It was a quiet planet. The quiet had reigned for century
piled on century. Until the Earth ship came.
Beings externally resembling humans lived on the
quiet planet. Their hamlets, villages, towns, slowly
covered the habitable parts of the globe. As they spread
- slowly, slowly - they drove out the species of animal
which had occupied the land. But the animals were not
ferocious, and in many cases lived in the hedgerows and
copses close by humanoid habitation. They did not prey
on the humanoids, or the humanoids on them.
The quiet planet's sun was old long before the first
amoebae stirred in its ocean. Although it occupied a fifth
of the sky at noon, the sun's red warmth was thin.
Evolution was a slow affair. The pain of life, its joys,
were muted. Even the struggle for existence was
Over a half of the planet was land. The oceans were
small and shallow. Much of the land was not habitable
and the humanoids spread out only slowly from the
equator. They encountered deserts where the sand
never stirred. Storms were rare. Periods of calm
prevailed for hundreds of years. Great silences lay over
the land. Until the Earth ship came.
Muffled against heat, the people moved through
barren regions before settling in clement valleys. Their
villages were modest. They were great cultivators. It
was their pleasure to tend the land, to groom it, to serve
as its a colytes. The god they worshipped lay in the soil,
not in the sky.
They bred domestic animals, obtaining from them
eggs, milk, cheese, in great variety. Their rapport with
the animal kingdom was so close that they hesitated to
slaughter anything for fear of the pain it brought them.
The humanoids procreated rarely. Group marriages
took place between four people and lasted throughout
the years of life. The children remained many years in
childhood, but often became independent when young;
then they would strap a few necessities on their backs
and move into the hills, to live among the wild things.
With adolescence, some inner call would bring them
back to the nearest town. In a short while, they would
settle down at congenial work, marry, and enjoy life of
domesticity without regret. After death, they were
buried in cemeteries under the open sky, with a carved
stone to preserve their names. This was the way of
existence on the quiet planet for many millenia. Until
the Earth ship came.
The humanoids were in some respects a simple folk.
When they slept, they did not dream. When they
suffered, they rarely wept. Their pleasures were muted.
Yet the sloth of their evolution, its iron peacefulness,
had given them integration. They were whole.
Within that wholeness, they enjoyed much
complexity. From the outside, their lives might have
appeared dull. Their interior life was so rich that they
required no foolish distractions.
In a village called North Oasis, because it was in the
high latitudes, on the fringes of a vast, stoney, desert,
lived a marriage group of four which served as leaders of
the community. Their name was Brattangaa. Many
generations earlier, the Brattangaas had commenced to
build a Common. Now the present generation of
Brattangaas completed it.
The village lay in a valley, sheltered by hills. The
Common stood on the edge of the village.
After the work of the day was done, the people of
North Oasis came to the Common. They had no particular reason for meeting face to face. But they derived a
mild pleasure from each other's physical company.
They sat together on benches round peat fires, touching
each other. They drank their sweet-sour parsnip wine.
Nerdligs moved among them, slow and woolly. The
evenings were unbroken in companionship. Until the
Earth ship came.
The senior male Brattangaa stood at the window of
the tower of the Common. Evening was fading into
dusk, dusk into night, in the slow dying of the day. He
looked out at the landscape, which at this hour appeared
almost lighter than the sky. As was the case with his
people, Brattangaa's interest was much less in the sky
and the heavens than in the things of earth.
He could see the stone roofofhis own marriage homestead from the tower. Inside him, he could sense the
mind-bodies ofhis domestic stock, easily distinguishing
the shapes of one from the next. He could sense the roots
in the ground, growing towards a slow fruition.
His attention moved to the cemetery. There, under
the ground, he could still catch a faint scent of his
parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents.
Their presences, ever fading, were like faint lights
caught in a great fog.
It was all of fifty miles to the next little town, also
clinging to a brook at the fringe of the stoney desert. It
had no tower like this. Brattangaa could sense the lives
of the people of that town; he knew them well,
exchanged peaceable greetings with them, learned the
news of the day. He could sense those whose mind-
warmth was most akin to his own, his friends, as well as
those whose mind-warmth was so different as to make
them especial friends. Some welcomed him in - most
did - others put him away with a friendly image, a
wreath, a stained wooden door, an empty pewter plate,
because they were too occupied with other things.
Brattangaa also sensed the people he knew by
eyesight, the people of North Oasis, including his
companions in the room below. He was not absent from
them, or they from him. A jostling and enriching
harmony prevailed. Until the Earth ship came.
