Land of Terror

Chapter Three

Edgar Rice Burroughs

OOG was a primitive village. The walls of the huts were built on a bamboo-like reed set upright in the ground and interwoven with a long, tough grass. The roofs were covered with many layers of large leaves. In the center of the village was Gluck’s hut, which was larger than the others which surrounded it in a rude circle. There was no palisade and no means of defense. Like their village, these people were utterly primitive, their culture being of an extremely low order. They fabricated a few earthenware vessels, which bore no sort of decoration, and wove a few very crude baskets. Their finest craftsmanship went into the building of their canoes, but even these were very crude affairs. Their slingshots were of the simplest kind. They had a few stone axes and knives, which were considered treasures; and as I never saw any being fabricated while I was among these people, I am of the opinion that they were taken from prisoners who hailed from countries outside the valley. Their smoke-sticks were evidently their own invention, for I have never seen them elsewhere; yet I wonder how much better I could have done with the means at their command.

Perry and I used often to discuss the helplessness of twentieth-century man when thrown upon his own resources. We touch a button and we have light, and think nothing of it; but how many of us could build a generator to produce that light? We ride on trains as a matter of course; but how many of us could build a steam engine? How many of us could make paper, or ink, or the thousand-and-one little commonplace things we use every day? Could you refine ore, even if you could recognize it when you found it? Could you even make a stone knife with no more tools at your command than those possessed by the men of the Old Stone Age, which consisted of nothing but their hands and other stones?

If you think the first steam engine was a marvel of ingenuity, how much more ingenuity must it have taken to conceive and make the first stone knife.

Do not look down with condescension upon the men of the Old Stone Age, for their culture, by comparison with what had gone before, was greater than yours. Consider, for example, what marvelous inventive genius must have been his who first conceived the idea and then successfully created fire by artificial means. That nameless creature of a forgotten age was greater than Edison.

As our canoe approached the river bank opposite the village, I was unbound; and when we touched I was yanked roughly ashore. The other canoes followed us and were pulled up out of the water. A number of warriors had come down to greet us, and behind them huddled the men and the children, all a little fearful it seemed of the blustering women warriors.

I aroused only a mild curiosity. The women who had not seen me before looked upon me rather contemptuously.

“Whose is he?” asked one. “He’s not much of a prize for a whole day’s expedition.”

“He’s mine,” said Gluck. “I know he can fight, because I’ve seen him; and he ought to be able to work as well as a woman; he’s husky enough.”

“You can have him,” said the other. “I wouldn’t give him room in my hut.”

Gluck turned toward the men. “Glula,” she called, “come and get this. Its name is David. It will work in the field. See that it has food, and see that it works.”

A hairless, effeminate little man came forward. “Yes, Gluck,” he said in a thin voice, “I will see that he works.”

I followed Glula toward the village; and as we passed among the other men and children, three of the former and three children followed along with us, all eying me rather contemptuously.

“These are Rumla, Foola and Geela,” said Glula; “and these are Gluck’s children.”

“You don’t look much like a man,” said Rumla; “but then neither do any of the other men that we capture outside of the valley. It must be a strange world out there, where the men look like women and the women look like men; but it must be very wonderful to be bigger and stronger than your women.”

“Yes,” said Geela. “If I were bigger and stronger than Gluck, I’d beat her with a stick every time I saw her.”

“So would I,” said Glula. “I’d like to kill the big beast.”

“You don’t seem very fond of Gluck,” I said.

“Did you ever see a man who was fond of a woman?” demanded Foola. “We hate the brutes.”

“Why don’t you do something about it, then?” I asked.

“What can we do?” he demanded. “What can we poor men do against them? If we even talk back to them, they beat us.”

They took me to Gluck’s hut, and Glula pointed out a spot just inside the door. “You can make your bed there,” he said. It seemed that the choice locations were at the far end of the hut away from the door, and the reason for this, I learned later, was that the men were all afraid to sleep near the door for fear raiders would come and steal them. They knew what their trials and burdens were in Oog; but they didn’t know but what they might be worse off in either Gef or Julok, the other two villages of the valley, which, with the village of Oog, were always warring upon one another, raiding for men and slaves.

The beds in the hut were merely heaps of grass; and Glula went with me and helped me gather some for my own bed. Then he took me just outside the village and showed me Gluck’s garden patch. Another man was working in it. He was an upstanding looking chap, evidently a prisoner from outside the valley. He was hoeing with a sharpened stick. Glula handed me a similar crude tool, and set me to work beside the other slave. Then he returned to the village.

After he was gone, my companion turned to me, “My name is Zor,” he said.

“And mine is David,” I replied. “I am from Sari.”

