It is open to anyone to set the quiz entries. Email your
mystery-snippets of OSS literature or OSS-related illustrations to me at
email@example.com, with the
answer for each question, "Which world was this scene on?", plus the
relevant details i.e. 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, or, in the case of a picture, a reference to its
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 choosing material. The field is open wide!
2023 December 2nd:
Swelling and towering swiftly, like a genie loosed from one of Solomon's bottles, the cloud rose on the planet's rim. A rusty and colossal column, it strode above the dead plain, through a sky that was dark as the brine of desert seas that have ebbed down to desert pools.
"Looks like a blithering sandstorm," commented Maspic.
"It can't very well be anything else," agreed Bellman rather curtly. "Any other kind of storm is unheard of in these regions. It's the sort of hell-twister that the Aihais call the zoorth—and it's coming our way, too. I move that we start looking for shelter. I've been caught in the zoorth before, and I don't recommend a lungful of that ferruginous dust."
"There's a cave in the old river bank, to the right," said Chivers, the third member of the party, who had been searching the desert with restless, falconlike eyes.
The trio of earthmen, hard-bitten adventurers who disdained the services of [..........] guides, had started five days before from the outpost of Ahoom, into the uninhabited region called the Chaur. Here, in the beds of great rivers that had not flowed for cycles, it was rumored that the pale, platinum-like gold of [..........] could be found lying in heaps, like so much salt. If fortune were propitious, their years of somewhat unwilling exile on [..........] would soon be at an end. They had been warned against the Chaur, and had heard some queer tales in Ahoom regarding the reasons why former prospectors had not returned. But danger, no matter how dire or exotic, was merely a part of their daily routine. With a fair chance of unlimited gold at the journey's end they would have gone down through Hinnom.
entry 344 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 30th:
…The planet had been out of bounds ever since those geodetic expeditions had set out for [..........] over two centuries ago – and never come back. Early space patrols and search parties had been sent into that part of the celestrial sphere – only to disappear forever. The planet had become a symbol of the terrifying unknown. Eventually it was forbidden by interplanetary law to stray beyond the orbit of [..........].
But why? There must be reasons for those disappearances. Who could resist an invitation like that?
“Some day,” they said. “Some day. All in good time.”
Now was as good a time as any.
…A good-sized city. No more than a mile away. Darrel glanced back at the ship from the hilltop, shrugged and turned toward the city.
When he reached it he found a nightmare world.
These [.............] were all crazy. Disregarding every natural law, they dashed about the streets backward. Every last one of them. And they stared at him as though he were a freak!
entry 343 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 28th:
…the tracery of traverser webs glistened, veining the whole sky. Traversers moved over it like clouds, their great bodies slack.
All this was their empire, their creation. On their first journeys here, many millennia ago, the traversers had literally laid the seeds of this world. To begin with, they withered and died by the thousand on the inhospitable ash. But even the dead had brought their little levy of oxygen and other gases, soil, spores, and seed, some of which latter sprouted on the fruitful corpses. Under the weight of dozy centuries, these plants gained a sort of foothold.
They grew. Stunted and ailing in the beginning, they grew. With vegetal tenacity, they grew. They exhaled. They spread. They thrived. Slowly the broken wastes of [..........] turned green... Up the ravaged slopes the parsleys crawled. As the atmosphere deepened, so the magic of life intensified, its rhythm strengthened, its tempo increased. More thoroughly than another dominant species had once managed to do, the traversers colonized [..........]…
entry 342 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 26th:
Stark, abysmal menace hovered over the desolate landscape like a vast, intangible shroud. Reed felt it the moment he left the tender. It increased with every step he took across the nightmarish terrain.
The flocks of giant, green-winged bat-things wheeled silently lower, as though in anticipation. The plain itself was utterly devoid of the larger fauna that the first I. G. C. expedition had reported. The only living things visible were small purple spiders. They crawled sluggishly over the greasily glistening fungi that grew everywhere between the countless depressions that dotted the black soil.
Reed carefully avoided stepping upon any of the circular holes. The first expedition had called them shallow craters. To Reed, they looked more like lids of some closely woven silk material. Each of the sunken discs was approximately three feet across. Reed estimated that there must be literally millions of them on the entire surface of the vast mountain-ringed plain.
SKIRTING A CLUMP of dripping fungi that towered a
yard above his head, he climbed a ten-foot whale-back of gray rock. He found
himself facing Dorene across a fifty-foot space. The soil between the gray silk
discs shone like semi-liquid swamp-land...
entry 341 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 November 23rd:
“Funny place, [..........],” observed Mike Shea. “I was down there two-three times. What a dump! It’s all covered with some stuff like snow, only it ain’t snow. I forget what they call it.”
“Frozen carbon dioxide?” prompted Moore.
“Yeah, dry ice, that carbon stuff, that’s it. They say that’s what makes [..........] so shiny.”
“Of course! That would give it a high albedo.”
Mike cocked a suspicious eye at Moore and decided to let it pass. “It’s hard to see anything down there on account of the snow, but if you look close” – he pointed – “you can see a sort of gray smudge. I think that’s Bennett’s dome. That’s where they keep the observatory. And there is Calorn’s dome up there. That’s a fuel station, that is. There’re plenty more, too, only I don’t see them.”
entry 340 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 21st:
…Smith realized that they were turning now toward the center of Baloise the Beautiful. Great open squares here and there broke the ivory ranks of the buildings, and there were men and women moving infrequently through the streets, fragile as birds in their [..........] delicacy, silvery pale under the immense pale disk of high-swinging [..........] that dominated that scene until nothing seemed real but its vast marvel hanging overhead. The buildings were larger here, and though they lost none of their enchanted beauty they were more clearly places of industry than had been those domed and grille-fretted dwellings on the outskirts of the city.
Once they skirted a great square in whose center bulked a vast sphere of silvery sheen that reflected the brightness of the sky-filled [..........]. It was a ship – a space-ship. Smith’s eyes would have told him that even if the knowledge that floated through his mind from the mind of the [..........]-dweller had not made it clear. It was a space-ship loaded with men and machinery and supplies for the colonies struggling against the ravening jungles upon steamy, prehistoric [..........].
