Travis, one knee braced against the
red earth, blinked as he parted a screen of tall rust-brown
grass with cautious fingers to look out into a valley
where golden mist clouded most of the landscape.
His head ached with dull persistence, the pain fostered
in some way by his own bewilderment. To study
the land ahead was like trying to see through one
picture interposed over another and far different one.
He knew what ought to be there, but what was before
him was very dissimilar.
A buff-gray shape flitted through
the tall cover grass, and Travis tensed. Mba’a-coyote?
Or were these companions of his actually ga-n,
spirits who could choose their shape at will and had,
oddly, this time assumed the bodies of man’s
tricky enemy? Were they ndendai-enemies-or
dalaanbiyat’i, allies? In this mad
world he did not know.
Ei’dik’e? His mind
formed a word he did not speak: Friend?
Yellow eyes met his directly.
Dimly he had been aware, ever since awaking in this
strange wilderness with the coming of morning light,
that the four-footed ones trotting with him as he walked
aimlessly had unbeastlike traits. Not only did
they face him eye-to-eye, but in some ways they appeared
able to read his thoughts.
He had longed for water to ease the
burning in his throat, the ever-present pain in his
head, and the creatures had nudged him in another
direction, bringing him to a pool where he had mouthed
liquid with a strange sweet, but not unpleasant taste.
Now he had given them names, names
which had come out of the welter of dreams which shadowed
his stumbling journey across this weird country.
was the female who continued to shepherd him along,
never venturing too far from his side. Naginlta
(He-Who-Scouts-Ahead) was the male who did just that,
disappearing at long intervals and then returning
to face the man and his mate as if conveying some
report necessary to their journey.
It was Nalik’ideyu who sought
out Travis now, her red tongue lolling from her mouth
as she panted. Not from exertion, he was certain
of that. No, she was excited and eager ... on
the hunt! That was it-a hunt!
Travis’ own tongue ran across
his lips as an impression hit him with feral force.
There was meat-rich, fresh-just
ahead. Meat that lived, waiting to be killed.
Inside him his own avid hunger roused, shaking him
farther out of the crusting dream.
His hands went to his waist, but the
groping fingers did not find what vague memory told
him should be there-a belt, heavy with knife
He examined his own body with attention
to find he was adequately covered by breeches of a
smooth, dull brown material which blended well with
the vegetation about him. He wore a loose shirt,
belted in at the narrow waist by a folded strip of
cloth, the ends of which fluttered free. On his
feet were tall moccasins, the leg pieces extending
some distance up his calves, the toes turned up in
Some of this he found familiar, but
these were fragments of memory; again his mind fitted
one picture above another. One thing he did know
for sure-he had no weapons. And that
realization struck home with a thrust of real and
terrible fear which tore away more of the bewilderment
cloaking his mind.
Nalik’ideyu was impatient.
Having advanced a step or two, she now looked back
at him over her shoulder, yellow eyes slitted, her
demand on him as instant and real as if she had voiced
understandable words. Meat was waiting, and she
was hungry. Also she expected Travis to aid in
the hunt-at once.
Though he could not match her fluid
grace in moving through the grass, Travis followed
her, keeping to cover. He shook his head vigorously,
in spite of the stab of pain the motion cost him,
and paid more attention to his surroundings.
It was apparent that the earth under him, the grass
around, the valley of the golden haze, were all real,
not part of a dream. Therefore that other countryside
which he kept seeing in a ghostly fashion was a hallucination.
Even the air which he drew into his
lungs and expelled again, had a strange smell, or
was it taste? He could not be sure which.
He knew that hypno-training could produce queer side
effects, but ... this....
Travis paused, staring unseeingly
before him at the grass still waving from the coyote’s
passage. Hypno-training! What was that?
Now three pictures fought to focus in his mind:
the two landscapes which did not match and a shadowy
third. He shook his head again, his hands to his
temples. This-this only was real:
the ground, the grass, the valley, the hunger in him,
the hunt waiting....
