Part 1 out of 2
Created by Judith Boss, Omaha, Nebraska
Out of Time's Abyss
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
This is the tale of Bradley after he left Fort Dinosaur upon the
west coast of the great lake that is in the center of the island.
Upon the fourth day of September, 1916, he set out with four
companions, Sinclair, Brady, James, and Tippet, to search along
the base of the barrier cliffs for a point at which they might
Through the heavy Caspakian air, beneath the swollen sun, the
five men marched northwest from Fort Dinosaur, now waist-deep
in lush, jungle grasses starred with myriad gorgeous blooms, now
across open meadow-land and parklike expanses and again plunging
into dense forests of eucalyptus and acacia and giant arboreous
ferns with feathered fronds waving gently a hundred feet above
About them upon the ground, among the trees and in the air over
them moved and swung and soared the countless forms of Caspak's
teeming life. Always were they menaced by some frightful thing
and seldom were their rifles cool, yet even in the brief time
they had dwelt upon Caprona they had become callous to danger,
so that they swung along laughing and chatting like soldiers on
a summer hike.
"This reminds me of South Clark Street," remarked Brady, who had
once served on the traffic squad in Chicago; and as no one asked
him why, he volunteered that it was "because it's no place for
"South Clark Street and heaven have something in common, then,"
suggested Sinclair. James and Tippet laughed, and then a hideous
growl broke from a dense thicket ahead and diverted their
attention to other matters.
"One of them behemoths of 'Oly Writ," muttered Tippet as they came
to a halt and with guns ready awaited the almost inevitable charge.
"Hungry lot o' beggars, these," said Bradley; "always trying to
eat everything they see."
For a moment no further sound came from the thicket. "He may be
feeding now," suggested Bradley. "We'll try to go around him.
Can't waste ammunition. Won't last forever. Follow me." And he
set off at right angles to their former course, hoping to avert
a charge. They had taken a dozen steps, perhaps, when the
thicket moved to the advance of the thing within it, the leafy
branches parted, and the hideous head of a gigantic bear emerged.
"Pick your trees," whispered Bradley. "Can't waste ammunition."
The men looked about them. The bear took a couple of steps
forward, still growling menacingly. He was exposed to the
shoulders now. Tippet took one look at the monster and bolted
for the nearest tree; and then the bear charged. He charged
straight for Tippet. The other men scattered for the various
trees they had selected--all except Bradley. He stood watching
Tippet and the bear. The man had a good start and the tree was
not far away; but the speed of the enormous creature behind him
was something to marvel at, yet Tippet was in a fair way to make
his sanctuary when his foot caught in a tangle of roots and down
he went, his rifle flying from his hand and falling several
yards away. Instantly Bradley's piece was at his shoulder, there
was a sharp report answered by a roar of mingled rage and pain
from the carnivore. Tippet attempted to scramble to his feet.
"Lie still!" shouted Bradley. "Can't waste ammunition."
The bear halted in its tracks, wheeled toward Bradley and then
back again toward Tippet. Again the former's rifle spit angrily,
and the bear turned again in his direction. Bradley shouted
loudly. "Come on, you behemoth of Holy Writ!" he cried. "Come on,
you duffer! Can't waste ammunition." And as he saw the bear
apparently upon the verge of deciding to charge him, he
encouraged the idea by backing rapidly away, knowing that an
angry beast will more often charge one who moves than one who
And the bear did charge. Like a bolt of lightning he flashed
down upon the Englishman. "Now run!" Bradley called to Tippet
and himself turned in flight toward a nearby tree. The other
men, now safely ensconced upon various branches, watched the race
with breathless interest. Would Bradley make it? It seemed
scarce possible. And if he didn't! James gasped at the thought.
Six feet at the shoulder stood the frightful mountain of
blood-mad flesh and bone and sinew that was bearing down with the
speed of an express train upon the seemingly slow-moving man.
It all happened in a few seconds; but they were seconds that
seemed like hours to the men who watched. They saw Tippet leap
to his feet at Bradley's shouted warning. They saw him run,
stooping to recover his rifle as he passed the spot where it
had fallen. They saw him glance back toward Bradley, and then they
saw him stop short of the tree that might have given him safety
and turn back in the direction of the bear. Firing as he ran,
Tippet raced after the great cave bear--the monstrous thing that
should have been extinct ages before--ran for it and fired even
as the beast was almost upon Bradley. The men in the trees
scarcely breathed. It seemed to them such a futile thing for
Tippet to do, and Tippet of all men! They had never looked upon
Tippet as a coward--there seemed to be no cowards among that
strangely assorted company that Fate had gathered together from
the four corners of the earth--but Tippet was considered a
cautious man. Overcautious, some thought him. How futile he and
his little pop-gun appeared as he dashed after that living engine
of destruction! But, oh, how glorious! It was some such thought
as this that ran through Brady's mind, though articulated it
might have been expressed otherwise, albeit more forcefully.
Just then it occurred to Brady to fire and he, too, opened upon
the bear, but at the same instant the animal stumbled and fell
forward, though still growling most fearsomely. Tippet never
stopped running or firing until he stood within a foot of the
brute, which lay almost touching Bradley and was already
struggling to regain its feet. Placing the muzzle of his gun
against the bear's ear, Tippet pulled the trigger. The creature
sank limply to the ground and Bradley scrambled to his feet.
"Good work, Tippet," he said. "Mightily obliged to you--awful
waste of ammunition, really."
And then they resumed the march and in fifteen minutes the
encounter had ceased even to be a topic of conversation.
For two days they continued upon their perilous way. Already the
cliffs loomed high and forbidding close ahead without sign of
break to encourage hope that somewhere they might be scaled.
Late in the afternoon the party crossed a small stream of warm
water upon the sluggishly moving surface of which floated
countless millions of tiny green eggs surrounded by a light scum
of the same color, though of a darker shade. Their past
experience of Caspak had taught them that they might expect to
come upon a stagnant pool of warm water if they followed the
stream to its source; but there they were almost certain to find
some of Caspak's grotesque, manlike creatures. Already since
they had disembarked from the U-33 after its perilous trip
through the subterranean channel beneath the barrier cliffs had
brought them into the inland sea of Caspak, had they encountered
what had appeared to be three distinct types of these creatures.
There had been the pure apes--huge, gorillalike beasts--and those
who walked, a trifle more erect and had features with just a
shade more of the human cast about them. Then there were men
like Ahm, whom they had captured and confined at the fort--Ahm,
the club-man. "Well-known club-man," Tyler had called him. Ahm
and his people had knowledge of a speech. They had a language,
in which they were unlike the race just inferior to them, and
they walked much more erect and were less hairy: but it was
principally the fact that they possessed a spoken language and
carried a weapon that differentiated them from the others.
All of these peoples had proven belligerent in the extreme. In
common with the rest of the fauna of Caprona the first law of
nature as they seemed to understand it was to kill--kill--kill.
And so it was that Bradley had no desire to follow up the little
stream toward the pool near which were sure to be the caves of
some savage tribe, but fortune played him an unkind trick, for
the pool was much closer than he imagined, its southern end
reaching fully a mile south of the point at which they crossed
the stream, and so it was that after forcing their way through a
tangle of jungle vegetation they came out upon the edge of the
pool which they had wished to avoid.
Almost simultaneously there appeared south of them a party of
naked men armed with clubs and hatchets. Both parties halted as
they caught sight of one another. The men from the fort saw
before them a hunting party evidently returning to its caves or
village laden with meat. They were large men with features
closely resembling those of the African Negro though their
skins were white. Short hair grew upon a large portion of their
limbs and bodies, which still retained a considerable trace of
apish progenitors. They were, however, a distinctly higher type
than the Bo-lu, or club-men.
Bradley would have been glad to have averted a meeting; but as he
desired to lead his party south around the end of the pool, and
as it was hemmed in by the jungle on one side and the water on
the other, there seemed no escape from an encounter.
On the chance that he might avoid a clash, Bradley stepped
forward with upraised hand. "We are friends, " he called in the
tongue of Ahm, the Bolu, who had been held a prisoner at the
fort; "permit us to pass in peace. We will not harm you."
At this the hatchet-men set up a great jabbering with much
laughter, loud and boisterous. "No," shouted one, "you will not
harm us, for we shall kill you. Come! We kill! We kill!"
And with hideous shouts they charged down upon the Europeans.
"Sinclair, you may fire," said Bradley quietly." Pick off
the leader. Can't waste ammunition."
The Englishman raised his piece to his shoulder and took quick
aim at the breast of the yelling savage leaping toward them.
Directly behind the leader came another hatchet-man, and with the
report of Sinclair's rifle both warriors lunged forward in the
tall grass, pierced by the same bullet. The effect upon the rest
of the band was electrical. As one man they came to a sudden
halt, wheeled to the east and dashed into the jungle, where the
men could hear them forcing their way in an effort to put as much
distance as possible between themselves and the authors of this
new and frightful noise that killed warriors at a great distance.
Both the savages were dead when Bradley approached to examine
them, and as the Europeans gathered around, other eyes were bent
upon them with greater curiosity than they displayed for the
victim of Sinclair's bullet. When the party again took up the
march around the southern end of the pool the owner of the eyes
followed them--large, round eyes, almost expressionless except
for a certain cold cruelty which glinted malignly from under
their pale gray irises.
All unconscious of the stalker, the men came, late in the
afternoon, to a spot which seemed favorable as a campsite.
A cold spring bubbled from the base of a rocky formation which
overhung and partially encircled a small inclosure. At Bradley's
command, the men took up the duties assigned them--gathering
wood, building a cook-fire and preparing the evening meal.
It was while they were thus engaged that Brady's attention was
attracted by the dismal flapping of huge wings. He glanced up,
expecting to see one of the great flying reptiles of a bygone
age, his rifle ready in his hand. Brady was a brave man. He had
groped his way up narrow tenement stairs and taken an armed
maniac from a dark room without turning a hair; but now as he
looked up, he went white and staggered back.
"Gawd!" he almost screamed. "What is it?"
Attracted by Brady's cry the others seized their rifles as they
followed his wide-eyed, frozen gaze, nor was there one of them
that was not moved by some species of terror or awe. Then Brady
spoke again in an almost inaudible voice. "Holy Mother protect
us--it's a banshee!"
Bradley, always cool almost to indifference in the face of
danger, felt a strange, creeping sensation run over his flesh, as
slowly, not a hundred feet above them, the thing flapped itself
across the sky, its huge, round eyes glaring down upon them.
And until it disappeared over the tops of the trees of a near-by
wood the five men stood as though paralyzed, their eyes never
leaving the weird shape; nor never one of them appearing to recall
that he grasped a loaded rifle in his hands.
With the passing of the thing, came the reaction. Tippet sank to
the ground and buried his face in his hands. "Oh, Gord," he moaned.
"Tyke me awy from this orful plice." Brady, recovered from the
first shock, swore loud and luridly. He called upon all the
saints to witness that he was unafraid and that anybody with half
an eye could have seen that the creature was nothing more than
"one av thim flyin' alligators" that they all were familiar with.
"Yes," said Sinclair with fine sarcasm, "we've saw so many of
them with white shrouds on 'em."
"Shut up, you fool!" growled Brady. "If you know so much, tell
us what it was after bein' then."
Then he turned toward Bradley. "What was it, sor, do you think?"
Bradley shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "It looked like
a winged human being clothed in a flowing white robe. Its face
was more human than otherwise. That is the way it looked to me;
but what it really was I can't even guess, for such a creature is
as far beyond my experience or knowledge as it is beyond yours.
All that I am sure of is that whatever else it may have been, it
was quite material--it was no ghost; rather just another of the
strange forms of life which we have met here and with which we
should be accustomed by this time."
Tippet looked up. His face was still ashy. "Yer cawn't tell
me," he cried. "Hi seen hit. Blime, Hi seen hit. Hit was ha
dead man flyin' through the hair. Didn't Hi see 'is heyes?
Oh, Gord! Didn't Hi see 'em?"
"It didn't look like any beast or reptile to me," spoke up Sinclair.
"It was lookin' right down at me when I looked up and I saw its
face plain as I see yours. It had big round eyes that looked all
cold and dead, and its cheeks were sunken in deep, and I could see
its yellow teeth behind thin, tight-drawn lips--like a man who had
been dead a long while, sir," he added, turning toward Bradley.
"Yes!" James had not spoken since the apparition had passed over them,
and now it was scarce speech which he uttered--rather a series of
articulate gasps. "Yes--dead--a--long--while. It--means something.
It--come--for some--one. For one--of
us. One--of us is goin'--
to die. I'm goin' to die!" he ended in a wail.
"Come! Come!" snapped Bradley. "Won't do. Won't do at all.
Get to work, all of you. Waste of time. Can't waste time."
His authoritative tones brought them all up standing, and
presently each was occupied with his own duties; but each worked
in silence and there was no singing and no bantering such as had
marked the making of previous camps. Not until they had eaten
and to each had been issued the little ration of smoking tobacco
allowed after each evening meal did any sign of a relaxation of
taut nerves appear. It was Brady who showed the first signs of
returning good spirits. He commenced humming "It's a Long Way to
Tipperary" and presently to voice the words, but he was well into
his third song before anyone joined him, and even then there
seemed a dismal note in even the gayest of tunes.
A huge fire blazed in the opening of their rocky shelter that the
prowling carnivora might be kept at bay; and always one man stood
on guard, watchfully alert against a sudden rush by some maddened
beast of the jungle. Beyond the fire, yellow-green spots of
flame appeared, moved restlessly about, disappeared and
reappeared, accompanied by a hideous chorus of screams and growls
and roars as the hungry meat-eaters hunting through the night
were attracted by the light or the scent of possible prey.
But to such sights and sounds as these the five men had
become callous. They sang or talked as unconcernedly as they
might have done in the bar-room of some publichouse at home.
Sinclair was standing guard. The others were listening to
Brady's description of traffic congestion at the Rush Street
bridge during the rush hour at night. The fire crackled cheerily.
The owners of the yellow-green eyes raised their frightful chorus
to the heavens. Conditions seemed again to have returned to normal.
And then, as though the hand of Death had reached out and touched
them all, the five men tensed into sudden rigidity.
Above the nocturnal diapason of the teeming jungle sounded a
dismal flapping of wings and over head, through the thick night,
a shadowy form passed across the diffused light of the flaring
camp-fire. Sinclair raised his rifle and fired. An eerie wail
floated down from above and the apparition, whatever it might
have been, was swallowed by the darkness. For several seconds
the listening men heard the sound of those dismally flapping wings
lessening in the distance until they could no longer be heard.
Bradley was the first to speak. "Shouldn't have fired,
Sinclair," he said; "can't waste ammunition." But there was
no note of censure in his tone. It was as though he understood
the nervous reaction that had compelled the other's act.
"I couldn't help it, sir," said Sinclair. "Lord, it would take
an iron man to keep from shootin' at that awful thing. Do you
believe in ghosts, sir?"
"No," replied Bradley. "No such things."
"I don't know about that," said Brady. "There was a woman
murdered over on the prairie near Brighton--her throat was cut
from ear to ear, and--"
"Shut up," snapped Bradley.
"My grandaddy used to live down Coppington wy," said Tippet.
"They were a hold ruined castle on a 'ill near by, hand at midnight
they used to see pale blue lights through the windows an 'ear--"
"Will you close your hatch!" demanded Bradley. "You fools will
have yourselves scared to death in a minute. Now go to sleep."
But there was little sleep in camp that night until utter
exhaustion overtook the harassed men toward morning; nor was
there any return of the weird creature that had set the nerves of
each of them on edge.
The following forenoon the party reached the base of the barrier
cliffs and for two days marched northward in an effort to
discover a break in the frowning abutment that raised its rocky
face almost perpendicularly above them, yet nowhere was there the
slightest indication that the cliffs were scalable.
Disheartened, Bradley determined to turn back toward the fort, as
he already had exceeded the time decided upon by Bowen Tyler and
himself for the expedition. The cliffs for many miles had been
trending in a northeasterly direction, indicating to Bradley that
they were approaching the northern extremity of the island.
According to the best of his calculations they had made
sufficient easting during the past two days to have brought them
to a point almost directly north of Fort Dinosaur and as nothing
could be gained by retracing their steps along the base of the
cliffs he decided to strike due south through the unexplored
country between them and the fort.
That night (September 9, 1916), they made camp a short distance
from the cliffs beside one of the numerous cool springs that are
to be found within Caspak, oftentimes close beside the still
more numerous warm and hot springs which feed the many pools.
After supper the men lay smoking and chatting among themselves.
Tippet was on guard. Fewer night prowlers threatened them, and
the men were commenting upon the fact that the farther north they
had traveled the smaller the number of all species of animals
became, though it was still present in what would have seemed
appalling plenitude in any other part of the world. The diminution
in reptilian life was the most noticeable change in the fauna of
northern Caspak. Here, however, were forms they had not met
elsewhere, several of which were of gigantic proportions.
According to their custom all, with the exception of the man on
guard, sought sleep early, nor, once disposed upon the ground for
slumber, were they long in finding it. It seemed to Bradley that
he had scarcely closed his eyes when he was brought to his feet,
wide awake, by a piercing scream which was punctuated by the
sharp report of a rifle from the direction of the fire where
Tippet stood guard. As he ran toward the man, Bradley heard
above him the same uncanny wail that had set every nerve on edge
several nights before, and the dismal flapping of huge wings.
He did not need to look up at the white-shrouded figure winging
slowly away into the night to know that their grim visitor
The muscles of his arm, reacting to the sight and sound of the
menacing form, carried his hand to the butt of his pistol; but
after he had drawn the weapon, he immediately returned it to its
holster with a shrug.
"What for?" he muttered. "Can't waste ammunition." Then he
walked quickly to where Tippet lay sprawled upon his face.
By this time James, Brady and Sinclair were at his heels, each
with his rifle in readiness.
"Is he dead, sir?" whispered James as Bradley kneeled beside the
Bradley turned Tippet over on his back and pressed an ear close
to the other's heart. In a moment he raised his head.
"Fainted," he announced. "Get water. Hurry!" Then he loosened
Tippet's shirt at the throat and when the water was brought,
threw a cupful in the man's face. Slowly Tippet regained
consciousness and sat up. At first he looked curiously into the
faces of the men about him; then an expression of terror
overspread his features. He shot a startled glance up into the
black void above and then burying his face in his arms began to
sob like a child.
"What's wrong, man?" demanded Bradley. "Buck up! Can't play
cry-baby. Waste of energy. What happened?"
"Wot 'appened, sir!" wailed Tippet. "Oh, Gord, sir! Hit came back.
Hit came for me, sir. Right hit did, sir; strite hat me, sir;
hand with long w'ite 'ands it clawed for me. Oh, Gord! Hit almost
caught me, sir. Hi'm has good as dead; Hi'm a marked man; that's
wot Hi ham. Hit was a-goin' for to carry me horf, sir."
"Stuff and nonsense," snapped Bradley. "Did you get a good look
Tippet said that he did--a much better look than he wanted.
The thing had almost clutched him, and he had looked straight
into its eyes--"dead heyes in a dead face," he had described them.
"Wot was it after bein', do you think?" inquired Brady.
"Hit was Death," moaned Tippet, shuddering, and again a pall of
gloom fell upon the little party.
The following day Tippet walked as one in a trance. He never
spoke except in reply to a direct question, which more often than
not had to be repeated before it could attract his attention.
He insisted that he was already a dead man, for if the thing didn't
come for him during the day he would never live through another
night of agonized apprehension, waiting for the frightful end
that he was positive was in store for him. "I'll see to that,"
he said, and they all knew that Tippet meant to take his own life
before darkness set in.
Bradley tried to reason with him, in his short, crisp way, but
soon saw the futility of it; nor could he take the man's weapons
from him without subjecting him to almost certain death from any
of the numberless dangers that beset their way.
The entire party was moody and glum. There was none of the
bantering that had marked their intercourse before, even in the
face of blighting hardships and hideous danger. This was a new
menace that threatened them, something that they couldn't
explain; and so, naturally, it aroused within them superstitious
fear which Tippet's attitude only tended to augment. To add
further to their gloom, their way led through a dense forest,
where, on account of the underbrush, it was difficult to make
even a mile an hour. Constant watchfulness was required to avoid
the many snakes of various degrees of repulsiveness and enormity
that infested the wood; and the only ray of hope they had to
cling to was that the forest would, like the majority of
Caspakian forests, prove to be of no considerable extent.
Bradley was in the lead when he came suddenly upon a grotesque
creature of Titanic proportions. Crouching among the trees,
which here commenced to thin out slightly, Bradley saw what
appeared to be an enormous dragon devouring the carcass of
a mammoth. From frightful jaws to the tip of its long tail it
was fully forty feet in length. Its body was covered with plates
of thick skin which bore a striking resemblance to armor-plate.