They watched the last passengers filing up the ramps that led to orifices in its lower curve, [..........] people moving silently as people in a dream [..............]. It was queer how silent they were. The whole great square and the immense sphere that filled it and the throngs moving up and down the ramps might have been figures in a dream. It was hard to realize that they were not – that they had existed, flesh and blood, stone and steel...
entry 339 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 19th:
To the casual sight-seeing tourist, Mercis, capital of [..........], is a marble definition of the word “beauty”. Its stately white buildings, its green lawns dotted with clumps of flaming fayeh blossoms, its network of crystal-clear canals, make it a garden spot in the eternal, dusty-red plain. And when you add bottle-lined Terrestrial bars, gondolalike boats manned by soft-singing little native boatmen, and exclusive, highly priced shops, the result is a veritable mecca for the wealthy space-trotter. Even the bored dilettante, seeking the somewhat nebulous higher things in life, can find a haven in the Tolar Quarter, where appropriately hungry-looking artists, seated in the doorways of appropriately quaint houses, offer endless salmon-colored landscapes to the would-be patrons of art. Whatever your inclination, the canny little [..........] can cater to it, for they overlook no item, however small, in their eternal game of exchanging cheap articles and pleasant memories for Terrestrial cash.
Yet in addition to this brilliant, gay city, there is another Mercis, unsought by, unknown to tourists. Far from the marble splendor of the big passenger port where the sleek luxury liners glide to the ground, there are the cargo docks, with their battered tramps, their rusty freighters, and plain, blunt-nosed vessels surrounded by a maze of gaunt cranes, cargo lifts, and gray storage tanks. And about the cargo port, like scum on the sides of a bubbling caldron, lies the Olech, dark and shadowy. Rows of drab, huddled houses; worn, grimy glass streets [...........] Dull, crystaloid walls made all the more hideous by tattered remains of posters; lean slinking molats, the six-legged tailless [..........] hounds; ragged urchins and whining beggars, who, for a price, deliver questionable messages or obtain even more questionable information.
Here in the Olech, squat Jovian spacehands rub shoulders with languid Venusian traders; dark Mercurians drink with the dâk-men of Neptune; and tall Terrestrials swagger contemptuously through the crowds of [...................]. Above the babel of a hundred polyglot tongues one can hear the sibilant hissing of the [..........] dialects. Like flitting shadows the little reddies, clad in their long, loose dust-robes, glide along the crooked streets, mysterious, inscrutable.
Within the blank-faced houses of Ki Street, behind the busy stalls of the Space-Market, the old [..........] religion carries on its dark and bloody rites, defying alike the Imperial Decree and the Interplanetary Covenant. Among clouds of forbidden, hysteria-provoking incense, the priests, their faces ruddy in the light of the ancient ceremonial lamps, offer the mutilated bodies of their victims to the great hungry black thing which, at the sound of the third bell, appears above the altars. A hypnotic manifestation, Terrestrial skeptics call it; but to the true believers it is Yonan, God of Gods, Lord of Terrors, Master of Magic.
Here, too, from behind the lattices of the so-called “Amen Alley”, tiny, doll-like [..........] girls smile appraisingly at passers-by and hawk-faced dopesters offer sure tips on the monthly space-races. At night, when [ .........] the sallow light from the little shops makes orange oblongs on the narrow streets, you can hear the pulse of multiphone music, throbbing, moaning, as though teetering on the borderline between pleasure and pain. And above the music can be heard the excited muttering of the reddies as, crowded about the great glassex globes within which the green fungoid spores struggle for supremacy, they bet with fatalistic recklessness [..........].
entry 338 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 November 18th:
The recital started early. The auditorium was packed. Many of those there had been on [..........] and knew what the [..........] were like. The recital was old stuff to them. …They heard how the ships approached [..........] with no lively hope of finding anything worth while – of everyone’s surprise to discover an advanced civilization flourishing there. They heard the transcribed voice describing what the [..........] looked like:
“…They have three legs and three arms each composed of three segments of massive bone surrounded by a heavy layer of fat and leatherlike skin. Each limb terminates in a small prehensile finger. …The top portion of the body has three eyes, three nostrils, and two mouths. One mouth is used for water, the other for food. In appearance, the [...........] seem outlandish to Earthly eyes. They walk…”
…They looked like a three-armed watermelon sitting upright on a three-legged stool. A man could drive himself nuts trying to keep track of how they walked. Two feet were always on the ground, the third one moving forward… And he could change direction with the startling suddenness of an ant. His body wouldn’t turn at all; he’d just suddenly begin moving off at a tangent.
“…no language as we know it. They communicate with one another in short bursts of sound which verge on the supersonic. We understand their speech only by means of instruments which graph the duration and pitch of the sounds they make…”
entry 337 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 17th:
He thought he saw mighty landscapes ringed by such mountains as none of today’s world know… he thought he saw a whiter sun than has shone for eons, lighting a land where rivers thundered between green banks… thought he saw many moons parading across a purple night wherein shone constellations that haunted him with familiarity in the midst of their strangeness… saw a green star where red Mars should be, and a far pin-prick of white where the green point that is Earth hangs. Cities reeled past across the crystal darkness in shapes stranger than any that history records. Peaks and spires and angled domes towered high and shining under the hot white sun – strange ships riding the airways… He saw battles – weapons that have no names today blasting the tall towers into ruins… saw triumphant marches where creatures that might have been the forerunners of men paraded in a blaze of color through shining streets… strange, sinuous creatures, half seen, that were men, yet not men…
He saw the man-things in their great shining cities bowing down before a – something – of darkness that spread monstrously across the white-lit heavens… saw the beginnings of Great Pharol… saw the crystal throne in a room of crystal where the sinuous, man-formed beings lay face down in worshipping windrows about a great triple pedestal…
entry 336 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 16th:
…I breathed a prayer to the god of idiots and spacemen, and headed in. The big ship was long gone, and I felt like a mighty small and naked microbe diving into the Pacific Ocean.
That famous [..........] was that big, too. It kept expanding until the whole universe was a fierce, raw luminous red. Out beyond it at first there had been fringes of snow-white frozen ammonia, but now it was all dyed redder than Mars. Then I took the plunge right into it. Surprise! The stuff was plants! Plants as big as meadows, bright red, floating around in those clouds of frozen ammonia like seaweed! Then I noticed that the ammonia around them wasn’t frozen any more and peeked at the outside thermometer. I couldn’t believe it. It was above zero. Then I forgot about the temperature because it dawned on me that I was lost. I couldn’t see a thing but drifting ammonia fog and those tangles of red floating plants like little islands all around. Cutting down the motor, I eased along.
But my green boat must have showed up like a lighthouse in all that red, because it wasn’t long until I spotted a purple and green hopper-scorp traveling straight toward me, sort of rowing along with a pair of stubby wings. He didn’t seem to be making much effort, even though he was climbing vertically up from the planet…
entry 335 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 15th:
…And then the main ascent. There were places where, like smooth frozen ice, the walls rose sheer. We avoided them, toiling aside, plunging into gullies, crossing pits where sometimes we perforce went downwards, and then up again; or sometimes we stood, hot and breathless, upon ledges, recovering our strength, selecting the best route upward.
