Excerpts from Summer 1959 Edition
"I must not fail the others. They are doomed if I do."
As it floated in the warmth of the bright sunshine, it wondered how much energy it had left. It wondered how long it could remain on Earth and still be strong enough to contact the others.
Professor Mallory was eating his lunch and reading the paper when the thought first came to him. It was gone as quickly as it had come; but it had been an interesting thought, and he wished it would come back. It was as though someone were talking to him, only inside his head. Suddenly something caught his eye, and he turned toward the window. In a beam of sunshine something sparkled. He got up and went over to it. There, circling lazily in the warmth with the other specks of dust, floated a tiny crystal. He caught it up in his hands and examined it. It was a very beautiful pale green color, but its shape was different from anything he had ever seen before.
Then the thought returned to him, stronger this time, and it did not go away. It seemed to be the beginning of an idea for an experiment, and he suddenly felt an irresistable desire to work. As the idea grew and took shape inside his head, he felt it was imperative that he start immediately and he hurried into his lab.
He laid the crystal on the table in front of him; and as he looked at it, it appeared to be vibrating like some tiny machine. Then he realized that the crystal was responsible for the strange voice inside his head. "What kind of being is this?" he wondered. "Who has the power to dominate the human mind?" He was very frightened but soon found it was useless to fight this power. When, in sudden panic, he tried to leave the laboratory, a sound so shrill and horrible filled his head that he couldn't move.
In answer to Mallory's silent questions about what he was making, it replied that he was developing an artificial food that would be useful to the crystal. Mallory worked like an automaton far into the night with the voice constantly urging him on. It was like a sharp needle pricking him constantly to make a greater effort. Finally he could work no longer; and the crystal, sensing this, left him in peace.
The next morning when Mallory awoke, the crystal was not where he had left it. There was no voice in his head. He was free — but for a moment only, he knew. He surveyed the mass of equipment strewn on the table and could make no sense of it. He had never seen a set-up like this before. He could not understand why he had mixed these certain chemicals together, either. He knew that what he was making here was somehow evil, and he wanted to destroy it. But before he could touch any of it, he was aware that the crystal was back in its former place; then the voice returned.
At last the formula was complete. Mallory placed the ingredients in a large tank, sat down, and waited. Then something began to happen. A thin, grayish-green vapor began to fill the tank, and as he watched in amazement, it rose, thickening noticeably, and slowly began to fill the air. The crystal floated toward it, and Mallory could sense its satisfaction; but also he knew that time was growing short for the crystal. Already he could feel its power over him weakening. The crystal, too, felt itself weaken, and it began struggling to keep a hold over the chemist.
The dark mist was slowly filling the air. Suddenly it was hard to breathe, and Mallory knew he must do something quickly or he would die. The struggle in his brain to break the crystal's hold over his will was becoming unbearable; but with one last great concentrated effort, he found that he was able to think for himself again. However, the crystal's power was not yet all gone, and it continued to tug at Mallory's thoughts, constantly distracting him.
As the deadly mist slowly curled around him, he realized the crystal's real purpose. This energy-food must live on oxygen! If it were allowed to get out of this room, it would spread over the entire world, living on and using up oxygen. Then the crystal would send for the other ones like itself who awaited its message. They would abandon their planet, which must have lost its source of energy, and invade the Earth.
"This must not happen!" thought Mallory thickly, becoming very faint. He knew he must get out of the laboratory somehow. If he shut the door quickly enough, the mist would not be able to follow him; and when it had used up all of the oxygen in the laboratory, it would die. He staggered toward the door, opened it, rushed out, and slammed it behind him. Quickly he grabbed a rug and stuffed it tightly into the crack under the door. Then, leaning limply against the door, he waited. He could see none of the mist in this outer room.
In the laboratory, the mist by this time had used up all the oxygen in the air and was beginning to decompose and thin out. Here and there the innocent sunshine penetrated the murky screen, and on one ray floated the crystal. It didn't shine so much now; and as it circled slowly among the specks of dust, it became dimmer and dimmer until at last it disappeared entirely.