The creature saw Bradley almost at the same instant that he saw
it and reared up on its enormous hind legs until its head towered
a full twenty-five feet above the ground. From the cavernous
jaws issued a hissing sound of a volume equal to the escaping steam
from the safety-valves of half a dozen locomotives, and then the
creature came for the man.
"Scatter!" shouted Bradley to those behind him; and all but
Tippet heeded the warning. The man stood as though dazed, and
when Bradley saw the other's danger, he too stopped and wheeling
about sent a bullet into the massive body forcing its way through
the trees toward him. The shot struck the creature in the belly
where there was no protecting armor, eliciting a new note which
rose in a shrill whistle and ended in a wail. It was then that
Tippet appeared to come out of his trance, for with a cry of
terror he turned and fled to the left. Bradley, seeing that he
had as good an opportunity as the others to escape, now turned his
attention to extricating himself; and as the woods seemed dense
on the right, he ran in that direction, hoping that the close-set
boles would prevent pursuit on the part of the great reptile.
The dragon paid no further attention to him, however, for Tippet's
sudden break for liberty had attracted its attention; and after
Tippet it went, bowling over small trees, uprooting underbrush
and leaving a wake behind it like that of a small tornado.
Bradley, the moment he had discovered the thing was pursuing
Tippet, had followed it. He was afraid to fire for fear of
hitting the man, and so it was that he came upon them at the very
moment that the monster lunged its great weight forward upon the
doomed man. The sharp, three-toed talons of the forelimbs seized
poor Tippet, and Bradley saw the unfortunate fellow lifted high
above the ground as the creature again reared up on its hind
legs, immediately transferring Tippet's body to its gaping jaws,
which closed with a sickening, crunching sound as Tippet's bones
cracked beneath the great teeth.
Bradley half raised his rifle to fire again and then lowered it
with a shake of his head. Tippet was beyond succor--why waste a
bullet that Caspak could never replace? If he could now escape
the further notice of the monster it would be a wiser act than to
throw his life away in futile revenge. He saw that the reptile
was not looking in his direction, and so he slipped noiselessly
behind the bole of a large tree and thence quietly faded away in
the direction he believed the others to have taken. At what he
considered a safe distance he halted and looked back. Half hidden
by the intervening trees he still could see the huge head and the
massive jaws from which protrude the limp legs of the dead man.
Then, as though struck by the hammer of Thor, the creature
collapsed and crumpled to the ground. Bradley's single bullet,
penetrating the body through the soft skin of the belly, had slain
A few minutes later, Bradley found the others of the party.
The four returned cautiously to the spot where the creature lay
and after convincing themselves that it was quite dead, came close
to it. It was an arduous and gruesome job extricating Tippet's
mangled remains from the powerful jaws, the men working for the
most part silently.
"It was the work of the banshee all right," muttered Brady.
"It warned poor Tippet, it did."
"Hit killed him, that's wot hit did, hand hit'll kill some more
of us," said James, his lower lip trembling.
"If it was a ghost," interjected Sinclair, "and I don't say as it
was; but if it was, why, it could take on any form it wanted to.
It might have turned itself into this thing, which ain't no
natural thing at all, just to get poor Tippet. If it had of been
a lion or something else humanlike it wouldn't look so strange;
but this here thing ain't humanlike. There ain't no such thing
an' never was."
"Bullets don't kill ghosts," said Bradley, "so this couldn't have
been a ghost. Furthermore, there are no such things. I've been
trying to place this creature. Just succeeded. It's a tyrannosaurus.
Saw picture of skeleton in magazine. There's one in New York
Natural History Museum. Seems to me it said it was found in place
called Hell Creek somewhere in western North America. Supposed to
have lived about six million years ago."
"Hell Creek's in Montana," said Sinclair. "I used to punch cows
in Wyoming, an' I've heard of Hell Creek. Do you s'pose that
there thing's six million years old?" His tone was skeptical.
"No," replied Bradley; "But it would indicate that the island
of Caprona has stood almost without change for more than six
The conversation and Bradley's assurance that the creature was
not of supernatural origin helped to raise a trifle the spirits
of the men; and then came another diversion in the form of
ravenous meat-eaters attracted to the spot by the uncanny sense
of smell which had apprised them of the presence of flesh, killed
and ready for the eating.
It was a constant battle while they dug a grave and consigned all
that was mortal of John Tippet to his last, lonely resting-place.
Nor would they leave then; but remained to fashion a rude head-
stone from a crumbling out-cropping of sandstone and to gather
a mass of the gorgeous flowers growing in such great profusion
around them and heap the new-made grave with bright blooms.
Upon the headstone Sinclair scratched in rude characters the words:
HERE LIES JOHN TIPPET
KILLED BY TYRANNOSAURUS
10 SEPT. A.D. 1916
and Bradley repeated a short prayer before they left their
For three days the party marched due south through forests and
meadow-land and great park-like areas where countless herbivorous
animals grazed--deer and antelope and bos and the little ecca,
the smallest species of Caspakian horse, about the size of a rabbit.
There were other horses too; but all were small, the largest being
not above eight hands in height. Preying continually upon the
herbivora were the meat-eaters, large and small--wolves, hyaenadons,
panthers, lions, tigers, and bear as well as several large and
ferocious species of reptilian life.
On September twelfth the party scaled a line of sandstone cliffs
which crossed their route toward the south; but they crossed them
only after an encounter with the tribe that inhabited the numerous
caves which pitted the face of the escarpment. That night they
camped upon a rocky plateau which was sparsely wooded with jarrah,
and here once again they were visited by the weird, nocturnal
apparition that had already filled them with a nameless terror.
As on the night of September ninth the first warning came
from the sentinel standing guard over his sleeping companions.
A terror-stricken cry punctuated by the crack of a rifle brought
Bradley, Sinclair and Brady to their feet in time to see James,
with clubbed rifle, battling with a white-robed figure that
hovered on widespread wings on a level with the Englishman's head.
As they ran, shouting, forward, it was obvious to them that the
weird and terrible apparition was attempting to seize James; but
when it saw the others coming to his rescue, it desisted,
flapping rapidly upward and away, its long, ragged wings giving
forth the peculiarly dismal notes which always characterized the
sound of its flying.
Bradley fired at the vanishing menacer of their peace and safety;
but whether he scored a hit or not, none could tell, though,
following the shot, there was wafted back to them the same
piercing wail that had on other occasions frozen their marrow.
Then they turned toward James, who lay face downward upon the
ground, trembling as with ague. For a time he could not even
speak, but at last regained sufficient composure to tell them
how the thing must have swooped silently upon him from above
and behind as the first premonition of danger he had received
was when the long, clawlike fingers had clutched him beneath
either arm. In the melee his rifle had been discharged and he
had broken away at the same instant and turned to defend himself
with the butt. The rest they had seen.
From that instant James was an absolutely broken man.
He maintained with shaking lips that his doom was sealed, that
the thing had marked him for its own, and that he was as good as
dead, nor could any amount of argument or raillery convince him
to the contrary. He had seen Tippet marked and claimed and now
he had been marked. Nor were his constant reiterations of this
belief without effect upon the rest of the party. Even Bradley
felt depressed, though for the sake of the others he managed to
hide it beneath a show of confidence he was far from feeling.
And on the following day William James was killed by a
saber-tooth tiger--September 13, 1916. Beneath a jarrah tree on
the stony plateau on the northern edge of the Sto-lu country in
the land that Time forgot, he lies in a lonely grave marked by a
Southward from his grave marched three grim and silent men.
To the best of Bradley's reckoning they were some twenty-five
miles north of Fort Dinosaur, and that they might reach the fort
on the following day, they plodded on until darkness overtook them.
With comparative safety fifteen miles away, they made camp at last;
but there was no singing now and no joking. In the bottom of his
heart each prayed that they might come safely through just this
night, for they knew that during the morrow they would make the
final stretch, yet the nerves of each were taut with strained
anticipation of what gruesome thing might flap down upon them from
the black sky, marking another for its own. Who would be the next?
As was their custom, they took turns at guard, each man doing two
hours and then arousing the next. Brady had gone on from eight
to ten, followed by Sinclair from ten to twelve, then Bradley had
been awakened. Brady would stand the last guard from two to
four, as they had determined to start the moment that it became
light enough to insure comparative safety upon the trail.
The snapping of a twig aroused Brady out of a dead sleep, and as
he opened his eyes, he saw that it was broad daylight and that at
twenty paces from him stood a huge lion. As the man sprang to
his feet, his rifle ready in his hand, Sinclair awoke and took in
the scene in a single swift glance. The fire was out and Bradley
was nowhere in sight. For a long moment the lion and the men
eyed one another. The latter had no mind to fire if the beast
minded its own affairs--they were only too glad to let it go its
way if it would; but the lion was of a different mind.
Suddenly the long tail snapped stiffly erect, and as though it
had been attached to two trigger fingers the two rifles spoke in
unison, for both men knew this signal only too well--the
immediate forerunner of a deadly charge. As the brute's head had
been raised, his spine had not been visible; and so they did what
they had learned by long experience was best to do. Each covered
a front leg, and as the tail snapped aloft, fired. With a
hideous roar the mighty flesh-eater lurched forward to the ground
with both front legs broken. It was an easy accomplishment in
the instant before the beast charged--after, it would have been
well-nigh an impossible feat. Brady stepped close in and finished
him with a shot in the base of the brain lest his terrific
roarings should attract his mate or others of their kind.
Then the two men turned and looked at one another. "Where is
Lieutenant Bradley?" asked Sinclair. They walked to the fire.
Only a few smoking embers remained. A few feet away lay
Bradley's rifle. There was no evidence of a struggle. The two
men circled about the camp twice and on the last lap Brady
stooped and picked up an object which had lain about ten yards
beyond the fire--it was Bradley's cap. Again the two looked
questioningly at one another, and then, simultaneously, both
pairs of eyes swung upward and searched the sky. A moment later
Brady was examining the ground about the spot where Bradley's cap
had lain. It was one of those little barren, sandy stretches
that they had found only upon this stony plateau. Brady's own
footsteps showed as plainly as black ink upon white paper; but
his was the only foot that had marred the smooth, windswept
surface--there was no sign that Bradley had crossed the spot
upon the surface of the ground, and yet his cap lay well
toward the center of it.
Breakfastless and with shaken nerves the two survivors plunged
madly into the long day's march. Both were strong, courageous,
resourceful men; but each had reached the limit of human nerve
endurance and each felt that he would rather die than spend
another night in the hideous open of that frightful land.
