Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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A Martian Fantasy
By Juanita Smith
Copyright © 2014
Illustration by Tangor
Copyright © 2017
AFTERWORD by the Editor
My brother was a devoted fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He collected and read the entire Martian series many times.
In turn, I read about the great interplanetary exploits of John Carter as a girl. And ever since then I dreamed of being on Mars and living those adventures... Later, I returned to the books from a nostalgic need, and enchantment with Barsoom overwhelmed me once more. How I loved to ponder the brave fighting men, beautiful princesses and mighty kingdoms. As a grown woman, I still fantasized about a handsome man fighting for me as John Carter had for Dejah Thoris. I, too wanted a strong, fearless man, willing to battle savages and wild beasts to win my love on an alien world!
One chill evening, I sat drinking my favorite ale, after a hard day’s work. Later, while reading The Warlord Of Mars, I realized I had drunk a little too much. I rose from my chair and wobbled off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Turning off my lamp, I lay down and gazed out the window at the endless stars twinkling between the clouds, wishing very much to be somewhere else, far, far away…
At that moment I noticed red Mars. Just seeing it aroused my life-long yearnings. If only I could be there with a noble swordsman at my side, and feel his warm body next to mine!
Mars, oh, Mars!
I stared long and hard at the distant orange globe, wanting to somehow cross the great gulf of space between us and live out my fantasy.
The drink, the hour, plus my excitement had worn me out. I punched the pillow to fit my head... Then I noticed a faint golden halo surrounding Mars. As I watched it grew brighter. Suddenly it exploded outward. In a few seconds it enveloped and drew me within its pulsating energy. Then I was carried miraculously up and away through a great, cold darkness for a brief instant.
Then it stopped.
I found myself sitting in a desert, but a peculiar desert. A pinkish sky hung along the horizon, which turned to deep violet overhead. The air was warm. I was confused and lightheaded, gasping for air. It was then I first thought I was on Mars!
The ground was sandy and reddish, covered with countless black rocks as far as I could see. There was no vegetation, and no visible life! I reposed in awe, considering my odd situation.
I couldn’t sit long on the hot sand. But when I pushed myself up, I ascended several feet into the air, landing on my belly. Dream-like it was, nothing was right, but why? I tried again, with the same result, and all the while I struggled to breathe. The air seemed so very thin. I sat, taking in air slowly to catch my breath.
Feeling a bit better, I rose more carefully. This time I didn't go sailing. Apparently I was adjusting to Mars’ lesser gravity.
I managed to stand fully erect. The landscape, the slip and fall, the red terrain, even if only a dream, told me I must be on Mars! Somehow the golden halo had transported me to the Red Planet!
I half expected my brother to knock on the door to awake me from my reverie. But he had died, overseas, long ago, fighting for God and country...
I looked again into the dark sky overhead, where the stars shone, even in daytime. Somehow I was not surprised when I saw two tiny moons hurtling across the alien sky.
I was on Mars!
It couldn’t really be true, yet the proof was there before my eyes.
Amid my reverie I was startled by a voice from behind. I spun around, and in the process bounded a good ten feet into the air. When I landed it was to see a strange man.
I spoke first. “Who are you and where am I?”
He muttered something in a friendly tone which I could not understand. He was tall and broad of shoulder, a strong muscular man. He had red skin, black hair, a broad chest and what a face! He was very handsome! And although he appeared weather-worn, looked neither old nor young. But I could tell straight away he was a good man, a man whom I could... trust?
All I could do to reply was shrug my shoulders. I smiled uneasily for he wore only a loin cloth about his waist. Strapped on a thick black belt was a long sword.
Was this real or was I dreaming?
He smiled once more, as did I. Then I lowered my head, feeling quiet embarrassed for I remembered I was naked, which is the way I had slept, but...
Oh, my God, now what?
Here was a stranger, looking me over, and I wasn’t wearing a thing! On an impulse I put my hands up to cover my bare breasts. He laughed. That angered me. I dropped my hands, stood up tall and proud and glared at him with rage. How dare he!
Immediately his reaction changed. I could see now it was he felt who uncomfortable. Then he raised a hand as if to drink, and pointed to me. I understood and nodded for I was thirsty. He motioned for me to follow him. At that I took too quick a step and leapt into the air involuntarily, landing on my backside. He appeared surprised, but reached down to take my hand. I gazed up at him, and reached for his grasp, whereupon he pulled me upright. He held me firmly and together we began to walk again…
He led me around a gigantic dark boulder. On the other side was the weirdest looking creature imaginable. It was about the size of a Clydesdale, but with a mouth that nearly split his head in half! He had eight powerful legs and a gray body. I stared in wonder. Then it dawned on me that I had read about this beast before; it was a thoat in John Carter’s Mars!
