly a matter of luck that I succeeded.
By now, Ozara was in a more sanguine frame of mind. Having survived this long, she felt that it was entirely possible that we might live to reach Domnia, although originally she had been confident that we could not come through the first night alive.
She was often quite gay now, and she was really very good company. Especially was this true on the morning of the third day as we were making good progress towards our goal.
The forest seemed to be unusually quiet; and we had seen no dangerous beasts all that day, when suddenly a chorus of hideous roars arose all about us; and simultaneously a score or more of creatures dropped from the concealing foliage of the trees about us.
Ozara’s happy chatter died on her lips. “The Masenas!” she cried.
As they surrounded us and started to close in on us, their roaring ceased and they commenced to meow and purr. This, to me, seemed far more horrifying…
entry 216 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 9th:
THEY were outside then and Luke essayed a deep breath, a breath that was chokingly acrid in his throat.
"Waugh!" he coughed, and spat. One of the guards laughed.
Any foul epithet that might have formed on Fenton's lips was forgotten in the sight that met his eyes. A barren and rugged terrain stretched out from the landing stage, a land utterly desolate of vegetation and incapable of supporting life. Pockmarked with craters and seamed with yawning fissures from which dense vapors curled, it was seemingly devoid of habitation. And the scene was visible only in the lurid half light of flame-shot mists that hung low over all. In the all too near distance, awesomely vast and ruddy columns of fire rose and fell with monotonous regularity. For the first time, Luke experienced something of the superstitious fear exhibited by even the most hardened criminals when faced with a term at […………..]'s Workshop. That term, to them, meant horror and misery, torture and swift death. And he, too, was ready to believe it now.
He was prodded down an incline that led from the landing stage to the rocks below. The guards from the ethership, he saw, remained behind on the platform and there were new guards awaiting him below. Husky fellows, these were, in strange bulky clothing and armed with the highest powered dart guns. The other prisoners from the vessel were already down there, a huddled and frightened mass—a squashed pile, almost—silent now and watchful of their jailers.
entry 215 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 July 6th:
Bruce was more or less familiar with the scanty vegetation and animal life among the rocks nearby. Years before, he had piloted an exploration party from Earth, consisting of four eminent men of science, which had spent some time in studying this tiny moon.
After several busy hours, Bruce stole a few minutes to search the pitted face of the cliff near which he was working. There was nothing to fear from these aboriginal dwellers of [..........], as he was well aware, for he remembered them as inoffensive, sessile-eyed, snail-footed Arachnida, only a few inches tall. But he was wondering if this strange, unknown thing which Horker had hatched from his pebbles had affected them in any visible manner.
Although small, sluggish creatures, these Arachnida, he remembered, possessed an intelligence considerably higher than that of any animal of Earth – a quaint, semi-human intelligence, which enabled them to use certain primitive tools.
And now, here in the shallow niches of the cliff, he found their tiny, conical, adobe huts. His eyes traced the small terraces lying before the huts, filled with dark loam which the industrious Arachnida had carefully collected from the scanty supply available.
But these small gardens were neglected, the tiny huts abandoned…
entry 214 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 July 3rd:
…Behind those dull red eyes were perceptions wholly alien to Man’s, senses to which the distinctive personalities of the men were things as obvious as are apples or oranges to eyes and fingers.
Brilliant lights flashed on all along the landing strip. Thin nictating membranes descended over the eyes of the approaching Woollies, and the gang came to a simultaneous halt. They sank slowly to their haunches on the iron-hard, fire-cold surface, and in the act became less like fur-clad men and more like crouching, hairy beasts.
Bill Bill hunkered unmoving in his place, but his peculiar senses were probing with an unusual curiosity at the familiar minds of the three men. The one who had just risen from bending over the switchbox was named Paige, and, when Big Bill’s mind touched his, the Woolly felt an odd apathy behind which something tense and secret smouldered like a fire banked under ashes. And the fire was hate…
entry 213 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 28th:
...He stood gazing silently as the fading light painted the sky in somber colors, preparing to disappear for another night of screaming wind and penetrating sub-zero cold.
He watched until the twilight deepened to purple and then stalked laboriously into the wind, up the gentle slope toward the little hollow where he went each night.
