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Volume 6092
An Amazing Vacation on Mars
Being the tale of Bridge's adventures upon the Red Planet
A Dream Narrative based upon truth and life
Told reliably in the Third Person by an Omniscient Narrator
By Steve "Korak" Allsup
This is a tale that arose from an ERB listserv, one main venue for fans and friends to generate fan fiction.
One of the posters, John Martin (listserv pseudonym " Bridge"), concocted a tale 
about fellow fan Steve Allsup (listserv pseudonym "korak") taking a vacation to Mars.
In reply, korak put Bridge on Mars in this adventure." - The Editor

Barsoom Art by Paul Privitera

Chapter 1

Far to the north and west of the nation, a man came whistling down the shady lane.

He was an imposing figure-- husky, of average height, his sandy, speckled hair flying madly in the breeze, he gave a little hop and clicked his heels together in glee. This was "Bridge', and he had finally just retired. Now at last he was free and easy. His nickname was Bridge, because of his similarity to a character from a pair of famous novels-- for Bridge loved big words, roaming across the nation on trains, and most of all, good poetry. Over his shoulder he carried his faithful bag half-stuffed with all the basics, with plenty of room left for new acquisitions.

To celebrate his eternal vacation, now beginning, he had heard of a science fantasy convention in San Francisco and was on his way to the train station to get his ticket. He planned to ride the train down and spend a couple of days in that beautiful old town, visiting friends and meeting new ones. He had kissed his faithful wife farewell, promised to call her on an average of once a day at some convenient point, but not to worry if he happened to forget once or twice, and then set out into a clear, bright sunny day.

Soon he arrived at the station, and casually entered the waiting area. He had plenty of time-- he train was leaving at 10pm, and it was only now just after 9. After standing in a short line, he came to the man in the window.

"Morning, Bridge! You actually going to buy a ticket today, or just need change for a dollar so you can buy a candy bar from the machine?" politely inquired the veteran.

"I need a ticket. I'm off for San Fran on the 10:00 train," he replied jovially.

"No train to San Fran at 10," the man said, puzzled. "There is one leaving just now, though-- at 9:00. It is the only one today."

Alarmed, Bridge gazed out at the tracks. Darn! Now he would have to wait a whole day and miss the opening banquet of the convention. As he stared at the tracks, he heard the train whistle blow and the engines begin to power up. Suddenly a idea came to him.

"Okay, I'll just go watch this one going out." He stepped out onto the landing platform, and began to walk quickly down toward the end of the train. So far it had not begun to move, but the doors were already closed up. People on board were glancing out to the sides. He kept going, and in a few moments, was approaching the last car, just as the train started moving. He came over to arm's length and watched for the metal ladder bars to reach him. The train was still going slow. As the hand-holds came past, he grabbed them with all his might, and his feet left the wooden boards of the platform.

Exhilarated, he clung to the ladder with his feet  and hands. He had done it! He had jumped a train, just like a wandering hobo. Now, his steel muscles swelling from the workouts he had been using from his book Me Tarzan, You Sweat, he climbed the ladder and pulled himself over the top of the car. For a moment he laid on his belly, watching the station disappear behind them.  Finally, accustomed to the speed and feeling bolder, he rose to a sitting position a few feet from the edge, and glanced about him at the roof the car.

At the other end two rough looking ruffians eyed him with malevolent grins on their begrimed faces. One of them waved at him ominously.*

*The further adventures of Bridge, and what came of his noble, selfless act of adventure, are told in the next chapter.


Chapter Two: The Battle on the Boxcar

The two rascals at the other end of the car conversed briefly together, then ominously arose and approached Bridge, who then arose and moved closer to the center of the car away from the edge. He remained standing, and left his bag where it was.

"Hey, man," said one, "where you headed?"

"Oh, just down to San Francisco, not too far," Bridge replied in a friendly manner.

"Say, you got a few dollars, man?" pleaded the other. "We run out of cash and just need to make it to town to get some grub, you know."

"Well, maybe I could help out a little," said Bridge, cautiously reaching into his pocket. "Here-- how's this? A ten dollar bill, maybe get you both a meal at the next station. On me."