The red man moved ahead, still keeping me close by his side. We stopped at the creature, where he removed a container from a holster about its neck. Taking a sip, he then handed it to me. I drank. It was refreshing, tasting like sweet water, yet somehow thinner.
Next the red man mounted the thoat, and put his hand out for me. I looked at him momentarily, wondering what to do. Then I grabbed his hand and sprang up behind him. The animal took off, galloping at speed. I placed my arms around my new friend to keep from falling. Oh, the feel of his warm body next to mine! I shivered with excitement for I had not been close to a man in a long while. I rested there contentedly, enjoying the feeling of his powerful presence.
We traveled for some time while I watched the dusty Martian landscape go by. The sun was high in the sky now. A few wispy clouds could be seen in the distance. Amazingly, I still wondered if all of this was real? If it was, I could stay here forever with my body next to his. I closed my eyes and dreamed on…
The thoat came to a stop. I opened my eyes, dumbfounded by the view: a small, crimson lake! At this point the red man jumped off. He stood firmly in place and locked his arms around my waist as I dismounted. I smiled shyly as we looked into each other’s eyes. My heart was beating fast. In that fateful moment I knew I wanted to be with him. Somehow he was the man of my dreams. But I had to turn from his stare for it all had to be a dream. It simply had to be.
Presently, I came back to the moment. There before me was water, Martian water! It was fed by a slowly trickling stream, and shimmered in the bright afternoon sun. I walked towards it, finding my walking ability had improved. I stepped into the warm liquid, and moved my feet back and forth, watching the ripples march away in slow motion.
I looked away from the lake and noticed a small dwelling not far off. Soon The red man led me to it. Up close, I saw it was a dome-shaped tent made of a light-colored material. He opened a flap at the front and guided me inside. There was a white fur rug on the floor, plus several gray pillows. He motioned me to sit. Next he handed me a small goblet of water. I drank. Meanwhile, all we could do was smile at each other. I put my hands to the side of my face in an effort to tell him I needed to rest. He seemed to understand. I lay down on the incredibly smooth silken sheets. Pushing unneeded furs to a side, he lay down beside me. He said sometime with a pleasing sound and began kissing me. I put my arms around him and returned his kisses with fiery passion. The next thing I knew I was asleep…
When I awakened, it was dark. I could clearly see the Moon beaming through the window. I was back on Earth! The sudden awareness of where I was forced a bitter chuckle. It dawned on me that perhaps all I had experienced was merely a dream.
But it couldn't be; I was there. And I desperately wanted to go back to my Martian friend!
Such is not possible. Wistful dreams and nothing more had originated from that hearty ale... But I could not halt my tears as I looked toward distant Mars, which had fallen toward the horizon. While addressing the unpleasant sensations of a wicked hangover, I repeatedly told myself it wasn't real. How could it be? Feeling deeply confused, and wondering about the nature of reality, I lingered in deep thought… I sat up, put my feet over the edge of the bed—and gasped!
Through my window, in the light of the Moon there was something incredible clinging to my feet.
The red dirt of Mars!
And if that were true then...
I pressed both of my hands against my abdomen, remembering an amorous embrace, freely and willfully given, and wondered...
This tale has had a long and convoluted birthing at Tangor's Pastiche and Fan Fiction. Not by the author, but by the editor! Submissions to erblist.com's Tangor's Pastiche and Fan Fiction average about two per year... and this one has lain idle the longest of any. My bad. I could relate various health and personal problems (might actually record those in a diary one day), but that had nothing to do with the fact that Juanita Smith's tale was sent to me twice and did languish longer than any other pastiche sent to the site.
The first submission resulted in editorial comment, some suggestions, and a month or so later, a reply with an updated version of the tale.
And then I lost it. Literally. I lost the tale on my hard drive bursting with way too much stuff, ERB or otherwise (then had those health and personal problems, too).
Tale was found and sent to Juanita after some edits, and she finally got back with the story you have just read.
Minor edits were done by the Editor as well as a revision or two by the author. Most of those Editor edits were to reduce word count (yea, I know that sounds contraindicated as all authors want all their word children to live!) and some focus on real girl life, which I, as man, shouldn't know, but I did have a sister and so I confess to being an older brother who collected and read ERB, Barsoom in particular, with a little sister who desperately wanted to be a part of that. (The little rug rat!)
Smith's fantasy is good fun. What can I say? My sister (near 12 years younger, now deceased from a battle with cancer in her mid-life) babbled about Barsoom, but only because she snooped and eavesdropped (at age 3 going on Mata Hari) on her two older brothers discussing the books. At the time my sister was really not quite fully baked to even READ the books (1960s).
This EDITOR memoir is in no way, shape, or form a comment on Juanita Smith's engagingly gentle fantasy. It is merely a remembrance that little girls, too, could embrace the wonder of Edgar Rice Burroughs!
David Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth