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Produced by Judith Boss.








Out of Time's Abyss


By

Edgar Rice Burroughs




Chapter I

This is the tale of Bradley after he left Fort Dinosaur upon the west
coast of the great lake that is in the center of the island.

Upon the fourth day of September, 1916, he set out with four
companions, Sinclair, Brady, James, and Tippet, to search along the
base of the barrier cliffs for a point at which they might be scaled.

Through the heavy Caspakian air, beneath the swollen sun, the five men
marched northwest from Fort Dinosaur, now waist-deep in lush, jungle
grasses starred with myriad gorgeous blooms, now across open
meadow-land and parklike expanses and again plunging into dense forests
of eucalyptus and acacia and giant arboreous ferns with feathered
fronds waving gently a hundred feet above their heads.

About them upon the ground, among the trees and in the air over them
moved and swung and soared the countless forms of Caspak's teeming
life. Always were they menaced by some frightful thing and seldom were
their rifles cool, yet even in the brief time they had dwelt upon
Caprona they had become callous to danger, so that they swung along
laughing and chatting like soldiers on a summer hike.

"This reminds me of South Clark Street," remarked Brady, who had once
served on the traffic squad in Chicago; and as no one asked him why, he
volunteered that it was "because it's no place for an Irishman."

"South Clark Street and heaven have something in common, then,"
suggested Sinclair. James and Tippet laughed, and then a hideous growl
broke from a dense thicket ahead and diverted their attention to other
matters.

"One of them behemoths of 'Oly Writ," muttered Tippet as they came to a
halt and with guns ready awaited the almost inevitable charge.

"Hungry lot o' beggars, these," said Bradley; "always trying to eat
everything they see."

For a moment no further sound came from the thicket. "He may be
feeding now," suggested Bradley. "We'll try to go around him. Can't
waste ammunition. Won't last forever. Follow me." And he set off at
right angles to their former course, hoping to avert a charge. They
had taken a dozen steps, perhaps, when the thicket moved to the advance
of the thing within it, the leafy branches parted, and the hideous head
of a gigantic bear emerged.

"Pick your trees," whispered Bradley. "Can't waste ammunition."

The men looked about them. The bear took a couple of steps forward,
still growling menacingly. He was exposed to the shoulders now.
Tippet took one look at the monster and bolted for the nearest tree;
and then the bear charged. He charged straight for Tippet. The other
men scattered for the various trees they had selected - all except
Bradley. He stood watching Tippet and the bear. The man had a good
start and the tree was not far away; but the speed of the enormous
creature behind him was something to marvel at, yet Tippet was in a
fair way to make his sanctuary when his foot caught in a tangle of
roots and down he went, his rifle flying from his hand and falling
several yards away. Instantly Bradley's piece was at his shoulder,
there was a sharp report answered by a roar of mingled rage and pain
from the carnivore. Tippet attempted to scramble to his feet.

"Lie still!" shouted Bradley. "Can't waste ammunition."

The bear halted in its tracks, wheeled toward Bradley and then back
again toward Tippet. Again the former's rifle spit angrily, and the
bear turned again in his direction. Bradley shouted loudly. "Come on,
you behemoth of Holy Writ!" he cried. "Come on, you duffer! Can't
waste ammunition." And as he saw the bear apparently upon the verge of
deciding to charge him, he encouraged the idea by backing rapidly away,
knowing that an angry beast will more often charge one who moves than
one who lies still.

And the bear did charge. Like a bolt of lightning he flashed down upon
the Englishman. "Now run!" Bradley called to Tippet and himself
turned in flight toward a nearby tree. The other men, now safely
ensconced upon various branches, watched the race with breathless
interest. Would Bradley make it? It seemed scarce possible. And if
he didn't! James gasped at the thought. Six feet at the shoulder
stood the frightful mountain of blood-mad flesh and bone and sinew that
was bearing down with the speed of an express train upon the seemingly
slow-moving man.

