Looking for the short story about two men stranded on an alien planet that they thought only had a lot of stones/rocks. Turns out the stones/rocks are life forms that move very very very slowly (I think there's a group of white stones, and a group of red ones). One of the men starts to communicate and train the (red?) group, and uses them to mess with the main character. Then the main character realizes this, becomes friends with the (white?) stones and they start to fight a really slow war with their stone armies. Eventually they become stone as well, and later on when new explorers land on the planet, they think there are two statues of men on top of piles of stones. But actually they are just the two guys who have both been turned into the "stone" creatures and are continuing to fight a very slow war.

This short story was in an anthology of sci-fi stories at some point, would love to remember the name of the anthology as well as the story itself and author. I believe this story is pre-2000.

  • 1
    This sounds very familiar, but I'm not having much luck finding it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 5:08

1 Answer 1


Adagio by Barry B. Longyear. I read it in the Fifth Omni Book of Science Fiction.

The story ends when another ship responds to the distress signal from the crashed spaceship:

When they came to investigate the weak, garbled signal from the Oids Belt, they quickly located the beacon. It was from a type of commercial cargo ship that hadn't been in use for over a century. Of the ship, passengers, and crew, the only trace remaining was a curious statue of two naked human men, in mortal combat, standing upon the bodies of five other humans, the sculpture surrounded by a wall of red masonry. The local life form informed them that the statue was titled "Equilibrium."

You have misremembered the story very slightly. There are stones of all colours, but only the red ones are not alive and don't move. The crew find this out when they use the stones for grave markers and they find that only the red ones don't move.

They had to use only the red stones for grave markers. They didn't walk off.

The gray stone Tobias had originally used to mark Osborn's grave was now several meters downslope, running like hell, Forrest claimed. It had taken the gray stone five of the planet's month-long days to race the short distance. Gray stones, white stones, green stones, black stones. They littered the red landscape.

They were alive. The red ones didn't move.

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    Amazing, thank you! The Fifth Omni Book of Science Fiction is the exact one I was trying to remember. My parents accidentally threw away a bunch of my favorite childhood books when they moved to a new house, and I couldn't for the life of me remember or find on Google the name of this one.
    – Jax13579
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 6:48

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