Escape on Venus

Chapter I

Edgar Rice Burroughs

IF you will look at any good map of Venus you will see that the land mass called Anlap lies northwest of the island of Vepaja, from which Duare and I had just escaped. On Anlap lies Korva, the friendly country toward which I pointed the nose of our plane.

Of course there is no good map of Venus, at least none that I ever have seen; because the scientists of the southern hemisphere of the planet, the hemisphere to which Chance carried my rocket ship, have an erroneous conception of the shape of their world. They believe that Amtor, as they call it, is shaped like a saucer and floats upon a sea of molten rock. This seems quite evident to them, for how else might the spewing of lava from the craters of volcanoes be explained?

They also believe that Karbol (Cold Country) lies at the periphery of their saucer; whereas it is, as a matter of fact, the Antarctic region surrounding the south pole of Venus. You may readily perceive how this distorts their conception of actual conditions and is reflected in maps, which are, to say the least, weird. Where actually the parallels of longitude converge toward the pole, their conception would be that they converged toward the Equator, or the center of their saucer, and that they were farthest apart at the periphery of the saucer.

It is all very confusing to one who wishes to go places on the surface of Amtor and must depend upon an Amtorian map, and it seems quite silly; but then one must bear in mind the fact that these people have never seen the heavens; because of the cloud envelopes which enshroud the planet. They have never seen the Sun, nor the planets, nor all the other countless suns which star the skies by night. How then might they know anything of astronomy or even guess that they lived upon a globe rather than in a saucer? If you think that they are stupid, just bear in mind that man inhabited the Earth for countless ages before it occurred to anyone that the Earth was a globe; and that within recent historic times men were subjected to the inquisition, broken on the rack, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake for holding to any such iniquitous theory. Even today there is a religious sect in Illinois which maintains that the Earth is flat. And all this in the face of the fact that we have been able to see and study the Heavens every clear night since our earliest ancestor hung by his tail in some primordial forest. What sort of astronomical theories do you suppose we would hold if we had never seen the Moon, the Sun, nor any of the Planets and myriad stars and could not know that they existed?

However erroneous the theory upon which the cartographers evolved their maps, mine were not entirely useless; though they required considerable mental mathematical gymnastics to translate them into usable information, even without the aid of the theory of the relativity of distance, expounded by the great Amtorian scientist, Klufar, some three thousand years ago, which demonstrates that the actual and the apparent measurements of distance can be reconciled by multiplying each by the square root of minus one!

So, having a compass, I flew a little north of west with reasonable assurance that I should eventually raise Anlap and Korva. But how could I foresee that a catastrophic meterological phenomenon was soon to threaten us with immediate extinction and literally hurl us into a series of situations as potentially lethal as that from which we had fled on Vepaja?

Duare had been very quiet since we had taken off. I could understand why, and I could sympathize with her. Her own people, whom she loved, and her father, whom she worshipped not only as her father but as her jong, had condemned her to death because she had mated with the man she loved. They all deplored the stern law of the dynasty as much as she, but it was an inexorable commandment that not even the jong himself might evade.

I knew what she was thinking; and I laid my hand on hers, comfortingly. “They will be relieved when morning comes and they discover that you have escaped—they will be relieved and happy.”

“I know it,” she said.

“Then do not be sad, dear.”

“I love my people; I love my country; but I may never return to them. That is why I am sad, but I cannot be sad for long; because I have you, and I love you more than I love my people or my country—may my ancestors forgive me it.”

I pressed her hand. We were silent again for a long time. The Eastern horizon was lighting faintly. A new day was breaking on Venus. I thought of my friends on Earth, and wondered what they were doing and if they ever thought of me. Thirty million miles is a great distance, but thought travels it instantaneously. I like to think that in the next life vision and thought will travel hand in hand.

“What are you thinking?” asked Duare.

I told her.

“You must be very lonely sometimes, so far from your own world and your friends,” she said.

“Quite the contrary,” I assured her. “I have you; and I have many good friends in Korva, and an assured position there.”

“You will have an assured position in that Heaven of yours of which you have told me, if Mephis ever gets hold of you,” she said.

“I forgot. You do not know all that transpired in Korva,” I said.

“You have told me nothing. After all, we haven’t been together for very long—”

“And just being together seemed enough, didn’t it?” I interrupted.

“Yes, but tell me now.”

“Well, Mephis is dead; and Taman is now jong of Korva.” I told her the whole story in detail and of how Taman, having no son, adopted me in gratitude for my having saved the life of his only daughter, the Princess Nna.

“So now you are Tanjong of Korva,” she said, “and if Taman dies you will be jong. You have done well, Earthman.”

“I am going to do even better,” I said.

“Yes! What?”

I drew her to me and kissed her. “That,” I said. “I have kissed the sacrosanct daughter of an Amtorian jong.”

“But you have done that a thousand times. Are all Earthmen as silly?”

“They all would be if they could.”

Duare had put her melancholy from her; and we joked and laughed, as we flew on over the vast Amtorian sea toward Korva. Sometimes Duare was at the controls, for by now she was an excellent pilot, and sometimes I. We often flew low to observe the strange and savage marine life which occasionally broke the surface of the sea—huge monsters of the deep, some of which attained the dimensions of an ocean liner. We saw millions of lesser creatures fleeing before fearsome carnivorous enemies. We saw titanic battles between monstrous leviathans—the age-old struggle for survival which must exist upon every planet of the Universe upon which life exists; the reason, perhaps, why there must always be wars among nations—a cosmic sine qua non of life.

It was mid-afternoon. The thing that was to change our lives was about to happen. The first intimation of it was a sudden lightening of the sky far ahead. We noticed it simultaneously.

“What is that?” asked Duare.

“It looks as though the Sun were trying to break through the cloud envelopes of Amtor,” I said. “I pray Heaven that he doesn’t succeed.”

“It has happened in the past,” said Duare. “Of course our people knew nothing of the Sun of which you tell me. They thought it the all-enveloping fire which rose from the molten mass upon which Amtor is supposed to float. When a break came in our protective cloud envelopes, the flame struck through, destroying all life beneath the cloud rift.”

I was at the controls. I banked sharply and headed north. “I am going away from there,” I said. “The Sun has broken through one of the cloud envelopes; he may break through the other.”

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter II

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