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Volume 5622

APE-MAN AND HISTAH TALES

by John Martin
 An ERBapa Winter 2016 Reprint



A Little of the Snake That Bit Him
  Tarzan hated it when he came down with a cold. For one thing, it ruined his usually keen sense of smell. Jane had warned him to stay home when his beezer wasn't working well but, in his usual macho mode, he had ignored her, and now he was paying the price.

  His stuffed up nostrils had failed to detect the huge python in the tree above him, and it had fallen with full force on him, its needle-sharp teeth burying themselves in his head while its thick coils wrapped around his body before he had a chance to draw his knife.

  However, he had been reaching for the knife with his lightning-like reflexes the moment Histah had hit him, so at least his hand was in close proximity to the blade.

  Tarzan knew he was in big trouble. But he was also no fool. The ape-man took in as much air as he could, controlling the urge to gag in reaction to the fetid breath of the snake, and at the same time relaxing his body. If only he could hold his breath long enough, he might be able to fool the snake into thinking it had done its dirty work.

  Just when he felt he could hold it no longer, the snake suddenly eased its grip on his body, but only to move his head to get a new grip. The snake had begun to eat him.

  Tarzan smiled grimly. If he attempted to grab the knife and kill the snake now, it might wrap its coils more tightly. So, he took in another breath just before his head entered the suffocating surroundings of the snake's throat. He could feel the snake move around him and felt the repeated pain as its sharp teeth sank into his neck, then down his back.

  At last, his hands were past the snake's throat, and it was then that Tarzan acted. He grabbed the hilt of the hunting knife of his long dead sire and, with great effort, extracted it from its scabbard and began slicing it back and forth into the snake's side.

  He sensed some agitated writhing on the part of the beast as it reacted to the internal pain, but Histah could do nothing about it. At last, the blade broke free of resistance and he knew it was sticking out of the snake. He continued sawing and soon was able put his hand, then his arm, outside the body of the beast. From then on, it was easier to widen the slit toward his head so he could gulp in needed air. At last he gasped and breathed and, a few seconds later, he could see daylight. Squirming and slicing, the ape-man had at last opened the snake up enough for him to sit up. The snake was almost dead, but it clung doggedly to Tarzan's thighs. The ape-man continued cutting and soon had freed his legs and, thus, his whole body from the grip of the now dead beast. He stood up and shook himself convulsively, as if to get rid of the touch of the snake. Then, he placed on foot on the body of his kill and lifted his head to voice the savage cry of his people. That, however, started a coughing spasm as his cold was as bad as ever.

  So, kneeling down, he cut off a juicy steak and ate it with relish. It had been Jane's idea that he carry a small jar of relish in his ditty bag, and to his surprise the ape-man had discovered that he quite enjoyed dressing up his raw meat with the concoction.

  Satiated, Tarzan dug a hole and buried the python. He might be hungry again if he passed this way soon.

  Then, he headed for the nearest river to wash off the last vestiges of the snake's interior slime and smell. As he moved along, he felt the cold symptoms slipping away. "Snake oil," thought Tarzan. "Someone oughta market that."

  But it wouldn't be him. He wasn't going to tell Jane about this. She had never yet said to him, "I told you so."

  But there could always be a first time.


A Puff in Time
  Tarzan smiled craftily as Histah the Mamba stalked its prey. The leopard was fast, around 36 miles an hour, and Histah could only do 12 mph, faster than most humans but no match for Sheeta. But Histah's advantage was in his silent slinking and his surprise attacks.

  For whatever reason, Histah had decided to sink his teeth into the furry flesh of Sheeta and watch him struggle in his death throes. Sheeta was too large for Histah to eat, but Histah was simply evil persnakeified.

  But Tarzan knew just what to do. As Histah moved beneath the tree on which he was perched, the ape-man took another satisfyingly deep draw on his cigarette, then leaned over and blew the smoke full into the head of the advancing serpent. As the scaled beast reared back in reaction and opened wide, showing off the black coloration inside his mouth, the ape-man made a final gesture by flicking the cigarette directly into its gaping maw.

  Histah curled himself and contorted, starting the disgorging process in an attempt to dislodge the still-burning butt from his throat.

  Meanwhile, Sheeta was miles away.

  And Tarzan smiled again.

