For a scenic browse, and an answer-page for Guess The World...
...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...
Arthur C Clarke, Out of the Sun (Worlds of If, February 1958)
...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...
Leigh Brackett, Shannach - The Last (Planet Stories, November 1952)
...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...
Gordon A Giles, Via Mercury (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1940)
...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...
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...
...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.
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...
Lucky ran forward eagerly in the steady stride which he could maintain for hours without feeling unduly tired. Under the circumstances, he felt he could have maintained such a stride even under Earth’s gravity.
And then, with no warning, no premonitory glow in the sky, no hint of any atmosphere, there was the Sun!
Rather, there was a hairline that was the Sun. It was an unbearable line of light edging a notch of broken rock on the horizon, as though some celestial painter had outlined the gray stone in brilliant white...
Isaac Asimov, Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)
stared about him in amazement. The narrow dimlit way was jammed with
revelers. The women wore the historic costume, a short skirt low on
bare hips and a diminutive jacket with squared sleeves. Their black
hair was done up on top of their heads with blossoms of the red egalet
that only blooms during the Rains. Wooden clogs were fastened to their
feet. The men wore gaudy, loose trousers and cummerbunds of green.
Their chests were bare, and many bands of hammered silver ornamented
Emmett McDowell, The Red Witch of Mercury (Planet Stories, Summer 1945)
"I was born in Nefertem, a small town not far from Trismegistus in the Tropic of Gemini, the temperate zone... My parents raised dragons. Most everyone in Nefertem did..."
told us what they looked like... Komodo dragons crossed with zebras
crossed with otters, with the personality of a drunken grand-dad set in
Catherynne M Valente, Radiance (2015)
...The whirling rotary clouds were at times close over us - green and red vapor masses, hurling rain and wind heavy with sulphur.
The clouds sometimes rifted into great vertical funnels through which the clear daylight of the sky was visible. It brightened the scene, and the bleak, desolate landscape beneath us was at those moments clearly shown as great rippled sheets of metallic plateau, drenched with water - shining coppery, then cast with green - or blinding red when the lightning puffed - or again, a wild, broken area with spires and crags and boulders strewn as though some frenzied Titan had flung them.
we swept over tiny valleys where soil had collected and trees and
verdure had sprung up. The trees bent low in the wind; the rain-sheet
blurred our vision of them as we struggled past...
Ray Cummings, Tama of the Light Country (1965)
Once he woke up to see something that looked like a bad attempt to squeeze a face out of putty stuck against the rocks. It was a naturally ugly head, and the way the creature was wobbling something that might have been its lips made it even uglier. He shuddered, before he saw that it was much too wide to squeeze through. And the picture of the thing in his mind didn't help his next attempt at sleep.
The next time he snapped out of his nap was when one of them suddenly slapped a tail against the earth and charged angrily at the stones. They stood up under the assult, by some miracle, even when it kept repeating it. But the ground shook each time the tail slapped down.
The strange part of it was that any one of them could have come through by turning sideways and flowing through, as they had flowed across the ground behind the tractor. But this seemed to be against the rules, for some reason.
Dick got up and moved around, working off the numbness. At his first movement the creatures drew back out of the way. He noticed that when he moved toward them, they started going around to the side. When he stood still, they moved away. But at any other movement, they tried to come through the rocks toward him. It all fitted the legends he had heard, and it was no easier to believe in person than it had been when it was nothing but an idle story.
He saw Charlie watching him, and went back. "I don't get it," he admitted.
"Why should you?" Charlie asked. "You think of 'em as animals. But they ain't - they're just a bunch of walking plants."
"Yep. Move to the darkside, get themselves some water. Move to the hotside, grow a while. Then wander around in Twilight, giving anyone a hard time..."
Lester del Rey, Battle on Mercury (1953)
The speaker was announcing that the Flying Cube would soon be ready to start for the Water City, to make a survey and to follow the ball into the Cold Country. A giant ray projector was being mounted on the Cube, and defensive electronic barrage armament. Within a few hours it would be ready to start.
Guy and Toh departed at once, pushing through the gathering people on the lakeshore, they passed into the narrow city streets. By the Light Country living cycle, this was the middle of the time of sleep. None were sleeping in the Hill City this night.
Walking and running, Guy pulling Toh by the hand, they hastened through the city, ascending toward the distant heights beyond it.
As the clouds turned black the dim street lamps were lighted. There were lights in most of the houses. Toh and Guy threaded the crowds and attracted little attention. Soon they came to wider, deserted streets: A steady upward ascent of the broad circular bowl, spread like a flat cauldron upon the inner slopes of which the city was built.
The street they followed was soon a wide ascending road, with spreading tree branches interlocking overhead; low stone houses at the sides, set in verdant gardens or patches of cultivated soil...
...The houses were soon farther apart. Less soil was here; the metallic, barren desert land began showing. The street dwindled and was lost at the summit. Ahead was a tumbled region of pointed crags and strewn boulders - an upland desert plateau stretching away into the darkness with the black sullen clouds hanging low above the encircling hills. This was the highland from which the Hill City took its name.
reached the rim. Behind them the bowl of the city lay with winking
tiny lights like myriad eyes. Ahead there was a small level space
strewn with boulders...
Ray Cummings, Tama, Princess of Mercury
"We've just come in sight of the flow. It's about 500 yards ahead. We'll get as close as seems safe, and I'll try to make sure whether it's really lava or just mud."