"Oh man," said the first man, "you gonna ride with us on our car? We share all our stuff. What you got in that bag?"

"Now listen, I don't want to join in with you fellows-- I am just on a one-time trip trying this out. I don't think I need to share all my stuff with everybody I meet," Bridge told them.

"But that's the way it is," laughed the other man. He reached down for Bridge's bag.

"Listen, I don't think you fellows want to mess with me. I'm a war vet," Bridge cautioned them.

"Oh really, man? What war-- World War I?" He laughed again.

"No, Viet Nam, and not only that, but I was in the Marine corps, so I think you're picking on the wrong guy here."

"Oh, you know some martial arts, man? Maybe you can teach me some moves." The first man began feinting at Bridge with karate chops.

"Look, I don't want any trouble, so why don't you just go back down to your spot and leave me the heck alone? That's all I have to say. If ten bucks isn't something you appreciate, then that's just tough luck, mister." Bridge stood up straight on top of the wind-swept box car, with his chest out. He was as big as either of them but a bit older. And more experienced.

The other fellow grabbed for the bag, and Bridge hollered, "oh no, you don't," pushing him back. A scuffle began now in earnest. Bridge was laughing now. It frightened the other two. One took a swing at his face, but Bridge ducked. All the good old days were flooding back now when he needed them. He suddenly felt really alive. He knew he could take these two bums. He slugged one of them in the gut and the man doubled over, dropping to his knees to keep his balance on the moving train. The other guy leaped on Bridge from behind, with an armlock around his shoulders. Bridge gave him a stout headbutt right on the nose and he yelped, turning loose.

"You know what? I think this is my boxcar, not yours!" cried Bridge. "What do you think of that?" With that, he took the feet of the other man and flipped him right off the side of the car. He fell to the ditch along the side howling in a comical way. Bridge thought it was funny, at least. These boys tangled with the wrong customer. He turned on the remaining tramp triumphantly.

"Man, you crazy, dude!" He was backing away with his hands stretched out. " Leave me the heck alone!" Bridge grinned broadly and then lunged forward, giving him a nice shove. The man clutched vainly at Bridge's arms, and glanced back over his shoulder at the ground, now moving at about 50 miles per hour, and yelled, "Oh no!" Then he leaped off, to join his buddy.

Suddenly Bridge felt a sharp wrenching pain in his lower back as he steadied himself to keep from falling off too. Now that he was alone on the car, he could sit back down and rest a minute. There was a muscle spasm around his lower spinal area. It was a disabling wound, inflicted accidentally on himself. He tried laying down with his bag for a pillow. For an hour he explored his options in his mind. He used the bag as a pillow and eventually fell into a nap.

Later, he awoke and was still in pain. He managed to pull a snack and a water bottle from the bag. He used his ball cap as a shield from the sun until sunset. Then the stars came out, and he gazed up at the sky. It was quite beautiful, and luckily the summer temperature was mild. The aspirin he had carried didn't do much to help, but they were better than nothing. He wondered what he would or could do when the train came to another station. He didn't think he would be able to climb down the ladder, and wished to avoid screaming for help.

He saw the planet Mars in the heavens. The thought occurred to him that he was like Paxton laying in a trench.  He must have dozed. Suddenly he was standing up looking down at his own body. Ha! What an odd dream. He had always had weird dreams. He wondered if it was like in the books. He looked up at the little red planet of war. He knew that it was nothing but a red dust covered rock-- the NASA explorers  had shown that. But what if in a dream Mars was a real place, like Barsoom? In a dream, things like that can happen. He sent out his brain waves and with all his will, looked up and lifted his arms to the heavens. He was not too surprised when he felt himself passing through space just like in the movies. Suddenly he was in a dark alley, stark naked, laying in a puddle beside a dumpster of some alien type.

He arose and found an old thread bare toga to cover himself. He knew he was obviously on Mars. It was in a big city-- maybe he was in Helium. He kept thinking he was going to awake at any moment, but the dream seemed very lucid and vivid. He pinched himself-- it was a little too beautifully real. He wondered what the heck it was all about. Then, he left the alley and entered a street to find out.


