CHAPTER 38: "INTO THE DEPTHS"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
John Carter skimmed across the water's surface, more rapidly
than any Barsoomian swimmer could have imagined possible. Then again, the
last Barsoomian swimmer died when the human inhabitants of earth were still
learning how to cook with fire.
A few dozen body lengths ahead of him he could see the
legs and sandaled feet of the princess. He had to lift his eyes to see
more of her massive form. Still his mind sent out thoughts to the giantess
but their mental connection was confused and sporatic. He caught hold of
random images and ideas, but they were not effective communication. She
sensed that he had seen her sandals -- then her mind wandered off in surprise
that the footware had been enlarged along with her feet. Carter was terribly
frustrated but he continued his efforts to master Martian telepathy. But,
no matter that, he soon would be close enough to leap out of the water
and upon her seated body. She certainly would recognize him then!
Woola tired of his play in the mud and moved toward the
reservoir to quench his thirst. Under normal circumstances on the red planet
a calot might live a long life and never feel the splash of any liquid
upon its rough tongue other than hot blood. Nevertheless, every Martian
animal retains an instinctive understanding of what water is, and when
they encounter the rare liquid they of course know how to drink it.
"Don't be afraid, foolish calot! A little water won't
hurt you!" the girl called out. So long as Woola and she stayed together
she felt that they would soon locate the Jasoomian, even if he were as
small as she now suspected he might be.
The huge beast splashed headlong into the reservoir, obviously
enjoying the unique sensation of experiencing a liquid in such vast quantities.
The abrupt entry of all his tons of living flesh into the little lake created
waves half as high as himself and many times the height of the unseen swimmer.
A mighty wall of water loomed above the Earthman. It flung him bodily upward,
backward, and then buried him deep within its wake. Over and over Carter
was tossed in the angry, churning waters. Wave after mighty wave rushed
over him until Woola's body ripples diminished and their effect grew less
The unexpected onrush of water not only knocked the breath
from the swimmer's lungs, it filled his head and throat. His lungs screamed
for air as he shot up toward the light. John Carter at last broke the surface,
coughed out the suffocating liquid and gulped in the thin air of Mars.
The turbulence of the disturbed pool, however, again and again pushed him
downward, robbing him of breath and strength. He lost all sense of direction,
struggling just to keep his head above water long enough to draw a breath.
Eventually, though, he realized he had made his way nearer to the shore,
With his strength rapidly draining away, the Earthman
made a final, desperate effort to reach the land. The moving water continued
to batter him but he knew he was almost there. In the midst of this watery
chaos Captain Carter beheld Woola's great muzzle directly above him. At
the worst possible moment, the calot's tongue extended down to lap in the
water and the weakened, floundering Earthman was drawn straight toward
the beast's cavernous gullet.
Sleeping soundly in the shade of the high cliffs, Sola
did not feel the sun's warmth upon her green skin until late in the morning.
She looked about for Woola but could not find him. That was not unusual.
The calot was a born hunter and only John Carter's direct commands could
compel him to stand still when the scent of new prey was in the air. She
tended to the thoat and awaited Woola's return. But he did not come. The
green girl was alone and once again she sensed that her two human friends
might be in danger. In a place where thoats were made of metal and flew
through the air, who knew what perils faced the trusting traveler?
The Thark maid was beginning to feel guilty as well as
anxious. It was she who chose the escape route from her people and she
who had picked the campsite where Dejah Thoris was abducted. Her suggestions
took them first to Go-La-Ra and now to the forbidden Plateau of Eo, from
whence only females return to relate its legends. They had spent only one
happy night since their entry into the capital city of Thark and Sola wondered
if any of the three companions would ever again feel that same happiness.
The Wizard of Eo had warned her and Woola to approach
no closer to his mysterious realm, but now the calot was gone and was probably
roaming the forbidden mountain. Should she follow or should she wait? Sola
searched the skies for the unlikely appearance of flying thoats -- and
Dejah Thoris searched the banks of the reservoir with
her eyes, looking for the form of her chieftain, even if he should be no
larger than the little metal men who lived in the city. She knew he was
close by. Three times now she had caught his thoughts and she was certain
that he was looking for her also. But it did not occur to her to cast her
gaze out upon the surface of the pool. She rose to her feet and looked
practically everywhere else.
The princess at last saw the little band of metal men.
She recognized Oman as the robot whose spear had pinned John Carter to
the door but she did not see Vovo among the throng of tiny figures. She
was contemplating what to do about the intrusion when Oman's voice came
"Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, it is important that
you listen to me?"
She did not know how to respond. The voice of the tiny
creature had not arrived as sound in her ears; neither was it mental telepathy.
The words simply came to her silently, as her own memories came to her.
The red girl was uncertain that her voice would be heard as intelligible
speech to beings so small, so instead of calling out an answer she raised
her hand in what was the universal Barsoomian sign for agreement.
"Dejah Thoris, you and the calot are victims of Vovo's
expansion experiment, but the effects will not last forever. There is yet
hope if you will heed my words. Your calot killed Vovo. I am concerned
that he will injure us as well. The Jasoomian was with me just a short
while ago. Now I cannot communicate with him. Will you hold back the calot
and help me re-establish contact with the one you call 'John Carter'?"
Again the girl gave the same sign. Then she turned her
attention to Woola and what she saw made her blood run cold!