[ + link to Guess The World - Open ]
This page displays a hundred extracts, a hundred scenes to test your savvy as a girl-about-world or man-about-planet. Use it as a solo quiz or compete with friends.
Each scene is set on an Old Solar System world, past, present or future, with a link to reveal which world the scene is on.
(Re asteroids and comets: if your answer is a fictional asteroid, you need only say "an asteroid" - but if it's one of the known named ones, be specific. Comets are all lumped together, so just saying "a comet" is sufficient.)
And if you don't wish to play but just to read - happy browsing!
2018 January 19th:
"...Maybe the brains of Earth things naturally are slow and foggy. Maybe we are the morons of the universe. Maybe we are fixed so we have to do things the hard way."
And, in the new sharp clarity of thought that seemed to grip him, he knew that it would not only be the matter of colours in a waterfall... He sensed other things, things not yet quite clear. A vague whispering that hinted of greater things, of mysteries beyond the pale of human thought, beyond even the pale of human imagination. Mysteries, fact, logic built on reasoning. Things that any brain should know if it used all its reasoning power.
"We're still mostly Earth," he said. "We're just beginning to learn a few of the things we are to know - a few of the things that were kept from us as human beings, perhaps because we were human beings. Because our human bodies were poor bodies. Poorly equipped for thinking, poorly equipped in certain senses that one has to have to know. Perhaps even lacking in certain senses that are necessary to true knowledge."
He stared back at the dome, a tiny black thing dwarfed by the distance.
Back there were men who couldn't see the beauty... Men who thought that swirling clouds and lashing rain obscured the planet's face. Unseeing human eyes. Poor eyes. Eyes that could not see the beauty in the clouds, that could not see through the storm. Bodies that could not feel the thrill of trilling music stemming from the rush of broken water...
2018 January 18th:
...We moved on into the wood beneath the delicate foliage and among the strangely beautiful boles with their laquer-like bark of white and red and yellow and blue.
Presently we came in sight of a little river winding leisurely between its violet banks, and at the same instant I saw a small creature drinking. It was about the size of a goat, but it didn't look like a goat. Its sharply pointed ears were constantly moving, as though on the alert for the slightest sound of danger; its tufted tail switched nervously. A collar of short horns encircled its neck just where it joined the head. They pointed slightly forward. There must have been a dozen of them... That necklace of short horns would most certainly have discouraged any creature that was in the habit of swallowing its prey whole.
Very gently, I... crept forward, fitting an arrow to my bow. As I was preparing to shoot, the creature threw up its head and turned half around. Probably it had heard me. I had been creeping on it from behind, but its change of position revealed its left side to me, and I planted my first arrow squarely in its heart.
So we made our camp beside the river and dined on juicy chops, delicious fruits, and the clear water from the little stream. Our surroundings were idyllic. Strange birds sang to us, arboreal quadrupeds swung through the trees jabbering melodiously in soft sing-song voices...
2018 January 17th:
...Bright gleamed the lights of the City of Eternal Youth as Curt's small party planed down toward it. Clear through the night rose throbbing music, the sound of laughter and gay shouting.
"The wicked ones make merry at feasting as they do each night," grated one of Curt's winged bearers.
"There is the Fountain of Life," the other told Captain Future. "There are no sinful ones around it at this late hour."
Curt Newton's heart leaped. At last he looked upon the legendary Fountain that he had won to by such toil and hazard!
The City of Eternal Youth had been built around a circular plaza of large size. At the center of that plaza yawned a pit, a deep shaft in the rock, no more than thirty feet in diameter.
Out of that pit ceaselessly spurted a glorious geyser of shining, self-luminous water. Bursting high above the surface of the ground, it kept falling back into the pit, with a dull roaring sound.
This was the Fountain of Life, eternally jetting the Life-water whose insidious poison had been spread by the Life-lord to every world of the System! It gushed from the darkness in hell-born, maleficent beauty, a luring, beckoning thing whose shining loveliness masked unutterable evil....
The City of Eternal Youth must be the strangest city in all the Solar System. Its people were all young. Some of them had lived many life-spans. All these men and women had come here, drawn by the lure of the Fountain. And they had found that once they drank its waters they could not depart... This was the City of loud, joyless revelry, feasting and drunkenness... Their dwellings blazed with lights as they made merry to forget their inevitable, ghastly fate...
2018 January 16th:
...No possible artificial structure, and but few natural ones - in practice manoeuvres entire mountains had been lifted and hurled for miles through the air - could have withstood the incredible violence of that lunging, twisting, upheaving impact. Lifted bodily by that impalpable hawser of force and cruelly wrenched and twisted by its enormous couple of angular momentum... boulders, fragments of concrete masonry, and masses of metal flew in all directions as that city-encircling conduit of diabolical machinery was torn from its bed.
A portion of that conduit fully thirty miles in length was in the air, a twisted, flaming inferno of wrecked generators, exploding ammunition, and broken and short-circuited high-tension leads... With resounding crashes the structure parted at the weakened points, the furious upheaval stopped, and, the tractor beams shut off, the shattered, smoking, erupting mass of wreckage fell in clashing, grinding ruin upon the city...
The material lining of the ghastly moat was the only substance capable of resisting the action of its contents, and now, that lining destroyed by the uprooting of the fortress, that corrosive, brilliantly mobile liquid cascaded down into the trough and added its hellish contribution to the furious scene. For whatever that devouring fluid touched flared into yellow flame, gave off clouds of lurid, strangling vapour, and disappeared...
2018 January 15th:
...Forthwith he set off through the shadowy glades toward the plain, striding swiftly along and keeping watch more with his mind than with his eyes. It was always possible to hear things lurking unseen. They could not spy on him without radiating even their rudimentary thoughts. Such as that pair of screech owls glowering in a dark hole two hundred feet up a tremendous tree trunk.
"Man-thing below! Aaaargsh!"
At the fringe of trees came first evidence of the hunt. He stood in the darkness close by a mighty bole while a copter floated over the green umbrella of top branches. It was a big machine held up by four multi-bladed rotors and bearing a crew of ten. Their minds could be counted as they tried to probe the maze beneath.
There were half a dozen telepaths listening, listening, eager to catch any stray mental impulse he might be careless enough to let go loose. Also one insectivocal cuddling a cage of flying tiger-ants to be tipped over any likely spot indicated by a telepath...
2018 January 14th:
...I was wide-awake now, and I hastened to unlash myself from the hammock. I found that the floor was pitched sharply, as if the vessel had landed on a slope or had buried its nose in the alien terrain. Feeling a queer, disconcerting lightness, and barely able to re-establish my feet on the floor, I gradually made my way to the nearest port...
The horizon of serrate peaks, like a miniature mountain-range, lay at a distance of several hundred yards. Above it, the small, intensely brilliant sun, like a fiery moon in its magnitude, was sinking with visible rapidity in the dark sky...
All about were fretted ridges, guttering pillars and pinnacles; and over these, amazingly, there clambered frail, pipy, leafless vines with broad, yellow-green tendrils flat and thin as paper. Insubstantial-looking lichens, taller than a man, and having the form of flat antlers, grew in single rows and thickets along the valley.
Between the thickets, I saw the approach of certain living creatures who rose from behind the middle rocks with the suddenness and lightness of leaping insects...
2018 January 13th:
...The sunward polar city stood tall and proud in its glittering wineglass stem; stately airships and swarming skimmers clouded its aerial hangars and docks; from the midst of the upper reaches rose the Zairm...
The sight, though awesome, was as familiar as if he had lived in that palace as a child. Dreaming, he accepted this familiarity without question. Indeed there was no need to puzzle over it... He moved forward. He drifted through the palace walls. Like a thirsty ghost he sipped at that sense of belonging, he truly believed that he was really there... even if it were but a dream; for did not the act of thinking about a place mean that one's mind was there? Anyhow the place itself did really exist, and his soul belonged in it, here at the sunward pole... More real than real life, the dream's lemon-gold became the colour of knowing. This was the key awareness, awareness of the worth of what one saw...
The palace, he knew, was built of smollk, the foamed ore of Ammye; the pumicelike segments had accumulated age by age, till the Zairm was the size of a small mountain, rising from the upper platform of a still vaster city. Gengr viewed all of it simultaneously, being, in dream fashion, somehow both inside and outside the great structure. The crust of memory was thick. It reached across a geological age in the throne-room, Zdinth Hall...
Traditions - their weight and power - were what he was going to need after he had awoken...
2018 January 12th:
...They found him in a little clearing, and they stopped and looked at him and what he had discovered.
The rocket ship.
It was lying where they had left it. Somehow they had circled back and were where they had started. In the ruin of the ship green fungus was growing up out of the mouths of the two dead men. As they watched, the fungus took flower, the petals broke away in the rain, and the fungus died.
"How did we do it?"
"An electrical story must be nearby. Threw our compasses off. That explains it."
"What'll we do now?"
"Start out again... We've enough food for another two days if we're careful..."
And, as they stood, from a distance they heard a roar...
The monster was supported upon a thousand electric blue legs. It walked swiftly and terribly. It struck down a leg with a driving blow. Everywhere a leg struck a tree fell and burned... The monster was a half mile wide and a mile high and it felt of the ground like a great blind thing. Sometimes, for a moment, it had no legs at all. And then, in an instant, a thousand whips would fall out of its belly, white-blue whips, to sting the jungle.
"There's the electrical storm," said one of the men. "There's the thing ruined our compasses. And it's coming this way..."
2018 January 11th:
...Tok led the way swiftly, doubling back toward the lower side of the bazaar. Here was a section that Harrah never visited - the Quarter of the Sellers of Dreams. Poetic name for a maze of filthy rat-runs stinking with the breath of nameless substances. The sliding roofs were always closed and what few voices could be heard were beyond human speech.
They came to a house that stood by itself and the end of an alley. It looked as though it had stood a long time by itself, the fecund weeds growing thick around the door, rooting in the chinks of the walls.
There was no light, no sound. But Tok stopped and pointed.
After a moment Kehlin nodded. With that gesture he dismissed Tok, forgot him utterly, and the aboriginal went with three loping strides into the shadows and was gone...
2018 January 10th:
...I went down on my knees. Terror, when it reaches a certain stage, paralyses all the impulses, so that the mind operates seemingly in a vacuum, conscious of nothing but its own existence. Blinded, bowed, I knelt there.
The light flicked on, flicked off. As I had seen it do already, it ran up and down the visual scale. But the creature had stopped. It was not approaching me.
I think it must have been for a minute that I knelt like that. I was conscious only of the changing colours of the light and its intermissions. Somehow - how can I convey this? - I gained from those steady changes, unhurried and unstartling as they were, a sense of peace.
