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I remember reading a short story some time ago about a colony or outpost on an Earthlike planet. Some people went missing and the scientists discovered that they were being attacked (and consumed) by some sort of creature that could convincingly imitate everyday objects. So, it was like The Thing, but it only replaced objects, not animals or people.

One incident that I remember is a couple going swimming and this organism mimicked or replaced their clothes, so when they got dressed it ate them.

Once the people at the outpost realized what was happening, they send a distress signal and then basically avoid touching anything. At the end, they all go running (naked) onto the rescue ship.

The twist ending was that...

...the rescue ship flies over the outpost and the crew wonders where everyone is, the implication being that all the colonists boarded a fake ship created by the alien and were eaten!

Does anyone know what the title and author of this story are?

  • 3
    That looks like a great story – Rocket Jan 7 '15 at 21:55
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I remember reading a short story some time ago about a colony or outpost on an Earthlike planet.

"Colony" by Philip K. Dick, originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1953, available in the Internet Archive.

Some people went missing and the scientists discovered that they were being attacked (and consumed) by some sort of creature that could convincingly imitate everyday objects. So, it was like The Thing, but it only replaced objects, not animals or people.

"We've got to be careful," Hall said. "We've got to watch for duplicates. Apparently it, whatever it is, imitates objects it finds. Like a chameleon. Camouflage."

"Two," Stella Morrison murmured, looking at the two vases of flowers, one at each end of her desk. "It's going to be hard to tell. Two towels, two vases, two chairs. There may be whole rows of things that are all right. All multiples legitimate except one."

One incident that I remember is a couple going swimming and this organism mimicked or replaced their clothes, so when they got dressed it ate them.

Gail climbed up on the bank, shaking water from her, throwing her hair back out of her eyes. The woods were silent. There was no sound except the lapping of the waves. They were a long way from the unit camp.

"When can I look?" Hendricks demanded, swimming around in a circle, his eyes shut.

"Soon." Gail made her way into the trees, until she came to the place where she had left her uniform. She could feel the warm sun glowing against her bare shoulders and arms. Sitting down in the grass, she picked up her tunic and leggings.

She brushed the leaves and bits of tree bark from her tunic and began to pull it over her head.

In the water, Corporal Hendricks waited patiently, continuing in his circle. Time passed. There was no sound. He opened his eyes. Gail was nowhere in sight.

"Gail?" he called.

It was very quiet.

"Gail?"

Once the people at the outpost realized what was happening, they send a distress signal and then basically avoid touching anything. At the end, they all go running (naked) onto the rescue ship.

The vidscreen clicked. A robot voice announced shrilly: "Everyone out of the buildings at once! Everyone out of the buildings and on the field without delay! Everyone out of the buildings at once! Everyone—"

"So soon?" Hall ran to the window and lifted the metal blind. "I didn't hear it land."

Parked in the center of the landing field was a long gray cruiser, its hull pitted and dented from meteoric strikes. It lay motionless. There was no sign of life about it.

A crowd of naked people was already moving hesitantly across the field toward it, blinking in the bright sunlight.

The twist ending was that...

At exactly 15:00 Captain Daniel Davis landed his ship in the center of the field. Relays slid the entrance lock open with a bang. Davis and the other officers of the ship sat waiting in the control cabin, around the big control table.

"Well," Captain Davis said, after a while, "where are they?"

The officers became uneasy. "Maybe something's wrong."

"Maybe the whole damn thing's a joke!"

They waited and waited.

But no one came.

  • I'm so tempted to copy in this wikipedia summary, even though I know you're still editing the answer... :-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_%28short_story%29. Must.Resist.Temptation.Aaargh! – Valorum Jan 7 '15 at 21:22
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    People in the story can't tell what's real. I should have guessed that it was Philip K. Dick. – KSmarts Jan 7 '15 at 21:43

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