(A sequel to Disney's John Carter [of Mars])
Edgar Rice Burroughs stood before the tomb, staring at the
words "Inter Mundos" which were spelled out in cast iron plates over the
top of the doorway.
He had just seen his Uncle Jack enter the tomb, an amulet
belonging to a Martian Thern in his grasp, ready to use the device to return
to the red planet where his true love, Dejah Thoris, awaited him.
Ed snapped out of his reverie, remembering that just a
few feet behind him lay the dead body of the human-like, interplanetary
being which his uncle had just dispatched in order to obtain the powerful
amulet carried by the sinister creature.
His sharp mind almost instantly analyzed the serious problem
with which he was now confronted -- the necessity of disposing of a body!
Thanks, Uncle Jack, he thought grimly. Just what I need
-- the job of quietly, secretly and securely getting rid of a corpse. The
Thern might not exactly be human, but it certainly looked human, and that
would be the problem if the local authorities were suddenly to discover
it on what was now his estate, inherited from Uncle Jack -- otherwise known
as John Carter -- along with his uncle's assets from his "mountain of gold."
The Thern had been shot in the back by none other than
Uncle Jack. But who would be blamed? Well, he couldn't very well blame
Uncle Jack, who had supposedly been dead and buried already for a couple
of days. No one would believe a fantastic story about mystical travel through
space, warring factions and exotic creatures on another planet, and a mysterious
race of centuries-old beings with near supernatural powers.
Dead? Buried? Perhaps that was the answer. Before him
stood a tomb which, as far as anyone knew, could be opened only from the
inside. But Ed Burroughs had the key, a puzzle he had solved based on a
telegram his uncle had sent him in which he had addressed him as Ned.
It had occurred to Ed to spell out Ned by pressing the
letters N, E and D in "Inter Mundos" and the combination had successfully
opened the tomb, luring the Thern out of hiding. Why not do so again and
slip the dead body inside? John Carter's spirit had no doubt already departed
his earthly clay to be united with the "copy" of his body that would have
been sent to Mars, or Barsoom, as the natives called it.
Ed was sure his Uncle Jack wouldn't mind if his body had
a little company, especially if it helped get his nephew out of a potential
pickle. After all, there had been no harm done to his body while it was
lying next to the rotting corpse of Colonel Powell in an unsecured Arizona
cave for a decade!
Eager now, Ed reached up and pushed the N, but he didn't
hear the reassuring click that had sounded the first time he had experimentally
touched that letter. Quickly he touched the E and D but again, no clicks,
and no opening door.
Panicking now, he ran through the procedure again, and
again, more desperately each time.
No, it didn't work. Perhaps the letters had been pre-programmed
to work once and only once. Now, the tomb appeared that it really did open
only from the inside.
Tears started to form in Ed's eyes. What was he going
to do? Why had his uncle left him with this mess?
But wait. His uncle had given him a code once. Did he
leave another one with his final words?
"Take up a cause. Fall in love. Write a book."
Perhaps there was something there that would work with
Inter Mundos. The first letter in each sentence? The third letter?" Ed
tried combination after combination. Nothing worked. If there was a code,
it was beyond him.
He took a step back and almost tripped over the body of
Maybe he carried something on him that would be helpful.
He began rummaging through the man's pockets. To his surprise,
he found a smaller version of the amulet, this one with a chain to which
was attached a common key. Wouldn't it be something if it was a REAL amulet?
Perhaps the Therns all carried backup amulets. Ed began reciting the words
he had read in his uncle's journal: "Och...Ohem...Och...." The amulet lit
up with a blue glow.
Omigosh, thought ERB, clapping his hand over his mouth.
I'd better be very very careful.
He remembered what happened near the end of his uncle's
story and moved back into the house to re-read it. Matai Shang had held
the amulet while reciting the words, but it was John Carter who was sent
to Earth, not the Thern. Of course! He was holding one hand on Carter as
he spoke. Obviously, the power was transferred if the one holding the piece
and reciting the words was touching someone else.
Now Ed knew how he could get rid of the body.
He hurried back to the tomb where the Thern lay in crumpled
But where to send him? Barsoom? That might not be a good
idea. His fellow Therns might have a way to resurrect him.
Then, he remembered from John Carter's journal the part
where he and Dejah were laying out rocks and naming the planets. Venus
was Cosoom! That would be an excellent place to hide the body. Every scientist
knew that the surface temperature of Venus was unbearably hot and unfit
for human life. Perhaps some day someone would journey there and prove
the scientists wrong. But since that didn't seem as if it would happen
for awhile, the body would probably be quite safe there, and more than
likely reduced to ashes before long.
Hoping he would not accidentally send himself to Cosoom,
Ed touched the body of the inanimate Thern and said the words: "Och...Ohem...Och..."
The amulet lit up. "Tay...Wyees. Cosoom!"
The beads of perspiration stood out on Ed's head. For
just a minute, he was afraid that the amulet might send only a "copy" of
the Thern's body to Venus, leaving the original on the ground before him
and, essentially, leaving him the same problem he had before. But he recalled,
too, that though John Carter's original body was left in the cave, the
Thern who had appeared there, with his advanced science, had the ability
to transport his whole body back and forth between planets.
That was rather convenient, especially at a time like
this, Ed reasoned. He breathed easier as the Thern's body slipped between
worlds in a blue glow.
He looked at the amulet in his hands and wondered if
it would work for places other than planets. Could it take him to different
lands on Earth? If it did, what a way to follow through on Uncle Jack's
recommendation. If he did decide to take the advice and write books, he
would probably start with Uncle Jack's own adventure and then go on to
explore other exotic possibilities -- stories set in lands and on planets
he had read of in the pulps.
Of course, there were inherent dangers in just popping
up blindly in foreign places, as well. He could easily imagine transporting
himself to Africa and materializing right in the middle of a den of tigers!