Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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John "Bridge" Martin, the globe-trotting journalist who covered the life and adventures of the elusive Macho Jungle Guy, has spent a great deal of time in Africa.
While doing research for Tales of the Macho Jungle Guy our intrepid author-explorer encountered a number of reports of "that other jungle fellow". When possible, Bridge took copious notes and interviewed those survivors with first-hand knowledge of these weird rumors. Bridge, however, did not address these other tales as a reporter of facts until after the release of Tales of the Macho Jungle Guy. Martin, freed from that commitment, then embarked on a costly and time consuming adventure to verify what had happened with "that other jungle fellow".
What follows is one of those strange and mysterious reports.
Every word of it is true!
The Greystoke Tales
Bladeswitch and The Tusks of Tantor
Bladeswitch and the Tusks of Tantor
By John "Bridge" Martin
The bearers thought they were carrying crates of illegal rifles to help start a revolution in British East Africa. The boxes were about the right configuration. There were three of the elongated containers in all and one of them seemed to be several pounds heavier than the other two. Perhaps it contained extra ammo, some reasoned.
It was not the business of the bearers to know the plan of the safari masters. The fact that they were being paid good wages was sufficient to limit their "need to know." Some of their fellow laborers had apparently decided the promised remuneration wasn't worth it, as several had mysteriously left the safari one by one in the dead of night, on the average of about one on each of the six days they had been threading their way through the lush undergrowth.
That fact was an irritant, since it meant fewer of them to carry each of the heavy boxes. But that night their burdens became lighter, literally, as the headman set several of them to work digging a shallow trench in which one of the lighter boxes was placed and then covered with dirt alongside a large tree on which they used an ax to blaze two rough isosceles triangles.
The next day, there were more than enough men to bear the remaining two loads even though, seemingly like clockwork, another had departed the safari during the night.
That night, once again, a trench was dug and the second lighter-weight box placed within and an adjacent tree marked. The bearers said nothing but they were not stupid. Obviously, whoever was paying for these guns wanted them to be available at strategic locations.
Finally, on the next night, the heavier box was, likewise, placed within a trench and covered. At that point, the remaining members of the safari were paid off in gold coins and told they were free to return home, although two of the more senior men stayed to guide the white men back to civilization....
Tarzan of the Apes had been watching the progress of the safari with interest. It could get boring in the jungle at times and the ape-man always welcomed a diversion. Plus, he liked to keep an eye on any intruders who ventured into his territory.
Tarzan had smiled when he saw the first box buried and its location carefully marked. He remembered how, in his youth, he had watched men bury treasure. At that time, he had no idea of the value of treasure, but nonetheless, after the men had left, he had dug up the heavy box and carried it elsewhere and reburied it. Later, that treasure came in extremely handy.
Now, partly because he was curious about the contents of this newly buried box, and partly because his sense of nostalgia motivated him to relive his youthful experience, he decided to play a similar prank. To perform this task, Tarzan snapped open the leather holster tied around his waist and extracted the super deluxe Swiss Army Knife of his long-dead sire. He opened the largest blade, which formed the business end of a shovel. The shovel blade itself could be separated into various other, smaller tools, but for this task Tarzan would need the shovel function itself.
This time, though, Tarzan did not expect to find treasure. Like the bearers, he had formed the opinion that the boxes most likely contained rifles, and Tarzan had an extreme dislike for gunrunners.
Utilizing the Swiss shovel, he quickly uncovered the box in its burial spot. He was astonished when he opened it. The box contained nothing but dirt.
It was foul-smelling dirt, dank and dark and it seemed to exude the odor of death.
Why would a box of dirt be buried in the dirt?
Nonetheless, Tarzan figured they who would do such a thing must be up to no good. He had not liked the look of the safari masters either—dark-complexioned, swarthy men, huge handlebar mustaches, colorful bandanas as headgear, and earrings! Earrings! On Men! And, at night, the incessant accordion playing! So he dragged the box from its resting place, carried it several miles to a stream, and scattered its contents in the swiftly flowing water.
The next day, after watching the men bury the second box, he dug it up. Remembering that the secret elephant graveyard was nearby, he opted to distribute this load of dirt in that area.