It all happened in a few seconds; but they were seconds that seemed
like hours to the men who watched. They saw Tippet leap to his feet at
Bradley's shouted warning. They saw him run, stooping to recover his
rifle as he passed the spot where it had fallen. They saw him glance
back toward Bradley, and then they saw him stop short of the tree that
might have given him safety and turn back in the direction of the bear.
Firing as he ran, Tippet raced after the great cave bear - the monstrous
thing that should have been extinct ages before - ran for it and fired
even as the beast was almost upon Bradley. The men in the trees
scarcely breathed. It seemed to them such a futile thing for Tippet to
do, and Tippet of all men! They had never looked upon Tippet as a
coward - there seemed to be no cowards among that strangely assorted
company that Fate had gathered together from the four corners of the
earth - but Tippet was considered a cautious man. Overcautious, some
thought him. How futile he and his little pop-gun appeared as he
dashed after that living engine of destruction! But, oh, how glorious!
It was some such thought as this that ran through Brady's mind, though
articulated it might have been expressed otherwise, albeit more
forcefully.

Just then it occurred to Brady to fire and he, too, opened upon the
bear, but at the same instant the animal stumbled and fell forward,
though still growling most fearsomely. Tippet never stopped running or
firing until he stood within a foot of the brute, which lay almost
touching Bradley and was already struggling to regain its feet.
Placing the muzzle of his gun against the bear's ear, Tippet pulled the
trigger. The creature sank limply to the ground and Bradley scrambled
to his feet.

"Good work, Tippet," he said. "Mightily obliged to you - awful waste of
ammunition, really."

And then they resumed the march and in fifteen minutes the encounter
had ceased even to be a topic of conversation.

For two days they continued upon their perilous way. Already the
cliffs loomed high and forbidding close ahead without sign of break to
encourage hope that somewhere they might be scaled. Late in the
afternoon the party crossed a small stream of warm water upon the
sluggishly moving surface of which floated countless millions of tiny
green eggs surrounded by a light scum of the same color, though of a
darker shade. Their past experience of Caspak had taught them that
they might expect to come upon a stagnant pool of warm water if they
followed the stream to its source; but there they were almost certain
to find some of Caspak's grotesque, manlike creatures. Already since
they had disembarked from the U-33 after its perilous trip through the
subterranean channel beneath the barrier cliffs had brought them into
the inland sea of Caspak, had they encountered what had appeared to be
three distinct types of these creatures. There had been the pure
apes - huge, gorillalike beasts - and those who walked, a trifle more
erect and had features with just a shade more of the human cast about
them. Then there were men like Ahm, whom they had captured and
confined at the fort - Ahm, the club-man. "Well-known club-man," Tyler
had called him. Ahm and his people had knowledge of a speech. They
had a language, in which they were unlike the race just inferior to
them, and they walked much more erect and were less hairy: but it was
principally the fact that they possessed a spoken language and carried
a weapon that differentiated them from the others.

All of these peoples had proven belligerent in the extreme. In common
with the rest of the fauna of Caprona the first law of nature as they
seemed to understand it was to kill - kill - kill. And so it was that
Bradley had no desire to follow up the little stream toward the pool
near which were sure to be the caves of some savage tribe, but fortune
played him an unkind trick, for the pool was much closer than he
imagined, its southern end reaching fully a mile south of the point at
which they crossed the stream, and so it was that after forcing their
way through a tangle of jungle vegetation they came out upon the edge
of the pool which they had wished to avoid.

Almost simultaneously there appeared south of them a party of naked men
armed with clubs and hatchets. Both parties halted as they caught
sight of one another. The men from the fort saw before them a hunting
party evidently returning to its caves or village laden with meat.
They were large men with features closely resembling those of the
African Negro though their skins were white. Short hair grew upon a
large portion of their limbs and bodies, which still retained a
considerable trace of apish progenitors. They were, however, a
distinctly higher type than the Bo-lu, or club-men.

Bradley would have been glad to have averted a meeting; but as he
desired to lead his party south around the end of the pool, and as it
was hemmed in by the jungle on one side and the water on the other,
there seemed no escape from an encounter.

On the chance that he might avoid a clash, Bradley stepped forward with
upraised hand. "We are friends," he called in the tongue of Ahm, the
Bo-lu, who had been held a prisoner at the fort; "permit us to pass in
peace. We will not harm you."

At this the hatchet-men set up a great jabbering with much laughter,
loud and boisterous. "No," shouted one, "you will not harm us, for we
shall kill you. Come! We kill! We kill!" And with hideous shouts
they charged down upon the Europeans.

