The Terrible Tentacles of L-472 – Sewell Peaslee Wright

pulpterrible01Not to be confused with LV-426.

Hanson is recalling the days of his youth — 100 years ago — when he was sub-commander of the spacecraft Kalid of the Special Patrol.

Immediately upon receiving a promotion to commander, he is given the assignment to find two missing ships, the Dorlos and the Filanus (commanded by Rear Admiral Tobias Fünke, I believe).

Both ships had been ordered to L-472 and never returned.  The Kalid is to follow their trail, but very carefully.  The are ordered not to land until they have spotted the ships from low-level reconnoitering.  But really, what is the alternative?  Land and search the planet on foot?

The Kalid spots the ships, but is unable to positively identify them.  Yeah, those are probably two other ships on this uninhabited, unexplored rock described as “off the beaten path” (of space?).  Hanson plays the odds and decides to land the ship.  As they get closer they are able to confirm that these are indeed the missing ships.  Both are intact, with their hatches wide open, not even a screen door; but no signs of life.

The rescue party consists of half the Kalid crew, and they are packing “atomic power pistols.”  Christ, I’m a 2nd Amendment guy, but let’s not get crazy.

The group enters the Dorlos which, like the Mary Celeste, seems like it was abandoned suddenly with no clue as to why.  Hearing a commotion outside, they rush to the hatch. The trees are now:

“Lashing and writhing as though in the grip of some terrible hurricane, trunks bending and whipping, long branches writhing, curling, lashing out –“

Next time I see the word writhing twice in one sentence, there better be some girls involved.  Come to think of it, they certainly seemed to have skewed the chained and scantily clad babes toward the early selections of this anthology.

When two of the men make some sudden movements to avoid a bee-like creature, the low gravity of the small planet can’t stop them from soaring into the air.  In mid-air they are snagged by the tentacle-like branches of the forest.  The trees continue attacking the men until they use the disintegrater beams to start slicing through trunks.

They get a signal from a survivor of the Dorlos to kill as many trees as they can.  He describes a similar scene as the Kalid experienced.  The Dorlos’ crew, unready for the low gravity, sailed into the air and were snagged by the trees for feeding.

After a bloody or at least sappy attack, the humans prevail.  Hanson is able to save 11 men and is a hero.

A nice little space opera, but could have used more action with the tentacles.


  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, September 1930.  Entire issue is available at Gutenberg.
  • Also that month: First non-stop flight from Europe to the US despite Lindbergh having made his US to Europe flight 3 years earlier.  Guess they didn’t want to push their luck.

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