A thought broke through the mask that seemed to have settled on my brain. I put my torch before me and pressed the switch. I pressed it and flicked it off again. It was my final throw of madness, to attempt to communicate...
...I received a signal that seemed to me to be a meaningless jumble. I tried to imitate it, and must have succeeded, for I got another one, more difficult. I failed at that, and we both paused, waiting... What 'she' knew, I can't imagine... she had discovered some strange and puny, dim-witted creature in her domain.
She backed away and went carefully round me and away into the night... an intelligence of some kind, and radiating a body heat which told of a metabolism and power beyond my dreams...
2018 January 9th:
....As indomitably as though they had but a few miles to go, the two Futuremen started forward along the white highway in a swinging trot.
The endurance of Grag was practically limitless. And that of Otho's artificial body was almost as great. These two could stand indefinite exertion that would kill an ordinary man. For hour after hour, they followed the highway north through the jungle.
They met no one on that road. Hours passed, as they trotted grimly northward. It was hard to measure time... Oog whimpered with hunger. Eek cowered in fright on Grag's mighty shoulder, as flame-winged birds or flying reptiles flashed across the highway from the jungle.
They knew they had covered many scores of miles, and yet the road went endlessly on. Then, through the scintillating haze, they glimpsed the outlines of a small black mountain ahead of them.
They came closer. Both Futuremen cried out in amazement. It was not a small mountain that loomed ahead. It was a black structure of mountainous bulk, rising stupendously from the luminous green forest...
2018 January 8th:
...He looked up, but the foliage was impenetrable. Standing there, gazing upward, he grew aware that the sound which had awakened him had stopped.
He shook his head in puzzlement and he was turning away when there was a whoosh above him. A gush of water struck his head and poured over him.
The first gush was like a signal. All around him, water rushed down. He could hear the splashing in the shadows on every side, and twice more he was particularly engulfed. Like a gigantic sprinkler system, the branches above were sending down torrents of water, and there was no longer any doubt what had happened.
It had rained. Enormous leaves had taken the load in their ample, up-curved, green bosoms. But now here, now there, the water was overweighing leaf after leaf and tumbling down into the depths, frequently into other leaves. But always the process must have continued until some small portion of the great bulk of water actually reached the ground. The rain must have been on a colossal scale. He was lucky to be in a forest the leaves of which could almost support a river...
2018 January 7th:
...We were on the move the whole time. I still hadn't managed to take my merit badge tests and I hadn't done much better about getting in to Scout meetings. There was just too much to do. Building a pond, for example - Laguna Serenidad was being infected with plankton and algae but there weren't fish in it yet and it would be a long time, even after the fish were stocked, before fishing would be allowed. So we did fish-pond gardening, Chinese style, after I got the pond built.
And there were always crops to work on. My cover grass had taken hold all right and shortly after we moved in the soil seemed ready to take angle worms. Dad was about to send a sample into town for analysis when Papa Schultz stopped by. Hearing what we were about he took a handful of the worked soil, crumbled it, smelled it, tasted it, and told me to go ahead and plant my worms. I did and they did all right; we encountered them from time to time in working the fields thereafter.
You could see the stripes on the fields which had been planted with pay dirt by the way the grass came up. You could see that the infection was spreading, too, but not much. I had a lot of hard work ahead before the stripes would meet and blend together and then we could think about renting a cud-chewer and finishing off the other acre and a half, using our own field loam and our compost heap to infect the new soil. After that we could see about crushing some more acres, but that was a long way away...
We hoped to have a hive of bees some day and the entomologists on the bionomics staff were practically bursting their hearts trying to breed a strain of bees which would prosper out of doors. You see, among other things, while our gravity was only a third Earth-normal, our air pressure was only a little better than a fifth Earth-normal and the bees resented it; it made flying hard work for them...
2018 January 6th:
...He seemed to be seeing a grove... from a viewpoint about a foot off the ground. The viewpoint shifted steadily and erratically as if the camera were being trucked on a very low dolly here and there through the stalks... The viewpoint would shift quickly for a few feet, stop, then change direction and move again, but it never got very far off the ground. Sometimes it would wheel in a full circle, a panorama of three hundred and sixty degrees.
It was during one of these full rotations that he caught sight of a water-seeker.
It would not have been strange if he had not recognized it as such, for it was enormously magnified. As it charged in, it filled the entire screen. But it was impossible not to recognize those curving scimitar claws, the grisly horror of the gaping sucker orifice, those pounding legs - and most particularly the stomach-clutching revulsion the thing inspired....
The viewpoint from which he saw it did not change; it was frozen to one spot while the foul horror rushed directly at him in the final death charge. At the last possible instant, when the thing filled the screen, something happened. The face - or where the face should have been - disappeared, went to pieces, and the creature collapsed in a blasted ruin.
The picture was wiped out completely for a few moments, replaced by whirling coloured turmoil...
2018 January 5th:
...what artists! You might quarrel with their taste, for no line anywhere in any of the three statues had any beauty. You could not say a word against their skill. Except for the head and face inside each headpiece, which obviously could not be attempted in such a medium, they were perfect. Photographic accuracy had never reached such a point on earth. And though they were faceless you could see from the set of their shoulders, and indeed of their whole bodies, that a momentary pose had been exactly seized. Each was the statue of a man turning to look behind him. Months of work had doubtless gone to the carving of each; it caught that instantaneous gesture like a stone snap-shot.
Jenkins' idea was now to send his message at once. Before anything happened to himself, Earth must hear this amazing news... He was happy now. He had escaped his destiny...
Up from behind the shoulders of his own shadow another shadow pushed its way along the dazzling rock...
2018 January 4th:
Hesitation would have been fatal... a path was cleared for him as he moved. One by one, two by two, the Proteans shrank away...
"Chief," a voice said, "they're closing up behind us!"
The wall of the tower loomed just ahead...
As though at a signal, the Proteans roused... The spheres swayed, rocked. Suddenly they poured down on the Earthmen!... The men fired a single, continuous roar of bullets.
But from the start it was hopeless. Like the fabled legions of Cadmus, the Proteans seemed to spring into existence from empty air. Strange dream-beings, given the attributes of matter and energy by the power of the black monolith! Dreams made real - living, dangerous...
2018 January 3rd:
...The avenue was wide. On either side the buildings marched, or on occasion fell back to form an odd-shaped square. Here where they were undamaged and free of ice the strangeness of their shaping was more vividly apparent... Some of the structures seemed to have no useful purpose at all. They shot up in twisted spires, or branched in weird spiky arms like giant cacti done in pink and gold, or looped in helical formations, sometimes erect, sometimes lying on their sides...
Passing by one of the cactus-shapes, he saw that the metal spikes were long and very sharp, and that there were traces on them of some dark stain...
....Back beyond the pink-and-gold structure with the bloodstained spikes, five figures had appeared in the street. Three of them held longish tubes with globed ends that might be weapons. They were very tall, these figures... but they were excessively slender and they moved with swaying motion like reeds before the wind. They were dressed in an assortment of bright-colored garments and queer tall caps that exaggerated their elongated narrow skulls. Their skin was a pale golden color, stretched tight over a structure of facial bones that seemed to be all brow and jaw with little in between but two great round eyes like dark moons...
One of them spoke. His voice was a kind of high-pitched fluting, quite musical, like the call of some strange bird...
"Our weapons are invincible. We can destroy you all..."
2018 January 2nd:
...He shook the snow out of his hair and plunged on, leaving the rest to follow as best they could.
A jutting shoulder of the mountains loomed before him. The wind blew and the deep-throated horns called and called again across the valley. The blown drifts leaped at him and the icy screes were a challenge to his strength but they could not slow him down. He laughed and went on around the shoulder and saw the white city glittering under the stars.
It spread across the valley floor and up the slopes as though it grew from the frozen earth, a part of it, as enduring as the mountains... it seemed to be built all of ice, its turrets and crenellations glowing with a subtle luminescence in the dusky twilight, fantastically shaped, dusted here and there with snow. From the window openings came a glow of pearly light...
It was a strong place, walled and fortified against whatever enemies there might be on this world...
2018 January 1st:
...The world lay stretched out as far as the eye could see. And above. The world was everywhere.
"My God," Frank said. "It's not a fake." Bending down, he snatched up a crawling snail-like insect. "Not a robot - this is alive. It's genuine!"
From the mist, Irma appeared. Blood oozed over one eye; her hair was matted and tangled, her clothing was torn. "We're home," she gasped, gripping a bulging armload of plant life she had gathered. "Look at it - remember it? And we can breathe. We can live."
Off in the distance, great columns of steam rose up, geysers of boiling water forced through the rocks to the surface. An immense ocean pounded somewhere, invisible in the drifting curtain of moisture.
"Listen," Frank said. "You hear that? You hear the water?"
They listened. They heard. They reached down and felt; they threw themselves on the ground, clutching frantically, faces pressed to the damp, warm soil.
"We're home," Irma wept. All of them were crying and moaning, wailing in bewildered joy...
2017 December 31st:
...The wind came whooping out of eastern darkness, driving a lash of ammonia dust before it...
He clawed all four feet into the broken shards which were soil, hunched down and groped for his little smelter. The wind was an idiot bassoon in his skull. Something whipped across his back, drawing blood, a tree yanked up by the roots and spat a hundred miles. Lightning cracked, immensely far overhead where clouds boiled with night.
As if to reply, thunder toned in the ice mountains and a red gout of flame jumped and a hillside came booming down, spilling itself across the valley...
The fire and the lightning gave him enough illumination to find his apparatus. He picked up tools in muscular hands, his tail gripped the trough and he battered his way to the tunnel and thus to his dugout.
It had walls and roof of water, frozen by sun-remoteness and compressed by tons of atmosphere jammed on to every square inch. Ventilated by a tiny smoke hole, a lamp of tree oil burning in hydrogen made a dull light for the single room...
2017 December 30th:
...They could see all the land wrapped in a green blanket from which, here and there, only the craggiest of spires pierced upwards in their rocky nakedness. Foliage sprang from every pocket of soil, bushes waved atop the most unlikely peaks and festoons of swaying creepers hung down from the ledges like green waterfalls pouring into the still denser growths below. Occasional gleams of water showed where steep-sided clefts had succeeded in trapping miniature lakes, and, infrequently, there occurred larger, shadowed valleys which could show level ground dotted with not inconsiderable trees. As the Argenta swept nearer still, a half-checked exclamation burst from Angus. He pressed closer to the window.
"What is is?" asked Joe, beside him.