  It was good to preserve Sheeta. One of these days, the ape-man would probably need a replacement loin cloth.

  Histah the Mamba, meanwhile, dreamed of the day when he might no longer have to put up with Tarzan and his incessant cigarette habit.


Apeman, Asp, and Asparagus



Chapter 1 The Slithering Menace
  The Lord of the Jungle was alerted by the nearly silent rustling in the grass. He knew even before he looked that it was his hated enemy, Histah the Snake. But he seemed to be hearing in HiFi Stereo.

  Yes, there came Histah. And beside him, another one. And on either side of them both, others. Everywhere Tarzan looked he saw snakes, and they were coming right toward him.

  This was highly unusual behavior for Histah. Usually, Histah would have gone the other way when anything larger than himself was around, unless that larger thing surprised or cornered him. Then, Histah would strike. But, as a rule, Histah did not slither directly toward a big animal or human, and certainly not in the company of other snakes. If other snakes were around, they would be more likely to eat each other.

  There were exceptions. A big hungry python, of course, would certainly move in on a man. But these weren't pythons. They were black mambas, cobras and other super poisonous species of Africa.

  And yes, they were headed toward him.

  Tarzan jumped to his feet and considered climbing the tree beneath which he had been resting. However, rustling in the branches above told him Histah was there as well.

  Tarzan was surrounded.

  But he had another option.

  Tarzan was immune to poison from most African snakes. He had become immune over a long period of time, through a scientific process which he had initiated after getting advice from Professor Porter and Doc Savage.

  He had started with mambas. Tarzan captured and milked a mamba, and then injected the tiniest amount of the beast's poison into his arm. It was the old vaccination principle. By taking infinitisemal amounts of poison, only enough for his immune system to successfully fight off, Tarzan slowly, over a period of time, began to build up a natural immunity. Since a mamba's poison is so deadly, he had to be careful to start with only a microscopic amount. He then increased the dosage over time, and always with the concurrence and supervision of his learned friends.

  It was the classic case of taking a little bit of the snake that bit you.

  After successfully inoculating himself against mambas, Tarzan had moved on to cobra venom and then to other species as well.

  So he had nothing to fear from the normally virulent poison of the snakes. However, there remained their bites which, with their long, sharp fangs, could inflict a lot of pain in one's calf or wherever else one might be bitten. And Tarzan's calves were exposed, since he wore boots only when fully clothed in his white hunter garb, complete with pith helmet.

  But it couldn't be helped. Tarzan could see that his only way past the snakes was to run directly through them, as fast as he could, leaping over as many as possible. This the ape-man did and, as expected, the snakes closest to him turned with lightning speed and sank fangs into his calves as his pounding feet simultaneously kicked dust into their lidless eyes.

  By the time he had gotten past the snakes, Tarzan had several bites and was bleeding from the wounds. He retrieved his first aid kit from the bottom of his quiver and quickly applied Doc Savage's Special Salve to the wounds and bandaged his bleeding legs.


Chapter 2 -- Snake Mountain
  Tarzan moved along, somewhat slower than his usual pace. It was not the poison which kept him from top speed, but the throbbing pain from the wounds inflicted by the sharp fangs of the serpents. Although his immune system had no problem dealing with their venom, there was always the danger of infection from open, bleeding wounds, although Doc's Salve and bandages would normally take care of that.

  However, Tarzan had not lived to the ripe old age of 125 by taking chances needlessly.

  At the first opportunity, he dove into a deep river pool and swam over to where a waterfall thundered onto the rocks. He spread-eagled himself facedown on a particularly large, flat boulder at the base of the falls and lay there for a couple of hours, allowing the cascading water to pummel the wounds in his legs, some of the water forcing its way into his blood vessels as a natural cleanser while giving him a great leg and back massage in the process.

  At last, refreshed but also grim and determined, Tarzan swam to shore and shook himself like a great Laborador retriever with a freshly shotgunned duck in its jaws. He headed south, toward the sinister-looking Snake Mountain, a place held as taboo by the Waziri.

  There must be a reason why all of the snakes had attacked him at once. Tarzan hated Histah the snake, but he also knew that snakes just didn't do that kind of thing. He was going to find out what...or who...was responsible.