His tall, articulated form strode across the dusty plain. By the time he had reached the foot of the bank the sky was totally blank, except for the stars, and he could barely propel himself forward against the raging world-wide currents of atmosphere. The last few yards he crawled on his bellyplates. He tumbled into the central hollow and lay exhausted, his lungs sucking in and out—
The cry of a (……….) odlat would not be audible to human ears, but the screech which emanated within an inch of Peetn's ear-cupulas sent paralyzing waves of terror washing to the tip of his spiny tail. He skirled in agony as inch-long teeth crunched savagely into his shoulder, and the odlat, startled, let go. Peetn's tentacles shot beneath the flapping folds of his cloak and the night-dark was shattered in a hissing blaze of light. The headless corpse of the odlat thudded to the ground. Black reaction smote Peetn a blow somewhere inside, and (……….) lost consciousness.
entry 212 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 June 25th:
Horatio shuddered. "The practice was different... I don't know what I thought would be at the end of the passage. I don't know what I thought it would be like outside London. I suppose I imagined fields and villages and hills and woods - that kind of thing... It had been a long journey. I - I came to the door and..." Horatio stopped, obviously agitated by the memory and obviously trying to control himself. "And - and I just wasn't prepared for it. I'm sorry, Michael."
Michael put a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, Horatio. Nobody doubts your courage."
"It was just an ordinary door... Just an ordinary door. Unlocked. I - I turned the handle and opened it..." Horatio put his hand to his forehead and pressed hard, as if he were trying to press back nightmares, phantoms. "There were rocks, great rocks and a roaring of water. And there were these things - I was too shaken to see what they were at first - these huge lizards... And there was one very near. It turned its head and looked at me... I think I must have screamed, because they all looked. Then I slammed the door and I ran. God, how I ran! I think I was still screaming. Then I heard the footsteps coming towards me..."
entry 211 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 22nd:
MacAloon jerked his lizard’s reins around in the direction of the mine…
Should they give up the fight against the shrewd, heartbreakingly persistent vermin? If they did, they would have to abandon the mine which had become their life-work. They would have to blow up the place before retreating.
For… centaurpedes were deliberately trying to quit the water, knowing their semi-civilization could reach its mechanistic goal only on land.
Unable to prop the porous native rock with the brittle, primitive plastics they used instead of metals, they were striving to take over an iron mine that had already been started by human engineers. Then, with the metal they could produce, they would make tools and raise cities… and manufacture weapons with which to push men clear off the planet…
entry 210 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 16th:
….Above them, sharp slopes rose to the mountains standing naked in the wind. Below, the hillside dropped away to the floor of the great circular Valley of Nomoon.
Abruptly, one of the riders pulled his mount to a stop. He sat quietly, pulling at the wide loop of gold dangling from his left ear. The wind riffled his flame-scarlet hair, and his long jade eyes swept the valley floor.
There lay the city of Nomoon, a pile of yellow towering stone. The streets were cloaked in dim shadows, and empty. Beyond the city were large buildings made entirely of pale blue glass. Within them, tiny dots of men could be seen hurrying, tending waving frond-like things.
That is my home, thought Tol Shannon, running browned fingers around the loop of gold. That is my home, or is it, really? Six months. I want this to be my home, but I am an Earthman. Outlander. Will they ever accept me as one of them? They haven’t, yet. But why?
There had to be some answer. Shannon turned to where the second rider sat atop his horse. He was a native… with traditional pale blue skin, an almost triangular head, and faint wisps of blue hair lying straight back on his blue skull…
entry 209 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 12th:
…the saucer, nearing its goal, sank through dense atmosphere. Henrik was relieved to note that the thick blue air did not hide, though it tinted, the rising features of the landscape.
Details emerged against the bluish grey ground: its flecks of red and green became identifiable as vegetal pavilions on oblique, wide-straddled stilts, which allowed through-ways underneath and between. Some cracks in the ground might be artificial fissures or natural rilles, crossed by plentiful bridges. A mound of complication, briefly glimpsed before it receded over the curve of the world, had the size, dignity and regularity of a city. As the ship lost more altitude a very few dots, about five or six, which might be native wheelers, could be seen in motion, till the field of view narrowed and, like the city, they vanished beyond the horizon's tightening noose.
Henrik would have preferred more time to digest all this, but he had about a minute in which to examine the scene in detail from the air before the vessel touched down on a flat area surrounded by some of the "pavilions". They stood ranged against that almost dizzily close horizon which hugged any small moon…
entry 208 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 9th:
The Russian rocket was gone. The Anglo-American rocket was gone…
The weapon fell from Randick’s hand, and he stepped unsteadily into the light toward the Russian. Suddenly human companionship was very, very important. Panicky terror was plucking at his throat.
The two men stumbled toward each other across the pass cut deep into the jagged back of the Doerfel mountains. As one they turned and looked out across the vast expanse of […]
They were soldiers. They knew an invasion base when they saw one. As far as the eye could see, lines of sleek mammoth spaceships of unknown design stretched away into the distance…
entry 207 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 June 5th:
The space-armoured figure was toiling up the slope that led to the igloo. In one hand the man carried a short blast rifle, and as they watched, the two trappers saw him halt and wheel about, the rifle levelled, ready for action, to stare back at the shadows into which the two Hounds had disappeared only a moment before.