"Sinclair, you may fire," said Bradley quietly. "Pick off the leader.
Can't waste ammunition."

The Englishman raised his piece to his shoulder and took quick aim at
the breast of the yelling savage leaping toward them. Directly behind
the leader came another hatchet-man, and with the report of Sinclair's
rifle both warriors lunged forward in the tall grass, pierced by the
same bullet. The effect upon the rest of the band was electrical. As
one man they came to a sudden halt, wheeled to the east and dashed into
the jungle, where the men could hear them forcing their way in an
effort to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the
authors of this new and frightful noise that killed warriors at a great
distance.

Both the savages were dead when Bradley approached to examine them, and
as the Europeans gathered around, other eyes were bent upon them with
greater curiosity than they displayed for the victim of Sinclair's
bullet. When the party again took up the march around the southern end
of the pool the owner of the eyes followed them - large, round eyes,
almost expressionless except for a certain cold cruelty which glinted
malignly from under their pale gray irises.

All unconscious of the stalker, the men came, late in the afternoon, to
a spot which seemed favorable as a campsite. A cold spring bubbled
from the base of a rocky formation which overhung and partially
encircled a small inclosure. At Bradley's command, the men took up the
duties assigned them - gathering wood, building a cook-fire and
preparing the evening meal. It was while they were thus engaged that
Brady's attention was attracted by the dismal flapping of huge wings.
He glanced up, expecting to see one of the great flying reptiles of a
bygone age, his rifle ready in his hand. Brady was a brave man. He
had groped his way up narrow tenement stairs and taken an armed maniac
from a dark room without turning a hair; but now as he looked up, he
went white and staggered back.

"Gawd!" he almost screamed. "What is it?"

Attracted by Brady's cry the others seized their rifles as they
followed his wide-eyed, frozen gaze, nor was there one of them that was
not moved by some species of terror or awe. Then Brady spoke again in
an almost inaudible voice. "Holy Mother protect us - it's a banshee!"

Bradley, always cool almost to indifference in the face of danger, felt
a strange, creeping sensation run over his flesh, as slowly, not a
hundred feet above them, the thing flapped itself across the sky, its
huge, round eyes glaring down upon them. And until it disappeared over
the tops of the trees of a near-by wood the five men stood as though
paralyzed, their eyes never leaving the weird shape; nor never one of
them appearing to recall that he grasped a loaded rifle in his hands.

With the passing of the thing, came the reaction. Tippet sank to the
ground and buried his face in his hands. "Oh, Gord," he moaned. "Tyke
me awy from this orful plice." Brady, recovered from the first shock,
swore loud and luridly. He called upon all the saints to witness that
he was unafraid and that anybody with half an eye could have seen that
the creature was nothing more than "one av thim flyin' alligators" that
they all were familiar with.

"Yes," said Sinclair with fine sarcasm, "we've saw so many of them with
white shrouds on 'em."

"Shut up, you fool!" growled Brady. "If you know so much, tell us what
it was after bein' then."

Then he turned toward Bradley. "What was it, sir, do you think?" he
asked.

Bradley shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "It looked like a
winged human being clothed in a flowing white robe. Its face was more
human than otherwise. That is the way it looked to me; but what it
really was I can't even guess, for such a creature is as far beyond my
experience or knowledge as it is beyond yours. All that I am sure of
is that whatever else it may have been, it was quite material - it was
no ghost; rather just another of the strange forms of life which we
have met here and with which we should be accustomed by this time."

Tippet looked up. His face was still ashy. "Yer cawn't tell me," he
cried. "Hi seen hit. Blime, Hi seen hit. Hit was ha dead man flyin'
through the hair. Didn't Hi see 'is heyes? Oh, Gord! Didn't Hi see
'em?"

"It didn't look like any beast or reptile to me," spoke up Sinclair.
"It was lookin' right down at me when I looked up and I saw its face
plain as I see yours. It had big round eyes that looked all cold and
dead, and its cheeks were sunken in deep, and I could see its yellow
teeth behind thin, tight-drawn lips - like a man who had been dead a
long while, sir," he added, turning toward Bradley.