  Meanwhile, on Snake Mountain, even as Tarzan had enjoyed his waterfall massage, Sir Penn Trictor was enjoying a snake massage from his 16-foot pet python, Slamdunk.

  There was a joke he liked telling his friends at cocktail parties. "When does a 250-pound python stop giving you a back massage?" And then the uproarious laughter that would greet the punchline: "Any time he wants."

  That time had come, and the python slithered off of Trictor's back and headed toward the fawn which was cowering in the corner.

  Yes, it was breakfast time. Trictor repaired to his kitchen table, stopping on the way to pat his pet cobra, Bing, on the head. Benny the baby boa constrictor was on the dining room table, positioned properly in a circular, airtight coil, holding Trictor's Count Chocula, milk and sliced asparagus spears in the middle.

  As he picked up the spoon and began slurping down his cereal, it was feeding time, too, for the garter snakes beneath the table. They liked to crawl back forth in between his toes, licking up the toejam with their forked tongues. And Trictor himself got a perverse tactile pleasure from having them do it.

  The day had started off well, but it was not to continue that way. A runner arrived, breathless, and spit out the unwelcome news. "Sir Trictor. The apeman. Tarzan. He has escaped your snake assault."

  "I told you never to bring me bad news when I'm in the middle of breakfast," Trictor shouted. He pointed to Bing and then to the messenger and the 15-foot King cobra immediately turned and sped toward the man, who ran screamng from the house.


Chapter 3 -- The Lair of the Snake Handler
  Tarzan of the Apes suspected he would find the answer to the mystery on Snake Mountain. He had heard rumors of a man who had special power over serpents and Tarzan had promised himself that he would check it out some day. He had waited almost too long, however. But now, because of his experience earlier in the day, it had moved up to the No. 1 position on his priority list.

  Tarzan stuffed his priority list back into his quiver and continued on his way. But he did not travel directly to Snake Mountain. The apeman made a little detour. He had a plan and, for that, he needed to enlist some allies....

  Later that afternoon, Trictor became aware that Tarzan was coming even as the apeman started up Snake Mountain. The Viperizon communication system was working in full force. As Tarzan climbed the mountain, snake after snake along the path went into strike mode and hissed at the Jungle Lord. As snakes further up the trail felt the vibrations from the hisses, they too began making the sound until soon the whole mountain was hissing like the almost forgotten sound of a TV that continues operating long after a channel's signoff time.

  When the apeman reached the top of the mountain, Trictor was standing in the doorway, leaning against the jamb, his arms folded and a sardonic smile upon his face.

  "Well, judging from your appearance, you must be Tarzan. I'm Sir Penn Trictor. To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked.

  The apeman looked around, orienting himself, and then back to Trictor. "Just exploring the jungle," said Tarzan, "and I thought I'd stop by and see who lives here."

  "Oh well then, come in, come in," smiled Trictor, stepping back from the doorway and gesturing with an outstretched hand. "I am always happy to have guests, as long as you don't mind stepping over a few of my pets."

  Tarzan grimaced. This was distasteful to the apeman, considering his revulsion of the reptiles. But he needed to be sure to his own satisfaction whether this snake man was the one behind the attack on him earlier in the day.

  Trictor ordered an asp off a kitchen chair. The snake reared up into strike mode and opened its mouth and hissed at Tarzan, but then obediently slithered off of the chair and into a corner, turning to fix its beady eyes on the apeman. Tarzan noticed the snake was actually cross-eyed, which added a comically bizarre aspect to its appearance.

  "We don't get many asps in this part of Africa," noted Tarzan, "Especially cross-eyed asps."

  "Yes, interesting little devil, isn't he?" said Trictor. "I rescued him from a croc along the Nile and I thought he would strike out on his own but instead he followed me home."

  Tarzan sat down.

  "Coffee?" asked Trictor pleasantly, walking toward the table with a pot in one hand and two cups in the other. The cups had handles shaped like snakes. If there was one thing Tarzan loved after a jungle workout, it was a good cup of coffee. But something about sharing a cup of the hot stuff with this man in a house full of Histahs seemed revolting to him. Inwardly, he shuddered. He refused the coffee. "No thanks," he said. "I've already had my poison for this morning."

  "Ah, I see we have a sense of humor," smiled Trictor.

