16. "A STONY
DEATH" -- Mar. 22, '42
P1: Before the Earthman could dodge, Grombo's hands
had clutched him and swung him crazily overhead. Then the great beast flung
its victim through the air. Dejah Thoris, seeing her chance, leaped to
P2: With a bellow rage, Grombo charged after his
P3: Carter landed unhurt upon the debris of a crumbled
building. Here he looked down upon the race below.
P4: The Earthman saw a desperate chance to aid the
girl. He toppled a huge stone.
P5: As it fell on one end of the petrified log, the
ape was hurled into the vapor pit.
P6: Immune only to an average amount of gas, the
brute was turned to stone by the concentrated vapor!
P7: When John Carter reached the ground, Dejah Thoris
had vanished; and although he called, only taunting echoes came from the
street of standing dead.
1. The illustration
in panel 5 of strip #16 shows Grombo being hurled into a gas geyser. In
order for Carter to have been certain that the ape was turned to stone,
the creature must have not disappeared entirely into the pit. The novelization
can mention his stony hand protruding from the gasses, or some such indication
of his fate.
2. The animals
shown in the last panel, in the "street of the standing dead," do not confirm
to any described by ERB for his Barsoom. The novelization should offer
some explanation of them.
"A STONY DEATH"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The terrible swiftness of the great white ape was
beyond Captain Carter's comprehension. He had seen these monsters while
with the Tharks at Korad. One had even attempted to kill him, an attack
that might have proven successful, if not for Woola's timely arrival. But
Grombo, crippled as he obviously was in his stiff hands and feet by the
purple vapors, could still move faster than John Carter's eye could follow.
Again the brute came at him, and before the Earthman could dodge, Grombo's
hands had clutched him and swung him crazily overhead. The Jasoomian flew
through the air head first, directly into the face of an ersite wall.
These fast-paced events were transpiring as the red
princess was still plodding along to the hoped for safety of the nearby
shadows. Having flung one of its victims mercilessly through the air, the
great beast turned to see what had happened to the other. With a bellow
of rage, Grombo charged after his escaping female prize. A half hour had
passed since the warnings of his two fellows had interrupted the ape's
passionate intentions. In that span the animal's throbbing lust had visibly
increased. He was ready to have his way with the female then and there.
Two pairs of hairy hands reached down to clutch the rigid, worn-out maiden.
There are times when circumstances become so unexpectedly
providential that not even the most ardent skeptic might refrain from giving
all the credit to unseen higher powers. John Carter's headlong plunge into
a wall of the hardest stone on Mars was broken by a petrified banner pole
that snagged one of his sandal straps and redirected his course into the
debris of a crumbled building. As the reader may recall, much of Go-La-Ra
is covered in an age old accumulation of petrified insects, birds and small
animals. This crunchy rubbish is abrasive, but it by no means provides
so hard a landing spot as would a slab of solid ersite. John Carter arose
well scratched and bruised but in no way seriously injured. In the plaza
the thoat cart boasting the petrified pole and banner stood unmoved, just
as it had stood before the building of Stonehenge was ever conceived of
back on Captain Carter's home planet. However, the most remarkable event
was yet to follow.
Having landed a couple of stories above ground level,
John Carter was able to look down upon the plaza with a better sense of
the placement of things than he had while facing the ape on the pavement.
From his new vantage point he could see that the public square below was
actually an extension of the same broad avenue and plaza where he had first
encountered the standing dead. In short, the two plazas were but opposite
ends of a vast L-shaped open space in the southern neighborhoods of Go-La-Ra.
But the more important (and providential) thing that the Earthman caught
sight of had nothing to do with the standing dead. What he saw from his
spot atop the ruined building was that Grombo was just then standing at
one end of a long, dislocated stone beam which had long ago fallen from
the facade of the crumbled building upon which Carter had landed. Just
a little past the far end of the beam crouched Dejah Thoris, half hidden
in the ruins bordering the plaza. The beast was almost within striking
distance of the poor girl already.
Without stopping to think exactly how the mechanics
of the wild idea that had entered his mind might work out, the Earthman
took a desperate chance to aid the girl. He toppled a huge stone onto the
near end of the beam, almost directly below his landing point. Down fell
the weighty block, coming to a sudden, crashing halt at the near extremity
of the long hunk of stone work. The happy effects of this impact far exceeded
John Carter's wildest hopes. The beam quivered but did not break; instead,
the far end sprang into the air at least twenty feet, vaulting the ape
back onto the end of the plaza, quite a distance from the motionless princess.
This remarkable sequence of events was followed by
a conclusion to the struggle with the white ape that the bronzed swordsman
could not have anticipated had he offered a hundred different imaginative
"Beyond belief!" shouted the overjoyed Jasoomian
observer from the ruined building. "Ares must truly deliver the star-crossed
fighting man in times of peril!"
The great hulking body of the ape had landed on the
rim of the smoking geyser. It teetered there, as if it were already unbending
stone, and then Grombo the great white ape slid to his doom inside the
pit of the geyser. Immune only to an average amount of the purple gas,
the brute was solidly calcified by the concentrated vapor, ere his sliding
body came to rest in the bowels of Barsoom. Such are the unbidden whims
of the nameless providence which has ever preserved the bold swordsman
John Carter made his way down from the immense pile
of rubble as quickly as he could, stopping only once in the plaza to recover
the sturdy Orovarian long-sword. While picking his way though the ruins
he came across yet another of the many cisterns of yellow oil that the
ancients stocked their city with so abundantly. He wondered if there was
yet time to swathe Dejah Thoris in its life preserving coating?
But when John Carter reached the ground, Dejah Thoris
had vanished; and although he called, only taunting echoes came from the
plaza of the standing dead.
The Princess of Helium never saw the remarkable end
that came to her monstrous abductor. Had she seen his stony demise, she
might have gained some small measure of satisfaction, after having suffered
so grievously at the hands of the white ape. Then again, the maiden possessed
a sense of compassion unusual on the dying red planet. Having already experienced
the pernicious effects of the deadly mists of Go-La-Ra, she would not have
wished that stony curse upon any living thing.
The calcification worked in two different ways, both
of which either slowed down a living thing to make it an easy prey of predators,
or else eventually rendered it a statue. In the first case the chemicals
of the mist deposited a visible layer of thin gray shell upon a body's
skin and hair -- a shell that grew in thickness not so much from its visible
surface outward as from its lower surface into the poor victim's flesh
and other tissues. In the second case, the inhaled fumes worked to stiffen
the muscles and other inner connective tissues, so as to make all movements
slow and painful. For the semi-immune creatures that infested the dead
city, the process might take months or years to work its spell of death.
For Dejah Thoris the dreadful calcification took only an hour.
In the icy caves of polar Mars dwells a spider-like
animal that injects its various prey with a paralyzing poison which prevents
their moving, but which takes days to kill them. During those awful days
of total rigidity the poor animal or human slowly loses the ability to
breathe. Since the victim's vital functions slow down greatly during the
period of deterioration, little oxygen is necessary for survival and most
hings which are thus poisoned remain perfectly conscious, though fully
paralyzed, until they draw their final breath. Dejah Thoris could only
hope for a swifter end.
The shadows into which she had retreated for safety
proved to be mostly the result of the screening body of a creature thrice
the size of the apes of Go-La-Ra. Overwhelmed by the rigors of being transported
nude for hours through the frigid Barsoomian night, along with her seemingly
endless ordeal in the clutches of Grombo and the debilitating effects of
the purple vapors, Dejah Thoris did not so much as lift a finger when the
giant talons closed tightly around her.