14. "THE STANDING
DEAD" -- Mar. 8, '42
P1: His skin anointed with yellow oil
for protection against the petrifying vapors, John Carter tracked the girl's
abductor into the ghostly city of Ga-La-Ra, until suddenly -- he saw before
him a group of people, like himself, yet oddly different.
P2: None moved as he approached --
and then he knew the truth: all were dead!
P3: The strange gases suddenly erupting
from the ground ages ago, had turned these people to stone.
P4: Before a geyser of vapor, the Earthman
found a piece of the princess' garment.
P5: What chance had the girl here,
with no yellow oil to protect her form these petrifying gases?
P6: Now through the misty vapors, Carter
beheld the princess, Dejah Thoris, motionless in the arms of the giant
P7: Even as he watched, the mist obscured
them. Was he too late? Had her soft young body already changed to stone?
1. Inside the
city Carter discovers a plaza full of calcified ancient inhabitants of
Go-La-Ra. How is it that these people were turned to stone so quickly that
none show any signs of terror or anxiety? Why are they all still standing
erect, when many of them were obviously in precarious states of balance
when the effect of the gasses hit them? In the earthly city of Pompei,
where a similar fate overtook the prople, the fossils of the bodies left
there shows signs of struggle and death -- none were left standing upright.
The novelization needs to explain these oddities.
2. Carter suddenly
sees the ape, holding what apepars to be an unconscious Dejah Thoris. The
story of why he was still carrying her, so many hours after her abduction,
needs to be told, form her perspective. No doubt the thoat-mounted Carter
was able to cover the distance between the camp and the city much more
quickly than the burdened ape. Perhaps the ape arrived there just minutes
before Carter appeared on the scene, and he had no time to hide his human
14: "THE STANDING DEAD"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Behind the row of spearmen that faced
him, John Carter saw hundreds of other human figures -- men, women and
youth, in all sorts of poses but entirely motionless. It occurred to him
that none of these people were alive; they had all been dead for a long
long time. He lowered his sword point and walked past the silent spearmen.
Nothing moved as he approached the frozen crowd -- all were like fossils!
Dejah Thoris caught her breath and
wiped a little flow of blood from her forehead and eyes. Her face and body
was a mass of bruises and scrapes but no bones were broken and no vital
organs seriously injured -- yet. There was a distant sound of rumbling
that caught the three apes' attention as well as hers. They seemed much
concerned but the princess could make no sense of the imagery of their
fast flowing thoughts. Then Grombo seized her, held the girl under one
powerful arm and followed the other two anthropoid brutes out into the
Then a very strange thing happened,
right in front of her eyes. The monsters had moved only a dozen paces along
the vacant avenue when a fissure in the stone widened and shot forth clouds
of purple vapor into the air in front of them. Grombo instantly fell back
into the shade of a wall, several feet behind the others, while a slight
pitching of the ground threw the two lead apes off balance and directly
atop the belching crack in the street. One of them managed to rise up on
one knee but in an eye-blink both were totally immobilized. Their grunts
and bellows continued for a few more seconds but then faded away altogether.
To all appearances the pair were stone dead!
Once he was certain that the hundreds
of frozen bodies posed no danger, John Carter resumed calling out the name
of the abducted red maiden. But no answer came from amidst the silent buildings
and streets of Go-La-Ra. He gave the assembly of stony figures only a cursory
examination before moving on. None of them carried firearms -- something
he had kept an eye out for since finding the long-sword. He guessed they
had lived and died long before the first gun was ever seen on the red planet.
Many of the frozen figures had fallen to the ground, but just as many remained
standing, their feet anchored in the several inches of petrified small
animal remains that covered most level surfaces in the ruined city. The
figures were frozen into every imaginable pose common to visitors in a
market square and only the faces of a couple of them showed any signs of
fear or anguish. Their lives must have all ended instantaneously, every
one of them frozen in a single split-second, millennia before!
John Carter followed the broad avenue,
hoping to discover a sign of the apes he had spied from the tower, minutes
before. Then he saw one of them ahead of him, he thought. But just then
a heavy cloud of vapor drifted slowly past, obscuring his vision. In the
distance, beyond the smothering cloud, he heard a voice calling out, "Dotar
Sojat! -- John!" Then nothing.