  He sat down and, demonstrating poor manners, put his elbows on the table so he could lazily rest his chin on his folded hands. "Now tell me, Tarzan, what can I do for you today?"


Chapter 4 -- That's the Breaks, You Snakes
  "I think I already have the answer to my question," said Tarzan. "It's obvious to me that you have some control over Histah, so it's a pretty safe bet that you're the one who sicked the slimey snakes on me this morning."

  "Excuuuuuuse me!" Trictor corrected him. "Snakes are not slimey." He seemed a bit irritated at the characterization rendered by the apeman. Tarzan inwardly smiled. He needed to rile the snake man up a little bit to try to get him to lose his focus.

  "Oh yeah?" said Tarzan. "I imagine if you cut one open you'll find plenty of digestive slime up and down their unholy interiors."

  "Cut? Cut open one of my snakes!" Trictor ejaculated. "You are a really horrible person to even say such things."

  He was so preoccupied with what Tarzan was saying that he didn't notice that the snakes had begun having a hissing fit on the mountain again.

  Tarzan was enjoying himself. "Well, you know what I always say, Trictor."

  "What's that?" he asked.

  "The only good snake is a bled snake, and I've got just the knife to make them bleed!"

  So saying, the apeman whipped out the blade of his long-dead sire and threw it expertly across the room, where it pinned the asp to the wall.

  "You killed Clarence!" cried Trictor. "He was my only asp." He stood up, staggered, and braced himself on a chair, breathing deeply until he got control of himself.

  "Now, you will die the death of a thousand bites," he threatened.

  "Sorry, been there, done that," said Tarzan. "And I can't be running around the jungle looking over my shoulder or stopping to inspect each crooked branch every time I go through the trees, just to make sure there isn't a stray snake lying in wait. So I'm going to have to end your power over these creatures once and for all."

  "And just how do you propose to do that," said Trictor, folding his arms, again oblivious to the rapidly rising decibel level of the snakes around the house.

  "Your snakes will do it for me," said Tarzan.

  "Hah!" said Trictor. "The snakes are my servants. They obey me! They will never attack me."

  "Ah contrare, mon--" Tarzan started.

  "Shut up!" roared Trictor. "How dare you! I am not your friend! I --"

  It was Tarzan's turn to interrupt.

  "You really ought to let a person finish what he's saying," said Tarzan. "You might learn something. I wasn't going to call you mon ami. I was about to say 'Ah, contrare, mongeese are on the way'!"

  Trictor's eyes widened in fear. "No!" he said. "You wouldn't!"

  Tarzan's grin grew wider. Suddenly Trictor became aware of the commotion the snakes were making. He knew instantly that something was wrong. He heard the sound of stark terror in the tempo of the hisses.

  The door burst open, knocked down by a horde of mongoose charging into the room. Bing backed himself into a corner. Benny was torn apart before he could react. Only Slamdunk seemed unfazed. He was resting on a ledge high above the band of mongeese.

  The furred little cobra killers closed in on Bing but seemed to deliberately leave him a path open to where Trictor was standing. It was as if Bing understood. He had a chance, and only one chance. He moved toward Trictor faster than a garage mechanic sliding on an oil slick and planted his fangs in the man's stomach. He let his venom flow and then loosened his grip and shot toward the door, the mongeese allowing him safe passage, then following him outside.

  Trictor clutched his stomach and dropped to the floor, thrashing wildly. Slamdunk took notice and dropped down, then began slithering to where Trictor lay in agony. The snake handler's eyes opened wide in terror at the realization of what was about to happen to him.

  Tarzan retrieved his knife and wiped it on the tablecloth, then stepped over Slamdunk and walked to the door where he saw the mongeese dispersing to help their fellow mongeese finish off the snakes which still survived on the slopes of Snake Mountain.

  By this time, even Bing was in a fight to his death, his temporary reprieve good only for inside the cabin. Once outside, he was on his own.

  In the language of the Great Apes, which is known to all of the jungle folk, Tarzan thanked his mongoose friends and bade them goodbye.

  On the breath of Usha the Wind, he could detect the faraway scent of his other regular jungle companions, Jad-bal-ja, The Golden Lion; Nkima the Monkey, and Tantor the Elephant, now in good company with his Minions of Mongoose.

  "I guess Trictor wasn't the only guy in the jungle who knows how to train wild animals," he mused.



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