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´╗┐Title: I Like Martian Music
Author: Fritch, Charles E., 1927-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "I Like Martian Music" ***

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    _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 among
the sandy red hills that surrounded him. His skin at that moment was a
medium yellow, a shade between pride and happiness at having his brief
symphony almost completed, with just a faint tinge of red to denote that
uncertain, cautious approach to the last note which had eluded him thus
far.

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

But Longtree frowned, and at the disappointment his body flushed a dark
green and began taking on a purple cast of anger. Hastily, he put down
the blowstring and tried to think of something else. Slowly his normal
color returned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the instrument came sounds the like of which Channeljumper had
never before heard. The Martian sat and listened in evident rapture, his
body radiating a golden glow of ecstasy. He sat and dreamed, and as the
music played, his spine tingled with growing excitement. The music
swelled, surrounding him, permeating him, picking him up in a great hand
and sweeping him into new and strange and beautiful worlds--worlds of
tall metal structures, of vast stretches of greenness and of water and
of trees and of small pale creatures that flew giant metal insects. He
dreamed of these things which his planet Mars had not known for millions
of years.

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

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

"Yes," Longtree admitted.

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

Longtree sighed. "One more note would do it. One more note--no more, no
less--at the end of the crescendo could tie the symphony together and
end 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 a
more acceptable green. "But I've got to win first prize at the festival
tomorrow; Redsand promised to marry me if I did."

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

"If," Longtree echoed despairingly, as though his friend had asked the
impossible. "I wish I had your confidence, Chan; you're orange most of
the 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 the
paradox.

Channeljumper laughed too, glad that he had diverted his friend's
attention from the elusive and perhaps non-existent note. "Did you know
the space rocket is due pretty soon," he said, "perhaps even in time for
the 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 the
third 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 their
music--" He paused and turned a very deep yellow. "Of course! They might
even 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't
win, 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. "I
don't make the rules," he said.

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

Channeljumper shuddered jestingly at this but remained pleasantly
orange. "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 already
taken him over to the nearest sand dune and out of sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But only on the outside," Channeljumper went on. "They have an outside
shell 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 his
knowledge, "and they were sort of pink-orange underneath. There are only
two 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 short-haired one
followed me," he said.

Longtree felt the chill blue of fear creep along his spine, but
immediate anger at himself changed it conveniently to purple, and he was
certain Channeljumper hadn't noticed. When he had controlled himself, he
said, "Well, it doesn't matter. I've got to get on with my symphony.
That last note--"

"He's here," Channeljumper announced.

"What?"

Channeljumper pointed eagerly, and Longtree's eyes followed the
direction to where the alien stood at the top of a nearby dune staring
at them. Longtree could feel his skin automatically turning red with
caution, blending with the sand while the ever-trusting Channeljumper
remained bright orange.

"Good gosh," the alien exclaimed. "Not only do they look like modified
grasshoppers, they change color too!"

"What'd he say?" Longtree demanded.

"How should I know?" Channeljumper said. "It's in another language."

"And its voice," Longtree exclaimed, almost disbelieving it. "Low. Lower
than even our drums' rumble."

"And they talk in squeaks yet!" the alien told himself aloud.

Longtree regarded the alien carefully. As Channeljumper had said, the
creature was short and had close-cropped hair on its head. The legs were
brief and pudgy, and Longtree felt a shade of pity for the creature who
could obviously not get around as well as they. It was undoubtedly
intelligent--the space rocket testified to that--and the fact that the
creature's skin color stayed a peaceful pink-orange helped assure
Longtree the alien's mission was friendly.

The alien raised a short arm and stepped slowly forward. "I come in
peace," he said in the language they could not understand. "My wife and
I are probably the only humans left alive. When we left Earth, most of
the population had been wiped out by atomics. I think we were the only
ones to get away."

Longtree felt his redness subside to orange, as he wondered idly what
the alien had said. Except for a natural curiosity, he didn't really
care, for he remembered suddenly the symphony he had to finish by
tomorrow if he were to marry Redsand. But there was the element of
politeness to consider, so he nudged Channeljumper.

