Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

I WAS SHOT DOWN behind the German lines in September, 1939. Three Messerschmitts had attacked me, but I spun two of them to earth, whirling funeral pyres, before I took the last long dive.

My name is—well, never mind; my family still retains many of the Puritanical characteristics of our revered ancestors, and it is so publicity-shy that it would consider a death-notice as verging on the vulgar. My family thinks that I am dead; so let it go at that—perhaps I am. I imagine the Germans buried me, anyway.

The transition, or whatever it was, must have been instantaneous; for my head was still whirling from the spin when I opened my eyes in what appeared to be a garden. There were trees and shrubs and flowers and expanses of well-kept lawn; but what astonished me first was that there didn’t seem to be any end to the garden—it just extended indefinitely all the way to the horizon, or at least as far as I could see; and there were no buildings nor any people.

At least, I didn’t see any people at first; and I was mighty glad of that, because I didn’t have any clothes on. I thought I must be dead—I knew I must, after what I had been through. When a machine-gun bullet lodges in your heart, you remain conscious for about fifteen seconds—long enough to realize that you have already gone into your last spin; but you know you are dead, unless a miracle has happened to save you. I thought possibly such a miracle might have intervened to preserve me for posterity.

I looked around for the Germans and for my plane, but they weren’t there; then, for the first time, I noticed the trees and shrubs and flowers in more detail, and I realized that I had never seen anything like them. They were not astoundingly different from those with which I had been familiar, but they were of species I had never seen or noticed. It then occurred to me that I had fallen into a German botanical garden.

It also occurred to me that it might be a good plan to find out if I was badly injured. I tried to stand, and I succeeded; and I was just congratulating myself on having escaped so miraculously, when I heard a feminine scream.

I wheeled about, to face a girl looking at me in open-eyed astonishment, with just a tinge of terror. The moment I turned, she did likewise and fled. So did I; I fled to the concealment of a clump of bushes.

And then I commenced to wonder. I had never seen a girl exactly like her before, nor one garbed as was she. If it hadn’t been broad daylight, I would have thought she might be going to a fancy dress ball. Her body had been sheathed in what appeared to be gold sequins; and she looked as though she had either been poured into her costume, or it had been pasted on her bare skin. It was undeniably a good fit. From the yoke to a pair of red boots that flapped about her ankles and halfway to her knees, she had been clothed in sequins.

Her skin was the whitest I had ever seen on any human being, while her hair was an indescribable copper color. I hadn’t had a really good look at herfeatures; and I really couldn’t say that she was beautiful; but just the glimpse that I had had assured me that she was no Gorgon.

After I had concealed myself in the shrubbery, I looked to see what had become of the girl; but she was nowhere to be seen. What had become of her? Where had she gone? She had simply disappeared.

All about this vast garden were mounds of earth upon which trees and shrubbery grew. They were not very high, perhaps six feet; and the trees and shrubbery planted around them so blended into the growth upon them that they were scarcely noticeable; but directly in front of me, I noticed an opening in one of them; and as I was looking at it, five men came out of it, like rabbits out of a warren.

They were all dressed alike—in red sequins with black boots; and on their he‘ads were large metal helmets beneath which I could see locks of yellow hair. Their skin was very white, too, like the girl’s. They wore swords and were carrying enormous pistols, not quite as large as Tommy guns, but formidable-looking, nonetheless.

They seemed to be looking for someone. I had a vague suspicion that they were looking for me . . . , Well, it wasn’t such a vague suspicion after all.

After having seen the beautiful garden and the girl, I might have thought that, having been killed, I was in heaven; but after seeing these men garbed in red, and recalling some of the things I had done in my past life, I decided that I had probably gone to the other place.

I was pretty well concealed; but I could watch everything they did; and when, pistols in hand, they commenced a systematic search of the shrubbery, I knew that they were looking for me, and that they would find me; so I stepped out into the open.

At sight of me, they surrounded me, and one of them commenced to fire words at me in a language that might have been a Japanese broadcast combined with a symphony concert.

“Am I dead?” I asked.

They looked at one another; and then they spoke to me again; but I couldn’t understand a syllable, much less a word, of what they said. Finally one of them came up and took me by the arm; and the others surrounded us, and they started to lead me away. Then it was that I saw the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life: Out of that vast garden rose buildings! They came up swiftly all around us—buildings of all sizes and shapes, but all trim and streamlined, and extremely beautiful in their simplicity; and on top of them they carried the trees and shrubbery beneath which they had been concealed.

“Where am I?” I demanded. “Can’t any of you speak English, or French, or German, or Spanish, or Italian?”

They looked at me blankly, and spoke to one another in that language that did not sound like a language at all. They took me into one of the buildings that had risen out of the garden. It was full of people, both men and women; and they were all dressed in skin-tight clothing. They looked at me in amazement and amusement and disgust; and some of the women tittered and covered their eyes with their hands; at last one of my escort found a robe and covered me, and I felt very much better. You have no idea what it does to one’s ego to find oneself in the nude among a multitude of people; and as I realized my predicament, I commenced to laugh. My captors looked at me in astonishment; they didn’tknow that I had suddenly realized that I was the victim of a bad dream; I had not flown over Germany; I had not been shot down; I had never been in a garden with a strange girl. . . . I was just dreaming.

“Run along,” I said. “You are just a bad dream. Beat it!” And then I said “Boo!” at them, thinking that that would wake me up; but it didn’t. It only made a couple of them seize me by either arm and hustle me along to a room where there was an elderly man seated at a desk. He wore a skin-tight suit of black spangles, with white boots.

My captors spoke to the man at length. He looked at me and shook his head; then he said something to them; and they took me into an adjoining room where there was a cage, and they put me in the cage and chained me to one of the bars.

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