ERB'S EMBRYONIC JOURNEY:
THE TRIMESTERS OF CASPAK
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)
THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT
(Chapter Two continued)
F. Tom Billings (continued):
We left our narrator checking out a very beautiful Caspakian female.
Her right breast is fully exposed as well as likely some of her vulva.
The clothing is purely emblematic, not for the covering of nudity. But
because Billings is not a ladies’ man, it is hard to speculate whether
this very skimpily clad girl was enough to arouse him. Oh well, let’s get
on with the story:
“As we stood looking at each other, a
slow smile came to her face, parting her symmetrical lips and disclosing
a row of strong white teeth.
Well, thank God, Billings finally got aroused. Did you get that double
entendre about the stroking of the barrel? What a suggestion, eh? The King
of Pulp fiction is surely thumbing his nose at the censors.
“‘Galu!’ she asked with rising inflection.
“And remembering that I read in Bowen’s manuscript
that Galu seemed to indicate a higher type of man. I answered by pointing
to myself and repeating the word. Then she started off on a regular catechism,
if I could judge by her inflection, for I certainly understood no word
of what she said. All the time the girl kept glancing toward the forest,
and at last she touched my arm and pointed in that direction.
“Turning, I saw a hairy figure of a manlike thing
standing watching us, and presently another and another emerged from the
jungle and they joined the leader until there must have been at least twenty
of them. They were entirely naked. Their bodies were covered with hair,
and though they stood upon their feet without touching their hands to the
ground, they had a very apelike appearance, since they stooped forward
and had very long arms and quite apish features. They were not pretty to
look upon with their close-set eyes, flat noses, long upper lips and protruding
“‘Alus!’ said the girl.
“I had reread Bowen’s adventures so often that
I knew them almost by heart, and so I now knew that I was looking upon
the last remnant of the ancient man-race – the Alus of a forgotten period
– the speechless man of antiquity.
“‘Kazor!’ cried the girl, and at the same moment
the Alus came jabbering toward us. They made strange growling, barking
noises, as with much baring of fangs they advanced upon us. They were armed
only with nature’s weapons – powerful muscles and giant fangs; yet I knew
that these were quite sufficient to overcome us had we nothing better to
offer in defense, and so I drew my pistol and fired at the leader. He dropped
like a stone, and the others turned and fled. Once again the girl smiled
her slow smile and stepping closer, carressed the barrel of my automatic.
As she did so, her fingers came in contact with mine, and a sudden thrill
ran through me, which I attributed to the fact that it had been so long
since I had seen a woman of any sort or kind.” (PTF/2.)
“She said something to me in her low,
liquid tones; but I could not understand her, and then she pointed toward
the north and started away. I followed her, for my way was north too; but
had it been south I still should have followed, so hungry was I for human
companionship in this world of beasts and reptiles and half-men.
Okay, here comes the big moment we all have been waiting for. Whenever
an ERB first person narrator admits to not being a ladies’ man, the reader
should be on the alert for something scandalous to come. ERB never disappoints
the discerning reader.
“We walked along, the girl talking a great deal
and seeming mystified that I could not understand her. Her silvery laugh
rang merrily when I in turn essayed to speak to her, as though my language
was the quaintest thing she ever had heard. Often after fruitless attempts
to make me understand she would hold her palm toward me, saying, ‘Galu!’
and then touch my breast or arm and cry, ‘Alu, Alu!’ I knew what she meant,
for I had learned from Bowen’s narrative the negative gesture and the two
words which she repeated. She meant that I was no Galu, as I claimed, but
an Alu, or speechless one. Yet every time she said this she laughed again,
and so infectious were her tones that I could only join her. It was only
natural, too, that she should be mystified by my inability to comprehend
her or to make her comprehend me, for from the club-men, the lowest human
type in Caspak to have speech, to the golden race of Galus, the tongues
of the various tribes are identical except for amplifications in the rising
scale of evolution. She, who is a Galu, can understand one of the Bo-lu
and make herself understood to him, or to a hatchet-man, a spear-man or
an archer. The Ho-lus, or apes, the Alus and myself were the only creatures
of human semblance with which she could hold no converse; yet it was evident
that her intelligence told her that I was neither Ho-lu nor Alu, neither
anthropoid ape or speechless man.
“Yet she did not despair, but set out to teach
me her language; and had it not been that I worried so greatly over the
fate of Bowen and my companions of the Toreador, I could have wished the
period of instruction prolonged.” (PTF/2.)
