Monday, August 26, 2013

Flash from the Past - "The Strange Place" 1959.

A mildly entertaining little story from the 1950s.  Things are never as they seem.

The Strange Place 
by Anonymous

Strange birds fled squawking. In the dank mud, strange reptiles plunged into their mire. All living things fled the glistening steel cylinder that was settling toward the ground, belching white-hot tongues of flame as it sank.

Aboard the space ship, two men worked the controls and checked the gauges. Commander Gus Tague looked at his crewman, Dr. Velus, then nodded out the porthole.

"Strange vegetation down there, doctor! What do you make of it?"

The doctor looked out through the thick glass, then he peered at his commander. "It is hard to believe that any soil could support so much vegetation. Look at those tall growths with the orange and red tendrils and leaves! Fantastic, isn't it?"

The spaceman at the controls nodded agreement and peered out at the fantastic plains. In the distance, glistening peaks loomed above a layer of cloud. Fantastic was one word for it. Beautiful was another. Commander Tagu checked his gauge, made a minor adjustment to a rocket thrust control and felt the space ship touch the ground, then settle on the tripod.

He looked at Dr! Velus. "Make sure we've got enough fuel for an emergency departure, doctor. And run a comparsion test on this atmosphere within the ship and the atmosphere outside. Remember how we suffered when we landed on the giant asteroid in Galaxy nine?"

Dr. Velus nodded and ran his test, consulting his oxygen measuring device.

"The air is rather thin, commander," Velus told him. Then, he grinned and pointed to the porthole just behind the commander. The commander whirled and saw a bulbous brown eye, an ear, and a short, knobbed horn at the glass. "That fellow is an oxygen breathing creature. He seems to thrive on the air outside!

The commander grabbed his weapon, paralysis gun, and headed for the sealed hatch that was their only way out. Dr. Velus followed him, waiting while the power-operated door slowly swung wide. A light aluminum ladder was dropped and the pair clambered down to the ground below. Dr. Velus stamped the solid ground and grinned, breathing deeply as he took his first few steps.

"Look out!" his commander shouted. Dr. Velus was near a twisted, towering growth nearby. A legless creature, seemingly a fleshy extension of the immovable growth darted out at the doctor. The commander's paralysis gun came up, steadied, and buzzed faintly. The repulsive creature suddenly went limp and dropped away, falling into the 'dust. Dr. Veins looked at the stiff yellowish growth on the ground. It covered the surface of the planet in every direction. The red and orange vegetation was more complex, growing much higher. And weird noises were in their ears. The noise came from the trees, from brightly colored creatures that peered down, telling each other about the intruder.

"This is wonderful, Velus! Do you realize how long we've been out in space? I'd forgotten what gravity was like. I'd forgotten there was any real food in the universe. We've been living on vitamin pills and liquid proteins too long.''

Dr. Velus laughed. "We're fit though, commander. Come - let's walk, see what there is to see in this strange land."

The pair walked, looking upward at the sky, peering at every new type of vegetation. They saw a man-like creature sitting in the dust staring owlishly at them. Suddenly, the animal became alarmed, uttered a warning bark, and vanished in some rocks. It was only then that they saw he had a tail.

They came to water — black, dense water. Things moved unseen below the surface. Once, there was a wild threshing. A huge jaw flashed above the surface and they saw that the giant creature was being attacked by another monster below the surface. Everything they saw held wonder for the space scientists.

They saw a long-necked creature cavorting across the plain. And they saw an animal with no neck at all, heavily-bodied, seemingly armored against attack, with a massive blunt horn on its snout.

"We've been to many planets, haven't we, doctor?" the commander asked.

The doctor looked around, smiled, and nodded. "Yes, commander, we have been to the very limits of the universe!" "And we've seen all manners of creatures in the different worlds, have we not?" The doctor nodded once more. "Yes, commander, we have!" The commander waved at it all, the plains, the white peaks far away, and the beautiful blue sky. "And this, in all the universe, is best! This land, in the autumn season, is more beautiful than any other!" The doctor nodded and stamped his foot on Earth. They were home after a cruise that had lasted years. "Yes, commander, it is good to be home. We are in Africa, of course, we know that from the monkeys, snakes, and rhinos that we've seen. A conventional type of aircraft is on its way for us now!"


 "The Strange Place" was first published in Weird Tales Volume 46, number 3, July 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.  The original scan from which this story was transcribed is available for free at the outstanding Digital Comics Museum.

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