Vivid in the mind of each was a picture of Bradley's end, for
though neither had witnessed the tragedy, both could imagine almost
precisely what had occurred. They did not discuss it--they did
not even mention it--yet all day long the thing was uppermost in
the mind of each and mingled with it a similar picture with himself
as victim should they fail to make Fort Dinosaur before dark.
And so they plunged forward at reckless speed, their clothes,
their hands, their faces torn by the retarding underbrush that
reached forth to hinder them. Again and again they fell; but be
it to their credit that the one always waited and helped the
other and that into the mind of neither entered the thought or
the temptation to desert his companion--they would reach the fort
together if both survived, or neither would reach it.
They encountered the usual number of savage beasts and reptiles;
but they met them with a courageous recklessness born of desperation,
and by virtue of the very madness of the chances they took, they
came through unscathed and with the minimum of delay.
Shortly after noon they reached the end of the plateau.
Before them was a drop of two hundred feet to the valley beneath.
To the left, in the distance, they could see the waters of the
great inland sea that covers a considerable portion of the area
of the crater island of Caprona and at a little lesser distance
to the south of the cliffs they saw a thin spiral of smoke arising
above the tree-tops.
The landscape was familiar--each recognized it immediately
and knew that that smoky column marked the spot where Dinosaur
had stood. Was the fort still there, or did the smoke arise
from the smoldering embers of the building they had helped to
fashion for the housing of their party? Who could say!
Thirty precious minutes that seemed as many hours to the
impatient men were consumed in locating a precarious way from the
summit to the base of the cliffs that bounded the plateau upon
the south, and then once again they struck off upon level ground
toward their goal. The closer they approached the fort the
greater became their apprehension that all would not be well.
They pictured the barracks deserted or the small company
massacred and the buildings in ashes. It was almost in a frenzy
of fear that they broke through the final fringe of jungle and
stood at last upon the verge of the open meadow a half-mile from
"Lord!" ejaculated Sinclair. "They are still there!" And he fell
to his knees, sobbing.
Brady trembled like a leaf as he crossed himself and gave silent
thanks, for there before them stood the sturdy ramparts of
Dinosaur and from inside the inclosure rose a thin spiral of
smoke that marked the location of the cook-house. All was well,
then, and their comrades were preparing the evening meal!
Across the clearing they raced as though they had not already
covered in a single day a trackless, primeval country that
might easily have required two days by fresh and untired men.
Within hailing distance they set up such a loud shouting that
presently heads appeared above the top of the parapet and soon
answering shouts were rising from within Fort Dinosaur. A moment
later three men issued from the inclosure and came forward to
meet the survivors and listen to the hurried story of the eleven
eventful days since they had set out upon their expedition to the
barrier cliffs. They heard of the deaths of Tippet and James and
of the disappearance of Lieutenant Bradley, and a new terror
settled upon Dinosaur.
Olson, the Irish engineer, with Whitely and Wilson constituted
the remnants of Dinosaur's defenders, and to Brady and Sinclair
they narrated the salient events that had transpired since Bradley
and his party had marched away on September 4th. They told them
of the infamous act of Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts and his
German crew who had stolen the U-33, breaking their parole, and
steaming away toward the subterranean opening through the barrier
cliffs that carried the waters of the inland sea into the open
Pacific beyond; and of the cowardly shelling of the fort.
They told of the disappearance of Miss La Rue in the night of
September 11th, and of the departure of Bowen Tyler in search of
her, accompanied only by his Airedale, Nobs. Thus of the
original party of eleven Allies and nine Germans that had
constituted the company of the U-33 when she left English waters
after her capture by the crew of the English tug there were but
five now to be accounted for at Fort Dinosaur. Benson, Tippet,
James, and one of the Germans were known to be dead. It was
assumed that Bradley, Tyler and the girl had already succumbed to
some of the savage denizens of Caspak, while the fate of the
Germans was equally unknown, though it might readily be believed
that they had made good their escape. They had had ample time to
provision the ship and the refining of the crude oil they had
discovered north of the fort could have insured them an ample
supply to carry them back to Germany.
When bradley went on guard at midnight, September 14th, his
thoughts were largely occupied with rejoicing that the night
was almost spent without serious mishap and that the morrow
would doubtless see them all safely returned to Fort Dinosaur.
The hopefulness of his mood was tinged with sorrow by recollection
of the two members of his party who lay back there in the savage
wilderness and for whom there would never again be a homecoming.
No premonition of impending ill cast gloom over his anticipations
for the coming day, for Bradley was a man who, while taking every
precaution against possible danger, permitted no gloomy
forebodings to weigh down his spirit. When danger threatened, he
was prepared; but he was not forever courting disaster, and so it
was that when about one o'clock in the morning of the fifteenth,
he heard the dismal flapping of giant wings overhead, he was
neither surprised nor frightened but idly prepared for an attack
he had known might reasonably be expected.
The sound seemed to come from the south, and presently, low above
the trees in that direction, the man made out a dim, shadowy form
circling slowly about. Bradley was a brave man, yet so keen was
the feeling of revulsion engendered by the sight and sound of
that grim, uncanny shape that he distinctly felt the gooseflesh
rise over the surface of his body, and it was with difficulty
that he refrained from following an instinctive urge to fire upon
the nocturnal intruder. Better, far better would it have been
had he given in to the insistent demand of his subconscious
mentor; but his almost fanatical obsession to save ammunition
proved now his undoing, for while his attention was riveted upon
the thing circling before him and while his ears were filled with
the beating of its wings, there swooped silently out of the black
night behind him another weird and ghostly shape. With its huge
wings partly closed for the dive and its white robe fluttering in
its wake, the apparition swooped down upon the Englishman.
So great was the force of the impact when the thing struck
Bradley between the shoulders that the man was half stunned.
His rifle flew from his grasp; he felt clawlike talons of great
strength seize him beneath his arms and sweep him off his feet;
and then the thing rose swiftly with him, so swiftly that his cap
was blown from his head by the rush of air as he was borne
rapidly upward into the inky sky and the cry of warning to his
companions was forced back into his lungs.
The creature wheeled immediately toward the east and was at once
joined by its fellow, who circled them once and then fell in
behind them. Bradley now realized the strategy that the pair
had used to capture him and at once concluded that he was in the
power of reasoning beings closely related to the human race if
not actually of it.
Past experience suggested that the great wings were a part of
some ingenious mechanical device, for the limitations of the
human mind, which is always loath to accept aught beyond its own
little experience, would not permit him to entertain the idea
that the creatures might be naturally winged and at the same time
of human origin. From his position Bradley could not see the
wings of his captor, nor in the darkness had he been able to
examine those of the second creature closely when it circled
before him. He listened for the puff of a motor or some other
telltale sound that would prove the correctness of his theory.
However, he was rewarded with nothing more than the constant
Presently, far below and ahead, he saw the waters of the inland
sea, and a moment later he was borne over them. Then his captor
did that which proved beyond doubt to Bradley that he was in the
hands of human beings who had devised an almost perfect scheme of
duplicating, mechanically, the wings of a bird--the thing spoke
to its companion and in a language that Bradley partially
understood, since he recognized words that he had learned from
the savage races of Caspak. From this he judged that they were
human, and being human, he knew that they could have no natural
wings--for who had ever seen a human being so adorned!
Therefore their wings must be mechanical. Thus Bradley reasoned--
thus most of us reason; not by what might be possible; but by what
has fallen within the range of our experience.
What he heard them say was to the effect that having covered
half the distance the burden would now be transferred from one
to the other. Bradley wondered how the exchange was to
be accomplished. He knew that those giant wings would not
permit the creatures to approach one another closely enough
to effect the transfer in this manner; but he was soon to
discover that they had other means of doing it.
He felt the thing that carried him rise to a greater altitude,
and below he glimpsed momentarily the second white-robed figure;
then the creature above sounded a low call, it was answered from
below, and instantly Bradley felt the clutching talons release
him; gasping for breath, he hurtled downward through space.
For a terrifying instant, pregnant with horror, Bradley fell;
then something swooped for him from behind, another pair of
talons clutched him beneath the arms, his downward rush was
checked, within another hundred feet, and close to the surface
of the sea he was again borne upward. As a hawk dives for a
songbird on the wing, so this great, human bird dived for Bradley.
It was a harrowing experience, but soon over, and once again
the captive was being carried swiftly toward the east and what
fate he could not even guess.
It was immediately following his transfer in mid-air that Bradley
made out the shadowy form of a large island far ahead, and not
long after, he realized that this must be the intended
destination of his captors. Nor was he mistaken. Three quarters
of an hour from the time of his seizure his captors dropped
gently to earth in the strangest city that human eye had ever
rested upon. Just a brief glimpse of his immediate surroundings
vouchsafed Bradley before he was whisked into the interior of one
of the buildings; but in that momentary glance he saw strange
piles of stone and wood and mud fashioned into buildings of all
conceivable sizes and shapes, sometimes piled high on top of one
another, sometimes standing alone in an open court-way, but
usually crowded and jammed together, so that there were no
streets or alleys between them other than a few which ended
almost as soon as they began. The principal doorways appeared to
be in the roofs, and it was through one of these that Bradley was
inducted into the dark interior of a low-ceiled room. Here he
was pushed roughly into a corner where he tripped over a thick
mat, and there his captors left him. He heard them moving about
in the darkness for a moment, and several times he saw their
large luminous eyes glowing in the dark. Finally, these
disappeared and silence reigned, broken only by the breathing of
the creature which indicated to the Englishman that they were
sleeping somewhere in the same apartment.
It was now evident that the mat upon the floor was intended for
sleeping purposes and that the rough shove that had sent him to
it had been a rude invitation to repose. After taking stock of
himself and finding that he still had his pistol and ammunition,
some matches, a little tobacco, a canteen full of water and a
razor, Bradley made himself comfortable upon the mat and was soon
asleep, knowing that an attempted escape in the darkness without
knowledge of his surroundings would be predoomed to failure.
When he awoke, it was broad daylight, and the sight that met his
eyes made him rub them again and again to assure himself that
they were really open and that he was not dreaming. A broad
shaft of morning light poured through the open doorway in the
ceiling of the room which was about thirty feet square, or
roughly square, being irregular in shape, one side curving
outward, another being indented by what might have been the
corner of another building jutting into it, another alcoved by
three sides of an octagon, while the fourth was serpentine
in contour. Two windows let in more daylight, while two doors
evidently gave ingress to other rooms. The walls were partially
ceiled with thin strips of wood, nicely fitted and finished,
partially plastered and the rest covered with a fine, woven cloth.
