A Princess of Mars
To be held paralyzed, with one's back toward some horrible and unknown danger from
the very sound of which the ferocious Apache warriors turn in wild stampede, as a flock
of sheep would madly flee from a pack of wolves, seems to me the last word in fearsome
predicaments for a man who had ever been used to fighting for his life with all the energy
of a powerful physique.
Several times I thought I heard faint sounds behind me as of somebody moving
cautiously, but eventually even these ceased, and I was left to the contemplation of my
position without interruption. I could but vaguely conjecture the cause of my paralysis,
and my only hope lay in that it might pass off as suddenly as it had fallen upon me.
Late in the afternoon my horse, which had been standing with dragging rein before the
cave, started slowly down the trail, evidently in search of food and water, and I was left
alone with my mysterious unknown companion and the dead body of my friend, which
lay just within my range of vision upon the ledge where I had placed it in the early
From then until possibly midnight all was silence, the silence of the dead; then, suddenly,
the awful moan of the morning broke upon my startled ears, and there came again from
the black shadows the sound of a moving thing, and a faint rustling as of dead leaves. The
shock to my already overstrained nervous system was terrible in the extreme, and with a
superhuman effort I strove to break my awful bonds. It was an effort of the mind, of the
will, of the nerves; not muscular, for I could not move even so much as my little finger,
but none the less mighty for all that. And then something gave, there was a momentary
feeling of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and I stood with my
back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown foe.
And then the moonlight flooded the cave, and there before me lay my own body as it had
been lying all these hours, with the eyes staring toward the open ledge and the hands
resting limply upon the ground. I looked first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of
the cave and then down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay clothed, and yet
here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.
The transition had been so sudden and so unexpected that it left me for a moment
forgetful of aught else than my strange metamorphosis. My first thought was, is this then
death! Have I indeed passed over forever into that other life! But I could not well believe
this, as I could feel my heart pounding against my ribs from the exertion of my efforts to
release myself from the anaesthesis which had held me. My breath was coming in quick,
short gasps, cold sweat stood out from every pore of my body, and the ancient
experiment of pinching revealed the fact that I was anything other than a wraith.
Again was I suddenly recalled to my immediate surroundings by a repetition of the weird
moan from the depths of the cave. Naked and unarmed as I was, I had no desire to face
the unseen thing which menaced me.