This was the rainy year. Last year had been the dry one, and it would come again. But they wouldn't be here to see it, Captain Louis Carnahan thought. They had seen four dry ones, and now had come the fourth wet one, and soon they would be going home. For them, this was the end of the cycle.
At first they had kept track of the days, checking each one off on their calendars, but the calendars had long since been mingled indistinguishably with the stuff of the planet itself—along with most of the rest of their equipment. By that time, however, they had learned that the cycle of wet and dry seasons was almost precisely equivalent to a pair of their own Terran years, so they had no more need for the calendars.
But at the beginning of this wet season Carnahan had begun marking off the days once again with scratches on the post of the hut in which he lived. The chronometers were gone, too, but one and three-quarters Earth days equalled one Serrengian day, and by that he could compute when the ships from Earth were due.
He had dug moats about the hut to keep rain water from coming in over his dirt floor. Only two of the walls were erected, and he didn't know or much care whether he would get the other two up or not. Most of the materials had blown away during the last dry period and he doubted very much that he would replace them. The two available walls were cornered against the prevailing winds. The roof was still in good shape, allowing him a sufficient space free of leaks to accommodate his cooking and the mat which he called a bed.
He picked up a gourd container from the rough bench in the center of the room and took a swallow of the burning liquid. From the front of the hut he looked out over the rain swept terrain at the circle of huts. Diametrically across from him he could see Bolinger, the little biologist, moving energetically about. Bolinger was the only one who had retained any semblance of scientific interest. He puttered continually over his collection, which had grown enormously over the eight year period.
When they got back, Bolinger at least would have some accomplishment to view with pride. The rest of them—?
Carnahan laughed sharply and took another big swallow from the gourd, feeling the fresh surge of hot liquor already crossing the portals of his brain, bringing its false sense of wisdom and clarity. He knew it was false, but it was the only source of wisdom he had left, he told himself.