 Chapter 3: A Feather dubbed Macaroni

Upon approaching some inhabitants, Bridge was happy to learn that in some mysterious metaphysical manner, he was able to converse with the same language. That would make sense if he were having a dream, but this seemed too real to be a dream.

Noting his unusual complexion and disheveled condition, a young couple advised him to seek the Emergency Center, which, when he had walked the several blocks to reach it, turned out to be a kind of combination police station and hospital. Here he tried to explain that he was from Earth, the third planet from the Sun; and that he had arrived by some form of astral projection, leaving him with no clothing, luggage or credit cards.

He was placed into a large chamber than served as a shelter for vagrants, and when evening came, served a reasonably decent meal of the unusual cuisine of Barsoom. He crashed out early on a bunk, thankful that his back was perfectly healed from his boxcar accident.

The next morning, he set out to look around a bit. Around noon he came to a large building from which youthful messengers were streaming in and out. He assumed they were messengers because they were carrying leather messenger bags. He thought perhaps this was where he needed to check. When he went in, he found out it was the service that the people of Helium used to send messages to each other. He was disappointed to learn there was no postal service like the type he had experience with. Still, it was enough like his normal earth job of mailman that he applied for a position.

After an interview, he was given a job and a briefing on his duties. In an hour from he time he entered, he walked out with a uniform and a messenger bag. His first assignment was to take a message from a lady in a high tower to a department store across town. Fortunately he was given a map, so he made his way to the tower and ascended a great many ramps to arrive at level 14 at last. It appeared to be a wealthy widow, and she commented upon his white skin and the fact that he was an older adult rather than a youth. Always talkative on his rounds on earth, Bridge relaxed and explained briefly how he had arrived from earth only that morning.

"My goodness! Isn't that something?" she exclaimed. "Well, I'd like get your address in case you'd like to speak to my ladies' club sometime."

"Well, I don't have an address yet," Bridge told her. "I don't know when the first paycheck comes, but I may have to stay at the homeless shelter for a while."

"I know where that is," she replied. "I tell you what-- let me talk to a friend of mine who might be willing to rent you a room, okay? Let me let you know about that probably tomorrow. Actually  I could send him a message right now if you will wait a minute and let me write it."

Bridge was in no big hurry, so soon he was carrying two messages  from the lady. He took the second message first, and sure enough, when the fellow had opened it, Bridge had found yet another friend and also a good room, which the man, whose name was Goff Gobbins,  showed him very briefly and gave him the key.

He worked the rest of the day, then went to his new apartment afterwards. It was nicely furnished, so he was grateful to Divine Providence for providing for him so bountifully in the true ERBesque manner. He had a great view of the city too, for Goff's suites were situated on the 17 floor of his tower. He sat on the veranda sipping some kind of fruity drink that he found in the little cooler behind a kind of bar, courtesy of his host.

For several months Bridge continued his stay, wondering all the while how his wife must be worrying herself sick about him back on earth. But he got promotion after promotion, because he continued to introduce American postal techniques unknown on Mars. One great innovation was that he got his own messenger station to switch to a new system where the same messenger did not go to pick up the messages and then also take them to their destination. From his new supervising/ advising position, he had half the messengers to go get the messages, depending on which side of town they were on; and then when the messages arrived at the central station where he worked, then he sent out a messenger with it according to the neighborhood it was intended for, and this way each messenger could take dozens of messages at once to the same general locale, saving enormous time and efficiency. As a result of his advanced postal technologies, Bridge soon found himself the Postmaster general of all Helium.

At this point, he was easily able to afford to move into his own luxury suites, in a tower within easy walking distance (so he could stay in good physical condition.) He had a fancy set of clothes, he had beautiful jewels, he had a Jacuzzi pond in his den, and  was obsessively hitting all the local used bookshops every weekend. In addition, the woman he had originally befriended, whose name was Lady Luleetia,  had invited him to many of her functions, for she was a very active, popular socialite with a large crowd. Many an evening was spent in her suites with friends, luxuriating in the baths to the sound of soft music and cool beverages. He thought of his wife, but figured it would be okay as long as nothing got out of hand.

