CHAPTER 52: "CUT ME IN TWO"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
How they came to be where they were John Carter was not
quite sure. Moments before he and the plant king had been in a humid jungle.
After a sudden lunge through the treetops both the strange plant and the
Earthman were back upon familiar territory -- at least it was familiar
to the man, for it was the same spot where he had discovered the evidence
of Woola's serious injury or death on the night before.
"Here we are!" declared the king.
The Earthman was puzzled over how he had come back to
the spot where the calot was slain, but he was just as puzzled over why
the plant had released him.
"I thought you intended to kill me," Carter said.
"Great roots!" exclaimed the king impatiently. "You people
who are not attached to the ground are always thinking of killing each
other! I intend to help you locate your princess."
"I've told you nothing about any princess," replied John
Carter. "From where did you obtain such an idea?"
"Through my roots, I suppose. But we've spent the entire
morning talking about your world of Jasoom and how you helped free the
red princess from the green men. You explained about her turning to stone
and becoming a giant atop the great mountain that stands above us right
now. Certainly you recall our jokes about the chicken men and how they
cross the road! Why else is it already mid day, Mr. Carter of Richmond,
if we did not spend the entire morning in that endless chatter?"
The Virginian admitted that the plant king's logic was
impeccable, although it did not quite explain where the jungle treetops
had disappeared to.
"Ah yes! My jungle indeed -- why I had forgotten that
I am still rooted there. Now please do as I say. Draw your sword and cut
me in two just below the arms."
Since nothing else made sense, this request was no more
or less bizarre than any other thing the plant man had to say. The Jasoomian
agreed to follow the king's bidding without question.
"Upon Mars nothing is unbelievable!" is all John Carter
had to say in reply.
The Earthman wielded his great Orovarian sword at the
spot the plant king indicated. Immediately the ground from which the great
stem sprang closed up without leaving a trace of the king's lower body.
"I'm dreaming; there's no other explanation!" Carter cried.
"Either that or magic is true!"
"Certainly it's true!" chuckled the plant king. "If it's
not, then tell me that tale again about how you flew here from Jasoom!
Oh you are a funny one, aren't you!"
When the part of the king's trunk bearing his head and
arms fell to the ground the arms suddenly turned into legs and the plant
king stood up like a comical two-legged bird.
The Earthman opened his mouth to speak but this time words
"Now leap to my back," shouted the king, "and we shall
be off to search for your princess and save her from those mean old chicken
A second later the plant was hopping across the jagged
terrain, in the direction from whence Captain Carter first saw the bird-men
approaching himself and Dejah Thoris that morning.
"Dejah Thoris!" he exclaimed. The Earthman was certain
he had again caught a faint fragment of her thoughts. "She must be close
by!" he said aloud.
"Yes, she is close by -- she's as near as the feathered
forest. If I know that, then why don't you? There's nobody else here to
tell me, now is there?"
And so their conversation continued. The plant king's
mode of travel with rather like that of a kangaroo, but with Carter clinging
to its back and not tucked away in a pouch on its belly. A score of bewildering
questions went racing through the Earthman's brain, but each time he put
one of them into words the answers the plant king gave only made the bronzed
swordsman even more bewildered.
"Talking to you is like trying to grab a leaf floating
on a pond; the harder I try to get it, the faster it floats away." The
Earthman said at last.
The plant king slowed his gait to a walk and then stopped
moving entirely. He turned his big head a peered at the man for a moment.
"If that is so," the plant replied in a most serious tone
of voice, "then you must not grab at the leaf. Thank about it, Jasoomian.
Why not pull the water to yourself and allow the leaf to float back upon
the waves and into your hand? Oh I know a great deal about leaves. Yes,
we can talk about the leaves all night -- a most interesting topic, aren't
John Carter was certain that there must be some grain
of wisdom in the plant king's philosophy, but he was a fighting man and
not given to deep thinking.
"Why have we stopped so soon?" questioned the Earthman.
"You spoke of a feathered forest and finding the red princess."
"Indeed I did, and we spent the entire afternoon talking
about leaves also. A most profitable conversation, if I do say so myself.
But you don't expect that we'll travel in the feathered forest by night,
now do you? I'm not so petal-headed as to attempt that!"
When the plant king had stopped his hopping the sun was
still high in the sky; now it was fast approaching sunset. John Carter
was positive that the two of them had not exchanged more than a dozen sentences
since they halted their journey. He was on the verge of questioning his
odd companion about the time anomaly, but when the idea of trying to grab
a leaf in the water came back to him; he thought the better of it and said