He forced himself to concentrate on
the immediate present and the portion of world he
could see, feel, scent, which lay here and now about
The grass grew shorter as he proceeded
in Nalik’ideyu’s wake. But the haze
was not thinning. It seemed to hang in patches,
and when he ventured through the edge of a patch it
was like creeping through a fog of golden, dancing
motes with here and there a glittering speck whirling
and darting like a living thing. Masked by the
stuff, Travis reached a line of brush and sniffed.
It was a warm scent, a heavy odor
he could not identify and yet one he associated with
a living creature. Flat to earth, he pushed head
and shoulders under the low limbs of the bush to look
Here was a space where the fog did
not hold, a pocket of earth clear under the morning
sun. And grazing there were three animals.
Again shock cleared a portion of Travis’ bemused
They were about the size, he thought,
of antelopes, and they had a general resemblance to
those beasts in that they had four slender legs, a
rounded body, and a head. But they had alien features,
so alien as to hold him in open-mouthed amazement.
The bodies had bare spots here and
there, and patches of creamy-fur? Or
was it hair which hung in strips, as if the creatures
had been partially plucked in a careless fashion?
The necks were long and moved about in a serpentine
motion, as though their spines were as limber as reptiles’.
On the end of those long and twisting necks were heads
which also appeared more suitable to another species-broad,
rather flat, with a singular toadlike look-but
furnished with horns set halfway down the nose, horns
which began in a single root and then branched into
two sharp points.
They were unearthly! Again Travis
blinked, brought his hand up to his head as he continued
to view the browsers. There were three of them:
two larger and with horns, the other a smaller beast
with less of the ragged fur and only the beginning
button of a protuberance on the nose; it was probably
One of those mental alerts from the
coyotes broke his absorption. Nalik’ideyu
was not interested in the odd appearance of the grazing
creatures; she was intent upon their usefulness in
another way-as a full and satisfying meal-and
she was again impatient with him for his dull response.
His examination took a more practical
turn. An antelope’s defense was speed,
though it could be tricked into hunting range through
its inordinate curiosity. The slender legs of
these beasts suggested a like degree of speed, and
Travis had no weapons at all.
Those nose horns had an ugly look;
this thing might be a fighter rather than a runner.
But the suggestion which had flashed from coyote to
him had taken root. Travis was hungry, he was
a hunter, and here was meat on the hoof, queer as
Again he received a message.
Naginlta was on the opposite side of the clearing.
If the creatures depended on speed, then Travis believed
they could probably outrun not only him but the coyotes
as well-which left cunning and some sort
Travis glanced at the cover where
he knew Nalik’ideyu crouched and from which
had come that flash of agreement. He shivered.
These were truly no animals, but ga-n, ga-n
of power! And as ga-n he must treat them,
accede to their will. Spurred by that, the Apache
gave only flicks of attention to the browsers while
at the same time he studied the part of the landscape
uncovered by mist.
Without weapons or speed, they must
conceive a trap. Again Travis sensed that agreement
which was ga-n magic, and with it the strong
impression urging him to the right. He was making
progress with skill he did not even recognize and
which he had never been conscious of learning.
The bushes and small, droop-limbed
trees, their branches not clothed with leaves from
proper twigs but with a reddish bristly growth protruding
directly from their surfaces, made a partial wall for
the pocket-sized meadow. That screen reached
a rocky cleft where the mist curled in a long tongue
through a wall twice Travis’ height. If
the browsers could be maneuvered into taking the path
through that cleft....
Travis searched about him, and his
hands closed upon the oldest weapon of his species,
a stone pulled from an earth pocket and balanced neatly
in the palm of his hand. It was a long chance
but his best one.
The Apache took the first step on
a new and fearsome road. These ga-n had
put their thoughts-or their desires-into
his mind. Could he so contact them in return?
