Far and away World of Fantasy #4’s (1951) best story is “World of the Ancients” by C.D. Ellis. The story opens in the third era of a planet referred to once or twice as earth (not Earth). The emerging world order are the survivors of a war that nearly destroyed the planet and swept away all records of past achievement. Now a primitive society, the only remains of their world’s long bygone glory are legends of the ancient Greeks, which form the basis of their religion and beliefs. Even the names of their people are Greek names like Hercules and Diocles.
After a hunt for game, Agamemnon journeys back to his village empty-handed and spots a dense, black smoke rising above the tree line. “As his eyes sought the source of the fire and found it, he became rooted to the spot. The cold hand of fear clasp at his throat, rendering him temporarily speechless. This was no fire in the scrub surrounding the village precincts; the whole village itself was blazing fiercely.”
When at last he reaches his home, there are no survivors, including his wife. Heartbroken and traumatized, Agamemnon drags himself to the next village to find refuge and to give warning of the tragedy. The village’s chief, Aramis, invites him to join their village, and a posse forms to investigate the cause of such a great fire that could destroy an entire village so swiftly and completely.
A long and difficult search ensues until finally their fears are borne out. “Nestling in the dense scrub below him was a long, sleek, black oval of polished metal, about one hundred feet long. It lay about seventy to eighty yards down the slope. At one end was a pointed nose, while at the other were several tubular projections.”
Tension mounts as the threat of the space invaders increases until the final showdown, which for me was both unexpected and unfortunate.
Galactic Central lists “World of the Ancients” as C.D. Ellis’ only short story published in a magazine. Unfortunate—I thought it was well conceived and well written; its only weakness, the ending.