The Cods of Mars
By Rick Norwood
Mars, as every schoolboy knows, has many strange
and wonderful creatures, but none more strange or more wonderful than the
carnivorous codfish that surf the ocher sands of our dying planet.
I sat on my amber throne listening to a tale of
woe, told by a rich merchant whose caravan had been attacked by the awful
fish. In a flash, I saw the solution to all his problems.
“Carry with you swift fighting falcons, who will
dive into the sand and devour those craven codfish,” I told him, “for is
it not written, a bird in the sand is worth two in the fish.”
The rich merchant looked pained, so I dismissed
him with a wave of my hand. Doubtless he was eager to put my clever plan
It was time for me to leave my audience chamber and descend
into the catacombs below the palace, where the ancient sages of Mars were
preserved in a frozen slush. I opened the skylight which focused the rays
of the sun onto these all-knowing ancients.
“Did ya thaw us?” the sages asked.
“Yes,” came a voice behind me. It was my beautiful
“I was just consulting the soggy sages,” I told
her. “Oh great wise men, what new danger threatens the rightful government
of the planet Mars, namely myself?”
“Beware!” cried the ancients. “The Pied Piper of
Mars commands the carnivorous fish.”
“Where can I find this foul fiend?” I asked.
Soon I was speeding above the shifting sands, driving
my living car. On Mars, cars are green, have wheels, and grow around the
I had just passed a large billboard reading “Visit
Helium. It’s a gas,” when I lost control of my vehicle and crashed into
a sand dune. Fortunately I was thrown clear, but my air car was totaled.
“Alas,” I cried, “My poor car’s carcass.”
“You called, Master?”
It was my Barsoom buddy, the fifteen foot tall,
four-armed green man.
“You are just in time to help me capture the Pied
Piper of Mars.”
“Always glad to help,” the green man said. “I assume
he wants to overthrow the rightful government of Mars, namely yourself.”
“That he does, old friend.”
Off we jogged, beneath the hurtling moons. Soon
we reached the city where the perfidious piper had his hideout.
“Quick,” I said. “We must disguise ourselves so
that the Piper does not suspect.” I used berries from a nearby bush to
die my skin red, while my fifteen-foot friend disguised himself as best
he could by putting a lampshade on his head.
I noticed that a nearby shop had a sign in the window
that read, “Delivery man wanted.” Just the thing, I thought. I’ll take
the job, and in the guise of an innocent delivery man I’ll approach the
Piper’s hideout unnoticed.
“I’m your new delivery man,” I told the person behind
the counter. “Got anything for me to deliver to the Pied Piper of Mars?”
“You’re just in time,” he said. “The Pied Piper
has ordered one of those new flush toilets.”
“What!” I cried. “You want me to be a toilet toter,
a commode carrier, a … a… .” I couldn’t say it. It was unthinkable. “To
hell with disguises,” I said, and charged the Piper’s hideout.
Suddenly, from within, came a scream. A familiar
scream. “My princess,” I cried. I dashed down a darkened corridor, saw
my beautiful wife and ran toward her. Too late, I discovered it was a trap.
A cell door clanged shut behind me.
“My hero!” the princess cried. “I ask nothing more
than to have you beside me when I die.”
“I still live!” I cried.
“Not for long,” said the Piper, who had crept up
behind us. He began to play on his pipes, and I noticed that the floor
of the cell was sand. In that sand, I knew, was a school of carnivorous
codfish. The eerie strains of his mad melody was driving them into a frenzy.
Things looked bad, when suddenly the ceiling of
our cell broke open and a huge, green arm reached down and lifted my princess
to safety. Another arm lifted me through the hole in the roof. Another
arm grabbed the Pied Piper. And yet another arm snapped his mystic pipe
like a toothpick.
“How did you ever find us,” I asked.
“Four armed is forewarned,” he explained.
“Why do you have a lampshade on your head?” my princess
A few short hours later, the Mad Piper was in prison
and I bid a fond farewell to my fifteen-foot friend. My princess and I
urged our giant mounts away across the desert sands.
Suddenly, without warning, a fearsome beast sprang
upon my princess’s steed. It was a lunk, a terrifying creature with razor-sharp
teeth. I drew my sword, but before I could strike, my wife’s mount snapped
up the creature and swallowed it whole.
I turned to my wife and saw a tear glisten on her
soft cheek. “Why, Princess, you’re crying.”
“It’s nothing,” she replied. “I just have a lunk
in my thoat.”