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