Figures of reptiles and beasts were painted without regard to
any uniform scheme here and there upon the walls. A striking
feature of the decorations consisted of several engaged columns
set into the walls at no regular intervals, the capitals of
each supporting a human skull the cranium of which touched the
ceiling, as though the latter was supported by these grim
reminders either of departed relatives or of some hideous tribal
rite--Bradley could not but wonder which.
Yet it was none of these things that filled him with greatest
wonder--no, it was the figures of the two creatures that had
captured him and brought him hither. At one end of the room a
stout pole about two inches in diameter ran horizontally from
wall to wall some six or seven feet from the floor, its ends
securely set in two of the columns. Hanging by their knees from
this perch, their heads downward and their bodies wrapped in
their huge wings, slept the creatures of the night before--like
two great, horrid bats they hung, asleep.
As Bradley gazed upon them in wide-eyed astonishment, he saw
plainly that all his intelligence, all his acquired knowledge
through years of observation and experience were set at naught by
the simple evidence of the fact that stood out glaringly before
his eyes--the creatures' wings were not mechanical devices but as
natural appendages, growing from their shoulderblades, as were
their arms and legs. He saw, too, that except for their wings
the pair bore a strong resemblance to human beings, though
fashioned in a most grotesque mold.
As he sat gazing at them, one of the two awoke, separated his
wings to release his arms that had been folded across his breast,
placed his hands upon the floor, dropped his feet and stood erect.
For a moment he stretched his great wings slowly, solemnly
blinking his large round eyes. Then his gaze fell upon Bradley.
The thin lips drew back tightly against yellow teeth in a grimace
that was nothing but hideous. It could not have been termed a
smile, and what emotion it registered the Englishman was at a
loss to guess. No expression whatever altered the steady gaze
of those large, round eyes; there was no color upon the pasty,
sunken cheeks. A death's head grimaced as though a man long
dead raised his parchment-covered skull from an old grave.
The creature stood about the height of an average man but
appeared much taller from the fact that the joints of his long
wings rose fully a foot above his hairless head. The bare arms
were long and sinewy, ending in strong, bony hands with clawlike
fingers--almost talonlike in their suggestiveness. The white
robe was separated in front, revealing skinny legs and the
further fact that the thing wore but the single garment, which
was of fine, woven cloth. From crown to sole the portions of
the body exposed were entirely hairless, and as he noted this,
Bradley also noted for the first time the cause of much of the
seeming expressionlessness of the creature's countenance--it had
neither eye-brows or lashes. The ears were small and rested flat
against the skull, which was noticeably round, though the face
was quite flat. The creature had small feet, beautifully arched
and plump, but so out of keeping with every other physical
attribute it possessed as to appear ridiculous.
After eyeing Bradley for a moment the thing approached him.
"Where from?" it asked.
"England," replied Bradley, as briefly.
"Where is England and what?" pursued the questioner.
"It is a country far from here," answered the Englishman.
"Are your people cor-sva-jo or cos-ata-lu?"
"I do not understand you," said Bradley; "and now suppose you
answer a few questions. Who are you? What country is this?
Why did you bring me here?"
Again the sepulchral grimace. "We are Wieroos--Luata is our father.
Caspak is ours. This, our country, is called Oo-oh. We brought
you here for (literally) Him Who Speaks for Luata to gaze upon
and question. He would know from whence you came and why; but
principally if you be cos-ata-lu."
"And if I am not cos--whatever you call the bloomin' beast--
what of it?"
The Wieroo raised his wings in a very human shrug and waved his
bony claws toward the human skulls supporting the ceiling.
His gesture was eloquent; but he embellished it by remarking,
"And possibly if you are."
"I'm hungry," snapped Bradley.
The Wieroo motioned him to one of the doors which he threw open,
permitting Bradley to pass out onto another roof on a level lower
than that upon which they had landed earlier in the morning.
By daylight the city appeared even more remarkable than in the
moonlight, though less weird and unreal. The houses of all
shapes and sizes were piled about as a child might pile blocks of
various forms and colors. He saw now that there were what might
be called streets or alleys, but they ran in baffling turns and
twists, nor ever reached a destination, always ending in a dead
wall where some Wieroo had built a house across them.
Upon each house was a slender column supporting a human skull.
Sometimes the columns were at one corner of the roof, sometimes
at another, or again they rose from the center or near the
center, and the columns were of varying heights, from that of
a man to those which rose twenty feet above their roofs.
The skulls were, as a rule, painted--blue or white, or in
combinations of both colors. The most effective were painted
blue with the teeth white and the eye-sockets rimmed with white.
There were other skulls--thousands of them--tens, hundreds
of thousands. They rimmed the eaves of every house, they were
set in the plaster of the outer walls and at no great distance
from where Bradley stood rose a round tower built entirely of
human skulls. And the city extended in every direction as far
as the Englishman could see.
All about him Wieroos were moving across the roofs or winging
through the air. The sad sound of their flapping wings rose and
fell like a solemn dirge. Most of them were appareled all in
white, like his captors; but others had markings of red or blue
or yellow slashed across the front of their robes.
His guide pointed toward a doorway in an alley below them.
"Go there and eat," he commanded, "and then come back.
You cannot escape. If any question you, say that you belong
to Fosh-bal-soj. There is the way." And this time he pointed
to the top of a ladder which protruded above the eaves of the
roof near-by. Then he turned and reentered the house.
Bradley looked about him. No, he could not escape--that
seemed evident. The city appeared interminable, and beyond the
city, if not a savage wilderness filled with wild beasts, there
was the broad inland sea infested with horrid monsters. No wonder
his captor felt safe in turning him loose in Oo-oh--he wondered if
that was the name of the country or the city and if there were
other cities like this upon the island.
Slowly he descended the ladder to the seemingly deserted alley
which was paved with what appeared to be large, round cobblestones.
He looked again at the smooth, worn pavement, and a rueful grin
crossed his features--the alley was paved with skulls. "The City
of Human Skulls," mused Bradley. "They must have been collectin'
'em since Adam," he thought, and then he crossed and entered the
building through the doorway that had been pointed out to him.
Inside he found a large room in which were many Wieroos seated
before pedestals the tops of which were hollowed out so that
they resembled the ordinary bird drinking- and bathing-fonts so
commonly seen on suburban lawns. A seat protruded from each of
the four sides of the pedestals--just a flat board with a support
running from its outer end diagonally to the base of the pedestal.
As Bradley entered, some of the Wieroos espied him, and a dismal
wail arose. Whether it was a greeting or a threat, Bradley did
not know. Suddenly from a dark alcove another Wieroo rushed out
toward him. "Who are you?" he cried. "What do you want?"
"Fosh-bal-soj sent me here to eat," replied Bradley.
"Do you belong to Fosh-bal-soj?" asked the other.
"That appears to be what he thinks," answered the Englishman.
"Are you cos-ata-lu?" demanded the Wieroo.
"Give me something to eat or I'll be all of that," replied Bradley.
The Wieroo looked puzzled. "Sit here, jaal-lu," he snapped,
and Bradley sat down unconscious of the fact that he had been
insulted by being called a hyena-man, an appellation of contempt
The Wieroo had seated him at a pedestal by himself, and as he sat
waiting for what was next to transpire, he looked about him at
the Wieroo in his immediate vicinity. He saw that in each font
was a quantity of food, and that each Wieroo was armed with a
wooden skewer, sharpened at one end; with which they carried
solid portions of food to their mouths. At the other end of the
skewer was fastened a small clam-shell. This was used to scoop
up the smaller and softer portions of the repast into which all
four of the occupants of each table dipped impartially. The Wieroo
leaned far over their food, scooping it up rapidly and with much
noise, and so great was their haste that a part of each mouthful
always fell back into the common dish; and when they choked, by
reason of the rapidity with which they attempted to bolt their
food, they often lost it all. Bradley was glad that he had a
pedestal all to himself.
Soon the keeper of the place returned with a wooden bowl filled
with food. This he dumped into Bradley's "trough," as he already
thought of it. The Englishman was glad that he could not see
into the dark alcove or know what were all the ingredients that
constituted the mess before him, for he was very hungry.
After the first mouthful he cared even less to investigate the
antecedents of the dish, for he found it peculiarly palatable.
It seemed to consist of a combination of meat, fruits,
vegetables, small fish and other undistinguishable articles of
food all seasoned to produce a gastronomic effect that was at
once baffling and delicious.
When he had finished, his trough was empty, and then he commenced
to wonder who was to settle for his meal. As he waited for the
proprietor to return, he fell to examining the dish from which he
had eaten and the pedestal upon which it rested. The font was of
stone worn smooth by long-continued use, the four outer edges
hollowed and polished by the contact of the countless Wieroo
bodies that had leaned against them for how long a period of time
Bradley could not even guess. Everything about the place carried
the impression of hoary age. The carved pedestals were black
with use, the wooden seats were worn hollow, the floor of stone
slabs was polished by the contact of possibly millions of naked
feet and worn away in the aisles between the pedestals so that
the latter rested upon little mounds of stone several inches
above the general level of the floor.
Finally, seeing that no one came to collect, Bradley arose and
started for the doorway. He had covered half the distance when
he heard the voice of mine host calling to him: "Come back,
jaal-lu," screamed the Wieroo; and Bradley did as he was bid.
As he approached the creature which stood now behind a large,
flat-topped pedestal beside the alcove, he saw lying upon the
smooth surface something that almost elicited a gasp of
astonishment from him--a simple, common thing it was, or would
have been almost anywhere in the world but Caspak--a square bit
And on it, in a fine hand, written compactly, were many strange
hieroglyphics! These remarkable creatures, then, had a written as
well as a spoken language and besides the art of weaving cloth
possessed that of paper-making. Could it be that such grotesque
beings represented the high culture of the human race within the
boundaries of Caspak? Had natural selection produced during the
countless ages of Caspakian life a winged monstrosity that
represented the earthly pinnacle of man's evolution?
Bradley had noted something of the obvious indications of a
gradual evolution from ape to spearman as exemplified by the
several overlapping races of Alalus, club-men and hatchet-men
that formed the connecting links between the two extremes with
which he, had come in contact. He had heard of the Krolus and
the Galus--reputed to be still higher in the plane of evolution--
and now he had indisputable evidence of a race possessing
refinements of civilization eons in advance of the spear-men.
The conjectures awakened by even a momentary consideration of the
possibilities involved became at once as wildly bizarre as the
insane imagings of a drug addict.
