Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/63

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61
RAIDER OF THE SPACE WAYS

"Can—un—der—stan'! Can—un—der—stan'!"

Thona touched his arm. "He—it—says he understands!"

Kenworth was not so sure. "I don't know. Some automatic reflex of repetition, perhaps," he said, shouting to make himself heard above the tumult. Suddenly the bellowing changed.

"No—rep—i—ti—shun! Can—un—der—stan'!"

"Ye gods!" Kenworth said. "The thing's intelligent!"

And yet—why not? On Mars plants had evolved, under careful training had shown faint gleams of intelligence. And certainly there was a tremendous gulf between an ordinary plant and this incredibly developed plant-monster. Kenworth realized abruptly that he had seen no animal life on the Night Side. Free from the vegetable kingdom's natural enemies—grazing animals, destroying mankind—why could not a plant develop through the eons into an intelligent creature, just as man had evolved through uncounted millenniums?

And the thing unquestionably was intelligent. The hooting died away, and in the silence Kenworth increased the brilliancy of his light-tube. Again came that thunderous bellowing.

"No—no—no—no!"

The lids protecting the thing's eyes twitched. Strong lights, to this being of eternal night, was painful—naturally enough. Kenworth adjusted the light until it was a very faint glow. He said, "How is it you speak our language?"

Surprizingly, the thing shouted, "Telepathy!"

"What?" Kenworth could scarcely believe his ears. This amazing monster of an alien planet!

"Read words—in mind—Kenworth mind—Thona mind—pictures—words——"

Thona said to him, "But we don't think in words, Dal. We think in pictures."

"No, Thona. You're wrong. Really our thoughts are a combination of words and images. This thing seems to be reading the words in our minds, and seeing our thought-images, seeing what the words stand for! It's possible—indeed, the only way true thought-communication can be established. Those N'yok scientists told me——"

The bellowing roared out again. "See word-sounds—pictures—yes. Understand."

"See, Thona?" Kenworth said. "It's fantastic—but scientifically logical."

He turned to the plant-creature. "What are you? I mean—what sort——" He stumbled, paused, and the shouting interrupted him.

"Plant—no. Evolved plant—yes. Lived here always."

Kenworth asked curiously, "Are there many of you? Do you mean you've lived—always?"

Arbitrary time-designations would mean little to the creature, he thought. But the plant caught his meaning.

"Not—like this. Not many—no. Grow—grow——" The thundering voice paused, apparently puzzled. Then it resumed. "Other plant—you saw. Me. Part of me. Born—born—rooted to me. I—die, yes. It lives, has—babies."

Thona could not repress a giggle. Even Kenworth chuckled. Babies! Yet that was the thought the plant had read in the humans' minds—babies, indeed!

Yet Kenworth realized what the creature meant. The first plant-thing they had seen was the offspring of the great plant—connected, apparently, by an underground root. In time the mother plant—if one could use that term of a sexless, or rather bi-sexual vegetable—