But Angus made no reply. For the present he was keeping to himself the knowledge of a bright, metallic glint which had flashed from one valley. He marked the spot mentally by the queerly twisted crag which dominated it.
The ship, now travelling slowly, searched for a landing. A few moments later she was sinking gently to a green spread berth. Joe voiced the general sentiment as they touched.
"Well, we might be in a worse hole. There's certainly no desert here..."
2017 December 29th:
...They had called themselves the Machine-masters because all labor in their metropolis was eventually performed by imperishable, self-powered machines that worked in fixed, unalterable routines.
But the Machine-masters, with no toil or struggle to stimulate their energies, soon fell into decadence. There was no need to worry about food. It was all raised and brought to them by machines. Their clothing was made by other machines. They had not even any enemies to fear. Around their city, mindless machine guards patrolled which would instantly slay any intruder.
So the Machine-masters, sinking further into decadence, had finally passed away. But their wondrous Machine City remained. In it, the imperishable machines continued the unalterable routine of labor and guarding that their masters had started. For age upon age, the machines of this place had been working on in the same old way. Everyone in the System had heard of the Machine City. But few had dared even to approach it, so formidable were the great mechanical guards that still protected the place...
2017 December 28th:
...The sandwolves loped along at each side, moving in closer. Overhead, a delta-winged kite found him. It balanced on the updrafts for a day and a night, waiting for the wolves to finish him. Then a flock of small flying scorpions sighted the waiting kite. They drove the big creature upstairs into the cloud bank. For a day the flying reptiles waited. Then they in turn were driven off by a squadron of black kites.
The traces were very rich now, on the fifteenth day since he had left the sandcar. By rights, he should be walking over goldenstone. He should be surrounded by goldenstone. But still he hadn't found any.
Morrison sat down and shook his last canteen. It gave off no wet sound. He uncapped it and turned it up over his mouth. Two drops trickled down his parched throat...
2017 December 27th:
...Curt and the two Futuremen started through the white forest toward the distant towers.
It was a ghostly forest. The enormous, pallid club-mosses around them loomed a dozen feet above their heads. A small, hairy white rodent darted across their path. There were no other sounds. Overhead stretched the semi-opaque curtain across the whole starred, dusky sky...
"Someone coming!" Otho hissed suddenly.
"Into the grass!" Curt ordered, flinging himself down into the tall, concealing white grasses.
Grag and Otho instantly followed his example. Raising his head a little, Captain Future looked toward the city, from which direction was coming an increasing sound of muffled thudding.
Then he saw who came. They were a dozen of the so-called Magicians - semi-human creatures with bodies covered by short, thick white fur, two-toed feet and two-fingered hands, and flattened, unhuman heads out of which stared huge, black, pupil-less eyes.
The Magicians were riding white, hairy beasts that reminded Curt of the ancient Earth kangaroo - beasts of burden that hopped along in giant leaps on two powerful legs, their heads held erect by reins running back to their strange riders...
2017 December 26th:
...Their respite was brief. The young leader called them sharply to their feet, for a quick look back had shown the angry twisting vapour creeping its way towards them. In near panic they staggered along crazily until a further glance behind showed the Mist was farther away.
"Keep it up," panted Chris. "We'll get a bit farther ahead, and then we'll have a rest."
When the explorers had put about a quarter of a mile between them and their evil enemy, the leader called a halt. Thankfully they laid the unconscious boy down and sat for a few precious moments gathering strength. Their heads were much clearer now they had escaped from the clutches of the Mist. Perhaps Tony, too, would soon come round. Unfortunately there was little they could do for him while he was sealed inside his suit except to increase slightly his oxygen supply.
"Come on," Chris called, "it's getting nearer."
True enough, the twisting grey mass had edged forward to within less than a couple of hundred yards....
2017 December 24th:
...The sphere was borne up a canal through the center of the village. Connor looked with dumbfounded eyes upon the thousands of huts which lay on either side. Waterways intersected at regular well-placed intervals, aqueous streets crowded with dwelling-places of the tetrahedron creatures. It was a gigantic metropolis of unaccountable intelligent beings. In the near distance, the crimson beam shot up into the sky, a pillar of light and an object of insatiable curiosity for the terrestrials.
At last, a great structure, centering the tetrahedron metropolis, loomed huge and rough, a black craggy mass approached by a waterway leading into an arching tunnel. The sphere was pushed and jostled beneath this arch and through various branches of the waterway beneath the great building. A vague diffused light danced on the walls of the cavernous dwelling...
Suddenly, they found themselves being propelled down a long canal leading across a great chamber which resembled an amphitheatre, already rapidly filling with the tetrahedrons. On a central dais, surrounded by waterlanes, was a group of imposing creatures with gigantic swollen heads twice the size of those propelling the sphere...
2017 December 23rd:
...For hours and hours I walked down bas-relief-flanked passages, and through gloomy halls, searching for some sign of where that electric current was disappearing to; but long search by the light of my ato-flash revealed no trace of an answer.
It was there, in that dust and silence, and wreckage of quaint household fittings, that a definite wave of intense mental discomfort came over me. It was as sudden as a hammer blow. I hurried back to the surface, a vague suspicion in me becoming half conviction. It was already late afternoon...
I expected to see, in the harsh, bluish twilight, only those dry irrigation trenches, and the twisted iron pillars that had supported the glass roofs of those hothouse fields, slashed long ago by infrequent meteor showers...
But - there was something else - collecting and forming against the picture of that dreary scene...
2017 December 22nd:
...I was desperately weak from lack of food, but dropping quickly into this new, unknown land, I was seized with the excitement of the explorer sighting a strange, uncharted shore. And I wondered what sort of people we could expect to find, for this lost world was certainly inhabited.
Dominating the whole valley, we could see now a great city of skyscrapers that towered up a thousand feet into the sky. Row upon row of them were ranged about a central building that was higher than all the others...
The wind blew us gently across this city, from one side to the other....
Beyond, on all sides, for mile upon mile, stretched the big, carefully cultivated regular arable fields. There was little grassland, and no sign of an animal of any sort...
2017 December 21st:
...I wheeled in dismay and remained petrified at the sight before my eyes.
The surface of the lake was broken into boiling foam, and from it there reared the fore-parts of what appeared to be giant caterpillars. They squirmed out upon land, dirty-gray bodies dripping slime and water. They were some four feet long, about one foot in thickness, and their method of locomotion was the slowest of oxygen-conserving crawls. Except for one stalky growth upon their forward end, the tip of which glowed a faint red, they were absolutely featureless.
Even as I watched, their numbers increased, until the shore became one heaving mass of sickly gray flesh...
2017 December 20th:
... He had only to see a thing done once - or at most twice - to be able to repeat the motions involved.
"And," said Worden, carefully detached, "he isn't afraid of me now. He understands that I intend to be friendly. While I was carrying him I talked to him. He felt the vibration of my chest from my voice.
"Just before I left him I picked him up and talked to him again. He looked at my mouth as it moved and put his paw on my chest to feel the vibrations. I put his paw at my throat. The vibrations are clearer there. He seemed fascinated. I don't know how you'd rate his intelligence but it's above that of a human baby."
Then he said with even greater detachment, "I am disturbed. If you must know, I don't like the idea of exterminating his kind. They have tools - they have intelligence. I think we should try to communicate with them in some way - try to make friends - stop killing them for dissection."
The communicator was silent...
2017 December 19th:
...Four days later, after crossing a ridge of mountains that the pressure on the aneroid barometer showed to be about thirty-two thousand feet high, and a stretch of flat country a few miles in width, they came to a great arm of the sea. It was about thirty miles wide at its mouth, which was narrowed like the neck of a bottle, and farther inland was over one hundred miles across, and though their glasses, the clear air, and the planet's size enabled them to see nearly five hundred miles, they could not find its end. In the shallow water along its shores, and on the islands rising but a few feet above the waves, they saw all kinds of amphibians and sea-monsters. Many of these were almost the exact reproduction in life of the giant plesiosaurs, dinosaurs, and elasmosaurs, whose remains are preserved in the museums on earth. The reptilian bodies of the elasmosaurs, seventy-five feet in length, with the forked tongues, distended jaws and fangs of a snake, were easily taken for the often described but probably mythical sea-serpent, as partially coiled they occasionally raised their heads twelve or fifteen feet...
Notwithstanding the striking similarity of these creatures to their terrestrial counterparts that existed on earth during its corresponding period, there were some interesting modifications. The organs of locomotion in the amphibians were more developed, while the eyes of all were larger, the former being of course necessitated by the power of gravity, and the latter by the greater distance from the sun...
2017 December 18th:
...Otho and Grag entered the Comet and dropped the ship slowly into the narrow chasm, landing it on a wide ledge covered by white fungi.
"The cave apes won't bother it here," Otho declared, "for I'll turn on the auxiliary generator to give the hull an electric charge. Any of 'em who touch it will get a shock."
"Speaking of the cave apes, here they come now!" cried Grag.
Otho jumped to the port-hole, and uttered a sharp exclamation. The darkness was almost complete, but enough thin starlight sifted down to allow him to see the incredible creatures who were clambering up onto the ledge from the lower depths.
There were more than a dozen of the monsters - huge, white-skinned apelike giants. The adult males and females were at least eighteen feet in height, and even the young were seven feet high. Their shambling legs and arms, round heads, and phosphorescent eyes gave them a peculiarly terrifying appearance.
The cave apes were hunting through the white fungi for large black cave crabs, which they pounced upon and devoured. So far, they had not noticed the Comet at the back of the ledge.
"What are we going to do?" Grag exclaimed. "We can't get back up without them seeing us. Shall we try our atom-pistols?"
"They say a cave ape's hide is almost proof against any ordinary weapon," Otho said. "By the time we killed one, the rest would be on us."
"Well, we can't stay here," Grag declared. "Use those brains you're always bragging about, and dope out some way to get through them."
Otho's eyes lit up with a gleam of inspiration.
"Grag, I've got it! You're about the size of one of those cave ape cubs..."
2017 December 17th:
...He started down the slope, half-fearing that some of the equivocal objects around him would reach out their mineral boughs or arms to arrest his progress. They seemed to be a kind of bluish-purple obsidian cacti, with limbs that ended in formidable talon-like spines, and heads that were altogether too elaborate for either fruits or blossoms. They did not move as he passed among them; but he heard a faint and singular tinkling with many modulations of tone, that preceded and followed him along the slope. Eibon conceived the uncomfortable notion that they were holding converse with each other; and were perhaps debating what should be done with him or about him.