As these thoughts flashed through his mind, the Wieroo held out
a pen of bone fixed to a wooden holder and at the same time made
a sign that Bradley was to write upon the paper. It was
difficult to judge from the expressionless features of the Wieroo
what was passing in the creature's mind, but Bradley could not
but feel that the thing cast a supercilious glance upon him as
much as to say, "Of course you do not know how to write, you
poor, low creature; but you can make your mark."
Bradley seized the pen and in a clear, bold hand wrote: "John
Bradley, England." The Wieroo showed evidences of consternation
as it seized the piece of paper and examined the writing with
every mark of incredulity and surprise. Of course it could make
nothing of the strange characters; but it evidently accepted them
as proof that Bradley possessed knowledge of a written language
of his own, for following the Englishman's entry it made a few
characters of its own.
"You will come here again just before Lua hides his face behind
the great cliff," announced the creature, "unless before that you
are summoned by Him Who Speaks for Luata, in which case you will
not have to eat any more."
"Reassuring cuss," thought Bradley as he turned and left
Outside were several Wieroos that had been eating at the
pedestals within. They immediately surrounded him, asking all
sorts of questions, plucking at his garments, his ammunition-belt
and his pistol. Their demeanor was entirely different from what
it had been within the eating-place and Bradley was to learn that
a house of food was sanctuary for him, since the stern laws of
the Wieroos forbade altercations within such walls. Now they
were rough and threatening, as with wings half spread they
hovered about him in menacing attitudes, barring his way to the
ladder leading to the roof from whence he had descended; but the
Englishman was not one to brook interference for long. He attempted
at first to push his way past them, and then when one seized his
arm and jerked him roughly back, Bradley swung upon the creature
and with a heavy blow to the jaw felled it.
Instantly pandemonium reigned. Loud wails arose, great wings
opened and closed with a loud, beating noise and many clawlike
hands reached forth to clutch him. Bradley struck to right
and left. He dared not use his pistol for fear that once they
discovered its power he would be overcome by weight of numbers
and relieved of possession of what he considered his trump card,
to be reserved until the last moment that it might be used to aid
in his escape, for already the Englishman was planning, though
almost hopelessly, such an attempt.
A few blows convinced Bradley that the Wieroos were arrant
cowards and that they bore no weapons, for after two or three had
fallen beneath his fists the others formed a circle about him,
but at a safe distance and contented themselves with threatening
and blustering, while those whom he had felled lay upon the
pavement without trying to arise, the while they moaned and
wailed in lugubrious chorus.
Again Bradley strode toward the ladder, and this time the circle
parted before him; but no sooner had he ascended a few rungs than
he was seized by one foot and an effort made to drag him down.
With a quick backward glance the Englishman, clinging firmly to
the ladder with both hands, drew up his free foot and with all
the strength of a powerful leg, planted a heavy shoe squarely in
the flat face of the Wieroo that held him. Shrieking horribly,
the creature clapped both hands to its face and sank to the
ground while Bradley clambered quickly the remaining distance to
the roof, though no sooner did he reach the top of the ladder
than a great flapping of wings beneath him warned him that the
Wieroos were rising after him. A moment later they swarmed about
his head as he ran for the apartment in which he had spent the
early hours of the morning after his arrival.
It was but a short distance from the top of the ladder to the
doorway, and Bradley had almost reached his goal when the door
flew open and Fosh-bal-soj stepped out. Immediately the pursuing
Wieroos demanded punishment of the jaal-lu who had so
grievously maltreated them. Fosh-bal-soj listened to their
complaints and then with a sudden sweep of his right hand seized
Bradley by the scruff of the neck and hurled him sprawling
through the doorway upon the floor of the chamber.
So sudden was the assault and so surprising the strength of the
Wieroo that the Englishman was taken completely off his guard.
When he arose, the door was closed, and Fosh-bal-soj was standing
over him, his hideous face contorted into an expression of rage
"Hyena, snake, lizard!" he screamed. "You would dare lay your
low, vile, profaning hands upon even the lowliest of the Wieroos--
the sacred chosen of Luata!"
Bradley was mad, and so he spoke in a very low, calm voice while
a half-smile played across his lips but his cold, gray eyes
"What you did to me just now," he said, "--I am going to kill
you for that," and even as he spoke, he launched himself at the
throat of Fosh-bal-soj. The other Wieroo that had been asleep
when Bradley left the chamber had departed, and the two were alone.
Fosh-bal-soj displayed little of the cowardice of those that had
attacked Bradley in the alleyway, but that may have been because
he had so slight opportunity, for Bradley had him by the throat
before he could utter a cry and with his right hand struck him
heavily and repeatedly upon his face and over his heart--ugly,
smashing, short-arm jabs of the sort that take the fight out of
a man in quick time.
But Fosh-bal-soj was of no mind to die passively. He clawed and
struck at Bradley while with his great wings he attempted to
shield himself from the merciless rain of blows, at the same time
searching for a hold upon his antagonist's throat. Presently he
succeeded in tripping the Englishman, and together the two fell
heavily to the floor, Bradley underneath, and at the same instant
the Wieroo fastened his long talons about the other's windpipe.
Fosh-bal-soj was possessed of enormous strength and he was
fighting for his life. The Englishman soon realized that the
battle was going against him. Already his lungs were pounding
painfully for air as he reached for his pistol. It was with
difficulty that he drew it from its holster, and even then, with
death staring him in the face, he thought of his precious ammunition.
"Can't waste it," he thought; and slipping his fingers to the
barrel he raised the weapon and struck Fosh-bal-soj a terrific
blow between the eyes. Instantly the clawlike fingers released
their hold, and the creature sank limply to the floor beside
Bradley, who lay for several minutes gasping painfully in an
effort to regain his breath.
When he was able, he rose, and leaned close over the Wieroo,
lying silent and motionless, his wings dropping limply and his
great, round eyes staring blankly toward the ceiling. A brief
examination convinced Bradley that the thing was dead, and with
the conviction came an overwhelming sense of the dangers which
must now confront him; but how was he to escape?
His first thought was to find some means for concealing the
evidence of his deed and then to make a bold effort to escape.
Stepping to the second door he pushed it gently open and peered
in upon what seemed to be a store room. In it was a litter of
cloth such as the Wieroos' robes were fashioned from, a number
of chests painted blue and white, with white hieroglyphics
painted in bold strokes upon the blue and blue hieroglyphics upon
the white. In one corner was a pile of human skulls reaching
almost to the ceiling and in another a stack of dried Wieroo wings.
The chamber was as irregularly shaped as the other and had but a
single window and a second door at the further end, but was
without the exit through the roof and, most important of all,
there was no creature of any sort in it.
As quickly as possible Bradley dragged the dead Wieroo through
the doorway and closed the door; then he looked about for a place
to conceal the corpse. One of the chests was large enough to
hold the body if the knees were bent well up, and with this idea
in view Bradley approached the chest to open it. The lid was
made in two pieces, each being hinged at an opposite end of the
chest and joining nicely where they met in the center of the
chest, making a snug, well-fitting joint. There was no lock.
Bradley raised one half the cover and looked in. With a smothered
"By Jove!" he bent closer to examine the contents--the chest
was about half filled with an assortment of golden trinkets.
There were what appeared to be bracelets, anklets and brooches
of virgin gold.
Realizing that there was no room in the chest for the body of the
Wieroo, Bradley turned to seek another means of concealing the
evidence of his crime. There was a space between the chests and
the wall, and into this he forced the corpse, piling the
discarded robes upon it until it was entirely hidden from sight;
but now how was he to make good his escape in the bright glare of
that early Spring day?
He walked to the door at the far end of the apartment and
cautiously opened it an inch. Before him and about two feet away
was the blank wall of another building. Bradley opened the door
a little farther and looked in both directions. There was no one
in sight to the left over a considerable expanse of roof-top, and
to the right another building shut off his line of vision at
about twenty feet. Slipping out, he turned to the right and in
a few steps found a narrow passageway between two buildings.
Turning into this he passed about half its length when he saw a
Wieroo appear at the opposite end and halt. The creature was not
looking down the passageway; but at any moment it might turn its
eyes toward him, when he would be immediately discovered.
To Bradley's left was a triangular niche in the wall of one of
the houses and into this he dodged, thus concealing himself from
the sight of the Wieroo. Beside him was a door painted a vivid
yellow and constructed after the same fashion as the other Wieroo
doors he had seen, being made up of countless narrow strips of
wood from four to six inches in length laid on in patches of
about the same width, the strips in adjacent patches never
running in the same direction. The result bore some resemblance
to a crazy patchwork quilt, which was heightened when, as in one
of the doors he had seen, contiguous patches were painted
different colors. The strips appeared to have been bound
together and to the underlying framework of the door with gut or
fiber and also glued, after which a thick coating of paint had
been applied. One edge of the door was formed of a straight,
round pole about two inches in diameter that protruded at top and
bottom, the projections setting in round holes in both lintel and
sill forming the axis upon which the door swung. An eccentric
disk upon the inside face of the door engaged a slot in the frame
when it was desired to secure the door against intruders.
As Bradley stood flattened against the wall waiting for the
Wieroo to move on, he heard the creature's wings brushing against
the sides of the buildings as it made its way down the narrow
passage in his direction. As the yellow door offered the only
means of escape without detection, the Englishman decided to risk
whatever might lie beyond it, and so, boldly pushing it in, he
crossed the threshold and entered a small apartment.
As he did so, he heard a muffled ejaculation of surprise, and
turning his eyes in the direction from whence the sound had come,
he beheld a wide-eyed girl standing flattened against the
opposite wall, an expression of incredulity upon her face. At a
glance he saw that she was of no race of humans that he had come
in contact with since his arrival upon Caprona--there was no
trace about her form or features of any relationship to those low
orders of men, nor was she appareled as they--or, rather, she did
not entirely lack apparel as did most of them.
A soft hide fell from her left shoulder to just below her left
hip on one side and almost to her right knee on the other, a
loose girdle was about her waist, and golden ornaments such as he
had seen in the blue-and-white chest encircled her arms and legs,
while a golden fillet with a triangular diadem bound her heavy
hair above her brows. Her skin was white as from long confinement
within doors; but it was clear and fine. Her figure, but partially
concealed by the soft deerskin, was all curves of symmetry and
youthful grace, while her features might easily have been the envy
of the most feted of Continental beauties.