"Yes!" James had not spoken since the apparition had passed over them,
and now it was scarce speech which he uttered - rather a series of
articulate gasps. "Yes - dead - a - long - while. It - means something.
It - come - for some - one. For one - of us. One - of us is goin' - to die.
I'm goin' to die!" he ended in a wail.

"Come! Come!" snapped Bradley. "Won't do. Won't do at all. Get to
work, all of you. Waste of time. Can't waste time."

His authoritative tones brought them all up standing, and presently
each was occupied with his own duties; but each worked in silence and
there was no singing and no bantering such as had marked the making of
previous camps. Not until they had eaten and to each had been issued
the little ration of smoking tobacco allowed after each evening meal
did any sign of a relaxation of taut nerves appear. It was Brady who
showed the first signs of returning good spirits. He commenced humming
"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and presently to voice the words, but he
was well into his third song before anyone joined him, and even then
there seemed a dismal note in even the gayest of tunes.

A huge fire blazed in the opening of their rocky shelter that the
prowling carnivora might be kept at bay; and always one man stood on
guard, watchfully alert against a sudden rush by some maddened beast of
the jungle. Beyond the fire, yellow-green spots of flame appeared,
moved restlessly about, disappeared and reappeared, accompanied by a
hideous chorus of screams and growls and roars as the hungry
meat-eaters hunting through the night were attracted by the light or
the scent of possible prey.

But to such sights and sounds as these the five men had become callous.
They sang or talked as unconcernedly as they might have done in the
bar-room of some publichouse at home.

Sinclair was standing guard. The others were listening to Brady's
description of traffic congestion at the Rush Street bridge during the
rush hour at night. The fire crackled cheerily. The owners of the
yellow-green eyes raised their frightful chorus to the heavens.
Conditions seemed again to have returned to normal. And then, as
though the hand of Death had reached out and touched them all, the five
men tensed into sudden rigidity.

Above the nocturnal diapason of the teeming jungle sounded a dismal
flapping of wings and over head, through the thick night, a shadowy
form passed across the diffused light of the flaring camp-fire.
Sinclair raised his rifle and fired. An eerie wail floated down from
above and the apparition, whatever it might have been, was swallowed by
the darkness. For several seconds the listening men heard the sound of
those dismally flapping wings lessening in the distance until they
could no longer be heard.

Bradley was the first to speak. "Shouldn't have fired, Sinclair," he
said; "can't waste ammunition." But there was no note of censure in
his tone. It was as though he understood the nervous reaction that had
compelled the other's act.

"I couldn't help it, sir," said Sinclair. "Lord, it would take an iron
man to keep from shootin' at that awful thing. Do you believe in
ghosts, sir?"

"No," replied Bradley. "No such things."

"I don't know about that," said Brady. "There was a woman murdered
over on the prairie near Brighton - her throat was cut from ear to ear,
and - "

"Shut up," snapped Bradley.

"My grandaddy used to live down Coppington wy," said Tippet. "They
were a hold ruined castle on a 'ill near by, hand at midnight they used
to see pale blue lights through the windows an 'ear - "

"Will you close your hatch!" demanded Bradley. "You fools will have
yourselves scared to death in a minute. Now go to sleep."

But there was little sleep in camp that night until utter exhaustion
overtook the harassed men toward morning; nor was there any return of
the weird creature that had set the nerves of each of them on edge.

The following forenoon the party reached the base of the barrier cliffs
and for two days marched northward in an effort to discover a break in
the frowning abutment that raised its rocky face almost perpendicularly
above them, yet nowhere was there the slightest indication that the
cliffs were scalable.

Disheartened, Bradley determined to turn back toward the fort, as he
already had exceeded the time decided upon by Bowen Tyler and himself
for the expedition. The cliffs for many miles had been trending in a
northeasterly direction, indicating to Bradley that they were
approaching the northern extremity of the island. According to the
best of his calculations they had made sufficient easting during the
past two days to have brought them to a point almost directly north of
Fort Dinosaur and as nothing could be gained by retracing their steps
along the base of the cliffs he decided to strike due south through the
unexplored country between them and the fort.