Next, he decided to attempt to publish a newspaper, something that was an unusual concept for Barsoom. He thought since it was not an established format for their society, he might be able to really cash in if it was a success. Paper, as well as other similar substances used for printing, was much more expensive on Mars, so he would have to start simple with a kind of weekly newsletter pamphlet or digest, but with a little luck...


Chapter 4: Poor Bridge's Almanack

In the months that Bridge had been on Mars, he had really slimmed down and gotten into top physical condition. This was the result of several factors. One was that in his own hot tub and in Lady Luleetia's suites as well, mirrors surrounded the pools on all sides, giving a constant view of oneself. In addition, the bathing attire was almost non-existent, and Bridge felt much like an Amazon headhunter. Too, it seemed that almost every get-together that Lady Luleetia arranged soon turned into a pool party. The Martians were very conscious of their health and spent a lot of time working on their fitness. To top it all off, the cuisine was very lean, with high nutrient content. So now he found it easier to gaze over at the mirrors all around. He had lost around 35 pounds, translated from the Barsoomian measurements.

Lady Luleetia was old for a Martian woman, nearly 800 years old. She was amused by Bridge's feeling that he too was an old man; from her view he was like a teen-age boy, like the youths that delivered the mail for him. She was glad to see him losing all evidence of his middle-aged tummy. He was looking more and more like a youth should look. She doted upon him, and for hours they shared their wisdom, enjoying non-stop discussions. Lady Luleetia could easily have moved beyond the realm of mere  friendship, but Bridge was a married man and he freely told her so from the start. Not only that, he was the pastor of a church!

"But you may never see her again," pouted Lady Luleetia. "How can you return to her?"

"Once I figure out how I got here, I hope that answer that," would laugh Bridge.

As a pastor, Bridge felt some obligation to the Great Commission, but when he thought of starting up a Bible school, he realized he had no Bible.  He remembered reading a classic Martian novel by C. S. Lewis in which each planet had a different dispensation. He decided to test the waters by introducing the concept of a particular Providence, that he knew Tarzan held to. Lady Luleetia had some ancestor reverence, and they enjoyed sharing their views. Also he would amuse her and her guests by singing some of the hymn songs that he could recall.

His idea to do a weekly newspaper had been a success, and become a very popular trend. Bridge had enlisted one of his smartest delivery boys, Gerk Bafook,  to help him with reporting. To try to alleviate any governmental prosecution, he had spiced up his paper with every proverb and wise saying he could think of in order to please those in power, the nobility that ruled the city. Also his earth origins provided a real unique and novel perspective, and he would emphasize how they did things back in America. Eventually, however, he began introducing new political and philosophical ideas such as democracy and the abolition of slavery. Among the youth his paper became essential reading. He sold every copy he could print. That which is new and different tends to impress the youth, and in this case, he hoped, for the better. Eventually he even published a pamphlet entitled "Plain Thinking and Common Sense," a manifesto in which he outlined the principles of democracy, an idea he got from founding fathers like Paine and Hamilton. It was the number one bestseller.

Lady Luleetia was constantly encouraging him, for she adored him. Because he felt as if the whole experience was just a dream somehow anyway, he decided to take some chances. He began to promote the idea of a presidential election for Greater Helium. Maybe he had just become somewhat bored. But sure enough, it didn't take long for some action. He would run for president himself!

One evening he heard a rap on his door, and opened to find a pair of very tall, muscular warriors of Helium.

"Are you Bridge?"

"You've found me!" jested Bridge.

"You are summoned to appear before John Carter, the Warlord of Mars."

"Uh oh! A visit to the Hall of Justice, eh?" Bridge felt a sinking in his heart.

"No, just a visit to the palace, at this point," the guard assured him.