“‘Sari.’ I have heard of it. It lies beside the Lural Az. I am from Zoram.”

“I have heard much of Zoram,” I said. “It lies in the Mountains of the Thipdars.”

“From whom have you heard of Zoram?” he asked.

“From Jana, the Red Flower of Zoram,” I replied, “and from Thoar, her brother.”

“Thoar is my good friend,” said Zor. “Jana went away to another world with her man.”

“You have slept here many times?” I asked.

“Many times,” he replied.

“And there is no escape?” “They watch us very closely. There are always sentries around the village, for they never know when they may expect a raid, and these sentries watch us also.” “Sentries or no sentries,” I said, “I don’t intend staying here the rest of my natural life. Some time an opportunity must come when me might escape.” The other shrugged. “Perhaps,” he said; “but I doubt it. However, if it ever does, I am with you.” “Good. We’ll both be on the lookout for it. We should keep together as much as possible; sleep at the same time, so that we may be awake at the same time. To what woman do you belong?” “To Rhump. She’s a she-jalok, if there ever was one; and you?” “I belong to Gluck.”

“She’s worse. Keep out of the hut as much as you can, when she’s in it. Do your sleeping while she’s away hunting or raiding. She seems to think that slaves don’t need any sleep. If she ever finds you asleep, she’ll kick and beat you to within an inch of your life.”

“Sweet character,” I commented.

“They are all pretty much alike,” replied Zor. “They have none of the natural sensibilities of women and only the characteristics of the lowest and most brutal types of men.”

“How about their men?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re a decent lot; but scared of their lives. Before you’ve been here long, you’ll realize that they have a right to be.”

We had been working while we talked, for the eyes of the sentries were almost constantly upon us. These sentries were posted around the village so that no part of it was left open to a surprise attack; and, likewise, all of the slaves were constantly under observation as they worked in the gardens. These warrior-women sentries were hard taskmasters, permitting no relaxation from the steady grind of hoeing and weeding. If a slave wished to go to his master’s hut and sleep, he must first obtain permission from one of the sentries; and more often than not it was refused.

I do not know how long I worked in the gardens of Gluck the Chief. I was not permitted enough sleep; and so I was always half dead from fatigue. The food was coarse and poor, and was rationed to us slaves none too bountifully.

Half starved, I once picked up a tuber which I had unearthed while hoeing; and, turning my back on the nearest sentry, commenced to gnaw upon it. Notwithstanding my efforts of concealment, however, the creature saw me, and came lumbering forward. She grabbed the tuber from me and stuck it into her own great mouth, and then she aimed a blow at me that would have put me down for the count had it landed; but it didn’t. I ducked under it. That made her furious, and she aimed another at me. Again I made her miss; and by this time she was livid with rage and whooping like an Apache, applying to me all sorts of vile Pellucidarian epithets.

She was making so much noise that she attracted the attention of the other sentries and the women in the village. Suddenly she drew her bone knife and came for me with murder in her eye. Up to this time I had simply been trying to avoid her blows for Zor had told me that to attack one of these women would probably mean certain death; but now it was different. She was evidently intent upon killing me, and I had to do something about it.

Like most of her kind, she was awkward, muscle-bound and slow; and she telegraphed every move that she was going to make; so I had no trouble in eluding her when she struck at me; but this time I did not let it go at that. Instead I swung my right to her jaw with everything that I had behind it, and she went down and out as cold as a cucumber.

“You’d better run,” whispered Zor. “Of course you can’t escape; but at least you can try, and you’ll surely be killed if you remain here.”

I took a quick look around, in order to judge what my chances of escape might be. They were nil. The women running from the village were almost upon me. They could have brought me down with their slingshots long before I could have gotten out of range; so I stood there waiting, as the women lumbered up; and when I saw that Gluck was in the lead I realized that the outlook was rather bleak.

The woman I had felled had regained consciousness and was coming to her feet, still a little groggy, as Gluck stopped before us and demanded an explanation.

“I was eating a tuber,” I explained, “when this woman came and took it away from me and tried to beat me up. When I eluded her blows she lost her temper, and tried to kill me.”

Gluck turned to the woman I had knocked down. “You tried to beat one of my men?” she demanded.

“He stole food from the garden,” replied the woman.

“It doesn’t make any difference what he did,” growled Gluck. “Nobody can beat one of my men, and get away with it. If I want them beaten, I’ll beat them myself. Perhaps this will teach you to leave my men alone,” and with that she hauled off and knocked the other down. Then she stepped closer and commenced to kick the prostrate woman in the stomach and face.

