TO FORD McCORMACK
ON AND ON Coeurl prowled. The black, moonless, almost starless night yielded reluctantly
before a grim reddish dawn that crept up from his left. It was a vague light that gave no sense of
approaching warmth. It slowly revealed a nightmare landscape.
Jagged black rock and a black, lifeless plain took form around him. A pale red sun peered above
the grotesque horizon. Fingers of light probed among the shadows. And still there was no sign of
the family of id creatures that he had been trailing now for nearly a hundred days.
He stopped finally, chilled by the reality. His great forelegs twitched with a shuddering
movement that arched every razor-sharp claw. The thick tentacles that grew from his shoulders
undulated tautly. He twisted his great cat head from side to side, while the hairlike tendrils that
formed each ear vibrated frantically, testing every vagrant breeze, every throb in the ether.
There was no response. He felt no swift tingling along his intricate nervous system. There was no
suggestion anywhere of the presence of the id creatures, his only source of food on this desolate
planet. Hopelessly, Coeurl crouched, an enormous catlike figure silhouetted against the dim,
reddish sky line, like a distorted etching of a black tiger in a shadow world. What dismayed him
was the fact that he had lost touch. He possessed sensory equipment that could normally
detect organic id miles away. He recognized that he was no longer normal. His overnight failure
to maintain contact indicated a physical breakdown. This was the deadly sickness he had heard
about. Seven times in the past century he had found coeurls, too weak to move, their otherwise
immortal bodies emaciated and doomed for lack of food. Eagerly, then, he had smashed their
unresisting bodies, and taken what little id was still keeping them alive.
Coeurl shivered with excitement, remembering those meals. Then he snarled audibly, a defiant
sound that quavered on the air, echoed and re-echoed among the rocks, and shuddered back
along his nerves. It was an instinctive expression of his will to live.
And then, abruptly, he stiffened.
High above the distant horizon he saw a tiny glowing spot. It came nearer. It grew rapidly,
enormously, into a metal ball. It became a vast, round ship. The great globe, shining like
polished silver, hissed by above Coeurl, slowing visibly. It receded over a black line of hills to
the right, hovered almost motionless for a second, then sank down out of sight.
Coeurl exploded from his startled immobility. With tigerish speed, he raced down among the
rocks. His round, black eyes burned with agonized desire. His ear tendrils, despite their
diminished powers, vibrated a message of id in such quantities that his body felt sick with the
pangs of his hunger.
The distant sun, pinkish now, was high in the purple and black sky when he crept up behind a