The ape had thrown the girl over one
muscular shoulder and was backing away, cautiously but quickly, from his
calcified companions. From this vantage point, ten feet off the ground,
the girl noticed a far off moving shape. Her practiced mind caught the
Earthman's thoughts even before his searching cries reached her ears. It
was her Jasoomian companion! But as she opened her mouth to answer, Dejah
felt her jaw and lips stiffen, even her tongue moved slowly. Only with
some difficulty was she able to answer his calls
"What is happening to me?" she asked
aloud. But dull-witted Grombo offered no reply. It was only then that a
vague memory of the legend of Go-La-Ra, city of deadly mists, came to her.
The huge white creature had more than
enough hands to hold the girl securely and stifle her cries all at once.
His keen eyes recognized his pursuer. The little man from the sleeping
place on the flatlands was now behind Grombo with a deadly sharp thing
in his hand. Grombo did not want to lose his new prize, but he was wary
of both the dangerous purple clouds and the long sharp thing that the man
carried. The beast chose flight over fight and moved off with the Martian
maiden still on his shoulder, along a path that avoided the little man
and the drifting vapors.
Dejah Thoris tried desperately to communicate
with the man that followed behind her abductor. Again and again she sent
her thoughts out, like a ring of expanding ripples on the surface of a
still pool. She tried to warn him of the dangers of the petrifying gases.
But the Earthman was yet a novice at telepathy and either he did not perceive
her silent calls or he was unable to effectively answer her. Hopeful, frustrated
and anxious beyond description the daughter of ten thousand jeddaks strove
to loosen the ape's crushing grip upon her nose and mouth, but to no avail.
Then her head swam and the light of day seemed to fade away entirely.
It was an inopportune time for dreaming,
but such logical realizations had already disappeared from the unconscious
mind of the red princess. Somehow she was flying again, in her little one-seat
craft, as she had done so often before in traveling between the twin cities
of her birthplace. Only now she was high over seas of water, not the ochre
dead seas of her experience. The view seemed familiar and she did not question
the absurdity of vast oceans encircling the planet in the time when the
red race flew their craft through the skies of Barsoom. All was blissful
-- happy -- dreamy.
In this vision she flew over a large
sea-port of the dim past. Great square-sailed ships were entering and leaving
the harbor. The quays were filled with throngs of yellow-skinned people
who looked much like herself. Her flyer came in closer, floating along
at roof-top level unobserved. Dejah Thoris then saw that the inhabitant's
did not have yellow skin at all, but were very pale colored. Here and there
she saw individuals applying fresh coats of a lemon hued lotion or wax
to their bodies. She thought they must be very vain indeed, to so carefully
protect every square sof [inch] of their white bodies from the tanning
sun. She floated along and then came to rest over a large, open-air menagerie
-- but all of the animals had been replaced by statues. Everything seemed
The distance between himself and the
fleeing ape was the length of four vast buildings that bordered the avenue
John Carter was following. All along the way, crevices in the pavement
were allowing the escape of the exotic vapors, from some hidden realm deep
below the surface. Beyond the fourth building he saw the two immobilized
apes and guessed correctly what had happened to them. Large does of vapor
were fatal, despite the animals' immunity. Near them was an ambling white
creature and his inert female captive. And beyond all of that, a seething
geyser of large proportions spewed out black smoke and purple haze, creating
a hellish backdrop to the nasty view laid out before him.
The girl's hallucination dissolved
into unconnected fragments. She saw a terrible blackness engulf the happy
looking people, from out of nowhere, and then they were gone. The shadowy
shapes of awful beasts filled the gray streets of the once lively city.
Trees, flowers and expanses of lovely crimson sward withered and crumpled
into gray debris. All bliss and happiness were gone -- and her lovely dream
of Go-La-Ra metamorphosed into cheerless oblivion.
Through the misty vapors, Carter now
beheld the princess, Dejah Thoris, motionless in the suffocating grip of
the giant ape. He tried to leap forward, across the space that separated
them, but his movements on the uneven, crusty ground were much like those
of a person wading through thick patches of ice and snow. His jumps were
short and clumsy. Even as he watched, the mist obscured the view again.
Was he too late? Had her soft young body already changed to stone?