"Don't just stand there, say something!"

Channeljumper flustered and turned several colors in rapid succession.
He stammered, "Er--ah--welcome to our planet, O visitor from space," and
motioned the alien to sit down.

"That's not very creative," Longtree accused.

"What's the difference," Channeljumper pointed out, "when he doesn't
understand us anyway."

"You guys don't really look like grasshoppers," the man from Earth
apologized, coming forward; "it's just the long legs that fooled me from
up there. Boy, am I glad to find somebody intelligent on Mars; from the
air we couldn't see any cities or anything, and we were afraid the
planet didn't have any life. I wish we could understand each other,
though."

Longtree smiled pleasantly and wished the creature would go away so he
could search for the last note to his symphony. He picked up his
blowstring so the alien wouldn't sit on it.

"Play for him," Channeljumper suggested, seating himself by segments.
"Just the last part to see how he reacts. Music is universal, you know."

Longtree was going to do just that thing, for despite Channeljumper's
warning that he must compose every single note by himself, he felt an
alien viewpoint might be helpful.

He started playing. Channeljumper sat dreaming, glowing radiantly, but
the alien seemed somewhat perturbed by the music and fidgeted nervously.
Could it be, Longtree wondered, that the incredible beauty of his
composition might not translate acceptably to alien ears? He dismissed
the thought as unlikely.

"Er--that's a bit high, isn't it?" the creature said, shaking his head.

Lost in the sweeping melodies, neither Longtree nor Channeljumper paid
any attention to the meaningless syllables. Longtree played on,
oblivious to all else, soaring toward the great screaming crescendo that
would culminate with the missing note.

Vaguely, he became aware that the creature had gotten up, and he turned
a small part of his attention to the action. Longtree smiled inwardly,
pleased, and turned yellow with pride to think even a man from another
planet should so appreciate his symphony that he got up and danced a
strange dance and even sang to the music.

The alien held onto his ears and leaped erratically, singing, "No, no,
stop it. It's too high. My head's bursting!"

Channeljumper too seemed pleased by this show of appreciation, though
neither of them understood the words, and Longtree swept into the final
notes of the rising crescendo with a gusto he had not previously
displayed. He stopped where he had always stopped--and the final note
came!

It startled the Martians. Then the realization swept over them in glad
tides of color. The symphony was complete now, with that final alien
sound. Longtree could win both the festival prize and Redsand with it.
The last note was a soft popping sound that had come from the creature
from another planet. They looked to see him sagging to the ground, his
head soft and pulpy.

"My symphony's complete," Longtree exclaimed jubilantly, a brilliant
yellow now.

But Channeljumper's yellow happiness was tinged with green. "A pity," he
said, "the creature had to give its life in exchange for the note."

"I believe it really wanted to," Longtree said, turning solemn. "Did you
see how it danced to the music, as though in the throes of ecstasy, and
it didn't change color once! It must have died happy to know it gave
itself to a good cause."

"You could probably get by with claiming to use the creature as an
auxiliary instrument," mused Channeljumper, practical once more, "and
eliminate any claim that he might have assisted you. But what about the
Festival? This one looks as though he doesn't have another note in him."

"There's the other one," Longtree reminded, "the one with long hair. We
can save that one until tomorrow."

"Of course," Channeljumper agreed, standing up. "I'll go get it, and you
can keep it safe here in your hole until tomorrow night."

"You're a good friend, Channeljumper," Longtree began, but the other was
already bounding out of sight over a sand dune.

Blissfully he raised the blowstring into position and played the opening
notes to his symphony. The alien lay unmoving with its head in a sticky
puddle, but Longtree took no notice. He didn't even consider that after
the Festival he would never be able to play his symphony again in all
its glorious completeness. His spinal column tingled pleasantly, and his
skin turned the golden yellow of unbearable happiness.

The music was beautiful.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ September 1957.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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