As he sensed contentedly over the land, up the
hillside, he saw with sudden terror a great flame
standing in the sky. Such was his startlement that all in
the room of the Common below also sensed it and
turned their full attention towards what Brattangaa saw.
In North Oasis, people did the same. More faintly,
many people in the distant town did the same. Under
the earth, even the dead generations protested.
All watched as the flame burned in the darkening sky.
Ferocious light and flame beat upon the hillsides. And
then the Earth ship came.
In the ship were five women and four men. They were
of many colours and many nations. They talked in one
language but they dreamed in nine.
Great excitement seized them on landing, as they set
about their pre-exploration tasks.
"Kind of a drab-looking place, I'd say. Still, signs of
habitation right enough."
"Can't wait to get out of this damned can. How many
months we been cooped up in here?"
"Break out the carbines. Don't talk so goddam
"Chance to get in some big game hunting, maybe.
Just imagine a great big bloody steak, fresh off the
"Atmosphere great. We can land ten thousand
colonists right here within a twelve-month."
"We're made, you realise that, made! Grab a few of
the higher life forms, take them back to Earth. Imagine
"Could be some nasty things out there."
"We can handle anything that goes. From now on in,
we're in charge, baby."
"And remember we come in peace."
They went through an hour of rigorous sterile-drill,
moving from chamber to chamber, bathed in changing
wavelengths and liquids, designed to prevent them
from contaminating the atmosphere of the planet they
At last the great ground-level hatch slid open, grating
slightly as it went. The nine stood there in their foil
cover-alls, weapons slung easily on their shoulders.
Then they stepped out, walked on the hillside.
In their heads, in their minds, thoughts raced. A
tremendous voltage of various thought-levels, some
rising from depths beyond the conscious, beyond
control, images hammered on the anvil of a ferocious
evolutionary past. They looked down on North Oasis.
To Brattangaa in the tower, and to those who sensed
him in the room below, in the little town, and in the
distant town, nine strange flesh-like shapes formed on
the hill. From that moment of contact, poison spread.
Emanations, streamers, dark clouds, poured out of their
minds. The emanations assumed definite configuration.
All the myths of Earth - the whole husbandry of the
imagination - burst upon the startled people of the
quiet planet. From clashing cultures, warring climates,
ancient enmities, the images came, as the nine space-
travellers moved forward unknowing. With them came
a terrible music - such music as had never been heard
before upon the quiet planet, music that slashed at the
eardrums like heavy claws.
Accompanying the music came wind. It blew upon
their mind-senses like a storm. It whirled upon their
mental landscapes, it hammered upon the doors of their
consciousness. It blew down chimneys and roofs. It was
And on the pinions of the storm, on the surge of the
music, above the brows of the clouds, rode the legends
of Earth, all those terrible things in near-human form
which haunt the human mind.
Pale Nazarene and sweating Buddha, elephants, cats,
monkeys, serpents, gods, goddesses, grotesques with
many heads, beasts, dragons, things of fire, streamed
forth from the hill. Demons, devils, angels, ghouls.
Never had such things been loose upon the brow of this
placid world. They formed a plague to which there was
no local immunity.
Immediately, their bad news spread across the face of
the globe. Neighbour communed with neighbour, town
with town, province with province, until every being on
the quiet planet, humanoid or animal, stood and stared
transfixed at the terrible monsters unleashed upon their
Last to emerge from the psyches of the nine figures on
the hill were four creatures more terrible than any other.
Even the frenzied music, even the storm, died as they
arrived, as they rose in the saddles of their steeds.
Darkness fell upon the face of the planet. Beneath the
soil, the lights of the dead flickered out.
Forth streamed the four horsemen. Eyes staring, foreheads ablaze, muscles straining, they goaded on their
great steeds. With flaring manes, the four horses leaped
eagerly forward, rejoicing to be free.
The planet was theirs. As the nine space-voyagers
began slowly to descend the hillside, they saw nothing
of what the humanoids saw - the flowing manes, the
flashing hooves, the brandished weapons.
Pestilence, Famine, War, these were their names,
with Death close behind riding an old grey nag. Death's
long beard fluttered in the wind as he galloped into the
valley. Over his shoulder he swung his long scythe. The
broken minds fell before him.
Breathing ash, he stooped to gather up the bodies
lying in his path, stooped laughing over the dying and
There was a plentiful harvest for him on the quiet
planet, when the Earth ship came.