If the girl was surprised by the sudden appearance of Bradley,
the latter was absolutely astounded to discover so wondrous
a creature among the hideous inhabitants of the City of
Human Skulls. For a moment the two looked at one another in
unconcealed consternation, and then Bradley spoke, using to
the best of his poor ability, the common tongue of Caspak.
"Who are you," he asked, "and from where do you come? Do not tell
me that you are a Wieroo."
"No," she replied, "I am no Wieroo." And she shuddered slightly as
she pronounced the word. "I am a Galu; but who and what are you?
I am sure that you are no Galu, from your garments; but you are
like the Galus in other respects. I know that you are not of
this frightful city, for I have been here for almost ten moons,
and never have I seen a male Galu brought hither before, nor are
there such as you and I, other than prisoners in the land of
Oo-oh, and these are all females. Are you a prisoner, then?"
He told her briefly who and what he was, though he doubted if she
understood, and from her he learned that she had been a prisoner
there for many months; but for what purpose he did not then
learn, as in the midst of their conversation the yellow door
swung open and a Wieroo with a robe slashed with yellow entered.
At sight of Bradley the creature became furious. "Whence came
this reptile?" it demanded of the girl. "How long has it been
here with you?"
"It came through the doorway just ahead of you," Bradley answered
for the girl.
The Wieroo looked relieved. "It is well for the girl that
this is so," it said, "for now only you will have to die."
And stepping to the door the creature raised its voice in
one of those uncanny, depressing wails.
The Englishman looked toward the girl. "Shall I kill it?" he
asked, half drawing his pistol. "What is best to do?--I do not
wish to endanger you."
The Wieroo backed toward the door. "Defiler!" it screamed.
"You dare to threaten one of the sacred chosen of Luata!"
"Do not kill him," cried the girl, "for then there could be no
hope for you. That you are here, alive, shows that they may not
intend to kill you at all, and so there is a chance for you if
you do not anger them; but touch him in violence and your
bleached skull will top the loftiest pedestal of Oo-oh."
"And what of you?" asked Bradley.
"I am already doomed," replied the girl; "I am cos-ata-lo."
"Cos-ata-lo! cos-ata-lu!" What did these phrases mean that
they were so oft repeated by the denizens of Oo-oh? Lu and
lo, Bradley knew to mean man and woman; ata; was
employed variously to indicate life, eggs, young, reproduction
and kindred subject; cos was a negative; but in combination
they were meaningless to the European.
"Do you mean they will kill you?" asked Bradley.
"I but wish that they would," replied the girl. "My fate is to
be worse than death--in just a few nights more, with the coming
of the new moon."
"Poor she-snake!" snapped the Wieroo. "You are to become sacred
above all other shes. He Who Speaks for Luata has chosen you
for himself. Today you go to his temple--"the Wieroo used a
phrase meaning literally High Place--"where you will receive
the sacred commands."
The girl shuddered and cast a sorrowful glance toward Bradley.
"Ah," she sighed, "if I could but see my beloved country once again!"
The man stepped suddenly close to her side before the Wieroo
could interpose and in a low voice asked her if there was no
way by which he might encompass her escape. She shook her
head sorrowfully. "Even if we escaped the city," she replied,
"there is the big water between the island of Oo-oh and the
"And what is beyond the city, if we could leave it?" pursued Bradley.
"I may only guess from what I have heard since I was brought
here," she answered; "but by reports and chance remarks I take it
to be a beautiful land in which there are but few wild beasts and
no men, for only the Wieroos live upon this island and they dwell
always in cities of which there are three, this being the largest.
The others are at the far end of the island, which is about three
marches from end to end and at its widest point about one march."
From his own experience and from what the natives on the mainland
had told him, Bradley knew that ten miles was a good day's march
in Caspak, owing to the fact that at most points it was a
trackless wilderness and at all times travelers were beset by
hideous beasts and reptiles that greatly impeded rapid progress.
The two had spoken rapidly but were now interrupted by the advent
through the opening in the roof of several Wieroos who had come
in answer to the alarm it of the yellow slashing had uttered.
"This jaal-lu," cried the offended one, "has threatened me.
Take its hatchet from it and make it fast where it can do no
harm until He Who Speaks for Luata has said what shall be done
with it. It is one of those strange creatures that Fosh-bal-soj
discovered first above the Band-lu country and followed back toward
the beginning. He Who Speaks for Luata sent Fosh-bal-soj to fetch
him one of the creatures, and here it is. It is hoped that it may
be from another world and hold the secret of the cos-ata-lus."
The Wieroos approached boldly to take Bradley's "hatchet" from
him, their leader having indicated the pistol hanging in its
holster at the Englishman's hip, but the first one went reeling
backward against his fellows from the blow to the chin which
Bradley followed up with a rush and the intention to clean up the
room in record time; but he had reckoned without the opening in
the roof. Two were down and a great wailing and moaning was
arising when reinforcements appeared from above. Bradley did not
see them; but the girl did, and though she cried out a warning,
it came too late for him to avoid a large Wieroo who dived
headforemost for him, striking him between the shoulders and
bearing him to the floor. Instantly a dozen more were piling on
top of him. His pistol was wrenched from its holster and he was
securely pinioned down by the weight of numbers.
At a word from the Wieroo of the yellow slashing who evidently
was a person of authority, one left and presently returned with
fiber ropes with which Bradley was tightly bound.
"Now bear him to the Blue Place of Seven Skulls," directed the
chief Wieroo, "and one take the word of all that has passed to
Him Who Speaks for Luata."
Each of the creatures raised a hand, the back against its face,
as though in salute. One seized Bradley and carried him through
the yellow doorway to the roof from whence it rose upon its
wide-spread wings and flapped off across the roof-tops of Oo-oh
with its heavy burden clutched in its long talons.
Below him Bradley could see the city stretching away to a
distance on every hand. It was not as large as he had imagined,
though he judged that it was at least three miles square.
The houses were piled in indescribable heaps, sometimes to a
height of a hundred feet. The streets and alleys were short
and crooked and there were many areas where buildings had been
wedged in so closely that no light could possibly reach the
lowest tiers, the entire surface of the ground being packed
solidly with them.
The colors were varied and startling, the architecture amazing.
Many roofs were cup or saucer-shaped with a small hole in the
center of each, as though they had been constructed to catch
rain-water and conduct it to a reservoir beneath; but nearly all
the others had the large opening in the top that Bradley had seen
used by these flying men in lieu of doorways. At all levels were
the myriad poles surmounted by grinning skulls; but the two most
prominent features of the city were the round tower of human
skulls that Bradley had noted earlier in the day and another and
much larger edifice near the center of the city. As they
approached it, Bradley saw that it was a huge building rising a
hundred feet in height from the ground and that it stood alone in
the center of what might have been called a plaza in some other
part of the world. Its various parts, however, were set together
with the same strange irregularity that marked the architecture
of the city as a whole; and it was capped by an enormous
saucer-shaped roof which projected far beyond the eaves, having
the appearance of a colossal Chinese coolie hat, inverted.
The Wieroo bearing Bradley passed over one corner of the open
space about the large building, revealing to the Englishman grass
and trees and running water beneath. They passed the building
and about five hundred yards beyond the creature alighted on the
roof of a square, blue building surmounted by seven poles bearing
seven skulls. This then, thought Bradley, is the Blue Place of
Over the opening in the roof was a grated covering, and this the
Wieroo removed. The thing then tied a piece of fiber rope to one
of Bradley's ankles and rolled him over the edge of the opening.
All was dark below and for an instant the Englishman came as near
to experiencing real terror as he had ever come in his life before.
As he rolled off into the black abyss he felt the rope tighten
about his ankle and an instant later he was stopped with a sudden
jerk to swing pendulumlike, head downward. Then the creature
lowered away until Bradley's head came in sudden and painful
contact with the floor below, after which the Wieroo let loose
of the rope entirely and the Englishman's body crashed to the
wooden planking. He felt the free end of the rope dropped
upon him and heard the grating being slid into place above him.
Half-stunned, Bradley lay for a minute as he had fallen and then
slowly and painfully wriggled into a less uncomfortable position.
He could see nothing of his surroundings in the gloom about him
until after a few minutes his eyes became accustomed to the dark
interior when he rolled them from side to side in survey of his prison.
He discovered himself to be in a bare room which was windowless,
nor could he see any other opening than that through which he had
been lowered. In one corner was a huddled mass that might have
been almost anything from a bundle of rags to a dead body.
Almost immediately after he had taken his bearings Bradley
commenced working with his bonds. He was a man of powerful
physique, and as from the first he had been imbued with a belief
that the fiber ropes were too weak to hold him, he worked on
with a firm conviction that sooner or later they would part to
his strainings. After a matter of five minutes he was positive
that the strands about his wrists were beginning to give; but he
was compelled to rest then from exhaustion.
As he lay, his eyes rested upon the bundle in the corner, and
presently he could have sworn that the thing moved. With eyes
straining through the gloom the man lay watching the grim and
sinister thing in the corner. Perhaps his overwrought nerves
were playing a sorry joke upon him. He thought of this and also
that his condition of utter helplessness might still further have
stimulated his imagination. He closed his eyes and sought to
relax his muscles and his nerves; but when he looked again, he
knew that he had not been mistaken--the thing had moved; now it
lay in a slightly altered form and farther from the wall. It was
With renewed strength Bradley strained at his bonds, his
fascinated gaze still glued upon the shapeless bundle. No longer
was there any doubt that it moved--he saw it rise in the center
several inches and then creep closer to him. It sank and arose
again--a headless, hideous, monstrous thing of menace. Its very
silence rendered it the more terrible.
Bradley was a brave man; ordinarily his nerves were of steel; but
to be at the mercy of some unknown and nameless horror, to be
unable to defend himself--it was these things that almost
unstrung him, for at best he was only human. To stand in the
open, even with the odds all against him; to be able to use his
fists, to put up some sort of defense, to inflict punishment upon
his adversary--then he could face death with a smile. It was not
death that he feared now--it was that horror of the unknown that
is part of the fiber of every son of woman.
Closer and closer came the shapeless mass. Bradley lay
motionless and listened. What was that he heard! Breathing?
He could not be mistaken--and then from out of the bundle of rags
issued a hollow groan. Bradley felt his hair rise upon his head.
He struggled with the slowly parting strands that held him.
The thing beside him rose up higher than before and the Englishman
could have sworn that he saw a single eye peering at him from
among the tumbled cloth. For a moment the bundle remained
motionless--only the sound of breathing issued from it, then
there broke from it a maniacal laugh.
Cold sweat stood upon Bradley's brow as he tugged for liberation.