Chapter 5:  Building Bridges

When they reached John Carter's palatial towers, Bridge was ushered into a large elegant chamber ideal for hosting large events. A system of interlocking marble ramps descended from the far wall. Elaborate and intricate designs decorated the walls with excellent taste. Bridge guessed that the building was hundreds of years old-- that it was here long before even Carter had arrived. The two warriors escorted him to a central spot, then exited the way they came, back through massive double doors. As he waited Bridge noticed against the right-hand wall a massive throne-like chair. Bridge didn't need to be told whose Lazy-Boy that was! He had the urge to go position himself in it anyway, but he hesitated.

Just then a stately door in the centre of the left wall opened, and Bridge turned to look. In the portal stood a tall athletic man with dark hair and a striking countenance. It could only be one man. He was wearing a leather harness colored all silver, and the two epaulets pointed out  making his shoulders look quite broad. On his head was some kind of leather helmet, also silver, with a crest not unlike those of ancient Greece and Rome.  The whole effect was surprising, because it reminded Bridge more of Buster Crabb as Buck Rogers than any painting by Frazetta or even St John.

"Well, about time we met," he smiled, offering Bridge his thick hand in greeting. "Bridge, the Postmaster of Greater Helium?"

"One and same," said Bridge, quite intimidated by meeting his old hero, but holding his chest out. "Actually my name is John, so we share the same name."

"Is that right! What do you know," Carter took Bridge's shoulder with his right arm and led him to the portal. "Walk with me, John."

The two men strolled out of the vast chamber and onto a broad veranda overlooking the city. It had all manner of garden plants and fountains, and stretched the length of the building, disappearing around the corner at the end.

"So, another Earthman?" Carter's face seemed huge, like a lion's, so close beside him.

"Yes, that's right," replied Bridge, "I got here and have never figured out how or why, or how to return!"

"Yes, it's tricky," grinned the Warlord. "I have something for you." He stopped and pulled out a small box from his pouch. "Here." He handed it to the other American.

"Well thank you!" said Bridge. "I can't imagine what this might be." He flipped it open to reveal a quite beautiful, heavy ring with a fat red jewel. "My, that's gorgeous! I don't deserve this."

"That is not just from me. You see, we travelers from America have formed a little club. It began with Paxton and myself, and we have added a few more since. All you have to do to be in our club is be from America and be on Barsoom. So these rings are our secret sign among us. Take it with my compliments, and I know you will make us proud you are one of us."

"I can't tell you how thrilling this is!" exclaimed Bridge. "To be part of such an exciting world is something I didn't expect out of life at my age."

"Well, believe me, you are just a tender whippersnapper compared to the rest of us," Carter laughed, "the baby of the bunch!"

"That's the way that Lady Luleetia always kids me," Bridge commented.

"Oh, a friend of Luleetia's?" Carter exclaimed. "Now there is a very wonderful lady. She has contributed so much to the society of Greater Helium. I am glad you got to know her."

"I imagine she will be excited to hear about this meeting," Bridge said. "Is it all right if I tell her?"

"Well, let's talk about that." Carter's face suddenly became more serious. "It is a very notable phenomenon, this newspaper idea of yours. You have become a household name in this town."

"Yes, it played out better than I could have hoped," Bridge admitted. "I tell you, they eat it up! We can't print enough copies. May have to go twice a week with it."

"Well, let's think about it," Carter continued. "I was a little concerned, though, when some of the members of the High Council came to me about this little book you wrote. What was the name of it again?"

"Oh, you must mean Plain Talk and Common Sense," Bridge answered. "It is my first bestselling book.'

"Yes, that's great... that's great, John," replied Carter, patting Bridge on the shoulder lightly. "I think it will take some time for some of the Council to catch up with you on some of your ideas," he laughed.

"Well, maybe so," Bridge confessed. "I had not thought about it, or maybe I should say, I haven't worried about it. Until now at least."

"Yes," Carter chuckled again. "So I told them I would ask you about it, since you are a fellow earthman, I sure did not want you to get involved in any kind of problem without me stepping in first to clear it up if I can."

"I thank you for that," Bridge gulped.

The two men arrived at the corner overlook. They gazed down upon an endless vista from one of the highest towers in the city. It was breathtaking, and Bridge almost got vertigo from the depth perception.