A slight movement to the left and behind the man outside caught Kent's eye and spurred him into action.
He leaped across the igloo and jerked from its rack his quartz-treated space suit, started clambering into it.
"What's the trouble?" demanded Charley. "What the hell you doin'?"
"There's an Eater out there," shouted Kent. "I saw it just a minute ago."
He snapped down the helmet and reached for his rifle as Charley spun open the inner air-lock port. Swiftly Kent leaped through, heard the inner port being screwed shut as he swung open the outer door.
Cold bit through the suit and into his very bones as he stepped out into the [...] night. With a swift flip he turned on the chemical heat units and felt a glow of warmth sweep over him.
The man in the ravine below was trudging up the path toward the igloo.
Kent shouted at him.
"Come on! Fast as you can!"
The man halted at the shout, stared upward.
"Come on!" screamed Kent.
The spacesuit moved forward.
Kent, racing down the ravine, saw the silica-armoured brute that lurched out of the shadows and sped toward the unsuspecting visitor.
Kent's rifle came to his shoulder.
The sights lined on the ugly head of the Eater. His finger depressed the firing mechanism and the gun spat a tight column of destructive blue fire. The blast crumpled the Eater in mid-leap, flung him off his stride and to one side. But it did not kill him. His unlovely body, gleaming like a reddish mirror in the starlight, clawed upon its feet, stood swinging the gigantic head from side to side.
A shrill scream sounded in Kent's helmet phones, but he was too busy getting the sights of the weapon lined on the Eater again to pay it any attention.
Again the rifle spat and purred, the blue blast-flame impinging squarely on the silica-armoured head. Bright sparks flew from the beast's head and then suddenly the head seemed to dissolve, melting down into a gob of blackened matter that glowed redly in places. The Eater slowly toppled sidewise and skidded ponderously down the slope to come to rest against the crimson boulder...
entry 206 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 June 1st:
Crystal City made up in violence what it lacked in size… Mining and a thriving spacefreight trade in heavy metals made it a mecca for the toughest space-crews and hardest living prospector-miners to be found in the inhabited worlds. Saloons and cheap lodging-houses, gambling dens and neon-washed palaces of expensive sin, the jail and a flourishing assortment of glittery funeral parlors faced each other across two main intersecting streets. X marked the spot and life was the least costly of the many commodities offered for sale to rich-strike suckers who funneled in….
The town… sizzled. Dealers in mining equipment made overnight fortunes which they lost at the gaming tables just as quickly. In the streets one rubbed elbows with denizens from every part of the solar system; many of them curiously not anthropomorphic…
entry 205 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 May 28th:
…as we threaded our way under the gay colored lights across the arcade to the main island, I somehow seemed to feel the undercurrent of menace here. Occasionally we passed little figures who were evidently onlookers. The imbecile workers, lower class who were almost in the position of slaves. They were weird creatures, most of them no more than four feet tall, grey-skinned and powerfully built. We passed one who was standing on the shore gazing at a raft where a lone girl shrouded in blue-white filmy drapery was being pelted with flowers. The gnome-like imbecile stood impassive, gazing with vacant face. Then he was muttering to himself. A fragment of it reached us.
“Togliamo is coming to help us workers. We won’t have to work tomorrow. Then we can do things like this.”
I gripped Nereid. “You hear what that worker said? No work for him tomorrow. Do you suppose - ?”
She tried to smile. “What an imbecile says never means much…”
entry 204 [contributed by Zendexor]
2022 May 25th:
Out of the silence, a vast rumbling sound rose like magnified thunder. Mark saw Carston fumble with his radio-phone then peer all about into the haze.
"Blitzees coming!" he yelled into his instrument.
Everyone stopped. Mark followed Carston's line of sight, but he couldn't see a thing.
"Swarm coming from the left!" Carston yelled again.
The Commander moved hurriedly along the line. "Lie down everyone, face to the left! Upend your sleds and if you value your lives, stay behind them!"
For a second all was confusion as the men flung themselves to the powdery soil; then a metal barrier sprang up as the sleds came end to end. Still nothing could be seen.
Suddenly then they came. The air was blue from crackling sparks as dozens of the Blitzees struck the sleds with the impact of bullets. A sound like the humming of millions of hornets was in their ears, as the greater part of the swarm passed overhead. Mark had a confused vision of electric blue streaks that writhed and zig-zagged, landed and leaped again, propelling themselves blindly. As suddenly as it had come, the danger was over.
The men arose somewhat shakily. The ground around them was strewn with the snake-like Blitzees. Mark picked one up and found it to be metallic, about five inches in length, transparent blue in color. The head was triangular, eyeless; along its back Mark felt a thin, wiry sort of filament!