With the stone clenched in his fist,
his shoulders back against the wall not too far from
the cleft opening, Travis strove to think out, clearly
and simply, this poor plan of his. He did not
know that he was reacting the way scientists deep
space away had hoped he might. Nor did Travis
guess that at this point he had already traveled far
beyond the expectations of the men who had bred and
trained the two mutant coyotes. He only believed
that this might be the one way he could obey the wishes
of the two spirits he thought far more powerful than
any man. So he pictured in his mind the cleft,
the running creatures, and the part the ga-n
could play if they so willed.
Assent-in its way as loud
and clear as if shouted. The man fingered the
stone, weighed it. There would probably be just
one moment when he could use it to effect, and he
must be ready.
From this point he could no longer
see the small meadow where the grazers were.
But Travis knew, as well as if he watched the scene,
that the coyotes were creeping in, belly flat to earth,
adding a feline stealth and patience to their own
There! Travis’ head jerked,
the alert had come, the drive was beginning.
He tensed, gripping his stone.
A yapping bark was answered by a sound
he could not describe, a noise which was neither cough
nor grunt but a combination of both. Again a
A toad-head burst through the screen
of brush, the double horn on its nose festooned with
a length of grass torn up by the roots. Wide
eyes-milky and seeming to be without pupils-fastened
on Travis, but he could not be sure the thing saw
him, for it kept on, picking up speed as it approached
the cleft. Behind it ran the calf, and that guttural
cry was bubbling from its broad flat lips.
The long neck of the adult writhed,
the frog-head swung closer to the ground so that the
twin points of the horn were at a slant-aimed
now at Travis. He had been right in his guess
at their deadliness, but he had only a fleeting chance
to recognize that fact as the thing bore down, its
whole attitude expressing the firm intention of goring
He hurled his stone and then flung
his body to one side, stumbling and rolling into the
brush where he fought madly to regain his feet, expecting
at any moment to feel trampling hoofs and thrusting
horns. There was a crash to his right, and the
bushes and grass were wildly shaken.
On his hands and knees the Apache
retreated, his head turned to watch behind him.
He saw the flirt of a triangular flap-tail in the mouth
of the cleft. The calf had escaped. And
now the threshing in the bushes stilled.
Was the thing stalking him? He
got to his feet, for the first time hearing clearly
the continued yapping, as if a battle was in progress.
Then the second of the adult beasts came into view,
backing and turning, trying to keep lowered head with
menacing double horn always pointed to the coyotes
dancing a teasing, worrying circle about it.
One of the coyotes flung up its head,
looked upslope, and barked. Then, as one, both
rushed the fighting beast, but for the first time from
the same side, leaving it a clear path to retreat.
It made a rush before which they fled easily, and
then it whirled with a speed and grace, which did
not fit its ungainly, ill-proportioned body, and jumped
toward the cleft, the coyotes making no effort to hinder
Travis came out of cover, approaching
the brush which had concealed the crash of the other
animal. The actions of the coyotes had convinced
him that there was no danger now; they would never
have allowed the escape of their prey had the first
beast not been in difficulties.
His shot with the stone, the Apache
decided as he stood moments later surveying the twitching
crumpled body, must have hit the thing in the head,
stunning it. Then the momentum of its charge had
carried it full force against the rock to kill it.
Blind luck-or the power of the ga-n?
He pulled back as the coyotes came padding up shoulder
to shoulder to inspect the kill. It was truly
more theirs than his.
Their prey yielded not only food but
a weapon for Travis. Instead of the belt knife
he had remembered having, he was now equipped with
two. The double horn had been easy to free from
the shattered skull, and some careful work with stones
had broken off one prong at just the angle he wanted.
So now he had a short and a longer tool, defense.
At least they were better than the stone with which
he had entered the hunt.
Nalik’ideyu pushed past him
to lap daintily at the water. Then she sat up
on her haunches, watching Travis as he smoothed the
horn with a stone.