"You see, we have a pretty complicated system of government, both in this city and in the empire as a whole," Carter explained. "This idea of yours to elect a president like the President of the United States would require a great deal of care and time to even begin to move in that kind of direction. We still have a noble class here and it is part of the culture of the Barsoomians. I mean, it is a noble idea, of course-- as a former American I can understand completely. But Mars is a very different world from Earth, John."

"Well, so what are you driving at? Do you think the ideas in my book are a bad idea?"

"No, not a bad idea-- it works on Earth, it worked for America. But Barsoom is very different from earth. It is like you say in your paper-- Barsoom is a "different dispensation" from Earth. It is like the fact that stairs work on earth but the Red Martians use ramps.  You know, we even have scientists study that and conclude that ramps are better for your body and your posture, and they require less effort and are more efficient than other concepts such as steps. So in a lot of ways, they just see things differently here."

Carter paused for a moment then continued. "The Council is very concerned that your ideas will cause more harm than good to our society and culture here. It is fascinating reading your accounts of American history, but then you are going to have to have a lot of patience if you expect such notions to take hold here, if ever. Do you see what I am saying, John?"

"Yeah-- sounds like you are saying we can't have a Presidential election," Bridge retorted in dismay.

"That is about the size of it, I am afraid," Carter said grimly.

"How can you of all people say that?" Asked Bridge. "What would our founding fathers say? Didn't Jefferson write "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence?"

"Actually, I have never been that sentimental about America," replied Carter. "You may recall I was an officer in the Confederacy. That is not too sentimental!" His lips compressed into a tight, restrained smile.

"Yes, that's true," Bridge conceded, "but both Washington and Jefferson were from Virginia, your own state, man! Do you really think that when Jefferson made the claim that all men are created equal, he was just talking about men living at that time in the English colonies??"

 Carter smiled and gazed out over the city for a long time before he spoke again.

"Well, I guess it is not impossible we could have a popular election," Carter consoled. "But I have to explain that some kind of election like that could only be for a symbolic position-- you simply cannot hold an election here and take over the government as it stands. That is not going to happen-- not for a long time I would imagine."

Bridge frowned and scratched his forehead. "You mean, if I got elected, I could only hold a smaller position like the town mayor, instead of an actual commander in chief?"

"Uh... yes, but smaller than that. To be the Administrator of a Martian City State is a complex task reserved for those with vast skills. Our bureaucracy is complex and intricate," Carter told him. "Try this idea-- what about something along the lines of an American high school class president? A chance for the common citizens of the realm to get a little practice and experience with how government works, and you would get some exposure and involvement on the highest levels of politics. Try that out, see how it goes, and go from there to who knows where. That is about the best I can do for you at this point, John."

Bridge thought it over for a moment. The alarm he felt at the problem raised by the Council was offset by his personal excitement at standing next to the Warlord of Mars.

"Okay, sure, sure. It's a start," he replied finally, and the two men shook hands on it.


Chapter 6: Bridge to Nowhere

The last thing that John Carter told Bridge was that he needed to make his will.

Bridge was alarmed at first, but thought about it a while. Carter had treated him to dinner, then sent him off with the promise that he'd be invited to the next American Earthman meeting, and that he "needed to fix a will up."

On the way home Bridge figured out that he might have meant, in case he was suddenly pulled back to earth. After all, he had built up a small fortune in the months he had been on Mars, and if he suddenly disappeared, then the government would simply confiscate his property and money. Carter had implied that his presence on Barsoom depended in some way upon his force of will. After some thought he decided, in case something happened to him, to leave his newspaper business to his news assistant, and leave all his savings to a charitable fund to be executed by Lady Luleetia.

For the next three months, Bridge spent every spare second campaigning for president. Finally the big election day came, and he won by a landslide. Only a few had entered the race, with a few more write-ins (including John Carter himself), but Bridge had pulled it off handily. He had run as a Whig, but his main challenger, Idox Parfew, had run on the Know-Nothing ticket. Both these party names had been taken from Bridge's American history column in his Almanack.