This tumbled mass of rock! Honeycombed everywhere with caves and passages leading into darkness impenetrable. There were pits into which we might so easily have fallen; ravines to span, sometimes with a leap, sometimes by a long and arduous detour.
Endless climb! We
came to a ledge…[....] We might have been upon this main ascent
for an hour; the plains were far down, the broken surface down there smoothed
now by the perspective of our height...
entry 334 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 14th:
The military ran [..........] Station, manned it, supplied it, armed it, and used it as a base for keeping watch for mythical intruders who might come wandering into the system from the far-off seas of space. There was not a scientist in the station who did not feel deep in his bones that the military could be dispensed with, that they wasted much money and time keeping watch for non-existent pirates from the depths of space. But the military insisted that this watch was important. Sure, there was peace now, but there might not always be peace. Who knew what monsters might come in from the sea that had no other shore? If space was infinite, the danger might be infinite also. So argued the military. Earth Government backed them up to the extent of manning its planet station with armed forces. On Mars and Venus, they were needed. But here on [..........] what was needed was a way to keep from freezing.
…[..........] Station itself was set in the middle of a vast valley, with low hills surrounding it. On the left, were frozen runways extending the length of the valley. They ended in the vast hump of the huge dome that served as a hangar for the space ships landing on [..........]. The hangar itself was part of the cluster of buildings that made up the station.
Up above the rocky surface of [..........], slanting down toward the runways, was a pale blue glow…
entry 333 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 12th:
In its jarring, lurching way the airwagon sped on through the sky. Red sparks streamed by the windows like frantic scarlet insects. The steady metallic screaming of the engines, disconcerting at first, came to seem familiar and almost welcome. Below, all was a green wilderness, with great blankets of snow on the highest elevations. From time to time Nortekku saw a great circular scar, a brown-walled cicatrice in the midst of the greenness: one of the innumerable pockmarks left on the face of [..........] by the falling death-stars.
As he looked down he was struck by an inrushing awareness of
the vastness of the world, and of its antiquity, and of the succession of races
that had come and gone upon this planet.
Down below there was nothing at all, now, but trees and stones. But once all that wilderness had been
inhabited, he knew, by the myriad denizens of the long-lost Great World
civilization, the unthinkably rich and glorious era of the Six Peoples whom he
had studied in school long ago… the Hjjks,
the Sea-Lords, the Vegetals, the reptilian race known as the Sapphire-Eyes
people, the Mechanicals, and the most enigmatic ones of all, the Dream-Dreamers…
For some unknowable length of time – half a million years, a million? – the huge cities of the great World, full of quivering vitality, astounding in their opulence and size, their myriad windows sparkling in the sun, had covered the landscape below. They had come, they had flourished, they had disappeared…
entry 332 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 11th:
What clammy blossoms, blanched and cavern-grown,
Are proferred to their gods in [..........]
By mole-eyed peoples…
entry 331 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 10th:
Alexey shouted, “Everyone, bring the submersibles back to the borehole, NOW!”
Alexey turned to Fadek but before he could say anything, Anna yelled out, “Commander there are large objects coming at us fast!”
They had only enough time to see what looked like giant jaws and teeth as the submersibles both recorded impacts and all the communications went dead.
Graham jumped out of his seat and ran over to the borehole. “Fadek, can we seal this?”
Fadek frowned and signalled to the symbiotes to close the opening but it was too late. Something dark and large and wet came rushing out of the hole like the tentacle on a giant octopus.
Chaos broke out as the substance flowed out in giant pseudopods and flailed out around the wellhead. Giant globs broke off and formed shapes which coalesced into terrifying creatures…
entry 330 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 8th:
Once around that valley there were great peaks crowned with snow and crags of black and crimson where the flying lizards nested, the hawk-lizards with the red eyes. Below the crags there were forests, purple and green and gold, and a black tarn deep on the valley floor. But when I saw it it was dead. The peaks had fallen away and the forests were gone and the tarn was only a pit in the naked rock.
In the midst of that desolation stood a fortress city.
There were lights in it, soft lights of many colors. The outer walls stood up, black and massive, a barrier against the creeping dust, and within them was an island of life. The high towers were not ruined. The lights burned among them and there was movement in the streets.
A living city – and Corin had said that Shandakor was dead.
A rich and living city. I did not understand. But I knew one thing. Those who moved along the distant streets of Shandakor were not human.
I stood shivering in that windy pass. The bright towers of the city beckoned and there was something unnatural about all light and life in the deathly valley. And then I thought that human or not the people of Shandakor might sell me water and a beast to carry it and I could get away out of these mountains…
entry 329 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 7th:
Heath flung himself against the sweep and stopped it.
“Be quiet,” he said. “Look. Out there.”
They followed his gesture. Far away over the port bow, flowing toward them, was a ripple in the weed. A ripple as though the very bed of the Upper Seas was in motion.
“What is it?” whispered Alor, and saw Heath’s face, and was silent.
Sluggishly, yet with frightening speed, the ripple came toward them. Heath got a harpoon out of the stern locker. He watched the motion of the weed, saw it gradually slow and stop in a puzzled way. Then he threw the harpoon as far away from the ship as he could with all his strength and more.
The ripple began again. It swerved and sped toward where the harpoon had fallen.
“They’ll attack anything that moves,” said Heath. “It lost us because we stopped. Watch.”
The weed heaved and burst open, its meshes snapping across a scaled and titanic back. There seemed to be no shape to the creature, no distinguishable head. It was simply a vast and hungry blackness that spread upward and outward…
entry 328 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 5th:
Feeling unusually light he walked over to an enormous tear in the side of his space-cruiser. A bleak scene met his eyes. Short, grotesquely hewn hills and crags. Rocky pitted plains. And a bitter, wild wind blew constantly, streaming his long hair into disarray.
He cursed through tight lips. Fate! He had been on his way to Vesta, largest city of Jupiter, when his fuel had given out. He had forgotten to check it, and here he was.
Despondently he kicked a small rock in front of him. It rose unhindered by the feeble gravitation fully thirty feet in the air.
Suddenly there were a dozen scuffing sounds, and a dozen stones winged themselves painstakingly through the air and began to descend in slow motion.
Surprise struck, he gazed furtively about him. Momentarily his heart seemed caught in some terrible vise.