“I never have been what is called a ladies’
man, though, I like their company immensely, and during my college days
and since have various friends among the sex. I think that I rather appeal
to a certain type of girl for the reason that I never make love to them;
I leave that to the numerous others who do it infinitely better than I
could hope to, and take my pleasure out of girls’ society in what seem
to be more rational ways – dancing, golfing, boating, riding, tennis, and
the like. Yet in the company of this half-naked little savage I found a
new pleasure that was entirely distinct from any that I ever had experienced.
When she touched me, I thrilled as I had never before thrilled in contact
with another woman. I could not quite understand it, for I am sufficiently
sophisticated to know that this is a symptom of love and I certainly did
not love this filthy little barbarian with her broken, unkempt nails and
her skin so besmeared with mud and the green of crushed foilage that it
was difficult to say what color it originally had been. But if she was
outwardly uncouth, her clear eyes and strong white, even teeth, her silvery
laugh and her queenly carriage, bespoke an innate fitness which dirt could
not quite successfully conceal.” (PTF/2.)
Billings likely grew up believing that masturbation and having impure thoughts
about women were sins. I can understand this because I too was raised this
way. Thus, it appears that he has suppressed his normal sexual longings
around women and has become what every woman loves to have around, a male
“friend,” regardless of whether he is gay or straight, because they don’t
have to worry being hit on.
Thus, what Billings is feeling is likely a sharp sexual lust toward
a woman he has never experienced before – what he calls a “thrill” – and
now, on this uninhibited island where life and death are imminent, Billings
is feeling like a true natural man and very much unlike the Victorian prude
he was raised to be. It hasn’t taken him long to overcome what Bowen never
lost, his naivete.
Billings and the girl travel on, constantly beset by multiple creatures
or stalked by them. She teaches him the names of things in her tongue.
Then they have a “Me Tarzan, you Jane” moment.
“Yes, I was getting along finely, and
then it occurred to me that I didn’t know my companion’s name, so I pointed
to myself and said, ‘Tom,’ and to her and raised my eyebrows in interrogation.
The girl ran her fingers into that mass of hair and looked puzzled. I repeated
the action a dozen times.
Whew! Did that just really happen? Did ERB just describe a slow strip tease?
Did she really swim around bare naked in front of Billings? And what about
using that word “flashing” as she turns and exposes her naked sex to Billings.
Do you think he was suggesting something else other than just a smile?
I do. And the water glistening on her naked skin as she comes out of the
river. Ahhhh. You sure won’t find anything this suggestive in Verne or
Wells. This scene alone must have driven the censors nuts. Yet it was seen
fit to print.
“‘Tom,’ she said finally in that clear, sweet,
liquid voice. ‘Tom!’ “I had never thought much of my name before; but when
she spoke it, it sounded to me for the first time in my life like a mighty
nice name, and she brightened suddenly and tapped her own breast and said:
“‘Ajor!’ I repeated, and she laughed and struck
her palms together.
“Well, we knew each other’s names now, and that
was some satisfaction. I rather liked hers – Ajor! And she seemed to like
mine, for she repeated it. “So we came to the cliffs beside the little
river where it empties into the bay with the great inland sea beyond. The
cliffs were weather-worn and rotted, and in one place a deep hollow ran
back beneath the overhanging stone for several feet, suggesting shelter
for the night. There were loose rocks strewn all about with which I might
build a barricade across the entrance to the cave, and so I halted there
and pointed out the place to Ajor, trying to make her understand that we
would spend the night there.
“As soon as she grasped my meaning, she assented
with the Caspakian equivalent of an affirmative nod, and then touching
my rifle, motioned me to follow her to the river. At the bank she paused,
removed belt and dagger, dropping them to the ground at her side; then
unfastening the lower edge of her garment from the metal leg-band to which
it was attached, slipped it off her left shoulder, and let it drop to the
ground around her feet. It was done so naturally, so simply and so quickly
that it left me gasping like a fish out of water. Turning, she flashed
a smile at me and then dived into the river, and there she bathed while
I stood guard over her. For five or ten minutes she splashed about, and
when she emerged her glistening skin was smooth and white and beautiful.
Without means of drying herself, she simply ignored what to me would have
seemed a necessity, and in a moment was arrayed in her simple though effective
Remember, ERB wrote legal soft pornography for the times. He was well-known
for writing “dirty” stories, which is why he became the King of Pulp Fiction.
This is why my mother banned him from my reading when I was a boy. I imagine
these stories would have had the same effect on the readers in the day
as The Carpetbaggers, by Harold Robbins, had on me when I read it
when I was 14.
