CHAPTER 50: "Between Ooze and Leaf"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
John Carter stood transfixed between the shrieking plants,
on one hand and the living darkness of the cavern on the other. From where
he stood nothing around him made much sense. It occurred to the Earthman
how tired he was -- exhausted in fact. If he could just sit down and rest
for a while, perhaps then he could sort out the baffling situation.
"No! No! Don't stop now, little man!" a voice called out.
"The mud-men will get you!"
The warrior looked about him to see where this shout of
unsolicited advice had come from and he was astonished to see a human-faced,
long green vine, wrapped around the hanging limb of a nearby tree. Perhaps
"human-faced" is not the exact thought that came to him at that moment,
but the vine ended in a large blossom, the center of which featured eyes
and a mouth something like his own. The vine-flower with a face was swaying
from the tree branch in a way that could not be attributed to the wind
or some other external force. If he could believe his eyes, the man was
gazing upon a moving, talking, flower which could see and hear him.
"This is madness!" he called out, as if in answer to the
weird talking thing.
"Yes! Yes! Come back to us, or you will go mad!" other
There appeared to be no choices open to him other than
going forward in the direction of the shrieking plants, or back to the
living darkness. The leafy canopy above him was far too dense to allow
jumping, and on either side of the path he now found himself upon, the
thorny undergrowth was absolutely impenetrable. Given the discouraging
prospect of returning to the sticky ooze of the cavern, an adventure among
intelligent plants appeared to be the better option by far, even if it
Try as he might, however, he could take a single step
forward. After several attempts at walking in the direction of the plants,
all Carter had accomplished was backtracking from the mushroom growths
a number of paces toward the cave mouth.
A plant reached out a grotesque, hand-like stem and jerked
the Earthman from his continual retreat. The mud monsters behind him spluttered
in disappointed anguish as their human prey was snatched away.
"So this is madness?" John Carter asked rhetorically.
"Or perhaps a mad nightmare? Or -- or is this the dreadful end that comes
to anyone who is affected by the insidious drugs purveyed by the Wizard
"By my leaves and petals!" cackled the plant man who held
Carter. "You are a man-thing of the outer realm."
Here the patient reader must excuse the insertion of a
few words of explanation provided by Captain Ulysses Paxton, regarding
the plant men of Mars. At the time Captain Carter first encountered the
bizarre entities he then thought of as "plant men," he had not yet traveled
within the Otz Mountains at the South Pole and thus he had no knowledge
of those mindless, blue-skinned and single-eyed denizens of the Valley
Dor, which are properly called plant men
Captain Carter, in his own accounts, speaks often of his
fascination with the myriad forms and colors unique to the flowering plants
of the red planet. No doubt he had already come upon specimens of the various
carnivorous plants of Barsoom, including those species having light-sensing
spots in the middle of their blooms. An imaginative mind might easily connect
those harmless little growths with the huge talking flowers of Eo, as described
by Captain Carter. Indeed a similar evolution may be seen in the writings
of Charles L. Dodgson. While Captain Carter has never admitted to being
much of a reader, it is a curious fact that his friend, James K. Powell,
once carried on a lengthy correspondence with Mr. Dodgson.
The talking plant man held John Carter in an amiable embrace,
a little distance from its intelligent looking face. He was not far off
the ground and the Earthman might easily have escaped the hand-like vines,
but he elected to stay and learn all he could about these remarkable beings.
"Maybe he is from Cluros, or even Thuria!" another talking
flower chimed in.
"You are not far wrong," answered the Virginian. "I do
come from another world -- from a planet far out in space."
"By my roots and branches!" continued the first plant
man. Tell us something about the flowers of your planet!."
"Well, I can truthfully say that they are not so clever
as the flowers of Barsoom. I come from a world where plants are silent
and madmen like myself should be also."
This response brought forth great roar of laughter from
the assemblage of talking greenery.
Sensing that he had stumbled upon a way to insure the
strange creatures' continued amiability, John Carter added another comment.
"The very next time that I go out among chicken-men, dragon-fish,
four-legged spiders and mud-men, I honestly promise to visit all of you
and relate my many madcap exploits."
Again peals of merriment of echoed from the strange flowers.
"The man-thing is humorous," cried one of them. "Pass
him along for the king to see," shouted another.
Only then did the visitor from another world realize that
all of the intelligent plants were firmly attached to vines, branches and
the trunks of trees. The closest his experience could come to classifying
them was as a Martian equivalent to earthly orchids -- though a few of
them looked a little more like non-blossoming fly-trap plants. Nothing
in his study of life on the dying planet prepared the Earthman for his
encounter with these talking oddities. And, although the experience forever
remained vivid in his memory, it is safe to say that the gentleman from
Virginia never again talked with plants after this particularly fanciful
Convinced beyond a doubt that his sanity had already snapped,
Captain Carter joined in the revelry of the plant men and voiced no objections
as they moved him along at a good pace from one set of hand-like tendrils