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Volume 5823

I Open The Little Door
By Lee Strong
Edgar Rice Burroughs by Al Williamson and Reed Crandall ~ Courtesy Richard Lupoff
I open the little door.

 It is very much smaller than the door that leads from my home to the outer world.  The little door fits into my hand – two hands at most.  But it is wide enough for my mind to stride through into universes filled with wondrous worlds of light and magic.
 I race my eight legged steed across the dead sea bottoms of a dying world to save my mate from a fate worse than death.  I will slay giants with four arms, lions with ten legs, and creatures that I can not even describe.  But I will show mercy to my enemies and befriend creatures with faces like demented frogs….

 I am a princess who refuses to sit around my palace eating bon-bons and waiting for Prince Char Ming to wander by.  Fifty-eight years before the first Earth Day, I study ecology and meteorology to aid my dying planet.  And when I am shot out of the sky without provocation, I immediately begin to negotiate peace with my nation’s enemies.

 I swing through the trees of unspoiled Africa, exploring, hunting, finding and learning.  I am the master of men and beasts for I am first of all AN APE with the freedom of the wilderness.  But I am also A BOY and then A MAN with the responsibilities of civilization.  It is my challenge to find the proper balance.

 I am a scientist who builds a rocket that hurls me across the void to an uncharted planet of super science and feudal kingdoms.  I woo the daughter of a king and set her free from the clammy grip of antique customs.

 I am a woman held captive by superstition who seizes the chance to be free of ancient chains, to explore, to learn, to live, to love.

 I descend into the Earth with the gifts of science for men and women held as slaves by cold reptiles.  I become an Emperor but I seldom sit on my throne because I am too busy being with my people, leading, protecting, teaching, healing….

 I am a thug – a man deprived of civilization – and of hope.  But I meet a good woman and I reform.  I am not weakened by love but I make my strength gentle for love of her.  She civilizes me; she makes me whole.

 I discover a continent shattered by war and lost in savagery including kingdoms where beasts are the masters, not men.  I rescue a queen from monsters; I rebuke slavers; I circle the world to unite civilized peoples; and I bring law and justice to my queen’s people – and my heart to her.

 I am a native American in a time when European-Americans considered my people subhuman.  I war on them when they steal my people’s lands yet I make peace with them when they themselves are peaceful.  By my cunning, my courage, and my dignity, I show them that I am not a devil but a human being.

 I die and live again beyond the stars.  I embrace new peoples and sciences.  I fought one dictator on Earth and I immediately take up the fight against a more threatening one on my new home.

 And when I have lived a timeless time in a universe of wonder, I close the little door and replace it in my bookcase or DVD holder.

 And when I open the larger door and go forth into the outer world, I carry with me the lessons of courage, compassion, humor and humanity.

 I am a Burroughs fan.

Another Has Crossed
By Lee Strong

Two black men strode across a gorgeously decorated plaza in the City of the First Born on the shore of the Sea of Korus within the Valley Dor, a great depression that lies at the South Pole of Mars.

The city had once been called Issus in honor of the goddess whose cruel religion had ruled Mars, or Barsoom as the inhabitants called it, for uncounted ages.  That name had been swept away in the revolution that had followed John Carter’s exposure of the so-called goddess as a depraved mortal who had feasted on human flesh for centuries.

 There were subtle differences between the two men but both were handsome representatives of the race that dominated Dor and much of the southern regions of the planet.  Like the crowds of blacks moving to and fro around them, both were dressed in military harnesses resplendent with precious stones and draped with efficient weapons.

 They stopped before a white man slumped on a marble bench outside of the Temple of the Sun – once a prison for Issus’ numerous enemies and now a museum and storehouse.  Cleaning tools were leaning on one side of the bench.  The white man, too, wore a harness but a plain, dirty black one without jewels or weapons attached.  He glanced up as the two blacks approached him and stopped.  He resumed his distracted stare without the courtesy of a greeting.

 The older black man scowled at the affront but restrained his anger.  “There he is,” he announced.  “Speak to him if you can.”

 The younger black man nodded in agreement.  He raised his hands, palms facing the white man in the universal Barsoomian greeting and stated, “Kaor.”

 The white man made a vague gesture that a very generous soul might interpret as a polite response.

 The younger black man asked, “Do you speak English?” in that language.  Previously, he had been speaking in flawless Barsoomian.

 The white man’s head jerked upward.  His eyes goggled, staring at the English speaker.

 “Yes,” he croaked.  He remained sitting, but straightened himself up.  “I didn’t know that any of you niggers spoke English.”

 The English speaker frowned and interrupted.  “Sir, please don’t use that term.  It’s offensive to black men and women on both Earth and Mars.  Now, I understand that your name is ‘Nathan Bedford Forrest.’  Is that correct?”

 “Yesss.”  Forrest drew the affirmation out noticeably.  He shifted his head slightly, regarding the English speaker warily.  “Yes, uncle.  I am.  Late of the Confederate States Army and for some godforsaken reason a prisoner wherever this Mars place is.”

 “Sir, I am not your uncle,” the English speaker said patiently.  “My name is Jomo Waziri.  You may address me as ‘Waziri’ and I will address you as ‘Forrest’, which is proper courtesy for two Martian gentlemen who are not friends.”

 Forrest sneered.  “White men and black men are never friends.  You may address me as ‘General Forrest’ as my last rank was that of a major general.”  His posture shifted, becoming more relaxed, more confident of himself.

 Waziri’s eyebrow quirked upward questioningly.  He chose to ignore the claimed rank.  He gestured to indicate the older black man who was patiently waiting for a translation.  “Sir, I have been speaking with your master, Vastid….”