There was a sudden movement behind a close ridge. Momentarily John Hall was rendered paralyzed. Then he backed slowly toward the ship and safety behind a Johnson heat ray. The vague form abruptly materialized, etched in black against the twilight horizon of [..........]. The effect was startling. The creature stood upright, on two legs, with two gnarled, lengthy arms dangling from its bony shoulders. Human? The question registered itself on his brain, and the thing in front of him gave unwitting reply, as it moved to a clearer position. No, not human. Maybe not even animal. Two great eyes bulged curiously from a drawn, shrunken, monkey-like face. The body was as warped and distorted as the bole of an old oak tree. With pipe-stem arms and legs, bulging at the joints. Its most natural position seemed to be a crouch, with the arms dragging on the ground. Somehow this travesty of human form struck him as being humorous. He chuckled throatily, and then stopped with a start as the same chuckle crudely vibrated back, echo-like. But it was no echo! No, that wasn't possible. John raised his hand to scratch his head through force of habit; forgetful that this was impossible through the thick glassite helmet he wore. The tall, gangling creature in front of him watched closely for a moment, then stretched one preposterously long limb up and scratched briskly on his leathery skull in imitation of John Hal.
The answer struck him instantly. Why hadn't he thought of it. This animal, this thing, whatever it was, was a natural mimic.
entry 327 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 November 4th:
Spaceships employ electromagnetic screens to ward off particle radiation. They employ artificially generated positive and negative gravity fields not only for propulsion, not only for constant weight inside the hull at every acceleration, but also for tractor and pressor beams. Let us scale up these systems until they maintain a giant bubble of air on an otherwise empty surface.
In practice, the task was monumental. Consider problems like leakage, temperature regulation, and ozone layer control. But they were solved; and their solution gave to the Solar System one if its most beloved resorts.
[...........] …trees soared through heights and arcs no less fantastic than the splashing fountains; and people walked with that same marvelous bounding lightness. Behind the crowds, towers and colonnades lifted in fanciful filigree multitudinously hued. Birds and elevated streets flew between them. Perfumes, laughter, a drift of music, a pervasive murmur of engines wove through the warm air.
But beyond and above stood [..........]. Clocks ran on GMT; a thousand small suns hanging from bronze vines created morning. Yet the true hour neared midnight. Splendid and terrible, darkness struck through. At zenith, the sky was black, stars icily visible. [...........] The Avenue of Sphinxes gave a clear westward view to the edge of air… [..........]near horizon.
entry 326 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 November 2nd:
…The things moving up and down those waxen slopes were still too far away for Falcon to make out many details, and they must have been very large to be visible at all at such a distance. Almost black, and shaped like arrowheads, they maneuvered by slow undulations of their entire bodies, so that they looked rather like giant manta rays, swimming above some tropical reef.
Perhaps they were sky-borne cattle, browsing on the cloud pastures of [..........], for they seemed to be feeding along the dark, red-brown streaks that ran like dried-up river beds down the flanks of the floating cliffs. Occasionally, one of them would dive headlong into the mountain of foam and disappear completely from sight.
Kon-Tiki was moving only slowly with respect to the cloud layer below; it would be at least three hours before she was above those ephemeral hills. She was in a race with the Sun. Falcon hoped that darkness would not fall before he could get a good view of the mantas, as he had christened them, as well as the fragile landscape over which they flapped their way…
entry 325 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 31st:
Hell broke loose. Rick Mills and his companions felt a thunderous vibration, as of a million space ships blasting off, as all but two of those giant jet-tubes roared into life. Rick had propped himself well. Even when consciousness left him he maintained the electrical contact. Other mole-torpedoes, exploding, shook the chamber and bulged its walls. But the constructive fury that had started there, went on. It wasn’t till half an hour later that those great tubes burned out.
No one ever saw the terrible blast of incandescence that they threw into space, like the jet of an old fashioned, Fourth-of-July pinwheel. Not even Fane, out there somewhere in the cold wilderness. Before he could glimpse what was happening, the glare charred his eyeballs. Then it charred him inside his space suit. Then a sea of slush engulfed him and his robots. A slush of liquid air and snow. Steam rose high and scattered to blank out the stars with an awful wind.
Five hours later the sun that had set here fifty million years ago, rose again. But the melting went on under the veil of fog. And across the furnace desert of [..........], darkened now at last, rivers roared, hissing. Volcanoes blazed...[..........]
But at last the fury of rebirth quieted. And down a murky river days later, a still dazed Rick Mills and his battered companions, paddled a crude metal boat to meet another party from the main camp. The air was thin and steamy, but rich in oxygen, and good to breathe. They had removed their space suit helmets…
entry 324 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 30th:
Madeleine felt strangely disoriented, as though dreaming with delirious fever. All time and space seemed for a moment to be enclosed within that rocky space, itself unmoored and unhelmed upon a dark and compassless ocean.
[.........., ..........] all around, but not a one to see. Like disembodied spirits, they had long ago evolved beyond confinement to fleshly bodies. But Earth people suspected there was something, so the younger ones, like Don, allowed suspicion to take any stereotyped, acceptable form. But the oldsters believed in being honest. Let those who can see—see.
"Madeleine!" Don was thinking, desperately, as desperate as only pure feeling can be. "Go back—back to the Haven. You can still go back!"
"But she cannot," the old man said. "For those who come this far, there's never anything to go back to."
"No—I cannot," Madeleine thought. "I don't want to go back."
"All right," Don thought after a while. "All right, Madeleine."
Then she was on her feet and moving over sand and stone that seemed alive toward the Ruins of Taovahr—but they were no longer ruins. She heard the murmur of sea-tides and warmer winds sighing over a younger land.
The sterile sand blossomed. Aridity drifted away. "Don! Is that you, Don?"
Don seemed to be somewhere, felt rather than heard, sensed, not seen. And instead of ruins, the high white walls and rising towers surrounded by gardens, fountains, and through the gardens a stream of clear water, soft with the pads of giant water lilies, trailing like glass under the moonlight and sympathetic shadows of leaves.
"Don! You knew what real living was in your youth. It was way, way back in time. Didn't you? And only if you're really living do you know where you're going, and you knew, didn't you? You gave up the machines, and went on to freedom. You escaped the confining flesh that can be caught up in war, and in hopeless peonage to the radios and teevee and radar and thundering jets that drown out the song of real life, and a horde of cunningly made, treacherous machines—"
"Madeleine. Join us—the way we are now. You can do it—"
"I—I can't see you, Don."
"You don't have to. You just think about it and join us, all of us—"
"Just—just a spirit of some kind, Don—is that it?"