However, he reached without mishap or hindrance the end of the declivity, where terraces and ledges of decomposing trap, like a mighty stairway of elder aeons, had rimmed the sunken lake of liquescent metal. Wondering as to the way he should now take, Eibon stood irresolute on one of the ledges.
His train of conjecture was broken by a shadow that fell suddenly athwart him and lay like a monstrous blot on the crumbling stone at his feet. He was not prepossessed by the shadow: it was outrageously defiant of all known esthetic standards; and its malformation and distortion were no less than extravagant.He turned to see what manner of creature had flung the shadow. This being, he perceived, was not easy to classify, with its ludicrously short legs, its exceedingly elongated arms, and its round, sleepy-looking head that was pendulous from a spherical body, as if it were turning a somnambulistic somersault...
2017 December 16th:
...Luminous insects swarmed around them, and moon-pigs coughed and grunted nearby. They were following a vague Greenie path that ran westward. Whitey stopped suddenly to detour carefully around a rotted trunk, upon the side of which hung two things like bulging white pods.
"Blood-fungi," grated the old man to Crane. "Don't touch 'em - they're the most horrible way you can die, if you break one."
Then Whitey raised his voice in an echoing call.
"Kruppa! Where the devil are you?"
Crane sensed something tense, foreboding, about this darkening jungle. Or was it just that his nerves were harp-string taut?
"Kruppa!" yelled Whitey again. This time came a distant answer.
They pressed forward, and entered a little glade in the jungle... A huge, grotesque object towered at its center, and Kruppa was coming toward them from that point.
"What the devil are you doing here, fooling around the Greenies' god?" Whitey demanded of the Venusian...
2017 December 15th:
...Ahead of them, gold-robed warriors wearing masks like the faces of mantises and long ceremonial spears of translucent crystal stood before the huge circular gate of the fastness, graven with the solar disk. Above it was a symbol that looked like a figure eight laid on its side, surrounded by a glyph in the High Speech of ancient times: SH'U MAZ. Sustained Harmony, from time out of mind the motto of anyone who wished to claim the status of Acknowledged Ruler.
A much smaller portal accommodated the real traffic. The guards beside it carried swords and dart pistols, and one of them held a beast on a leash. It looked a little like a dog, perhaps a starved, elongated greyhound with teeth like a shark, a high forehead, and disturbingly versatile paws. All four of the party stood while it approached and sniffed them over...
2017 December 14th:
...he got out his sextant, took the altitude of the sun, got cross-bearings and a few angles, and began to make a rough calculation...
"That humming confuses me so that I cannot work correctly," said he, "while the most irrelevant things enter my mind in spite of me, and mix up my figures..."
Changing their course slightly, they went towards a range of hills, in the hope of finding rocky or sandy soil, in order to test the sounds, and ascertain if they would cease or vary.
Having ascended a few hundred feet, they sat down near some trees to rest, the musical hum continuing meanwhile unchanged. The ground was strewn with large coloured crystals, apparently rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, about the size of hens' eggs, and also large sheets of isinglass. Picking up one of the latter, Ayrault examined it. Points of light and shade kept forming on its surface, from which rings radiated like the circles spreading in all directions from a place in still water at which a pebble is thrown. He called his companions, and the three examined it. The isinglass was about ten inches long by eight across, and contained but few impurities. In addition to the spreading rings, curious forms were continually taking shape and dissolving...
2017 December 13th:
...Our dazed eyes, moving from that gigantic transparent roof to the vista about us, we saw that there stretched away in all directions to the horizons a smooth level plain, a great plain that was covered as far as the eye could reach by buildings! Buildings of metal, buildings like none that man had ever looked upon before, surely; buildings that towered for thousands of feet, many of them, through the dusk toward the transparent roof far above! Buildings that were many-sided, angle polyhedrons, that were like great faceted diamonds of metal, that were like giant metal crystals ranged in rows and streets! In their angled, faceted sides were set circles of soft glowing white light...
And that strange, great city swarmed with life! For here and there across and above it there flitted smoothly in ceaseless swarms scores and hundreds of great flat circles, throbbing from building-roof to roof, circles upon which we could see dark figures. Figures erect and bulbous, their bodies cased in shells, their short limbs ending in webbed and taloned paws, their great heads reptilian and tapering, borne on snake-like heads!
2017 December 12th:
...On the side of the planet away from the sun where they had expected to find darkness, they were astonished to find very little points of light. Dana was puzzled and at a complete loss to explain it.
At last, on the shore of a great, placid lake they found a wide clearing. Something had happened to leave it almost devoid of vegetation as far as they could see. There were rocky pinnacles and great rolling hills of solid rock. Near the edge of the jungle a shallow river meandered among the hills and emptied into the lake. Beyond the river the gullies gradually merged with the hill tops to form a plateau.
Dana lowered the ship and settled it gently upon the top of a low hill beyond the river.
"Let's get out here and look around," he suggested. "We'd better take that little machine gun along; or maybe better, the portable death ray."
2017 December 11th:
...Jagged cones of possible volcanic origin formed a low range of foothills, with a pass leading to the region beyond. Dunes of fluffy material like volcanic tuff dotted the near landscape.
This and other reports were exchanged between the lifeboats. Presently a complete picture began to appear. It was even more favorable than that suggested by Murray's notes. The thin atmosphere was largely nitrogen, helium and oxygen, with indications of negligible amounts of other gases in unstable equilibrium. Methane was present in small amounts. This, being the product of organic decomposition, indicated vegetable life...
With understandable pride, for the value of her incredible thoroughness had proved itself again, Gerry finally contacted all the life-boats.
perfectly safe, men. Dress warmly. Carry a bottle of oxygen with a
tube, and take a breath of it every minute or so in order to prevent
blood bubbles from forming. Hand weapons, of course, just in case. So,
2017 December 10th:
...In that first confused glimpse, my eyes did not take in the details of the landscape. Stretching out before me was a broken plain, fantastic and irregular at the floor of a glacier; huge bluish white masses, piled and tumbled together in crazy disorder, were varied by smooth glistening spaces as flat as a table; twenty-foot mounds and hummocks stood up here and there, and long twisted furrows or cracks spread a spidery black network across the scene; while the prevailing hue, in the wintry gray light of the far, far glittering point of a sun, was that eerie, spectral mixture of blue and white, reminding me of the cloud-filtered moonlight peeping down upon a lake of ice.
But all this I was to notice subsequently; in the first bewildered moment of my escape, there was only one thought to dominate my mind. I must free myself from the gas-mask, whose weight burdened my shoulders, whose confinement had nearly asphyxiated me! I must unbare my nostrils to the open winds, must drink a reviving draught of actual air! True, this alien atmosphere might be poison to my lungs; true, the cold might freeze the very blood within my veins – yet I must take the risk; indeed, I was frantic to take the risk, and clutched at the fastenings of my mask with blind desperation. And within a few minutes, though at first my nervous fingers would not gain any hold, I saw the mask yielding, and felt the burning chill of the outer air against my cheeks.
Colder than ice, the air was yet less cold than I had anticipated. It did not freeze my flesh, nor did it strike my lungs like a blast of poison; rather it was the most delicious, life-giving breath I ever drew. It seemed to me that the atmosphere was lighter than on earth – light as on some high mountain peak; but it required no chemical analysis to show that it contained oxygen!...
2017 December 9th:
..."We may be stalked," he told the boy. "Don't forget to guard the rear."
The sand had given place to sticky whitish mud that plastered the men to their calves before a few moments had passed. A patina of slickness seemed to overlay the ground. The grass was coloured so much like the mud itself that it was practically invisible, except by its added slipperiness. Scott slowly advanced keeping close to the wall of rock on his left where the tangle was not so thick. Nevertheless he had to use his smatchet more than once to cut a passage through vines.
He stopped, raising his hand, and the squelch of Kane's feet in the mud paused. Silently Scott pointed. Ahead of them in the cliff base, was the mouth of a burrow.
The captain bent down, found a small stone, and threw it towards the den. He waited, one hand lightly on his gun, ready to see something flash out of that burrow and race towards them. In the utter silence a new sound made itself heard - tiny goblin drums, erratic and resonant...
2017 December 8th:
...Vasc Avam, steering their long, tubular craft, turned his green face worriedly from the wheel.
"We'll have to run beneath surface or these waves will smash us to pieces!" the Jovian mine-boss exclaimed.
"Go ahead - but keep right after Orr Libro's boat," Carson Brand directed.
The Martian's craft was also submerging, ahead. Vasc Avam shifted the control of the deflecting rudders and their own boat slid down and throbbed along twenty feet under the surface.
Captain Future, deep in thought, looked out through the transparent wall of their craft at the lightning-lit waters they were travelling through. Each violet glare showed the teeming life of the sea about them.
Shoals of brilliant, sparkling "diamond-fish" flashed away, like living gems. "Air-fish", those weird winged creatures that could live with equal ease in the air or in the sea, flew away in startled undersea flight...
2017 December 7th:
..."You're sure it's quite safe?" asked Jerry, though it seemed almost a sacrilege to speak in the presence of such loveliness.
"Absolutely - it can't touch our suits even if it wants to. Anyway, it's moving past us."
That was true. They could see now that the entire creature - if it was a single plant, and not a colony - covered a roughly circular area about a hundred yards across. It was sweeping over the ground, as the shadow of a cloud moves before the wind - and where it had rested, the rocks were pitted with innumerable tiny holes that might have been etched by acid.
"Yes," said Hutchins, when Jerry remarked about this. "That's how some lichens feed; they secrete acids that dissolve rock. But no question, please - not till we get back to the ship. I've several lifetimes' work here, and a couple of hours to do it in."
This was botany on the run... The sensitive edge of the huge plant-thing could move with surprising speed when it tried to evade them. It was as if they were dealing with an animated flapjack, an acre in extent. There was no reaction - apart from the automatic avoidance of their exhaust heat - when Hutchins snipped samples or took probes. The creature flowed steadily onward over hills and valleys, guided by some strange vegetable instinct. Perhaps it was following some vein of mineral; the geologists could decide that, when they analyzed the rock samples that Hutchins had collected both before and after the passage of the living tapestry...
2017 December 6th:
...It was cold in the shadow of the ridge, and the grak's long fur fluffed out automatically to provide extra insulation. He looked like a big black owl as he stood scanning the western sky, sniffing the wind with his beaklike nose. There was a tawny band low on the horizon, brightening as the sun rose. He had smelled a storm early in the night, for he had all the uncanny weather-wiseness of his race and was sensitive to every subtle change in the quality of the atmosphere. He had started for the nearest arm of the greenlands, intending to claim the hospitality of the first village he could find, but the storm front was moving faster than he could run. He had seen the ridge only just in time...
