Last night I dreamed of Barsoom, of ancient cities crumbling in the harsh dry winds to blend with the dust that engulfs the rocks and marshlands where the waves of once proud seas crashed on red sandy beaches, of mighty banths chasing multi-colored thoats through the decaying remains of forests and rocky valleys, and of warriors fighting proudly to protect their families and defend their homes and villages from voracious predators of all types. I dreamed of long vanished oceans and the magnificent ships that once sailed carrying cargo and warriors across the trackless seas. I felt the soggy marshlands clutch at my thoat skin boots as I slogged my way from one grassy hummock to another being careful to avoid calot trees and other unseen dangers of the swamps.
I dreamed of the loyalty of calots, the honor of Panthans, and the beauty of the women. I dreamed of Jeds and Jeddaks, of Princes and Princesses, and the pageantry of parties, dances, and coronations in the stately and ornate palace of the Warlord.
I dreamed I flew a small Barsoomian flyer, my princess on one side and my calot on the other. The moons, Thuria and Cluros, hurtled above us in the night sky and we skimmed above strange cities, ancient battlefields where wars were won and lost for reasons unknown, and laughed with the joy of the night while we chased the speedy moons. In the distance, a flock of malagors, their empty saddles and harnesses flapping in the wind, flew over hungry plant men, who reached upward in vain toward the gigantic birds.
I dreamed of the violence of the white apes, the friendship of the Tharks, the cruelty of the Warhoons, and the hunger of the apts. I dreamed of the trickery of the White Therns whose religion served no purpose other than to enrich its priests, and of the treachery of the black pirates. I saw the River Iss, smelled its fetid odor, and rode its slow but steady current in a small craft as it carried me toward an unknown destiny.
I wandered the empty cathedrals of temples erected to worship unnamed gods and goddesses forgotten for eons, their religions, no longer even the stuff of legends. The runic wall carvings of lessons and parables worn almost illegible by the swirling sand and the predation of time. The altars fallen into disrepair and the ornate rods that once held splendid ornate tapestries were crooked and rust covered, their carefully woven burdens long since rotted into nothingness. I wondered at their unknown teachings and lessons, but marveled at the vestiges of beauty that remained in these edifices of yore.
While I stood in awe at the remnants of gods no longer worshiped, I heard the priest call the long dead congregation to worship. The ghostly people entered the sanctuary and chanted in a language I could not comprehend. They made their way along a multi-colored carpet to the apse where a priest clad in robes fit for a king, waited to bless them in a ceremony celebrated communion to a vanished god of good or evil, I know not. The wind blew through the fallen roof and the open doorways and spun the dust into tight spirals. The priest and his followers became one with the dust and their chants quieted and their ceremonial robes became glitter in the air before falling to the ground when the wind quieted. The empty sanctuary became ominous and oppressing, more a sepulture than a house of worship. I dreamed I heard the moans of the dead and I left their souls to find peace in their own way.
I felt the thin wind in my hair as I mentally commanded my golden thoat to speed across the vast wastelands, my head pressed to his neck, the acrid scent of his sweat in my nostrils, and my breath in time with his. My muscles clench and unclenched as I moved to help his stride rather than hinder it. My mind was one with his and I held with both hands while my sword brushed my hip like a metronome.
I saw the mighty atmosphere plant and heard the rumble of its ancient mechanism. I smelled the fresh oxygen that it spewed forth as might white clouds that swirled and tumbled into the thin Barsoomian sky. The air is sweetest near the plant and I breathed in its power and beauty until I was intoxicated by its richness.
I dreamed of the joy of the red men and women on hatching day when the spotted shell of egg they’d guarded and nurtured for years cracked and their child emerged into the thin acrid atmosphere and took its first breath. I dreamed that someday, such a child would be mine, a blend of two worlds with my Earthborn muscles and strength, tempered by the sense of fair play that is innate in the most honorable of the Red Martians.
I dreamed of the camaraderie of men banded together to fight Green Martian hordes and mighty armies controlled by madmen and would-be world conquerors, and finally, I dreamed of the love of a woman and of my love for her. I dreamed of my future children making their homes on a dying world against greater odds than a just god would allow.
I dreamed these things and then I woke to see a single moon in my sky. My face was wet, I’d cried in my sleep. I left my bed and looked into the night sky. The red star was still above the horizon. I watched until it set and returned to bed.
I closed my eyes and pictured the City of Greater Helium and whispered before I went back to sleep. “Barsoom, take me back to Barsoom.”
I dreamed my princess ran toward me across broken flagstones in a deserted city and a swarm of filthy and diseased ulsios chased her across the crumbled remains of a life-sized jetan board. I stepped onto a cracked white square, drew my longsword, and pulled her behind me.
She kissed my cheek and whispered, “My chieftain.” I kissed her quickly and replied, “My princess.”
I killed three ulsios with my first slash. The beasts ran, but three Warhoon warriors twice my height stepped onto the overgrown jetan board and growled at me. They drew their weapons and advanced as Thuria peeked over the ramshackle remains of a long unconsecrated temple to some unknown god. My faithful calot leapt to my side. I rubbed his head and nuzzled my leg. We stepped quickly over the broken flagstones to confront the tall green men. My princess stepped to my side and pulled my short sword from my worn leather harness and saluted me with it. “My chieftain, I fight at your side. I smiled. I was born for this and I dreamed I was content.
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