"Yes, yes—something like that! You can't explain it! Just do it!"
It was too late, she knew that now. "We're old, too old, where I come from, Don. When I was very young, I might have done it." Only the wonder-filled child can go through the looking glass and—stay.
entry 323 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 October 29th:
…The hill fell away at his feet and the road went sweeping down the long slope as if impatient to greet the sea; and there at its end lay Shastar.
It caught the sunlight and tossed it back to him, tinted with all the colours of its makers’ dreams. The spacious buildings lining the wide street seemed unravished by time; the great band of marble that held the sea at bay was still unbreached; the parks and gardens, though long overgrown with weeds, were not yet jungles. The city followed the curve of the bay for perhaps two miles, and stretched half that distance inland; by the standards of the past, it was very small indeed. But to Brant it seemed enormous, a maze of streets and squares intricate beyond unravelling. Then he began to discern the underlying symmetry of its design, to pick out the main thoroughfares, and to see the skill with which its makers had avoided both monotony and discord.
For a long time Brant stood motionless on the hilltop, conscious only of the wonder spread beneath his eyes. He was alone in all that landscape, a tiny figure lost and humble before the achievements of greater men. The sense of history, the vision of the long slope up which Man had been toiling for a milliion years or more, was almost overwhelming. In that moment it seemed to Brant that from his hilltop he was looking over Time rather than Space…
entry 322 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 28th:
Just a little pool, ten yards across perhaps?
“So,” breathed Hyoen, “not quite all the lake has gone.”
Nobody answered her because they all became paralyzed by the sight of what was happening on screen. The stagnant water had begun to ripple. After a minute or two the surface broke. A black and glistening object reared out of it, and unfolded in the open air. The four watchers immediately understood the purpose of the arrangement of relayed transmissions. What they were seeing, if perceived directly, would have blown their minds.
The thing shook the drops from its scaly skin and from its black wings as it rose out of the liquid. Undeniable evil bulged from the head. Blurry eyes and sagging mouth offered a message dismaying beyond all reason. No use to say it was “only” this or “only” that. Certainty flooded the watchers: this was…
They knew, but did not want the thought of it to form.
A thing that should not be. Should not count as real, anywhere in our universe. But it was here, a nightmare tresspassing in daylight, as it clambered and waddled out of the pool and fully onto the shore, where it strutted, turning its eyes this way and that.
entry 321 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 26th:
…Infinitely far below, it seemed, some strange insects were slowly crawling back and forth in little pools of artificial light. If one shone a torch upon a group of cockroaches, they would have looked like this.
But those tiny insects, Sadler knew, were the great mining machines at work on the floor of the canyon. It was surprisingly flat down there, so many thousands of metres below, for it seemed that lava had flooded into the cleft soon after it was formed, and then congealed into a buried river of rock.
[..........], almost vertically overhead, illuminated the great wall immediately opposite. The canyon marched away to right and left as far as the eye could follow, and sometimes the blue-green light falling upon the rock face produced a most unexpected illusion. Sadler found it easy to imagine, if he moved his head suddenly, that he was looking into the heart of a gigantic waterfall, sweeping down forever into the depths of [..........].
Across the face of that fall, on the invisible threads of hoisting cables, the ore buckets were rising and dropping. Sadler had seen those buckets moving on the overhead lines away from the cleft, and he knew that they were taller than he was. But now they looked like beads moving slowly along a wire…
entry 320 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 24th:
…The station must be completely immersed in [..........]. The uniform radiation on all sides proved that. Yet he was still in the [..........] vortex, as shown by the much cooler convection currents bathing the station. There was only one possible explanation. The spot vortex must be returning to [..........] surface through a gigantic U-shaped tube…
…If the central gyro won out over the torrential vortex the station might be swept up the other limb of the following spot twin and he might break the station away to safety over the penumbral edge…
…The brooding man sat at the central operator’s chair for a long time until the steepening floor threatened to drop him out of his seat. He rose heavily to his feet and, hanging tightly to the guide rails, walked the length of the panel to a bank of huge enabling switches.
Here he unlocked the safety mechanism of the central gyro switch and pulled it out amid a protest of arcking, hissing flame. The deck immediately began to vibrate beneath him, and the rapidly increasing tilt of the floor made it difficult to stand…
entry 319 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 23rd:
Petra finished her climb with the rest of the flock. They had risen far into the sky during the long climb upward in the darkness. Bright was rising in the east and its warming light was streaming down through a break in the cloud layers above. That didn’t happen very often and the flock circled in the beam of light, enjoying the warmth, singing gossip back and forth to each other. Petra could feel Petru’s air sacs expand in the warmth. With the additional buoyancy of Petru’s body, she could gain even more altitude for Petro, so she had Petru swallow another mouthful of bitterly cold rarefied air, and tilting the wings upward, she jetted Petru higher into the sky, the rest of the flock following along behind, maws opening and closing to feed the pulsing jets that drove them ever higher. As Petru climbed, Petra raised her head and gazed upward at Bright. Petra’s large eye could see the flock of smaller lights that circled around the distant glowing sphere of warmth. She could easily see the larger red globe, Rexu, and the smaller red globe, Talu, that circled Bright at great distances. She knew there were three other globes close to Bright, but usually they were so close they could not be seen through the glare. She raised a claw in front of her eye to block out the light from Bright and was rewarded for the effort by being able to observe two small bright spots close together – a larger blue-white light and a smaller gray light. It was Parent-and-Child. They must be at their farthest excursion from Bright, since the two globes were well separated from the glaring orb and were in their half-moon phase.
Petra knew that Rexu, Talu, Parent-and-Child, and the others must be globes, like the world Air that she lived on. Ancient long-dead elders of the flock had determined many dimmings ago that Air was a globe [....................]. There was even a tale passed from flock to flock of one ancient and reckless young ruus that had left its flock flying east and had managed to fly all around Air, returning to the flock from the west, proving Air was round…
entry 318 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 22nd:
Pete leaned back in his chair and looked out through the yard-thick
quartz of the dome which enclosed Satellite City, [..........]'s only place of
habitation. That is, if one didn't consider [..........] prison, which, technically
speaking, probably was a place of habitation. Other than for the dome which
enclosed Satellite City and the one which enclosed the prison, however, there
was no sign of life on the entire moon, a worthless, lifeless globe only
slightly smaller than the planet Mars.
He could see the top of the prison dome, just rising above the western horizon. To that Alcatraz of Space were sent only the most desperate of the Solar System's criminals. The toughest prison in the entire system, its proud tradition was that not a single prisoner had escaped since its establishment twenty years before. Why risk escape, when only misery and death lurked outside the dome?