2017 December 5th:
...Bran, the city, proved to be a mass of drum-shaped buildings of dark metal, enclosed by a towering wall. This wall was faced or plated with the gray metal that was alone proof against the destroying-liquid, and on the rampart's broad top were mounted nozzle-projectors of great size. The wall was separated from the surrounding forests by only a few hundred feet of clear ground.
Some flying-disks were in the air over the city, departing or arriving like ourselves from over the limitless forest-wastes. Through them our own craft sped to come to rest on the immense flat roof of one of the city's taller central buildings. Our space-bell was placed upon the roof, and we were conducted down into the city.
Jean and I found ourselves welcomed with the strongest interest by the white-garbed Brans. They seemed a highly social people, and in fact we learned that though this and their other cities held many tens of thousands of them, they had no rulers and but the slightest skeleton of government, dwelling together without need of more...
2017 December 4th:
...We were approaching the wide flight of steps that led up to the vaulted entrance of the great tower. We moved by now in a kind of daze, crushed as we were by the terrific psychic attack that was rapidly conquering our courage.
Then came the climax. The lofty doors of the tower swung slowly open. And from within the building there lurched and shambled a thing, the sight of which froze us where we stood...
It was black, mountainous in bulk, and of a shape that tore the brain with horror. It was something like a monstrous, squatting toad, its flesh a heaving black slime from which protruded sticky black limbs that were not quite either tentacles or arms.
Its triangle of eyes were three slits of cold green fire that watched us with hypnotic intensity. Beneath that hideous chinless face, its breathing pouch swelled in and out painfully as it lurched, slobbering, down the steps toward us.
Our beams lashed frantically at that looming horror. And they had not the slightest effect on it...
"Wait! Look at the thing! It's breathing!"
For a moment, we couldn't understand. And then dimly, I did. The thing was obviously breathing. Yet there was no air here...
2017 December 3rd:
...Leaving Zuarra, who was cautiously sampling the fleshy meat of the great fungus growths, Brant climbed the mossy slope of the hill to where Will Harbin stood awestruck, staring with wondering gaze into the luminosity.
And Brant stopped short, uttering a grunt of amazement.
From a gemmy shore at the foot of the other side of the hill, for as far as the eye could reach, there stretched a shining sea.
The water was milky-white, quite opaque, and was clearly the source of the mysterious luminance, for the radiant fluit was like the essence of light itself, curdled into pearly fire.
"A... sea," whispered Brant faintly. "Here at the bottom of the world...!"
"Yes. In fact, it is the Last Ocean," said Will Harbin softly...
2017 December 2nd:
...Several miles from the ship rose foothills which climbed picturesquely toward the cloudy heights of the loftier mountains behind them, and as we looked in the direction of those latter, and then out across the forest, there was appreciable to us a strangeness that at first we could not explain, but which we later discovered was due to the fact that there was no horizon, the distance that one could see being dependent solely upon one's power of vision. The general effect was of being in the bottom of a tremendous bowl, with sides so high that one might not see the top.
The ground about us was covered with rank vegetation of pale hues - lavenders, violets, pinks and yellows predominating. Pink grasses which became distinctly flesh-color at maturity grew in abundance, and the stalks of most of the flowering plants were of this same peculiar hue. The flowers themselves were often of highly complex form, of pale and delicate shades, of great size and rare beauty. There were low shrubs that bore a berry-like fruit, and many of the trees of the forest carried fruit of considerable size and of a variety of forms and colors...
2017 December 1st:
"...You don't seem to realize our predicament. We're at least twelve days from civilization - that's figuring sixty miles a day, which is hardly possible. Tonight, the temperature will fall to a hundred below freezing, at least...
"...Well, if the cold doesn't kill us, we're bound to run into at least one bloodsucker gryb every few days. They can smell human blood at an astounding distance; and blood for some chemical reason drives them mad with desire. Once they corner a human being it's all up. They tear down the largest trees, or dig into caves through solid rock. The only protection is an atomic gun, and ours went up with our suits. We've only got my hunting knife. Besides all that, our only possible food is the giant grass-eater, which runs like a deer at the first sight of anything living, and which, besides, could kill a dozen unarmed men if it were cornered. You'd be surprised how hungry it is possible to get within a short time. Something in the air... speeds up normal digestion. We'll be starving to death in a couple of hours..."
2017 November 30th:
...As I walked slowly down the imperceptible slope toward the sea I could not help but note the park-like appearance of the sward and trees. The grass was as close-cropped and carpet-like as some old English lawn and the trees themselves showed evidence of careful pruning to a uniform height of about fifteen feet from the ground, so that as one turned his glance in any direction the forest had the appearance at a little distance of a vast, high-ceiled chamber...
The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceeded... Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feet in diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guess at, since at no point could I penetrate their dense foliage above me to more than sixty or eighty feet.
As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were as smooth and as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos. The wood of some of the trees was as black as ebony, while their nearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as the finest china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.
And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems, while the blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described in any earthly tongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods...
2017 November 29th:
...At last, after much wandering and floundering in the dust-cloud, through which they could see nothing, Lapham and his companions drew themselves out on a margin of the strange violet soil. The contrast of this wet, steaming clay with the gulfs of atom-like powder that surrounded it was so inexplicable, so utterly amazing as to baffle and dumbfound all conjecture. The substance was unearthly in its bizarreness, and the heat that emanated from it was almost beyond endurance. The scientists had sweltered in their heavy air-tight suits while crossing the zone of dust, but now they were subjected to actual suffering.
At every step their astonishment grew, for the dim landscape beneath the vapors was such as no human eye had even seen before. Gigantic ledges of crystallized rock-forms arose in the foreground, and about the crystals there was something, even apart from their curious black, blue, red and dark-green coloration, which served to differentiate them from anything classified by geologists. They were prodigious in size, and had innumerable facets and a look of geometrical complexity foreign to all normal rocks. Their was a sinister vitality in their aspect, too... Somehow, they resembled living organisms as much as minerals...
2017 November 28th:
...Half-seen, a dim unhorizoned landscape, fitfully lit by the crimson far-sundered flares of volcanoes, by bluish zones and patches of strange radio-active minerals, it deepened beneath them abysmally disclosing mountains that would have made the Himalayas seem like hillocks, revealing chasms that might have engulfed asteroids and planets.
At the center of this Cyclopean landscape burned the great volcano that had been called Hephaestus by astronomers... Tongues of flame a hundred miles in length arose and licked skyward from a crater than seemed the mouth of some ultramundane hell...
2017 November 27th:
...a tenseness held all of us as our great flier's faceted polyhedron dropped on through the pale light beneath the great roof toward the black-walled, chequer-board like city that stretched across the surface of the great world beneath us. And now, as we sank lower, our eyes were making out ever more clearly the details of that amazing city.
The rectangular black-walled compartments held, as we had half-realized from above, various strange-shaped mechanisms and objects which we could even now only vaguely discern. We could see clearly, though, that here and there across all the vast city's compartmented surface there stood giant metal globes, each a hundred feet in diameter and each occupying a square compartment of its own. There seemed hundreds of these gleaming globes, scattered here and there in compartments across the city's surface as far as we could see...
2017 November 26th:
...Another muffled boom followed.
"Here it comes," Elliott murmured.
The natives stepped back reverently, and the doors of the temple swung slowly outward.
The Dragonbird appeared.
Blayne's astonished gasp was so loud that Elliot looked around apprehensively. "It's beautiful," the fat man exclaimed. "More lovely than I'd ever dreamed."
"It is," said Elliott grimly. He took the glasses from Blayne's trembling fingers and focused them on the island.
The Dragonbird was walking with dignity across the little square before the altar. It stood almost the height of a man, half-bird, half-reptile, walking on powerful claws tipped with diamond-sharp, gleaming talons. The brilliant sunlight glinted off its metallic feathers, played over its shining plumage, lent brightness to the shimmering row of scales that covered its long, swan-like neck...
2017 November 25th:
...he was eating this coarse brown grass, using his forefeet or apelike hands to feed himself. He walked erect like a man, but his arms were long enough to reach the ground. His body was hairless, but the skin was thick and full of wrinkles, like that of an elephant. The head was quite small and presented an apelike appearance. The ears were almost invisible, while two grotesque holes in the face served as nostrils. The jaw was large and massive, but I was unable to see the teeth, to determine whether or not he was entirely herbivorous. His chest was much smaller than one would expect to find on a creature living in a rarefied atmosphere. The abdomen was unusually large, which caused me to think their eating habits were about the same as those of our cattle, who fill their stomachs at opportune times and chew the food at their leisure.
Their legs were short and thick, but showed unusual muscular development, which did not seem necessary on a world where the force of gravity was so weak. But his feet were the strangest part of his anatomy. No creature of the earth ever had feet like these. They looked like large, flat caricatures of human feet, but their width was greater than the height of the grotesque creature himself, and the length of the feet was in proportion to the width. If it were not for their use they would look more like big leathery blankets than feet...
2017 November 24th:
....their landing-spot, while excellent for its purpose, was not by any manner of means an ideal campsite. It was a small, flat basin of sandy soil, rimmed by shallow mountains. His gaze sought these hills, looked approvingly on their greenness, upon the multitude of dark pock-marks dotting them. These caves, were they not the habitations of potential enemies, might well become the sanctuaries of spacewrecked men.
He saw, also, a thin ribbon of silver sheering the face of the northern hills. His gaze, rising still skyward, saw other things -
He nodded. He knew, now, where they were. Or approximately. There was but one planet in the solar system which boasted such a phenomenon. The apparent distance of the Sun, judged by its diminished disc, argued his judgement to be correct. The fact that they had surged through an atmospheric belt for some length of time before finally meeting with disaster...
2017 November 23rd:
...The dawn came like a sifting of fire-opals through the layers of pearl-gray cloud. Harker heard the yelling dimly in his sleep. He felt dull and tired, and his eyelids stuck together. The yelling gradually took shape and became the word "Land!" repeated over and over. Harker kicked himself awake and got up.
The tideless sea glimmered with opaline colors under the mist. Flocks of little jewel-scaled sea-dragons rose up from the ever-present floating islands of weed, and the weed itself, part of it, writhed and stretched with sentient life.
Ahead there was a long low hummock of muddy ground fading into a tangled swamp. Beyond it, rising sheer into the clouds, was a granite cliff, a sweeping escarpment that stood like a wall against the hopeful gaze of the exiles...
2017 November 22nd:
...Hahhahhahhahhahhahhahhah. Somewhere a vanishing laughter.
He whirled about. "Shut up, you!" he cried.