That night (September 9, 1916), they made camp a short distance from
the cliffs beside one of the numerous cool springs that are to be found
within Caspak, oftentimes close beside the still more numerous warm and
hot springs which feed the many pools. After supper the men lay
smoking and chatting among themselves. Tippet was on guard. Fewer
night prowlers threatened them, and the men were commenting upon the
fact that the farther north they had traveled the smaller the number of
all species of animals became, though it was still present in what
would have seemed appalling plenitude in any other part of the world.
The diminution in reptilian life was the most noticeable change in the
fauna of northern Caspak. Here, however, were forms they had not met
elsewhere, several of which were of gigantic proportions.

According to their custom all, with the exception of the man on guard,
sought sleep early, nor, once disposed upon the ground for slumber,
were they long in finding it. It seemed to Bradley that he had
scarcely closed his eyes when he was brought to his feet, wide awake,
by a piercing scream which was punctuated by the sharp report of a
rifle from the direction of the fire where Tippet stood guard. As he
ran toward the man, Bradley heard above him the same uncanny wail that
had set every nerve on edge several nights before, and the dismal
flapping of huge wings. He did not need to look up at the
white-shrouded figure winging slowly away into the night to know that
their grim visitor had returned.

The muscles of his arm, reacting to the sight and sound of the menacing
form, carried his hand to the butt of his pistol; but after he had
drawn the weapon, he immediately returned it to its holster with a
shrug.

"What for?" he muttered. "Can't waste ammunition." Then he walked
quickly to where Tippet lay sprawled upon his face. By this time
James, Brady and Sinclair were at his heels, each with his rifle in
readiness.

"Is he dead, sir?" whispered James as Bradley kneeled beside the
prostrate form.

Bradley turned Tippet over on his back and pressed an ear close to the
other's heart. In a moment he raised his head. "Fainted," he
announced. "Get water. Hurry!" Then he loosened Tippet's shirt at
the throat and when the water was brought, threw a cupful in the man's
face. Slowly Tippet regained consciousness and sat up. At first he
looked curiously into the faces of the men about him; then an
expression of terror overspread his features. He shot a startled
glance up into the black void above and then burying his face in his
arms began to sob like a child.

"What's wrong, man?" demanded Bradley. "Buck up! Can't play cry-baby.
Waste of energy. What happened?"

"Wot 'appened, sir!" wailed Tippet. "Oh, Gord, sir! Hit came back.
Hit came for me, sir. Right hit did, sir; strite hat me, sir; hand
with long w'ite 'ands it clawed for me. Oh, Gord! Hit almost caught
me, sir. Hi'm has good as dead; Hi'm a marked man; that's wot Hi ham.
Hit was a-goin' for to carry me horf, sir."

"Stuff and nonsense," snapped Bradley. "Did you get a good look at it?"

Tippet said that he did - a much better look than he wanted. The thing
had almost clutched him, and he had looked straight into its
eyes - "dead heyes in a dead face," he had described them.

"Wot was it after bein', do you think?" inquired Brady.

"Hit was Death," moaned Tippet, shuddering, and again a pall of gloom
fell upon the little party.

The following day Tippet walked as one in a trance. He never spoke
except in reply to a direct question, which more often than not had to
be repeated before it could attract his attention. He insisted that he
was already a dead man, for if the thing didn't come for him during the
day he would never live through another night of agonized apprehension,
waiting for the frightful end that he was positive was in store for
him. "I'll see to that," he said, and they all knew that Tippet meant
to take his own life before darkness set in.

Bradley tried to reason with him, in his short, crisp way, but soon saw
the futility of it; nor could he take the man's weapons from him
without subjecting him to almost certain death from any of the
numberless dangers that beset their way.

The entire party was moody and glum. There was none of the bantering
that had marked their intercourse before, even in the face of blighting
hardships and hideous danger. This was a new menace that threatened
them, something that they couldn't explain; and so, naturally, it
aroused within them superstitious fear which Tippet's attitude only
tended to augment. To add further to their gloom, their way led
through a dense forest, where, on account of the underbrush, it was
difficult to make even a mile an hour. Constant watchfulness was
required to avoid the many snakes of various degrees of repulsiveness
and enormity that infested the wood; and the only ray of hope they had
to cling to was that the forest would, like the majority of Caspakian


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