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One Purple Hope!   By: (1913-1977)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Planet Stories July 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: If I'm going to die it's going to be my way that was Latham's last thought. ]



Once he had been a tall, straight spaceman, free as the galaxies. Now Joel Latham was a tsith addict, a beach comber at Venusport. Maybe he'd get one last chance....

His sleep drugged mind was slow to respond. He was lying face down, he knew that. And he ought to get up. If he didn't get up he would drown. Something hot and heavy, like a huge hand, was pressing him deeper into the brackish mire. He pondered. Perhaps it were better to drown. For a moment he allowed himself the luxury of the thought, then decided against it. Plenty of time later for drowning. First there was something he had to do!

So it was that Joel Latham, Earthman, age thirty, occupation space drifter, avocation tsith drinker, awakened on this most momentous of mornings.

Moaning in protest, he slowly rolled himself over. The sun slapped him hard against the eyes. He blinked against the pain and saw that he was still in Venusport; rather he was at the edge of the swamp near the sprawling compound. Overhead the ionic field was aglow, humming softly, beating back the obscurant mists.

He managed to stand up. Some of the pallid faced gweels, out in the swamp, stopped their work to stare at him. Latham grimaced. Every fiber of him, especially his brain, seemed to have been squeezed dry. Then it came. He felt it coming and there was nothing he could do to stop it. The hammering nausea took him suddenly about the middle, bending him double.

"I'm an Earthman," Joel Latham groaned aloud. That was invariably the first reaction of the tsith hound, at least with Terrestrials who indulged in the deadly stuff; a piteous protest half in defiance, half in despair. The nausea reached up through his stomach, through his chest and into his throat. It became more than nausea. It grew thorns that stabbed inwardly, jagged edges that sawed away at his brain with a terrible need. He fell forward on hands and knees ... and that's when he saw the little Martian who crouched a few feet away, watching him.

"I went through mine a few minutes ago," the Martian said in a monotone. "Yours will go away presently."

"I know ... it will. Been through this ... before."

"You obviously have. Many times."

Many times was an understatement, Latham thought wretchedly. But this was one of the worst ones, even worse than the time on Callisto. Thinking about it didn't help.

He turned his gaze back to the Martian. That didn't help either.

Most Martians are lean and brown and ugly. This one was that, and more. What had once been clothes were tattered and spattered with swamp mud. The hair was a wisp, the teeth only a memory. The skin was tight and leathery across the bony structure of the face, the eyes distended and yellow, the unmistakable sign of a tsith hound.

Latham grimaced, managed to grind out: "Do I look as bad as you?"

"Worse," the little Martian was matter of fact.

"I believe you." He looked long and hard at the Martian. "I remember you now. Name's Kueelo. You were with me last night "

Kueelo grinned, showing the stumps of yellowish teeth. "Correction. Four nights ago. That's when it began."

Latham climbed to his feet. The reaction was going away but there was still a dull apathy about his brain. Just to think was an aching effort.

"Four days," he muttered. "How'd I come here?"

"So you don't remember that? You came on the pleasure yacht. The one from Turibek."

"Turibek " Latham was remembering now... Continue reading book >>

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