We didn't say anything, said the mountains. We didn't say anything, said the sky. We didn't say anything, said the wreckage.
"All right then," he said, swaying. "See that you don't."
Everything was normal.
The pebbles were getting hot. The sky was big and dark. He looked at his fingers and saw the way the sun burned on every black hair. He looked at his boots and the dust on them. Suddenly he felt very happy because he made a decision. I won't go to sleep, he thought. I'm having nightmares, so why sleep? There's your solution...
2017 November 21st:
...We did not see it die, out there in the freezing fire; it was beyond the reach of our instruments now, and none of them recorded its end. Yet every one of us knew when that moment came, and that is why we are not interested when those who have seen only the films and tapes tell us that we were watching some purely natural phenomenon.#
How can one explain what we felt, in that last moment when half our little world was enmeshed in the dissolving tendrils of that huge but immaterial brain? I can only say that it was a soundless cry of anguish, a death pang that seeped into our minds without passing through the gateways of the senses. Not one of us doubted then, or has ever doubted since, that he had witnessed the passing of a giant.
We may have been both the first and the last of all men to see so mighty a fall...
2017 November 20th:
...We didn't find anything. Nothing but a few big lizards that crashed off into the brush. We didn't even find any tracks, though the rains could have washed those out.
I looked at him. "Now what?"
"We'll look through the nearby hummocks, Wimer."
I didn't like this. He acted as though we'd keep searching till we found something. And I was dead sure now we wouldn't - I was sure now it was only lizards I'd glimpsed.
But we had to bump over to the next hummock, and look around in it. It was late afternoon, Blaine dripping with sweat and me almost as bad. Back at Base, the guys would be lounging around the barracks by now, and -
Blaine said, "Look here, Wimer."
He said it so flatly, I didn't realize what it was until I went over to him. Then I saw. It was a little shelter of dry fronds, a sort of wretched tumble-down hut, almost like an animal's den...
2017 November 19th:
...Below us was a city!
I can recall as a child the pictures in the story books I read. And always in such books there was the great castle in which the prince lived or the princess was imprisoned. Dream castles they were, all slender spires, graceful minarets, sweeping towers, things of sheer unreal beauty against the picture-book sky.
So this city was, somehow ethereal, breath-taking. A small fertilized area surrounded it, like green velvet about a fragile piece of carved ivory. Yet in spite of its beauty there was a bizarre unearthly quality to the city that no terrestrial artist could have conceived...
Very cautiously we circled the strange city. No signs of life greeted us. On the alert for any hostile move we settled the ship on the red plain just beyond the circle of green that surrounded the cluster of tall spires...
2017 November 18th:
...She seized his arm, dragging him back. "They're carbon feeders! Don't you understand? They're carbon feeders! Your body has carbon. They're - look out!"
Keene started back, realizing that a gray-black, flat-crystalled, dully shining lump was almost at his feet. He stared at the crawling masses; they had come, apparently, from beyond a jutting wall of rock to his right. The floor was speckled everywhere with them, and now and again one slipped with a faint tinkle over the edge of the central pit. But there were hundreds more; one couldn't wait here until the floor had cleared. He skipped aside; another had silently approached almost to his feet.
2017 November 17th:
"...The children grow weak, from hunger. There us but one recourse left us. That is to hunt Crawlers."
Carter was dismayed and stared at Kur-saa in horror.
"Hunt Crawlers? Kur-saa, you know that's suicide. If you go into those marshes and try that - "
"There is no other way." The old man shrugged hopelessly. "Some of our young men are scouting the marshes now. If they find - "
A shrill, agonized cry interrupted the old man's words...
Carter's heart sank at what he saw... from the direction of the great reed-marsh eastward, came a small group of young tribesmen carrying two limp burdens.
They put them down. A chorus of heart-broken wails came from the women. Carter stepped forward and took a look and then turned away, a little sick.
He'd seen men before who had been caught by the Crawlers and pulped. But it was still a stomach-churning sight. The two corpses were just skeletons with skin round them. When a Crawler caught a man and pulped him, every bit of blood and tissue was sucked out of him...
2017 November 16th:
...There was no way back to the partial security of the lake basin. The overhang cut him off from that. The futility of trying to hide was apparent, but nevertheless he wormed in among some crimson ferns. The city was at his left. To the right, the fertile plain washed out into a badland of lava and shattered rock, which narrowed and vanished around a shoulder of purple basalt. This defile was still in deep shadow.
The riders were still far away. He saw them splash across a ford, toy figures making little bursts of spray.
The watcher above the trees darted suddenly downward. The quarry was breaking cover...
2017 November 15th:
...They rose from the rocky bottom to the height of giraffes, with shortish legs that were vaguely similar to those of Chinese dragons, and elongated spiral necks like the middle coils of great anacondas. Their heads were triple-faced, and they might have been the trimurti of some infernal world. It seemed that each face was eyeless, with tongue-shaped flames issuing voluminously from deep orbits beneath the slanted brows. Flames also poured in a ceaseless vomit from the gaping gargoyle mouths. From the head of each monster a triple comb of vermilion flared aloft in sharp serrations, glowing terribly; and both of them were bearded with crimson scrolls. Their necks and arching spines were fringed with sword-long blades that diminished into rows of daggers on the tapering tails; and their whole bodies, as well as this fearsome armament, appeared to burn as if they had just issued from a fiery furnace.
A palpable heat emanated from these hellish chimeras, and the Earthmen retreated hastily before the flying splotches, like the blown tatters of a conflagration, that broke loose from their ever-jetting eye-flames and mouth-flames...
2017 November 14th:
...Swinnerton wondered how much of the animal life had survived. Watching and wandering, they saw. Insects buzzed about, amazingly large ones, the size of some birds. Birds, in turn, were all bigger than eagles, snapping up the huge insects as Earth birds snap up gnats. Mammals were winged. Flying wolflike creatures lumbered by, seeking prey in the universal rule of life.
One great bearlike creature, with a membranous wing spread of thirty feet, hovered over them as though contemplating attack. Then it flapped away grotesquely. It pounced on a turkey-sized bird, rended it with its claws, and savagely gobbled it down - all in mid-air...
It was strange and pathetic. These monsters represented the last of a planet's evolution...
2017 November 13th:
...He could remember the great day of his testing.
When he shut his eyes, he seemed to kneel on the sloping riverbank again, a long spear shining in his clasp.
On both sides of him, a dozen native warriors crouched, armed with spears five times the height of their squat blue bodies. Directly behind him stood a silent group of five, his "pledge wraiths". It was a tribal tradition among the gnomelike folk that every great warrior had to have "pledge wraiths" who would stand behind him in the hour of his testing.
A bubbling, a churning far out in the muddy brown river, and his five little sponsors leaped up and down. As he stared at the uneasy current it broke into white froth, and there arose from the winding water-course a shape that whitened his lips and drove the blood from his heart...
2017 November 12th:
...Almost centrally located in the Martian quarter was a glittering, garish locality where every diversion could be found. This was called Pulambar, after the great City of Pleasure at home on Mars.
Along the equator ran a strip of dry, hot sand, rusty red - an imported bit of the Martian desert. Across that sand-strip, to the south, a quarter was divided into four smaller areas, for Ganymede, Io, Europa and Callisto.
Above this quarter, tethered like a balloon by a gravity beam, hovered a sort of satellite. A twenty-mile globe had been artificially made of banded gas without and a solid core within. It was a miniature Jupiter, and some thought it the greatest wonder of all the Fair.
The northern quarter of the Eastern Hemisphere was Earth's, divided into many smaller districts for the wealth of various national and continental exhibits. Here, as with the Martian Pulambar, there was a central area, but it was for sports... Along the equator tossed the waves of an artificial ocean...
The southern shore, at the very equatorial line, was matted with Venusian jungle, under a localized fog...
2017 November 11th:
...Kah made a sign of warning a little later, and they halted.
"We are near the evil ones' citadel," he whispered. "But the screaming trees will instantly give warning unless we are careful."
Captain Future saw ahead of them an extensive forest of the strange trees, their big leaves hanging limp.
"Walk as softly and slowly as you can," Kah was warning. "Any sudden movement will set the trees in uproar."
He led the way into the weird forest, moving on tiptoe...
Captain Future thought he understood now, that the weird trees were so highly sensitive to vibrations of the ground that such vibrations set off their hideous clamor...
2017 November 10th:
...For a while, he did not associate the green luminosity with any idea of limitation; for he seemed to be floating in a vast abyss. Then, suddenly, he perceived his error. Putting out his hands, he touched on either side the wall of a narrow vault, and saw that its roof was only a few feet above him. The floor lay at an equal distance beneath; and he himself, without visible support, was reclining in mid-air. The green light, streaming mysteriously from all sides of the vault, had given him the illusion of unbounded space.
Abruptly, at his feet, the end of the vault seemed to disappear in a white glory like pure sunlight. Long, sinuous, six-fingered hands reached out from the glory, grasped him about the ankles, and drew him gently from the green-lit space in which he floated. Weight seemed to return to him as his limbs and body entered the dazzling whiteness; and a moment later, he found himself standing erect in a large chamber, lined with some sort of pale, shimmering metal. Beside him, a strange, unearthly being was closing the panel-like door through which he had been drawn from the emerald-litten vault; and beyond this being, there were two others of the same type...
...Each of them was about the height of a tall man, and the physical conformation was vaguely similar to that of mankind, but was marked by an almost god-like beauty and grace of contour... In place of hair, the full, intellectual heads were crowned with a mass of heavy flesh-like filaments, hued with changing iridescence, and tossing and curling with a weird, restless life, like the serpent locks of Medusa...
2017 November 9th:
...Slowly, they continued down the mountain, reaching now and then a bleak plateau which wind and water had swept to glassy smoothness. The flying mammals which always heralded the flood swooped overhead.
As they crossed one of the plateaus, above the roar of the wind they heard a loud beating. A mammoth bird, jet black against the mountain, its two sets of wings flapping alternately at a spread of thirty feet, came toward them. Flying the gale, it neared them quickly. For a second, the men sat transfixed; then, wrenching themselves from the coma of fear, drew guns...
2017 November 8th:
...They plunged into the depths of the forest. It was not difficult going, despite the size of the vegetation. Most of the trees' vigor was concentrated in the broad, flat leaves that made a ceiling far overhead to catch the Sun's rays. It was a green, dim twilight through which they moved, resembling the vague depths of the hydrosphere.
Above the jungle, Quade knew, it was pleasantly warm, but at ground level an icy breeze chilled him. Some of the trees, he noticed, were thickly coated with a furry kind of moss, which apparently served to keep the cold from penetrating through the bark - a striking form of true symbiosis, mutual aid between parasite and host.