On the night of the election, when the results were mostly in, a huge party was to be held in his campaign headquarters, which happened to be in his newspaper publishing house. As the darkness fell, he emerged onto a platform over the square and delivered a rousing speech to the enthusiastic applause of the thousands of red Martians who had come out to celebrate. Probably 80 percent of them were under the age of 100-- a very youthful crowd. He had become a hero to them, the symbol of an entire generation.

Late into the night, he was the life of the party, drinking and eating freely, and then discovering to his dismay that Martians do not have any equivalent of a Tums or a Rolaids. Perhaps their digestive tract was different from the human-- Lady Luleetia had a hard time comprehending his complaints. And, too, Bridge had always been uncertain about the beverages on Mars, which were intoxicating and which ones were "soft" thirst quenchers. Normally he was not a big drinking man on earth, but here he couldn't tell the difference. Half the time he might be drunk and not even realize it. Tonight he was closer to realizing it than ever before.

Bridge had reached the highest pinnacle of his dreams, like a latter day Science Fictional King Kull of Atlantis. The world rocked beneath his feet, and the room began to swim under his swaying form. In less than a year, he had built up an empire of glory on a fabulous fantasy world. With superhuman effort, he had accomplished more than most men can in ten lifetimes. There were no more worlds to conquer now. He had arrived.

And yet, he still thought of his wife and kids, his grandsons who loved to go searching for collectibles with him on weekends. He thought of all of his old ERBlist friends, who doubtless had given up hope on his ever coming back to the list. Would he ever see the green hills of Washington again?

Ah, what was he thinking? How could all that compare with a triumphant existence in a beautiful dream-stage dimension? Lady Luleetia approached him and he threw his arm around her shoulders, as much to help himself remain upright, as in comradery. She noted his condition and the late hour of the night, and helped him into a quiet chamber with a couch. He lay down on the couch and found that if he closed his eyes, a swirling vertigo overwhelmed him. He must have drank too much of something, though he wasn't sure what. The various green and yellow punch bowls were impossible to distinguish.

Presently his young assistant entered in concern. He approached and sat down beside Lady Luleetia, as both of them attended to their new president. Luleetia swabbed his brow with a moist cloth, as he broke out into a cold sweat. He was feeling worse and worse. Yet when he closed his eyes, the world began to turn as if he were falling into a vast abyss with no bottom.

"Guys,' he managed to say, "you guys are the best! I am so lucky. We did it-- we finally made it to the top. Where can we go from here?"

"Bridge," said Luleetia, "relax now, and rest. It is all over-- all the months of hard work and dedication-- you have reached your goal now. You deserve to sleep until noon tomorrow! You can sleep here on my couch and I will make sure no one disturbs you."

Bridge appreciated the moist cloth on his forehead, but he was quite sick. All he could mutter was, "I'm the president of Mars!" over and again.

He was falling through the darkness. How much longer until he felt solid ground beneath him, and his equilibrium returned at last?  He must have fallen into unconsciousness, because he could no longer hear Luleetia's voice. After a while though, he began to hear her again, so he must have dozed briefly. He was coming around, and he felt a bit better. He was still saying "I'm the president of Mars," when he opened his eyes.

Instead of Luleetia and his assistant, there were his wife rubbing his brow, and his grandson standing next to her! He glanced about frantically-- he was in some kind of hospital.

"Darling, it's you! Where am I?" he demanded in surprise. "Why am I here?"

"Thank God he's come out of the coma!" She cried. "You're in the hospital, sweetheart. The train engineer found you unconscious on top of the caboose of all places, and they brought you here to the San Francisco Medical Center."

"Well.... how long have I been out?" he couldn't believe it.

"I don't know, but you left yesterday morning from home. What were you doing up on top of the caboose, dear?"

Bridge was speechless. It was all too incredible. Then it had all been just a dream-- just some strange out-of-body hallucination. He held his hands up to check to make sure all his members were still attached to his body, and counted each finger, all ten.

"What is that beautiful ruby ring on your hand, dear?" inquired his wife. "Where did you get that ring, John?"

Bridge focused his eyes on his hand and saw the ring. It was the ring John Carter had given him as a token of the Americans on Mars club! Bridge closed his eyes, and this time, he did not fall anywhere but fast asleep.


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