Finally, he watched them bury the third box, and then disperse.
Even Tarzan gets tired, and the ape-man decided to rest from his labors of the past couple of days.
He found a cache of scitamines nearby and indulged himself until he had a full belly. Then, he once again palmed his Swiss Army Knife and opened the toothpick blade and went to work on his molars.
But as the sun began to sink below the horizon, he knew he'd best get to work. He didn't really want to waste any more time than necessary with this self-imposed project. Besides, he wanted to get back home to Jane.
Tarzan finished clearing the dirt off the lid of the box as the sun's last rays were waning. He lifted the lid and uttered an involuntary cry of surprise as he saw this box contained a dead body. Or--at least he at first thought it was dead.
The body was clad in formal attire, definitely not of English style but more like something out of the East European Middle Ages. The dead man was a distinguished looking, middle-aged man whose countenance suggested a noble heritage. However, as Tarzan looked, the facial features were contorted into something hideous. The eyes snapped open and the ape-man saw they were rimmed with blood; the mouth twisted first into a snarl and then into a gaping hole, the bright red lips surrounding perfect sets of upper and lower white teeth, although the canine teeth were extended and impossibly long, Tarzan thought.
The thing gave a loud, guttural roar and, with a lightning movement, had its clawlike hands on both of Tarzan's upper arms and was trying to pull the ape-man down toward him. It spoke in a haunting, sepulchral voice: "Greystoke. I knew you would come. Now, you will pay for the sins of your family."
"You've been reading too much Kim Newman, dirtbag," snarled Tarzan.
The ape-man had, of course, seen the attack coming. The instant he realized the beastly thing could move, he was on the alert. Already, he had in his hand the Swiss Army Knife. Although the knife had a hundred different blades, Tarzan knew the precise location of each of its components and, using only the thumb of his right hand, he flicked open the tool he wanted and, in one fluid motion, jammed it into the chest of the offending attacker.
The creature screamed loud enough to wake the dead, Tarzan thought grimly, but there would be no more waking up for this thing. As Tarzan twisted the blade, blood spurted from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth of the revenant and it loosened its grip on the ape-man's shoulders. Actually, it technically hadn't loosened its grip of its own will, but the thing's hands and arms were beginning to crumble to dust, as was the rest of him.
The fine clothes were rotting to nothing as well, as if the beast and its attire had actually survived long past a normal life span and the natural state of decomposition was just now catching up to where it should be.
Tarzan stood up, his pocket knife in his hand, and wiped off the aspen wooden stake blade on his loin cloth, then flipped it back into its socket in the knife.
Many a time in the past Tarzan had wondered if would ever have an opportunity to use that particular blade, but he had always been glad it was there, just in case.
Tarzan thought about giving the victory cry of the bull ape. But there was no dead body on which to place his foot. Besides, the victory cry was reserved, in his mind, for defeating a living foe, not for triumphing over something that was already long dead.
The Tusks of Tantor
"What do you think, Professor Van Helsing?"
"Very strange," the learned man replied. "Except for these two tusk marks in the neck area, there is no sign of violence on the body."
"Except for the tusk marks?" Tarzan almost broke into laughter. "Professor, I would say that if Tantor gores Buto in that way, that's all of the violence you need!"
"True," said Abraham Van Helsing, "but I would think a bull elephant mad with must would have left many other marks, numerous tusk wounds, for instance, as well as plenty of bruises from his giant feet."
"I agree, my friend," said Professor A.Q. Porter. "That's why I asked you to come to Africa, Dr. Van Helsing. I think we need your opinion in your particular area of expertise."
"And that is...." said Tarzan.
"Vampirism," said Van Helsing. "The undead. Those who suck the blood of the living. Usually, when we think of vampires, we think of people. But animal vampires have been known to exist, such as vampire bats. And, of course, all meat-eaters enjoy, as part of their diet, the 'blood of the kill.' "
"So you think," said Tarzan, "that this might be the work of a parasitic pachyderm?"
"Very possibly," said Van Helsing. "Note that the body of the rhinoceros appears to be slightly shrunk, as if fluid had been drained from it."
"Fluid---like blood." Professor Porter gravely observed.