The Bouncer hopped along quietly, subdued and a little frightened. His huge eyes, capable of seeing into the infra-red and ultra-violet, found the gloom no handicap, but more than once the two humans were forced to use light-tubes...
2017 November 7th:
...we were escorted into the interior of the palace. The furnishings were striking, but extremely fantastic in design and execution. The native wood of the forests had been used to fine advantage in the construction of numerous pieces of beautifully carved furniture, the grain of the woods showing lustrously in their various natural colours, the beauties of which were sometimes accentuated by delicate stain and by high polishes, but perhaps the most striking feature of the interior decorations was the gorgeously painted fabric that covered the walls and ceilings. It was a fabric of unbelievable lightness, which gave the impression of spun silver. So closely woven was it that, as I was to learn later, it would hold water and of such great strength that it was almost impossible to tear it.
Upon it were painted in brilliant colours the most fantastic scenes that imagination might conceive. There were spiders with the heads of beautiful women, and women with the heads of spiders. There were flowers and trees that danced beneath a great red sun, and great lizards, such as we had passed within the gloomy cavern on our journey down...
2017 November 6th:
...The cigarette I was smoking fell from my fingers. The extraordinary creature just sat there, clad in Jonah's jacket, looking at the remains of our meal - and claimed unheard-of things!
"You imply that you have no bodies, in the sense that we and your fish and animals have bodies?" I asked.
He slewed his head round towards me, and I met unforgettable eyes.
"We have highly adaptable, very fluid, body groups," Alpha said coldly. "You saw the ellipses in which we float; those are the shapes of what you would call our 'easy' state. Each of us is composed of thousands of filaments, which we can expand to a haze able to pass through air invisibly, or contract to a density able to smash rock. For large operations we form union of hundreds of body groups and carve a mountain."
2017 November 5th:
...I hunted for a time with a certain intentness, but the heat was still very great, and the thinness of the air felt like a hoop about one's chest. I came presently into a hollow basin bristling with tall, brown, dry fronds about its edge, and I sat down under these to rest and cool. I intended to rest for only a little while. I put down my clubs beside me, and sat resting my chin on my hands. I saw with a sort of colourless interest that the rocks of the basin, where here and there the crackling dry lichens had shrunk away to show them, were all veined and splattered with gold, that here and there bosses of rounded and wrinkled gold projected from among the litter. What did that matter now? A sort of languor had possession of my limbs and mind...
2017 November 4th:
...My first reaction to the arthropods was, as I have said, one of revulsion at what I deemed their hideous and inhuman aspect. Inhuman they certainly were, but "hideous" is a matter of open question. The fact that they differed enormously from Homo sapiens was no reason to find their appearance automatically loathsome. Very soon I found myself admiring them. Slim, stalking figures, they were not without a certain grace - even a certain cold inhuman beauty. With their attenuated limbs and extreme height they came, with familiarity, to assume something of the dignity and impressiveness of the lean gaunt statues of Giacometti or Henry Moore's weird stone figures.
Indeed, they had also something of the sleek, economical efficiency of a well-designed machine. Almost I could picture those stalking, multijointed limbs as smoothly machined pistons. Something of the passionless beauty of the machine was theirs, and something of the grandeur of sculpture.
In short, I no longer found them frightening, having no reason to fear my fate at their hands...
2017 November 3rd:
...The plateau on which we had landed was far up in a range which we named the Purple Mountains because they were covered from base to summit with enormous two-foot lichens of a rich Tyrian hue. There were similarly covered areas in the plateau, where the soil was too thin for the sustenance of more elaborate plant-forms. Here, among the multitudinous geysers, and the horned, fantastic peaks that were intermittently visible through a steam-charged atmosphere, we had established ourselves in a lichen-field. Even here we had to wear our refrigerating suits and carry oxygen whenever we stepped out of the ether-ship; for otherwise the heat would have parboiled us in a few minutes, and the ultra-terrestrial gases in the air would have speedily overpowered us. It was a weird business, putting the coaster together under such circumstances. With out huge inflated suits and masks of green vitrolium, we must have looked like a crew of demons toiling in the fumes of Gehenna...
2017 November 2nd:
"There!" she hissed. "There!"
He peered into the gray dimness. Nothing at all - or was there something? A shadow - but what here could cause a shadow, here in this sunless region of fog? A condensation of mist, that was all. But it moved; mist can't move without the thrust of wind, and here there was no wind.
He strained his eyes in an effort to pierce the obscurity. He saw - or he imagined it - a vast, looming figure, or a dozen figures. They were all around; one passed silently overhead, and numberless others weaved and swayed just beyond the range of vision. There were murmurings and susurrations, sounds like breathing and whispering, patters and rustles. The fog shapes were weirdly unstable, looming from little patches of darkness into towering shadows, dissipating and forming like figures of smoke...
2017 October 31st:
...he was on his way down. To and fro he swung, hearing the wind whistle past him. A hunter tossed him a rope. He caught hold. The Hidden Folk lined themselves along the far end and started off.
The great nest was soon lost to view. It was not surprising that no ground dweller had ever seen one like that, or an aerial pasture, or the monsters which browsed there. A mile up, with half the atmosphere and a goodly percentage of the clouds between, they would be invisible. He wondered what other strangenesses dwelt in his heaven.
After a while he felt the strain increase on his tow rope, until at last he could hold it no more and must knot it about his waist. The hunters were plainly laboring hard. He needed a few minutes to deduce the reason. Nature had meant the leaf which supported him to float at a certain altitude. He was now down to where the air was getting appreciably denser. His gills recognized that...
2017 October 30th:
...We didn't want liver-leaves again. The little nutsies from the salt pool were all right, but it was a half-day's job to gather enough, and besides, they were almost too salty to be pleasant fare for a whole meal. Bladder birds were hopeless; they consisted of practically nothing except thin skin stretched over a framework of bones. I remembered that once we had tried a brown, fungoid lump that grew in the shade under the song-bushes; some of Gunderson's men had liked it.
Claire finally broke the silence. "If I'm going to help you look," she suggested, "I ought to know what we're looking for."
I described the lumpy growths. "I'm not sure all of us will like them. Near as I can remember, they tasted something like truffles, with a faint flavor of meat added. We tried them both raw and cooked, and cooked was best..."
2017 October 29th:
...He rose and got a second shower from a bubble tree. This made him feel so fresh and alert that he began to think of food. He had forgotten whereabouts on the island the yellow gourds were to be found, and as he set out to look for them he discovered that it was difficult to walk. For a moment he wondered whether the liquid in the bubbles had some intoxicating quality, but a glance around assured him of the real reason. The plain of copper-coloured heather before him, even as he watched, swelled into a low hill and the low hill moved in his direction. Spellbound anew at the sight of land rolling towards him, like water, in a wave, he forgot to adjust himself to the movement and lost his feet. Picking himself up, he proceeded more carefully. This time there was no doubt about it. The sea was rising...
2017 October 28th:
...Ronnie noticed something off to his right. It was a cleft in the rusty ground. The other members of the party were straggled out ahead of him now; for he hadn't been able to move quite as fast as they in his ill-fitting space armor.
The cleft offered no unusual promise. The men had ignored it. Nevertheless, youthful whim sent Ronnie hopping to its brink. Thick gloom enveloped its depths. But close to the torn lip of the cleft there were curious, broken fragments lying in the dust. They were flat and flaky, like pieces of shattered, red glass. As any adult would have done, Ronnie stooped and picked one of them up. Inside the thin, translucent texture of the shard, there slumbered a deep, bloody glow.
Ronnie wanted to yell out about his find to his brother up ahead; but something unfathomable restrained him...
2017 October 27th:
...Harker joined him, and they went together through the lichen forest, ghostly under the dim, far Sun. The tall growths were silent now that the wind had died. And as they went, Harker talked of Moneb and the men and women who dwelt there. Simon listened, knowing that his life depended on remembering what he heard.
But even that necessity could not occupy more than one small part of his mind. The rest of it was busy with the other things - the bitter smell of dust, the chill bite of the air in the shaded places, the warmth of the sun in the clearings, the intricate play of muscles necessary to the taking of a step, the rasp of lichen fronds over unprotected skin, the miracle of breathing, of sweating, of grasping an object with five fingers of flesh.
The little things one took for granted. The small, miraculous incredible things that one never noticed until they were gone.
He had seen the forest before as a dun-gray monochrome, heard it as a pattern of rustling sound. It had been without temperature, scent or feel. Now it had all of these things. Simon was overwhelmed with a flood of impressions, poignant almost beyond enduring...
2017 October 26th:
...A half dozen vague, crouching shapes were approaching them through the smoke.
They were not men, nor did they wear any protective suits....
The creatures were quadrupeds, and looked something like big baboons. But their bodies had a queer, metallic appearance. And indeed, no flesh of ordinary organic compounds could have existed for more than a minute in that tremendous heat.
The faces in the brutish heads had only two features - a gaping mouth of shining metal teeth, and wide-set, unchanging crystal eyes. The rear feet were hard metallic hoofs, but the front feet were massive, gleaming talons. Most terrifying of all, bursting flames issued from the mouths of the creatures at each exhalation...
2017 October 25th:
...The clouds had passed and a golden glory was settling over the face of the countryside. While we stared, wondering how this could possibly be, we saw what perhaps we had overlooked before. Set at intervals about the countryside were great many-faceted concave mirrors. At least that was what they looked like to us. Each was set on a vast straddle of lattice-like girders, and each, from the slight movements we saw as we watched, seemed capable of sweeping the full circumference of the sky.
But that was not all. Between each pair of mirrors was another lattice-like structure, bearing at its top a great, glowing golden ball, a thing so huge and so brilliant that its size stunned us and the upthrust of its rays almost blinded us.
"Artificial suns," said someone in an awed tone. "They've solved the secret of atomic energy!"
2017 October 24th:
...the instant he had consumed in rescuing the girl had been enough for the thing to seize him, and he found himself battling for his very life. No soft-leaved infant this, but a full-grown monster, well equipped with mighty weapons of offence and defence. Well it was for the struggling man that he was encased in armour steel as those saw-edged, hard-spiked leaves drove against him with crushing force; well it was for him that he had his own independent air supply, so that that deadly perfume eddied ineffective about his helmeted head! Hard and fiercely driven as those terrible thorns were, they could do no more than dent his heavy armour. His powerful left arm, driving the double-razor-edged dirk in short, resistless arcs, managed to keep the snaky tendrils from coiling about his right arm, which was wielding the heavy, trenchant sword. Every time that mighty blade descended it cleaved its length through snapping spikes and impotently grinding leaves; but more than once a flailing tendril coiled about his neck armour and held his helmet immovable as though in a vice, while those frightful, grinding saws sought to rip their way through the glass to the living creature inside the peculiar metal housing. Dirk and sabre and magnificent physique finally triumphed, but it was not until leaf had been literally severed from every other leaf that the outlandish organism gave up the ghost...