“A knife,” he said to
her, “this will be a knife. And-”
he glanced up, measuring the value of the wood represented
by trees and bushes-“then a bow.
With a bow we shall hunt better.”
The coyote yawned, her yellow eyes
half closed, her whole pose one of satisfaction and
“A knife,” Travis repeated,
“and a bow.” He needed weapons; he
had to have them!
Why? His hand stopped scraping.
Why? The toad-faced double horn had been quick
to attack, but Travis could have avoided it, and it
had not hunted him first. Why was he ridden by
this fear that he must not be unarmed?
He dipped his hand into the pool of
the spring and lifted the water to cool his sweating
face. The coyote moved, turned around in the grass,
crushing down the growth into a nest in which she curled
up, head on paws. But Travis sat back on his
heels, his now idle hands hanging down between his
knees, and forced himself to the task of sorting out
This landscape was wrong-totally
unlike what it should be-but it was real.
He had helped kill this alien creature. He had
eaten its meat, raw. Its horn lay within touch
now. All that was real and unchangeable.
Which meant that the rest of it, that other desert
world in which he had wandered with his kind, ridden
horses, raided invading men of another race, that
was not real-or else far, far removed from
where he now sat.
Yet there had been no dividing line
between those two worlds. One moment he had been
in the desert place, returning from a successful foray
against the Mexicans. Mexicans! Travis caught
at that identification, tried to use it as a thread
to draw closer to the beginning of his mystery.
Mexicans.... And he was an Apache,
one of the Eagle people, one who rode with Cochise.
Sweat again beaded his face where
the water had cooled it. He was not of that past.
He was Travis Fox, of the very late twentieth century,
not a nomad of the middle nineteenth! He was
of Team A of the project!
The Arizona desert and then this!
From one to the other in an instant. He looked
about him in rising fear. Wait! He had been
in the dark when he got out of the desert, lying in
a box. Getting out, he had crawled down a passage
to reach moonlight, strange moonlight.
A box in which he had lain, a passage
with smooth metallic walls, and an alien world at
the end of it.
The coyote’s ears twitched,
her head came up, she was staring at the man’s
drawn face, at his eyes with their core of fear.
Travis caught up the two pieces of
horn, thrust them into his sash belt, and got to his
feet. Nalik’ideyu sat up, her head cocked
a little to one side. As the man turned to seek
his own back trail she padded along in his wake and
whined for Naginlta. But Travis was more intent
now on what he must prove to himself than he was on
the actions of the two animals.
It was a wandering trail, and now
he did not question his skill in being able to follow
it so unerringly. The sun was hot. Winged
things buzzed from the bushes, small scuttling things
fled from him through the tall grass. Once Naginlta
growled a warning which led them all to a detour,
and Travis might not have picked up the proper trace
again had not the coyote scout led him to it.
“Who are you?” he asked
once, and then guessed it would have better been said,
“What are you?” These were not animals,
or rather they were more than the animals he had always
known. And one part of him, the part which remembered
the desert rancherias where Cochise had ruled, said
they were spirits. Yet that other part of him....
Travis shook his head, accepting them now for what
they were-welcome company in an alien place.
The day wore on close to sunset, and
still Travis followed that wandering trail. The
need which drove him kept him going through the rough
country of hills and ravines. Now the mist lifted
above towering walls of mountains very near him, yet
not the mountains of his memory. These were dull
brown, with a forbidding look, like sun-dried skulls
baring teeth in warning against all comers.
With great difficulty, Travis topped
a rise. Ahead against the skyline stood both
coyotes. And, as the man joined them, first one
and then the other flung back its head and sounded
the sobbing, shattering cry which had been a part
of that other life.
The Apache looked down. His puzzle
was answered in part. The wreckage crumpled on
the mountain side was identifiable-a spaceship!
Cold fear gripped him and his own head went back;
from between his tight lips came a cry as desolate
and despairing as the one the animals had voiced.