Escape on Venus

Chapter XXVIII

Edgar Rice Burroughs

I HAVE had many strange experiences in my adventurous life, but being locked up in a cage over night with a goddess was a new one. Loto appeared dazed. I imagine the shock of her fall from Olympus was terrific. “What happened?” I asked.

“This is the end,” she said. “Thank God, this is the end. I feel it.”

She spoke in Amtorian, all but one word: God. That she spoke in English! There is no word for God in Amtorian. Most High More than Woman of The Fire is the nearest approach to the name of a deity that I have ever heard here. Where did she learn that one English word? I asked her; but she only looked more dazed than ever, and said that she did not know. “Why is it the end, Loto?” I asked.

“He has condemned me to death,” she said, and then she laughed. “I, who cannot die, am condemned to death. But he has condemned you, too—you and this other prisoner—and you can die. I wish that I might save you.”

“You tried to, Loto,” I reminded her. “Why did you do that? It has cost you your life.”

“I liked you,” she said. “I was drawn to you by some power I do not understand.”

We three, Loto, Jonda, and I, condemned to death, talked together long into the night. They told me strange, almost unbelievable things about these green Brokol people. They told me that their blood was not red; but white, like the sap of some plants, and that they ate no meat, though they drank the blood of warm blooded animals.

I asked about the tiny Brokols I had seen hanging from trees, and they told me that the Brokol females laid small, nut-like eggs which were planted in the ground. These grew into trees; and, in a matter of years, bore the fruit I had seen hanging. When the little Brokols were ripe, they dropped from the trees, wild, untamed creatures that had to be captured and disciplined.

Each family usually had its own orchard of Brokol trees, the one I had seen, belonging to the royal family. Guypals, the great birds with which I had become familiar at Mypos, accounted for many little ripening Brokols, which accounted for the armed warriors guarding the royal orchard. Here was a race of people who not only had family trees, but family orchards.

When a woman planted an egg, she stuck a little marker in the ground beside it to identify it, just as our home gardeners place markers every spring in their gardens so that they will know which are beets and which tomatoes when they come up.

Because of guypals and insect pests the infant mortality of the Brokols is appallingly high, not one in a thousand reaching maturity. However, as the Brokols are polygamous and both the ground and the females extremely fertile, there is little danger that race suicide will exterminate them. I might mention that no dogs are allowed in the orchards.

During a lapse in the conversation, Loto suddenly exclaimed, “I did not drink human blood. While I was Loto-El-Ho-Ganja Kum O Raj, I could not tell you; but now that I have been deposed I am free to speak.”

“Somehow, I could not believe that you did,” I told her, “but I am glad to hear it from your own lips.”

“No,” she said, “it was Ro-ton, Duma, and a few of the more favored priests who got the blood to drink. It was only their craving for blood which ever induced them to sacrifice a human slave, as these were considered very valuable as workers. Most of the offerings were Brokols who had incurred the displeasure of Duma or Ro-ton, but they did not drink the blood of these. I did not even kill the victim; Ro-ton did that. I merely presided and repeated a chant; but the priests let the people think that I drank the blood, in order to impress them. It seems that the common people must be afraid of their goddess in order to be held under control.”

“You and Carson speak of strange creatures of which I have never heard,” said Jonda, the godless one.

“Let us talk of something else then,” said Loto. “I should like to hear more about The United States of America, of New York—New York—New York—” She whispered the name slowly, drawing it out; and her eyes were dreamy and introspective. Suddenly she exclaimed, “Betty! Betty ! Betty! I’m getting it!” She was terribly excited. “Call—call—Betty call. I almost have it! Oh, God, I almost have it! Brooklyn! Now I have it! Brooklyn!” Then she swooned.

I tried to revive her, but she didn’t respond; so I had to let her lie there. I knew that she would regain consciousness eventually.

What she had said mystified me. What could she know about Brooklyn? I had mentioned New York, but never Brooklyn; yet I could not be mistaken—she had said Brooklyn plainly. And what did she mean by call, and who was Betty? When she came to, I intended to get an explanation, if I could. Could it be that there was another American on Venus, whom she had seen and talked with? If I had reached the Shepherd Star, another might have done so. Perhaps he had been a prisoner here, maybe an offering with whom she had talked before he died. I must find out! But what good it would do me, other than to satisfy my curiosity, I did not know; for was I not to die on the morrow?

Thinking these thoughts, I fell asleep.

It was morning when I awoke. I was alone. Loto was not in the cage, and the door was still securely locked!

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