The latter, whose name was Gung, seized one of Gluck’s feet and tripped her. Then followed one of the most brutal fights I have ever witnessed. They pounded, kicked, clawed, scratched and bit one another like two furies. The brutality of it sickened me. If these women were the result of taking women out of slavery and attempting to raise them to equality with man, then I think that they and the world would be better off if they were returned to slavery. One of the sexes must rule; and man seems temperamentally better fitted for the job than woman. Certainly if full power over man has resulted in debauching and brutalizing women to such an extent, then we should see that they remain always subservient to man, whose overlordship is, more often than not, tempered by gentleness and sympathy.

The battle continued for some time, first one being on top and then another. Gung had known from the first that it was either her life or Gluck’s; and so she fought with the fury of a cornered beast. .

I shall not further describe this degrading spectacle. Suffice it to say that Gung really never had a chance against the powerful, brutal Gluck; and presently she lay dead.

Gluck, certain that her antagonist was dead, rose to her feet and faced me. “You are the cause of this,” she said. “Gung was a good warrior and a fine hunter; and now she is dead. No man is worth that. I should have let her kill you; but I’ll remedy that mistake.” She turned to Zor.

“Get me some sticks, slave,” she commanded.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I am going to beat you to death.” “You’re a fool, Gluck,” I said. “If you had any brains, you would know that the whole fault is yours. You do not let your slaves have enough sleep; you overwork them, and you starve them; and then you think that they should be beaten and killed because they steal food or fight in self-defense. Let them sleep and eat more; and you’ll get more work out of them.” “What you think isn’t going to make much difference after I get through with you,” growled Gluck.

Presently Zor returned with a bundle of sticks from among which Gluck selected a heavy one and came toward me. Possibly I am no Samson; but neither am I any weakling, and I may say without boasting that one cannot survive the dangers and vicissitudes of the Stone Age for thirty-six years, unless he is capable of looking after himself at all times. My strenuous life here has developed a physique that was already pretty nearly tops when I left the outer crust; and in addition to this, I had brought with me a few tricks that the men of the Old Stone Age had never heard of, nor the women either; so when Gluck came for me I eluded her first blow and, seizing her wrist in both hands, turned quickly and threw her completely over my head. She landed heavily on one shoulder but was up again and coming for me almost immediately, so mad that she was practically foaming at the mouth.

As I had thrown her, she had dropped the stick with which she had intended to beat me to death. I stooped and recovered it; and before she could reach me, I swung a terrific blow that landed squarely on top of her cranium. Down she went—down and out.

The other women-warriors looked on in amazement for a moment; then one of them came for me, and several others closed in. I didn’t need the evidence of the Stone Age invectives they were hurling at me, to know that they were pretty sore; and I realized that my chances were mighty slim; in fact they were nil against such odds. I had to do some very quick thinking right then.

“Wait,” I said, backing away from them, “you have just seen what Gluck does to women who abuse her men. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll wait until she comes to.”

Well, that sort of made them hesitate; and presently they turned their attention from me to Gluck. She was laid out so cold that I didn’t know but that I had killed her; but presently she commenced to move, and after awhile she sat up. She looked around in a daze for a moment or two, and then her eyes alighted on me. The sight of me seemed to recall to her mind what had just transpired. She came slowly to her feet and faced me. I stood ready and waiting, still grasping the stick. All eyes were upon us; but no one moved or said anything; and then at last Gluck spoke.

“You should have been a woman,” she said; and then, turning, she started back toward the village.

“Aren’t you going to kill him?” demanded Fooge.

“I have just killed one good warrior; I am not going to kill a better one,” snapped Gluck. “When there is fighting, he will fight with the women.”

When they had all left, Zor and I resumed our work in the garden. Presently Gung’s men came and dragged her corpse down to the river, where they rolled it in. Burial is a simple matter in Oog, and the funeral rites are without ostentation. Morticians and florists would starve to death in Oog.

It was all quite practical. There was no hysteria. The fathers of her children simply dragged her along by her hairy legs, laughing and gossiping and making ribald jests.

“That,” I said to Zor, “must be the lowest and the saddest to which a human being can sink, that he go to his grave unmourned.”

“You will be going down to the river yourself pretty soon,” said Zor; “but I promise you that you’ll have one mourner.”

“What makes you think that I’ll be going down to the river so soon?”

“Gluck will get you yet,” he replied.

“I don’t think so. I think Gluck’s a pretty good sport, the way she took per beating.”

“Good sport’ nothing,” he scoffed. “She’d have killed you the moment she came to, if she hadn’t been afraid of you. She’s a bully; and, like all bullies, she’s a coward. Sometime when you’re asleep, she’ll sneak up on you and bash your brains out.”

“You tell the nicest bedtime stories, Zor,” I said.

Land of Terror - Contents    |     Chapter Four

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