 Forrest started.  His face contorted.  He shouted, “I Have No ‘Master’!  I am a white man of free birth!  And I demand to be treated as such!!”

 Many of the passing blacks stopped to see what the disturbance was about, but then continued on with their various businesses.

 Again, Waziri paused to gain control of his own emotions.  “Sir!  I have been speaking to Vastid and I believe that I understand your situation.”

 He paused but Forrest merely glared at him.

 Waziri resumed.  “You died in the Earth year 1877 and appeared in this city totally naked.  At that time, the First Born practiced slavery of other races and they enslaved you.  Since that time, you have refused to learn the Barsoomian language and forced your – supervisors to direct you by sign language and physical reinforcement….”

 “‘Physical reinforcement’?” snarled Forrest.  “You mean merciless beatings!”

 A light dawned in the Confederate’s face.  “You speak English very well for Martian.  Where did you learn it?’

 “At a school in British East Africa founded by Lady Jane Greystoke,” the Waziri replied.

 Forrest interrupted again.  “You’re an Earthman?  A real African nigger?  Not a Martian one?  What are you doing here?”

 Waziri sucked in a deep breath and exhaled loudly before answering.  “Sir, I died in 1918 while….”

 “Nineteen eighteen?” quoted Forrest.  His normal color drained from his face.  “Forty one years…!  I’ve been in this hellhole for forty one years….”

 The African-Martian continued doggedly.  “I died in 1918 while fighting a Colonel von Lettrow-Vorbeck in German East Africa.  I found myself on a farm several miles from here.  I now own a farm adjacent to Vastid’s cousin who introduced me to him.  When Vastid learned that I was originally from Earth, he asked me to speak to you since you refuse to speak Barsoomian to anyone else.”

 Forrest sneered, “Well, at least the niggers stick together.”

 Waziri replied loftily, “My first employer on Mars was a white man – a former thern who renounced his false religion when John Carter overthrew Issus in 1888.  He….”

 The African-Martian got no further.  Forrest leaped to his feet, spraying curses wildly and threatening to assault the two black men before him.  Both laid their hands on the hilts of their long swords.  Passing members of the crowd now came to full stops so they could take in the undignified spectacle.

 The ex-Confederate realized the threat and stepped back, his curses rapidly descending in volume and originality.

 When Forrest seemed to run down, Waziri asked, “Do I understand that you know John Carter personally?”

 “Yes!  Yes, I do!!” Forrest spat out another round of foul language.  “I knew that milksop pretender on Earth and in Mars!  He follows me around doing his best to injure me and my career!!  So what if a few servile insurrectionists were executed at Fort Pillow?!  That scoundrel tried to have me arrested for ‘murder’!!  It’s not murder to kill a dog or a rebellious slave!!  Even if they are wearing army uniforms!!!  At least, I got him reduced in rank to his permanent grade of captain for his insubordination!!

 “After the War, I had my knights hunt for him but he ran away like the miserable coward that I knew that he was!  Disappeared somewhere in the Arizona Territory like his fellow snakes!!

“But when I appear in this hellhole, he shows up with an army of Red Indians and Green Hindoo Giants!!  They almost killed me and freed the slaves hereabouts Except For Me!!!  And he personally promised me justice!  Justice?!!  Bah!!!”  The ex-Confederate’s speech died away in the squalor of profanity.

 Waziri began nodding his head.  “Do I understand that John Carter interviewed you personally in Earth year 1888 and promised you justice?”

 Forrest jerked forward and then stopped suddenly.  Both black men still had their hands resting on their sword hilts.  Not was not the best time to grapple an armed man even for the best of reasons.

 “That’s right!  That’s right!!  He personally promised me justice!! But that dishonorable dog went away and I never heard from him again!!!  Instead, Vastid here continued expecting me to do nigger work and beating me mercilessly when I struck him like any self respecting white man would!”  More cursing punctuated this agreement.

 The African-Martian nodded his head more vigorously.  “I understand; I understand.  Would freedom and a grant of money or land to compensate you for your labor and suffering be justice to you?”

 The ex-Confederate narrowly restrained himself from pummeling Waziri in joy.  “Yes!  Yes!!  Yes!!!  At last – at long last, someone understands!!!”

 He shifted gears.  “A thousand acres of the best farmland in the Valley Dor and ten thousand gold dollars or whatever they call dollars here….  I can buy a few slaves to work the land – invest in the eight legged horses that they have here – more slaves –  more horses – more land – parley my seed money into another fortune….  Yes!  Yes!!  Yes!!!”

 Waziri smiled and said, “Wait a moment while I explain things to Vastid.”

 Forrest seemed to be dancing in place with joy.  He barely noticed the ring of curious black faces watching the spectacle or Waziri’s beatific expression.

 Waziri turned to his mentor and shifted languages.  “My friend, the situation is easy to understand.  This man has great ability but no honor.  He expects you to feed and clothe him for his entire life merely because of who he is.  I recommend that you continue his slavery until he learns to work and earn his way.”

 Vastid nodded in understanding.  “I thought that was the case.  John Carter said something very similar when he interviewed this man after the Overthrow.”

 So saying, he turned to the uncomprehending white man and shouted, “Your break is over!  Back to work!!”

 When the slave refused to resume his duties, Vastid beat him with the flat of his blade. 

Read Lee Strong's Previous Features in ERBzine:


ERBzine 5819
Project Evolution 
Meet Lee Strong
ERBzine 5820
Table of Contents ~ Prolog
"Ghosts in the Machine"
ERBzine 5821
Ch. 1 Preview:
"No Joke, There I Was…"
ERBzine 5822
Ch. 2 Preview: "First I Died… 
And Then Things Got Worse"

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