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Old Friends Are the Best   By: (1931-)

Old Friends Are the Best by Jack Sharkey

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[Transcriber note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories March 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Are you one of those people who save the best things for the last ... who eat all the chocolate sundae away from under the maraschino cherry? If so, you are very like the Peter W. Merrill Moonplant.]

It had no awareness of time, and so did not know nor concern itself with the millennia that passed since it first drew up the dissolved silicates from the shifting grey remnants of soil and arranged them inside the walls of the thousand green pods that were its body cells, and settled down to wait. Somewhere within its fragile cortex, a tiny pulse of life beat. It was a feeble pulse, to be sure, and one that a man, unless he could observe it for a thousand years without blinking, would not be aware of. As the normal human heart beats seventy two times a minute, so did this tiny swelling of tube contract once each hundred years; fifty tireless years of contraction, then fifty soothing years of relaxation, bringing the walls of the slender tube together, then letting them ease apart.

But it was sufficient for its life.

The pallid yellow sap was moved about inside the plant, once each hundred years, and the plasm of the silicon protected cellular structure absorbed just the needed amount, bleeding off the waste products between the very molecules of the silicon buttresses, and patiently waiting the century out till the second helping came oozing around.

And so it lay dormant, through heat that could send a man into convulsions of agony in seconds, through cold that fractional degree lower than can be achieved in a scientific laboratory. It did not know where it was, nor what it was, nor how precarious by cosmic standards was its chance of survival, with sap enough stored in the stiff, coarse roots for only a few more million years.

It simply was, and knew that it was, and was satisfied.

Such a tiny organism can have only the most rudimentary of memories, but it remembered. Once Once long before, there had been ... more.

Life had been the same, but somehow fuller. When it tried to recall exactly in what this fullness lay, the memory just was not there; only a vague recollection of comfort, motion, satiation.

When the men landed upon the moon in the twentieth century, they did not find it at first. Locating it would have been comparable to stumbling upon a solitary blade of grass, imbedded in ice at the South Pole. Men came to the moon, though, and began to settle there. The first homes they knew were mere metal shacks, filled with life giving gases of their planetary atmosphere, and devoid of all comforts save those necessary for maintenance of life.

But men have a way of rising above the status quo, and so, within half a pulsebeat of the plant, the surface of the moon became dotted with these iglooic shacks, then pressurized tunnels radiated out in a unifying network, and soon the Domes began to grow; immense translucent light weight structures of enormous strength bubbled up on the moon, and soon cities were being built beneath them, strange towering fairyland cities on this satellite where people and architecture alike boasted six times the power possessed on Earth. The cities soared upward in glinting, stalagmitic pinnacles whose tapering ends seemed to threaten the fabric of the Domes themselves, but were in reality still far below the blue white curving surface.

Machines lay buried now in the grey pumice that was the surface of the moon; machines that drained gases from the oxides and nitrates within the planetoid and filled the Domes for the people with the life giving gases. And still the moon grew more Domes, and more.

And then, three motions of the tiny plant after the primal landing of men on the moon, three half cycles later, a pulse and a half It was found... Continue reading book >>

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