I like martian music, p.1

I Like Martian Music, page 1

 

I Like Martian Music


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I Like Martian Music


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  _There have been a number of interesting theories advanced about life on Mars, but few have equalled Charles Fritch's intriguing picture of the world of Longtree and Channeljumper in its infinite variations, tonal and thematic. The Mars of these two is an old culture, old and finite._

  i like martian music

  _by CHARLES E. FRITCH_

  Longtree played. His features relaxed into a gentle smile of happiness and his body turned a bright red orange.

  Longtree sat before his hole in the ground and gazed thoughtfully amongthe sandy red hills that surrounded him. His skin at that moment was amedium yellow, a shade between pride and happiness at having his briefsymphony almost completed, with just a faint tinge of red to denote thatuncertain, cautious approach to the last note which had eluded him thusfar.

  He sat there unmoving for a while, and then he picked up his blowstringand fitted the mouthpiece between his thin lips. He blew into it softlyand at the same time gently strummed the three strings stretching thelength of the instrument. The note was a firm clear one which would havemade any other musician proud.

  But Longtree frowned, and at the disappointment his body flushed a darkgreen and began taking on a purple cast of anger. Hastily, he put downthe blowstring and tried to think of something else. Slowly his normalcolor returned.

  Across the nearest hill came his friend Channeljumper, striding on thelong thin ungainly legs that had given him his name. His skin radiated ablissful orange.

  "Longtree!" Channeljumper exclaimed enthusiastically, collapsing on theground nearby and folding his legs around him. "How's the symphonycoming?"

  "Not so good," Longtree admitted sadly, and his skin turned green at thememory. "If I don't get that last note, I may be this color the rest ofmy life."

  "Why don't you play what you've written so far. It's not very long, andit might cheer you up a bit."

  You're a good friend, Channeljumper, Longtree thought, and when Redsandand I are married after the Music Festival we'll have you over to ourhole for dinner. As he thought this, he felt his body take on an orangecast, and he felt better.

  "I can't seem to get that last note," he said, picking up the blowstringagain and putting it into position. "The final note must be conclusive,something complete in itself and yet be able to sum up the entiremeaning of the symphony preceding it."

  Channeljumper hummed sympathetically. "That's a big job for one note. Itmight be a sound no one has ever heard before."

  Longtree shrugged. "It may even sound _alien_," he admitted, "but it'sgot to be the right note."

  "Play, and we'll see," Channeljumper urged.

  Longtree played. And as he played, his features relaxed into a gentlesmile of happiness and his body turned orange. Delicately, he strummedthe three strings of the blowstring with his long-nailed fingers, softlyhe pursed his frail lips and blew expertly into the mouthpiece.

  From the instrument came sounds the like of which Channeljumper hadnever before heard. The Martian sat and listened in evident rapture, hisbody radiating a golden glow of ecstasy. He sat and dreamed, and as themusic played, his spine tingled with growing excitement. The musicswelled, surrounding him, permeating him, picking him up in a great handand sweeping him into new and strange and beautiful worlds--worlds oftall metal structures, of vast stretches of greenness and of water andof trees and of small pale creatures that flew giant metal insects. Hedreamed of these things which his planet Mars had not known for millionsof years.

  After a while, the music stopped, but for a moment neither of them saidanything.

  At last Channeljumper sighed. "It's beautiful," he said.

  "Yes," Longtree admitted.

  "But--" Channeljumper seemed puzzled--"but somehow it doesn't seemcomplete. Almost, but not quite. As though--as though--"

  Longtree sighed. "One more note would do it. One more note--no more, noless--at the end of the crescendo could tie the symphony together andend it. But which one? I've tried them all, and none of them fit!"

  His voice had risen higher in his excitement, and Channeljumper warned,"Careful, you're beginning to turn purple."

  "I know," Longtree said mournfully, and the purple tint changed to amore acceptable green. "But I've got to win first prize at the festivaltomorrow; Redsand promised to marry me if I did."

  "You can't lose," Channeljumper told him, and then remembered, "if youcan get that last note."

  "If," Longtree echoed despairingly, as though his friend had asked theimpossible. "I wish I had your confidence, Chan; you're orange most ofthe time, while I'm a spectrum."

  "I haven't your artistic temperament," Channeljumper told him. "Besides,orange is such a homely color I feel ashamed to have it all the time."

  As he said this, he turned green with shame, and Longtree laughed at theparadox.

  Channeljumper laughed too, glad that he had diverted his friend'sattention from the elusive and perhaps non-existent note. "Did you knowthe space rocket is due pretty soon," he said, "perhaps even in time forthe Music Festival?"

  "Space rocket?"

  "Oh, I forgot you were busy composing and didn't get to hear about it,"Channeljumper said. "Well, Bigwind, who has a telescope in his hole,told me a rocket is coming through space toward us, possibly from thethird planet."

  "Oh?" Longtree said, not particularly interested.

  "I wonder if they'll look like us?" Channeljumper wondered.

  "If they're intelligent, of course they will," Longtree said certainly,not caring. "Their culture will probably be alien, though, and theirmusic--" He paused and turned a very deep yellow. "Of course! They mighteven be able to furnish the note I need to complete my symphony!"

  Channeljumper shook his head. "You've got to compose it all yourself,"he reminded, "or you don't qualify. And if you don't qualify, you can'twin, and if you don't win, you can't marry Redsand."

  "But just one little note--" Longtree said.

  Channeljumper shrugged helplessly and turned sympathetically green. "Idon't make the rules," he said.

  "No. Well," Longtree went on in sudden determination, "I'll find thatlast note if I have to stay permanently purple."

  Channeljumper shuddered jestingly at this but remained pleasantlyorange. "And I'll leave you alone so you can get to work," he said,unfolding himself.

  "Goodbye," Longtree said, but Channeljumper's long legs had alreadytaken him over to the nearest sand dune and out of sight.

  Alone, Longtree picked up the blowstring once more, placed it againsthis stomach, and gave out with a clear, beautiful, experimental notewhich was again not the one he desired.

  He still had not found it an hour later, when the Sound came. The Soundwas a low unpleasant rumble, a sound lower than any Longtree had everheard, and he wondered what it was. Thinking of it, he remembered he hadseen a large flash of fire in the sky a moment before the roar came. Butsince this last was clearly not likely at all, he dismissed the wholething as imagination and tried again to coax some new note from theblowstring.

  A half hour later, Channeljumper came bounding excitedly over a sanddune. "They're here," he cried, screeching to a halt and emitting yellowflashes of color.

  "Who's here?" Longtree demanded, turning violet in annoyance at theinterruption.

  "The visitors from space," Channeljumper explained. "They landed near myhole. They're little creatures, only half as big as we are, but thickerand grey colored."

  "Grey colored?" Longtree repeated incredulously, trying to picture theimprobability.

  "But only on the outside," Channeljumper went on. "They have an outsideshell that comes off, and inside they're sort
of pink-orange."

  "Ah-ha," Longtree said, as though he'd suspected it all the time."Evidently they wear grey suits of some kind, probably for protection."

  "They took them off anyway," Channeljumper said, eager to impart hisknowledge, "and they were sort of pink-orange underneath. There are onlytwo of them, and one has long hair."

  "Strange," Longtree mused, thinking of their own hairless bodies."Wonder what they want."

  Channeljumper shrugged to indicate he didn't know. "The
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