The Chamber of Commerce offices were located in the peak of the city's dome and from his outer office, against the quartz, Pete had a clear view of the preparations going forward for the reunion which was to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Battle of [..........].
Far below, at the foot of the magnetically anchored dome, work was progressing on the vast outdoor arena, which would be enclosed in a separate dome, with heat and atmosphere pumped from the larger dome.
On one of the higher snow-swept hills, a short distance from the arena, reared a massive block of marble, swarming with space-armored sculptors. That was the Battle Monument, to be dedicated in the opening ceremonies.
Drift snow, driven by the feeble winds which always stirred restlessly over the surface of this satellite from which the atmosphere was nearly gone, swept over the brown, rolling hills and eddied around the dome. It was cold out there. Pete shivered involuntarily. Down close to 180 degrees below, Fahrenheit. The snow was frozen carbon dioxide.
An inhospitable place to live, but Satellite City was one of the
greatest resorts in the entire System. To it, each year, came thousands of
celebrities, tens of thousands of common tourists. The guest lists of the
better hotels read like the social register and every show house and cafe,
every night club, every concession, every dive was making money.
And now the [..........] reunion!
That had been a clever idea. It had taken some string-pulling back in London to get the Solar Congress to pass the resolution calling the reunion and to appropriate the necessary money. But that had not been too hard to do. Just a little ballyhoo about cementing Earth-Mars friendship for all eternity. Just a little clever work out in the lobbies.
This year Satellite City would pack them in, would get System-wide publicity, would become a household word on every planet.
He tilted farther back in his chair and stared at the sky. The greatest
sight in the entire Solar System! Tourists came millions of miles to gaze in
wonder at that sky. [........]
'We'll put [..........] on the map this year,' he exulted.
entry 317 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 October 21st:
“…Not until the ship started to topple did I realize what the thing was trying to do – and then it was too late. We could have saved ourselves – if we’d only switched off those lights.
“Perhaps it’s a phototrope, its biological cycle triggered by the sunlight that filters through the ice. Or it could have been attracted like a moth to a candle. Our floodlights must have been more brilliant than anything that [..........] has ever known…
“Then the ship crashed. I saw the hull split, a cloud of snowflakes form as moisture condensed. All the lights went out, except for one, swinging back and forth on a cable…
“…The plant – I still thought of it as a plant – was motionless. I wondered if it had been damaged by the impact; large sections – as thick as a man’s arm – had splintered off, like broken twigs.
“Then the main trunk started to move again. It pulled away from the hull, and began to crawl toward me. That was when I knew for certain that the thing was light-sensitive: I was standing immediately under the thousand-watt lamp, which had stopped swinging now.
“Imagine an oak tree – better still, a banyan with its multiple trunks and roots – flattened out by gravity and trying to creep along the ground…”
entry 316 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 20th:
…This land is so luminous that it resembles snowflakes on fire. There is, however, one rather incredible thing, which I have never been able to make out and that is whether, once my box had fallen, I was mounting or descending towards [..........]. All I can remember is that when I had arrived there, I walked lightly upon it. I only touched the ground at a single point and often rolled like a ball, finding it no more inconvenient to travel upon my head than on my feet. Although I sometimes had my legs pointing towards the sky and my shoulders against the ground, it felt as natural to be placed in this position as if I had my feet on the ground and my shoulders towards the sky. Whichever part of my body I rested on, whether on my belly, my back, an elbow, or an ear, I felt as if I were standing upright. From this I learned that [..........] is a world which has no centre, and that, as I was very far from the sphere of influence of our own, and of all those I had encountered, it was consequently impossible for me to continue to have any weight, since weight is simply the attraction exercised by a centre within its sphere of influence.
The awe I felt in printing my steps upon that luminous countryside gave pause for a while to my burning eagerness to continue my journey. I felt quite ashamed to be walking upon the daylight. My very body was bewildered and sought the support of my eyes. But since this transparent land, through which their vision penetrated, could offer them nothing to rest upon, my instinct got the better of my mind and drove it on and on, in spite of myself, seeking out the depths of a light which was bottomless…
…After travelling, as I believe, for fifteen days, I came to a country of [..........] less dazzling than that which I had left… I became tired and sleep took hold of me… I lay down upon the sand in a deep stupor.
It was a bare country, so open that there was not a single bush as far as the eye could see, and yet, upon my awakening, I found myself beneath a tree by comparison with which the tallest cedars would seem like so many blades of grass. Its trunk was of solid gold, its branches of silver, and its leaves were emeralds…
entry 315 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 19th:
“…this mound would have dwarfed twenty termite-nests in a valley of giants – all tumbled together and piled up in a skyward direction.
“As near as I could make out the footprints ran up to the base of the mound, and stopped there.
“Well… you can be sure I didn’t just stand in my own prints goggling up at the stars. I followed that impossible trail – straight out into the valley as fast as I could clump.
“It took about ten minutes to reach the mound. Once or twice I stumbled and almost went sprawling. But whenever I felt the plain slipping out from under me I shot a quick glance at the mound and its sheer massiveness steadied me.
“Close up, it had a corrugated, hoary look, as if it had bubbled up out of the ground when [..........] had a molten crust and been fused into a mound by fire and earthquake.
“But when I halted directly in front of it I saw that it wasn’t as solid as it looked. It was riddled with little dark holes, as though a woodpecker had spent at least a month making a wreck of it. And at its base there was a wide, dark, tunnel-like opening…”
entry 314 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 18th:
…The huge fern-like plants, flashing phosphorescence under the green corona light, seemed to close in after Cappy Upjohn and Terry Hall like prison bars in the windows of a dungeon…
…Between an opening in the ferns Terry caught a glimpse of a ghostly face, more simian than an ape’s… At the same time he felt something that was like a breeze through his brain…
…Cappy took a step toward the creature. The eyes seemed to flash. Perhaps it was a reflection from the corona streamers stretching above the horizon to the west. Cappy halted as the creature seemed to shrink away…
“You are suspicious men,” Chomby said. “I read your mind and I know you do not trust me. You fear a trap. That is why you carry your guns. But there is nothing to fear from Chomby’s people. You will think them very primitive.”
…Chomby led the earthmen eastward. The shadows deepened and the sky grew dark. The stars appeared; among them the brilliant blue planet that was Earth…
The cold winds lashed at the earthmen and nipped through the heavy clothing they wore. Terry and Cappy lowered a plastic windshield from their caps to protect their faces from frostbite.