I may have been taught that masturbation was sin, but by then I was
a number one sinner every time I reviewed those great scenes in the Robbins’
classic. My mother has been dead for over 13 years now, but I still hold
a grudge against her for raising me this way. Now, back to our story.
The strip tease naked swim was a fairly innocent scene, but I promise
you it will get more touchy-feely as the story progresses. They walk another
quarter of a mile and he brings down an antelope and cuts off the hindquarter
before heading back to camp where he promptly builds a fire and a makes
a barricade. It amuses him when Ajor makes a big thing out of the matches
he uses to start the fire. She teaches him the Caspakian language in its
simplist form, that of the Bolu, and she does a good job in schooling him.
“After we had eaten, I added to the pile
of firewood so that I could replenish the fire before the entrance to our
barricade, believing this as good a protection against the carnivora as
we could have; and then Ajor and I sat down before it, and the lesson proceeded,
while from all about us came the weird and awesome noises of the Caspakian
night – the moaning and the coughing and roaring of the tigers, the panthers
and the lions, the barking and the dismal howling of a wolf, jackal and
hyaenadon, the shrill shrieks of stricken prey and the hissing of the great
reptiles; the voice of man alone was silent.
Ajor is determined that he learn Caspakian as soon as possible so that
she can satisfy a curiosity she has about him, and as a result, when he
is not learning fast enough she gets angry and beats upon his chest until
she realizes how funny it all is.
“But though the voice of the choir-terrible rose
and fell from far and near in all directions, reaching at times such a
tremendous volume of sound that the earth shook to it, yet so engrossed
was I in my lesson and in my teacher that often I was deaf to what at another
time would have filled me with awe. The face and voice of the beautiful
girl who leaned so eagerly toward me as she tried to explain the meaning
of some word or correct my pronunciation of another quite entirely occupied
my every faculty of perception. The firelight shone upon her animated features
and sparkling eyes; it accentuated the graceful motions of her gesturing
arms and hands; it sparkled from her white teeth and from her golden ornaments,
and glistened on the smooth firmness of her perfect skin. I am afraid that
often I was more occupied with admiration of this beautiful animal than
with a desire for knowledge; but be that as it may, I nevertheless learned
much that evening, though part of what I learned had naught to do with
any new language.” (PTF/2.)
“She was trying to teach me some verbs
by going through the actions herself as she repeated the proper word. We
were very much engrossed – so much so that we were giving no heed to what
went on beyond our cave – when Ajor stopped very suddenly, crying: ‘Kazor!’
Now she had been trying to teach me that ju meant stop; so when she cried
Kazor and at the same time stopped, I thought for a moment that this was
part of my lesson – for the moment I forgot that kazor means beware. I
therefore repeated the word after her; but when I saw the expression in
her eyes as they were directed past me and saw her point toward the entrance
to the cave, I turned quickly – to see a hideous face at the small aperture
leading out into the night. It was the fierce and snarling countenance
of a gigantic bear. I have hunted silvertips in the White Mountains of
Arizona and thought them quite the largest and most formidable of big game;
but from the appearance of the head of this awful creature I judged that
the largest grizzly I had ever seen would shrink by comparison to the dimensions
of a Newfoundland dog.
If this was an old cliffhanger movie serial, this is where I would have
ended this episode. Could you imagine a better one? You can see that ERB
was very well trained in the use of firearms, which you can gain by paying
attention on how to shoot a rifle. I was taught in basic training to aim,
take a deep breath, let half of it out, steady your arms and squeeze the
trigger, not pull it. That doesn’t seem to have changed much since ERB’s
days with the 7th Cavalry. Anyway, this is not a cliffhanger movie serial,
so let us get back to the action.
“Our fire was just within the cave, the smoke
rising through the apertures between the rocks that I had piled in such
a way that they arched inward toward the cliff at the top. The opening
by means of which we were to reach the outside was barricaded with a few
large fragments which did not by any means close it entirely; but through
the apertures thus left no large animal could gain ingress. I had depended
most, however, upon our fire, feeling that none of the dangerous nocturnal
beasts of prey would venture close to the flames. In this, however, I was
evidently in error, for the great bear stood with his nose not a foot from
the blaze, which was now low, owing to the fact that I had been so occupied
with my lesson and my teacher that I had neglected to replenish it.
“Ajor whipped out her futile little knife and
pointed to my rifle. At the same time she spoke in a quite level voice
entirely devoid of nervousness or any evidence of fear or panic. I knew
she was exhorting me to fire upon the beast; but this I did not wish to
do other than as a last resort, for I was quite sure that even my heavy
bullets would not more than further enrage him – in which case he might
easily force an entrance to our cave.
