An altogether different story from “Fog’s Door”.
This blurb is still being worked on. Stay tuned.
A dead planet, once known as Fortul, hurtles through the unforgiving icy darkness of space. Its atmosphere lies frozen on the surface – at nearly absolute zero. There can be no life on Fortul’s surface.
But deep inside a mountain, the remaining people of the cavern town of Pelstic sleep. There, fifteen-year-old Nahroe dreams of the trips he and his father take to the surface where they harvest frozen air and water for the people of their town.
But while young Nahroe sleeps his dream is shattered as he awakens to the terrifying reality that his planet has begun violently shuddering. Walls and ceilings snap and crumble. The air is filled with choking dust from crumbling stone. Some of its people have died.
The people had been looking forward to their annual telling of The Four Stories – tales of their planet’s distant past, and how the population was ordered to build towns and cities beneath its surface. But now, after the dust has settled, and the work of clearing the debris, and burying the dead, the survivors will be forced to face the dreadful truth – the end of life in Pelstic has arrived. The telling of The Four Stories has come to an end as well.
Nahroe and his father reluctantly come up with a desperate plan to leave the mountain and venture out into the killer cold and darkness – maybe, just maybe they can find help. The awful alternative: remain in crippled Pelstic and wait to die off, one by one.
As the family dons the very old and heavy surface suits Nahroe quietly decides to begin committing to memory a Fifth Story – to be told to others, if he can only survive the nightmarish dangers ahead.
A Tip of the Hat to writer, Fritz Leiber.
I’ve only recently learned who the writer was of another short science fiction story I read as a young teenager. ALL I can remember of the story was a very cold world, a boy, and a long hallway of hanging blankets, leading deep into the shelter of a small, poor, family. I have never remembered anything else of the story. Over the years I’ve searched for the source of the story based on my few memory fragments and a few years ago I discovered it was from a very early 1950s copy of Galaxy Magazine, a collection of short stories. I then learned the name of the novel, A Pail of Air. My story is based solely on two mental images I remember – (1) the dark, icy-cold world, and (2) the long hallway of hanging blankets. It may even have been that I read only the first pages of Leiber’s book before getting sidetracked with other boy-things.
Since I learned of the novel’s name, and that of the writer, I have avoided re-reading the story, to insure I don’t learn anything more of Leiber’s work before finishing mine. After I publish my story, I will eagerly read his story again.