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Sweet Their Blood and Sticky   By:

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Transcriber's Note: This e text was produced from "Worlds of If" November 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

They weren't human weren't even related to humanity through ties of blood but they were our heirs!

SWEET Their blood and sticky


The machine had stood there a long time. It was several hundred feet long and could run on a thimbleful of earth or water. Complete in itself, the machine drew material from the surrounding landscape, transmuting matter to its special purposes. It needed sugar, salt, water and many other things but never failed to have them. It was still working. And at the delivery end, where the packaging devices had been broken down, it turned out a steady turgid stream on the ground of pink striped, twisting taffy.

Once the whole vast desert area had been filled with such devices, producing all the varied needs of a very needful human race. But there had been no machine to produce peace. The crossing shock waves of fused hydrogen had destroyed the machines by the tens of thousands, along with all the automatic shipping lines, leaving only, in the quirk of a pressure cross pattern, an undisturbed taffy making machine, oozing its special lava on the plateau floor.

It had been working seven and a half million years.

It continued to repair itself, as if a child of the race that had started all this would come by it at any moment to tip an eager pinky in the still warm taffy to taste its tangy sweetness. But there were no human beings. There had been none since the day when the packager collapsed, at the edge of the total evaporation zone.

Creno set a few of his legs on the edge of the glassy, weathered ridge and gazed over the plateau. Harta, next to him, trembled as she adjusted to the strange hardness of these four dimensions. "Being is a thin thing here," she said.

"Thin, yes," Creno smiled. "An almost dead world. But there is a mystery in that almost to make the journey worth the coming."

"What mystery?" But Creno was of the wisest on the home planet and her sense feelers scanned once more to find what he must mean. "I do feel it! Everything dead but that one great mental thing moving, and a four dimensional stream coming out in the vibrations of this world!"

"I have been watching it," said Creno. "What kind of life can that be? You are a sharp sensor, Harta. Focus to it."

She strained and then relaxed, speaking: "The circuits are closed into themselves. It learns nothing from outside itself except to move and extend its metal feelers for food. Soil is its food. Soil is its energy. Soil is its being."

"Can it be alive?"

"It is alive."

All his legs rested now in a row along the ridge. He too was relaxed as one mystery disappeared. "I feel your feelings, but the thing is not alive. It is a machine."

"I do not understand. A machine in the middle of a dead world?"

"Whether we understand why or not, that is what it is a machine."

Harta throbbed with excitement. How could Creno be wrong? He knew everything as soon as the facts were in his mind. Yet here now were living things crawling toward the machine, just like the excrescence at one end but in no way a part of it! The feeling of willed effort as they crawled slowly toward it, white and pink striped, reaching grasping feelers into the turgid product, taking it in, then rising on easing legs as the food spread within them.

"There are living creatures here!" Creno pondered. "I feel your messages. Twenty, thirty a horde is crawling from that mountain toward it."

"Four thousand three hundred and ninety one," said Harta. She concentrated. "There are three thousand and five more in the mountain caves, waiting to come out as the others return."

They came in groups of about a hundred, pulling themselves slowly toward the edges of the great sticky lake that lay within the vaster area where the pink matter dried and crumbled into the strong breeze... Continue reading book >>

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