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Lonesome Hearts   By: (1904-1971)

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Mjly is Yljm's love life. She is her sisters, her mothers, herselves and her ancestors. But poor old Yljm can never be a mother or a sister just himself!

[Illustration]

lonesome hearts

By RUSS WINTERBOTHAM

Illustrated by Kelly Freas

It seems unnecessary to say that my story began a long time ago, but I do not intend to be subtle. I am not clever and my lying is unpolished, almost amateurish. So I certainly could not be subtle, which requires both cleverness and an ability to tell the truth and a lie in the same breath.

Let us turn back the clock a few ages. I was lying in the sun thinking of love. I understand that you human beings have an aversion to biological discussion, so I will not go into detail. But I must remind you that my love life is quite different from yours, for I am from another planet. At the time under discussion, I was most deeply in love.

My heart's desire had no shape, the lovely creature. She had no intelligence, the divine soul. But she was the greatest bit of protoplasm in any galaxy you could name. By our standards, I probably might be called handsome. I was young and healthy. I had all of my genes and chromosomes. My color was the dirty green that is associated with beauty.

The sun warmed my body and the tidal undulation of my planet's surface rocked me gently. And then she came into my life. She floated gently in the breeze, her dainty figure held aloft by a mere hint of levitation. Sparks of static electricity shot from her tender cilia so brightly that I was forced to exude a layer of protective fibre to protect my visual buds. She sucked a deep breath of cyanic gas into her pulmonary pouch and spoke to me sweetly with a voice like distant thunder.

"My dear Yljm, the world is coming to an end."

I could not believe her, for she had no intelligence. She only loved to talk. "Perhaps," I said, "but not today."

"Very soon, then," said she. Her name was Mjly.

I watched her with patronizing amusement. The static electricity showed that she was nervous and upset, but people often get nervous and upset over trivial matters. "Now, how," I reasoned, "could our world come to an end? The other planet has gone on for thousands of years without colliding with us. We circle it, in fact."

"No," Mjly said, "that is not our doom. Actually our world will not cease to exist. Life will end here, that is all."

"Ah," I said. "Our atmosphere is escaping into space." I sucked air, viciously. True, the air was thin. True, the atmosphere was escaping. But there would be breathable amounts for many thousands of centuries yet to come.

"Not the air. The food is all gone. Things we eat have ceased to exist."

I levitated myself and looked out over the throbbing land. A few years ago, this land had been covered with vegetation. I had come to take vegetation so much for granted that I'd ceased to notice it. Now it was gone. There were no round fruits growing from tender grasses, no tubers dangling from the fungus trees, no legume vines sprawling over the rocks. Everywhere lay desert, barren dunes shaking their crests with tidal motion.

I lowered myself to the ground and dug my big fibrosities into the sod. No green leaves grew there beneath the surface. The soil was dead. "This will seriously interfere with our future, Mjly," I said.

"We might eat each other," she replied, "but then there would be no one left."

"No one? There are many others here."

"The others are dying," said Mjly, blinking her otic nerves eerily. "We soon will be the only ones left."

It was indeed a senseless thing to do, to die just because there was no means of going on living. But I must admit that I was tempted for a moment. But I hung onto myself, for there was Mjly, and as long as she lived, there was a reason for me to live too.

"It's not a cheerful prospect," I said, "but I suppose death by starvation is the best way out. We will face death as we have lived, cheerfully and fortuitously."

"And why should we die, when there is another world so close?" she asked... Continue reading book >>




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