Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/113

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were willing, too, but our mounts got the idea just as quickly. It was the smell.

There was a new odor in the air. A sudden one. It had just that instant wafted itself across our nostrils. It was at first repelling. That's why we stopped. But sniffing it a bit took a little of the repulsion away. It wasn't so very awful.

In fact it wasn't actually bad. It was had to describe. Not exactly like anything I've ever smelled before. Vaguely it was acrid and vaguely it was dry. Mostly I would say that it smelled like a curious mixture of burning rubber and zinc ointment.

It grew stronger as we sat there and then it began to die away a bit as a slight breeze moved it on. We both got the impression at the same time that it had come from the broken glass bubbles.

We rode on cautiously.

"Maybe the meteors landed in an alkali pool and there's been some chemical reaction going on," I opined to Ed. "Could be," he said and we rode nearer.

The black clouds were piling up now in the west and a faint breeze began to stir. Ed and I dismounted to look into the odd meteors.

"Looks like we better get under cover till it blows over," he remarked.

"We've got a few minutes, I think," I replied. "Besides by the rise right here is just about the best cover around."

Back at the Weather Station, the temperature was rising steadily and the Chief was getting everything battened down. The storm was coming and, in meeting the thin edge of the Warm Front wedge which was now passing Rock Springs, would create havoc. Then the cold wave might get that far because it was over the Divide and heading for the other two. In a few minutes all hell would break loose. The Chief wondered where we were.

We were looking into the hole in the nearest bubble. The things—they must have been the meteors we were looking for—were about twelve feet in diameter and pretty nearly perfect spheres. They were thick-shelled, smooth, and very glassy and iridescent, like mother-of-pearl on the inside. They were quite hollow, and we couldn't figure out what they were made of and what they could be. Nothing I had read or learned could explain the things. That they were meteoric in origin I was sure because there was the evidence of the scattered ground and broken rocks about to show the impact. Yet they must have been terrifically tough or something because, save for the few cracks and the hole in one, they were intact.

Inside they stank of that rubber-zinc smell. It was powerful. Very powerful.

The stink had obviously come from the bubbles—there was no pool around.

It suddenly occurred to me that we had breathed air of some other world. For if these things were meteoric and the smell had come from the inside, then it was no air of Earth that smelled like burning rubber and zinc oint-