2017 October 23rd:
...How long I was in crossing that dismal ocean, I do not know... with no sun, moon, nor stars, I could not measure time.
I saw no ship upon that entire vast expanse of water, but I did see life - plenty of it. And I saw terrific storms that buffeted my craft, tossing it about like a feather. But that was nothing compared with that I saw below me as the storms at the height of their fury lashed the surface of the waters. I realized then how suicidal would have been my attempt to cross that terrible ocean in the frail craft I had planned to build. I saw waves that must have measured two hundred feet from trough to crest - waves that hurled the mighty monsters of the deep as though they had been tiny minnows. No ship could have lived in such seas...
2017 October 22nd:
...Their boots were deadened of all sound in the thick green grass. It smelled from a fresh mowing. In spite of himself, Captain John Black felt a great peace come over him. It had been thirty years since he had been in a small town, and the buzzing of spring bees on the air lulled and quieted him, and the fresh look of things was a balm to the soul.
They set foot upon the porch. Hollow echoes sounded from under the boards as they walked to the screen door. Inside they could see a bead curtain hung across the hall entry, and a crystal chandelier and a Maxfield Parrish painting framed on one wall over a comfortable Morris chair. The house smelled old, and of the attic, and infinitely comfortable. You could hear the tinkle of ice in a lemonade pitcher. In a distant kitchen, because of the heat of the day, someone was preparing a cold lunch. Someone was humming under her breath, high and sweet.
Captain John Black rang the bell...
2017 October 21st:
...In half an hour I had arrived at the edge of the red plateau. A steep slope fell before me to the edge of the jungle, perhaps two-thirds of a mile farther below. A slope carpeted with the thick fiber of the green moss.
A weird scene. Clear cerulean sky, darkly, richly blue... The wide valley, with the broad silvery stream, winding among golden forests, and patches of green. The purple balloons floating here and yon, huge spheres swaying on the red cables that anchored them above the jungle.
I seated myself on the moss, where I could overlook that valley of eldritch wonder. I remained there for some time, staring out across it, while I ate most of the food that I had brought, and half-emptied the bottle of water.
Then I decided to descend to the edge of the jungle.
The sun was just at the meridian - the whole of the short afternoon, was yet before me. I had ample time, I thought, to go down the slope to the edge of the jungle and return before the sudden nightfall...
2017 October 20th:
...It was hard to estimate just where the tree trunk legs were going to come down, and close up, the walking walls of flesh gave you a vertiginous sense that they were always toppling over on you. The sound of their footfalls filled the world, like rumbling thunder on a hot summer day or batteries of heavy artillery...
Taldi threw himself aside with a yell as a foot with hundreds of tons of weight behind it slammed down not four feet from him. That and the miniature earthquake tossed him off his feet and onto his shoulders and neck; half-stunned, he doggedly began to gather the scattered arrows that had spilled from his quiver and snatch up the leather sack of torches. The next time the rear foot came down it would be on top of him...
2017 October 19th:
...I considered running for cover among the small crags and boulders that jutted like house-sized teeth up through the lava. But to run might be to draw attention to myself.
Finally, with utmost caution, I advanced.
On a clear area of plain beside the trail, I came upon a group of about a dozen barrel-sized, bulbous vegetables, ridged like cacti. They had twiggy tufts the size of chop-sticks growing from their tops; the rattling sound came from these sticks tap-tapping.
I ventured closer still. I'd never learn what's what if I avoided every off-putting thing. I stopped at three yards and watched the twigs make their noise. My tension eased as I came to the conclusion that the rattling was purely defensive, evolved to ward off predators. So, having had my look, I returned to the trail. For a while I still heard the click-click-click behind me.
In my imagination the noise began to seem like an exchange of remarks, and the sick eerie hunch that those blind isolated things might be talking made this world seem infinitely lonelier...
2017 October 18th:
...he stood petrified for a moment on the rough ice, staring northeastward. He and his companions looked frozenly up at an awful peril thundering down on them.
The Marching Mountains! The vast thousand-foot high range of icy hills that was but one of similar glacier-ranges which perpetually moved around the planet!
The forefront of the appalling walking ice-range was a towering, gleaming cliff that was only a few hundred yards from them. And the whole cliff was advancing on them, moving at an incredible speed of many yards a minute, pushed forward by the vast glacial masses of ice behind it. From the icy moving cliff fell great bergs and masses of ice, over which the main range moved crushingly as it came on.
"Out of here!" Captain Future yelled. "We'll have to run for it - this way!"
"There is no use running from the Marching Mountains," cried Tharb hopelessly. "We cannot get out of their path and they will soon overtake us."
2017 October 17th:
...Fleming stumbled on a few yards more.
"If only I could see!" he cried.
As if in answer to his plea, a sheet of rose-colored flame poured from a vent in the side of a mountain nearby, lighting up the region around the ship with a vivid crimson glare. Steam and lava poured from the mountain side, while the ground shook under the force of the blast. Dale and Fleming were hurled to their knees. They made no effort to rise but flattened themselves against the shuddering ground.
To his horror Dale perceived that the ship had landed upon a narrow ledge projecting along the edge of a sheer wall of ice. Peering cautiously over the side he gazed a thousand feet down into a sea tossing under the shock of the eruption. Sick and dizzy, he crept back to the sheltering wall of the cliff. The flame subsided...
2017 October 16th:
...Varnal is more real to me, even in my memories, than ever Chicago or New York can be. It lies in a gentle valley in the hills.... the Calling Hills. Green and golden, they are covered with slender trees and, when the wind passes through them, they sound like sweet, distant, calling voices as one walks past.
The valley itself is wide and shallow and contains a fairly large, hot lake. The city is built around the lake, from which rises a greenish stream, a delicate green that sends tendrils curling around the spires of Varnal. Most of Varnal's graceful buildings are tall and white, though some are built of the unique blue marble which is mined close by. Others have traceries of gold in them, making them glitter in the sunlight. The city is walled by the same blue marble, which also has golden traceries in it. From its towers fly pennants, gay and multicolored, and its terraces are crowded with its handsome inhabitants, the plainest of whom would be a sought-after beau or belle in Wynnsville, Ohio - or, indeed, Chicago or any other great city of our world...
2017 October 15th:
...While in quest of fire-wood, they came upon great heaps of bones, mostly those of birds, and were attracted by the tall, bell-shaped flowers growing luxuriantly in their midst. These exhaled a most delicious perfume, and at the centre of each flower was a viscous liquid, the colour of honey.
"If this tastes as well as it looks," said Bearwarden, "it will come in well for dessert"; saying which he thrust his finger into the recesses of the flower, intending to taste the essence. Quietly, but like a flash, the flower closed, his hand being nearly caught and badly scratched by the long, sharp thorns that now appeared at the edges...
...Towards evening these flowers sent up their most beautiful song, to hear which flocks of birds came from far and near, alighting on the trees, and many were lured to death by the siren strains and the honey...
2017 October 14th:
...Soon we were near enough to the wall and gate to see clearly the two great plants who guarded the opening. Their slow-waving tendrils showed that they were still waking and watchful. Blan noiselessly left our side, gliding away like a white phantom to the right, and then he on one side and Fairley and I on the other, were creeping toward the gate, keeping far enough aside from it to be out of range of the strange senses of the guarding plants.
We two reached the metal wall, and hugging it began a slow stealthy progress along it toward the gate-opening. Reaching that opening we hesitated, our swords tight-gripped in our hands. Then we saw Blan appear on the gate's other side, slipping along the wall like ourselves, a gliding white form. He too halted, grasping his blade, and then with one hand made a silent signal to us. Instantly he and we were leaping around the wall's corner onto the two great plants.
The great plant that Fairley and I sprang for loomed before us as a dark many-armed object, whose tendrils whipped wildly as our blades slashed lightning-like through them...
2017 October 13th:
...Seemingly immune to the ravages of time, the mighty Zinc Era network had left Syoom criss-crossed with embankments on which the empty rails still ran. Every few thousand miles, wayfarers were still bound to cross one of these artificial ridges. On well-frequented routes this did not matter at all; however, grim experience had taught that any stretch of embankment which had not been visited for a thousand days or so must be approached gingerly. Preferably, a dray-master, raft-pilot or Crawler captain should send scouts ahead to peer cautiously over the rim, before any attempt to get over with the main vehicle. And the more lasers on one's side the better...
2017 October 12th:
...Grant brushed his hand across his forehead and turned wearily towards his stone-bark log shack. A pair of tiny, glittering red eyes caught his attention, and a slinker - Mus Sapiens - slipped his six-inch form across the threshold, bearing under his tiny, skinny arm what looked very much like Grant's clinical thermometer.
Grant yelled angrily at the creature, seized a stone, and flung it vainly. At the edge of the brush, the slinker turned its ratlike, semihuman face toward him, squeaked its thin gibberish, shook a microscopic fist in manlike wrath, and vanished, its batlike cowl of skin fluttering like a cloak. It looked, indeed, very much like a black rat wearing a cape...
2017 October 11th:
...The tremendous interplay of magnetic and electrostatic fields just beyond the city's edge was as clearly perceptible to his senses as the city itself - a mile-wide disc ringed with conical field towers, stretching away behind and to each side. The ship was poised between two of the towers; immediately behind it was the field from which Kron had just taken off. The area was covered with cradles of various forms - cup-shaped receptacles which held city craft like Kron's own: long, boat-shaped hollows wherein reposed the cigarlike vessels which plied between the cities...
Beyond the landing field was the city proper; the surface of the disc was covered with geometrically shaped buildings - cones, cylinders, prisms, and hemispheres, jumbled together...
2017 October 10th:
...All around them in the thin sunlight rose slender trees whose enormous green leaves grew directly from the trunks. This grotesque forest was made more dense by festoons of writhing "snake-vines", weird rootless creepers which crawled like plant-serpents from one tree to another. Each stir of wind brought white spore-dust down in a shower from the trees.
The few living creatures of this forbidding landscape were equally alien. Big white meteor-rats scurried on their eight legs through the brush. Phosphorescent flame-birds shot through the upper fronds like streaks of fire...
And now, if you want more of the same - try Guess The World - Open!