“Instead of firing, I piled some more wood upon
the fire, and as the smoke and blaze arose in the beast’s face, it backed
away, growling most frightfully; but I still could see two ugly points
of light blazing in the outer darkness and hear its growls rumbling terrifically
without. For some time the creature stood there watching the entrance to
our frail sanctuary while I racked my brains in futile endeavor to plan
some method of defense or escape. I knew full well that should the bear
make a determined effort to get at us, the rocks I had piled as a barrier
would come tumbling down about his giant shoulders like a house of cards,
and that he would walk directly in upon us.
“Ajor, having less knowledge of the effectiveness
of firearms than I, and therefore greater confidence in them, entreated
me to shoot the beast; but I knew that the chance that I could stop it
with a single shot was most remote, while that I should but infuriate it
was real and present; and so I waited for what seemed an eternity, watching
those devilish points of fire glaring balefully at us, and listening to
the ever increasing volume of those seismic growls which seemed to rumble
upward from the bowels of the earth, shaking the very cliffs beneath which
we cowered, until at last I saw that the brute was again approaching the
aperture. It availed me nothing that I piled the blaze high with firewood,
until Ajor and I were near to roasting; on came that mighty engine of destruction
until once again the hideous face yawned its fanged yawn directly within
the barrier’s opening. It stood thus a moment, and then the head was withdrawn.
I breathed a sigh of relief, the thing had altered its intention and was
going on in search of other and more easily procurable prey; the fire had
been too much for it.
“But my joy was short-lived, and my heart sank
once again as a moment later I saw a mighty paw insinuated into the opening
– a paw as large around as large dishpan. Very gently the paw toyed with
the great rock that partly closed the entrance, pushed and pulled upon
it and then very deliberately drew it outward and to one side. Again came
the head, and this time much farther into the cavern; but still the great
shoulders would not pass through the opening. Ajor moved closer to me until
her shoulder touched my side, and I thought I felt a slight tremor run
through her body, but otherwise she gave no indication of fear. Involuntarily
I threw my left arm about her and drew her to me for an instant. It was
an act of reassurance rather than a caress, though I must admit that again
and even in the face of death I thrilled at the contact with her; and then
I released her and threw my rifle to my shoulder, for at last I had reached
the conclusion that nothing more could be gained by waiting. My only hope
was to get as many shots into the creature as I could before it was upon
me. Already it had torn away a second rock and was in the very act of forcing
its huge bulk through the opening it had now made.
“So now I took careful aim between its eyes;
my right finger closed firmly and evenly upon the small of the stock, drawing
back my trigger-finger by the muscular action of the hand. The bullet could
not fail to hit its mark! I held my breath lest I swerve the muzzle a hair
by my breathing. I was as steady and cool as I ever had been upon a target-range,
and I had the full consciousness of a perfect hit in anticipation; I knew
that I could not miss. And then, as the bear surged forward toward me,
the hammer fell – futilely, upon an imperfect cartridge.” (PTF/2.)
“Almost simultaneously I heard from without
a perfectly hellish roar; the bear gave voice to a series of growls far
transcending in volume and ferocity anything that he had yet essayed and
at the same time backed quickly from the cave. For an instant I couldn’t
understand what had happened to cause this sudden retreat when his prey
was practically within his clutches. The idea of the harmless clicking
of the hammer had frightened him was too ridiculous to entertain. However,
we had not long to wait before we could at least guess at the cause of
the diversion, for from without came mingled growls and roars and the sound
of great bodies thrashing about until the earth shook. The bear had been
attacked in the rear by some other mighty beast, and the two were now locked
in a titanic struggle for supremacy. With brief respites, during which
we could hear the labored breathing of the contestants, the battle continued
for the better part of an hour until the sounds of combat grew gradually
less and finally ceased entirely.
Are you getting the idea that Ajor likes rough sex? She definitely likes
being on top, that’s for sure. And so Chapter 2 draws to a suggestive close.
Stay tuned for Chapter 3.
“‘At Ajor’s suggestion, made by signs and a few
of the words we knew in common, I moved the fire directly to the entrance
to the cave so that a beast would have to pass directly through the flames
to reach us, and then we sat and waited for the victor of the battle to
come and claim his reward; but though we sat for a long time with our eyes
glued to the opening, we saw no sign of any beast.
“At last I signed to Ajor to lie down, for I
knew that she must have sleep, and I sat on guard until nearly morning,
when the girl awoke and insisted that I take some rest; nor would she be
denied, but dragged me down as she laughingly menaced me with her knife.”
(Continued in Part Eleven)