Vegetation grew more sparse and at last they walked across a rocky plain toward a row of towering basalt cliffs. The feeble light that came from the outer fringe of the corona revealed a row of caves at the base of the cliffs and from these emerged a hundred or so ill-fashioned beings resembling Chomby.
The [..........] gave no cry, nor warning of his approach. He apparently had notified his people by telepathy, for they rushed silently to meet him…
entry 313 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 17th:
…the light was bright enough to show them that the rocket was resting on a flat surface, and that it lay on a carpet of bluey-green.
As Chris was their leader, the rest of the crew stood back for him to go through the hatch first. With a hand raised in acknowledgement, he stepped forward and jumped the yard or so to the ground. Because of the low gravity, he landed lightly on the soft, springy carpet, and at once bent down, eager to solve one of the mysteries that had been puzzling generations of astronomers.
There was no doubt about it. The bluey-green colour came from a thick growth of some kind of vegetation. It seemed like moss, but he could push his hand down into it for six inches before he felt the solid ground. No wonder it was like treading on some luxurious carpet! He remembered, many years before, walking across the stubble of a newly-cut cornfield. It was springy to the tread. This was the same, but the growth was longer, denser, and even more springy…
entry 312 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 16th:
...they must depend entirely on instruments to help them. In more ways than one this would indeed be a blind landing.
Six miles to go. If there were any mountain peaks like Everest the rocket might well smash itself against one. Every second the crew awaited the sickening jar that would spell disaster.
Four miles. Three. The tension was unbearable, but still they stuck grimly to their posts.
“Watch out,” shouted Serge. “It will be any second now.”
Without knowing it the crew were holding their breaths. Suddenly they all let them out with a gasp. Phoenix had touched something solid…
…”We’ve landed,” Morrey said weakly.
The rocket had been scarcely jarred as it came into contact with the planet. No matter how carefully a ship is handled on making a terrestrial or a lunar landing, there is always a slight impact with the solid surface. None of the crew had felt anything. It was as if they had touched down inside a bowl of cotton-wool…
entry 311 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 15th:
...Paul stared at the ghostly collection of huts slowly appearing through the mist, waiting, but Klooroo did not answer. When he looked up, the self-named nimbor was staring at him in horror.
"What? Have I said something wrong?"
"You . . . you have looked on the Summer Princess? And the taltors did not slay you?"
Paul shook his head. "If you mean the soldiers, we hid from them." Bemused by the creature's reaction, he told Klooroo how they had stolen a ride on the barge. ". . . And that is why we were floating in the water where you found us. What have we done that is so terrible?"
Klooroo made several hand gestures which seemed meant to ward off evil. "Only a Tellari, and a mad one at that, would ask such a question. Why do you think the canal is forbidden to anyone below the taltor class during Festival Season? So lowly ones do not look on the Summer Princess and bring bad luck on the Festival's rituals. If the rituals fail, the canals will not flood next season and all the land will remain a desert!"
A faint memory, really a reflex, suggested to Paul that once he would have found such a belief ridiculous, but recalling as little as he did of his own past and immersed in such a strange present, he found it difficult to say that anything was ridiculous. He shrugged. "I'm sorry. We didn't know anything. I was only trying to save the boy and myself."
Klooroo looked down at slumbering Gally and the grim set of his long muzzle softened a bit. "Yes, but. . . ." He blinked, then looked up at Paul. "I suppose you could not know. Perhaps since you are off-worlders, it will not disturb the ritual."
Paul decided not to mention their gleeful consumption of the temple offerings. "Who is she, this Summer Princess? And why do you know so much about . . . Tellari? Are people like us common here?"
"Not here—not in the nimbor towns. But there are more than a few in Tuktubim, although mostly they stay in the Soombar's palace, and a few mad ones roam in the outer deserts, looking for only the gods know what. There are occasionally visitors from Vonar as well—the second planet. But they almost never come outside the rainy season."
Klooroo was nosing his skiff through an array of small docks that formed a set of channels along the canal's bank. Many of the huts were built directly on the docks; others, grouped together between the canal and a rising cliff wall, rose in high, ramshackle agglomerations. Most of Klooroo's neighbors seemed to be awake and moving, some preparing their boats to go out onto the canal, but others just as clearly bringing theirs back in from a night of forbidden foraging.
"But how about the woman?" Paul asked, "You called her a princess?"
"The princess. The Summer Princess." He turned down one of the waterways, and Paul's wide view was suddenly blocked by looming walls. "She is one of the Vonari, the Blue People with Wings. Long ago, we conquered them, and every year they send one of their noblewomen as tribute."
"Tribute? What does that mean? She has to marry the . . . what did you call him? The Soombar?"
"After a fashion." Klooroo used the long paddle to turn them again, this time through a small watergate into a small enclosed pool surrounded by flimsy wooden walls. He brought the skiff alongside an open doorway, then reached out his long, clawed hand and pulled out a rope, which he tied to a loop in the skiff's bow. "After a fashion," he repeated, "since the Soombar is the descendant of gods. What she does is marry the gods themselves. At the end of the Festival she is killed and her body is given to the waters so that the rains will come back."
entry 310 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 October 14th:
…Although the king cared nothing for their ceremonies, he was uneasy. Seldom it was that Dutch anticipated trouble, but the odds against him were so stupendous that he dared not but follow his subjects. Since there was nothing left of his palace equipment, he turned toward the jungle and followed the victorious army. He crossed the stream and then wound around the hills until he came to the great tangle of yellow-violet trees and vines. So dense was the growth that the natives maintained tunnels through the dripping mass. The king selected one of the tunnels into which the army had disappeared, and plunged after in pursuit.
Had this jungle been on the earth, the interior of the tunnel would have been dark as night, but here the light came up from the ground, thus maintaining a uniform intensity of illumination that was equal to that of the plain.
The path had been churned by countless feet into a thin, creamy mud in which the king waded ankle deep. But it was this same disagreeable mud which guided him through the maze of tunnels and cross passages, for the sides of the recently used course were newly splashed with dripping mud. Occasionally he heard the bellow of warriors deep in the jungle but so far in advance were they that it was only the louder sounds that reached him.
For three “sleeps” the king penetrated deeper and deeper into the mysterious jungle…
entry 309 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 13th:
…Curt Newton entered the truck with the others and they rattled through the bumpy streets of Jungletown. They followed the other trucks northward along a rude [..........] roadway through the jungle.
The great fern-forest was a towering, solid wall on either side of them. Sucker-flies swarmed out of the green vegetation upon them. They glimpsed grotesque tree-octopi flitting through the ferns, and bulbous balloon-beasts floated by above them.