“They’re like living bolts of electricity,” Carston told him. “They seem to short-circuit themselves when they strike the sleds.” The caravan continued.
Hours later they arrived at their destination, a small rise in the terrain before them, covered with glittering crystals in huge, boulder-like clumps. The sides of the little hill was [sic] composed of the same ore, apparently in limitless amount.
But as if guarding it against them, rows of reddy-glowing […..] stood motionless, elephantine, facing them. Mark couldn’t tell whether they were friendly or hostile. To him there was no expression to be seen on those fluid heads…
entry 203 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 May 22nd:
...in a grotto of titanic proportions. The substance of its walls and distant ceiling gave it the gentle radiance of a sunless day. But it was a glaucous radiance, ineffably green as the light beneath the waters of a shallow sea...
...Jim Brannigan stood there tensely for a moment, looking at the man he had struck down. But only for a moment. His lips quirked into a tight smile, and his exulting keen eyes took in the cave's glittering expanse.
"A fortune in oxide crystals," he murmured, "an inexhaustible mine! And he thought he could cheat me out of it, keep it from me! Good thing I followed him. Serves him right if I've killed him."
He didn't seem too worried about it, and he didn't look at Hugh's body again as he started gathering in the rare crystals.
"...I can claim-deed this whole region! And probably there's another fortune in furs," he added as he suddenly remembered the creature he had captured. Already, in his greedy mind's eye, he saw himself a tycoon, the oxide king, with a corner on furs finer than anything ever seen on Earth, Venus or Mars.
This he saw. But what he didn't see were the myriad pairs of burning beryl eyes peering at him from concealed openings in the opaline walls. He was not aware of the increasing energy potential being generated by a growing legion of furred bodies in surrounding caverns, as more and more Panadurs pressed forward to peer out at him. Around Jim Brannigan now the frigid atmosphere began to rise. At first it was pleasantly cool, then warm, and warmer, until it became suffocating.
Still the silvery-furred Panadurs, in utter silence, generated heat as their mental forces grew and deliberately united into a single, increasing potential. Their fur stood erect, an angry violet-silver now, crackling a little with the intensity of the effort. As a single unit, they waited, each furry Panadur now touching the other in a living, livid chain of cumulative power.
Jim Brannigan ceased his gloating and awoke at last to an indefinable danger. Swiftly he arose and whirled toward the entrance, peering back over his shoulder at the danger he could feel, that he knew was there, but could not see.
But already it was too late. Now that increasing energy potential, grown and united into a single purposeful weapon, was being aimed. Jim Brannigan hadn't taken three steps toward the entrance when suddenly, silently, intangible as thought, but infinitely more devastating, it was released! As the devastating bolt struck him, Brannigan collapsed into a crumpled heap, shattered, silent ... inert.
entry 202 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2022 May 19th:
He found a clearing near a roofless columnar tower and spread his sleeping bag beneath its wall. He went to sleep elated with his good fortune, and slept dreamlessly, and without disturbance.
But then, it took a great deal to disturb George Seeling when he slept.
In the morning the ghels were there. There were about a dozen of them, silently squatting in a semi-circle about his camp, contemplating him at a respectful distance with their soulful, gazelle eyes.
There is something disconcerting about waking up and finding that one has acquired uninvited guests, but Seeling never turned a hair. He reached over and grabbed his rifle, but the ghels never moved. They looked, for all the world, like purple-brown graven images squatting there, except that the round, black eyes blinked once in a while.
The ghel tongue was a very rudimentary one, and Seeling, who was naturally adept at such things, had studied it at some length during the weeks at Parthena. He felt that he could get along.
“I greet you,” he said, still fondling his rifle. “I am an Earthman.”
“We know,” one of the ghels said in a curious, whistling voice. “What do you want here?”
“I come to see the city,” George said.
“This is the sacred city of Solon Regh, the wisest of the ancient ones. We do not welcome visitors here.”
“It is not your city, dammit,” George said.
“What did you say?”
“Sorry, I said, this is not the work of your race. Why do you care if I look around?”
“It is a shrine. The old ones took care of us before they went away. We loved them, and do not want their dead disturbed.”
George Seeling grinned with delight. He never enjoyed himself so much as when he was where he wasn’t supposed to be.
“We should be very said if the dead were desecrated,” the ghel said.
“Umm,” said Seeling impudently, “but what would you do if I went ahead and desecrated them anyway?”
The ghel looked shocked. He turned his saucer eyes on his companions, and they all squirmed on their haunches and looked shocked too.
“We would be very sad,” the ghel answered…
entry 201 [contributed by Zendexor]