Lost in the Jungle (Feghoot XXXI)

This tale of loss and rescue is by Reginald Bretnor writing under the anagramatic name of Grendel Briarton.

It was Ferdinand Feghoot who saved the Mulch Expedition on Rumjungle III in 3449. Because the planet’s intelligent race dreaded gadgets and hated all strangers, the Expedition could use only native equipment — semi-intelligent, specialized fauna the Rumjunglians carried in their carapace-pouches. Instead of a compass, they employed a stick-insect which pointed due North on command.

Two weeks out, with the nearest waterhole a hundred miles off, the guides came up rustling politely. “Now is our egg-whistling time, for the spore-sounds,” they declared. “We go now. But you safe, Big Soft Bipeds. We leave point-to-North insect. Very fine, one year guaranteed. Goodbye, thank you.” After giving instructions on how to make the thing work, they vanished into the darkness.

For another week, the expedition advanced. Then they found that the stick-insect was pointing everywhere except North. They were lost. “But everything’s all right,” said Professor Hudibras Mulch. “The natives explained. Stick-insects always do this for eight or ten days in the rutting-season. We’ll wait. We’ll have just enough water.”

“No!” Feghoot cried. “I’ll pick up a lodestone instead. It’s a plot. Look at that insect — they’ve given us one that’s insane!”

“Insane? B-but how can you tell?”

“It’s obvious,” said Ferdinand Feghoot. “Non-compass mantis.”

(Copyright © 1960 by Mercury Press. First published in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, September 1960).

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