He saw the rags rise higher and higher above him until at last
they tumbled upon the floor from the body of a naked man--a thin,
a bony, a hideous caricature of man, that mouthed and mummed and,
wabbling upon its weak and shaking legs, crumpled to the floor
again, still laughing--laughing horribly.
It crawled toward Bradley. "Food! Food!" it screamed.
"There is a way out! There is a way out!"
Dragging itself to his side the creature slumped upon the
Englishman's breast. "Food!" it shrilled as with its bony
fingers and its teeth, it sought the man's bare throat.
"Food! There is a way out!" Bradley felt teeth upon his jugular.
He turned and twisted, shaking himself free for an instant; but
once more with hideous persistence the thing fastened itself
upon him. The weak jaws were unable to send the dull teeth through
the victim's flesh; but Bradley felt it pawing, pawing, pawing,
like a monstrous rat, seeking his life's blood.
The skinny arms now embraced his neck, holding the teeth to his
throat against all his efforts to dislodge the thing. Weak as it
was it had strength enough for this in its mad efforts to eat.
Mumbling as it worked, it repeated again and again, "Food! Food!
There is a way out!" until Bradley thought those two expressions
alone would drive him mad.
And all but mad he was as with a final effort backed by almost
maniacal strength he tore his wrists from the confining bonds and
grasping the repulsive thing upon his breast hurled it halfway
across the room. Panting like a spent hound Bradley worked at
the thongs about his ankles while the maniac lay quivering and
mumbling where it had fallen. Presently the Englishman leaped to
his feet--freer than he had ever before felt in all his life,
though he was still hopelessly a prisoner in the Blue Place of
With his back against the wall for support, so weak the reaction
left him, Bradley stood watching the creature upon the floor.
He saw it move and slowly raise itself to its hands and knees,
where it swayed to and fro as its eyes roved about in search of
him; and when at last they found him, there broke from the drawn
lips the mumbled words: "Food! Food! There is a way out!"
The pitiful supplication in the tones touched the Englishman's heart.
He knew that this could be no Wieroo, but possibly once a man like
himself who had been cast into this pit of solitary confinement
with this hideous result that might in time be his fate, also.
And then, too, there was the suggestion of hope held out by the
constant reiteration of the phrase, "There is a way out."
Was there a way out? What did this poor thing know?
"Who are you and how long have you been here?" Bradley
For a moment the man upon the floor made no response, then
mumblingly came the words: "Food! Food!"
"Stop!" commanded the Englishman--the injunction might have been
barked from the muzzle of a pistol. It brought the man to a
sitting posture, his hands off the ground. He stopped swaying to
and fro and appeared to be startled into an attempt to master his
faculties of concentration and thought.
Bradley repeated his questions sharply.
"I am An-Tak, the Galu," replied the man. "Luata alone knows how
long I have been here--maybe ten moons, maybe ten moons three
times"--it was the Caspakian equivalent of thirty. "I was young
and strong when they brought me here. Now I am old and very weak.
I am cos-ata-lu--that is why they have not killed me.
If I tell them the secret of becoming cos-ata-lu they will
take me out; but how can I tell them that which Luata alone knows?
"What is cos-ata-lu?" demanded Bradley.
"Food! Food! There is a way out!" mumbled the Galu.
Bradley strode across the floor, seized the man by his shoulders
and shook him.
"Tell me," he cried, "what is cos-ata-lu?"
"Food!" whimpered An-Tak.
Bradley bethought himself. His haversack had not been taken
from him. In it besides his razor and knife were odds and ends
of equipment and a small quantity of dried meat. He tossed a small
strip of the latter to the starving Galu. An-Tak seized upon it
and devoured it ravenously. It instilled new life in the man.
"What is cos-ata-lu?" insisted Bradley again.
An-Tak tried to explain. His narrative was often broken by
lapses of concentration during which he reverted to his plaintive
mumbling for food and recurrence to the statement that there was
a way out; but by firmness and patience the Englishman drew out
piece-meal a more or less lucid exposition of the remarkable
scheme of evolution that rules in Caspak. In it he found
explanations of the hitherto inexplicable. He discovered why he
had seen no babes or children among the Caspakian tribes with
which he had come in contact; why each more northerly tribe
evinced a higher state of development than those south of them;
why each tribe included individuals ranging in physical and
mental characteristics from the highest of the next lower race to
the lowest of the next higher, and why the women of each tribe
immersed themselves morning for an hour or more in the warm pools
near which the habitations of their people always were located;
and, too, he discovered why those pools were almost immune from
the attacks of carnivorous animals and reptiles.
He learned that all but those who were cos-ata-lu came up
cor-sva-jo, or from the beginning. The egg from which
they first developed into tadpole form was deposited, with
millions of others, in one of the warm pools and with it a
poisonous serum that the carnivora instinctively shunned.
Down the warm stream from the pool floated the countless billions
of eggs and tadpoles, developing as they drifted slowly toward
the sea. Some became tadpoles in the pool, some in the sluggish
stream and some not until they reached the great inland sea.
In the next stage they became fishes or reptiles, An-Tak was not
positive which, and in this form, always developing, they swam
far to the south, where, amid the rank and teeming jungles, some
of them evolved into amphibians. Always there were those whose
development stopped at the first stage, others whose development
ceased when they became reptiles, while by far the greater
proportion formed the food supply of the ravenous creatures of
Few indeed were those that eventually developed into baboons and
then apes, which was considered by Caspakians the real beginning
of evolution. From the egg, then, the individual developed
slowly into a higher form, just as the frog's egg develops through
various stages from a fish with gills to a frog with lungs.
With that thought in mind Bradley discovered that it was not
difficult to believe in the possibility of such a scheme--
there was nothing new in it.
From the ape the individual, if it survived, slowly developed
into the lowest order of man--the Alu--and then by degrees to
Bo-lu, Sto-lu, Band-lu, Kro-lu and finally Galu. And in each
stage countless millions of other eggs were deposited in the warm
pools of the various races and floated down to the great sea to
go through a similar process of evolution outside the womb as
develops our own young within; but in Caspak the scheme is much
more inclusive, for it combines not only individual development
but the evolution of species and genera. If an egg survives it
goes through all the stages of development that man has passed
through during the unthinkable eons since life first moved upon
the earth's face.
The final stage--that which the Galus have almost attained and
for which all hope--is cos-ata-lu, which literally, means
no-egg-man, or one who is born directly as are the young of the
outer world of mammals. Some of the Galus produce cos-ata-lu
and cos-ata-lo both; the Weiroos only cos-ata-lu--in
other words all Wieroos are born male, and so they prey upon the
Galus for their women and sometimes capture and torture the Galu
men who are cos-ata-lu in an endeavor to learn the secret
which they believe will give them unlimited power over all other
denizens of Caspak.
No Wieroos come up from the beginning--all are born of the Wieroo
fathers and Galu mothers who are cos-ata-lo, and there are
very few of the latter owing to the long and precarious stages
of development. Seven generations of the same ancestor must come
up from the beginning before a cos-ata-lu child may be born;
and when one considers the frightful dangers that surround the
vital spark from the moment it leaves the warm pool where it has
been deposited to float down to the sea amid the voracious creatures
that swarm the surface and the deeps and the almost equally
unthinkable trials of its effort to survive after it once becomes
a land animal and starts northward through the horrors of the
Caspakian jungles and forests, it is plainly a wonder that even
a single babe has ever been born to a Galu woman.
Seven cycles it requires before the seventh Galu can complete the
seventh danger-infested circle since its first Galu ancestor
achieved the state of Galu. For ages before, the ancestors of
this first Galu may have developed from a Band-lu or Bo-lu egg
without ever once completing the whole circle--that is from a
Galu egg, back to a fully developed Galu.
Bradley's head was whirling before he even commenced to grasp the
complexities of Caspakian evolution; but as the truth slowly
filtered into his understanding--as gradually it became possible
for him to visualize the scheme, it appeared simpler. In fact,
it seemed even less difficult of comprehension than that with
which he was familiar.
For several minutes after An-Tak ceased speaking, his voice
having trailed off weakly into silence, neither spoke again.
Then the Galu recommenced his, "Food! Food! There is a way out!"
Bradley tossed him another bit of dried meat, waiting patiently
until he had eaten it, this time more slowly.
"What do you mean by saying there is a way out?" he asked.
"He who died here just after I came, told me," replied An-Tak.
"He said there was a way out, that he had discovered it but was
too weak to use his knowledge. He was trying to tell me how to
find it when he died. Oh, Luata, if he had lived but a moment more!"
"They do not feed you here?" asked Bradley.
"No, they give me water once a day--that is all."
"But how have you lived, then?"
"The lizards and the rats," replied An-Tak. "The lizards are not
so bad; but the rats are foul to taste. However, I must eat them
or they would eat me, and they are better than nothing; but of
late they do not come so often, and I have not had a lizard for
a long time. I shall eat though," he mumbled. "I shall eat now,
for you cannot remain awake forever." He laughed, a cackling, dry
laugh. "When you sleep, An-Tak will eat."
It was horrible. Bradley shuddered. For a long time each sat
in silence. The Englishman could guess why the other made no
sound--he awaited the moment that sleep should overcome his victim.
In the long silence there was born upon Bradley's ears a faint,
monotonous sound as of running water. He listened intently.
It seemed to come from far beneath the floor.
"What is that noise?" he asked. "That sounds like water running
through a narrow channel."
"It is the river," replied An-Tak. "Why do you not go to sleep?
It passes directly beneath the Blue Place of Seven Skulls. It runs
through the temple grounds, beneath the temple and under the city.
When we die, they will cut off our heads and throw our bodies into
the river. At the mouth of the river await many large reptiles.
Thus do they feed. The Wieroos do likewise with their own dead,
keeping only the skulls and the wings. Come, let us sleep."
"Do the reptiles come up the river into the city?" asked Bradley.
"The water is too cold--they never leave the warm water of the
great pool," replied An-Tak.
"Let us search for the way out," suggested Bradley.
An-Tak shook his head. "I have searched for it all these moons,"
he said. "If I could not find it, how would you?"
Bradley made no reply but commenced a diligent examination of the
walls and floor of the room, pressing over each square foot
and tapping with his knuckles. About six feet from the floor
he discovered a sleeping-perch near one end of the apartment.
He asked An-Tak about it, but the Galu said that no Weiroo
had occupied the place since he had been incarcerated there.
Again and again Bradley went over the floor and walls as high
up as he could reach. Finally he swung himself to the perch,