"But how could an elephant become a vampire?" questioned Tarzan. "I can't quite picture a vampire sidling up to Tantor to suck his blood. I would think you would soon have one very destroyed vampire, even if with a tusk rather than an aspen stake."
"Yes," said Professor Van Helsing. "A wooden stake is best, but vampires can be killed in other ways. We killed Dracula with a hunting knife, so it's feasible that such a creature could be killed with an elephant tusk. Of course, Dracula came back to life later. That undead monster seems to have a life of his own!"
"But still," asked Tarzan, "how could Tantor become a vampire without being bitten by one?"
"Sometimes," said Van Helsing, "there are other ways. When the vampire is killed, it disintegrates. But if those remains are mixed with blood, the vampire may rise again. Or, if a dead creature's remains come into contact with things the vampire intimately touched, that can result in the creation of a new vampire in some cases."
"Things the vampire touched?" said Tarzan.
"Intimately," said Van Helsing.
"Shoot!" Tarzan cried, clapping his forehead with his hand.
"What?" said Professor Porter.
"The elephant's secret burial ground," said Tarzan. "That vampire I killed. May have been Dracula himself. I took one of his extra boxes of dirt and spread them around in the elephant graveyard!"
"You WHAT!" roared Van Helsing. "How could you be so stupid!"
Professor Porter leaned over to Van Helsing and whispered, "Uh, careful there, Prof. That's Tarzan of the Apes you're talking to."
"Ah, yes," said Van Helsing, calming down. "Can you lead us to the spot where you spread this dirt?"
"Only if you promise not to raid it of its ivory," said Tarzan.
"I can make that promise," said Van Helsing. "I never violate the law... for ivory."
Several days later, the three men came to the secret elephant burial ground. Bones of all kinds, including huge, priceless, ivory tusks, littered the place, which was enclosed in an almost impenetrable wall of huge rocks.
Lying over against the side of one rock wall, half-hidden in a shallow cave, was a large bull elephant who appeared to be freshly dead. "Looks like a new arrival," said Tarzan.
"I'm not so sure," said Van Helsing. He stooped to examine the beast closely. It seemed to be breathing. A trickle of fresh blood was dripping from the end of its trunk and from its mouth.
"This is very likely a vampire elephant, come back to life after dirt from the vampire's grave was tossed onto its bones," said Van Helsing.
"Wow!" said Tarzan. "I had no idea. What do we do now?"
"You said you killed another vampire," said Van Helsing. "You must kill this one as well."
"Tantor is my friend," said Tarzan. "Can't you do it?"
"I could," said Van Helsing. "But it works best if the fatal blow is struck by one who loved it in life. That would be you, Tarzan."
"I've got my aspen wood stake blade on my Swiss Army Knife," said Tarzan. "But it hardly seems adequate for such a big guy."
"No, no," said Van Helsing. "You are right. Terribly inadequate. Just use your wooden spear."
Tarzan gulped but advanced bravely. "Just a moment, old friend, and you'll be out of your undead Hell," the apeman said. So saying, he launched the spear and it lodged in the great behemoth's heart. The beast's red-rimmed eyes suddenly shot open and it turned its head and looked at Tarzan with nerve-splattering rage and let out a roar of pain and anger that caused even Tarzan to cover his ears. Then, it slumped back and a look of deep, eternal peace seemed to cross its features.
"You have released it," said Van Helsing, patting Tarzan's shoulder. "The curse is almost gone."
"Almost?" said Tarzan.
"Well," said Van Helsing. "To be sure, it is best to cut off the head."
"Now wait a minute," said Tarzan. "I've got a blade with a serrated edge on my Swiss knife, but I'm not about to try to saw through that thick neck with--"
Just then the three turned and looked as they heard a strange noise, as of air being let out of a balloon. The elephant was collapsing inward on itself. It's skin appeared to be drying up like a wilted peach. They watched in fascination and horror as the skin and flesh wrinkled and then crumbled more and more, until only a clean skeleton was left.
"Cut off the head, eh?" said Tarzan.
He stepped forward and gave the skull a kick and the now-brittle bones easily separated at the neck, the head rolling to one side.
"How's that?" grinned Tarzan.
"It will do," said Van Helsing. "Yes, it will do nicely."