"Mud? Is that possible? I thought there wasn't - couldn't be - any water on this planet!"
"It is, and there probably isn't. The liquid phase of mud doesn't have to be water, even though it usually is on Earth. Here, for example, it might conceivably be sulphur."
"But if it's just mud, it wouldn't hurt the ship, would it?"
"Then why all this fuss about getting the tractors back in a hurry?"
The voice which answered reminded him of another lady in his past, who had kept him after school for drawing pictures in math class.
in my judgement the flow is far more likely to be lava than mud, and if
I must be wrong I'd rather my error were one that left us alive..."
Hal Clement, Hot Planet (Galaxy, August 1963)
Mallard looked at the almost impenetrable growth of tangled fern trees and undergrowth and swore wearily. They had been here for three weeks, now, and it had been three weeks of pure, unadulterated hell. The dank, steamy air made every breath a painful effort and, day and night, giant insects made their life miserable. They could take the miniature Overton gun a little way into the swamp belt but at every step they had to be on the alert for the great reptiles that floundered through the dense undergrowth. And even more, for the deadly plant life that lay in wait.
And always they were under watch from the natives. Scaly-hided men, not much past the anthropoid stage, but the crude wooden spears they used could be very dangerous. The Overton ray gun was scaled down to near zero for use against the fungus stumps but it could be turned up to full power for its original use as a weapon. And the gun had saved their lives on more than one occasion when those wooden spears began to fly past them. It was a tense, miserable life.
But they did find the rhizoids...
Jack Bradley, The Rhizoid Kill (Planet Stories, November 1952)
...This time the rush of air was less violent when he opened the valve, the pressure in the tunnel having been halved. He began to feel safer, knowing that the door to the terminal chamber now could not be opened until every Dorrinian beyond it had sealed his vacuum suit. He opened the final door, crouched down and stepped through into a small cell which had been hewn into dark basalt. In its roof was a ribbed panel of dull plastic which closely resembled the surrounding rock. He put his hands on the panel and pushed upwards. It lifted easily and slid away to one side, and he found himself looking into a black and star-seeded sky.
He climbed up out of the cell and stood up on a gently sloping crown of rock, the cuboidal cracking of which had effectively disguised the tunnel entrance hatch. The scene before him was exactly what he had observed from the underground chamber, all its elements assembled on a natural stage.
Most distant was the complex boxy shape of the Quicksilver, and close to it was the mirrored metal of the decoy which the Dorrinians had assembled on the surface at such a great cost in human lives. In the centre of the arena the two astronauts were kneeling by their fallen companion, and closest to Jerome - flanked by two skull-shaped boulders - was an insignificant-looking white pebble containing the soul of a beleaguered race.
whole, with its background of scarps and crater walls, was starkly lit
by the paring of the Sun's disc which blazed on the horizon, and low in
the sky was a twinned speck of blue-white brilliance. In spite of its remoteness, the Earth-Moon system was an integral part of the tableau. Not only was it the ultimate goal for Jerome and every Dorrinian, it was the emplacement from which Belzor, the malign superman, had struck down a chief actor in the drama which was being enacted. Jerome visualized him somewhere in the white wilderness of Antarctica, perhaps lying on his back in a thermal coccoon, his unblinking gaze fixed on Mercury...
Bob Shaw, Fire Pattern (1984)
The Mercurian horizon was not so far away as the more familiar horizon of Earth, and it was a little difficult for Lamoureux to estimate distances. Still, the foothills of the mountains could not be more than twenty miles away. For the past day, little more than the rim of the Sun had been visible above the horizon, and while the peaks were ablaze with scarlet and golden colors, only the higher one was out of the shadow to any considerable extent. The saddlebacked ridge itself was a vague outline of dull black.
The snow did not catch up with them until four or five hours later, when they stopped to prepare a meal and rest. Then it began to fall gently after they had been in the same place for three-quarters of an hour. By now, Lamoureux was sure that it was the Mercurians who were to blame. He still wondered how they did it.
The one they had come across had remained with them, and Lamoureux found it harder than ever to regard the creature as intelligent. All the thing had done was walk and play chess. Lamoureux had a low opinion of chess players, even when they were fairly human. He had an even lower opinion of trained animals. This Mercurian fell, in his estimation, somewhere between.
They were no more than a mile or two from the foothills of the larger mountain by now, and the saddlebacked ridge loomed several hundred feet into the air. Unfortunately, the snow was between it and them, and prevented them from gaining too clear a view. Lamoureux wondered if the snow would keep up even at the top of the mountain, and damned McCracken again for shooting that Mercurian. And then he discovered that McCracken's feats of arms were not yet ended. McCracken was at that very moment aiming at some target that Lamoureux could not see.
Lamoureux sprang to his feet. "Don't shoot, you fool!"
He was a little too late. The noise of the explosion rang out. McCracken said, "Sorry, sir, I didn't hear you until my finger had already squeezed the trigger. But I wasn't trying to hit anything that was alive. There was something that looked like a rock on that ridge—"
The words died away in his throat. Lamoureux lifted his eyes and saw something hovering in front of them, high in the air. It had eyes and a mouth and, from these features, he knew that it was a huge head, as large as a fair-sized house. There was a long, interminable stretch of neck behind it, and somewhere in the rear he felt sure was a monstrous body. But he wasted no time searching for that.
The eyes were staring at the men unblinkingly. These eyes alone were bigger than the men were. Then the neck stretched out and the head came poking down.
William Morrison, The Weather on Mercury (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1953)