“What’s that place over there?” asked Ron King, pointing in awe at distant, cyclopean black towers that rose out of the jungle.
Captain Future knew what it was. In that Place of the Dead, as the [..........] called it, he had once reached the climax of one of his most perilous adventures. But he pretended ignorance, as Joan Randall answered the question.
“It’s an ancient, ruined [..........] city,” Joan said, her brown eyes fixed on those crumbling, enigmatic towers…
entry 308 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 12th:
Where is this? (Generous hint: it's in the Jovian system.)
entry 307 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 11th:
...The explorers’ accounts described much of the creeping jungles of rootless trees; of the Red River, whose waters are bright crimson because of their sediment of brilliant sands, and the Red Lake into which they empty; of the Poison Lake and the blasted region around it called the Poison Desert, in which live certain animals that have adapted themselves to the toxic environment; of the so-called Ghost Hills in the north, made terrible by the Man Spiders, which were arachnid creatures of great size and ferocity whose unusual intelligence and cunning earned them their name.
But, after the first interest in these accounts of exploration, [..........] was largely forgotten by the System peoples for some years. The planetoid was hard to reach, lying as it did at the center of a dangerous region of meteor swarms and smaller asteroids. No settlement on it was attempted, for it had no valuable mineral resources to tempt Earth prospectors and promoters.
But the very isolation and inaccessibility of [..........] attracted another class – the space-pirates. Those were the wild early days of interplanetary travel.
The Planet Patrol had not yet been organized, and ships carried valuable cargoes from world to world without protection. It was inevitable that piracy should spring up, and that the location of [........] would make it an ideal base for the corsairs…
entry 306 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 10th:
…The wind which blew over the flute-mouthpiece of rock on this side of the mountain was as gentle and variable as a flautist’s breath, and did not stir the enormous tangled stolons and runners which filled the bottom of the great valley, or the wrap-around leaves which were plastered to them like so many thousands of blue-green Möbius strips.
It was not quiet down there, but it seemed quiet. There were many more thrums and rummums of rolling rocks and distant avalanches than one heard during the cold weather. The granite-skinned roots were growing rapidly while their short time was come, burrowing insistently into the walls of the valley, starting new trees and new rocks. In the cliffs, the warm weather changed water-of-crystallisation from Ice IV to Ice III, the bound water snapping suddenly from one volume to another, breaking the rock strata apart….
entry 305 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 9th:
…Strolling down one of the broad, tree-lined avenues of the Golden City of the Ku Thad, I heard cries of distress.
Gazing ahead, I perceived a chariot with a single passenger. The team of matched thaptors drawing the chariot were out of control, hurtling and careening down the boulevard at breakneck speed. At any instant, the chariot might overturn as its wheel caught an irregularity in the pave, thus hurling the chariot’s occupant to the pave and dealing him a serious injury.
The thaptors might have stampeded from any one of a number of causes – a chance noise, a sudden movement, a flick of the whip on some tender portion of their anatomy, or sheer cantankerousness alone. For the weird bird-horses of [............] have never been fully domesticated and are restive and unruly, and quite likely to bolt or to turn upon their rider on chance whim or the slightest provocation…
entry 304 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 8th:
Craig straightened up and looked around. Candles danced upon the ridges, swirling and jostling, silent watchers of his grim discovery. The one lone blue Candle, bigger than the rest, had followed the machine into the hollow, was only a few rods away, rolling restlessly to and fro.
Knut had said something was funny — had shouted it, his voice raspy and battered by the screaming of powerful radiations. Or had that been Knut? Had Knut already died when that message came through?
Craig glanced back at the sand, the blood pounding in his temples. Had the Candles been responsible for this? And if they were, why was he unmolested, with hundreds dancing on the ridge?
And if this was Knut, with dead eyes staring at the black of space, who was the other one—the one who came back?
Candles masquerading as human beings? Was that possible? Mimics the Candles were — but hardly as good as that. There was always something wrong with their mimicry — something ludicrously wrong. He remembered now the look in the eyes of the returned Knut — that chilly, deadly look — the kind of look one sometimes sees in the eyes of ruthless men. A look that had sent cold chills chasing up his spine.
And Knut, who was no match for Creepy at checkers, but who thought he was because Creepy let him win at regular intervals, had taken six games straight.
Craig looked back at the jumper again, saw the frightened face of Rastus pressed against the filter shield. The Candles still danced upon the hills, but the big blue one was gone.
Some subtle warning, a nasty little feeling between his shoulder blades, made Craig spin around to face the warp. Just in front of the warp stood a man, and for a moment Craig stared at him, frozen, speechless, unable to move.
For the man who stood in front of him, not more than forty feet away, was Curt Craig!
entry 303 [contributed by Lone Wolf]
2023 October 7th:
…the titanic mountains of [..........] are its best-known natural feature.
There are no mountains elsewhere in the Solar System like them… Even the smaller ranges soar to heights of five and ten miles. Many of the great peaks are very much higher. And there is one colossal range in the northern hemisphere, called the Mystery Mountains, which have an altitude of at least twenty miles…
…radioactive matter is responsible for another of the wonders of the [..........] planet – the Shining Sea in the southern hemisphere.
It is a sea whose waters are so impregnated with radioactive material from deposits in its bed that it glows at night like a great lake of light. The [..........] city of Lulanee is built on the shores of the Shining Sea, and is considered by interplanetary travelers to possess one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the System.
Another remarkable natural feature of [..........] is the Endless River. This is a torrential stream which flows around the whole planet near the equator. Its waters are kept flowing in an endless course, tugged by the tidal pull of the four moons of the planet…
entry 302 [contributed by Zendexor]
2023 October 6th:
…The Magnet Mountains… are hilly outcrops of pure iron which, in the strong magnetic field, exert an unbelievable pull upon any ferrous metal that comes near them. The [..........], indeed, are able to walk up perpendicular cliffs of these mountains like so many houseflies, by wearing sandals with thin soles of iron.
The small body of water called Lake Orr by the [..........] has a peculiar feature. It contains both the source and the mouth of the same river – the stream known as the Reversing River. This is due to the fact that the motion of [..........] on its own axes as it glides through space is extremely irregular. It has no regular period of rotation, due to its unspherical shape. It turns over and over, much like a flying brick.
This fact makes its periods of day and night extremely irregular. And also this causes such sudden variations in direction of the solar tidal pull on the lake, that its waters now flow in one direction in the river-bed around the worldlet, and now in another…
entry 301 [contributed by Zendexor]