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This science fiction short story is about a team of astronauts/space explorers who land on an alien planet. An alien entity, that exists in a gaseous state, is lurking at the bottom of a well or hole. It briefly inhabits the body of each astronaut it encounters, seeing from their POV and causing them to go crazy/die/kill the others. When one man dies the entity jumps into the body/mind of another.

The story is narrated by the alien entity, and everything is from its point of view. It overhears the astronauts' conversations as they try to figure out what is happening.

It is a stand-alone short story (maybe 6 or 7 pages), and it is not part of a larger novel.
I have a feeling this may be one of Ray Bradbury's later short stories (but I could be wrong). I must have encountered this story in an anthology of relatively well-known scifi stories. I read it around 2007, but the story is probably from the 1960s/1970s.

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This is The One Who Waits, by, yes, Ray Bradbury. You remembered the details very accurately. The opening line is:

I live in a well. I live like smoke in the well.

The One Who Waits

It goes on with the plot you said (taking over the bodies of astronauts from Earth). The first take over is described as follows:

The sound of water in the hot sunlight. Now I hover like a dust, a cinnamon, upon the soft wind.

"What's the matter, Jones?"

"I don't know. Got a terrible headache. All of a sudden."

"Did you drink the water yet?"

"No, I haven't. It's not that. I was just bending over the well and all of a sudden my head split. I feel better now."

Now I know who I am.

My name is Stephen Leonard Jones and I am twenty-five years old and I have just come in a rocket from a planet called Earth and I am standing with my good friends Regent and Shaw by an old well on the planet Mars.

I look down at my golden fingers, tan and strong. I look at my long legs and at my silver uniform and at my friends.

"What's wrong, Jones?" they say.

"Nothing," I say, looking at them. "Nothing at all."

The One Who Waits

  • @scaryforkids If this answer is helpful, you can accept it by clicking on the check mark over on the left. That's how we know which questions have received satisfactory answers, and which ones need more research. – user14111 Jul 9 '15 at 9:30
  • This is the story that inspired (I think) Doctor Who's Waters of Mars – Colonel Panic Jul 29 '15 at 22:17
  • @ColonelPanic Maybe, but then plots very similar to "Waters of Mars" are very common in the Doctor Who franchise. – Perkins Oct 26 '15 at 21:35

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